What It Takes

We are looking for Environment Artists to contribute to the artistic vision and development of our next major PlayStation 4 project, with a specialized focus on creating environment/level assets utilizing a combination of traditional fine and technical art skills. Veteran Santa Monica Studio Sr. Staff Artist Nate Stephens and Sr. Staff Artist Sukru Gilman, discuss this role and expand upon what we are looking for. Frankly, whether you have 2 or 10 years of experience...if you have the talent, we want to meet you.

Hecatonchires (God of War: Ascension)

What does it take to be an Environment Artist on our team?

Nate: We have a range of senior to mid-level roles, but what we value first and foremost is talent. We have a world renowned family, people from all experience levels who have blossomed into rockstars, or super seniors who have been with our studio since God of War III or before. The one common thread is pure talent. Your resume does not need to be super long to prove this to us. Even if your portfolio has two pieces, but they are at the quality bar we're after, show us.

Sukru: It's all about your portfolio, your passion, and your attention to detail… that's the type of person we want on our team floor with us. Like Nate said, show us your work! You've seen ours.

Nate: While a great portfolio is the primary foundation, our studio culture thrives with people who are ambitious, and often have a generalist skill about them that wants to constantly learn and apply themselves. We want you to have a desire to break through the ceiling. If you want to take on a whole level and have the talent to do so, that type of hungry attitude fits our studio really well.

Sukru: We're looking for someone with the artistic talent that hits as close to next-gen PlayStation 4 visuals as possible, someone whose art looks cutting edge.

Delphi (God of War: Ascension)

What technical skills for this role are key to highlight?

Nate: We're a ZBrush heavy studio, certainly a deep understanding of that tool is key. When we design our worlds, our levels, we usually don't base everything on real-world photographs. It's a very top down design approach. The creative vision for our environments starts with a high quality asset (ideally a strong piece of concept art), which our team then interprets into a game ready level.

Sukru: You should have an understanding of normal maps, ZBrush, solid modeling skills and texturing. That should also amount to having a burning desire to try and match the quality of the best looking PlayStation 4 visuals that have been done. A solid background in design and traditional art skills definitely helps that.

The studio is also willing to bring in passionate artists who have potential and the desire to further their abilities. We have tricks and techniques, from simple ways we break up the edge on a model, to environment textures, to complex environments in our game that we can teach. Over the years, Senior artists here have mentored the newer, or more junior, artists on the team. A couple years ago we had a young artist on our team, whose talent was undeniable, but he had a lot of room to grow. He's now a Senior Artist managing his own level, with a team of people working with him to bring it to life. It's been extremely satisfying to watch the growth of this individual and to see the significant contribution he makes to our games today. When it comes to the Environment Artists we're looking for…if the talent is there, we'll do everything in our power to evolve them.

 

Canyon Pass (God of War: Ascension)

How does this role help us most immediately in our pipeline?

Nate: Sukru is a level lead. He owns a big chunk of the game in that regard and has a team of Environment Artists working together to build that level out to every last detail. We have other level leads on team who could also benefit right now from having more Environment Artists to develop the world. People familiar with prop building and laying out full scenes. We could really use some extra muscle.

Sukru: Where this role fits in the beauty of our pipeline itself is important to know, but understanding how our pipeline helps us nail the creative vision of our games is a luxury of our development culture here at Santa Monica Studio. The Programmers and Artists have an extremely tight collaboration pipeline together. As an Environment Artist, within our pipeline, the Programmers have developed custom proprietary tools that allow us to run around in Maya and see how things are working in the game. I can then block out my level to start matching the creative vision of the concept art with ease. Additionally, our Tech Artists are creating custom tools from lighting, scripts and plugins that take full advantage of the PS4, which enables me to see the look of the world I’m creating much, much faster.

What's amazing about our pipeline (and the tools we have) are the super smart Programmers and Tech Artists who keep pace with our engine and ideas. They are always trying to help us and understand what we need, what we want to do, and how we maximize our art. I'll pitch an ambitious environment idea to our Tech Director - he'll sit down and listen and then go back to the drawing board with his team to put a custom tool together for us to experiment with…then they will refine it to allow us to create something amazing. That type of tech and art collaborative pipeline allows us to be one of the most creative studios I've ever worked at.

What's unique about the concept and environment art teams collaboration here?

