Tales from The Trenches Archive

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Art Outsourcing Manager

You guys post stories from people other than testers, right? If so, cool. I’m writing to you from the outsourced world.

You know how so many games outsource a lot of their code and art to countries where the living rates are much more humble than our entitled western asses? Well, some of them also operate through this new thing catching on called “virtual offices.” It’s cheaper, since everyone works from home on their own PCs, plus you aren’t limited to hiring in you local area, or even in your country. An outsource group in Asia can employ some aspiring pixel artist in the US, even.

Which is pretty much how I fit in. Companies hire out the group I work for to make additional 2D art for their games, who in turn pay me to draw and animate stuff. Mind you, my work is almost exclusively shovelware. Nothing cool here. Though when we don’t have a client, we work on our own indie games. Well, my boss’s indie games. No one else really gets any say in what we make.

For example, my boss asked me for any phone game ideas. I’m overjoyed he might actually listen to me. All of my ideas are rejected. He says we need something casual and simpler, so we end up doing a clone of an unsuccessful open source phone game. He said that to be successful on the iPhone, you need to steal someone else’s idea, and just make it prettier. I didn’t necessarily think that was the formula for profit, nor for establishing some solid integrity, but I’m typically not heard. My boss decides the art style should look like high-resolution, high-color, animated concept art. Not exactly practical, and I express that, but again, I don’t matter. I still got it done at least. A few month later, I’m told to revamp most of the art and add more levels, because we can’t get a publisher. Turns out, no one wants simple games anymore, so we were going to start slapping on extra levels and features until we can get a publisher. Mostly means more detailed animations for a game that’s still crappy.

So, I get the long hours typical of game development, no respect from my boss (typical of most jobs I’ve had though), no satisfaction in my work since I don’t like any of the games I worked on (I’m not picky, I like all genres… I just don’t like bad games), and I do it all for about $400 per month. It’s not all bad though… I’ve lost 20 pounds in the past year doing this work, which would be quite awesome if I wasn’t already skinny.

I try looking for extra work elsewhere. There just isn’t much demand for pixel artists or 2D game animators. Indies seem to want some, but tell me I’m overqualified, and they can’t possibly afford me. Most everyone else is content just outsourcing.

So why don’t I just go flip burgers, where I could make more money is less time? Honestly, I feel like this job is what I’m suppose to do.

Maybe not specifically with throwaway games, but the pixel art and animation for games. I’m not one for destiny, fate, or any of that crap, but I feel like I was made specifically for this. I’ve been doing this stuff for nearly as long as I can remember, and I’m going to keep stubbornly working at this. Hopefully, I’ll eventually get either respect, satisfaction, or a livable salary for this niche specialty. I’ll settle for any one of those.