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Artum

When to ask for help with graphics and sound?

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Howdy all. Sorry for the long post... So I'm creating a 2D RPG that's somewhat of a cross between "Zelda: A Link to the Past" and a dungeon crawler game like DnD or Warhammer Quest. It's a simple game: 3 or 4 classes, a couple dozen spells, level cap of say 5 or 10, and a handful of quests to complete. And no multiplayer for now, though I'd like to have it be 4 to 5 player once I get everything else working. Nothing fancy, just something a few nerdy friends can play together for the hell of it. It's a beginner's project and I expect beginner's results. I'm doing all the coding myself as I really have no one to help out. And that's fine, I don't mind. In fact, I prefer it. But there are some things I can't do myself such as graphics and sound. And that's where my question comes into play: When is a good time to use the Help Wanted forum to ask for help? Should I have a fully working game with place-holder graphics and sound? Or is there some magical time when I'm nearing the end of coding that's the best time to find help? Place-holder graphics and sound are fine for now. Not having real graphics or sound isn't going to slow down my programing at all. Though I do get fewer "Ooos" and "Ahhhs" when I attempt to brag about my progress. :-P I don't expect much from the game- I seriously doubt anyone but myself and my buds would play it. But I'd probably host it somewhere as a free download just for kicks. I know I'll have some trouble finding people that will help out for free, but I don't mind waiting. Well anyway, just thought I'd ask. I'm not even 25% done with the coding yet, so I've still got a couple of months before it will even look like a game. So far all you can do is run around on a crappy grid while shooting fireballs at the dumbest mob ever. But it's getting there!... ish. The mob at least *tries* to chase you. Though I did manage to kill myself with my own fireball... kinda forgot to tell the projectile to be destroyed once it hit its target. :-P >Worst Programmer Ever< Thanks in advance, -Artum.

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I like going the placeholder art route because:
a) It's hard to get any good artists to join a project that doesn't have a playable demo.

b) Saves time recruiting people, and also don't have to worry about unfinished art delaying the project.

c) If the project tanks, it only affects you.

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Quote:
Original post by Kuro
I like going the placeholder art route because:


Yup. I completely agree. I'm just trying to get a feel for what other people think. I have no one to bounce ideas off of and it's nice to get a second oppinion on things.

-Artum.

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It very much depends on the game, but my general advice is that once you can demonstrate all the technical pieces that need art, but utilizing your own placeholder art, then you are ready to reqruit an artist.

This might mean something like:
scrollable map with animated tiles.
animated characters
particle system
Inventory
GUI

being able to "demonstrate" these, IMHO, does not mean that they are necessarily 100% complete, but that they are complete enough that at least 1 primary function is working and that you're certian that all the remaining functionality will represent no problem to impliment.

As an example, having a character animated onscreen using standard frame-based animation, when you plan to eventualy use skeletal animation, wouldn't qualify. But if you were planning to stick with frame-based animations, then you wouldn't necessarily need to have *all* the different animation patterns programmed.

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Hmm, well that makes good sense. Thanks for your input.

I'm still not sure how I'm going to do the UI. I've got a few ideas but nothing solid yet. Though unit and projectile animation are up and running just fine. And the map is scrollable. And my horrible implementation of A* seems to be working well enough for the little buggers to navigate around.

I still need quite a bit of design work, but now I have a better idea of where I stand. Thanks. Back to coding I go...

-Artum.

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Because I am lazy, here is a repost of something I said 2 weeks ago, I think it applies to your situation.
----------
Well, there are many variables to consider:

1) It's easier to convince someone to work for free if they see that you are working as hard (if not harder) than them.

2)It's easier to convince someone to work for free if they are getting something out of it (experience with how games are built, a working demo to put in their portfolio etc.)

3)Artists have ideas about gameplay and design too and they appreciate that their input be considered (which is harder if they come in at the very end.)They can also spot problems you wouldn't have seen (acting as a second pair of eyes.)

4)If they do this for free, they are not going to do it full time, giving them time to work is essential. Depending on the scope of your game, it can range from a few weeks to several months.

So, you are the one who decides, considering all the variables, because you know your own project. Be ready to coach them in how your art assets should be formated. Be ready for comments about gameplay and design. (I think there is an article about that in the game business section, how to hire an artist and what info to give them.)

Starting to search early shouldn't hurt since then you would have less pressure to find the right person right away. If you post on a forum and don't get an answer, don't get disapointed and DON'T BEG. Keep posting progress shots of your project and someone will take notice.

