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Question for Character Artists

wizz
polycounter lvl 8
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wizz polycounter lvl 8
Hello guys.

I find out lately pretty difficult to value my work on characters. So based on that I have a question for you more experienced artists. How much time do you need to create a AAA character, and to be specific ( I know, different level of details and additional stuff for character will take longer :P ) lets take an simple guy from The Last of Us. Middle age man, shirt, jeans, shoes. Is there any average time for something like this ? Sometimes clients are saying that this will take at least 2 weeks but then we realize that it's more and to be honest I end with shitty salary :/ So if you would like to share more about time/money stuff on this matter feel free. I appreciate.

Cheers!

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  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir ngon master
    There are a few factors that are involved:

    1. how solid the concept is - if the concept changes a lot or even a little during the characters production, then production time will die.

    2. re-use of assets - if you are allowed, or have access to any kind of kits that you've made before for some of the gubbins like buckles, straps, etc. then this will speed up production.

    3. your own skills... some people are quicker than others.

    4. which two things the client chose from the money triangle - you can pick two: quick, good, cheap. if they chose good and cheap then it's going to take longer. if they chose good and quick it'll be expensive.
  • slosh
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    slosh quad damage
    Yea, this is a very open ended question. Very hard for any one character artist to answer without knowing the full story of what is being asked. For the last of us, I believe they said characters took around 3 months. I think there was a lot of back and forth and stuff being tweaked and redone the whole project. You can safely say those are the extreme as you will almost never get an opportunity to take that much time to noodle a character. I have been creating a couple main characters lately for a game I've been working on and I have spent about 2 months on them each. That includes a full nude, a full outfit, and a hairstyle. I didn't use any pre existing assets or scans and no marvelous. So, it could probably be done much much faster. I have heard of some studios doing it in 2 weeks for sure but I think that would require scans, marvelous, basemeshes, etc to get right. Most studios that create recurring titles probably have a nice pipeline set up to streamline character creation as well. All this being said, I have also worked on titles where we did characters in 2-3 weeks but they were definitely not last of us type quality. I don't think you can put set limitations on something unless you pretty much know what the outcome should look like from the get go. There is always experimentation when tackling characters that will create unknowns.
  • aesir
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    aesir polycounter lvl 13
    As with any job, sometimes a client will give you way more time then you need, and sometimes they'll ask you to do it in half the time you think is possible. You as the artist, rarely get to choose.
  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir ngon master
    aesir wrote: »
    As with any job, sometimes a client will give you way more time then you need, and sometimes they'll ask you to do it in half the time you think is possible. You as the artist, rarely get to choose.

    this is where the money triangle comes in...

    if they give you longer than you need, you can charge them less and still give them a good quality model. if they want it done in half the usual time then it will cost them more or be lower in quality.
  • Brian "Panda" Choi
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    Brian "Panda" Choi high dynamic range
    I'll speak as a former Art Director, just on the character model end of things with a concept art ready to go, this took two weeks to get done with volunteer work.

    yq8Iv0P.png

    Hero character, ballpark 2k triangles, 2048 (we crunched it all to 1024) maps, Legacy Shader (Diffuse, Normal, Specular, Gloss) and that's WITH sculpt. This was for an RTS with maybe at most a 100 units on screen at a time.

    More specific context, I was new and a uni student at the time.
  • iadagraca
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    iadagraca polycounter lvl 5
    this is where the money triangle comes in...

    if they give you longer than you need, you can charge them less and still give them a good quality model. if they want it done in half the usual time then it will cost them more or be lower in quality.

    That sums up my feelings with a current client who said there's no deadline so long as the work is fairly consistent. He pays per completed image so thats fine with me :P. I just work on it between deadlines for other stuff.
  • Tits
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    Tits mod
    Sometimes clients are not artist, it can be good to take the time to let them know that the quality level they are trying to reach and the deadlines they are giving you doesn't match.
    Will they listen, sometimes yes, sometimes no.
    Like some other people said, if they want the high quality done in shorter period of time, it's possible for you to ''crunch it'' but this comes with a cost.
    If they don't want to pay more then they will have to accept a drop of quality.
    If they do not want to settle for any of those solution you offered, then maybe the contract isn't really worth fighting for.
    The client is not ready to compromise and you shoudln't accept a contract where you are not getting appropriatly compensated for your work and time.

    You got to try build up a relationship of trust and respect with your clients.
    Once that trust is created it's way easier to deal with all that money talk and they are usually really open to discussion (or maybe I just have great clients!)
  • Optinium
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    Optinium polycounter
    THE MANTRA for freelance...

    Good and fast isn't cheap
    Cheap and good isn't fast
    Fast and cheap isn't good

    Or something to that effect.

    As for the original question, the character without the head I'd say 4-6 weeks factoring in feedback loops, for the head/hair/beard etc... 2-4 weeks depending on complexity and if it needs to conform to a specific rig/animation/blend system, overall 6 to 10 weeks.

    But as Almighty_gir pointed out, sharing assets or having viable base meshes really helps. A shared eye, mouth cavity, eyelashes and eyebrows, base meshes (pre-unwrapped, head, torso, hand, clothing proxys or Marvelous Designer patterns etc...). That 6-10 weeks can easily become a lot less once you've got stuff to grab onto.

    I like to give some clients an image of a character quality bar that I'll achieve for them and then a time to deliver it, I find this useful in establishing the quality they expect, I just need to be sure that what I deliver is comparable or better. On the flip side if they dictate the quality/time for delivery I'll quote accordingly baring in mind the mantra above :3
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