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From an Indie Dev: How to compensate artists with limited resources

03-01-2009, 05:09 PM
#1
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 47
From an Indie Dev: How to compensate artists with limited resources

Hi,

I am an indie game developer, and am producing my current project Spellwars on basically no budget. I am between large contracts, so I have a lot of time to devote to it myself, and I'm making great progress. I will need to bring in more engineering help before I launch it probably, but for now I'm ok in that department.

Where I am in desperate need of help is in the design/art department. I need to get contributions from some artists and designers, but I have more or less, no capital to speak of. I am trying to figure out how I can manage to get the contributions I need, with the resources I have. My options, as I see them, are:

#1. Get more resources. Get some funding, take out a loan, go further into debt, whatever...just find some money somewhere, and pay my designers well.

#2. Find creatives who will contribute for minimal cash up front. Use online contests or some other such mechanism. The types of motivations for these types of people would be to build up their own portfolio, to have their art/design work in a game. Basically they'd be doing it for the love.

#3. Offer percentages of revenue to artists. This can be combined with #1 and #2. I want to get small contributions from a lot of artists, ideally say 2-5 pieces of spell art per artist, and maybe 20-30 artists. I'd like 1 or 2 lead designers, but the bulk of the work is going to be highly distributed...which doesn't lend itself well to the stock option approach.

#4 Offer future work at fully-compensated rates. Again can be combined with the above. It's not ideal, but at a certain level, it's one of the most compelling offers I can make. It requires artists to "buy into" my vision, and I think there are a lot of people who just want to get paid and be on their way. And I totally respect that.

I would really, really like to go route #1, because I believe in paying a fair wage for a fair product. I'm just not in a very good position to be able to do that for the first release. For future expansions, once I've had some success that produces some capital, I can reinvest and pay my artists well. But I'm kinda between you know, rock and a hard place. I want to be fair to everyone, and I want my project to see the light of day and hit the market...and I'm willing to do whatever it takes, I'm just not sure what the right route is.

So, what do you guys think? For developers, how do you work with your designers and artists? For artists/designers, what is the most appealing offer than an independent developer with limited resources can make? Help me understand what works and what doesn't for people in the design world, and what sort of agreements are standard and acceptable.

I've been on the other end of engineering contracts for a long, long time...I know that I typically want cash up front, rev-shares and having to buy into someone else's vision is usually worthless.

Thanks
Ryan

Founder and CEO, R.Cloud Software
iPhone Apps: Digit Defenders, iLOLZ, Create-a-Cartoon Face,Create A Valentine
Currently Developing: Spellwars
Game Development Blog: rcloudsoftware.wordpress.com
03-01-2009, 05:22 PM
#2
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 658
I checked out your blog and have to say, you really do need those people designing graphics! The game doesn't sound bad, but you can definitely tell it is a work in progress. When it is nearing its final form, I would be glad to edit a video for it for the small price of $0.00. Just PM me when you are starting to wrap up development, or even sooner. (if I don't scout you out again first) I am going to start to follow the game and I would pick the contest first, but maybe go for a percentage if you don't get everything you need from that.

Playing: Hi How Are You, iBlast Moki, Rolando, ScareCrow, and all of my Plus+ games.
ngmoco:] Plus+ ID: Danlipson
Challenge Me!
PM me for free video editing of... anything

03-01-2009, 05:47 PM
#3
Joined: Jan 2009
Location: App Tech Studios, USA
Posts: 1,363
Quote:
Originally Posted by indyraider4 View Post
I checked out your blog and have to say, you really do need those people designing graphics! The game doesn't sound bad, but you can definitely tell it is a work in progress. When it is nearing its final form, I would be glad to edit a video for it for the small price of $0.00. Just PM me when you are starting to wrap up development, or even sooner. (if I don't scout you out again first) I am going to start to follow the game and I would pick the contest first, but maybe go for a percentage if you don't get everything you need from that.
One thing, DO NOT GO INTO DEPT. That is the best advice I can give.
03-01-2009, 06:00 PM
#4
Team up with one talented artist and offer them a good cut (in the region of 50% of profits if they're good). It's a lot easier to organise things when there are just 2 of you and with a single good artist you should have a consistent art style rather than a mix of different styles.

Don't pay up front, and make sure that you can work well with the artist.
03-01-2009, 06:15 PM
#5
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by indyraider4 View Post
I checked out your blog and have to say, you really do need those people designing graphics! The game doesn't sound bad, but you can definitely tell it is a work in progress. When it is nearing its final form, I would be glad to edit a video for it for the small price of $0.00. Just PM me when you are starting to wrap up development, or even sooner. (if I don't scout you out again first) I am going to start to follow the game and I would pick the contest first, but maybe go for a percentage if you don't get everything you need from that.
Yea, I kinda hoped those terrible screenshots would inspire someone with the skills to make the presentation look as good as the game mechanics behind them.

