So You Want To Start A Digital Project Hua?

Article / 14 December 2021

Who is this for?

I wrote this up to be able to refer people to it as a standing recommendation for contractees, project leads and chief stakeholders who contact me for work on their projects.  This is meant to help you, the project owner, formulate a plan that can help contractors serve you better.
I have been in the game and app industry for over 15 years developing 3D assets for delivery via film, web, game engines and product development.  I have worked for studios as a regular employee and I have worked as a contractor on many projects, both small and large.  Suffice it to say that I have learned a few things about how projects like this work.  If you are contracting people for your project, please read this.  I promise it will save you time, money, and frustration.

About Your Project

What is your project?
If you are contracting people for a project, odds are, you are the chief stakeholder.  You probably have your own money and time already invested in this project.  Perhaps the idea, the intellectual property is yours and you are looking for professionals to help you realize your idea.  The first step in this process should be a series of questions you ask yourself about you, your project, and your resources.

Can you describe your project in a paragraph or two?
Note, this description needs to have the creative idea.  It needs to have the media(s) it will be delivered as, e.g. film, game, book.  It also needs to have the device(s) that it will be delivered on e.g. phone, PC, game console.  Also, what sort of artwork is it, live action, 3D, 2D, AR, VR, .GIF?  This description needs to be concise and complete.  

What is your timeline for this project?
Games and apps typically take several years to develop.  Individual assets like characters can take weeks.  Are your expectations realistic? 

Who are the other professionals you will need to complete this project?
There is no end to the job postings on freelance websites seeking a “full stack” developer/artist who can single handedly create an entire game or app. I am afraid that is not realistic. For an app or game you will need at minimum 2 professionals. A technical artist and a programmer. However, for those two to develop an entire app, they both need to have robust skillsets and plenty of time to develop. The smallest team I have ever worked with was 5 people. I was the lead technical artist, there were two programmers, a UI specialist, and the project lead.
Is this just a "simple" cinematic animation? Have you thought about the audio? Your animator may be able to do the sound and the visuals too, but maybe not. Do you know what a storyboard is? An animatic? They are very useful tools that help with project scope and vision. Typically those are provided by professional illustrators and your animator may not be the person for that work.

About Your Financial Resources

What is your budget for this project?  
Please know this, production work is not cheap.  To give you an idea, large production companies like Disney, Pixar, Sony and Dreamworks have reported spending as much as $35,000.00 USD per SECOND of animation.  AAA game titles typically cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce.  Certainly your budget is far less, but what does that mean for the overall quality and scope of your project?  

Who are the other stakeholders?
If there are others, what are their expectations? If you have investors, they will want to see progress. What is your delivery system for that? Do you know what a MVP, a Minimal Viable Product is?  Are you familiar with the fact that production work is a highly iterative process?  Are you comfortable mitigating your stakeholders expectations?  Do you understand the process enough to present it in stages?  If you don't understand the production process enough to speak with authority about it, can you develop those skills?

About You

Who do you want to be to this project?
Do you want to own every creative decision that is made?  Do you want to get your hands dirty and be in the mix?  Or do you want to hang back and worry about financing and overall project steerage while the production people do their thing and report back?  Exactly what do you want to do and what don’t you want to do?  Chiefly, does this sort of work excite you?  Is this something that you have passion for?  Excitement, passion and drive are the most important things you can bring to your project.  With those motivators you can learn and do whatever you need to bring your project into the world.

What are you qualified to do on this project?
If you want to be heavily involved in the project, do you know enough about production work to do that?  If you want to just worry about funding and big picture stuff, do you have the resources for that?  How much time and energy are you prepared to invest in this project?  If you want to be really involved but you have a lot to learn, do you have the bandwidth for that? 

Now go to work!
Make a cup of joe, sit down and start answering these questions.  It is important that you write the answers out, get them expressed outside of your head.  If you can’t answer all of these questions, no worries, just google it, your questions are probably answered somewhere out there.  If you can't find the answers, get on reddit and find a thread you can follow, ask questions.  Finally, if you are still stumped, you can certainly pay a professional for a consultation.

Good luck!

Don't hesitate to reach out.