Disappearing Artist

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Jackkel Dragon
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Disappearing Artist

#1 Post by Jackkel Dragon » Fri Mar 31, 2017 4:53 pm

I don't like to do this, but I've reached a point where I think I need outside advice. Trying to solve this on my own has just made me increasingly frustrated.

Basically, my problem is this: the artist I've been working with on my main project has not communicated with me for almost a month. Thing is, they have been active on sites I follow them on, so I know they aren't prevented from communicating.

Ordinarily, I'd try to give them space until they were ready to talk again. They have a lot of projects they've taken on, art and otherwise, and aren't currently getting paid for most of it. But it's been over a year since significant progress was made on the art for my main project, and whenever I brought it up the artist wouldn't have the time to commit to the work. Since our informally-agreed to revenue share doesn't give them much incentive to hurry, I've offered to pay some in advance, but they reject that offer every time.

After three years of development, I had hoped to be much further along, but right now I'm left with mostly concept sketches and test art, not even enough to make a decent-looking demo or some screenshots. I really don't want to vilify this person because we've been friends for years and I do like their work, but my frustration with being held back has started to affect the rest of my life.

The problem now is, even if I didn't have an emotional hangup over switching artists (we made this game concept together), I can't ask them for permission to change artists if they won't even talk to me. I'm not well versed in copyright law, but I'm fairly certain that some things (like character designs) that I'd need to have the rights to would belong to this artist. So even if I could bring myself to replace them, I'd still need to buy the rights to the designs or start from scratch.

Taking the time to actually think about all of this, I feel like I can't really trust anyone to make a game with me. I learned the hard way to be careful with "affordable" (read as "cheap") contract work, as some here might remember from when I complained about being scammed a few years back. And my experiences with this artist make me feel like working with a friend is a bad idea unless one treats it like a professional project (contracts, deadlines, etc.). It makes me wonder if I'm cut out to make games at all.

As for why I'm posting this thread (aside from venting), I'd like to know if there's anything I can do, or maybe hear opinions about the situation. For instance, could I get away with using the character designs without explicit permission without being open to legal problems? Or maybe I'm overreacting ("It's only been a month without contact, you impatient jerk!") and need to be put in my place.
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Re: Disappearing Artist

#2 Post by Scribbles » Fri Mar 31, 2017 8:09 pm

I don't believe they own any rights the character designs unless its trademarked, and since nothing was ever put in any finalized form I really don't see how the artist would have any legal claim to it. If he/she has a lot going on, they might be relieved if you take it somewhere else anyway. It can be kinda shitty, but receiving silence for a month doesn't give you a lot of alternatives. A different artist may want to tweak the designs to fit their art style anyway.

I hope that helps! but I'm not a lawyer or anything. It sucks when people flake out on you!
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Re: Disappearing Artist

#3 Post by indoneko » Fri Mar 31, 2017 10:19 pm

Unless you have a prior agreement with the artist about deadline and such, then you're completely in their mercy. I would probably wait for another week or two while asking for a chance to sit together and talk with them. If it fails, give them an ultimatum and provide them with your proper reasons. If it still fails, then cut your contract with them and find a new artist.

As for the design; while you own the characters, the drawings are not yours. So you can't use them anymore (unless you actually got the former's artist's written permission). Better safe than sorry...
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Re: Disappearing Artist

#4 Post by Scribbles » Fri Mar 31, 2017 10:22 pm

indoneko wrote:
As for the design; while you own the characters, the drawings are not yours. So you can't use them anymore (unless you actually got the former's artist's written permission). Better safe than sorry...
yes! this! sorry if I wasn't clear in my post. I meant character design as in descriptions not actual drawings/sketches
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Re: Disappearing Artist

#5 Post by thebackup » Fri Mar 31, 2017 11:20 pm

Oi, I feel your pain as I'm kind of going through that with my own project as well. :(

It might be really difficult for you to swallow, but if there hasn't been much progress lately and combined with the lack of communication (provided you've given enough time for them to respond), you might be better off cutting your losses and finding a new artist, as opposed to banging your head on the wall for weeks / months in frustration. And if you happen to make a recruitment post (forum, blog, etc...) it might be wise to add something about deadlines and communication, to lessen the chances of it happening again.

Not really sure about the character design part, but pretty much what everyone else said.

Good luck, and don't give up on your project!
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Re: Disappearing Artist

#6 Post by morinoir » Sat Apr 01, 2017 1:35 am

As an artist, I want to give my two cents for the art problem you got there. As indoneko said, the characters are yours, but not the drawing. So yeah, you can't use those artworks for your game if you decide to change artist, unless you get permission from the previous artist. You may also want to tweak the character design a little because if you use the design as it is, there's a chance for unwanted drama to shows up.

Also, imo you don't have to be afraid being called impatience. If they say 'it's only been a month', you should say : 'it's a month ALREADY'.

