Intro to Environment Design

Underwater Scene

Creating an environment for your game is the point in the project where you can really focus on what the feelings and theme of the game are already about. It can be a free, sandbox-like experience where you just keep adding, subtracting and moving things until you get the right look, or meticulously planned, with maps and diagrams and concept art. This lesson will give you different perspectives to use as you decide what you want the environment of your game to look like.

Telling a Story

Thinking about the way spaces tell stories is one angle to help you decide what you want your environment to look like, and there are some excellent video essays exploring games that have done this extraordinarily well. Your environment can fill in backstory that won’t be told explicitly, as well as a way to change the feeling of progressing through a game by changing the appearance of different areas.

Picking a Style

Style is an important thing to consider early in the process. Restricting the style can actual create faster decision making, and make players more easily understand the elements in your game. Your style could be realistic, whimsical, or abstract, or more specific,  like medieval fantasy, science fiction, or a post apocalyptic wasteland. You shouldn’t feel like you need to fit in to an existing category if you don’t want to, but find a way to explain what the overall style of your game and the space should be.

Thinking About Spaces

The Map

When we talk about the map, we’re talking about dividing your space into areas and imagining the sequence of how a player would approach them. This can be very open ended with lots of possible spawn points, but the general idea of having a layout and thinking about how your space is arranged will help you later when testing how players actually navigate your game. We will discuss designing with players in mind in more depth in the next lesson.

Indoor vs. Outdoor

Humans have a deep instinctual differentiation between indoor and outdoor spaces. In your game, it may be that players are only ever in one of them, like in a game that only takes place in an open forest, or on a space station. Even in those cases, it is useful to think about what the more open and more closed areas will look like. In general, you should consider the outside and inside of any structures and how to distinguish them.

Parts of the Environment


Skies refer to a combination of the visual aspects of the sky, and different sources of lighting for the scene. The sky is fast way to indicate the feeling of the game just by the color and quality of the light.


Terrain will make up the floor of the game. There are a variety of shapes you can use, and the shape and colors of the terrain will be the next component in creating the scene. The next lesson will show you all the steps of customizing terrain and skies for your project.

Structures and props

Structures are made up of multiple parts. The kitbashing tutorial will show you the techniques used to create and save new creations so that you can treat them like a single piece and reuse them as necessary. Props can be smaller objects, that will also be essential to creating a story with your scenery.

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