It’s dangerous to go alone!

“Does not work well with others” or rather “Chooses not to work well with others” or even more accurately “Chooses not to work with others at all” is a phrase that can sometimes describe myself. When I was in college I created a band called “The Animus” and recorded 12 song EP that I pasted all over the internet. The thing was the only member of “The Animus” was myself. I turned my incredibly small dorm room into a make shift recording studio and recorded each part one by one. The result was less than spectacular, but it helped me realize something about myself; I tend to prefer working by myself than relying on others. After many iterations and years of work I came to the conclusion, a conclusion that would be obvious to anyone else, that without help from others I will never finish this game.

Specifically what I needed was artists and modelers. Surprisingly people who are good at art and 3D modelling who are willing to work for free and have lots of extra time are extremely difficult to find. To make matters worse I made sure to make all kinds of mistakes in my artist search process, so without further adieu I present….

How Not To Find An Artist!

1) Restrict your search to friends, acquaintances, and people you meet at parties.
The skills and attributes I mentioned above fit a small section of people and the likelihood that one of your friends is an accomplished 3D artist and never thought to bring it up is unlikely at best. I wanted to work with someone I could talk to face to face about the game but the few people who I knew who had some background in modeling or art either didn’t have enough of a background or did not have enough time to commit to the project. So from there I decided to look for talent on online forums where I made my next mistake.

2) Have no written design document.
In my head “Zeds!” looks great, but without a design document that I can hand someone the only way I can explain the game is through muddled rants. My first few attempts at working with an online artist went horribly because the game I was trying to explain was not the same as the game they were hearing.  It may seem simple but I can not overemphasize how important it’s since been to have a clear design document when working with someone new.

3) Skip Concept art and go straight to the models.
Originally I looked just for modellers. I figured the modellers would just fabricate the art in Maya or Blender the same way they would on paper. I feel really foolish writing that last sentence but it’s true.  Modelers like to have a basic idea what they are going to be modeling. A lot will refuse to work with a developer that does not have basic art to build on. Plus modeling a character or prop takes way longer than just drawing it by hand. I feel way more comfortable looking at a pen sketch and saying “I don’t like it”, or “this needs changed” than I do when someone has poured out all the time that modeling requires.

4) Have nothing to show for the work you’ve done on the game.
When an artist contemplates joining a team, especially an unpaid one, in creating a game they need to feel that there is already work being done on the game. They need some sort of feeling that their work is going towards a game that will one day reach completion.  Having a working grey box prototype can help alleviate those concerns.  Art is important to a game but the basic game mechanics and rules can be put into a prototype long before any artists touch the thing.  A working prototype where units are represented by cubes and level design is only partially blocked out still shows how the game will eventually play even though it looks like crap.

So now I’m getting to a point where I’ll soon be looking for artists and modelers again, but this time I’ll be doing a few things differently. I’ll be heavily posting to forum/message boards casting as wide of a net as I can. I’m currently working on a written design document that I’ll be able to hand artist that join the team. It’s currently about a quarter of the way done but already quite lengthy. I’m currently working with a concept artist who is creating mock ups of in-game characters and props.  Amazingly enough he was willing to stick with me through this rough patch of bad artist finding.  I’m also working on a grey box prototype. I would like to say I’m further along in my current prototype than I am, but progress is moving along slowly but surely, and it’s moving along much quicker than if I was wasting time worrying about the art as I go.

I’m sure I’m missing ways in which I could improve my search for art talent. If you have any advice feel free to comment on this post.

2 thoughts on “It’s dangerous to go alone!”

  • 1
    Jackson on June 13, 2014 Reply

    I know that feeling. I’ve been making games by myself for years. Frankly, finding other reliable people is really difficult. Few people will commit to a games project and fewer will follow through.

    When you can’t rely on other people, you kinda just have to keep the scope small and do it yourself. This might mean 2D, it might mean making it casual, it might mean cutting huge swaths out of your original concept, and it might mean programmer art.

    If I were you, I’d make a small game like this, and post it on a place like PixelJoint, TIGSource, or, and post the spritesheets, asking if anyone wants to spend some time making them better. If it’s small enough, you might get a bored artist willing to help you out. You can build a relationship from there and work on bigger projects. I’d also recommend checking to see if there are any local game dev groups in your area, or in big cities close by. My first group project (which is almost done after 2 years) happened because we were all a part of a local game dev group.

    Good luck!

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