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Artists for Game Designers

United Kingdom
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Original Post

Last week I was interviewed by Richard Bliss on Funding the Dream which should go live on Thursday. One of the things that we discussed was access to artists. As I work for 3DTotal, which was an art company long before we made any games, I have the opportunity to work with an art director and a host of great artists. Presently I’m working with Sean, Justin and Ludwin on Wizard’s Academy and they’re doing beautiful work, I’m very lucky to have this arrangement. If possible, I’d like to try to extend the opportunity of working in this way to more game designers, so that’s today’s topic: What could I do in order to help more great game designers access more great artists?

I pitched the following idea to my boss: What if we offered a service for game designers looking for artists, where we take in a spec, budget and style, find a artist that matches those criteria, engage them to get the work done and pass it back to the designer. It would be less work for us than for most designers since we already know a great deal of artists, we’ve already got good working relationships and we’ve people who are used to chasing up art as it’s needed. We could charge some fee that covers the work that we’d do with a little profit, but that would be less costly to the designer than doing it themselves. We could also offer the artists that we know more work and find people who are enthusiastic about the particular products they’re working on it’s one of these rare times that literally everyone involved could be a winner if we do it right.

If we do it right.

There are a lot of ways an arrangement like this could go wrong. What if an artist takes the money and doesn’t get the work done, or is late? What if they produce high quality work but the designer isn’t satisfied because it matches their spec but not their imagination? What if they produce low quality work? What if it ends up being too time intensive for our art directors and we spend more on their wages than we make by doing it? What if it winds up being too expensive for most game designers and nobody would want to do it? What if our directors or artists wind up too busy to keep up with demand and it detracts from the quality of the art products at the core of the business?

Now a lot of these issues are things that we’ve got the experience to deal with, after all we’ve been in the art business for a decade so pretty much any problem that you could have with an artist, we have had with an artist. We also have those problems much less frequently than average since we’ve got plenty of experience in heading them off and get to work with artists who are very professional. I think that I worry about these things because I’m not in the art side of the business and don’t personally have the experience, but I trust the expertise of the people around me for my own games and I’m pleased with the standard that’s come out of that.

A large part of the issue can be solved by creating reasonable expectations in advance. If we agree with a designer that we will “get art for this game” then there’s lots of room for problems down the line. If we say “We will get the artist to sketch 5-6 images that match this spec, you can pick one, they’ll do that up as a final version, you can then make any comments or ask for changes, they’ll make final alterations and at that point we’re done or you can pay for additional alterations if you want them. The whole process will take two months.” then it’s pretty clear what’s on offer and who’s responsibility it is to deal with various sorts of problem.

Another issue is price, we’ve not really done this before so we don’t know how much of our time it’ll take. If we charge too much the project will fail in it’s goals, but if we charge to little then we could lose money by doing it. The best answer to that would be to start some sort of pilot program, go through the process with a handful of designers who know that this is a new thing and may or may not work out, but who’d like to take a chance to get some sweet art for their game and to help create something that would hopefully be of use to future designers.

So, is anyone interested in taking part in such a project? I’ve been writing a game design column for a while now and know some designers are regular readers and I’m sure that some of you must read other designers who may express frustrations at finding the right artists for their projects – please point them in my direction (or the other way around!) I’m not sure if this idea is workable, but I want to give it a shot.

Talking to Richard reinforced how lucky I’ve been in my entry to game design and I’d love to find a way to share that with the wider community

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