General => General Discussion => Topic started by: DapperChapStudios on July 26, 2012, 06:02:02 am

Title: What to look for in an artist (Question)
Post by: DapperChapStudios on July 26, 2012, 06:02:02 am
Hello Pixelation,
We are in development of our first commercial title, and require some art assistance.
Our studio (read: group of university students/graduates), is mostly made up of programmers. Our team consists of two programmers, a producer, a marketing student, and a community manager.
The observant among you will notice that there is a big black hole where an artist should be.
Unfortunately, the gap in our 2d art expertise is so deep, that we're not even certain if we know what we're looking for.
So, rather than posting a job request with holes in it and advertising our inexperience, I thought I might just ask for some community wisdom.

The tech specs that I know we require are:
-   Full frame animated sprite sheets
-   Each frame being no greater than 128x128 pixels
-   Walking animations in 8 directions per character
-   Aiming and shooting animations in 16 directions per character
-   Orthographic "camera" tilted left 30 degrees, down 30 degrees from horizontal north
-   Orthographic light source tilted down 30 degrees, down 65 degrees from horizontal north.
We have collated concept images for each unit as reference.
Sprites are to go into the Unity3D engine for a multiplatform hold-the-line RTS/defense hybrid. Primary platforms are iOS, and Android with a PC/Mac port planned.
An early build of the game is available, a link will be sent to interested parties.
Payment will be profit-share, details will be discussed privately.

Can anybody advise me of any technical details that should be considered before taking a sprite artist onboard, or any variables I've missed, as this is my first time working with sprite artists.
Thanks for all your input.

Jack Arnold, Producer

Title: Re: What to look for in an artist (Question)
Post by: Dr D on July 26, 2012, 10:59:11 am
I have never done any paid work as a pixel artist before, but if I were to look for a pixel artist to hire, FROM a viewpoint of a company that I assume is looking for one primary artist to handle/all most of the art-related work, I would consider the following:

Style/Adaptability - Some people have very unique styles, and if you hire someone with a unique style, that is probably very likely what they will more or less create things with this style. I think those people with very defined styles are less used to drawing out of their comfort zone as well, which is why the style is so defined. Of course there are just as many artists without a style label on them, and they will try to change up their workflow and drawing habits to suit the game's needs.

Variance - Another thing I would value highly in an artist is their ability to draw different subject matter. What I mean is, they should be experienced and knowledgeable about drawing sprites, being able to animate them, interface design, backgrounds, concept art, etc. If you're looking for someone to fill a lot of roles, this is very important.

Speed - On the professional level, I think speed is almost as important as quality, if you're looking for a good artist. They need to be able to effectively use shortcuts in their program of choice, and probably know quick ways to get things done that would otherwise take a long time. Just general fastness and not having to redraw something 50 times before it's correct is good too. (As an MS Paint pixel artist.. I would recommend not hiring anyone that uses it primarily for their pixel art.)

Knowledge/Experience - A basic one. Not just knowledge about art either, but about games as well. I would probably hire a less skilled artist that has worked on several games before rather than a more skilled artist that has no experience at all. This is not to say you shouldn't give newcomers a chance. I would ask for a sample to be drawn first, maybe impose a time limit of some sort so you can make judgements based on that.

An artist that has experience outside of pixel art, being able to paint traditionally or digitally or use vector art, etc would be huge pluses in my book as well. At least, in your case it seems like you are looking for a single person for all your artistic needs, then it seems like it would be necessary to find an artist with talents in many styles and mediums.

However, I have not done any professional work or anything like that, so you may want to take this with a grain of salt. There are many more experienced artists and game developers here, that will probably show up to disagree with everything I've mentioned.  ;)

(I reread your post, and I understand you say you are looking for a sprite artist specifically, however I'm going to leave what I wrote, because it does seem you may not have someone to fulfill the many different artistic requirements a professional gaming company should have, that go way beyond spriting.)
Title: Re: What to look for in an artist (Question)
Post by: 32 on July 26, 2012, 11:49:28 am
Read this. (http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/AdamSaltsman/20090724/2571/Pixel_Art_Freelance_Best_Practices__Guidelines.php)

The biggest problem with your specs is you say no larger than 128 x 128, if you are implying most characters would be around this big then prepare to pay a very good artist a lot of money, that is a tall order for anyone, let alone someone working for free. Generally a screen resolution gives us a good idea of the sprite size, so include that. Assuming more reasonable dimensions the job doesn't sound too demanding for a single person.
Title: Re: What to look for in an artist (Question)
Post by: Grundy on July 26, 2012, 02:43:34 pm
If i look for people for hire there is one thing i value highly:
How well someone communicates with you.

Does he* respond to emails?, is he available on instant message?, does he chat for too long?, does he get what you mean? (you are responsible for that as well), is he asleep when you are awake? (timezones), Does he speak your language well enough? (English for example).

Unfortunately. This is very hard to find out unless you have a talk with the person.But being on the same line is important.
In my opinion.

*he is used in this story for the sake of readibility.
Title: Re: What to look for in an artist (Question)
Post by: DapperChapStudios on July 27, 2012, 02:24:14 am
Thanks for the input so far.

RE: 32
I made the resolution that high because its what the engine can support on the target hardware, and wrongly assumed that more pixels to play with would make things easier rather than harder.
[edit] I just read through that gamasutra article. Thanks very much, it was extremely informative.

I agree with your point about experience over talent; however the core ideology behind our studio is to give talented amateurs their first chance to make a game. We do this because the catch 22 of the industry is that new artists/designers/programmers can't get hired without professional experience, and can't get professional experience without getting hired. Perhaps this is less the case for artists, but I suspect it is at least partially accurate.

However, something that I'm still curious about is the spec sheet I have provided here sufficient for an artist to get to work, or are there essential variables I've missed? Some equivelent to polycount that I don't know about.
Title: Re: What to look for in an artist (Question)
Post by: Dr D on July 27, 2012, 02:36:42 am
I'd say it's more than enough. Any problems with clarity can be solved via communication. Have the artist whip up a rough draft based on the specifications and offer feedback based on that. It's important for both you and the artist to know that the art is heading in the direction you want it to.

And I also agree that it might be tough for newer artists to get good gigs, but as with taking any newcomer, it can probably be a gamble. On the other hand I kinda feel like it doesn't hurt for some artists to have to 'work their way up' and also prove to bigger studios that they can be reliable.
Title: Re: What to look for in an artist (Question)
Post by: Grundy on July 27, 2012, 03:28:24 am
If i browsed a forum being an artist and came across some job offer. The first thing i'd want to know is the visual style. Just some names of other games as examples are sufficient to point this out. It might not be technical but i would damn well want to see this in the specs.