Tim P.
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I'm the position of needing a very large amount of art for a card game (120+ pieces), but specifically wanting a diverse collection of artistic styles, instead of a single coherent artist like most projects want. The theme is "Magical Girl" anime, which there's already a lot of great original art for out in DeviantArt and Pixiv. I'm wondering if I could cut production costs by offering to pay artists to use their already existing art, instead of commissioning new art.

So out of curiosity, to any artists: What are your thoughts on this? How would the price compare? (using an existing illustration vs. being commissioned to make a new one)
 
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I would be worried from a production perspective that if you would use already established art that it would be already be used elsewhere and the people already using it might not be happy about you using it too.

And if it isn't already being used, I don't see a difference in whether or not it's already been produced. It still has had the same amount of time and effort being put into it, so it should cost the same.
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Sebastián Koziner
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120 pieces for a game?
Man, if you don't have a loooot of money, start thinking on alternatives or you will get poor in the process of making this come true.
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Andrew Rowse
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Marcodel wrote:
I would be worried from a production perspective that if you would use already established art that it would be already be used elsewhere and the people already using it might not be happy about you using it too.

And if it isn't already being used, I don't see a difference in whether or not it's already been produced. It still has had the same amount of time and effort being put into it, so it should cost the same.


Art often costs less if the license is not exclusive - ie the artist remains free to license the artwork to other people.

80s fantasy art often popped up in multiple sources, sometimes only barely fitting the subject it purported to represent. I seem to remember a lot of Boris Vallejo examples...
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Personally, I'd be totally cool with licensing existing artwork to someone as long as I retain the rights to use it however else I want. If you want exclusive rights to it, I'd be charging a whole lot more for it.

So yeah, basically what Andrew said.
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J. E. Shields
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This sounds just like stock art to me. Expect to pay more than just buying stock art off of an existing website, but as far as I'm concerned, sure go for it. Just need to be positive the existing artwork is 1) not already intellectual property and 2) their own personal work. Also you might be able to purchase the exclusive use of it (at a higher price tag) if the work has not been used anywhere else.
 
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I'd be worried about the graphic style coherence of the whole project, but that might be just me...

Also, as mentioned, check well the licenses, there's a lot of small letter (or people saying "it's fine" later on can come back with a cease & desist letter, claiming rights, whatever...). Ideally, signing a contract with each would be best (usually, if you do a most favorable contract for them, and giving you only the rights you need for publishing the game, and no more, would have way more chances to go well), but that can be unpractical (120)...

I agree with Sebasko, you could instead (or also) reduce the number of cards needed.

Or at least, yep, purchase all art done, but from a same artist (there's probably more than one having 120 character illustrations that would fit, who knows) or at least 3 artists of very, very similar style...

But these are just random thoughts. Doing how you are planning could be perfectly fine, too.


EDIT: Anyway, a lot of artists would charge you full custom art (card art, that is, not box cover art...) for 60 - 120 us $. I don't know if you would get much cheaper a rights of use per illustration, from those artists you mention. Could be or could be not, I simply don't have a clue, to be honest..!
 
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A lot of anime tends to look about the same (to me, at least) since they use a lot of the same techniques and styles all over the place. I don't think he'll have much of a problem on consistency. I'd be worried more about quality at DeviantArt.
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That makes sense...The techniques are quite rigid, although I do notice significant variants in certain "high end" anime. But yep, the more standard one, more of the industry, seems very homogeneous.
 
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Tim P.
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Thanks a bunch for the advice, it's been helpful!

SebasKO wrote:
120 pieces for a game?
Man, if you don't have a loooot of money, start thinking on alternatives or you will get poor in the process of making this come true.


My design goal for this game is "capturing the feeling of playing Magic: the Gathering as a 12 year old." You start the game with a 12-card starter deck, and every time you play you get more cards to customize your deck, setting them aside in your "collection" in the box for the next session, like a Legacy game.

The max cards a player can get is 50, so I feel like I'd need 100-120 unique cards to make sure player's collections aren't too similar, which would all need unique art. Yes, it might be a bit insanely ambitious, but it's a personal grail game!

I am considering having cards that feature the same art, but slightly or completely different abilities. "Variant cards," one could say. But I worry that might feel cheap. Also, in CCC/LCG-like games, being able to recognize a card at a glance via the art can be important, so that might lead to confusion. Possibly the variant cards could have palette shifts to help with that.

OneManCrafts wrote:
I'd be worried about the graphic style coherence of the whole project, but that might be just me...


This mostly comes from my nostalgia for the earlier days of Magic: the Gathering art design, where there were so many artists with instantly recognizable styles like Richard Kane-Ferguson, Rebecca Guay, Quinton Hoover, Ron Spencer, etc. These days it's way more homogenized and dictated by the style guide. There's just something special about each card in a CCG feeling like a little passport to a different universe.
 
