One of the most fun things that you can do in environment art, is learning how to tell a story without using any words. Every space you design should have a purpose. Growing up in class, I would draw all the time. My friends, we were all really big gamers. So we think about, you know, what kind of levels we’d like to play. So in class, instead of taking notes. We went up drawing maps and stuff of the worlds we wanted to build. And then we take these maps and go home and actually build them and, you know, try and play them. Some were more fun than others. Some
things should stay on paper. So I first got my start working on games back in 1999 when I first started modding Unreal Tournament. It all started with me making character skins and maps for that game. And then Half-Life 1 came out and I started making maps and mods for that. Every major game release since like ’99. I’d pick up the game and if I had a level editor, I’d build levels for it. I have been doing it for almost 21 years now. As an environment artist, I build the world that the player experiences throughout the game. That’s everything from the architecture to the landscapes and the props that make up that world. We usually work really closely with design. Design will come up with the loose block of the world. And then we help make sense of what that block out is in a way that the player can relate to. One of my favorite spaces I worked on in WWII was for the zombies mode. It was in the first map, The Final Reich, the medical room. Initially, all I was given was just essentially a very long hallway and we knew we wanted something to happen related to the Easter Egg in that space. My first thought was this is where the zombies would be created. So I thought a lot about how exactly a mad scientist would stitch zombies together. Well, he’d have collections of body parts. He’d have all sorts of guts and viscera. And he’d probably have machines that would sew them together or, you know, chop people up and put them back together. So you’d create very basic shapes of what these machines would look like. And we start populating the space with it. And then we’d put in the level and the designers will make sure it’s still playable. And then that may give them ideas about what we could related to the
Easter Egg. And there’d be this back and forth over the whole development cycle as we add more to the space. We’d add more nitty-gritty details. And in this way, we start tying into the psyche of the mad doctor himself. So the biggest challenge of working as an environment artist in AAA is learning to work together as a team with all these different disciplines. I started, you know, just making mods, but that was very much a solo endeavor. But when you’re working with other people, it is a totally different game. So I very much consider making games making games to be a team sport. And in that way, it’s really important to understand the concerns and considerations needed for each different discipline. For Environment
Art, I really value how the whole thing looks, but design, who I work very closely with, has a very different concern. Theirs is all about how does it play? How does it feel to a player, even though we want to achieve very similar goals, the path we take can be very different. My name is Sami Bashir and I’m an Environment Artist at Sledgehammer Games.