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Jon Jones presents…. How to Love Outsourcing. Now in HD, with high-res normal and specular maps!. Who’s this Jon Jones guy?. Art Outsourcing Manager. Builds and manages outsourced art teams Worked with 2K Games and NCsoft Blogs about it at 3D Art Producer.

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How to Love Outsourcing

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jon jones presents
Jon Jones presents…

How to Love Outsourcing

Now in HD, with high-res normal and specular maps!

who s this jon jones guy
Who’s this Jon Jones guy?
  • Art Outsourcing Manager.
    • Builds and manages outsourced art teams
    • Worked with 2K Games and NCsoft
    • Blogs about it at
  • 3D Art Producer.
    • Runs a team of artists at Conceptopolis
  • Contractor.
    • Offers expertise on outsourcing, building and managing remote teams, art pipeline development, troubleshooting and more
outsourcing art benefits
Outsourcing Art: Benefits
  • Can be cheaper than inhouse
  • No overhead costs
  • Not burning money while artists sit idle
  • Access to a global talent pool
  • Your pick of the world’s best artists
  • Ease of scaling production up or down
  • Firing slackers has never been easier!
outsourcing art drawbacks
Outsourcing Art: Drawbacks
  • Lack of project familiarity
  • Time zone differences
  • Cultural and language barriers
  • Collaborating remotely is tricky
  • Keeping everything organized is hard
  • Bait-and-switch tactics
  • Unfamiliarity with game development
  • Some artists just suck
don t worry there s hope
Don’t worry, there’s hope!
  • Many problems are preventable.
  • Setting proper groundwork is crucial.
  • I will show you how.
documentation is everything
Documentation is EVERYTHING.
  • Know your pipeline.
  • Document your pipeline.
  • Don’t outsource until you do.
    • This will save you time and money.
  • Every minute you spend writing good documentation now will save you ten minutes later.
  • Poor documentation breeds poor art.
  • Don’t pay for art twice! Write good docs!
the contractor s disadvantage
The Contractor’s Disadvantage
  • Art studios make art, not games
    • Large knowledge gap between making art, and making art that works for games
    • Less in the Americas, moreso overseas
  • No institutional knowledge
    • No frame of reference for your team’s preexisting tips, tricks, scripts, and workarounds
  • Good documentation fixes this.
information creates its own context
Information Creates Its Own Context
  • Everything in one place
  • Don’t make them hunt down info across many documents, emails and IMs
  • Avoid vague pronouns
    • “he” “she” “it” “that” “they”
prepare prepare prepare
Prepare, prepare, prepare
  • Spend 90% of your time up front.
  • Plan for all contingencies.
    • Plan for them to happen.
    • Plan your way out.
  • Create conditions that show a clear direction when decisions need making.
  • Good process forbids indecision.
the new guy mindset
The New Guy Mindset
  • You’re new. What do you need to know?
  • Go through the entire process yourself.
    • Step.
      • By.
        • Step.
          • In detail.
            • NOT from memory.
  • All of this goes in an Outsourcing Kit.
animation outsourcing kit
Animation Outsourcing Kit
  • Comes in two pieces:
    • General Information
      • Technical specifications, reference, etc
      • Reusable!
    • Specific Assignment
      • Concept art for the job, description of job, etc
animation outsourcing kit1
Animation Outsourcing Kit
  • Contains the following:
    • Documentation
      • Overview of animation work required
        • Style, Sequences, which skeleton, who rigs it?
      • Technical specifications
      • Master list of animations
      • Style guides
      • Scale \ units reference
      • Exporter
      • Tools
      • FAQ
animation outsourcing kit2
Animation Outsourcing Kit
  • Reference:
    • Animation source files from 3D package
      • Samples of every type of animation
        • (idle, run, attack, death, etc)
    • Animation sample videos
      • Add captions to the video noting what you like
      • Use a popular codec, OR include the codec
pre built animation lists
Pre-built Animation Lists
  • Four creature types:
    • Melee, Ranged, Caster, Boss.
      • Sequences in common: Idle, Walk, Run, Pain, Die
      • Unique animations: Melee Attack, Ranged Attack, Caster Attack, Boss Attacks.
    • Make each type its own list.
    • Describe each sequence and cite the references.
