I’ve been working on my first project on and off for approximately 8-9 months now. About 2 months ago I enlisted the help of a friend I used to work with – he’s a concept artist, and a damn good one too. We’ve been learning and working in Flash pretty much together during this time. The art brief started out as something I created for him, I used examples of games I wanted his art to look like (I created my prototype using sprites from Plants Vs. Zombies) and we’ve been working away on the main character for a solid month at least – going through 3-4 iterations of a similar design – refining it each time. I was completely happy with him. But then out of the blue today he contacts me to say he’s been having other thoughts about the characters and the direction the art is taking. So later on that day he does exactly the right thing – he provides samples of new art and justification for why he wants to change it. Rather than paraphrase I’m going to copy his comments here:

Okay here’s the new art pitch: and my justification!!

— Chunkier, simpler style lets much more detail be more easily seen on faces etc.
— Gore (and plenty of it) will contrast nicely against the more cartoon-y aspect
— A unique style, setting it apart from Plants vs Zombies whilst still retaining the definite Zombie look
— Art style able to transfer across to new games (character templates are like sackboy or a lego man)
— Quicker to animate, AND will be able to “push” animation a lot more, not constrained by “realism”  — could even do a Sonic the hedgehog legs “wheel” or figure 8 whooshing animation for speed power ups?

— Maybe more cartoon-y than you thought
— Girth of characters may not always fulfil the sprite need (taller characters etc.)

So… there it is. I’m more excited about this approach, but it’s YOUR project, and I’m willing to do whatever you like.

The pro points are all worthy – I especially liked the one about transferring the art style across new games. My plan has always been to do multiple games and I think having a consistent art style will be better from a quality point of view in the long run. The cons aren’t really cons actually – that first one is just a concern that he may have gone too far with his style. And the second one is a very quick fix in the code. The final line at the end is the most important part of his email – I’m sure that if i really wanted to I could insist on a different style but that would probably result in one of the following – the artist has no interest in what he’s doing so the work quickly becomes boring, he finishes the project but is glad to be off it and has serious thoughts about doing another one with you. More likely however, is that the artist gradually loses interest and the project fizzles out, leaving you with a half-finished game.

It’s very important to me that whomever I work with is happy with the work they are doing. I’ve been involved in projects in the past that were more ambitious and became a real slog for those involved. Very quickly people lost interest and then suddenly things just grinded to a halt. It’s at times like those you look back on the decisions you made – the ones that seemed so important at the time (“no, no, I want these buildings to go here”) but in the grand scheme of things were not for the greater good of the project. The greatest good for any project is getting it finished. That’s not to say you can’t have input on what work someone is doing – you are entitled to your opinion but you really shouldn’t be pushing things unless you are desperately unhappy with the way things are going (read my post titled ‘Preference Filter Vs. Quality Filter’). You have to trust the instincts of the people doing the work as this is their reputation, their skill-set and their self-esteem being put into the project too.

I thanked the artist for presenting his ideas and being strong enough to challenge the month of solid work he’d already done, and challenge my idea of what I thought was best for the project. We’re going down his path now and I think his path leads to the finish line, whereas the other path might have led us to gaming’s vast graveyard of ‘what-might-have-beens’!

Thank you for having read my ramblings – here is some concept art:

New style of art for Super Zombie Bowl