When you think about creating your game world, you may first imagine the plot, then the characters, the time, space, and the gameplay. The idea gets more and more details in your mind. Of course, creating a complex game alone is hardly possible. So, here comes the question of how much it will cost to hire a game artist to embody your vision, draw the environment, make awesome 2D or 3D characters and capture the player’s imagination.
Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most addictive and expensive games ever produced.
According to Gamesindustry.biz, the game development cost reached $174 ml, while the total budget was around $316 ml. The head of Eidos Montreal estimates the game production budget of the legendary Lara Croft saga somewhere between $75 and 100 ml, with an additional $35 ml on the promotion for Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
Big companies operate significant assets but experience risk and pressure, as well as smaller game developers. The only way to make a profit is a well-considered budget for game development. More than 50 games of Whimsy Studio production have successfully hit the market. In this article, we share our experience in calculating 2D art and 3D art game cost and advise how to minimize your expenditures.
3D Vs 2D Art
The first thing which defines the cost of the game is the dimension: 2D or 3D. The difference between 3D and 2D game art is colossal. Thus, it’s crucial to know both in detail to choose the correct one.
2D art game has no physical depth. The shadows and textures trick our eyes and create the illusion of three-dimensionality, but a 2D image on a screen has only two axes of motion. Characters may go right or left, up or down, making the game simple and the gameplay shorter. The animation of flat images is also a designer hocus-pocus. Since 2D objects can’t move along the surface, any new posture or clothes requires another drawing or a sprite.
In 3D art, you add depth to height and width. Designer software programs like Poser, Daz Studio, and Maya calculate the 3D model characteristics and give the opportunity to rotate it in 360 degrees or see from the inside. This means that the Assasin game character can walk around the building and explore it because environments and assets have the mathematical equivalent of physical volume.
There is a combat of 2D art vs 3D art. You might think that modern 3D art techniques are gradually replacing 2D drawing, but there are advantages and disadvantages in both approaches. Let`s compare how 2D and 3D perception is used in different games.
Advantages of 2D art for games
Simple gameplay. Two dimensions are the best options for simpler games. Perhaps it won`t be stunning but it doesn`t rule out popularity. The examples of chess.com or Boardarena are the most persuasive.
Lower development cost. Usually, the cost of art in 2D is two times less than the 3D alternative for the same task. And you don`t worry about developing such a game and endless feature updates.
Advantages of 3D art for games
Extensive gameplay. With three dimensions there is a broader range of opportunities for the movements and interactions of the character and the game world. The gameplay may last for hours and the players won`t get bored.
Realism. 3D objects look cool because the palette is brighter, the animation is eye-catching and the environment looks real. The camera that flips 360 degrees and shows wrinkles on the healer`s face or the carpets on the floor of the castle gives a feeling of the real world.
Specialties Of 2D Game Art
The more details of your projects you give to the artist, the more precise will be his estimation of the 2D art cost. The price f the game design will depend on the complexity of your universe and will probably include the concept, characters, their clothes, number of accessories or weapons, layouts of the environment, and the animation.
Vector or Raster
There are two main types of 2D images: raster graphics and vector graphics.
A raster graphic’s basis is made up of flat tiny dots – pixels – that form the entire image. These images are saved as .jpg or .png files that you are surely familiar with. When you zoom in a raster image, you’ll notice that it becomes hazy and small square dots appear.
In a vector image, the formulas construct the points, shapes, and colors that you see. The most common vector file formats are .ai (for Adobe Illustrator), .eps (for Encapsulated PostScript), and .svg (Scalable Vector Graphics). A vector image will remain smooth when you zoom it in or scale it to a bigger size.
There is a great tradition of pixel 2D game art starting from Doom and ending with Minecraft, which proves that raster graphics will find their devoted players as well as vector counterparts.
If you decide to hire a freelancer for the concept art, the rates in Europe range from $25 to $100+ per hour.
Note that the concept of the game may need several iterations and adjustments until it corresponds to the visions in your mind. The designer price usually includes the number of free changes while additional drawing alterations will require an extra fee.
You can find more concept art examples in the Whimsy Games portfolio
The game characters are the most active and detailed elements of the game. Their appearance has to be flawless because the player associates himself with the image on the screen and hopefully becomes attached to the hero.
For example, the dwarfs in the Magic Cave game by Whimsy are cute and funny. We have drawn several postures, such as a dwarf with a treasure chest or the one who is watching TV, to liven them up.
Weapons, trophies, amulets, and other engaging assets that beckon the player from level to level are designed separately. Look at the shiny gemstones from the dwarfs` cave and think about the assets you need for your game.
Environment design is a discipline where artists embody entire worlds with nature, architecture, and numerous game locations. Your wildest ideas can turn into eclectic, unforgettable landscapes or puzzling dungeons with the help of the experienced Whimsy team.
You can recall the examples of 2D animation in classic Disney works like 101 Dalmatians or Tarzan and compare them to 3D animation from Pixar in Finding Nemo.
