Timothy Dries
LAST UPDATED ON,
October 18, 2022

Environment Specialisations

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

ROLE OVERVIEW

Roles in the games industry are quickly evolving like the industry itself so keep this in mind that this list might not be extensive. However, for the roles that do exist, it always comes down to what you want to do and how this lines up with a position that a company needs filled. So ideally a job you apply for needs to align with your personal goals and preferences.

For an overview of what an environment artist does, you can listen to you can listen to this little podcast we did on the topic a while back.

Let’s dive into all the different specialisations that environment artists can encounter, starting with the biggest one.

Environment Artist

Environment Artist is usually the generalist type role, since this means that you can do all the parts of an environment. This can consist of foliage, materials, props, landscape, etc…

So if this is on an application then you have to make sure you know the responsibilities of the work you will be doing as usually it will be a selection rather than all of it. (The exception maybe being smaller developers)

🔳   YOUR DAILY ROUTINE

Your daily responsibilities consists of creating props for environments, laying out assets, telling stories through the set dressing and working together with level designers.

🔳   WHO YOU COLLABORATE WITH

  • Direction
  • Concept Art
  • Game Design
  • Narrative
  • VFX
  • Tech Art
  • Others...

🔳   PROGRAMS USED

  • 3DS Max
  • Maya
  • Zbrush
  • Speedtree
  • Blender
  • Substance Designer
  • Substance Painter
  • Houdini
  • In-House Engine
  • Unreal Engine
  • Unity
  • Worldmachine
  • Gaea
  • ...

🔳   RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Creating assets both hard surface and organic, landscape sculpting, set dressing, texture creation, material creation, …
  • Good sense of form, volume, structure, and silhouette
  • Familiarity with current modelling and texture workflows
  • Strong understanding of current composition and balance
  • Solid understanding of efficient low poly mesh techniques

Prop Artist

🔳   OTHER NAMES

  • Asset Artist
  • ...

Specialisation that focuses on creating small to big assets that will be used by other people in the team to build levels, locations and cinematics with. Texture size and time spent depends on how close you can get, important or size of the assets.

Depending on the company a prop artist might also be responsible for texture and materials creation.

🔳   YOUR DAILY ROUTINE

Your daily routine consists of creating standalone assets and potentially modular assets inside of the prefered 3D modelling package of the studio, which can be Max, Maya or Blender. This consists of modelling and unrwrapping them, and depending on the studio also make textures for them too or are provided with them from materials artists.

You will also have regular discussions and feedback from other artists and your lead artist. After this you will also be responsible for implementation into the game engine and get feedback from the larger team.

🔳   WHO YOU COLLABORATE WITH

  • Level Design
  • Lighting
  • VFX
  • Tech Art
  • Animation

🔳   PROGRAMS USED

  • 3DS Max
  • Maya
  • Blender
  • Marmoset Toolbag
  • Substance Painter
  • ...

🔳   RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Creating assets both hard surface and organic, landscape sculpting, set dressing, texture creation, material creation, …
  • Good sense of form, volume, structure, and silhouette
  • Familiarity with current modelling and texture workflows
  • Strong understanding of current composition and balance
  • Solid understanding of efficient low poly mesh techniques

Biome Artist

🔳   OTHER NAMES

  • Foliage Artist
  • Rock Artist
  • Organic Environment Artist

Sometimes also called a foliage artist but for this one I will expand this a little bit to also include rocks into this specialisation. Some studios might have specific rock sculpting position depending on the game being developed.

This specialisation focuses on the creation of organic assets such as foliage and rocks.

🔳   YOUR DAILY ROUTINE

Your daily routine might look like this, spending your time between Zbrush and Speedtree for asset creation, taking to fellow foliage artists for feedback and then getting these assets textured and into the game for final iteration and polish.

🔳   WHO YOU COLLABORATE WITH

  • Tech Artists
  • Art Direction
  • Map Leads

🔳   PROGRAMS USED

  • Zbrush
  • Speedtree
  • Blender
  • Substance Painter
  • Unreal Engine
  • Unity
  • In-House Engines
  • Worldmachine
  • ...

