Welcome to the world of video game environments, where stunning landscapes and intricate structures transport players to virtual worlds filled with adventure and wonder.
Have you ever marveled at the breathtaking scenery in games like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, or Grand Theft Auto V? The talented professionals responsible for crafting those immersive worlds are Video Game Environment Artists. These artists play a critical role in creating the environments that bring video games to life, and their work is essential to the player’s overall experience.
In this article, we’ll dive into the fascinating world of Video Game Environment Artistry, exploring the responsibilities, skills, and knowledge required to excel in this exciting field.
The job of a Video Game Environment Artist
Although the roles of Video Game Environment Artists and Game Level Designers can overlap, typically, the Level Designers are responsible for assembling the assets created by the Environment Artist to design the levels, optimize geometry, make approximate collisions, and ensure the game runs at a manageable framerate.
As technology advances, there is a direct correlation between the time and quality of environment art, making Environment Artistry an increasingly desired field of work, especially in the console gaming industry.
In reality, there is no specific thing to do as a Video Game Environment Artist because it depends on the position you hold within the company (junior/mid-level/senior), the team size, and the status of the project that you are working on.
Junior Video Game Environment Artists are normally scheduled to do smaller props and environment areas. At the senior level, the artist will have the chance to work on more important hero assets and take care of whole multiplayer or single-player levels. With the number of people involved in creating a level, they will also have to manage and organize a lot of people involved in the creation process.
Game environment design process
The creation process typically begins with blocking out modules and levels, creating initial materials, and creating a first playable demo to ensure all gameplay elements work together. After the proof of concept, the artist focuses on polishing, bug fixing, and optimization.
1. Building assets for game environments
Building assets for game environments, including modeling, texturing, and lighting, is the first step in creating game environments.
The Video Game Environment Artist spends days blocking out modules and levels, creating first materials, and getting a couple of levels in a playable state to create a first playable demo to see if all gameplay elements work together. He relies on one or many 3D modeling software, sculpting software, in addition to texturing software and much more.
After that proof of concept, it’s about getting all the levels done in a more polished state with a first texture and art pass. For most areas, you’ll be mainly working on architectural elements. Normally, the artist will also be placing props and decals on the level and working on the composition.
Once all the art is in-game and won’t change anymore, it’s all about polishing, bug fixing, and optimization.
2. Indoor/outdoor settings
Specializing in indoor or outdoor locations for a game’s setting is the second step in creating game environments.
A Video Game Environment Artist should have a basic understanding of architecture and interior design. You don’t have to have a degree in architecture, nor do you have to know everything about all architectural styles, but being proficient in looking at buildings and being able to know what architectural style it is from, where that style may have originated from and when, and so on, can be beneficial.
Interior design is all about supporting a person’s experience in a space, which is the exact same thing we want to do with game environment design. The artist should make a place that conveys simple information to players and gets them to where they are going.
Using interior design techniques, the artist can guide the player to the end of the level without directly telling them where to go using signs or something of that sort as we see in a real-world interior environment such as the metro or the airport. You can check our list of architecture-friendly game engines and how they can help you ace this step.
Video Game Environment Artists and level designers
Collaborating with level designers to assemble assets and create a playable game world is the third step in creating game environments.
Sometimes the work that the Video Game Environment Artist and Game level Designer do intersect, and sometimes these two titles are kind of used interchangeably. This is because level designers are usually responsible for designing the levels, taking the assets that the environment artist has created, and assembling them into an environment, making approximate collision so that the player isn’t colliding with every little detail, optimizing geometry so that the level runs at a manageable framerate, and helping bring life to the game world.
In order for a Video Game Environment Artist or a level designer to perform better at their job, there are certain knowledge and skills that are not directly related to creating 3D game environments but have a great impact on the speed of the process and the quality of environments they are able to create. These include learning to do sketches and 2D concepts and having an understanding of interior design and architecture.
Video Game Environment Artistry is a dynamic and ever-evolving field that demands creativity, passion, and technical skill.
The work of Video Game Environment Artists has a profound impact on the gaming industry, contributing to some of the most beloved and memorable games of all time. From the sprawling landscapes of open-world games to the intricate details of indoor environments, Video Game Environment Artists are the masterminds behind the stunning visuals that captivate players and keep them coming back for more.
So, if you’re an aspiring Video Game Environment Artist, don’t be afraid to embrace your creativity, hone your skills, and pursue your passion for crafting immersive game worlds. With dedication, hard work, and a willingness to learn, you too can make your mark on the exciting world of video game environments.
InspirationTuts game dev team has prepared a list of resources to help you on your video games creation journey:
- The official website for the International Game Developers Association (IGDA)
- Unity Technologies, the leading game development platform
- Unreal Engine, another popular game engine
- ArtStation, a platform for artists to showcase their work
- Polycount, a community for 3D artists
- Gamasutra, a website focused on game development news and insights
- Game Career Guide, a resource for students and professionals looking to enter the game industry
- Glassdoor, a site with job listings and company reviews for the game industry
- Our Game Dev YouTube channel.
Are you a game environment artist? Are you planning to become one? What kind of resources that would help you achieve that goal? Leave your thoughts in the comments (we read ALL of them!)