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TexasJack

Can I make a living making 2D assets/graphics in the game industry?

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Hi all,

I am a 34 year old graphic designer and illustrator. I want to move into video game development as a 2D artist (i.e. I want to continue working as a designer/illustrator, but in the field of video game assets and design).

I specialise in 2D vector illustration, but am still very versatile and can vary my style where needed. My career as a graphic designer to date has given me a lot of valuable experience and I am more than comfortable with the current industry standard software packages (mainly Adobe CC creative suite and the like). I would love to work on the type of 2D assets commonly associated with mobile games, mobile apps, web/browser games, 2D assets associated with other games such as HUDs, menus, icons etc.

A good example of an aesthetic style that I like and can produce quickly/efficiently would be the artwork for things like Angry Birds (just to give a well known point of reference - I can also work in more sophisticated/less cartoon-ish styles if needed).

Can anyone shed any light on this, here are a few basic questions to get you started:

Is this a realistic area to build a career in (I have a mortgage and a family to look after)?

Does anyone here legitimately work in these areas, what is the frequency of work like?

Do clients in this part of the game industry pay well, or are you better in-housing at a development studio - if so, where do you look for these job ads?

Can you make a living from thing's like the Unity Asset Store with 2D art assets?

Have you got any tips, further resources or helpful advice in this area?

Much obliged,

TJ

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Most visual asset creation is either done in-house or as part of an outsourcing team. The risk with you being an individual developer is that you can't take on the big jobs (because it would take too long) and that small jobs will be sporadic and typically come from lower-paying and less professional clients.

The Unity Asset Store can help a bit, but that is mostly aiming at hobbyists who won't pay much, and you're competing with a lot of free and underpriced assets placed there by people who don't have a mortgage and family to look after.

There are hundreds of UI/2D artist positions in-house at studios all over the world. These ads show up in the same places as any other game development adverts: https://gamedev.jobs/, https://jobs.gamasutra.com/, https://www.glassdoor.com, various recruiters depending on your area, studio's own sites, and so on. These positions will not only expect graphic design skills but typically also a degree of competence with importing and using those assets in game engines such as Unity or Unreal, and ideally experience with version control tools too.

 

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3 hours ago, Kylotan said:

Most visual asset creation is either done in-house or as part of an outsourcing team. The risk with you being an individual developer is that you can't take on the big jobs (because it would take too long) and that small jobs will be sporadic and typically come from lower-paying and less professional clients.

Thanks for your reply Kylotan.

What you're saying would seem to suggest that an individual freelancer wouldn't have much joy in this area of the industry (correct me if I interpreted it wrongly).

The digital nature of the work would presumably make it possible to work remotely via email/skype etc... - is this common if at all possible for in-house/studio positions in game development?

What about building a portfolio of icons, menus, 2D assets and so on, and pitching myself to indie teams - do any of these indies ever pay? Is there realistic potential there?
 

3 hours ago, Kylotan said:

with version control tools too.

By this, do you mean keeping abreast of how a particular version of an engine handles an art asset such as a .png file differently from a subsequent or previous version of that same engine?

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It is certainly possible to work remotely, but most studios prefer their full-time employees in-house. It's not at all impossible to get hired as a remote worker, but you reduce your chances.

Regarding pitching to indie teams, you have to be realistic about expectations. The hobbyists at one extreme have no cash. The larger indies at the other end of the scale have in-house employees. In the middle are some companies that are in the precarious position of being able to pay for art but not having someone available full-time. You might be able to get some work from them, while understanding that their budget is limited. But there isn't a money tree of developers struggling to find artists - more the other way around.

Version control tools are things like Git, Subversion, Perforce, etc. They manage different versions of assets alongside versions of the code running the game.

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Interesting, thanks. Version Control isn't something I had considered or am familiar with. How does it influence the art assets for a game?

I wouldn't turn down an in-house position at a studio (Ubisoft have an office near to where I live for instance), but there aren't masses of them advertised near me.

Might put together a portfolio and start knocking on the doors of what few studios are around, can't hurt. Any other suggestions?

One other area might be concept art, I'd need to brush up a bit on my digital painting!

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Say there's a new feature, e.g. "rework main menu". That's gonna need some code changes, and some art changes. When they merge this feature in, they're going to want to have the new version of the code and the new version of the menu art going in at the same time, or it won't work. So the coders and artists will be adding their new work to the version control system so that the correct version gets used.

There are a bunch of other aspects to version control, such as being able to see when things changed and why, letting QA test the state of the game as it was at a certain point, letting people ship different versions of the game (e.g. a stable build for demos and an unstable build for developers) and allowing people to revert changes that they no longer want (rather than having to keep a bunch of local files under different names like Blah_Revised_Final_ReallyFinal_v2). Almost every developer uses version control now, so some familiarity is typically expected of employees.

(If you're an external contractor... you might still get away with just firing off a bunch of assets in a zip file. It happens.)

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