Fan art has always been a huge part of the gaming industry. Being a primarily visual medium, it makes sense that players with a mean pencil hand would take their favourite characters and worlds and put their own spin on them. Thanks to ventures like Steam Works and Player’s Studio, developers have decided to mine the endless talent pool and offer the hardworking artists a chance to get their work into an actual game. Sony Online Entertainment recently hosted just such a contest for their popular multiplayer shooter, Planetside 2. CGM chatted with the game’s Art Director, Bill Yeats, and the winner of the contest, Anthony Palacios, about how this process works and what it can offer artists looking to crack into the industry.
Comics & Gaming Magazine: Tell us a bit about the contest
Raquel Marcelo: Our players had made such great things before, through Player’s Studio so we opened up the key art to them as well because we know it’s really important to the community and a big part of the game.
CGM: Did you guys get tons of submissions?
Bill Yeatts: I think generally speaking, having player generated art, whether it’s 2D, 3D, textures or whatever is a huge plus to the game. It helps out the dev team and allows people to buy into the game a lot more. It also creates a sense of community with the game. I wouldn’t use the term “key art” but if someone wants to do a concept for something or a really beautiful piece, then it’s like ‘hell yeah’ we’ll try to leverage what they’ve done. There’s no reason to stop people trying to generate beautiful art.
CGM: How much attribution do the artists get?
BY: In terms of Player’s Studio they actually make money from selling it. Player’s Studio allows fans to submit works for game assets, and then those game assets go into our store. There’s an approval process and we have to do the final hook ups here, internally. Then we put them our store. We’ve had guys who have made a ton of money off it.
RM: One of the submitters is actually putting himself through college with his stuff.
BY: The downside is, we have to have a tax ID and stuff. We have submissions from foreign nationals sitting in the store and we have to ask “are they tax viable” and if not, well, looks like we’re skipping that one.
CGM: Anthony, how long have you been doing visual art and has it always been related to gaming?
Anthony Palacios: I’ve been digital art since just before the end of high school. I got a small time gig doing an online comic, but didn’t really go anywhere with it as I didn’t have much experience with computers. I didn’t actually own a computer at the time. I just happened to know somebody. Because of my inexperience I kind of fell behind and ended up losing the gig. After that I did go to school and didn’t get back into digital art until I got back in to college, about eight years ago.
CGM: Are you aiming to stay in this industry and continue working on gaming art? Or this a stepping stone to another avenue?
AP: I really enjoy doing game art, just being able to do art as a career is great. I am still trying to figure out where I want to go with it specifically, and I’ve been working on small projects and doing everything I can, but at least I’ve finally got my foot in the door and can try and build something.
CGM: This is obviously a big opportunity to get your stuff out there and get some recognition. Are you beginning to see some results from it?
AP: On the stuff that I’ve been doing, a little bit. Going back to the Player’s Studio thing, I’ve received a couple cheques from that and that’s really cool. Also getting in the game and see my art was pretty awesome and got me some bragging rights.
CGM: Are you a big fan of the game? Do you play much?
AP: Yeah I’ve been playing since the beta. I started out in Alpha Squad and before that I was playing the original Planetside. So yeah, I’ve got a long history with the game.
CGM: So did you enter the contest because you really like the game, or because you wanted to get your art out there? Or both?
AP: Both. As soon as I got the email and saw the contest I thought “I’d be stupid not to.” It was a lot of work, and I only spent half the time I should have spent on it, so I really had to crunch this between my regular day job.
CGM: What’s your regular job?
AP: I work at home depot in the hardware department.
CGM: Doing the legit “Starving artist” thing eh?
AP: [laughs] Not by choice.
CGM: What’s next after this? Plans for the future?
AP: Keep working at it, keep trying to build the skills and take as many opportunities as I can to get my stuff out there.
CGM: Super generic question but, any advice to give for people in your situation?
AP: I’m usually asking people for their advice. I don’t know, it’s very difficult because you’re on your own a lot and have to plan out what YOU think your next move should be. There’s a lot of questions at the time as far as what I’m doing, like still trying to figure things out. There’s no one there to tell you what to do, there’s no one to guide you. With the internet though, there’s lots of tutorials and people doing YouTube videos. You have to look for it, and there’s not a lot of context so you have to pick and choose what you’re learning from. There’s no way to tell how well it will apply to what you do, but the info is out there. You just have to keep pushing forward.
CGM: As an artist do you find the lack of structure freeing? Or do you struggle because you don’t have a sense of direction or someone breathing down your neck?
AP: It’s a bit of both. On the one hand, you would like to have someone telling you, “do this now” or “work on that”. When you’re on your own you have a lot more freedom about what you choose to work on, but there’s never any clear path. You have to tread your own. It can be very rewarding, but there’s a risk to it as well because you’re using time that you could spend doing other things.
CGM: Walk us through the creative process
AP: Going into this, the first thing was just trying to translate what the theme was about, brotherhood, and marrying that to what the game is about and what is familiar to players from that faction. So taking a concept from those two pieces and moving forward to a visual of what it would actually look like. Thumbnails, rough sketches and then research. I had to research a lot and after that it was the actual building of the piece and the hard stuff.
CGM: There’s obviously a visual aesthetic the game is going for, did you have to shift your personal style to match that?
AP: There was a pretty high bar there, there were two other pieces that were part of the series that were top professional work, so that’s what I was headed for after looking at those two pieces. The major challenge there was trying to push my stuff to that level. The style was high fidelity, realism, and that was a challenge.
CGM: And you’re pleased with how it ended up?
AP: Oh gosh yeah. I couldn’t be happier with it. As far as the piece goes there’s always stuff you look back on think, “I could change that” or “that could have been better.” That’s always the first thing you see when you look at your own work, but as far as results go I couldn’t ask for more, it’s been amazing.
CGM: Well congratulations, that’s awesome.