Using different artists in a game

A complaint I heard (not too often to be honest) about Cursed Lands, was that some CG look different. Indeed, another artist did them, so that’s the reason.

When writing the game, the original content was much less (in truth it’s hilarious to say this, considering it was still around 200,000 words!!!). In case you don’t know, I added about 30-33% more content myself, in particular “extra romance scenes”. I felt the original script while was good telling the main story and characters backgrounds, didn’t go deep enough in the romances, and especially the “after”. In many games (including mine) the romance subpath ends when you make love/kiss/unlock the final scene with the love interest.

In Cursed Lands (and I plan to do the same also in future games) I wanted to break this system, since I also think romance scenes in which you’re already engaged or in a deep relationship with the love interest could be a nice bonus.

However, I faced a problem: the art was made by the same artist as Loren, who unfortunately doesn’t work for me anymore (luckily I managed to ask him all the art for Loren sequel and several more NPC/character art before he left). So the only option was to find a replacement artist for these new CGs. I think she did a good job, even if she clearly draws females better than males. Sylrissa and Nuala extra CGs in particular looks very good, while I think for example Jasper’s could have been better.

I think overall I made the right call, since from the feedback I got, the vast majority of players didn’t mind to have a different art in exchange of more content for the game. I could have just written the scenes without art, but would have been worse in my opinion.

More outfits, please!

A different situation instead is when you only add more outfit/poses to existing characters, and that’s what I’m doing with Planet Stronghold 2. I’ve already posted in the social media some images of character with new outfits (like Damien finally in a proper uniform suit).

Haha the image above shows one of the most fun bugs (though for some it might be a feature…lol) that is using a wrong variable to set the outfit of a character! Anyway, the nice underwear Lisa is wearing is one of the many new outfits added by another artist to the existing characters. Also a bit harder to notice, but even Rebecca’s pose is new: the old characters only had one pose, holding his gun in one hand. This one with both her hands on her hips is a new one.

They’re small details and maybe not immediately noticeable (well apart in specific situations like above haha) but they all add variety and if you can find an artist who has a very similar  coloring style (like in this case) the result is always going to be worth it!

Conclusions

In an ideal world, you would first write all the story, and then commission the art. However, during my career so far, I found out that this is a risky approach if you want to be able to release at least a game a year. Artists can disappear, or take long time. So maybe you wait 1 year for the big 150,000+ words script to be finished. Then, once it’s done, you commission an artist, who can take another 6 months or more (depending on how much art is needed of course). As you can see while it can work, it will delay the release, instead of using the approach to produce the art in parallel or almost with the writing (even if this has other problems too).

And it’s not uncommon to find yourself adding more content to the game as you write/code it. It happened to me for example in my old game Spirited Heart, in which to be honest the different art styles shows clearly too much (it was one of my first games though…).

Personally I’m not sure what is the best method. Whenever I found a good artist I commissioned him/her a lot of art, and then adapted the story to the existing art (I had already a basic plot planned though). After all, that’s what we did with Loren and it has worked well it seems 🙂

This entry was posted in Cursed lands, development screenshot, development tricks, general, indie life, planet stronghold 2, postmortem, roleplay games. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Using different artists in a game

  1. Plk_Lesiak says:

    I guess it’s just something people are not used to, playing mostly high-budget games, including mainstream Japanese VNs – those always put a lot of resources and effort to make the art cohesive and while with indie stuff, it’s not always doable to the same extent, people’s expectations stay the same. I mean, I’ve seen EVNs where CGs were made by the same artist as sprites and they still felt “off”, because making one is a slightly different process than making the other and not every artist is able to make them match perfectly.

    But, at least trying to keep the art cohesive and the differences somewhat seamless is important – it’s not like people are pointing it out because they’re petty, it can seriously take you out of the experience. Plus, a CG, especially a romantic one, is a bit of a reward for successfully following certain path in a VN, an underwhelming one really can really spoil the whole route a bit. I haven’t played Cursed Lands yet, so it’s a bit of a shame that you didn’t post examples, now it makes me curious how big the actual differences are. :>

    • admin says:

      Well as I posted the artist I used draws females well, but not males. Or maybe, it’s just one specific male that was drawn a bit too different (Jasper). Since I think Vaeril was similar enough. You can probably find the screenshots CGs browsing the Steam community for the game 😛

  2. Elenielwen says:

    The art with the nagas were great, and yes the females were too – the males less so. However omildly off putting it is with pretty bad male art – the story, the plot, the characters themselves had me so invested, so.. emotional, so.. I can’t even explain, but let’s just say that becase the rest of rhe game was so darn good, I could live with bad male art. (Except the naga male which I LOVED TO HEAVEN AND BACK)

    You created a masterpiece, and that overshadowed those part of the game’s art that were bad..And THAT’S, according to me, both as an author myself and editor/proofreader for several VNs, VERY HARD TO DO. You have to write pretty darn good to be able to impress me, because as an avid visual novel reader, otome game player, I’m often not even trying games that has bad (or even parts that have bad-) art.

    As I said before (and will say again) this game was TERRIFIC and I LOVED it. Would’ve loved proper male art to go with such extraordinary writing, but it was a great experience anyway because the story itself was GREAT.

    //Elenielwen, a fan of your games

    • admin says:

      Thanks! Glad to hear you liked the game. If you bought it on Steam maybe leave a review if you can 🙂
      As I replied to someone else, I think Vaeril wasn’t bad, and Enok was good. Jasper not much instead ^_^;
      The new RPG I’m working on right now, Planet Stronghold 2, has very good male art. Unless you don’t like sci-fi I think you’ll like it 🙂

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