🔳   RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Create models and textures for a variation of vegetation and foliage.
  • Create varied rock assets and cliffs.
  • Modelling in Speedtree, sculpting rocks, creation of rock and rubble pieces, creation of grass, bushes and trees.
  • Identify and troubleshoot foliage to stay within frame rate, memory, and design specifications
  • Work with scanned vegetation and capturing scans of vegetation

Level Artist

🔳   POTENTIAL OTHER NAMES

  • Layout Artist
  • World Artist

Specialised in storytelling of locations, these artists handle set dressing of locations and through that tell stories setup by narrative designers and level designers.

🔳   YOUR DAILY ROUTINE

As a level artist most of your time will be spent on the set dressing of levels built by level designers in the engine the company uses. You will also be in meetings or conversations with level designers and occasionally narrative designer to make sure both the structure and storytelling is aligned between all of you.

🔳   WHO YOU COLLABORATE WITH

  • Level Art
  • Environment Art
  • Level Design
  • Narrative Designer
  • Art Director

🔳   PROGRAMS USED

  • Substance Designer
  • Substance Painter
  • Houdini, Unreal Engine
  • Unity, In-House Engine
  • Worldmachine

🔳   RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Set dressing in engine, telling a visual story based on narrative, placing assets, building locations, using scene logic to make cohesive spaces,…
  • Cooperating with the Art Director and Art Leads to maintain artistic consistency and vision for the game while building stellar levels and scenes according to project needs.
  • Great sense of scale, proportion, and composition.
  • Creating strong environment storytelling with set dressing
  • Ensure levels are profiled and optimized to adhere to performance targets where needed.

Lighting Artist

🔳   OTHER NAMES

  • Cinematic Lighting Artist

Specialised in the understanding of lighting a scene, setting a mood, understanding guiding the player and being aware of the performance costs of lighting a scene.

🔳   YOUR DAILY ROUTINE

For your daily tasks most of them will consist of lighting up spaces built by other team members, going straight into the engine used by the studio to then place physical lights on both indoor and outdoor scenario’s. In some cases you might also be responsible for additional mood setting tools such as the usage of fog, godrays, directional sunlight and more.

When doing all this you will most likely collaborate the most with the environment or lighting artists to make sure you are working towards the same goal.

🔳   WHO YOU COLLABORATE WITH

  • Environment Artist
  • Level Artist
  • Art Directors
  • Lead Lighting Artist

🔳   PROGRAMS USED

  • Unreal Engine
  • Unity
  • In-House Engine
  • ...

🔳   RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Placing lights in the engine, assisting design and player leading, adjusting weather systems, affecting and tuning the mood,…
  • Set up and lighting of dynamic VFX made by our VFX Team
  • Set up local lighting of indoors and key locations
  • Be responsible for lighting our levels and characters, contributing significantly to the overall look of the frame
  • Keep artistic style consistent with defined visual style for the game
  • Work closely with cross-discipline teams to create high fidelity, believable, real-time lighting
  • Work with the Executive Art Director on defining moods and lighting styles.

Hard Surface Artist

🔳   OTHER NAMES

  • Vehicle Artist
  • Weapon Artist

As a Hard Surface Artist, you’ll be part of a team creating high quality 3D hard surface assets (vehicles, weapon, …) that contribute to the overall game experience. You’ll be able to closely work together with other artists and designers and creatively participate in all steps of the project. From early concept to final product.

🔳   YOUR DAILY ROUTINE

On a day by day basis you will be taking concepts provided by concept artists and turning them into amazing hard surface assets by modelling them in the studio’s modelling program of choice. When doing so you will need to keep in mind the technical restrictions of the game.

You might also be responsible for the creation of textures and materials. And you will also spent your time implementing these assets into the game and testing them thoroughly.

🔳   WHO YOU COLLABORATE WITH

  • Art Director
  • Concept Artist
  • Environment Artist
  • Production

🔳   PROGRAMS USED

  • 3DS Max
  • Maya
  • Blender
  • Houdini
  • Unreal Engine
  • Unity
  • In-House Engine
  • Worldmachine
  • ...

