Category Archives: smArtist thoughts

Resume and portfolio tips TwitterBlast!

Hi everybody! Here’s another TwitterBlast I did on my @jonjones Twitter account on the subject of resumes and portfolios. Here’s the info-dump, and I’ve followed that with a bit more explanation on why I dislike Blogspot and Wix.

ARTISTS!

  • Resume tip #1: Including your location is a must. Home address isn’t necessary.
  • Resume tip #2: When applying, specify the job title you’re applying for. Make sure it’s industry-standard, not something weird or made-up.
  • Resume tip #3: If your resume is light on experience, I personally like seeing skills up front..
  • Resume tip #4: It’s “3D Studio MAX,” not “3D MAX!” Even pros get this wrong, and most don’t care, but this drives me up the wall!
  • Resume tip #5: Only one typeface, and keep consistent font sizes. One resume I saw got smaller and smaller text ’til the end!
  • Resume tip #6: Since spellcheck won’t check most software names, make sure you proofread them carefully.
  • Resume tip #7: Clickable email and portfolio links in your PDF resume is a great thing to do!
  • Portfolio tip #1: If all you have is in your folio is classwork, and you graduated 1+ year ago, it looks like you stopped trying.
  • Portfolio tip #2: I like embedded demo reels, just make sure they’re big enough to see! i.e. not 320×240.
  • Portfolio tip #3: Having an “About” page on CGSociety with your full name and whatever nickname you use makes finding you even easier.
  • Portfolio tip #4: If you create a character of a different race than yours, ask honest friends if it’s unintentionally, hilariously racist.
  • Portfolio tip #5: Test your portfolio in all browsers and resolutions, especially if you’re embedding video.
  • Portfolio tip #6: I prefer seeing reels on Vimeo instead of Youtube. I just saw a full length softcore Indian porn movie as a Recommended Video.
  • Portfolio tip #7: A Blogspot page is not a portfolio.
  • Portfolio tip #8: A Wix page is not a portfolio. Wix is the Photoshop lens flare of portfolio hosts.
  • Portfolio tip #9: ENVIRONMENT ARTISTS! Dude, EVERYBODY MODELS ANGKOR WAT! Do the temples in Bhutan or something off the wall instead. Be creative!
  • Portfolio tip #10: Full Sail and Animation Mentor grads — when you graduate, use a new character model! It’s great to learn on, but I see it *everywhere.*
  • Portfolio tip #11: It’s not strictly necessary, but it’s always nice to get a Not Safe For Work warning before poppin’ out some boobs.
  • Portfolio tip #12: If you EVER autoplay music, I will find out where you live, burn your house down, and salt the earth.
  • Portfolio tip #13: You need a website in addition to just a reel, because it’s easier to update with new content.
  • Portfolio tip #14: When crediting people for assets used in your folio or reel, make sure you spell their names correctly.

So, Blogspot! Here’s why I don’t like it: It’s way too easy to have one portfolio piece per post, and have 2 – 10 pages’ worth of content I have to manually click through to see anything. Blogspot is for creating a timestamped archive of content, not a presentation of deliberately selected art. It’s fundamentally a posting format that automatically archives your work and hides it behind multiple pages anytime you post something new. You really can’t curate content or present your work that way. Imagine if every time you made a new piece of art, the 10th-latest piece of art you made before that was deleted forever. From an art director’s point of view looking at a Blogspot page, that’s how it is.

Yesterday when I was posting these, I almost passed on giving a guy an art test because he had a Blogspot page with so-so work on the first page, and his actual reel with good work in it on the second page. Fortunately I was being thorough and caught it, but not everyone’s going to do that. Make your art so easy to access I can see it accidentally!

I dislike Wix because a) it’s Flash, b) it’s VERY easy to make a horrible slow-loading page, and c) it’s VERY easy to make a horrible slow-loading page. I don’t care about fancy templates or cool presentation. Think about it this way: As an artist with a portfolio, you’re inclined to think of it as designing an experience to present your work and want it to look super polished and cool, and seeing flashy features and presentation is very tempting. As an art director, I have a list of portfolios to go through and I just want to see art IMMEDIATELY. I don’t care about bells and whistles, I’m less inclined to be forgiving of load times, and Flash-heavy websites that bog down my browser just annoy me. I see Wix and I see a platform that makes it incredibly likely art will be harder and slower for me to see.

