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Breaking the Mold


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#1 Dreamon   Members   -  Reputation: 102

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 05:07 PM

So, I'm a entrepreneuring individual who has been lurking on the forums here and been steadily planning out a video game over the last three to four years. The video game in question is not one that can be developed alone, with a small indie development team, or even with a moderately sized one. As such I'm currently undertaking the best way to approach such an idea and make it presentable to whoever's interest I can garner. Currently I'm entertaining the idea of commissioning a concept artist to get what I'm thinking in some very nice art pieces as it remains almost impossible to do more then that without talking with some very serious people.

Where would you guys suggest going to commission a sci-fi concept artist, how much should I expect to pay, and what do you guys suggest to catch the eyes of anyone who has the capability to make large decisions?

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#2 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9869

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 06:23 PM

Business question, not a Breaking In question. Moving.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#3 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9869

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 06:37 PM

1. Where would you guys suggest going to commission a sci-fi concept artist,
2. how much should I expect to pay,
3. and what do you guys suggest to catch the eyes of anyone who has the capability to make large decisions?

1. The Help Wanted forum would be one place to start. Another place you could try would be at your local IGDA gatherings or at a game conference (it's called networking).
2. Check out the current game industry salary survey (http://gamedeveloper.texterity.com/gamedeveloper/2010cg?pg=19#pg19) and do some math to come out to a dollar rate. Then increase it. Freelancers have to cover their own insurance, down time, etc.
3. Frequently Asked Question #1. And FAQ 11. And FAQ 21.
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/idea.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson11.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson21.htm
You'll need more than some concept art. You'll need a development team, an interactive demo, knowledge about the target audience, knowledge about the publisher's business model...
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#4 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 21285

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 11:28 PM

Where would you guys suggest going to commission a sci-fi concept artist, how much should I expect to pay, and what do you guys suggest to catch the eyes of anyone who has the capability to make large decisions?


Crossing out half of your question. Don't confuse concept art and art direction. Crafting art styles and themes generally requires experience, but concepts can be churned out rapidly. Art direction, or large decisions about art and its design in your game, is a role for an experienced and talented person. They are very different things.

You will need art direction, but it is an inefficient use of their time and your money to have them crank out concept art. Better to have them direct and tune others as the concept art is churned out.

The nice thing about concept art is that almost any reasonably talented artist can do it without much experience or much effort.

We've had concept art brainstorms where everybody must produce a MINIMUM of 6 concept pieces per hour, running for a week or more. The goal is to rapidly churn through a wide range of styles and creative ideas without becoming emotionally invested in any of them. The art director (the person who makes the large decisions) can review them at the end of the day and guide what direction they want to move on the next day.

If you have funds available and a local college or university or art-related trade school, pay a visit to the visual arts department. You don't need to pay very much for rapid concept art, only enough money and enough equipment to rapidly explore concepts.


Now returning to the second half of the question:

how much should I expect to pay, and what do you guys suggest to catch the eyes of anyone who has the capability to make large decisions?



You should expect to pay whatever your local salaries are for you to attract and retain that talent at that quality and experience level. It is up to you to decide how much you can afford. Nobody but you knows if you can afford a staff of industry veterans, or if a college student, or a non-student amateur hobbyist on a per-piece budget.

Those people who are most qualified and experienced with large decisions are also able to demand much more money for their services. The actual payment depends on your location on the globe, the motives that the individual happens to want filled, and your negotiating skills.
Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#5 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9869

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 09:30 AM


Where would you guys suggest going to commission a sci-fi concept artist, how much should I expect to pay, and what do you guys suggest to catch the eyes of anyone who has the capability to make large decisions?


Crossing out half of your question. Don't confuse concept art and art direction. Crafting art styles and themes generally requires experience, but concepts can be churned out rapidly. Art direction, or large decisions about art and its design in your game, is a role for an experienced and talented person. They are very different things.

I assumed his question about large decisions had to do with pitching the game concept to a game publisher.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#6 d000hg   Members   -  Reputation: 751

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Posted 19 May 2011 - 02:23 PM

You are going to struggle without stuff to show. That could be a combination of:
  • A proper design document with art to catch the imagination
  • Business plan
  • Concept demo(s)
If you are going to be weak on the demo side, you need to be stronger on the other angles... people with cool game ideas a dime-a-dozen.

Have you considered if some subset of the game, or some of the unique features, can be developed as a small game-demo? It would be unusual that you can't play the game without the entire thing being built. Is this the part where you tell us it's a brand new MMO that will make WoW look like a text-RPG?

#7 Obscure   Moderators   -  Reputation: 174

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Posted 20 May 2011 - 01:43 AM

OK everyone else is being good cop so I guess it's my turn to be the nasty guy and ask the tough $50 million dollar question....

How much industry experience do you have developing great big games that can't even be done by a medium sized team (in other words games that require a $50 million budget)?

Currently I'm entertaining the idea of commissioning a concept artist to get what I'm thinking in some very nice art pieces as it remains almost impossible to do more then that without talking with some very serious people.

Serious people won't talk to you if all you have is concept art. For a full list of what you need to attract publisher funding read http://www.obscure.co.uk/articles-2/preparing-a-product-pitch/. The same will pretty much apply for any investor with the sort of money needed to fund a large game.
Dan Marchant - Business Development Consultant
www.obscure.co.uk

#8 Dreamon   Members   -  Reputation: 102

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Posted 30 May 2011 - 12:16 AM

You are going to struggle without stuff to show. That could be a combination of:

  • A proper design document with art to catch the imagination
  • Business plan
  • Concept demo(s)
If you are going to be weak on the demo side, you need to be stronger on the other angles... people with cool game ideas a dime-a-dozen.

