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Experiences and expectations in hiring sound/art contractors


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#1 Skinny Luigi   Members   -  Reputation: 366

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:53 AM

Hello,

A partner and I are forming a startup to develop video games and we are working on our first game together currently. We are as yet unincorporated and in the infancy of development and are still learning the ropes as we move through the process of getting everything up and running. I was hoping for some advice about hiring contractors.

We currently have hired two contractors to do art and music for us. We have basically no funds at all, and so we are promising shares of the earnings from the final product instead of upfront or regular payments during the development process. Contracts have been signed and are in the process of being formalized.

Unfortunately, things have not exactly been working out satisfactorily; it's still very early in the process, but we consistently find that our contractors are noncommittal, lax with timesheets, and generally rather uncommunicative. We've spoken to them several times about this, but to no avail. The contractors are also acquaintances outside of his project, but are located remotely (while we are living in the same city).

I'm just curious what most others' experiences have been as poor indie game devs working with contractors like this, and what we should really be expecting from contractors that we aren't even guaranteeing payment to? The two of us are long time friends and acquaintances and there is trust and constant communication between us; would we be better off building credibility (and cashflow) for ourselves and then paying contractors wages on subsequent processes? Could we generally expect to be able to find other more dedicated people to work with us under these same conditions?

I was hoping to get some answers from experience.
Please share any thoughts you may have.

Thanks everyone!


--M

Sponsor:

#2 Keith Riskey   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 816

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 02:00 AM

As someone who doesn't pay, your only hope is to get someone as excited about the project as you are. Projects can take years to finish and even longer to make any money. A good graphic artist can probably get paid today and still work interesting projects.

The reason your guys are slow is that this is probably a casual side project for them. It doesn't mean they have no interest. Just that their interest or commitment level is currently less than yours.

That said, I have paid good money for contract art and sound and still not gotten timely or satifsfactory work, so there is definitely a shopping around period until you find someone you are reasonably comfortable.with. Also, you quickly learn different artists have different fortes. Some are great at characters, some brilliant at machinery, some are great interface people. And some are a bit slow, but worth waiting for.

Also, just consider paying something. Seriously. Do you have a day job? Set some money aside. If you don't have one, be a contractor for a bit to get some cash. Do you honestly expect your project to make money? Then that's one less mouth to feed when it does. You'll be happy they're already paid off.
Co-creator of Star Bandits -- a graphical Science Fiction multiplayer online game, in the style of "Trade Wars'.

#3 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 7404

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 11:03 AM

Also, just consider paying something. Seriously. Do you have a day job? Set some money aside.


I second that!
-- 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 Blackburnart   Members   -  Reputation: 108

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:44 PM

As a previous freelance artist, as well as currently full time in-house artist, I can say for a fact that you need to pay an artist to get them to do anything. Most artists who are good enough to make money in the first place can go out, and within a few hours find a job that will pay them $100-$300 for 1 to 3 days worth of work, regardless of education. Its sort of like being a stripper.

With that said, maybe someday you will find an artist who is worthwhile and dedicated without upfront payment. You will then almost suredly encounter a second problem: in the 1-2 years of building art for you, hes probably going to get a lot of practice, and potentially job offers. He will dump you so fast your head will spin!

I just recently started learning to code, and I can say confidently I have some of the best "programmer art" in the history of programming! (too bad my code hardly works let alone makes sense. I flunked all of my math classes.) Why am I coding? Because I probably have a similar dream to you, to want to build my very own game. With that said, perhaps you should practice your own drawing skills - it will be a worth while investment, as once you can clearly create a starting point, the amount of work a more experienced artist will have to do is at least slightly reduced. Artists think in pictures - not graphs, tables, sheets, or even hardly written descriptions.

#5 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4348

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 06:44 PM

"Shares" and "Royalties" area really a supplement to actual commision of work.
Agree on a flat fee that you will pay them (as low as you wish) so that they understand the base they can get, and then insure quality of work by promoting royalties.
Personally though, I wouldn't go with Royalties at all, but budgets are always tight aren't they? If such is the case, then I suggest rescoping :)

#6 Paul Franzen   Members   -  Reputation: 333

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 10:04 AM

A couple miscellaneous pointers from my own experience:

- Agree to timelines up front, and don't be afraid to push people to stick to them. I once had a very small project derailed for months because nobody was on the same page about how quickly things needed to be finished. Basic coding was finished well before the art came in, and the project came to a standstill while the programmers waited for the art. If the artist or composer or whoever can't stick to the timelines, dump them and find someone who can (although be sure to let them know, otherwise you could wind up getting a new background from them weeks after you've already implemented one by the new artist).

- Don't just work with the first person you come across who has a nice portfolio and is amenable to your project. Like Keith said, shop around; on these forums alone there's plenty of artists looking for a new, fun game to work on. If you can't afford to pay, then your options are a little more limited, but there's still newbies out there who just want the experience (and their name in the credits of a completed game).

Hope that helps!

Life in the Dorms -- comedic point-and-click adventure game out now for Xbox Live Indie Games!

My portfolio: http://paulfranzen.wordpress.com/


#7 DaveTroyer   Members   -  Reputation: 1052

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 03:51 PM

I agree with everything said so far by everyone!

But I'll add my two cents, too.

If you have contracts set up, that means you hold the purse-strings. Since they aren't getting paid right now, they might not be feeling the urge to work hard, but when it comes time to collect a check, they'll insist that they we're working their butts off to get you the best dang work they've got and that you're an unfair dictator asking for the sun and the moon. I've seen it happen a lot. Lazy people lie.

Now if you have a schedule for them to adhere to and the contract states that they're violating and potentially voiding the contract based off their performance, then you have a way to protect your game and potential profits.

Here is what you do to cover yer bum. Let them know in writing (email and/or snail-mail) that they aren't living up to their contract and that they are in jeopardy of violating and breaking said contract. Don't be mean about it, just say that you need them to live up to their end of the deal and that includes timesheets, communicating on a regular and honest basis, deliver content on time, and not dicking around in general. If they don't hold up their end, drop them right away.

If they still goof around, drop them (I probably would anyway if they are lax from the get go) and you'll be covered with proof and contracts if they try to come after you later. To drop them, saying something like "I'm sorry, but due to X,Y,Z, you've shown me that you're not right for this project and we've decided to stop our professional relationship with you." blah blah blah. It'll let them know what they did to fail while cutting the relationship cleanly and professionally.

Aside from that, I think everyone has covered quite a bit.

Good luck and hope I was some help! Posted Image

Check out my game blog - Dave's Game Blog


#8 Skinny Luigi   Members   -  Reputation: 366

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:06 AM

Hello everyone,

 

I didn't want to just disappear, so I figured I'd chime in and thank everyone for the great responses!

Great to hear what others have learned in their own experiences.

 

Things remain somewhat shaky with the relationship as-is, and I'm not sure it will last, but I'll keep everyone's advice in mind for future collaborative agreements.

 

Thanks all!






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