      • Copy-paste the descriptions of common sequences.
    • Put those four lists in the Animation Outsourcing Kit.
    • Copy and paste into new Specific Assignments.
    • Time savings ahoy!
take a minute to do it right
Take A Minute To Do It Right
  • It doesn’t take that much longer to turn a good job into a great job.
  • Take the time. It will save you time later.
documentation should evolve
Documentation Should Evolve!
  • A document is never finished... Just mostly complete.
  • Whenever a contractor asks a question, document the answer.
  • Why answer the same question twice?
frontload all negotiation
Frontload all negotiation!
  • Now the documentation is done.
    • Most risk is now minimized!
  • Next step: Contract negotiation.
    • Establishing rates
    • Creating a flexible contract structure
    • Setting expectations of behavior
partners vs hired monkeys1
Partners vs Hired Monkeys
  • Hire a partner, not a trained monkey.
    • Partners want you to succeed.
    • Partners will try harder to to ensure each others’ success.
    • Good partners are worth keeping long-term.
    • Monkeys don’t care.
benefits of finding a good partner
Benefits of finding a good partner:
  • Faster turnaround
  • Lower prices
  • Better art
  • The studio’s best artists
  • Preferential treatment
negotiate a fair rate
Negotiate a fair rate
  • Be flexible on cost on the first contract
    • If the work is harder, negotiate a higher rate.
    • If the work is simpler, negotiate a lower rate.
    • If you change the specs, adjust the price.
  • Karma aside, there are very practical reasons for this.
dividing work into units
Dividing work into units
  • Separate into as few meaningful divisions as possible.
    • First, Asset type
    • Then, Difficulty
      • Small Creature, Medium Creature, Large Creature
  • Divisions should only be as large as it makes sense.
    • Too small becomes too granular to organize.
    • Too large feels like nothing ever gets done.
define what comprises an asset
Define what comprises an asset
  • Price out the different phases
    • Character:
      • Model
      • Texture
      • Rig
    • Round that total up to the nearest $100 – 200, depending on variable difficulty between assets.
    • That’s your per-asset price.
pricing ambiguous work
Pricing Ambiguous Work
  • Chunk it out into 1 – 2 day segments.
    • Artists LOVE finishing subgoals frequently
hot tip for contract structure
Hot Tip for Contract Structure
  • Make it invoicable bi-weekly.
    • Artists LOVE getting paid on a 2-week cycle
    • If they’re finishing something every day or so and getting paid like this, productivity will skyrocket.
benefits of modularity
Benefits of Modularity
  • Pricing out everything per asset in advance saves time amending the contract midstream.
    • “Oh crap! We need five more creatures! Quick, let’s renegotiate all this now!” versus“Let’s add five more Large Creatures.” “Done!”
but what about revisions
But What About Revisions?
  • Roll a preset revision number into the per-asset cost.
    • I like 3 revisions per asset.
  • Price out extra revisions as a separate percentage of that.
    • If asset costs $1000:
      • 25% of asset changed = $250 revision fee
      • 50% of asset changes = $500 revision fee
      • 75% of asset changed = $750 revision fee
revisions as a performance metric
Revisions as a performance metric
  • If you document well and chose good contractors, no asset should need more than two revisions
  • Three revisions or more means:
    • I failed to spec well
    • The contractors failed me
  • If it’s my fault, I pay for rework.
  • If it’s their fault, they fix it for free.
the payoff of expectation setting
The Payoff of Expectation-Setting
  • Setting expectations early and planning for everything makes a problem’s cause obvious and its solution simple:
      • 1) You screwed up and need to fix the spec, or
      • 2) They screwed up and need to shape up.
    • No time is wasted pointing fingers.
    • Honesty, humility, candor and fairness have been maintained from the beginning.
      • If the contractor can’t meet that standard, you cut them loose.
ease of amending contracts
Ease of Amending Contracts
  • Contractor succeeds, contracts can be expanded quickly.
  • Contractor fails, contract terminates just as quickly.
    • Bickering over how much to pay for a partially-completed asset when you’re cutting a contractor loose is not fun. Speccing well makes it unnecessary.
  • Feel free to contact me offline via email:
  • Or via my website:

Thanks for listening!

- Jon Jones