Have you considered if some subset of the game, or some of the unique features, can be developed as a small game-demo? It would be unusual that you can't play the game without the entire thing being built. Is this the part where you tell us it's a brand new MMO that will make WoW look like a text-RPG?


I have two of those three. I'm working on concept art, but most companies are aware of how easy it is to task a team and riddle out of a game if they want to (which was loosely pointed out by other people). I've read most of your articles before I even came here Tom, as well. If I had a full game already or a working demo I wouldn't be here as I would be self-publishing or pitching it to Valve, who is quite reasonable about publishing games on Steam.

I don't think that's entirely true either... everyone seems to think good ideas are a dime a dozen, yet the game industry has definitely been in a unoriginal slump that last six or so years, that's part of the reason I have decided to pursue making my own game because the games I've so enjoyed no longer exist. The industry is rank with clones and pungent stagnation. I'm well aware of the stigmas associated with breaking in as well. People seem to be all too familiar with belittling other peoples ideas and telling them that it's not worth spit (one of the reasons I've resisted posting on here). At this point in time the gaming industry seems to be more about stepping on other people to make you look good rather then trying to make something amazing.

I have considered employing a smaller game to get my name out first before tackling this one. Specifically a smaller game for handhelds that differs from all together from games currently available (there seems to be a lot of open space in mobile gaming that hasn't been done yet). The game I was looking for concept art on is too big to break down into smaller parts (their is more then one facet that interconnects with the game to form a complex system).

"It would be unusual that you can't play the game without the entire thing being built. Is this the part where you tell us it's a brand new MMO that will make WoW look like a text-RPG?"

No... not at all. I actually outlined the game into three to four tiers that makes it so it's manageable and scaleable for investor relations as well as a long term product cycle with incremental profit increases combined with a FtP model to promote a growing population base. It eventually may be considered a MMO, but it is not one in the traditional sense at all and wont initially appear that way (I'm being vague on purpose). It's not a RPG either, it's a FPS (RPGs have way too many problems IMO). Something like this has never been done though and as such it would need a very innovative and talented development team. I actually considered approaching Google with my plans as it ties into data structure and statistics heavily and Google talent seems to be unmatched. However, I don't have anyway of talking to anyone in Google let alone nonchalantly talking about a hypothetical in a industry they don't normally take part in.

I agree Obscure, the concept art I'm looking for is icing on the cake. Mainly I would be using it to set a theme and feel for the universe. It helps having a bit of color on black and white for contrast.

Thanks for the link to salaries, but I was looking for a place on the net where I could commission some artwork, not employ an artist to churn out pieces constantly. I had considered deviantart as well, but I thought I would check around here first.

Thanks as well for the feedback as well d000hg. It helps having someone to bounce ideas off of and is willing to ask why instead of just shooting you to a FAQ somewhere.

#9 SimonForsman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6109

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Posted 30 May 2011 - 04:39 AM

I don't think that's entirely true either... everyone seems to think good ideas are a dime a dozen, yet the game industry has definitely been in a unoriginal slump that last six or so years, that's part of the reason I have decided to pursue making my own game because the games I've so enjoyed no longer exist. The industry is rank with clones and pungent stagnation. I'm well aware of the stigmas associated with breaking in as well. People seem to be all too familiar with belittling other peoples ideas and telling them that it's not worth spit (one of the reasons I've resisted posting on here). At this point in time the gaming industry seems to be more about stepping on other people to make you look good rather then trying to make something amazing.


Good ideas are dime a dozen, the reason AAA games tend to be unoriginal is due to the money involved in making them.

Investors aren't gamblers, they won't take big risks unless the potential gains are worth it, When games such as CoD and Halo sell 7-8 million copies it becomes quite hard to justify a big investment in something that isn't proven.
Even if your idea is the best thing since sliced bread you probably won't beat those sales (The marketsize simply isn't big enough to allow it)
Thus the only realistic way to increase the potential RoI is to reduce your budget (a higher potential RoI increases the risk investors will tolerate), This is why most innovation happens in the indie scene, smaller budgets give more room for experimentation.
I don't suffer from insanity, I'm enjoying every minute of it.
The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

#10 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9869

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Posted 30 May 2011 - 08:50 AM

Thanks for the link to salaries, but I was looking for a place on the net where I could commission some artwork, not employ an artist to churn out pieces constantly.

Yes. I acknowledged that in my reply, and told you how to estimate costs based on artists' salaries:


how much should I expect to pay [a sci-fi concept artist]

Check out the current game industry salary survey... and do some math to come out to a dollar rate. Then increase it. Freelancers have to cover their own insurance, down time, etc.

The reason I did that is that there is no universal price for game concept art. So I gave you a tool for estimating, based on the experience level of the artist.

You'll need more than some concept art. You'll need a development team, an interactive demo, knowledge about the target audience, knowledge about the publisher's business model...

If I had a full game already or a working demo I wouldn't be here

And your point is that you're planning to attempt to pitch it regardless of the alleged "need" for the things I (wrongheadedly) say that you need. Understood.

It helps having someone to bounce ideas off of and is willing to ask why instead of just shooting you to a FAQ somewhere.

Come on, now. People only point you to an FAQ when you ask an already-answered question.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.




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