How I sourced the art and music for my games

Someone just emailed me and asked me how I sourced the art and music for my games, and I sent back a rambling reply that I thought might be useful to others - so I’ve posted it here for all to see :-)

For the first game, Xmas Bonus, I bought in some cheap art from IStockPhoto.com and did some of the shapes in Corel Draw, and did the menu text myself too.  Indiepath gave me some free music and I found some more by browsing the net (proper royalty free for commercial use stuff).  Everything I use is above-board, no pilfering.  However, I wouldn’t recommend this piecemeal approach as it’s a) time consuming b) doesn’t really give a consistent/pro feel to the game.  It is cheap though.
 
For Easter Bonus I think I posted on the Blitz Basic forum to find out what artists were interested and Quicksilva ended up doing the job (great job too, just not the style that portals really want I found out afterwards) – I paid him for the job.  I also got more istockphoto art (title screen + menus), and more net music + coolly Cynus offered to help and he made a few nice tracks that we worked on together with Skype (well he did most of the work, I just interfered).
 
For Oz I was a contract programmer and the producer supplied all the art and music (but not sound, which was a pain, so I had to be the sound engineer on top of the 500+ hours of programming).
 
Finally for Holiday Bonus, I posted on the Blitz forums again about needing 3D rendered or hand-drawn backgrounds and 3D shapes for the game and got a few responses.  Most were overpriced and didn’t have a lot of examples to back themselves up.  However, in the end IPete2 (and a friend of his) did the job brilliantly for a good price.  Music was by CS_TBL for a very reasonable price + a royalty + a secret “deal” regarding future games, and has turned out nicely.  So basically I have paid out, and have to recoup a good sum before I’m in profit. It’s a risk, and at the moment I am broke, but you’ve got to speculate to accumulate as the saying goes…It’s also why negative comments (non-constructive) aren’t helpful as my family’s finances are on the line here and I got 2 kids, house, car etc so I don’t need some stupid flaming about something that I’ve worked my nuts off for (/rant over)
 
Since Xmas Bonus I actually get approached by people on the forums who want to work with me, which is nice.  I guess this is because, as someone once called me, I’m a “finisher”.  If you’ve got finished games behind you and you say you need artists/mucisians etc on Blitz and list your games, you should get lots of responses.  I was going to post on Indiegamer (and search the Art Portfolios thread and post in Help Wanted) if I didn’t get anywhere on Blitz, but I never needed to.  I’m not really an expert at finding these resources at all, I’ve just needed them and the Universe has provided.  Helps to have friends on the forums too + I have lots of people who have bought my BlitzMax Game Framework.
 
Oh and to put things in perspective, the graphics took >50% of the time for Holiday Bonus (>100 man hours - I log everything), that was talking to the artist (via Skype/email) and then coding the graphics in (mind you the match-3 engine was already in existence). If you think your game is finished, well you are still going to have to “plug in” (makes it sound so easy) the graphics/anims and particle effects and so on and this will take quite a while unless you’ve got animated placeholders particles etc. ;-)
 
Right, anyway, hope that this ramble is of some use and that you are successful in your quest – and good luck with your next game!

New material follows

Thought I’d post this from a forum where a discussion about this thread ensues. I wrote:

I think it’s going to get harder and harder for people to make competitive casual games unfortunately. Basically 3 years ago Xmas Bonus would have look RAD, but last year it just look OK, and this year it definitely looks dated.

So what if you don’t have much art skill or much money? All you can do is make a game that looks like Xmas Bonus OR try to convince someone good to do the art for royalties (not easy). And if it looks like Xmas Bonus, unless it’s radical, got something really new, it won’t sell very well (still may not sell even if it is radical!), and then you’ll be put off making another one and have no money to reinvest. But at least you’ll have another “practice” game under your belt to hopefully attract more royalty-based team members…