In summary, Blogspot is for archived, non-curated content, and Wix’s temptingly flashy themes and features make it very easy to have a super slow portfolio. Some artists can do absolutely great working within those constraints to make good portfolios, but, across hundreds to thousands of portfolios, in the literal sense of “on the average” over a data set that broad, they are more annoying and badly done than not. There are exceptions, but it usually sucks.

Hope that’s helpful!

Art Test Tips TwitterBlast!

Hi folks! I’ve been posting a lot on Twitter lately, especially resume, portfolio, and artist tips. I’ve been queueing up a bunch of individual tips and pushing them out in one big two-second barrage of advice, and people have been asking for a more permanent location for them. Well, here you go! I’ll post these here anytime I do that from now on. Here are my tips on understanding and completing art tests:

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #1: NEVER be afraid to ask questions. It’s expected! However, a) DON’T ask just to seem clever, and b) DO try to ask them all at once.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #2: Follow directions precisely. You’d be astonished how often this DOESN’T happen, and it’s completely avoidable.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #3: We give directions, but also read between the lines at what isn’t said to add extra polish.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #4: Be tidy. It’s as technical as it is artistic. Tidy outliner, clean object and filenaming, organized layer groups in the PSD, etc.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #5: Be on time. If you’re going to be late, acknowledge it the *INSTANT* you know you will be late, and politely propose a new date.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #6: Log your time and be honest about it.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #7: Overdeliver, within reason. “Is there a way to jazz this up a little within my creative, time, and tech constraints?”

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #8: Unless they say otherwise, assume the art assets are meant for a realtime game. Construct the assets accordingly.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #9: When submitting, always send a separate confirmation email. FTP uploads don’t notify, and large email attachments sometimes bounce.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #10: Think hard about how you distribute detail with polygons and texture. This says a lot about how you think.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #11: Make sure the zipped art test contains ONLY the files needed, not dozens of extra directories or files (.mayaswatches, I’m looking at you).

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #12: If you’re asked to provide diffuse, normal, and spec maps… don’t randomly just not use them and not explain why.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #13: Don’t include files with random names like “SomethingWhatever.tga” or “DammitPleaseWork.jpg” or “OwlsWithDiarrhea.ma”

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #14: DON’T PUT ART TESTS IN YOUR PORTFOLIO! a) It means you failed the test, and b) I’ve already seen 50 other people do that one, and probably better.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #15: Ask your friends to look over your work. Be willing to accept criticism. Don’t make people wonder “did he even look at the reference?”

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #16: Don’t let your own self-doubt keep you from finishing or submitting. It’s their job to evaluate you, not yours. Stay strong.

Artist tips braindump on my @jonjones Twitter feed!

Hi everybody! Long time no chat. I did a 15-minute-long stream of consciousness braindump of artist advice on my Twitter account (@jonjones) and I’m reposting it here — RAW AND UNCUT!

ARTISTS! Going through a lot of portfolios this week and have a few general RT’able notes and gripes following this tweet. 🙂

ARTISTS! Unless you’re selling your services as a Flash artist, please don’t make your website in Flash. It’s slow and lacks deep linking.

ARTISTS! If you have an embedded reel on your website, please have PlayPauseVolume controls! Especially if it’s not downloadable.

ARTISTS! If you’re on LinkedIn, GOOD. Keep that updated quarterly. But don’t forget your portfolio website link! This happens a lot.

ARTISTS! Portfolios sorted by the projects you worked on are great. This is a recent example that I like: http://www.videogamma.net/

ARTISTS! Keep your skills and software package proficiencies updated in LinkedIn. You can search for that, and it makes you easier to find.

ARTISTS! If you’re trying to add someone you don’t know on LinkedIn, when it asks you how you know them, don’t select “Friend.” It’s tacky.

ARTISTS! Instead of applying for a job through the website, try to find their recruiter or HR manager on LinkedIn. Path less traveled!

ARTISTS! Take advantage of LinkedIn Groups. You can meet cool people and learn. Check your friends’ Groups on their profile and join them.

ARTISTS! If you’re prepping to change jobs and want to stay secret, you can turn off LinkedIn’s profile update notifications first… shh.

ARTISTS! Take advantage of Facebook’s Friends Lists to filter your posts. I put clientsbossesdirectors on a list to limit what they see.

