You should read this if becoming a game environment artist is your dream but you’re unsure if you’re qualified. Everything is explained in depth, including what actions to take, what to include in your portfolio, and what mistakes to avoid. Our expert Robert Hodri explains what you need to know to pursue a profession in game environment arts with the use of examples, advice, and insider knowledge.
With ArtStation Pro, you can quickly create a website to start building your online portfolio. Showing up at the top of searches will make it simple to get your work discovered by game studios and hiring managers. It is lovely, quick, and simple to use.
Veteran in the field Robert Hodri is currently employed by id Software as a Senior 3D/Environment Artist on the newly released DOOM video game, which also included three multiplayer DLCs on which he worked. He was self-taught and began his professional career in 2009 as a full-time Environment Artist at Crytek in Frankfurt, Germany. There, he also had the chance to work on titles like Crysis 2, Crysis 3, Ryse, Warface, and Homefront: The Revolution.
Robert generously shares his knowledge and experience in this book by completely answering any questions you would have if you wished to become a Game Environment Artist.
How do I become a Game Environment Artist?
It’s crucial, in my opinion, to be passionate about both video games and art in general. Getting acquainted with all the various software tools you’ll require to produce the textures and assets for your environments is usually the first thing you should do. Understanding a gaming engine is also essential. Everybody can use Unreal Engine, CryEngine, and Unity, which are all excellent engines. Simply download them is all that is required. You can find a tonne of internet guides and tutorials that will explain how to incorporate your artwork into games. You can begin creating your initial props and obtaining them in any of the aforementioned game engines after you are comfortable using those applications. Starting with smaller materials at first makes sense because the learning curve may be rather high and frustrating at times. You can advance to more complicated props or even entire environment sceneries as you acquire experience.
You must be familiar with a modelling programme like 3ds Max, Maya, or Modo in order to be an environment artist. Using Photoshop or Substance Designer/Painter to create textures and materials is absolutely necessary. Additionally, you must to be knowledgeable about a 3D sculpting programme like ZBrush or 3DCoat. You have to master quite a few different tools, which might be overwhelming at first. The good news is that you have access to a wealth of lessons, online guides, and discussion boards.
You should absolutely take advantage of the many various methods that it is possible to connect with other artists. New artists frequently land their first job by simply publishing their work online or requesting on Facebook that someone distribute their portfolio to the appropriate individuals. With so many aspiring artists nowadays, it’s not only about doing amazing work; it’s also about getting noticed.
An online portfolio that highlights your artwork and focuses on a particular style is a crucial step in obtaining employment in this field. It can take a long time to create an environment. You typically won’t be working in an environment or on a complete level where you have to handle everything on your own in the start of your career. As long as you’re working on larger AAA games, that is, at least, how it is. Typically, you are given smaller props to work on. Because of this, I believe it’s critical to have at least a few excellent props and textures in your portfolio. Anything from containers, pebbles, to tools and cars can be considered as such. Just demonstrate your ability to produce quality game art and your familiarity with the entire process. Every 3D artist needs to be able to create high poly meshes and bake them down to low poly, and your portfolio should demonstrate that.
It’s not unusual to receive an art test after submitting an application to several companies before they even want to schedule a phone interview with you. Depending on the organisation and the position you applied for, that test can be different. A little prop or an entire environment scene might be included. Usually, you’re given a rough concept and a brief explanation of the modelling, texturing, and mood requirements for the final prop or setting.
Here is an example of an old environment art test I did in 2013:
They usually schedule a phone or skype interview with you if they approve of your test so you may speak with the lead artist and art director. Be prepared to introduce yourself and your interest in the studio and the project in a succinct manner. It’s extremely likely that you’ll discuss the art test and your process when making environments or props. If all goes well, you’ll be invited to an on-site interview where you’ll get to know the team and perhaps even get to see the project they’re working on. You should ask a tonne of questions right now as well. It demonstrates your interest and aids in learning more about the studio and team culture you applied for. That comes at the end of the hiring procedure. You typically receive a job offer after that.
What do I need in my portfolio?
Excellent work, of course! However, you must first have a decent website that is user-friendly and effectively conveys your creativity. Naturally, you may design a sophisticated website on your own, but you should be careful not to go overboard with flash animations or slow loading times. Provide simple access to your contact information on the website, including your name and email address on your photographs, and make your résumé accessible online and for download.
Naturally, having a customised portfolio homepage is good, but doing so might take a lot of time, and not everyone is a web designer. The modern alternative, in my opinion, is ArtStation. Simply signup, set up a profile, and upload your art screenshots to get started. It takes very little time to use and is quite simple. There are many professionals from the video game industry in its large community.
