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How do I go about hiring or outsourcing for my game?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Marscaleb, Nov 22, 2023.

  1. Marscaleb


    Jan 7, 2014
    Does anyone have some advice for hiring someone to create assets for your game?

    I've got some money saved up, and I really want to pay someone to make some character models/animations for my game. But this is considerably outside my experience, let alone comfort zone.

    Theoretically I could hire a company that specializes in outsourcing content creation, but I have no idea how to find such a company, especially one that I know is reputable and not just some scam company showing stolen assets. (I've actually had some people approach me to offer services, and I feel REEEEALY sketchy about anyone who does that.) I have no idea what a fair price is, and don't have any frame of reference to tell if I'd be overpaying or looking at prices too low to expect worthwhile work.
    What's more, I'm only looking to have a small number of models made for me, and I imagine most of these companies aren't interested in small orders, like a single character or something like that. I don't know how I could find the right kind of company to work with.

    I've looked at sites like Fiverr, and there is some talent there, but... most of it isn't quite what I'm looking for. It's nice to work under the umbrella of a large company in case something turns south, but the bulk of the quality isn't a truly professional level. They're students and hobbyists, and most of them give me a feeling that I'd get a really sad result if I ask them for something outside of their style.

    I feel particularly apprehensive because this isn't coming from company funds, this is just my personal savings. I'm willing to spend the money but I could be really hosed if it doesn't come out right. I know enough about business to know sometimes things go wrong, and you need to be prepared to have some money go to waste and have to pay someone else to repeat a job that didn't go right the first time. But I don't think I have that much money.

    Altogether, this is all just outside my experience. I don't know what anyone here can really say to help, but I thought I'd try. What should I be looking for (and looking out for) as I try to take that step? Are there any other resources I've missed? How do I go about this?
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2023
  2. SunnySunshine


    May 18, 2009
    zombiegorilla likes this.
  3. IllTemperedTunas


    Aug 31, 2012
    What style are you going for? Hyper realistic unique demons with unique rigs are going to be infinitely harder to get your hands on than some generic low poly type characters.

    You kind of want to think backwards if you just want generic humans. Think about the rigging and animations first, because if you can ensure your artists you commision use the most generic form first, or at least create the art in such a way that it's very easy to rig them to the most generic and easily used rig, you save yourself a ton of headache and you can dump all sorts of animations on it later simply buying it off the asset store.

    Think of the rig like a wall outlet, you probably want the most generic one that 99% of appliances plug into, and not some weird one that will only work with the custom animations you do.

    There is a lot that goes into getting art done right that you will later use in the full game, especially for characters as rigs and animations can get tricky.

    If you're not too familiar with art, or you're not sure what style you want, or the performance benchmarks, or even which shaders and materials you plan to use for which parts of the character, you can be stuck having to go back and forth with artists for a very long time.

    I'd highly recommend taking SunnySunshine's advice, and just find some modestly priced "placeholder" assets, but you might be surprised, you might be able to find some very good assets out there for a decent price, that you really like and have a solid rig and animations, and maybe you could pay an artist to modify that just a touch and make it "yours".

    Beyond that, it's super important you know what you're asking your artist for, be able to sell the gig to them, and to have very clearly defined pay, quality expectations, and timeframes. Don't pay too much up front, and pay for small ammounts along the way, don't pay the full commision until they give you a quality asset up to the standards they show in their portfolio and that you agreed upon.

    Important: Don't show weakness, don't be like, "haha, you're the expert". Be the boss, don't goof around too much, this is business, you're spending your hard earned money. Let them know along the way what you expect and your standards and do not waver. Most people out there are lazy and will try to swindle you and try to make it your fault if their art doesn't live up to expectations. Be professional and honest all the way through, and stand by what you expect from them. Don't get tepid early, maintain the expectations of quality from the very start and be unwavering.

    There are a lot of burned out artists, or people who take shortcuts in all sorts of ways out there, who will do ok for the first day or two and then fall off a cliff. It's a real jungle out there. Generally speaking, you can tell when an artist is going to be any good when they have a good demeaner about them, they communicate promptly and they just act professional and positive and everything goes very smoothly. If you encounter any speed bumps at any time it's usually a huge red flag that there will be problems.

    If you want the most bang for your buck, you're going to want to poke around lots of forums and find someone lesser known who just seems to have an awesome portfolio.

    While I was commissioning art for my game, I sold it to potential artists by saying fish are super easy to make and you could probably make a couple high quality fish a day, no items required, no hair, etc. Super simple. Just keep in mind, if you want top notch work, a fully rigged character it could end up costing thousands of dollars if you want competitive quality, not just for the art, but the rigging too. And if there are game breaking issues with the rig, you may not catch them until the artist is long gone not being an artist yourself. Make sure the art is in Unity and doing all the thigns you need it to do in the build before you cut off communication because there are lots of things that cuold potentially go wrong with rigging and materials and poly counts and who knows what...

