Allied Studios - 7 years of High-Quality Art for Indie & Casual Games

Discussion in 'Art Portfolios' started by Erik Asorson, Nov 4, 2008.

  1. Erik Asorson

    Original Member

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    Developers. What are you doing to attract gamers to your indie, casual and mobile games?

    Artist : Allied Studios
    Site : www.allied-studios.com

    Independent, Casual and Mobile Games need great art to get noticed. The cornerstone of a successful casual game is fun, addictive gameplay, but unless your game looks fun nobody will even bother to download your demo. That's where we come in.

    Allied Studios specializes in creating stylish, colorful, fun graphics that make gamers take notice. When you invest in our premium art services we transform your game into an entertaining virtual world that attracts players, enhances gameplay and increases sales.

    [​IMG]

    Who is Allied Studios?

    We are a group of veteran video game artists who are dedicated to bringing AAA-quality artwork to independent, casual and mobile video games. We've been doing business for seven years (a virtual eternity in the "fly by night" video game industry) and we've contributed artwork to more than 40 games since 2002.

    Erik Asorson is founder and Director of Development at Allied Studios. A prolific 3D modeler, Erik has created thousands of models for dozens of games since 1998. He is responsible for leading the company's operations, recruiting, project management and client relations. His eye for talent and exceptional organizational abilities ensure that Allied Studios maintains a consistently high level of quality.

    [​IMG]

    Can I Afford AAA-Quality Artwork on my Budget?

    We are THE EXPERTS at reducing costs and streamlining the development process to fit almost any budget. When we evaluate a project we look for opportunities to "cut the fat" by eliminating novelty features, identifying opportunities to re-use/modify art assets and other techniques that ensure you get the most bang for your buck from your art budget.

    On top of that we offer a 40% DISCOUNT to all self-funded independent developers because we admire and share your entrepreneurial spirit.

    A Word from Our Clients

    With more than 40 independent, casual, mobile and AAA video games under our belt you know you can depend on us. We deliver our projects on time and under budget and we employ only the best professional artists to produce graphics that add value to your games. But you don't have to take our word for it. Read what our clients have to say:

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    Content Packs Coming Soon

    A number of people have requested that we produce content packs to allow developers to quickly and cheaply mock up their games and give developers on low budgets access to great graphics too. We've been very busy with custom jobs lately but this is definitely on our to-do list. And when they are ready you can be sure they will blow other content packs out of the water! By this time next year we should have a large number of pre-built assets for you to choose from.

    Visit our Website

    We welcome you to VISIT OUR BRAND NEW WEBSITE, look at some of the MANY GAMES we have completed for indie developers over the years, read a ton more testimonials from OUR SATISFIED CLIENTS and REQUEST A FREE QUOTE for your project.
     
    #1 Erik Asorson, Nov 4, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2008
  2. Cevo70

    Cevo70 New Member

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    That's intriguing. Anyone else here have any experience with Allied Studios??

    I'll be blunt. My concern would be the $75 per hour rate - that could pile up depending on the average length to create a sprite, or model. I guess I'll try to go through the quote process.
     
  3. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    75$/hr. is not high at all for contract work... it just sounds high if you're not a freelancer yourself. I learned early on to just quote for a job and not talk about the hourly rate I'm using to calculate it, so yes, I'd recommend going through their quote process and see what they say. You'll probably find that it's a reasonable amount after all.

    A rule of thumb given by one of my design profs was to take what you'd expect to be paid hourly at a full-time job and multiply by 5. The reasons:

    - Studies show most employees are only at full productivity about a third of the time they're at work. As a freelancer, on the other hand, you're only on the clock when you're actually giving a project your full attention. That's also the main reason people balk at a figure like 75$/hr; not being freelancers themselves, they hugely overestimate the number of hours you're likely to bill them for.

    - You're not paid for the time you spent finding clients, communicating with them, doing paperwork, etc.

    - If you make mistakes, you fix them off the clock and make no extra money.