2D animations are almost half the price of 3D analogies. They are easy to make and therefore faster to produce. You can get the result for your game done in six-eight weeks.
You can also quickly adopt 2D animations to banners, labels, posters, infographics, business cards, web materials, and other promotional printables. Meanwhile, a 3D model needs a rendering to make a flat shot of the scene.
However, 2D animations can be pretty primitive. The switch between the sprite sheets when the character moves is not as realistic as in 3D videos.
Factors Which Influence 3D Game Art Cost
2D art requires more traditional drawing skills, while 3D needs special software like Lightwave, 3D Max, Blender, and computer power to embody the game project. Simply put, 3D artwork is lines of code creating marvelous game visualizations. The technical complexity of the project defines the cost of an art 3D game.
All 3D shapes are made of tiny elements of surfaces called polys. At the beginning of the polygonal modeling, characters, cars, trees, and buildings look like a mesh of small rug pieces connected in a digital patchwork.
High poly objects contain many polygons, which turn into details and result in the model’s realism. High poly is essential for the game characters and less important in assets and environment.
Low poly objects need fewer polygons. They are good for basic models with a low level of detail and let you reduce the expenses while hiring a 3D art company.
You can recognize polygonal modeling in the features of game characters. In the case of Whimsey Art Project N6, our experienced designers edit multiple corners of polygons and make the face of the blond secretary look worried.
Spline modeling uses another principle. Instead of polys numerous curves and points stand for the basic elements of a 3D shape. Such models look impressive but might be hard to edit because of the mathematical formulas and calculations involved. The cost of spline modeling is often higher because of the computer, software, and work complexity.
3D art creation stages and tools
3D designer continuously switches between different software tools in each stage of the 3D art creation process such as sculpting, texturing, rigging, skinning, rendering, and animating.
For example, overpainting is one of the last stages when the designer adds the masks for glossiness and reflection from the surface color. In some projects overpainting takes up to 30% of all the work, like in the model below.
Lots of artists do overpainting in ZBrush, but the final .fbx file loses polypaint while exporting to the 3D Max. However, Maya accepts ZBrush overpainting correctly and you can then re-exported polypaint to 3D Max to do the rendering.
Such enchanted detalisation and computer processing take hours of designer`s work. You can find more fascinating cases and professional descriptions of 3D modeling nuances on ArtStation platform but the main principle in estimating the 3D game art would sound like, ‘More detail means more money.’
3D animation moves images around 3D spaces and looks stunning like the Avatar movie or Assasin Crid game. However, the cost of such production may vary from $10,000 to $20,000 per minute for higher-quality videos.
Creating 3D models for the NFT game is slightly different from traditional games. Characters and assets should be developed on a blockchain basis so that players could buy and sell them. The cost of the NFT models in freelance exchanges is somewhere between $75 and $200 per hour.
The Basic Formula To Calculate 2D Art And 3D Art Cost
As a rule, 3D art costs more than 2D alternatives for the concept, environments, and characters. 2D graphics price tag is anywhere from $50 to several thousand dollars. Meanwhile, the development of 3D models only starts from $1000 for the game character and can go up to several hundred thousand dollars.
The general formula to calculate the price of 2D and 3D art includes the designer rate, hours of work, and the number of artists in the team within your project.
Additional expenses can come out due to the following factors
Delivery time. A 2D freelancer or 3D game art outsourcing studio fee would differ in case you need the result for tomorrow, in three days, or a week.
Editing. A small adjustment like flipping the image or swapping a single color, will not necessarily need additional payment. But anything that will require more complex redrawing deserves an extra fee.
Game engine specialties. Game art for the Unity engine can be significantly different from the project for Godot or Unreal Engine 4. The last type will take much longer and cost more.
Reference Concept Artists’ Rates
When it comes to choosing a design company it`s reasonable to estimate the art cost in comparison with the other market propositions. You could take the rates of concept art services in Whimsy Games as a reference for your research.
Concept designer rates, $ pro hour
|2D Concept art||$15||$25||$35|
|3D Concept art||$15||$27||$40|
Choosing Game Art Outsourcing Studio Defines Your Result
The case of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice proves that high-quality games can be made on smaller budgets and smaller teams. Ninja Theory’s development studio from the UK managed to create a hit with a production cost under $10 ml with a team of around 20 people. A short single-player game looked fascinating, won numerous awards, and was a financial success. How is this possible?
The key factor for the Hellblade miracle was a team of top professionals passionate about their work. In their case, a single person worked in several discipline areas and substituted two or three narrow specialists. The precedent shows again that the people you work with define your result.
The Whimsy Games has more than 15000 hours of experience in creating 2D and 3D concepts, characters, and environments for games. Our team has numerous projects in low poly and middle poly art, sculpting for 3D printing, rendered images for isometrics, and much more. If you have a great idea for a game, we have the prof’s team to embody it into comprehensive game art.