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Looking for direction; Thoughts on using a Hammer SDK environment as a portfolio piece

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coolguyslims triangle


I'm a student artist who is looking into incorporating 3D environments into my portfolio. I have a passion for level design and environmental art, so I started by learning Maya, ZBrush, Substance Designer and Painter, etc. so that I can make assets for environments. While I'm still learning, I feel comfortable enough with these software that I'd like to start to produce environments for my portfolio pieces instead of props and weapons. However, I've been having a hard time deciding what I should do.

To preface, I have a lot of experience using Hammer SDK as a kid. I've probably put over 1,000 hours into it and I feel comfortable with the software. However, I had no 3D experience outside of that, so all the assets I used were from the Source library that's included.

Most people from what I can tell choose to learn Unreal Engine or Unity, producing static environments to be used as pictures for their portfolio. It just seems a little unsatisfying to not be able to experience these environments with your friends in a game. I'd like to create an environment that also showcases level design and is something I can play on.

I think it would be fun to create a free-for-all map designed for a small group in CS:GO using custom assets. As I mentioned I already know how to use Hammer SDK, so I wouldn't have to spend time learning an antiquated engine. I created maps for my group of friends when I used to use Hammer SDK and it was so much fun it convinced me to become a 3D Artist. However, I have some worries that I don't know how to structure into a paragraph so I just listed them below.

  • Is using an older engine like Source a bad idea for portfolios?
  • Level design seems difficult to convey through pictures, do employers care about that on a portfolio or do they just want to see high graphical fidelity?
  • I want to use my time as best as possible. Is it likely that a project like this would detract from learning more important software such as Unreal Engine or Unity Engine? Is the experience from working on a level in Source drastically different than from other engines?
  • Are there any other problems with this idea?

There are also some technical questions I wanted to ask about completing a project like this. Originally I wanted to create a map that had all custom assets, and while that might be feasible, it sounds like absolute madness. I feel like at most I could make most of the props and some textures for prominent areas. What are your thoughts on creating assets for a map? How often should you use them instead of recycling textures / props? It seems strange to showcase a map I made on my portfolio and have a bunch of textures I didn't make included, but I don't know.

If scratching this and dedicating myself to learning Unreal Engine instead is better, then so be it. I'm just trying to decide on what I should do to start. I'd reallyappreciate your opinions.

Thank you for the help!


  • Finnn
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    Finnn greentooth

    On one side, its true that doing a portfolio piece inside an engine like source can be limiting. Especially when you want to showcase your capabilities in creating realtime environments from scratch, its not advisable. Like killnpc said, its a really good idea to create a focused environment with a high quality.

    On the other side, I believe in passion. When you are enthusiastic and passionate about a creative project, it will be more likely to return the best results. Its possible to showcase level design workflows and your considerations. For a level deisgn piece, you could include your planning documents, blockouts, playtesting documentation, changing in level flow etc. From the environment art piece perspective, showing that you have an understanding of creating visually appealing environments while considering the gameplay readability would be key. If you then include a landmark/point of interest asset that you created yourself, you would have a solid piece for your portfolio showcasing many desirable skills.

    It comes down to your dedication and your thoughtful planning. Dont go overboard, take a small scope and try to get it done. After that, you could still go and try another direction for your next portfolio piece.

  • Iwazaruk7
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    Iwazaruk7 triangle

    GoldSource and Source mapping communities were peak of this all.


    (sorry, just feeling nostalgic with BSP engines)

    On a more serious note... if your source map will feature assets you made in 3d software, that's a mixture of both "inside and outside" work with models/materials.

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