It’s like a few years ago Indie games were more one man band things, like the old 8-bit days. But now they’ve gone all sophisticated (well in the graphics/sound/polish department) and require small teams to make so it’s harder to compete. I don’t want to put people off, but I see it going more that way as the customers and portals now demand polish – it’s just a hard fact. So maybe it’s best to either a) code games for fun (that’s what I started doing originally, hmm) or b) actually get some investment from somewhere and do it properly. Or I guess c) build up with mini-games and get people at low cost or on royalties, but this could take a while… or wait there’s d) join an existing team based on your merits or get headhunted/hired (but again this requires some kind of track record). So it all comes down to FINISHING something even if it’s not great. And then doing it again, but better and so on…

17 Responses to “How I sourced the art and music for my games”

  1. CS_TBL Says:

    Additionally I’d like to add that all the music was tracked! And styles were inspired by such composers as John Williams, James Horner, Gustav Holst..

  2. Roman Budzowski Says:

    IStockPhoto you say? Did you contact them and asked if you can use photos in your game. I did and they said that regular licence doesn’t allow me to do that and that I should pay ~$100 per photo (although I wanted to do jigsaw puzzle game, not match-3).

  3. Pallav Says:

    Who is CS_TBL? Where is his website?

  4. CS_TBL Says:

    No website yet (lazyness, I do have a domain ;P) .. one can find me on the blitzbasic forum.

  5. greyaliengames Says:

    Well actually the photos were from a different site where everything was free. Some game art (for title+menus) etc was from IstockPhoto and I contacted the authors.

  6. lakibuk Says:

    “I’ve just needed them and the Universe has provided.”
    Haha, nice said. Been reading the late Pavlina, too?

  7. greyaliengames Says:

    lakibuk: You bet. I read the dexterity stuff 2 years ago when I got into this lark. Always been into positive thinking with Aikido and running a business (my last one), and this year I’ve been finding out more and more and it’s been *very* interesting and fun.

  8. Cygnus Says:

    Grey was very easy to work with with the music- I wasn’t by any means the best musician out there but between the both of us, we got some good tracks out for Easter Bonus.

    It was great fun Grey! and this was a great read!

  9. Jake Birkett Says:

    Cygnug: Yeah it certainly was good fun composing over Skype, with that mini time delay too!

  10. Oldschool Says:

    Thanks a lot I thought I’d have to draw everything. Now I can take a break and buy stuff.

    What other site did you use for graphics? (hope its not a secret:))

  11. Keith Weatherby II Says:

    Okay so what about those who have absolutely no money. Everyone you did you paid for. I mean I could do that, if I had money I could pay for art and music :-)

    And you’re right about the finishing part. This is how I got the little bit of work I have is because I finished 3 games (only 3, pathetic as they don’t even sell, they’re not very good)..

    Uhfgood

  12. Oldschool Says:

    In keeping with the theme I’ll share my links
    for free music(credit required) http://www.incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/

    for some free SVG art
    http://openclipart.org/

    more free graphics(credit required)
    http://reinerstileset.4players.de/englisch.htm

  13. Cygnus Says:

    No fair- I wasn’t paid for. :)

  14. greyaliengames Says:

    oldschool: I honestly can’t remember. The other site was royalty free photos only and IStockPhoto is where I got the odd vector graphic from.

    Keith: I really spent a very small sum on the graphics for Xmas Bonus $20 dollars in credits and I probably didn’t use them all up. The most expensive outlay was the Blitz Plus compiler followed by my domain name. I didn’t have any money to pay for the stuff, it went on my overdraft, you could do that too ;-) Also when you pay for stuff, doesn’t mean it’ll be good or appropriate for the game – it take’s some skill to overview the artistic design/continuity of your game to get it looking right.

    Cygnus: Actually I donated a small amount of money to all the musicians of Easter Bonus, you got the largest via Paypal (my records show) ;-)

  15. Cygnus Says:

    I was only poking fun! :) (Ok sorry if it came out wrong- Grey did donate a sum, kindly!)

  16. greyaliengames Says:

    no worries dude, wish I could have donated more…

  17. Grey Alien Games » Blog Archive » Making art for an RPG Says:

    [...] OK, I’ve rambled a bit but I hope that I’ve generated some points for further examination. Also check out: How I sourced the art and music for my games. [...]