    - You buy all your own equipment, pay for your own space, etc.

    - No benefits, no job security.

    - And so on.
     
  4. Erik Asorson

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    40% Discount to Self-Funded Independent Developers

    Hi Cevo,

    We offer a 40% discount to self-funded indie developers which brings our rate down to a very affordable $45 per hour, as long as you meet a few criteria listed here. 90% of all indie developers we work with qualify for this rate because the requirements are minimal. Those who don't usually are making enough revenue that they can afford the $75 rate which, as Alex mentioned above, is actually a great deal for professional quality artwork.

    I'll be honest with you, even with the discount we are not the cheapest around. There are plenty of freelancers who will offer you a rate of $20 an hour. But they can't offer what we offer, which is a team of professionals who can handle 100% of your art pipeline from concept to completion, freeing up your time to concentrate on developing and marketing your game. In addition to artwork we can help you streamline your art assets in creative ways that are virtually unnoticeable to the player and can cut your labor costs drastically.

    To give you an idea of some ballpark figures for how much you might spend with us: If you are doing a 2D game it might cost in the range of $5,000 - $20,000. If you are doing a 3D game it might cost around $35,000. That would be for everything from concept art, to in-game assets, to project management and art direction. Of course these figures will vary widely depending on the specific requirements of each project. The best way to find out is to request a quote. We can also do individual assets if you aren't looking to outsource your entire art pipeline.

    I understand our prices may be a bit high for some developers who are just starting out, which is why we are planning to release some content packs within the next year. That way you can have great art for your games even if you are working on a budget of only a few thousand, or even a few hundred bucks. I've dedicated myself to finding new ways to bring high quality artwork within range of indie game budgets for many years and it's something that I'm very passionate about.

    Feel free to email me directly with any questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you and learning more about your project if you would like a quote.

    Here are three of our recent clients who you can contact for a reference:



    Erik Asorson
    Director of Development
    Allied Studios
     
    #4 Erik Asorson, Nov 6, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2008
  5. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    See, now that does sound high to me, as at 45$/hr., it implies you're spending between 110 and 440 man-hours on the art for a casual 2D game. I haven't seen many 2D games posted on this forum that I expect would take me longer than 50 hours to do the art for, start to finish... many even less. I'm not sure I'd even accept a contract that I thought would take 100 hours to finish, unless I'd worked with the client before.

    Padding the hours is something that I expect from the guys who claim to be working for 20$/hr., but I can't see the justification for a team of experienced professionals taking that long, especially if you're claiming to be experts in looking for opportunities to "cut fat" from a project.
     
    #5 AlexWeldon, Nov 6, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2008
  6. Ratboy

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    That depends on how much polish you want for your game. Three man-weeks to three man-month's worth of artwork would be a pretty aggressive schedule for a polished, cohesive looking game at the Popcap level of quality.
     
  7. Erik Asorson

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    We typically work on large projects that involve 3-6 months of work for a team of several artists. A small puzzle game or similar may be able to be completed by a single artist in a week or two. Most of our projects are bigger than that, like 2D platform games requiring hundreds of animated sprites and big tiling levels or hidden object games with detailed backdrops and thousands of objects.

    It is rare that we will do a project requiring less than 100 hours of work and it is not uncommon for our projects to run into the 500+ man-hour range, often involving up to 10 artists on a single game. This is where you can really benefit from a one-stop solution like Allied Studios. Imagine trying to recruit and manage a team of individual freelance artists to coordinate a project of that size. It can be challenging. I know, because I do it every day :)

    Of course we can provide art for smaller games too! No project is too big or too small. But typically developers come to us when they want to do something big and impressive. That is where most of our experience has been and that is the source of these estimates.

    Erik Asorson
    Director of Development
    Allied Studios
     
    #7 Erik Asorson, Nov 6, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2008
  8. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    That's true enough... I didn't say I had a hard time visualizing how one would spend that much time on art for any computer game. It's out of the price range of most of the devs on this forum, though.

