programmer/artist partnerships instead of hiring for art

Discussion in 'Game Development (Technical)' started by Junkyard Sam, Jun 26, 2009.

  1. Junkyard Sam

    Junkyard Sam New Member

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    Yeah, I can imagine that happening too, Zoombapup. SO much about game development isn't the kind of fun/freedom an artist is used to having. I've seen people get excited about the creative aspects of doing a side project only to completely drop the ball once they get into the thick of it, with all the work that goes into actually making game assets compared to simple concepting.

    But like AlexWeldon pointed out above - getting to know people in forums... I bet most programmers here would jump at an opportunity to collaborate with DayDream, for example, with the reputation he's established.
     
  2. Sybixsus

    Original Member

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    Collaborate, my arse. I'm waiting until I can afford to hire a professional kidnapper. In all seriousness (I was being serious, I'm kidnapping him!) my current game is the last game for which I'll be taking on a large portion of the artistic duties. So I'll be revisiting this fun issue fairly soon. As Zoombapup also noted, I've found money not to be a key factor in determining the flakiness or otherwise of people. I'm not even sure that it's distance working, maybe it's just independent people being independent-minded.

    DesktopGaming's point that it always seems to be programmers leading projects and artists joining led me to wonder if that's why it's always programmers complaining about artists being flaky. If artists were the leaders and programmers were joiners, perhaps we'd be as flaky to them as we complain they are to us?
     
  3. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    Right, but I'd go further than that.

    As I've said about a hundred times before, it has nothing to do with artists, it just has to do with people. Every time I post a link to my portfolio somewhere, I get half a dozen emails from programmers wanting me to join their "team" to make the next big hit, with the promise of royalties. I'm smart enough to be careful about which ones I agree to, but if I wasn't, I'm sure I'd be getting left in the lurch a whole lot.

    Yes, it's true that for every real artist out there, there are a dozen flakes who think game art sounds like a fun thing to do, but pussy out as soon as they realize it's actually hard work. But for every real game programmer out there, there are a dozen flakes who think game programming sounds like a fun thing to do, but pussy out as soon as they realize it's actually hard work. SURELY you people should have noticed that out by now, hanging around these forums. I mean, really, how many times a month do we see one of these people show up, talking about their super-awesome MMORPG, get uppity when criticized, then disappear a week later, never to be heard from again? And yet people keep talking like artists have a monopoly on being lazy, egotistical and useless. Hmph.
     
  4. princec

    Indie Author

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    Too right. In fact I think programmers are probably flakier on the whole.

    Cas :)
     
  5. Junkyard Sam

    Junkyard Sam New Member

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    Speaking as an artist, though, I have to agree that the stereotypes do exist for a reason. (I'll define stereotype of having roughly 70% accuracy.)

    Artists tend to be visionary and emotional. Their very nature is to get excited and expand their vision far beyond anything actually doable. In my own crew of 2 artists and 3 programmers - all 3 programmers have proven to be able to finish projects. The other artist is flaking!

    Programmers naturally think in terms of limits & mathematics. In my game industry career of 14 years (probably spanning too many studios because I get bored and move, which I guess makes me flakey too, doh!) --- I have never seen programmers be the cause of feature creep. It's always designers, producers and artists.

    Producers/designers make the game too big to be created.
    Artists make the game overly resource intensive and try to go too far with the engine/memory etc.

    I think I figured out the problem:
    The things that make a good indie programmer are personality aspects that a lot of programmers have.
    Whereas it takes a special kind of artist to actually do indie work, since there's so much more technical and non-fun art delivery type stuff involved.

    Plus just look at artists. They don't even look responsible with their piercings and tattoos and such. :) Programmers look the part they play.


    So yeah, after everything you guys have said I better understand now why there aren't more programmer/artist powerduos.

    * I also like vjvj's comment about how this applies also to game designers, marketing/salespeople, and legal counsel. So working with ultra limited resources is just part of this game I guess.

    ** Terin yells at me everytime I say this:), but I still think there must be a way for developers to work together in some way to share marketing & promotion, since that's the greatest challenge for most of us.
     
  6. Maupin

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    Agreed, and I'm sure if there was a forum for indie game artists to hang out at, there would be plenty of stories about slacker, unreliable, and disappearing programmers.
     
  7. Musenik

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    Welcome to the indie lifestyle.


    This morning I got fed up and started scraping through Linked In. I found a young geezer like myself with lots of game industry scars. He responded right away. I plan to make a date next week. Wish us luck.

    ... probably not a chance in hell, but at least I've stopped complaining for a day about not having a real art director...
     