Thank you for the video offer, I would very much appreciate that. I'm still probably a couple months out from launching, depending on how busy my other paid work is. I am hoping that once I get the game off the ground, it will generate enough money that it will become my primary job, as well as provide employment for others...the shared dream of all independent game developers.

Thanks
Ryan

Founder and CEO, R.Cloud Software
iPhone Apps: Digit Defenders, iLOLZ, Create-a-Cartoon Face,Create A Valentine
Currently Developing: Spellwars
Game Development Blog: rcloudsoftware.wordpress.com
03-01-2009, 07:33 PM
#6
Please read my pm. Hope I can help at all...

Plus+ Name: kuler51
OpenFeint Name: kuler51
--Add Me--
03-01-2009, 11:32 PM
#7
One option on a limited budget is to buy art from a stock photo agency like Shutterstock, Fotolia, etc.. it costs less than commissioning artwork for your game.

If you have close to zero budget, you may have luck finding someone to do work with revenue sharing.. Indie Gamer routinely has posts with artists looking for work:

http://forums.indiegamer.com/forumdisplay.php?f=20
03-02-2009, 04:59 AM
#8
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 1
Hi, I can offer some comments as an artist/designer. But right off, I'll say that I'm not your average artist. For one, I'm employed full-time as an artist/designer. I also come from an engineering/tech background and can actually code. (Not a whiz, but I can code) On top of all that, I've only done a small amount of freelance graphics work so I can't relate to what a "hungry" artist's viewpoint may be.

But, for me, option #1 is a no-brainer. That would obviously be the preferred arrangement. I don't want you to go into debt, but my time is valuable. It would take a special project to sign up to your option #3. A very special project. (And there would be some careful wording in that contract.) I have no idea who would sign up for #2 (or #4), but I would advise them against it. It is the never-ending battle us creative professionals face. I'm passionate about my art and talents, but the general idea that I would work for free or well below normal rates because of my love for art is, frankly, insulting. It is difficult to get people to understand the value of my work. (I've had people ask me to design logos and web graphics for them, because they thought it would be "fun" for me) There are better ways to flesh out a portfolio.

What is it about artwork/graphics that leads to these creative offers? If you did not have the resources to purchase a mac for the software development, would you ask the Apple Store to accept a promise of revenue-sharing or possible future payment after this project was completed? Ok, that may be stretching things a bit, but this is about value. Design work should have value at all times.

When artists work for peanuts (or worse, free), I feel that it erodes our industry. And I can't help but think that, later, when peanuts ain't cutting it anymore, those same artists are going to be frustrated by other desperate artists who are now undercutting *them* and working for less-than-appropriate rates.

It's a tough gig working as an artist/designer. I think that some of those who have only been in the graphics/design field all of their careers just accept much of the treatment they receive from clients, and worse, the often poor compensation. When I left engineering to work in the design field, I was appalled at the condescending attitudes, the misconceptions about the challenges designers face, and above all, the difficulty in moving up the pay scale.

Having said all that, I realize that you're facing a challenge and that you're just exploring your options. It really does sound like you value good design, but are in a bind. You've even pointed out that you realize others may not care a bit about "buying into your vision", so you're aware that there's more than a good chance that successful, top-of-the-line designers are not going to falling over themselves to accomodate you.

I hope you don't mind my mini-rant. I understand where you are coming from and just wanted to give one artist/designer's opinion on the matter. I feel strongly about design as a profession and felt compelled to comment.

Good luck finding an artist.

-John

PS- Please consider naming your game something other than Spellwars. Before I looked closely at your blog, I thought for sure it was a game about spelling!
03-03-2009, 08:18 PM
#9
Joined: Sep 2008
Posts: 458
Quote:
Originally Posted by precV View Post
Hi, I can offer some comments as an artist/designer. But right off, I'll say that I'm not your average artist. For one, I'm employed full-time as an artist/designer. I also come from an engineering/tech background and can actually code. (Not a whiz, but I can code) On top of all that, I've only done a small amount of freelance graphics work so I can't relate to what a "hungry" artist's viewpoint may be.

But, for me, option #1 is a no-brainer. That would obviously be the preferred arrangement. I don't want you to go into debt, but my time is valuable. It would take a special project to sign up to your option #3. A very special project. (And there would be some careful wording in that contract.) I have no idea who would sign up for #2 (or #4), but I would advise them against it. It is the never-ending battle us creative professionals face. I'm passionate about my art and talents, but the general idea that I would work for free or well below normal rates because of my love for art is, frankly, insulting. It is difficult to get people to understand the value of my work. (I've had people ask me to design logos and web graphics for them, because they thought it would be "fun" for me) There are better ways to flesh out a portfolio.