🔳   RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Being able to create hard surface prototypes also create ideas as concept arts
  • Being able to create working / functional assets (vehicles, weapons etc)
  • Sculpt/model UV & texture, high & low polygon meshes in a PBR pipeline
  • Ensure performance and technical quality of hard surface assets
  • Create realistic 3D hard surface assets (weapons, vehicles, etc.) that fit the overall style of the project working from concepts/references and expanding them creatively.
  • ...

Tech Artist

🔳   OTHER NAMES

  • Pipeline Artist

A varied specialisation, can go from the creation of tools for artists in Houdini to pipeline optimisations in the engine the studio uses.

This will require a deep understanding of performance, debugging tools, shaders, workflows and tools.

🔳   YOUR DAILY ROUTINE

Work with artists, art directors, engineers, and the Lead Technical Artist to identify, develop and implement key workflows, tools and rendering features to deliver on visual quality. Developing or driving art production workflows, tools, pipelines, creation and optimization of real time shaders, authoring of rendering techniques, or performance optimization of assets and levels.

🔳   WHO YOU COLLABORATE WITH

  • Environment Artist
  • Character Artist
  • Art Direction
  • Production

🔳   PROGRAMS USED

  • Python
  • C#
  • C++
  • HSLS
  • Programming
  • Houdini
  • Unreal Engine
  • Unity
  • In-House Engine

🔳   RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Work with artists, art directors, engineers, and the Lead Technical Artist to identify, develop and implement key workflows, tools and rendering features to deliver on visual quality
  • Constantly advocate for new and emerging best-in-class content creation techniques
  • Ensure all environment technical guidelines and performance requirements are met
  • Actively seeks out, incorporates, and provides feedback to and from peers

Material Artist

As a Material Artist, you will be responsible for creating high-quality materials for our Games. You will work closely with the Tech Art, Lead and Art Directors. Your duties will consist of preparing and overseeing our in-house material library as well providing support for members of the Art team in areas related to material and textures creation.

🔳   YOUR DAILY ROUTINE

Your day to day consists of creating high quality textures and materials using Substance Painter, Substance Designer and other tools, while doing this you are collaborating closely with other environment artists to make sure these materials are useable for their work.

You might also be asked to do deeper technical dives with fellow technical artists to push the quality of in engine materials and the pipeline for them.

🔳   WHO YOU COLLABORATE WITH

  • Environment Artist
  • Tech Art
  • Character Art
  • Art Direction
  • Production

🔳   PROGRAMS USED

  • Substance Designer
  • Substance Painter
  • In-House Engine

🔳   RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Create and configure high-quality materials in the Unreal Engine in collaboration with art and other teams to ensure visual continuity and help overcome any technical limitations.
  • Assist in the design, implementation and maintenance of material pipelines.
  • Research new texture tools and techniques to create more efficient and visually appealing environments
  • Collaborate with technical artists to develop advanced shaders and materials sets
  • Unwrapping and texturing 3D assets

Outsource Artist

🔳   OTHER NAMES

  • Outsource Benchmark Artist
  • Outsource Manager

As an outsource artist you are responsible for the creation of briefs and feedback sheets for outsource partners while doing smaller adjustments to incoming assets as needed.

This role is not something that Junior can do as you need a solid understanding of asset creation and implementation before you can give feedback and make these briefs.

🔳   YOUR DAILY ROUTINE

As an outsource artist you will be responsible for the collaboration with outsource partners. Your day will consist of briefs, sitting in meetings and sharing feedback with these outsource partners. This feedback can consist of overpaints or communicated feedback and you will have to do this within timely manner and with keeping the communication with these outsource partners as frictionless as possible.

🔳   WHO YOU COLLABORATE WITH

  • Art Direction
  • Outsource manager
  • Outsource Partners
  • Environment Artists
  • Prop Artists

🔳   PROGRAMS USED

  • Substance Designer
  • Substance Painter
  • In-House Engine

🔳   RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Responsible for relations between your studio and outsource partners.
  • Providing feedback and communication on assets that come in from outsource partners.
  • Create briefs, specification and documentation to send external vendors.
  • Identify and evaluate risks, issues with the outsource pipeline.

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