ARTISTS! Take time once a week to check People You May Know in LinkedIn. Better to connect for its own sake than only when you need them.

ARTISTS! When scheduling interview, ask for interviewers’ names. Check LinkedIn, Mobygames, and FB for mutual friends. Make notes. Ask Q’s.

ARTISTS! Keep resumes down to 1 page. If >8yrs in games, 2 is okay. Anything more than 2 is fluff, and is judged.

ARTISTS! Good technical artists and VFX artists are *very* hard to find, and almost always in demand. It’s not a bad specialty to have…

Enjoy. 🙂

Oh, by the way, I recently moved to New York City and I’m an Outsourcing Art Manager at Avalanche Studios. w00t! Oh, while I’ve got everyone’s attention, Avalanche NYC is hiring for several positions. 🙂 Avalanche NYC jobs page. … Tell em Jon Jones sent ya!

Predicting layoffs: How to check your studio’s health

Hi all! With the spate of layoffs recently, I’ve been thinking of how to assess a studio’s health so you can predict whether or not doom will come, and when. These are various ways I usually assess a studio’s health, and it’s upon that basis that I make the staygo”sorry, I’m booked out for months and regrettably unavailable for contract work” decision. This article applies mainly to full-time employees, but it could also be useful for contractors wanting to know if their clients will continue to have money to pay them.

I’m still new to the stock market side of things, but I’ve been trying my ass off to pay more attention to this ever since I worked at a THQ studio that was recently hit with massive layoffs. Following that rollercoaster has been instructive.

So, these are my questionscritera in no particular order:

  1. Track publisher stock movements and events. Sign up for Google Finance, add the big pubs (ATVI, EA, TTWO, THQI, ZNGA, UBSFF, KNM, NTDOY, CCOEF). How was their last quarter? Year? 5 years? How close are their sales projections to the actual reality when they release quarterly reports and how do they spin it? What obvious lies can you identify over time and what’s the common thread between them? What time of year have they historically performed “restructuring” and layoffs? (usually financial quartersbeginning of FY, but still.)
  2. Subscribe to the news. GamaSutra Newswire and Gameindustry.biz to get a decent spread of up-to-date information on the industry. I subscribe to their RSS feeds in Google Reader so I only have to go one place to check. I also check GameTab occasionally, but I’ve had connectivity errors with the site recently. Beware of rumors and fearmongering, but still pay attention.
  3. Track patterns in press releases. Are there patterns between sequences of press releases like “This game will sell 5m!” – > “We have faith in the product.” – > “The product’s sales fell short of our expectations.” – > “In order to cut costs after disappointing sales, we’re restructuring our organization and have reduced [studio]’s headcount by 75.” How cyclical is this? Is there a predictable sequence of announcements that could give you an indication of what’s next?
  4. Know your publisher’s product catalog. Find out their fiscal year dates, and other games’ ship dates. What has happened to them when they miss a date? What is the organizational health and reputation of other owned and non-owned companies under your publisher’s umbrella? If you had to guess and be realistic, if shit hits fan which studio *should* be shut down first?
  5. Know your company’s track record. When did your company ship its last title? How did it sell? How did it rate on average? How about the one before that? Do they have a track record of missing ship dates?
  6. Know your genre. What genre is your game? Does that genre tend to sell well? Who are the biggest players in that space and are you competing directly with them, or trying to find a new take or angle or iteration upon the genre? Do you think your game compares favorably? And is its release date close to the release of another juggernaught in the same genre?
  7. Know your studio’s employee retention rate. How many people there tend to stay for the long haul versus staying only a year or less before moving on? “How long has the average employee at your company worked there?” is a question I have ALWAYS asked in an interview and it often makes people uncomfortable. 🙂
  8. Know who runs your company. Who are the principals of the company and what’s their history? What’s their relative rate of success with regards to companies runmanaged previously, success of previously shipped titles, how long they’ve leadmanaged? How long have they worked at the same company both currently and in the past? Mainly, find out if they hop around or commit for the long haul.
  9. Know your team’s history. Has this team worked together before, either as a whole or in small groupscliques? Check previous companies. Look up all the leads up on LinkedIn and Mobygames and map out concurrent employment and previous working relationships for future reference. Write it down.

That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head for basic high-level stuff. I could dig deeper into tech and so on, but this is a lot of data already. Still, these are all considerations I consider important and I’ve always dug into companies in this way and add to the list of criteria over time.