Sukru: There is a lot of back and forth! Our concept art team not only delivers some of the finest art in the industry, but we get a lot of it. It's a very strong starting place for us to understand the initial creative vision of an environment. If you look at our worlds in God of War, for example, from concept to level, you'll see a strong correlation. That's because it's almost like a movie studio here. As an Environment Artist, I'll create my initial block-in from the first pieces of concept art. I will then receive tons of additional pieces to solidify the vision. If I need a better representation of something, the concept team delivers. They help us figure it out until the game is final.

If you have the talent...

Nate: I need to reiterate, if you're talented, show us your stuff. The job descriptions can sometimes be scary in terms of experience, but if you feel you're talented with your portfolio at the quality bar we're looking for, then you're qualified to connect with us. Don't be shy. We have a lead who took a couple of years to develop his portfolio to submit to us, when his initial work was at the quality bar we look for. I told him him he shouldn't have waited two years, just apply! Don't be psyched out if any part of your portfolio feels like it hits what we're after.

Sukru: If you want work at a place that is really going to help develop your talent to a level where you can contribute to a AAA game, or even if you have deep prior experience to help us push to the cutting edge on PlayStation 4, this is the studio to be at. We are always trying to create something to impress our fans and to bring this studio to the next level. In my 8 years here, I’m constantly learning from the people around me. We don't just settle, we really do push to make our game the best it can be.

Wild Ride (God of War: Ascension)

(APPLY HERE or if SENIOR APPLY HEREDo you want to work with some of the best artists in the industry? Then join us as an Environment Artist at Sony Santa Monica Studio and create worlds. You will be contributing to the artistic vision and development of a product with a specialized focus on creating environment/level assets utilizing a combination of traditional fine art and technical art skills.

As Environment Artist, you possess the ability to effectively collaborate with a wide-range of development team members outside of their direct discipline such as the Designers, Technical Artist, Animators, Programmers and Producers, to optimally achieve artistic goals and implementation as they relate to design and technological considerations.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Supports the development of the artistic techniques and processes utilized to define and achieve a product’s visual style or encourage artistic evolution within the studio. Develop a comprehensive knowledge of the art production pipeline and all engine, tools and systems associated with the creation of art assets.
  • Content creation, including environment 2D texture map painting, 3D modeling/sculpting, material setup/UV layout, and lighting according to defined quality standards, artistic styles, conceptual designs, development pipelines, technical parameters and production goals.
  • Maintain the artistic goals and vision through all phases of the game development cycle from pre-production through final product release. This entails ensuring environment/level assets are of the highest artistic quality and uphold the integrity of the games design and artistic vision of the game as a whole. 
  • Maintain a working knowledge of the games design to support communication and allow better participation in discussions.
  • Facilitates research and information gathering prior to the commencement of a new task to ensure game design needs, reference materials, artistic direction and technological considerations are effectively managed to meet defined goals.
  • Facilitates requests or information needs regarding any aspect of the environment/level art creation process as requested.
  • Capable of resolving an assortment of moderately complex artistic development issues for both artists as well as other team members.
  • Actively develops skill set and abilities by keeping aware of industry trends and techniques, evaluating competitive products, learning new software packages and traditional art methods.
  • Possess strong time management and prioritization skills. This entails collaborating with the Production group to develop task lists to ensure assignments are progressing as expected according to schedules, milestones and overall project goals.
  • Clearly communicate updates and properly escalate concerns to the appropriate team member(s) and manager(s).

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • At least 2-4 years industry experience preferred.
  • Traditional fine art skills and training (illustration, painting, organic forms, color theory, perspective, 2D & 3D design).
  • Highly proficient in the use of Maya (or equivalent 3D modeling package) and Photoshop. 
  • Z-Brush/Mudbox/Substance Painter experience desirable.
  • Some familiarity with video game product development including, but not limited to workflow, tools, lighting, high and low poly modeling, texture paining, surface sampling, particle systems, mapping techniques, UV layout, in-game animation, material setup, layout, sfx, and engine parameters/optimizations desirable.
  • Good communication, organizational, time management and interpersonal skills.
  • Proven ability to follow existing guidelines, policies, procedures or project parameters.
  • Previous or next-gen video game platform experience is desirable. 
  • B.A. in fine arts or relevant curriculum or equivalent skillset.

 

topics: Internal
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