    It also seems high for the 2D samples on their website. The stuff they've got for Sand Dollar Sam, I can imagine spending 100+ hours on, but I can't see anyone spending $5,000-20,000 for what they did for Solitaire Epic or Pirate Master III, unless there's a lot more than what they're showing in their portfolio.

    I guess it's the nature of teams, though. You've got to have meetings, spend time making sure everyone's work fits together, etc., whereas a single artist can just sit down and start creating.

    Anyway, this is not to bash them... if you're trying to compete with PopCap, as you say, you'd better have at least a $5,000-20,000 art budget. I was just surprised... the first reply in this thread expressed shock at 75$/hr. and I said that it wasn't as high as it sounds, as usually the number of hours is less than what the game developer expects. Then Erik comes back with the suggestion that 110 hours is the minimum they'd consider spending on a game, which is almost an order of magnitude more than I think is necessary for many of the projects people are working on here.
     
  9. Erik Asorson

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    Please keep in mind that the samples in our portfolio are just samples. They do not accurately depict the entire scale and scope of a game. Solitaire Epic was a small job and did indeed take less than 100 hours. We are now working with Kristanix Games on a second project which is much larger and will take about six months to finish, and we are already discussing a third game with them. Many of our clients become repeat customers 2,3,4 or 5 times over.

    PirateMaster III was a medium-sized job involving designing 100% of the art for a mobile 2D platform game including: concept design, art direction, tiling backgrounds, animated sprites, UI artwork, promotional art, etc. It took well over 100 hours to complete. 5Fingers Mobile Media is also a repeat client of ours. We designed all of the artwork for the predecessor to that game (PirateMaster 2) as well.

    The amount of labor we spend on a project has nothing to do with the "inefficiency of a team". Teams are far more efficient and capable than individuals when it comes to large projects. That is why virtually all video games are developed by teams. The amount of labor we spend on a project is determined by the size and scope of a game and the number of art assets it requires.
     
    #9 Erik Asorson, Nov 6, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2008
  10. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    Okay, I'm going to shut up after this post, because it's not my intention to discourage people from using your services, and you seem to be taking it that way. I do think you'll have a hard time finding people here who have that kind of budget, but it can't hurt to advertise everywhere you can.

    Mostly, I'm just covering my own butt. I've been taking small jobs from members of this forum who've approached me privately, but at some point in the near future I'll post my own portfolio and start looking for business actively. I piped up in defense of your hourly rate because I don't think it's unreasonable at all, only slightly higher than my own. However, I'm looking to take on smaller jobs, and don't want people who've read this thread to expect my own quotes to start at $5,000.
     
  11. Erik Asorson

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    We have advertised our services on IndieGamer.com in this forum since 2005 and a large number of our clients come from here. The thing about independent and casual developers, and art service providers like you and me, is that they run the gamut.

    Not all indie developers are broke guys working out of their kitchens. There are many serious developers with serious budgets who make profitable casual games that can benefit from our services, and they do frequent this forum. There are also many "guys in their kitchen" who would like to make the jump to becoming a serious developer and making serious money with their games, and we can help them do that.

    Independent developers deserve as many art options as they can get. You provide one option. We provide another. That is good for developers. They can choose an art provider who best suits their needs.

    Erik Asorson
    Director of Development
    Allied Studios
     
    #11 Erik Asorson, Nov 6, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2008
  12. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    EDIT: Never mind, just in a bad mood and over-reacting to undertones in your word choice, mostly to the implication that only developers who can afford your kind of art budget are "serious" about what they're doing.
     
    #12 AlexWeldon, Nov 6, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2008
  13. Erik Asorson

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    I judge how serious someone is by how passionate they are about their product and whether they are willing to take risks to make it the best it can be. Allied Studios started out as a one-man company. I recently started another one-man company, an outdoor-recreation book publisher: Blackwoods Press.