    Not sure what you're looking for with your project, but if it's something fun or interesting to work on, or easier than other games, make sure you sell that in your pitch to artist.

    Edit: Oh yeah, if you just google for generic NDA's and commision contract stuff you'll get stuff you can copy and paste into an email. You need a papertrail of the agreed upon amount and that you will own the art rendered.

    Make sure you have "style sheets" ready to give the artist an idea of the look, color, form, visual quality, poly count, style, etc. that you want.

    As for payment you'll just want to give a low amount up front for some concept or an ealy mock up. It's important you both show you're serious, them creating some art, you giving a bit of $$$, maybe 50 bucks or something. If the art at this phase is way behind the quality you expected or you feel things are fishy, don't be afraid to back out and find someone else.

    From here if things are good, maybe pay 25% of the full amount for a mostly done asset that you want some revisions to. and then 100% for the finished asset. The first asset is the one you have to really go back and forth on and be careful with so no one gets swindled. Once you find an artist that gets the job done and knows what you want, it gets a lot easier and you can streamline the process once trust is built. But a lot of this comes down to what the artist is comfortable with, you gotta meet in the middle sometimes.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2023
  4. neginfinity


    Jan 27, 2013
    You go to artist sites, and see job/commercial section. You also see job section here.
    Artstation is a good suggestion, polycount might be another one to consider.

    Freelance sites might not be as good as targeted forums, as people will try to undercut each other.
  5. krupps


    Oct 17, 2017
    I went through this whole shibang and here's what I experienced:

    1 a price for a character model is going to be no less than $1300, more if you use a studio. Anything less and corners will be cut

    Graphic assets from a contractor usually runs $30/hr unless they're good then they will only do half the job, complain the money isn't worth the time and disappear and you blew some money for nothing, art assets can't really be picked up by another. Possible, but won't look quite right. This happened to me with an artist that worked on FarCry and when he resurfaced I said "Give me a price that is worth it", which was triple and I said ok, he did 60% and disappeared for another project.

    I used freelancer to get tweaks to assets I found that are free

    I Advertised in the local community college newsletter, unless it's good money no bites

    Also, remember when the artist works for less than $40/hr you won't get sole rights to the art unless you get that NDA setup.

    Tip: Artists are little challenging. You have to know exactly what you want and do small sketches or example art. If you leave anything a little abstract because your not sure, both of you will be unhappy.

    I found it's best once you finish the game, put all the assets into a folder and break them up into milestones so you keep the projects small and hire an artist/digital media artist to do those specific assets and integrate into the game and test for artifacts.

    If you get an artist to draw assets you need in development, halfway through as your game starts having realizations you'll want assets change and waste a ton of money in the process.

    What I did in the end:
    Purchased Adobe creator and 3D Studio ( Blender is a free one)

    Scoured the entire in the internet and Unity Asset Store for models under $10 that way it's close to what I needed.

    GameArt2d, DeviantArt, google free sprites,

    Began tweaking the Illustrator files myself to do minor things

    Every sale on the UnityAsset Store I would buy a few that looked like a possibility. I have 200 assets, so now any game idea I have I have pre models to use until i'm ready to hire someone.

    I purchased an HD drawing tablet and i'm practicing 3d modeling again.

    Until your game is ready grab assets from free sites or the unity store so you can envision the game and then hire a game studio/freelancer to change them into something real when it's finished.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2023
  6. Marscaleb


    Jan 7, 2014
    I'm aware, I've been using placeholder art, and I'm fast approaching the point where I need the real final-quality art.
    About the only artist sites I familiar with have turned into spam machines for shilling AI art.
    I've seen some fantastic art on ArtStation (most of it far beyond what I'm looking for in my projects) but I'm not familiar with the site in general. What's the difference between freelance and contract work? How do I verify the serious artists from those who, shall we say, are being a little generous with their portfolios?
  7. tsibiski


    Jul 11, 2016
    Fiverrr. Simple as. I have gotten tons of work for my game from Fiverr. Also gotten a few from the Unity help wanted forum as well. But some of the people on Fiverr are INCREDIBLY talented.

    I've gotten modelers/texturers from the Unity forums, but I've gotten great VFX and drawn art from Fiverr.

    Here's an example of a recent result I got from Fiverr.

    DragonCoder likes this.
  8. neginfinity


    Jan 27, 2013
    It is the same. Freelancer is a contractor. Freelance work is contract work.

    Here's the rough idea.