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Keep in mind that when licensing art you only have the rights to that art for a limited amount of time, so depending on how long or how many printings you want this game to potentially have that could be a problem.
Plus usually licensing agreements give more power to the owner of the IP, or in this case the artist, then to the designer of the game. So you could end up with design decisions impacted by the desires of the artists, and our lose access to art when trying to do additional printings of the game.

Then of course you starting getting into flat licensing fees versus royalty payment setups which can make things alot more complicated. And depending on the artist you may not be actually saving all that much money in the long run. Buying art outright is definitely more expensive, but it can save you hassles in the long run.

For something like you are describing you might look at hiring an artist to make a few larger pieces, and then essentially cutting sections out for different cards. This also allows you to set themes for specific "sets" of the cards. It's not optimal, but it is an option and could still help you get that feel you are going through since you could commission peices from a few different artists.

Even so this is going to cost you big. I just got done commissioning art for a game I'm designing, and for 36 pieces of unique art, I'm paying just over $2000.
 
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Use art that is out of copyright, like Mage Tower: A Tower Defense Card Game did.

Hieronymus Bosch for all your 15th Century weird animal needs!
 
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That is indeed doable, yet though... I myself was asked by a friend (about going so...I researched (again) about the matter, as he had a similar issue: Wanted a load of images for a large game, that a single illustrator would take a long time to produce) I had always been sure about PD (public domain images) being totally safe. Turns out to be that not every country has same laws about it, and it seems to be a world of polemic points in there, in laws terms..Last thing I read is, in any case, a more modern version of it, CCO license from Creative Commons has more chances of being safer. But don't quote me on that, as I saw it clear I couldn't recommend him go that route for a bunch of reasons, so stopped there. Also, in the past I was not even aware of intellectual property and copyright laws not being the same for every country ! But it seems the case.

So, I guessed in the end the only totally safe thing is to get a written license of use, and to what extent allowed, from the artist who created that image (btw, when I'm asked while producing images for a project, I tend to give full rights with the reminder of the moral authorship, that is, that no one would claim to be the "creator" of my art, of course (and if heavily modified, be warned so to request my authorship signature be removed). But no game maker needs that, at all), or whatever other entity is possessing now the rights of use and copyright. Or, just have an artist produce them, and if very concerned about it, requiring a contract specifying every comma you wish (and he/she agrees to) and even requiring an NDA if you care about that other matter, too.

This added to an wider "research" I had been making for long, as during 7 years I worked as a graphic designer-coder, illustrator, 3D grunt, webmaster and bit of person for all at certain good small (only in staff number, what it achieves is amazing) size company, and I had no time to produce the large mountain of things and care of all code, regular image needs, etc. So, for side projects, was often requested to dig for : a) purchase very cheap sets or b) dig for PD images. So, this comes from a very sincere interest on the matter, in its day. Then got very discouraged about it, for the issues I'm detailing here.

One very important thing I wanted to add and forgot : If there is no license saying is commercial and copyrighted, it does not mean by any stretch that is free. And sth I found frequently : Places saying that the webmaster, or even worse, the organization or public institution "thinks" it "is probably" in the public domain, and that if somebody knows to be otherwise, please "write us". That's a freaking no-no. Is a total gamble which would be that image status.

Also, another issue was finding the exact images this person wanted. Is really very, very hard to find the images that suit a project (you can be so lucky to find a source full of a type of machine of certain century, or a specific animal type, and your game be just about it, but as a rule, it doesn't happen so), and make it work well visually, as a product, as commercial, professional quality thing, something that wouldn't be destroyed (with a reason) by the article reviews later on...

All that said, my main point is: While I, very sincerely, (for a pair of projects I would have LOVED it to be otherwise) I do believe is not really applicable to most cases, I think , and this might be the more important part, for others it could be. For example, for this specific anime inspired game, for which the large number is in its main essence, and the old style and way to make fantasy games, which, IMO, in its day got the luck of counting on a not too evolved game scene...Today things have changed a lot, and the requirements and expectations have raised crazily (something I truly love, as in my experience, always that the bar is raised in a creation and production area, the quality and health of the whole thing does consolidate way more firmly).

Even more, I'm in the interest of the more games are produced, the better. Be it with work from another colleague artists (a path I'd recommend the most, and not just because am an artist, but for practical reasons, in the end) or made with PD or CCO images. Because, I might be wrong, but I have the feeling that the more games out there, the more interest and diffusion this activity gets, and that is good for everyone involved in this little (but overly expanded) "world".


Anyway, I'm no expect in laws, not a lawyer or the like. I could be very wrong in several aspects... blush I just do my best to get an understanding of it as the matter is very related to my work...

So, concluding that the OP idea, for that specific game makes probably sense, although imo, even in the shoes of a game author, I wouldn't say is so great for other types of projects...

 
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tim_p wrote:

This mostly comes from my nostalgia for the earlier days of Magic: the Gathering art design, where there were so many artists with instantly recognizable styles like Richard Kane-Ferguson, Rebecca Guay, Quinton Hoover, Ron Spencer, etc. These days it's way more homogenized and dictated by the style guide. There's just something special about each card in a CCG feeling like a little passport to a different universe.


