What is an environment artist?
The role of the environment artist within a game company is to create the backgrounds and scenery for the video game they are working, this includes architecture like building, environments with the mountains and rivers and also smaller items like plants. When an environment has been designed correctly it can create incredibly detailed worlds more than any other media as the artist are given the freedom to create imaginative worlds that players love to get immersed in and learn all they can about it. Some games series that have created incredibly detailed worlds through there environments are the Bioshock and the final fantasy series.
The environment artist will work closely with the concept artist and level designers will all work closely together through the process as at the beginning of the project the environment artist will hand an idea of what they want the environment to look like to the concept artist so they can do multiple sketches of what the environment could look like. once the environment artist is happy with the sketch picked from multiple drafts it will be handed back to them so they can start the process of 3D modeling which includes adding textures, colours, and lighting.
during this process, the senior environment artist will communicate with the level designers about the mission-critical assets, vehicles, NPC’s and where they would be included within. the environment artist has to take all these into consideration as if they don’t it could affect the game play and create an unrealistic environment or worse an unplayable game.
Before the environment artist can start modelling they need to wait for both the artists and designers need to plan the environment and map out any props that will be used within the environment as well as any scenery that is used to further progress the story. an example of this is the environment artist that worked on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, West Studio. In a specific level called “cliffhanger”, the player has to stealth there way up to the top of a mountain to recover some Intel but they get surrounded and they have to get to some snowmobiles so they can get down the mountain and escape. the environment artist will need to create a route that the player will take as well as making sure the snowmobiles are waiting during the design face so when the game is released players won’t get to that section and find that there are no snowmobiles to escape making the level impossible and unbeatable.
Like I mentioned above the environment artist has to consider where they will be putting the props and scenery into the game during the design phase but they also have to worry about the limitations of the game engine and storage medium, these two factors determine the resolution quality that the environment artist is able to work with. if they go to render when the poly count is too high for these to handle it can cause the animation to lag.
an environment artist has to be well trained, so if they want to make it anywhere in a game design company they need to be at the very least have a bachelor degree or any other professional experience that is equivalent to a bachelors degree on environment design. they also need to have excellent 2D drawing skills, need to have proficient knowledge on how to use 3D modelling software like 3DS max and how to use Photoshop efficiently. an aspect that not many people would think of but is still important is their ability to work in a team as the environment artist will be collaborating with other team members and departments so they have to be able to take criticism so they can alter their work accordingly and created the best environment they can. they also need to positively contribute to the creative process of the company. the skills listed above are essential but it also helps if the environment artist had majored in fine art, game art, and graphics design as well as having coursework on architecture and studying themes and artistic style of different cultures.
to become an environment artist you need to go to university and get a bachelors degree of environment design like I mentioned above as well as has all the skills that I listed above. while at university you should create a portfolio of all your work so any potential game company that are hiring an environment artist can see that you’re able to create environment using Photoshop and 3DS max as well as create it in 3D or 2D.
to create the assets for the environment the environment artist will create a low poly version of the asset in a software like 3DS max and creating higher poly of the same asset in zBrush before you bake them together causing them to have a higher-resolution model.