    Originally freelance sites were targeting "gig economy" idea. Meaning they would advertise themselves as "source of great work done cheaply!!!" to the employers, and "You'll get rich in no time with all of our contracts!!!" to the contractors (freelancers). In practice it could result in situation where an employer is flooded with outrageous offers (I still remember a $5 offer for a project that would take at least 2 weeks on one of t he coding sites in the past), and freelancer will receive either ridiculous offers, or finds no contracts....

    Practical value of freelance resources is that they often offer escrow. Meaning they hold the money until the project is finished and provide arbitration, which in theory should be fair. Meaning you can avoid mexican standoff between contractor and employer, where employer fears the freelancer will run away with the money without giving the deliverables, and freelancer fears the employer will not pay upon receiving them. So the employer doesn't want to give money and freelancer doesn't want to give the project.... So the escrow acts as a middleman.

    I used to freelance using those resources, one thing i learned that it is all nonsense. The relationship where you have to rely on escrow is based on distrust and is unhealthy. The middleman can screw over a freelancer pretty hard, I recall fiverr using chargeback against some voice actor. Services such as odesk occasionally have ridiculous demands, like you need to install a screen capture program which will spy on you, monitor the keypresses just so the employer can be SURE that you are really there. It is disgusting and makes you feel like a galley slave.

    Here's what works better: contacting the other party directly, and talking them human to human. Basically, you talk to other guy, see if he gives impression of deranged lunatic or actually looks like someone you'd work with, then negotiate. This results in long-term relationships fairly often. The initial connection could be done through forums, or through the freelance sites, EXCEPT all freelance sites normally forbid offsite communication, because they want their middleman fee, and if there's no need for middleman anymore, there's no fee.

    So, basically, in my opinion, the right idea is to approach this like you would approach ordering custom-made furniture. You look for a company (where you'd pay mroe), or try to locate craftsman, see if he has stuff to show and gives a good impression, see if there are review or history of work, then bet your money that it will work out. Then it works out. Or not.

    Note that this is personal opinion.
    NotaNaN likes this.
  9. DragonCoder


    Jul 3, 2015
    Guess that's why sites like Fiverr have popped up - their moderation is strict in such cases. Have gotten a handful of assets there too. While clearly "you get what you pay for" as well, the price league is probably way below "contractors".

    For other purposes (like my avatar here) I approach artists directly as well (on mentioned sites like DA), however very few there have experience with anything game related. Like even in 2D I had to explain three times that I really need that "terribly boring T-Pose" so I can animate it in a routined fashion xD That made me realize it is a different world from the normal digital artists world.
    Seems a bit like if you'd request in real-life a sculptor or woodworker to sculpt some working clockwork mechanics. Technically you can apply the same processes to form the medium, but there are very different things of importance.

    Might be different on places where game artists are more common, but only the expensive artists will bother there because their time is valuable...

    The quick procedure of freelancer sites achieves efficiency on both sides.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2023
  10. Marscaleb


    Jan 7, 2014
    Because THAT'S totally something I have experience with. :)
    Martin_H likes this.
  11. Leinad3D


    Sep 29, 2022
    Hi Marscaleb. A lot of great suggestions/comments have been posted already but here is also some information based on my experience.

    A good rule I have is being clear with what I am looking for and setting very clear check-ins.
    If you're uncertain about a freelancer/contractor/studio. Simply do a sample run. Keep the batch size small.

    Before you start hiring outsourcers/freelancer you should have a very clear documentation that can be handed out and referenced at anytime. Nothing should be vague in the documentation/expectation.

    These documentations should include (just naming a few):
    Visual targets/goals
    Concept Art
    Technical specifications

    Basically, when dealing with freelance/contracting out work, it is ideal to have everything well defined and documented in writing format.

    If your outsourcing budget is limited then I would suggest using Unity asset store as often as possible.
    Sometimes it's much more efficient to buy a quality asset from Unity asset store, and then hire a freelancer to modify it to your preferred direction. I've seen stuff on Unity asset store for $20-$40 that would have cost $5,000+ to contract out in the past.

    Also, If the assets you want created are 2D then I would also specify some sort of expectation for ai generated art.
    tsibiski likes this.
  12. tsibiski


    Jul 11, 2016
    Just wanted to add to this great point. You can build out a prototype entirely with Unity assets, and then go to a publisher to tell them you want to get funds to customize the game. You can get your budget that way. You don't need to contract anyone until the game is in a playable and demoable state.
  13. seularts


    Jan 5, 2021
    If you have a decent 3D Human model asset, just import it in It's free and has a gazillion animations you can tweak and play with in Unity/Unreal Engine. I know how to model low poly stuff, sadly I do not know how to texture it in blender, but a simple model with base colors can still look awesome.

    Here is an example I made for a friend: (a low poly fisherman)

    The model looks better ingame, as this is a mixamo render, and they lower the quality during the preview on their site. I specialize in 2D art, so if you seeks UI stuff or digital paiting, give me a nudge ^_^
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2023