  8. Junkyard Sam

    Junkyard Sam New Member

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    Well one thing for sure - if you can find an artist you are compatible with you could end up with a truly wonderful relationship. Look at Dyno Kid & Daydream, for example, with Bumps, and from what Dyno Kid said it sounds like they'll keep going. Another example is the Data Realms duo.

    And in my own situation, I just love these guys I'm working with and they seem equally happy to have "nice paint" for their code.

    Part of what made me post this is it really does seem like such a natural fit if you can find it - and yet in my situation we're 3 programmers and 1 artist. I obviously can't produce enough to keep them fulfilled, (not to mention the website which I'm tempted to reduce to ultrasimplicity since it's a natural drain from the projects to do it right) and I'm noticing the same thing - DayDreams don't grow on trees.

    The artists I've talked with... they want to get home and go to movies, live up a good lifestyle, etc. Giving up most of that has been the only way I've been able to make progress on our projects since I only have evenings to do it... but maybe 1 artist for 3 programmers is the crux of my overwhelm. Indie lifestyle is a tough pitch for someone, because you have to be honest that it takes an ungodly amount of time to make quality work. I guess you can't sell them on the glory of shipping the game because that's such a small percentage of the whole experience!
     
  9. JGOware

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    The times sure have changed. Years ago I was quoted a few grand to design some pac man sprites. Now days it is much more common to do a 50/50 rev between artist/coder. However, I'm not against paying out an advance on rev share, especially for an artist with a track record.

    If I was doing a hidden object game, I would up the ante a bit for the graphics guy. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it would seem those games live or die based on the graphics quality alone.
     
  10. zoombapup

    Moderator Original Member

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    The strange thing is that I'm actually quite scared of the thought of employing someone. Just having that responsibility feels weirdly worrying.

    I've always wanted an artist as a PARTNER not as an employee. Becuase then if things go tits, its BOTH our faults. Not just mine.

    But meh, I guess reality is that if this works, I'm destined to start riding artists like ponies trying to get them to do work.
     
  11. jcottier

    jcottier New Member

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    Completing a commercially viable game is hard. No, actually that's not true. Completing a commercially viable game is EXTREMELY HARD. The few people on these forums who did it knows what I'm talking about. It does take AGES.

    Now this is why you always have people giving up quickly if they are not working on their own baby... Actually, many give up even if they are the leading mind behind the game... It's hard work, trust me. So if you want to make games seriously, you have no alternative. You have to pay people to work for you. And you can't just pay them peanuts because they wouldn't stay until the end of your project. That's it, there are no other alternatives. (of course they are some, but you might better play the lottery and get more lucky).

    50/50 doesn't work and it's not fair for the leading person creating the game. Game Code+Art represent probably only 60% of the work needed to create most game. So, if the programmer is also doing this extra 40% it deserve more than just 50% of the royalties.

    Trying to get people extremely cheap, doesn't work either, you get what you paid for and most of the time people will only work on your project when they have the time, so you end-up waiting for ever.

    The best way is to pay someone you can afford and make the best of it.

    Yes, I'm talking from experience here... ;)

    JC
     
  12. Jack Norton

    Indie Author

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    I agree 100% with jcottier.
    Unless the artist also does level-design, then he actively partecipate in gameplay.
    Programming isn't just putting together some XML reader... there are so many things to do gameplay-wise that can change a game from being "average" to a "top hit" :)
     
  13. princec

    Indie Author

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    Yay! I completely disagree :) What I find is that programmers in their technocratic "I'm not in the playground any more bullies, now I'm finally somebody" arrogance vastly overestimate their importance.

    Without Chaz, there would be no Puppygames. Without me, there would be no Puppygames. How could we do anything other than a perfect 50/50 partnership? I take care of the releases, biz and support, he does the website and adverts and newlettery stuff. We both do the game design, and bounce our ideas off of each other. Perhaps some programmers in here who like to be in control of everything could consider that their programming ideas don't necessarily make great games and a bit of artistic input is needed. After all, you only have to see the utter shit programmers come up with, gameplay-wise, when they don't have artists handy. Usually it's tedious rubbish of the highest order.

    Then again you should see what artists who can't code come up with - usually bugridden POS with any grandiose gameplay ideas buried under coding incompetency.

    Summary: programmer+artist = indie dev team. It's all you need. And don't overestimate your own importance or you're not a team, you are master and slave, and you'll never get the results we do*

    Cas :)

    * not that you want to be broke as feck of course but at least we get excellent reviews and win awards and such
     
  14. Jack Norton

    Indie Author

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    Your case is different since you have a guy next to you, and chaz does other things to help.
    As I said above, if artist does level design, play/test the game, gives suggestions, etc etc then it's a completely different world :)
     
  15. princec

    Indie Author

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    You'd like to think that but Chaz has only set foot in the country twice in the last 3 years. All we have to communicate is Skype, Dropbox, email and CVS.

