I’m in the process of contracting an illustrator and so far I’ve looked at more profiles on deviantART and Behance than I can remember. I thought this would be an easy process, but I’ve never worked with an illustrator before and I never realized how many variables would come into play when searching for the right person. I know I won’t find everything I’m looking for, but here are some of the variables I’m taking into consideration while looking for the right person.
Range of Style
My game is going to have a low poly art style in a high fantasy/medieval setting, but I don’t find myself really caring that the artist has experience with that exact style or period. What matters to me is that the artist shows a range of styles and attention to detail. I’m absolutely amazed at how much talent is out there and I think the right person can achieve the style I like.
The English Language
I made a 20 page art design document detailing the look and feel of the world I’m creating, and after that document was done it still only paints a rough picture of what I want to create. It’s hard to verbalize how an imaginary world looks, and if I can’t write down exactly what I want, how is an artist supposed to create it? They can’t and that’s why so much iteration is involved with creating games. There is going to be a lot of back and forth between myself and the artist and we have to completely understand one another when we’re discussing imaginary concepts.
I didn’t think location would be an issue at all until I saw Ryan communicate with an artist on the other side of the world. Conversations are prolonged and delayed because when one party is asleep, the other is awake. It can sometimes be difficult to communicate via written word, and getting on Skype to have a face to face conversation is more challenging when you’re working at different times of the day. I have an infant and a toddler at home and when I’m at home I need to be present. I would have no issue with late nights or early morning calls in my younger days, but it’s just not an ideal solution now. I’d be fine with an artist on the West Coast (USA) or Western Europe, but I think Australia and Asia are just too far away.
I’m new to making video games and I know there is a lot that I don’t know. I’d like to surround myself with as many people with game develop experience as possible. If my illustrator has experience with world building, character design, animators, multiple device support, and other aspects of game development, it’s only going to design process more efficient and the final product better. I’m going to make obvious mistakes and hopefully having an illustrator can quickly point out those mistakes before they become costly mistakes.
I’m going to be working with an illustrator on a part time basis for about 5 months and they’re going to be a major contributor to the game. I don’t want this to just feel like a client and contractor relationship, but a joint effort to create the best game possible. I understand this it’s a job and that the contractor needs to be fairly paid, but it should also be about having fun throughout the journey. Getting along with the people you work with makes it easier to disagree and share ideas. It’s important to me that the illustrator speaks up when they think something can be done better. It’s also important that they are not offended when I have a suggestion. There is always some sort friction when people collaborate, but the process goes smoother when you like and respect one another.
It would be great if money didn’t matter, but I am on a budget and it is important that an artist can work within my budget. Before contacting any artists, I did a rough estimate on how many illustrations my game is going to need. Some portfolio sites show an an hourly rate, and that helps to obviously price some people out of the process. Artists work at different speeds, though, so a lower hourly rate doesn’t necessarily mean a cheaper artist. This is where the trial piece is important, because it helps me estimate how much an artist actually will cost per illustration and not per hour.
It’s also worth noting, that cost was a critical factor on the higher end, because I can’t afford what I can’t afford, but it wasn’t as important at the lower end. I have an art budget and I’m not trying to necessarily hire the cheapest artist possible. Artists need to eat too, and if I find an artist that I like at a higher, yet still affordable rate, then I’m going to go with that artist and not try to drive down the price or a higher cheaper alternative.