Ready for Team Earth

When a new year starts, I like to look back at past methods, and see about changing things up. When I started Stigma Games, I was determined to keep it a local only team. I’d worked professionally for other companies remotely before Stigma Games. It was mostly a bad experience. At least it’s harder for a game designer to work remotely. Your work often gets cut by people that didn’t take the time to understand why the design is important and you’re not there to defend it. I wanted to put that behind me and eventually establish a commercial office so people could collaborate in person while we worked.

When we got the office space in September and changed directions art wise, it was time to freshen up the team. We did recruit some talented people, but some positions have always plagued me trying to fill (why are Environmental Concept Artists so rare?!). Not to mention, I find myself spending a colossal amount of my time doing artwork myself. I tend to get the “If I do it myself, I know it will get done,” mentality and take on more than one human can do in a week. But this is partly because there are so few artists in Sacramento that are experienced. One of the beauties though of being local is I can see everyone in the art room and say, “Hey everyone, we’re doing this.” The artists can share information, critique each other, etc, in person. It’s also helpful for a rigger to ask what the animator needs, for a modeler to ask if his model is rig friendly, for a concept artist to ask if his turn arounds show enough detail, a texture artist to explain what’s wrong with the uv maps to the, um, UV unwrapper person. Managing communication online is much more difficult and time consuming for those details.

I think I’ve mentioned that just about none of the schools in this area (American River College being a rare exception), teaches their students how to bake normal maps to a retopologized, lower poly mesh. This is the type of thing that juniors artists should be ready to do in a studio. This will sound harsh, but the reality is that save for one, none of the professors in this area know what that means, so they don’t teach it to their students. If you’re in debt $50k in student loans, have a 4 year degree in Game Art and tell me, “ZBrush? Yeah, our teacher mentioned that to us once,” you should ask for a refund. I really do meet a lot of people like that here.

I’ve been spending a lot of my time teaching artists I recruit and either they get it, or I get frustrated and do it myself. There’s one exception on the team of someone that’s not that experienced, but who’s been kicking ass researching and getting up to speed. He’s taught me a few things even.

I’d talked about recruiting artists from outside the area before. I’ve gone back and forth on this issue. The most successful game company in town--5th Planet Games, does this. That’s how they started out. They got an entire art studio to do all the art work for their game without any money up front. And it was high quality work. This, from a couple guys that had no idea how to make games, and just bought a book to teach them the month before.

To be even more harsh, the times that I’ve collaborated with other teams, paid or not paid, I’ve noticed that the quality of work that artists put out from distributed teams is far better than anything I’ve seen from artists in Sacramento. But I’m stubborn. I want Stigma Games to be a Sacramento only company.

I mentioned my dilemma to one of our programmers about how if we had a distributed art team, I’d be spending a ton of my time emailing, chatting, skyping, etc, and I wouldn’t be able to get as much of my other work done. He asked me, “Would you rather be spending your time teaching local artists how to be modelers or coordinating a distributed team?” I always go back to, “forget what I want, what would be best for Stigma Games?” I enjoy doing art for our games now that we’re doing 3d. I mean, I’ve worked professionally as a 3d modeler for an architectural company. Game art is way harder, and I still need to improve my skills a bit to make up the difference. But it is something I enjoy. And I enjoy collaborating in person. But ultimately, the answer is I should try recruiting a distributed team of talented people and focusing on being a producer / creative director.

So I don’t know. This is a new thing. Hobbling along with local talent only hasn’t been working out as I would have hoped, so we’ll see how this goes. As of now, Stigma Games is officially open to contributors from around the world.



Comments:

Fri, 2016-01-08 18:18

damn I hope this means youll be making more stuff soon when you gonna post some screen shots of raygun rocketship? I still remember seeing it at sacanime looked sick

Sat, 2016-01-09 11:39

With a very different new direction for Raygun, we've gone back to the preproduction drawing board. That means we're still concepting out ideas. Short version--it's going to be quite a while until there's screen shots.


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