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1. Have something working that you can show off. Artists like to know they'll be joining someone who's capable of finishing a project -- especially those artists who have been burned before by helping out beginners with a lot of ideas but who lacked the required skill or dedication -- and things such as work-in-progress screenshots, gameplay videos (both with placeholder artwork obviously) or even a small demo they can play with go a long way towards demonstrating this. If applicable, you could also briefly mention (and link to for proof) something you've made in the past to show that you're both able and dedicated.

2. Don't finish the game and then look for help (unless you're paying). As Chantal has already mentioned, artists like having some creative input into the project, especially if they aren't recieving (or may not recieve) any payment for thier work. If you're able to pay a fair price for the graphics/audio you need then this isn't so important, but if you're unable to pay or can only offer a small amount you'll have a better chance of recruiting help from people who'll think they get a say in the direction of the project.

3. If you can, pay. As a hobbiest you probably don't have much of a budget, but if you can offer something it will be appreciated. Royalties (i.e. promising a share of any profits made if/when the game sells don't count, as there's no guarantee this will actually happen; this isn't directly applicable to your own situation as a hobbiest, but I thought I'd mention it for completeness). If you really can't offer any payment then that's ok too, but be up-front about it and be aware that you'll have a harder time finding skilled people to work with, and those you do find may not commit as strongly to the project as they would have otherwise.

4. Be free with information. Ideas are cheap, don't fall into the trap of keeping things secret so that others won't "steal your ideas". You'll have a better chance of recruiting succesfully if you give plenty of information and are able to spark some interest in what you're doing. I know for a fact that several of the audio guys who frequent the GDNet HW forum will often try to help out (by donating some old work, doing a small amount of free work, working at discounted rates, or referring others who may be able to help, etc.) those who show enthusiasm and dedication towards thier project, and I'm sure other artists are the same.

5. Be persistent, and have a bit of patience. It can often be quite difficult to find artists for hobbiest projects (audio usually isn't so challeging, there are plenty of beginners who want experience), so if you don't get responses right away don't give up. Update your posts every week or so showing some sort of progress and stick with it and you'll usually get some attention eventually.

6. Be picky. While it may be quite hard to find artists, that doesn't mean you have to accept help from everyone and anyone who offers. If someone doesn't seem skilled enough or simply works in a style you don't think is suitable, consider turning them down (politely of course). In the same vein, occasionally a project will be flooded with multiple offers of help - don't feel you have to accept everyone and end up with a large team that can be difficult to manage if you only really need 1 or 2 helpers. That being said, as a hobbiest you'll want to avoid being too picky.

7. Advertise in more than one place. My Help Wanted forum is usually pretty good for finding programmers, and there seem to always be plenty of audio guys around, but artists are often in short supply and very high demand. Have a look around for other places you may also be able to post looking for help, and make use of them. Make sure to obey the rules of whatever sites or forums you use, and take a look around before posting immediately to see how the particular community you're dealing with usually behaves and expects others to behave. Don't just copy&paste the same post everywhere either, make any changes that are suitable for the particular site or forum first; there's no point leaving in too many technical details and a request for programmers on a site that's dedicated to visual arts for example, and some places (such as Help Wanted here at GDNet, check the sticky threads) may have particular formats in which they require or prefer you to post.

8. Support others. Take a look at what other projects are looking for help, and give the ones that impress you or which catch your attention a bit of support, even if it's just a friendly word of encouragement (which will have the side effect of bumping thier thread [wink]). Firstly this is good simply because as a hobbiest you'll appreciate the hard work others are putting in, and I'm sure you understand that it's nice to recieve encouraging comments, but you'll find you actually get something out of it as well; people will remember your friendly comments and will be more likely to be supportive of you, whether that be simply returning the favour of some nice comments and bumping your thread, to advice on how to do things, or they may even be able to recommend someone to help you or even give you some game assets they don't need themselves.


So, when to recruit? I'd get a bit more functionality in there so you have a bit more to show off, but look for help early enough that people will still have a reasonable opportunity for input into how the game actually plays, etc. Remember also that if you're still working away at it you'll be able to update with actual progress, which is more impressive than simply bumping a thread asking for help with no new information.


Hope that helps. [smile]

//EDIT: Fixed typo.

[Edited by - Kazgoroth on March 7, 2007 11:32:57 PM]

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Wow, excellent suggestions. Thank you both very much. That's just about everything I wanted to hear.

Looks like I'm going to wait until I have most of the functionality done first before I go looking for help. That should leave plenty of opportunity for others to have input while I work out stuff like balancing and dungeon/quest design.

Thanks to everyone that gave input, I really appreciate it.

-Artum.

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