    I know the challenges that entrepreneurs face and I admire anyone who has the guts to take a chance at developing his own game, writing a book, building a business or engaging in any pursuit that is creative and risky. In my seven years providing services to indie developers and as a small businessman myself I've gained a little bit of insight into what works and what doesn't. Here are a few suggestions I can offer to developers based on my opinions and experience:

    • Make budgeting decisions based on how much money you realistically expect to earn, not how much money you have. Of course you should never spend more for development than you expect to earn back, but if you spend too little and your game looks amateurish then people won't feel comfortable buying it. Remember that you don't pay your development costs, your customers pay your development costs. You only "loan" money to your game until it can start generating revenue, at which point it should repay 100% of your development costs plus profit. If you don't think your game can do this, then you should consider doing a different game that will.

    • Eliminate novelty features. Even if you can afford them they are often not a good investment. Every art asset should be weighed against its potential contribution toward the profitability of a game. A lot of those "wouldn't it be cool if..." features really aren't that cool and they add less to the game than they cost to create.

    • Guard your time and mental energy. Managing artists can be a difficult process. Artists have a different temperament than coders or designers or producers. I know because I'm an artist myself, and because I manage artists. If you want to get the most out of artists you have to know how to motivate them and relate to them and create an environment where they want to produce their best work. When you hire Allied Studios you don't have to worry about any of that. You just tell me what you need, and a few weeks later I deliver it. I take care of everything that needs to happen behind the scenes so you can relax and focus on the tasks that require your undivided attention.

    • Consider how quickly you want to start selling the game. There may be benefits to getting the game on the market quickly, like in just a few months. If you wait around a year or two to finish your game by the time it is ready the market, and technology, may have changed a lot. That is where leveraging the combined efforts of a team can benefit your project.

    • Don't ignore the "X Factor". The "X Factor", as I call it, is that individual quality of an artist or group of artists' work that appeals to you for no explainable reason other than you like it. 2D platform games from the 90s like Earthworm Jim and Abe's Odyssey and cartoons like Ren & Stimpy and Animaniacs epitomize the kind of art that appeals to me. That style of art has influenced my own work and my style as an art director greatly. If you like art that is colorful but edgy, cute but whacky, caricaturistic and just a little bit odd, you'll love our work.

    Erik Asorson
    Director of Development
    Allied Studios
     
    #13 Erik Asorson, Nov 7, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2008
  14. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    There's a difference between courage and wild folly, though. Your entire argument hinges on the idea of "projected sales," which for a first-time developer is nothing more than a random guess, or a collection of random guesses by people you ask.

    For someone who loves games and has coding skills, but has never created a full game and tried to sell it before, I think the "go big or go home" philosophy is a good way to lose a lot of money.

    Look at PopCap. Their games now have huge budgets (not hardcore game huge, but huge relative to most people here) because they've hit on their winning formula and can now invest big bucks, confident that their game actually will make close to the numbers they're hoping for. There was some trial and error before they made Bejeweled, and they might not have survived long enough to come up with that idea if they'd been "serious" enough to commit all the money they could beg, borrow or steal to their first project or two.

    Now, someone like cliffski (the Democracy and Kudos series), I could see investing in your services, since his games have been consistently turning enough profit for him to make a living, on what looks to me like a relatively small art budget... it would make sense to gamble a bit more on the next roll of the dice and see if the profit scales up proportionally.

    However, there are a lot of equally talented people here who just aren't at that stage of the business yet, and I don't think it's fair to discount them as not being serious.
     
    #14 AlexWeldon, Nov 7, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2008
  15. Erik Asorson

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    I agree. It isn't wise to invest a lot of money unless you have some practical expectations for your game's income-producing ability. My recommendation for first-time developers with limited budgets is to start with smaller projects and work your way up, reinvesting your profits until you can afford to do larger, more graphics-intensive games. A mistake I see first-time developers make frequently is aspiring to make a huge game chalk-full of features right out of the gate, like a MMORPG. The word massive should never be used to describe your first game, unless you have a massive budget to support it.

