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Author Topic: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission  (Read 2400 times)

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Offline Pavo

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Early in this year, I started to work on turn-based RPG (heavily inspired by JRPGs) which uses manga as a story-telling mechanism.
I commissioned one artist to make the art for the game, but that collaboration kinda flopped. I even wanted to post a lot about the project here on the forums but things went downhill as soon as I started.
The flop might have been due to my project requiring art to be done digitally, while the artist had little experience with it. Turns out, we were both naive and thought that the artist could easily adjust to making digital art, but as it proved difficult the artist started to be less engaged in the project and unfortunately the collaboration had to end.

Now I'm preparing myself and the project for another search for an artist. This time I want to have the expectations of the artist and the explanations of the project done to the best it can be so that I do not end up wasting another 6 months or a certain amount of money to end up with no results.

So I'm wondering what kind of things you like to have prepared/documented as a writer who is commissioning for the artist, or the other way around, what thing you like to know before taking a commission as an artist?

I am aware that the project on hand is a video game, and not manga, but the nature of this collaboration is to be virtually the same as manga, as all the game elements are handled purely by me and the artist has little to worry about those things.
Any advice would be welcome as I definitely plan to post the commission here as well, and hopefully find someone to work together with.

Offline Coryn

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Re: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2021, 10:27:36 AM »
Well first and foremost as a writer, I would do everything I could to find someone whose experience is in doing the literal thing I would be asking them to do. If this is going to be a paid commission, I'm not going to go to any artist that I like, even if they're a good fit stylistically, if they don't have the skills required to do the specific task required by the project.

It's the same as any job. I wouldn't ask an IT guy to wire up my house's electrical panel. The IT guy may know a lot about electronics, but it doesn't mean he understands how to replace a circuit breaker.

That argument could change though if it's an unpaid situation. You may end up wasting time, but if an artist is doing something for free, then I would give them a lot more leeway to adjust. Of course this route does risk the artist loosing interest, but you get what you pay for with that.

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Offline Ryan

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Re: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2021, 02:31:28 PM »
So I highly agree with Coryn here. Your best shot is to hire a person with the skills for the project - past work that directly demonstrates the skill required to work on your project, or artists demonstrating skill and the potential to develop quickly for your project.

What you are going to need for your project are two different kinds of art - concept art, and production art (this is common knowledge, I know, but it just fits well into the structure of my post). You will need concept art in order to decide upon the visual style of your game. And then production art to create the art assets that will be used in gameplay.

Regarding payments and related concerns:

  • For the concept art, if you pick someone with little professional experience, you want to pay based on smaller task completions. A deliverable for a character concept, or a deliverable for a background art concept. Don't pay based on anymore work than that, so you can hire somebody else if you end up not liking their work. If they turn out good work for you, you can decide on a larger contract, often at a small discount in exchange for a longer period of stable work for your hire.

  • It is typical to either pay 100% upfront or (50% upfront of the decided task price and 50% on task completion). You want contracts/invoices for each task so you can ask for a refund if a certain amount of time has passed and the task still isn't completed.

  • Note, it would be difficult to keep hold of an artist for the duration of your project if you didn't pay them, but it'd still be difficult even if you do pay them. The level of artist you're looking for is in their late teens at the minimum - they're in college, or they are starting to get career pressures that drag them away from art. Anything could happen to cause them to have to quit your project. As such, you may want to consider splitting your game up into chapters or sections. Have an artist complete assets (production art) for one area, before moving on to another, so that there will be unison within the game art assets of that area. Consider making the areas not too big so that this is more feasible. Consider making this a feature of your game - each area has/had different artists making the art assets in them - rather than just an unfortunate consequence. Find ways to make that transition natural rather than annoying.
In regards to concept art assets:

  • You're going to need some concept art to decide upon the visual style of your game - essentially creating a sort of "style guide". You'll want to give that concept art/style guide to your production artists in the future, to help them maintain stylistic consistency in your game. You can have some "dummy" assets created here - asset-quality art (but won't necessarily make it into the game) in order to finalize the style.


  • It is fine to have your artists contribute significantly their own views of how the visual style of the game should look like. But it is really up to you to get the ball rolling first, and to understand the overall direction you want to go.

