Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus

Environmental Art for Games II

University of Utah, Instructors Ryan Bown

Fall 2017

Thursday 3:40 - 6:40pm, M LIB 1735

Course Description


This course advances the theories, tools, and techniques of Environmental Art. Students will learn the theories behind the design of and the advanced tools used in the creation of living breathing dynamic environments, such as, water, weather, advanced shaders, environmental animation, and particle systems. Students will take a project from concept to game-ready. Students are expected to be proficient in the tools necessary to complete this theory driven project-based course.


The course covers a verity of topics with-in the environmental art pipeline.  Lecture topics:

  • Planning: Concept art and visual development
  • Blockout:  Scale, floor, 3D planning
  • Modeling: ZBrush (high- low, using Dynamesh and Decimation Master), Kit Bashing, Floaters
  • Game Res Modeling and UVs:  Effective UVs, using Maya and ZBrush (3D coat recommended for organics assets).
  • Baking:  Ripping maps used to create complex textures
  • Texturing and PBR Materials: 
  • Scanning:  Using photos to create 1:1, 100% accurate assets
  • Alpha Channel:  Decals, glass, foliage
  • Emissive Channel:  Because stuff that glows looks cool
  • Presentation:  Capturing images and videos for portfolio


Each of these topics will be covered during the first ten weeks.  The final project with be to create a full game environment rendered in a game engine (Toolbag and Unreal 4 pipelines will be shown) of the students chosen.

The techniques are specific and taught with the assumption of no prior knowledge of specific techniques.  Each project will advance through the production pipeline at different rates, building on the knowledge gain from the previous topic.


Course Objectives and Learning Outcomes:

·         Preproduction and planning for environmental art creation

·         Assist students in mastering several complex computer graphic production software packages used for creating textures (Maya, Mudbox, ZBrush, Photoshop, CrazyBump and xNormal)

·         Creating props and modular assets for games

·         To introduce students to texture creation using high poly models for baking AO and normal maps, image mapping, 3D and 2D painting

·         To familiarized students with texture budgets and memory allocation

·         To help students learn how to create unique textures, tileables and texture atlases

·         Creating terrain using UDKs editor and important height maps from War Machine and ZBrush

·         Build attractive portfolio page layouts


Lab Structure


Regular Lab/ class hours are mandatory (during regularly assign class times); whereas, optional lab times will be setup for working on projects with one-on-one time with TAs and/ or instructor.  The lab will have many open hours for students to work independently on their projects.


Office Hours:  By appointment, (subject Envio Art)

TA: Isaac Kellis, (subject Enviro Art I), Monday 9am-3pm, Friday 9am-3pm (Bldg 72, 270)

Open Lab


Proposal:  Planning, concept (professional art), learning objectives

Postmortem:  Self-evaluation

Final Project:  Built out a complete environment


Each student will create, texture and render a game environment in a game engine of their chosen.  The instructional examples will demonstrate unique assets creations and textures, atlas, vertex painting and other techniques to create realistic environments effectively and efficiently that are optimized for use in game.


Student’s final projects in the past included: Sci-fi, western, urban, industrial, indoor and outdoor environments.  Your imagination (and time) is the only limit.


Example (professional) in game:

Example of final project:



Grading Rubric

Promote:  A (-)

Retain:  B (+/-)

Probation:  C (+/-)


Proposal:  Planning, concept (professional art), learning objectives (10%)

Class participation & Milestone Reviews:  Showing up on time, contribution to the lectures, and working during lab time.  1 on 1 evaluations (30%)

Postmortem:  Self-evaluation (20%)

Final Project:  Built out a complete environment (40%)

Extra Credit:  Create, maintain (weekly updates) a professional thread on (5%)


Environmental Art II Additional Requirements: Included particle systems, dynamic elements (i.e. moving shaders, scripted events), complex material networks (.i.e instances, vertex painting, parallax maps).


Graduate students Requirements: write (Payton) a tool to be used in Maya or UE4.




Tuesday 12/12/17 @ 3:30 (Final)

Presentations and turn in all work!  Complete course evaluation.


All work MUST be turned in on canvas.  PDF, MOV, Mp4.

Included the following folders:  

Unreal files:  Unreal 4 map and packages

Assets:  Models (maya, zbrush, obj, fbxs, etc.)

Textures:  Baking files, PBRs, Quixel files

Renders: Beauty shots, hero asset breakdown (i.e. wire frame), texture flats, video (optional)

Documents: Proposal and postmortem in PDF format 


Materials Required

Wacom tablet (recommended)

Software (provided in labs and free downloads from Autodesk)


  • Maya
  • Mudbox
  • ZBrush
  • Agisolf
  • Photoshop
  • CrazyBump (n/a in labs, but will be demoed)
  • Quixel Suite (limited seats)
  • xNormal
  • Toolbag (limited seats)
  • Unreal Engine


A few reading, tutorials and references for starting off (no text books to purchase)

Game Career Guide  (join this site)

Course Summary:

Date Details