    Your entire argument hinges on the idea that our prices are out of range for most developers and that only after achieving a certain level of success will they be able to afford them. That's not necessarily true. If the figures I quoted earlier in this post seem large that is because they represent games involving large numbers of assets requiring several months of work to complete. We charge $45 per hour to indie developers and work very efficiently. I think people may be surprised to find that our prices are comparable to (or perhaps even lower than) yours when comparing apples to apples (projects of equal size).

    Now I think I've answered all of your objections fairly and reasonably.
    I'm not sure what your purpose in posting to my thread actually is, but it's obvious you have some sort of agenda. I don't think you are going to achieve it here though. Our reputation is cemented firmly in years of service and backed by dozens of satisfied clients. So with respect, I ask that you please leave me alone so that I can communicate directly with people who may be interested in our services. If anyone else has any questions fee free to post them here or email me. I will be happy to answer them as best I can.

    Erik Asorson
    Director of Development
    Allied Studios
     
    #15 Erik Asorson, Nov 7, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2008
  16. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    No agenda at all. If you'll go back to the beginning, you'll recall that I was speaking out in defense of your rates to begin with. I was surprised when you suggested that $5k was the minimum budget for a 2D game, but you've now backed down a little on that assertion and it seems we're more or less on the same page; my issue was never with you, your company or your rates, just the idea that it's impossible to make a good game without dropping that kind of money on the art.

    I've been a little testy because I don't care for the tone of your responses, and maybe that's why you think I'm attacking you, but as I've said a couple of times now, I'm not trying to drum up business for myself, nor discourage anyone from taking advantage of your services. I thought we were having a fairly civilized exchange of ideas, but I won't continue it any further since you've asked me to stop... this is my last post, just to try to clear the air and remedy the misunderstanding. Sorry.
     
    #16 AlexWeldon, Nov 7, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2008
  17. Erik Asorson

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    All right, let's cut the crap. You weren't defending my rates. You were defending YOUR rates. Because your hourly rate and ours are probably similar you felt the need to defend it. When you found out that we work on bigger games with bigger budgets you saw an opportunity to paint us as overpriced, and yourself as a more economical option. You don't think I can see your motivation? I had your passive-aggressive agenda pegged from the start. Of course I tried to be civil and let you off four posts ago when you promised to shut up, but now you are starting to piss me off.

    Do yourself a favor, stop antagonizing me and go do something productive, like figuring a way to offer more value to your clients. You don't see me over in your thread picking apart your prices and policies do you? No, because I'm minding my own business. At least I was until you started distracting me from that.

    Now take a hike bozo!
     
    #17 Erik Asorson, Nov 7, 2008
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2008
  18. nsmadsen

    nsmadsen New Member

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    Surely the two of you could have had that discussion via PM, right?

    Alex- anyone can charge whatever they want for freelance work. If they're way low-they're cheap. If they're way high- they're expensive. Note: The only time I would publicly denounce or comment on someone's rates are when they're giving away full exclusive rights for free. This, I feel, is hurtful to the industry.

    Let the man get his clients and charge what he feels is best. Erik in the future try you best to respond privately and allow your thread to remain... clean. Just my take on things.
     
  19. Ratboy

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    If you two don't settle down I'm turning this thread around and going home! :mad:
     
  20. doinferno

    doinferno New Member

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    Gotta defend Erik here. It´s fair that he answers publicly the questions made publicly to him.

    I don´t think AlexWeldon acted in an ethical manner here, being himself a freelancer artist and arguing about other artists prices and aestetic for all to read. He surely woulden´t want people doing this on his topic when he oppens one. Mr. Asorson has the right to defend his business and his positions.

    That being said, i hope AlexWeldon leaves the thread alone and creates one for him, with he prices and his portfolio. Let the developers decide.
     

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