  • After working with an artist to create concept art for the visual style of your game, you will want rough concept art for the overall terrain/areas in your game. Concept art for cities, for natural environments, for dungeons, etc. And overall appearance/looks for background characters that belong to certain areas. This is mainly thematic concept art, not referring specifically to what any one asset needs to be like.

Once the generalities are taken care of for the art in your game, you will probably want to start on producing the assets for a minimum viable product (and after that, the assets for the final game itself). It is a rather expensive and laborious process to create concept art for each individual asset in your game. I think it is more common in indie games to simply discuss what the asset needs to be, have a sketch created for the art asset, have suggestions/tweaks made if necessary, and then simply go straight to turning it into a game art asset.

In regards to production assets:
  • It is possible, if an artist has expressed interest to create production production assets for your game, that they have no work in their portfolio to prove that is likely. In this case, you may assign them an art test to produce a "dummy" art asset, something that won't be actually used in the game, but a demonstration that they can create a level of asset that meshes with the other assets. Otherwise, you may end up having to pay somebody who was simply in over their head. And then you're out time and money.

  • You may also request the artist to create a small moodboard of references for an asset, or you may make one for them. You then go over this moodboard with the artist, so that you're both on a better page for what you want.

  • You also will want to give specifications on pixel sizes for your assets, as well as how you need parts of the assets separated into different layers.

  • Make sure you communicate clearly with the artist the purpose of the asset they're making, as well as general gameplay concerns that interact with the assets. How should the player view the asset? Should they be scared by it, intrigued by it? Should it be clear the asset is a friend, or perhaps an enemy? Should the player be able to easily see this asset on the screen?
« Last Edit: September 22, 2021, 02:44:59 PM by Ryan »

Offline KatDeMilo

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Re: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2021, 04:02:26 PM »
You'll want someone with "proven" ability to
1. Do sequential art in the style you like to the desired finished product you want.
2. Good track record of working with others and completing tasks.
3. Has the time.

Once you have someone like this they'll be able to tell you EXACTLY what they need. Every artist tends to be different depending on skill level and experience.

I like sketches to be provided myself. Even if they stick figure. Then just someone who can clearly answer questions and say/show what they want.

Payment, different professional artists will have different requirements. Some all upfront, others partial.

Make a job listing and chat to those interested.
MissKatMilo

Offline Pavo

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Re: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2021, 08:52:54 PM »
I agree with what everyone said and there are a lot of insightful things mentioned. Plenty of them I already did, but it's always hard to cover everything.
My biggest mistake must have been that I have taken the artist's concept art as proof of being able to do the work, whereas I most important work I needed from them was the digital art.

Do you think that artists prefer to do both concept art and the production art themselves, or if they are ok with working based on someone else's concept art? Especially if the series is longer. I know that my call as the creator of the game is final, but I still want to work in the best interest of everyone involved. Also, is it ok if the concept art style differs from what the production art style should look like?
Because if it would be ok to have a separate concept artist, then I could at least start working with someone on the concept art and have more things ready when searching for the production artist.

Ryan, I know we spoke a bit in private, but from your writing, it sounds like you have some experience working on games yourself, or at least have an interest in it.

Offline Coryn

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Re: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2021, 12:34:43 PM »
I would say that having one artist do both is bordering on asking too much. Even if they have the skills required, that is a lot of work unless you're dealing with a very small game project (that being said, never underestimate the power of a small project that is actually achievable).

It is definitely okay if the final product differs from the concept. Concepts are there as a guide, but are not hard rules to follow. If you ever check out an art book for a game or movie, you will see that even the final concept for something (a character, let's say), is going to differ in a lot of ways from what you see on screen. As long as you've preserved the 'soul' of the concept however, then you're in good shape.

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Offline KatDeMilo

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Re: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2021, 02:12:00 PM »
If you want an artist to do both you'll need to find one with enough talent, with a lot of time and you'll need to be able to pay enough!

You ask for more, it's totally fine if you can compensate more.

All $$$
« Last Edit: September 23, 2021, 02:35:04 PM by KatDeMilo »
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Offline Pavo

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Re: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2021, 07:57:45 AM »
For some reason, I was convinced that artists would be deterred if they would have to work based on another artist's concept art.  Guess I was wrong.