May I ask whether your game will be released commercially or not? I'm sorry if I sound rash, but the lack of communication and commitment from the artist could be because they can't see whether they'll gain monetary profit from the game or not. It's been 3 years of development, your game is either very big or the development is slow.
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Re: Disappearing Artist

#7 Post by fullmontis » Sat Apr 01, 2017 5:26 am

Finding the right people for a job is so hard I actually find it way easier to work on my own, even with all the hurdles that come with it.

I've done a few projects with other people, but they were with people I knew in person, so if they ever disappeared I could still make a phone call and ask what happened to them.

Your case unfortunately is more the norm than the exception, especially for projects with people you don't know in person and you aren't hiring. Projects are easy to start but hard to maintain after that. And it is easy to flake once the first obstacles get in your way, especially if there isn't any real problem in doing so, like in your example.

As for what you can do now, personally I would nag them until they either reply to me or block any kind of communication with me. At least this way you know what their intentions with the project are. Communication is fundamental, and I think you should never wait for updates, especially if more than a week has passed. Always check for progress, without pressuring but always asking for feedback.

If they don't want to work with you anymore, ask for permission to use their artwork until now and find someone else.

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Re: Disappearing Artist

#8 Post by Jackkel Dragon » Sun Apr 02, 2017 12:27 am

Thanks for the replies so far. It seems like I was correct in assuming that I'm stuck with needing to wait for a response if I want to continue using the current character designs. I couldn't really expect anything else, but I guess I had to ask.
May I ask whether your game will be released commercially or not? I'm sorry if I sound rash, but the lack of communication and commitment from the artist could be because they can't see whether they'll gain monetary profit from the game or not. It's been 3 years of development, your game is either very big or the development is slow.
The plan was to sell the game commercially, but we never really specified how much each person would receive. While that would normally be something to consider a potential cause of this situation, I feel like it's not the thing that caused the problem here. I say this because I finished the first draft of the game script near the end of 2015, and aside from finding/implementing sound effects there's nothing left I can do to program the game until I have art assets. So I've been mostly revising the script and double-checking the base code for the custom screens for the past year, since I can't finalize anything else until I have something to work with. My point is that the primary thing between the artist and getting money was their own work, not whether I'd do my part.
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Re: Disappearing Artist

#9 Post by Banya » Sun Apr 02, 2017 8:40 am

I know it's not cool to hear, but you should be more cold-blooded.
I had this experience in the past and it hyped me down to the point that I trashed the project: the other partners in the projects were two friends of mine, to make it worse, and treating them like 'colleagues' would lead to argue.
First, never ask friends to join your projects again, since you can't be completely on par. By the way, I'd suggest to do so: send them the same email and PM everywhere, especially when they're active, telling that you need a feedback and if you don't receive it until [insert day here] you consider him\her out of the project. Make sure to mark the email\PM so you know when he\she opens it and reads it. Then, if he doesn't reply he\she is out, and if he\she does reply you can finally talk (and cut him\her out of the project).
If he\she did it once, it will happen twice, so don't take into consideration "oh no! I promise I'll be faster now" because it won't happen... or at least this is my experience, I hope my bad experience will be helpful to someone else and to you aswell ^^"

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Re: Disappearing Artist

#10 Post by Aviala » Mon Apr 03, 2017 2:09 pm

Working on a project with friends can be hard. I think the only way to make it work is to have clear deadlines and schedules. I'm the producer/leader person in my project (Your Royal Gayness), and the people who work with me are also my friends, or at least "buddies". But even in this kind of situation there can't be a democracy. Someone has to be the leader and make calls - preferably, you consult your team first and everything goes smoothly, but sometimes you have to make tough calls. I agree with people here that you schould contact your artist in multiple different places (different social media sites, etc) and give them a deadline, like a week or two, to answer.

If you wish to try to work with this artist, you need to give them clear rules. Like come up with a schedule together, and then your artist has to commit to it - and if they keep missing deadlines and not communicating, then they're out for real. Or, you can just kick them out immediately - tho try to be polite about it, so that you have a chance of using the character designs and sketches.

I think it seems like your artist probably feels guilty about being so slow, and is trying to juggle too many things at once. Guilt often leads to a halt in communication. It might actually be a relief for them to get out of your project. Just guessing from experience :D

Also, I think you need to have a think about your project, and how much you're willing to commit to it monetarily. The best way to get things done is just to pay someone according to their rates - and make sure its someone who has recommendations and/or experience with big projects. If your project is big, consider splitting the workload - have 1 person do sprites, 1 person do CG and 1 person do backgrounds, for example. That way you won't be completely screwed if one person ditches the project.

Good luck!

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Re: Disappearing Artist

#11 Post by Zelan » Mon Apr 03, 2017 5:11 pm

Aviala wrote:I think it seems like your artist probably feels guilty about being so slow, and is trying to juggle too many things at once. Guilt often leads to a halt in communication.
This. This this this.

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