Empirical evidence, it seems, points to the fact that artists are much less interested in working on free projects than other types of content creators (developer, composer, writer, etc). I was having a chat on IRC with a stranger the other night who has been working on a free project for a number of years and shared that while it's never been a problem to find anyone else, artists are always extremely hard to come by. I have the same experience myself, working on a project that has been around for quite some time. Even being able to point to recently published releases, gameplay videos on youtube, etc. seems to have no effect on attracting artists. I've tried to attract artists both from general game development communities like this one, and art-centric communities like deviantArt. No matter how carefully I craft my post, I never get any responses. Posts from other free projects have the same result. But the same posts that seek out programmers, designers, or other roles are generally received positively and generate at least 1-2 responses on average.
Of course I expect that paid work is more attractive than unpaid work, but that should hold true for all disciplines and is not specific to art. So why then, does it appear that artists are willing to work for pay, but aren't interested in collaborating on free/hobby projects? Presumably, they'd have more influence and more artistic freedom working on a free project than for a paid one that prescribes what they want the artist to make. I'm not looking for any hard answers here and I'm not complaining/trolling about this fact. I just want to speculate about why this is with this segment of the game development community, and perhaps speculate some reasons for this observation.
Here are some thoughts I've had floating in my head the past couple of days.
- Is it an effect of supply/demand?
Art assets take a lot of time to create and many games require a lot of different art. Are there simply not enough artists out there in the communities to adequately meet the needs of the number of teams and projects?
- Is it due to a financial situation?
Are artists living on a meager salary and come to game development seeking to make supplemental money? Do people from other areas of talent tend to be more stable financially?
- Does the lack of influence dissuade them?
No one likes to work for free on someone else's game. Perhaps artists feel like they wouldn't have any influence on the game design. If that's the case, between two similar projects (paid and unpaid) where they would have no influence, the paid one seems like the obvious choice.
Looking forward to hearing thoughts and opinions of others. Especially those of our artistic friends.