Designing environments for video games?


I was reading through a thread about careers in other fields with an architecture degree and found that designing video game environments had been an option for someone. I'm getting ready for my last semester as an undergrad this summer and designing environments for video games is something that struck me as interesting to pursue. I wanted to know some of the details about doing it as a career and what it is like to work in the video game industry as well as requirements to land a job as an environment designer for video games. 

Jul 5, 11 6:39 pm

Before switching to architecture, I used to design and model environments for Rockstar Games. I started working there in 1995 back in the day of N-64,then PS-2, PS-3, X-box 1,2, and 3, and have worked on 8 shipped titles including Midnight Club 1 - Midnight Club Los Angeles and Red Dead Redemption. I took what we did with parametric modeling, and created my own BIM system in Maya using instance as families and .mel code while in architecture school. At Rockstar games, we created many generative programs for created the terrain in Red ead redemption and the MidnightClub Franchise.genr8 is an example of a Maya based generative system
genr8 is an example of a Maya based generative system
For one thing, getting in the "game: is a lot tougher now - they want people with degrees in game environment design. In my later years at Rockstar, we hired almost exclusiveley from the Academy of Art. Check their on line portolios to see what is expected.It used to be back when I got in, they would hire people from architecture and industrial design like the people who lead Rockstar San Diego - a lot of architects. Now we are starting to see the reverese, where people from the game industry with parametric experience loke myself, are working on building design.
Working at a game studio like Rockstar or EA - be prepared for long "Mandatory hours" 60 - 80 hours a week and no holidays - except X-Mass week provided there isn't a milestone on Jan 1. At least in the game industry, you have wall to wall employment - and it pays twice as much  as architecture.
Also the first 6 months of a project are highly creative, where there is a lot of design and artist interchange - after that, it starts to get more into a long 2 -3 year revision mode(this is where the long hours start. e.g., Read Dead redemption took 5 years to complete
If you really apply yourself in architecture, you will be growing in a long term profession with a lot of potential = provided you always do what it takes and not what is comfortable.



Jul 6, 11 12:28 am

Suverk, I'm curious. As an architect in the game industry, do you also need programming skills? Or do you just model the environment and leave that to the tech guys? 

Jul 7, 11 12:53 am


Generally no - At Rockstar, some us would write .mel scripts - then Rockstar games and other studios like EA created the technical artist position where people would specialize in writing .mel scripts and also C# programming as well. I think that if your are thinking about procedural/generative software for games or architecture, you should at least be able to write programs to at  least understand algorithmic flow.  Once you write a few programs, then understanding procedural/generative systems will make sense. But if you are just going to be doing environment design, then you need to be an ace 3D modeler as upposed to a programmer – also be able to construct web sites for your portfolio – a lot of studios won’t consider you unless you have a compelling website and this is where programming skills are necessary for HTML scripting.

Jul 9, 11 1:09 am

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