Those indeed, while already being a realistic painter with my technique consolidated (in the 90s, I believe) made me want to somehow enter the field of card game illustration (by then board games hadn't this booming, I think). (and here am I, lol, after a bunch of professions training and jobs in the middle) , but by them it was mostly about one or two companies, and without the freedom internet has given us. I can remember some of them, most easily Craig Mullins (extremely talented), but others as well, like Adrian Smith, Steve Ellis, Clyde Caldwell a crazy huge etc, with diverse quality, and some amazing geniuses. An essential inspiration. I personally prefer coherence in a game in style, but I understand certain card game type is a bit playing the "art collector", and that is great, means people appreciate hand painted art, which is great for our profession, in a way. (still, as a general rule, I totally believe is even better the other path, for both parts). Yet though, scratches my head why if having nostalgia of those, you go for anime, instead of realistic fantasy....(nothing against anime, with some exceptions of more detailed variants, is not my cup of tea, but fully respect it.)
 
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As both a game designer and an attorney, I can tell you that licensing completed art work can be a solution, but it does come with some issues of which you need to be aware.

As some other people have mentioned, when you commission art, in most cases the copyright does not automatically fall to you, but instead remains the property of the artist. Of course, the upside to this is that a lot of great work other people have commissioned in the past may be available for licensing (though note, even if an artist retains the legal right to license the art, many won't as a matter of policy).

It's important to have a solid freelancer agreement, whether you commission original art or license pre-existing works. Although the law may (and likely will) vary between jurisdictions, in general almost all licensing terms such as scope, exclusivity, duration, territory and attribution are negotiable.

As far as cost, for my own project (the Traveller Customizable Card Game), we had to obtain a little over 180 individual pieces of art. Around 95% were original commissions, with the remainder pre-existing works with or without modification.

Generally (and all art commissioning costs are general discussions, the specifics being highly variable) pre-existing works cost around 1/2-2/3 the cost of an original piece. Revisions were obtainable for around a 10% cost increase.

For our 180+ pieces, we ended up spending in the mid 5 figures. Even this total was only achieved using a combination of licensing pre-existing works, bulk commissioning, hiring newer artists or those who reside in parts of the world where the dollar goes a bit further.

At the absolute minimum, I don't see you being able to license pre-completed works at less than around $50-$100 per piece (let's say $75 as an average). Even that rate is probably only achievable in bulk, and for newer/less experienced and/or non-US/UK/EU artists. It also doesn't include revisions/changes.

Of course, YMMV.
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tim_p wrote:

My design goal for this game is "capturing the feeling of playing Magic: the Gathering as a 12 year old." You start the game with a 12-card starter deck, and every time you play you get more cards to customize your deck, setting them aside in your "collection" in the box for the next session, like a Legacy game.


A couple of weeks ago, my brother mentioned playing a board/card game that sounds a lot like this... A game about playing a deckbuilder and winning tournaments.

I'll ask him what it was called and get back to you.
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Andrew Rowse
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Nanimo wrote:
tim_p wrote:

My design goal for this game is "capturing the feeling of playing Magic: the Gathering as a 12 year old." You start the game with a 12-card starter deck, and every time you play you get more cards to customize your deck, setting them aside in your "collection" in the box for the next session, like a Legacy game.


A couple of weeks ago, my brother mentioned playing a board/card game that sounds a lot like this... A game about playing a deckbuilder and winning tournaments.

I'll ask him what it was called and get back to you.


Almost certainly Millennium Blades
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Rastislav Le
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It can save you time and money, licensing is usually cheaper than commissioning a new piece, but it has one big con in my opinion, like your art direction will be broken, because you will have too much of everything
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TsN5 wrote:
It can save you time and money, licensing is usually cheaper than commissioning a new piece, but it has one big con in my opinion, like your art direction will be broken, because you will have too much of everything


I agree this could be a concern. However, many games do successfully use multiple artists with very different aesthetics (Game of Thrones LCG and Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, just to name two).

If you do go with multiple artists (whether licensing pre-completed works or commissioning original projects), I'd probably try to make sure I didn't have single card outliers. Anyone who represents a more varied style should perhaps be given several cards.
 
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KAndrw wrote:
Almost certainly Millennium Blades


Yup, and it's a great game! The main differences between it and my game are:

1. Millennium Blades takes place over a single 2-3 hour play, while my game lets you grow a collection and meta over multiple sessions (up to 38 plays, taking place over weeks or months).

2. The actual card play done with constructed decks is less abstracted, and a fully fleshed-out game rather than the mini-game it is in MB.
 
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a problem you might run into with pre-existing art is rights/ownership. The artist might not own the rights if they did the piece for another company/product. You would need to REALLY make sure that the artist owns the rights and that the artwork is not being used anywhere else (depending on whatever terms of rights the artist has).
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