While the Game Development program deals with the programming and back end of a game and Game Design deals with its design, Full Sail’s Game Art Bachelor’s Degree program covers everything that is visually represented in the game world. Students spend 21 months learning how to create the 3D art and interactive graphic elements for various types of games.
“[Game Art] is the characters, environments, animations, effects – everything that is happening on screen,” says Chad Kendall, the Game Art Program Director.
The program is similar to Computer Animation – students in both programs are in the same courses for several months before splitting into separate tracks. “There are very specific techniques that we use on the game side, and after the programs split our focus is dealing with game engines, textures, and things that run in real time,” says Chad.
After first being introduced to the game art pipeline, students take more specific courses like Texture Painting and Sculpting and Level Assembly and Lighting, where they learn to build assets and effects for entire levels of a game using both the Maya and Unreal Developer’s Kit platforms. During this time, students will choose one of four specialties: Environment Artist, Character Artist, Effects, or Animation. That specialty is what will be the focus of their portfolio, which they assemble in the last four months of the program.
Game Art students also get the opportunity to work with other Full Sail Gaming students during the Game Preproduction and Game Project Development courses. The courses are like working at a small, independent game studio: Game Art students receive requests from Game Development students to build character and animation assets for their various projects. “A lot of that class is focused on not just making good art,” says Chad, “but really what it means to work [in the gaming industry] and why it matters.”
After graduation, most students want to find studio work; Chad says smaller studios may be willing to bring recent grads in right away, while the top studios may offer unpaid internships to start. Students must be willing to relocate: the game area has some hot spots (Southern California, Austin, Texas), but studios are typically scattered around. There are also opportunities to work outside of the game industry in fields like military simulation. In the end, according to Chad, what it comes down to is your portfolio and your attitude.