    Let me assure you that the "different world" is really, really worth having, far more than just paying for some guy to do stuff. Chaz has complete, and I mean complete, final say in how things look or work. There's none of this "my vision" thing I impose on him like I see so many programmers doing (yes including you!). If you can find someone like Chaz to work with you'll go far. Well, at least as far as we've got :p

    Cas :)
     
  16. Jack Norton

    Indie Author

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    Oh yes, I'm sure of that. There are other example of this (emmanuel and his artist for example). Problem is that such person are extremely hard to find :)
     
  17. Junkyard Sam

    Junkyard Sam New Member

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    I both agree and disagree. If that's how it goes then that's probably not an artist worth collaborating with. Puppygames & Data Realms are both great examples of both sides carrying their own weight.

    There's a guy in my workplace seeking an artist to work on his game. He offered 25%. He still has no artist, and probably won't find one.

    Another way to solve the unequal work issue is - if the code really takes longer then the art, then the art guy needs to pick up on the marketing side. Run the website, make the PR contacts, promote. Another way is to reuse the code with new art, if possible, so the code gets more re-use.

    But like Princec said - never undervalue your crew, and if you do then they probably shouldn't be in your crew. But I guess it depends on the person, and I'd agree there are special circumstances for games where there really is very little art, etc.

    But dear god, never underestimate the amount of time quality art takes. All parts are of equal importance. Good design, good code, good art... and then it has to be marketed well. And obviously with these micro-teams, people have to wear multiple hats. It's like a weakest link thing - get any category wrong and the whole project suffers.

    The Princec style attitude is the one to have if you wish to attract the partnership of a really experienced artist. And the artist has to have that same respect for the code. Then magic happens!

    * A problem with hired art is - art really needs multiple passes and revisions to be good. And if you're paying out of pocket per revision it's going to hurt, and you're more likely to end up with first-pass art. Which is okay of course unless you're trying to compete with Popcap, Digital Chocolate, and the rest. The idea is - if an artist is invested in a project % wise, he would naturally do those revisions and improvements on his own in order to better his interest in the project. It's why the guys at Epic work ungodly hours to ship GoW - they know they'll see giant royalties.

    It's just a different mindset. When an artist is contracted to do something, the more time they spend on it the less they make per hour... and more than likely they had to bid low to get the project to begin with, so it's just asking to end up with average quality art. It's why outsourced content is often so shoddy compared to what's developed in house... (And like all my generalizations, I realize there are exceptions...)
     
  18. AlexWeldon

    AlexWeldon New Member

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    Right. If the programmer is doing everything except the art, and the artist is doing nothing except the art, then it's not a real collaboration. It's just another form of client/freelancer relationship, but paid in royalties instead of a flat rate.

    That's why I said earlier in this thread - and in previous threads - that you shouldn't come up with your brilliant game idea and then go looking for a partner. You should find the partner first, then shoot ideas back and forth until your ideas start to gel and you come up with something awesome together. That way you both own it, and there won't be this feeling that one guy is just helping out with the other guy's game.
     
  19. Desktop Gaming

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Sorry to dig up an old thread... actually no I'm not, else I wouldn't be doing it.

    I recently posted a profit-share opportunity for an artist to come up with some portraits for in-game characters which was a very fair deal or so I thought. I was quite surprised that I didn't get any e-mails/PMs from it, other than one offering music services.

    Then I found out why - some bugger deleted my thread! :confused:

    Proof if any was needed that the onus is purely on the programmer to create and fund casual game production.

    Slightly miffed.
     
  20. jcottier

    jcottier New Member

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    I saw your thread. To be honest, I immediately thought that you wouldn't receive any serious reply. You are asking for a lot of work without any immediate benefit. I don't know any serious artist whom will want to take this risk.

    I'm freelancing a bit as a programmer and I deal with serious real companies. Still, it's hard to get paid. So, I guess it's the same with artist. So, put yourself in their shoes when they see such a thread...

    Anyway, I was a bit like you before, wanting to cut corners... But I change my mind... I blow my little pig and went to see my bank manager and made a loan. Now, I have fully paid contractors working for me... Yep, it's scary but if you think your game is not worth the risk, why would you want outsiders to take the risk for you. AFAIY, that's the only serious way.

    JC
     

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