What is it about artwork/graphics that leads to these creative offers? If you did not have the resources to purchase a mac for the software development, would you ask the Apple Store to accept a promise of revenue-sharing or possible future payment after this project was completed? Ok, that may be stretching things a bit, but this is about value. Design work should have value at all times.

When artists work for peanuts (or worse, free), I feel that it erodes our industry. And I can't help but think that, later, when peanuts ain't cutting it anymore, those same artists are going to be frustrated by other desperate artists who are now undercutting *them* and working for less-than-appropriate rates.

It's a tough gig working as an artist/designer. I think that some of those who have only been in the graphics/design field all of their careers just accept much of the treatment they receive from clients, and worse, the often poor compensation. When I left engineering to work in the design field, I was appalled at the condescending attitudes, the misconceptions about the challenges designers face, and above all, the difficulty in moving up the pay scale.

Having said all that, I realize that you're facing a challenge and that you're just exploring your options. It really does sound like you value good design, but are in a bind. You've even pointed out that you realize others may not care a bit about "buying into your vision", so you're aware that there's more than a good chance that successful, top-of-the-line designers are not going to falling over themselves to accomodate you.

I hope you don't mind my mini-rant. I understand where you are coming from and just wanted to give one artist/designer's opinion on the matter. I feel strongly about design as a profession and felt compelled to comment.

Good luck finding an artist.

-John

PS- Please consider naming your game something other than Spellwars. Before I looked closely at your blog, I thought for sure it was a game about spelling!
John,

I had to read your post twice, because I thought you were talking about the App Store!

Share and enjoy,

Christopher York
Blue Ox Technologies Ltd.
03-04-2009, 10:59 PM
#10
Joined: Oct 2008
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 174
Quote:
Originally Posted by precV View Post
Hi, I can offer some comments as an artist/designer. But right off, I'll say that I'm not your average artist. For one, I'm employed full-time as an artist/designer. I also come from an engineering/tech background and can actually code. (Not a whiz, but I can code) On top of all that, I've only done a small amount of freelance graphics work so I can't relate to what a "hungry" artist's viewpoint may be.

But, for me, option #1 is a no-brainer. That would obviously be the preferred arrangement. I don't want you to go into debt, but my time is valuable. It would take a special project to sign up to your option #3. A very special project. (And there would be some careful wording in that contract.) I have no idea who would sign up for #2 (or #4), but I would advise them against it. It is the never-ending battle us creative professionals face. I'm passionate about my art and talents, but the general idea that I would work for free or well below normal rates because of my love for art is, frankly, insulting. It is difficult to get people to understand the value of my work. (I've had people ask me to design logos and web graphics for them, because they thought it would be "fun" for me) There are better ways to flesh out a portfolio.

What is it about artwork/graphics that leads to these creative offers? If you did not have the resources to purchase a mac for the software development, would you ask the Apple Store to accept a promise of revenue-sharing or possible future payment after this project was completed? Ok, that may be stretching things a bit, but this is about value. Design work should have value at all times.

When artists work for peanuts (or worse, free), I feel that it erodes our industry. And I can't help but think that, later, when peanuts ain't cutting it anymore, those same artists are going to be frustrated by other desperate artists who are now undercutting *them* and working for less-than-appropriate rates.

It's a tough gig working as an artist/designer. I think that some of those who have only been in the graphics/design field all of their careers just accept much of the treatment they receive from clients, and worse, the often poor compensation. When I left engineering to work in the design field, I was appalled at the condescending attitudes, the misconceptions about the challenges designers face, and above all, the difficulty in moving up the pay scale.

Having said all that, I realize that you're facing a challenge and that you're just exploring your options. It really does sound like you value good design, but are in a bind. You've even pointed out that you realize others may not care a bit about "buying into your vision", so you're aware that there's more than a good chance that successful, top-of-the-line designers are not going to falling over themselves to accomodate you.

I hope you don't mind my mini-rant. I understand where you are coming from and just wanted to give one artist/designer's opinion on the matter. I feel strongly about design as a profession and felt compelled to comment.

Good luck finding an artist.

-John

PS- Please consider naming your game something other than Spellwars. Before I looked closely at your blog, I thought for sure it was a game about spelling!

Ummm.. I see your side of things BUT... this is the AppStore. This market is a huge risk and by not taking #3 into serious consideration you just think that the developer should take ALL of the risk.... A lot of us have quickly figured out that even with good graphics and a good game this market is overly saturated, so yes money can be made(or good games can flop), but its like a lottery to really make anything to pay the type of salary that your work deserves(or ours).

Which basically handcuffs the developer into risking getting no compensation for their arguabley AS if not MORE valuable time to nothing if the game doesnt take off... I have a feeling not all graphic designers have this same attitude that have not been getting paid from other markets, or have been seeing less work. I would guess some of them would be willing to "Scratch the lottery ticket" with us... At least I hope so, since Im looking for an artist for the next big thing right now too...

So I would avoid the "debt" route too!

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