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From Concept to Creation: Outsourcing Art in Game Development

Making a game is challenging, especially for the specialists creating its art. Imagine the scene: you're up against tight deadlines, dealing with picky stakeholders, and need to create something that shocks players. Sometimes, there isn’t just enough time, money, or the right people on hand. This is where getting help from outside, specifically for game art, changes the game.

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Game art outsourcing to a trusted team can smooth out many of these challenges. It's smart to fill in the gaps, whether it's saving time, finding the right talent, or keeping costs in check. Sure, diving into outsourcing is a big step, but our guide is here to help you determine if it's the right move for your game and your team.

Why is Game Art so Important

The first things a player notices about the game are its art and graphics. These serve as the primary selling factor, and they could be just as significant as the gameplay itself!

Game art is the visual heartbeat of a video game, covering everything from:
  1. Character design. Creating the appearance and style of the characters.
  2. Environment design. Building immersive worlds for players to explore.
  3. UI/UX design. Designing the interface and user experience for smooth and intuitive interaction.
  4. Prop and Asset Creation. Developing items, weapons, and other in-game objects.
  5. Animation. Bringing characters, creatures, and environmental elements to life through movement
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Alt Text: 3Dmodel of a former field mechanic turned soldier by Argentics

Working together, game artists and the game development team ensure the game looks great and feels right to players. Understanding the different parts of game art helps us see how much visual design adds to our game experiences. And how much resources need to be invested to work on it from scratch.

What is Game Art Outsourcing

Game art outsourcing means getting external help to create the visual parts of a game. It can be categorized into several types based on the needs of a game development project. These types include:

  • 2D art outsourcing for things like sprites and backgrounds;
  • 3D art outsourcing for models and environments;
  • UI/UX design for creating user interfaces and experiences;
  • animation outsourcing for character and object animations;
  • concept art outsourcing for the game's visual style and direction in the early stages of development.

While outside artists handle the mentioned tasks, the developers’ team can focus more on building the game itself and still getting great art.

Additionally, game art outsourcing is helpful for other important reasons:

  1. Cost Efficiency. Outsourcing can be more budget-friendly than maintaining a full-time in-house art team, especially when the demand for art varies.
  2. Specialized Talent. Access to artists with specific skills or expertise may not be available in-house.
  3. Scalability. The ability to quickly scale the art team up or down based on the project's stage means there is no need for the long-term commitments associated with hiring permanent staff.
  4. Faster Turnaround. Video game outsourcing companies can often work on tight schedules, which helps them meet project deadlines more efficiently.
  5. Fresh Perspectives. Bringing in outside artists can introduce new ideas and creativity.

Game art outsourcing can balance creativity, quality, and budget. And now, it's all about finding the right partners to bring a game's visual world to life.

Tips On Successful Game Art Outsourcing

Choosing the right game art outsourcing company can make all the difference.

  1. Start by detailing what you need in a clear document and looking for a game art studio that meets those needs.
  2. Evaluate potential partners' skills, experience, and how they work.
  3. Communication is key. Discuss your project for understanding and alignment.
  4. Pay attention to how they manage projects and costs.
  5. Always protect your intellectual property with clear agreements.
  6. Finally, have a plan for any potential risks.
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Working with a game art outsourcing company can boost your game's development if you follow these pointers. Following these tips will make the process smoother and the results more aligned with your vision.

In-House vs Freelance vs Outsource: Comparative Analysis

Using freelancers, hiring in-house staff, or contracting out the work to a game art outsourcing studio are the three most popular art production methods. Every choice has its pros and cons. Let’s check them all.

In-House Recruitment

In-house recruitment means hiring artists as salaried employees. These employees are completely integrated into the company's operational and cultural framework, whether they work remotely or in the office.

As for the benefits of this decision:

  • transparent communication, with simple coordination and collaboration;
  • consistency in art style and vision due to the deep involvement of artists in the project from scratch;
  • cultural and social aspects: salaried employees support the team environment and foster a sense of belonging and loyalty.

