Architectural visualiser to games environment artist

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  01 January 2013
Architectural visualiser to games environment artist

Hey all,

A little like TeeJayEllis in another thread I'm looking this year at a possible career change from architectural vis though more in the direction of games environment art. I have read in the past where games studio have taken on arch-vis people. I was hoping some of you may of made such a move and if you could pass on any of your wisdom.

I'm not looking for facts, just experiences, whether the transition was very hard, whetehr they took you on account of your arch-vis portfolio, whether the atmosphere in a games studio was better/worse/more stressful/more/more creative/more fun!.... one problem at the moment being I find the arch-vis industry takes itself far too seriously, sometimes I think I must be saving lives with what I do!... I do miss having a bit of fun in my job.

Thanks all
  01 January 2013
I worked in arch viz for a couple of years, and got a job as an environment texture artist on a PS3 game (before going back to arch viz a while later). I suspect a large part of the reason I was hired there was because the head of production was a friend and former coworker of mine. Never underestimate the importance of connections and contacts in this industry. But don't overestimate it, either; you can't trust you'll find work just because you know people. You do need to be skilled as well.

Anyway. I found the transition pretty easy, to be honest. I mean, it's the same tools and the same procedures, really. You're just producing different stuff. Games studios tend to have larger and more established pipelines than arch viz studios, which makes the workflow quite different. That probably makes a pretty substantial difference. I doubt that there are any real discernable trends for how much fun you'll have at work. The difference between two individual studios is likely to be bigger than the over-all difference between the two segments of the industry. That is to say, some game companies are nice to work for and some aren't. Some are more stressful and some are less. And of course the same thing applies to arch viz studios.

As for being taken on because of your portfolio, well, art is art, kind of. If you understand light and shading, texture and shape, etcetera, then that's likely to be apparent in your arch viz work, and that applies just the same to games. Besides, a lot of game content is actually buildings, do having an understanding of architecture can probably help there.
  01 January 2013
Hey Gooner442,

I haven't ever actually gotten work in the games industry, but as I mentioned in my thread, I did explore it for quite some time and actually ended up doing a fair few little personal projects. It was mainly out of curiosity, I'm a massive gaming nerd so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I tried it.

One thing I will say is; don't expect to get work (in a major studio at least) with just pre-rendered stuff in your folio. I tried that, it didn't work. I applied to a number of different companies, 7 didn't get back to me at all, 2 said they'd like to see realtime work before they considered me. In hindsight it was a silly thing to do and it embarrasses me to think about it now.

My advice would be to download an engine like UDK or CryEngine, and start building scenes or even just props in them. Learn the workflow, which (for most current-gen projects) revolves around optimisation for real-time presentation, so usually a lot of baking down high-detail models/sculpts to lower resolution meshes and using normal maps.

That for me is where the fun got old very quickly. I mean, there's optimisation, and then there's optimisation for realtime. I'm used to being efficient with my modeling, but you've gotta be thinking in a different way for games, optimising everything - using texture space as best you can, keeping poly counts low, thinking about alpha usage, thinking about how well high-details are going to project onto lower detail 'in-game' meshes.

Having said that, there are a few things I enjoyed a lot. Firstly, being able to run around your creations in an engine is a lot of fun and quite rewarding. Also the landscape creation tools in UDK and CryEngine are fantastic.

In terms of further info, check out or for tutorials which cover the realtime workflow in a lot of depth.

Last edited by TeeJayEllis : 01 January 2013 at 12:06 AM.
  01 January 2013
TeeJayEllis I think makes an excellent post. I've never worked as a 3D artist but I trained in it and was an environment concept designer for a few years working in games, He is 100% right there is a ton of work involved in optimization and getting normal maps to look good. I guess in pre-rendered stuff rendering is a huge part of the process, in games its all about getting that down into "maps" normal, specular and so on. The pre-rendered look in current gen real-time games takes a lot of work. That said in recent years and looking towards the future real-time lighting has come on a lot so it should remove some of that. In this gen its all become a bit to abstract imo, the amount of work that goes into that final frame(rendered faster than you can blink) is substantial.

What always holds true though is good colours, nice silhouettes, the underlying rules of visual design will hold you in good stead as in games all that stuff is really amplified compared to real-world design. Learning some about how the player moves through a space is also important, as a game nut you should have some feeling for this, that is where you want to put the effort. But you should be very well placed to transition if your willing to invest the time in portfolio building.

Last edited by conbom : 01 January 2013 at 10:54 PM.
  01 January 2013
Thanks all for your replies. It is the optimisation that puts me off somewhat, I understand exactly why it's so important but poly-crunching is pretty tedious.... though tedium is part of most jobs. I check out the work on pretty often so I understand this to a point, it's taking a different mindset into your environment, and I imagine reuse of mesh parts as well as textures.

I suppose what I don't want is for that transition period to be for too long, one practical reason it could mean not passing the probation period, and for the fact I haven't experience in that field I guess it might be reflected in the pay. I think you can do as much private work/tutorials as you like but nothing is like learning on the job, maybe joining up with some collaboration would make sense. I have some time off soon-ish and will really focus on some portfolio pieces, I have played around with Cryengine, Unreal and Unity so will need to do get comfortable with at least one those.

Perfectly I'd like to do a course in environment art for 3 months which would really prepare me for the workplace but don't think such a course exists!.. judging at least by courses I've taken previously in maya and 3ds max, really hard to find a good course.
  01 January 2013
Originally Posted by Gooner442: Perfectly I'd like to do a course in environment art for 3 months which would really prepare me for the workplace but don't think such a course exists!.. judging at least by courses I've taken previously in maya and 3ds max, really hard to find a good course.
  01 January 2013
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