The Trouble with Art: Part 2

I had lost the plot. Rational thinking went out the window. I'd gone tribal.

The Trouble with Art: Part 2
More space porn. I want to say more but my lips are sealed on the subject.

This article has a twin, Part 1 is here.

More love letters were exchanged recently.

I'm trying to gain some momentum here you know? Start the wheel rolling, but there's friction. It's an uphill battle for some reason.

"What would be great"

I say routinely, with varying levels of frustration

"is if we can accompany the blogging effort with some new stuff"

Bare in mind that, I'm not asking for the Earth here (childish giggle.)

We're sat on so much cool stuff I can barely contain my excitement. But for some reason we are struggling to get it out of the door.


Art, that's why.

Alex had quite 'literally' already given us the Earth.

The trouble is that when we stare at something for too long we begin to loose our objectivity. We forget that to us what is old, is actually new and exciting to someone else.

Now, I can jump up and down, scream and shout; I can take a step back, post loving words of encouragement - but none of it is going to make the blind bit of difference.


You see; with artist's there is a scale.

On one side of the scale you have lack of experience and fledgling-to-mid level talent. These guys are super keen and easy to work with, a joy actually. They get stuff done and they get it done quickly.

It's not always right, but they'll fix what's wrong.

On the other side, we have the experienced mid-to-senior level guys.

These guys will argue the toss simply because it's Wednesday and because they know they can find other work tomorrow.

They'll go off piste, they'll throw designs at you barely related to the requirements, they'll tell you what they think you should want and they'll soak up so much of your time you won't be able to do anything else.

The more you push the less you'll get.

That's because art is subjective, and so the makers of art are subjective.


When you have to devote a disproportionate amount of time to something, it skews your priorities.

That showed in the Shallow Space project.

We were in trouble the second we hit Steam.

We had been coasting for a long time because we'd engaged investors and publishers and one-by-one they had backed out due to reasons we'll cover in a later post.

We were spending all our money on art, pretty much every penny earned went to paying artist's salaries. It was completely and utterly backwards and in retrospect I admit that I was so stupid.

I wished I'd pocketed the money, really I do. At least some of it.

Everyone thinks I did anyway.

Bah, I shouldn't kick myself for doing the right thing. I was inexperienced. I mean, I'd studied business, but until you've done business in real life it's practically meaningless.

It was less than meaningless almost, because you think you know what to expect.

You don't.


So what happened is that I was on Skype with one or more of these artist's for 3 hours a day. I was writing design docs and doing reviews of the work and collating art and assets and making things production ready ...

... and so, when I put on my SS marketing hat I was in show boat mode.

It didn't matter that the game was functionally incomplete, I just needed to have something to show to keep the money rolling in to keep people paid.

That's where I feel the need to point out a glaring conflict of interest with the whole Steam Early Access thing: If you've come to the platform with an MVP; something not even good enough, just barely convincing; you end up locked in this showboating trap.

Nobody wants to read about your progress on game mechanics.

It's like my post on failure.

Probably the most inspiring thing to read for any game developer, but you might skip over it, because it's not shiny.

So where were we, oh yeah showboating.

With my head in the coal face and my arms pulling levers, I had lost the plot.

Rational thinking went out the window.

I'd gone tribal.

I'd choose my favorite grass skirt and reskin my drum fresh for every event.

I was routinely beating the drum and dancing to the sound of it. Maddening.

It was unsustainable and when sales fell and the projects position became untenable, the grass skirt slipped, the elephant trunk swung free and the whole thing looked like a steaming scam.


When you deal with artist's ironically you need to leave as little to their imagination as possible.

Control the information flow. Control the design expectation. Control the output expectation. Do it all right from the get go.

How do you do that?

Well we're 900+ words in here so it's an article for another day.

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