But this should make things much easier for the preparation phase as I think I can be less picky about concept artists. (Correct me if I'm wrong)

Offline ExoGrimz

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Re: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2021, 02:51:33 PM »
Not necessarily, fanart is still extremely popular in today's day and age and it is essentially working off of someone else's art and concepts. Additionally, it is common in art teams to have one person be in charge of doing concept art and reference sheets that the whole team have to design and adhere to. So, if you find an artist experienced in creating and modeling game assets... no doubt they have experience making art in someone else's style with someone else's concept sheets. Besides, there is always no harm in asking :D

Offline Ryan

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Re: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2021, 03:51:35 PM »
I agree with what everyone said and there are a lot of insightful things mentioned. Plenty of them I already did, but it's always hard to cover everything.
My biggest mistake must have been that I have taken the artist's concept art as proof of being able to do the work, whereas I most important work I needed from them was the digital art.

Do you think that artists prefer to do both concept art and the production art themselves, or if they are ok with working based on someone else's concept art? Especially if the series is longer. I know that my call as the creator of the game is final, but I still want to work in the best interest of everyone involved. Also, is it ok if the concept art style differs from what the production art style should look like?
Because if it would be ok to have a separate concept artist, then I could at least start working with someone on the concept art and have more things ready when searching for the production artist.

Ryan, I know we spoke a bit in private, but from your writing, it sounds like you have some experience working on games yourself, or at least have an interest in it.

Artists are definitely okay working off someone else's concept art. Think of all the fan art made these days of different anime/videogame characters (I see somebody already got to mentioning this! haha). It's also typical for artists who do commissions to draw off of clients' pre-existing concept art, for example, of their original characters (OCs). (With that said, it may get boring for a production artist if everything is already concepted out in your game. It's natural for some things to be missed and your production artist(s) will need to do concept thinking as well - (it's also not worth to concept out everything)).

It's also okay if the concept art style differs from the production art style. Things that should be apparent from character concept art are: age of the character (baby - child - teen -  adult - etc), height/physique, impression/personality they give off, the design of their costume and/or weapons. The production style will take these different characteristics and try to match the "what" of what's already there, but might change the "how" (i.e. style - the production art may have a different style for drawing the eyes, but will still aim to communicate what the concept art shows).

However, very large differences in style can be problematic - don't get very western, realistic concept art made if the game will have a semi-realistic manga art style. It'd be a waste of effort and does make translating the concept more difficult.

Regarding searching for concept artists, you may be able to be less picky - since you don't need to hire a person who can execute the game's production art style. You just need to find a person that can make good concept art -  images that are clear and communicate the concept of the character/environment/etc. The concept art, however, should still be made in some sort of manga style.

However, regarding developing the production art style and its style guide, you want to be the most picky here. The best fit here is a person good at both concept art and production art - they have technical and conceptual skills. They are going to have to try out a bunch of different looks for the style, so a bunch of rough and slightly-polished sketches - but they will also need to create examples of some production-level assets.

As for myself, I've done some concept art kind of stuff in the past. Nothing that professional, and nothing really for videogames. I am, however, acquaintances with a lot of aspiring and professional concept/game artists, and I keep up with some educational content coming from the industry. I wanted to work in the industry as well but it's too competitive for me. These days I'm just going with the flow, drawing for fun, and working on getting a new career started. I may be able to do some stuff for you, but I can't do too much.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2021, 03:53:16 PM by Ryan »

Offline NO1SY

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Re: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2021, 08:35:56 AM »

It is typical to either pay 100% upfront or (50% upfront of the decided task price and 50% on task completion). You want contracts/invoices for each task so you can ask for a refund if a certain amount of time has passed and the task still isn't completed.


I want to just quickly re-iterate this point in case it got glossed over. For longer projects like the one described here, a contract or invoices is a must. For one off small pieces, you can arrange a virtual over-the-table handshake if you feel like you can trust the person you are commissioning, otherwise you need a paper-trail and accountability and insurance that the work will be completed to a satisfactory standard and in an agreed upon time-frame. EVEN if you are commissioning work from a FRIEND, this is still a must to protect all parties involved.

Offline Pavo

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Re: What do you want to have explained before requesting/accepting commission
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2021, 09:29:06 AM »
Yeah, I'm definitely going to do the contract. Don't want to make this harder than it already is.
Although probably for now it will mostly be informal ones, or just invoices until I manage to form a company.