Your portfolio should demonstrate your ability to perform all activities necessary to work on a gaming environment, including modelling, texturing, composition, level beautifying colours, and lighting. These are the key duties an environment artist has to perform. Concept work that demonstrates your drawing abilities is preferred but not required. Even while 2D artists will later give you with concept drawings and overpaints, being able to quickly sketch your own ideas is still helpful. On paper, design concepts can often be iterated upon more quickly than in three dimensions.
Characters, animations, and VFX work are not required in your portfolio if you are solely applying for environment art positions. Although it’s a benefit, as a novice you should concentrate on your portfolio because becoming an expert in a field might take years, and your art examples should be of a high calibre. You don’t want to have subpar character animations next to stunning scenery backgrounds and props in your portfolio.
Your portfolio should reflect where you wish to work and where you plan to get your first job. It’s okay to have a diverse variety of styles because it demonstrates your adaptability and flexibility to many artistic forms. However, a studio typically seeks candidates that have the same artistic approach as the project they work on, so you must demonstrate that you can imitate their style.
You have to stand out from the crowd of artists vying for the same first job because the competition is fierce. You can do that using creativity and original art examples. Concrete or brick textures, metal barrels, wooden crates, or concrete textures aren’t exactly assets that will blow anyone away right now. When creating scenery or props, try to think of something novel and original. Consider that you want to create a chair prop. Try to make something more difficult, such as a baroque chair with several intricacies and ornamentation, rather than one that is straightforward and made of wood and easy shapes. Of course, those props take a lot longer to complete, but having three outstanding assets in your portfolio is preferable to having nine subpar ones.
What do hiring directors want to see?
It’s crucial to have a fantastic portfolio with your artwork readily available. I would argue that if you don’t have any professional experience, your CV won’t be as effective in helping you land your first job. Just make it short and basic, and try to keep it to one page. Show completed work and avoid include too many works that are still being worked on in your portfolio. An incomplete portfolio gives the impression that you won’t be able to complete any jobs on schedule.
Demo reels are unnecessary for environment artists, in my opinion. They are labor-intensive and quickly become outdated. You only need screenshots of your environments and props taken from various perspectives. Spend some time thinking about your art’s presentation and take some pretty pictures. With a strong presentation, sometimes even the most unremarkable prop may seem fantastic. Anyone who sees a viewport screenshot of your asset with flat lighting won’t be particularly impressed. Give it a final polish by taking your time to create appealing lighting and rendering sets, adjusting your materials, and perhaps adding a few minor post-processing effects. But don’t go overboard! You want to be able to still see the artwork.
Having breakdowns of your modular kit components, final meshes, high poly, low poly, and wireframes is also a wonderful idea. Anything you may include to demonstrate your workflow and the process you used to create the final environment or prop.
What is a typical day like for a gaming environment artist?
According to me, it depends on your company’s position (junior, mid-level, or senior), the size of your team, and the stage of the project you’re working on. You are typically assigned to work on smaller environments and props as a junior artist. When you reach a senior level and gain more expertise, you can work on more crucial hero assets and manage entire multiplayer or single-player stages. You have to manage and organise a large number of people who are involved in developing a level because so many people are involved.
In the early stages, you typically spend your days planning out modules and levels, making the initial materials, and getting a few levels up and running so that you can make a first playable demo to check the compatibility of all the gameplay components. After that proof of concept, the focus will be on finishing all the levels in a more refined manner, with the majority of the locations receiving a first texture and art pass. The majority of your work will focus on architectural components. Normally, you’ll also be working on the composition and adding props and decals to the level. It’s all about polishing, bug fixing, and optimization once all the art is in the game and won’t change anymore.
What are common mistakes made by people in your line of work and how can I avoid them?
I believe that ignoring comments from others is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as an environment artist. You must be able to quickly iterate on any modifications that are needed and keep an open mind to the opinions of other artists and designers. Working on an environment for weeks or longer is not unusual. Furthermore, if you spend too much time reviewing your own work, it might be difficult to determine if you are actually making improvements or are only changing things for the purpose of changing them. To make a level atmosphere better and more enjoyable to play, it is quite helpful to gain new perspectives as well as other people’s opinions and input.
It frequently happens to over-detail scenes and make them overly cluttered. Even if it looks fantastic, it might obscure the player route. The environment art should also support the gameplay because it is a video game. Try to concentrate on shapes and silhouettes, and take care when placing all of your details. Although mood, ambiance, and lighting can be quite helpful, adding too many props and elements to a fighting area risks breaking the gameplay. Working closely with the level designer on any environment you’re working on is essential because of this.
When completing a level, you must assess performance issues. It’s crucial to have a solid understanding of your game’s tech and engine. Considerations like texture memory or triangle count are necessary. The player’s experience can be utterly ruined by playing through a level that isn’t optimised and runs at a low framerate. Therefore, it is crucial to communicate with all departments.