On the other side, we have:

  1. Significant costs. Let’s not forget the add-on expenses besides the salary, including taxes, benefits, equipment, and workspace.
  2. Less flexibility. Hiring permanent staff equals long-term investments, which are rigid compared to contract-based collaboration.

Freelancers

Freelancers are independent specialists who work on a contractual basis. They offer the expertise to various clients for specific projects or tasks, often from a remote location.

What could be advantageous in this case:

  1. Studios can hire experts for specific needs or skills, making finding the right person for unique tasks more straightforward.
  2. Cost efficiency.
  3. Freelancers allow companies to adjust their team size as needed, providing a flexible way to handle workloads and meet deadlines.

But you should consider:

  1. Project Management Quality. Managing freelancers well is key to ensuring their work meets deadlines and quality standards, but this can sometimes be difficult.
  2. Availability and Consistency. Freelancers often work on several projects at once, which might affect when they can work and lead to differences in their work style or quality.

Outsourcing Game Development

This method involves hiring a specialized company that offers game development services for game art. Usually, these studios have their own artists working on various client projects.

Working with a game art agency is beneficial because:

  1. Outsourcing lets you quickly increase your art production without the hassle of directly hiring or managing more employees.
  2. These services connect you with artists with a wide range of skills, helping your projects benefit from their expertise and creative ideas.
  3. The game art outsourcing studio does all the processes, such as hiring and managing the projects and the artists.
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Alt Text: Loading screen art for a futuristic shooter by Argentics

This way the workload of the game development studio is reduced significantly. However, there are some disadvantages:

  • less direct control;
  • problems with communication.

If you know how to handle these drawbacks and which strategies to use, outsourcing game development becomes the best option for your future game.

Strategies for Effective Game Art Outsourcing

As mentioned above, working with a game outsourcing company can present some problems. Let’s examine all the possible challenges and their best solutions.

Communication Barrier

Clear communication is vital to successfully outsourcing. Issues like language barriers and long distances can make sharing project details and feedback hard.

What to do:

  • use straightforward communication methods;
  • assign a primary contact person for the outsourced team;
  • use visual aids to explain things better;
  • manage regular meetings and check-ups.

To handle time differences, create a clear project timeline that considers these differences. Arrange some working hours to overlap so that you can talk and solve problems in real-time.

Don’t give any piece of information up for interpretation. Explain the job, including how your “done clearly” looks and the steps from start to finish. Provide as much detail and guidance as possible for every piece of work needed. Start with the reference images and end with small specific requirements related to the game's design.

Quality Control

Set up a robust quality check process with frequent reviews and clear art guidelines to keep art quality high and consistent. Regularly check the art to fix any issues quickly. Expect the person leading the art team to review work and give daily feedback. As the outsourcing (OS) team learns from their feedback, they'll need less guidance.

If checking and managing artwork becomes too much work, consider hiring a dedicated art producer or manager. Also, getting the outsourced team involved in making style guides or concept art can help everyone better understand the project's art style.

Intellectual Property

Keep your game ideas and designs safe using detailed legal agreements like Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and Work-for-Hire contracts. Ensure everyone involved understands the need to protect your game's intellectual property and sign these agreements before starting work. Limit access to essential game files to only those who need it. Regularly check your security practices to avoid leaks or unauthorized use.

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For successful collaboration with a game art outsourcing company, clear communication, thorough quality control, and safeguarding intellectual property are essential. Implementing structured communication, regular quality checks, and legal protections helps overcome all the challenges and ensures project success.

Art game outsourcing boosts development speed, providing immediate access to skilled artists and allowing for work on multiple aspects of the game simultaneously. It's a strategic move in the game development world. Partnering up with a game art outsourcing studio enhances creativity and brings diverse perspectives to the project. This approach accelerates production timelines and enriches the game's innovation and quality. Game art outsourcing positions developers advantageously in a competitive market.

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