I’m curious what people think, and I welcome comments and feedback! If I’m completely full of crap, please let me know because I want this to be better. 🙂 Thanks guys!

[update] Thanks to Dave Shramek and Matthew Weigel for informing me that EA’s stock symbol is now EA (not ERTS) and to include Zynga (ZNGA)! [/update]

From Full-Time to Freelance: The Nine Commandments of Contracting (speech!)

Hi all! Back in December I gave a speech at the IGDA MicroTalks on the subject of transitioning from full-time employment to freelance art. It’s an expanded version of an earlier article of mine. Here’s the video:

Here are the slides of the speech:

From Full-Time to Freelance: The Ten Commandments of Contracting slides

Here’s the text of the speech:

Hi everybody! I’m Jon Jones and I run smArtist, a contract art production agency. I’m a freelance art outsourcing manager, and I deal with art studios and freelance artists on a daily basis. I’m going to go into some detail on what you need to know if you’re transitioning from fulltime employment into a career as a freelance artist. There are a few things you need to know that I’ve learned over the years.

I’m going to be speaking primarily to people that are taking the leap into freelance art fulltime, and not people that moonlight or only want to contract until they find another job. Some of my advice will still apply to people in those situations, sure. But I prefer not working with moonlighters or people that only want to contract temporarily, because the second they enter crunch or get a job, I become the lowest priority, I miss deadlines, and it affects my clients’ projects.

Without further ado, here’s my background: I’ve been dealing with contract art for nearly fifteen years, and have been a full-time professional for over ten. I’ve been a freelance artist and worked at an art studio, worked inhouse at developers as an artist and as a manager, and now I manage art teams as a freelancer. I’ve been on all sides of the contract art game, and that’s where I’m coming from.

A quick but important note I’d like to make: Always keep your resume and portfolio up to date. Pay attention to what’s happening at your studio. If you’re getting close to shipping, get ALL of that up to date, because that’s prime time for layoffs. Do you think the game is going to succeed or suck? Is your team unreasonably large? Is your contract up for renewal? Prepare NOW. Starting a contract or a job will take at least a month and a half on average, and that’s optimistic. Be ready. If you get laid off, you have a resume and portfolio ready and they should already be in the hands of AT LEAST ten companies by the end of the day. Period.

THE ZEROTH COMMANDMENT

Set up your own dedicated workspace. Do nothing but work there. Fundamentally, just don’t work where you play. You’ll feel like you’re always at work and will begin to really resent it and feel trapped. Trust me, it sucks.
Also, don’t play where you work. Just don’t mix it. You’ll never get any work done when there’s chores around the house to do, a TV show to watch, more Skyrim, pets to play with, or the promise of Hot Local Teens In Your Area That Want To Chat. (not true.) Do that somewhere else, on your own time. Set aside your own sacred workspace and keep that discipline. It’ll keep you sane.
What I did was turn my only bedroom into my office and put my bed in my living room. I’ll admit that it’s extreme, but that’s my personality and this works well for me.

THE FIRST COMMANDMENT

Thou shalt know the day and the hour.

Amateur: “I’ll have it done in two hours!” Delivers it in eight hours.

Professional: “I’ll have it done in eight hours.” Delivers it in six hours.

Manager Insight: If an artist blows his time estimates consistently, it erodes my trust in his ability to deliver at all. I always notice and remember. I don’t want to have to figure out “Amateur Artist Math” and do the conversions in my head: 2h = 8h, 4h = 12h, one day = two days. I am neither nanny nor mathematician. I have deadlines to hit!

I’ve been in a position where I’ve been stuck with an artist that won’t correct his behavior and that I can’t replace, so I actually have to lie about when it’s due just because I know he’ll be late if I give him the real due date. And obviously I can’t tell him I do that, because he’ll be onto me and will find another way to weasel out of it, once again leaving me in the dark on delivery dates. If you make me treat you like a child, no allowance for you. Sometimes that has been the only way to get the artist to deliver it on time, and this puts me in an odd and almost parental position. What does it say about him, his competence and his skills as an artist if he consistently fails to understand how long a task takes? Is that someone you’d work with again?

I understand that sometimes you run into problems. That’s fine. But if you’re going to be late,tell me. Trust me, I know how awkward it can be to approach someone pre-emptively and tell them something unpleasant. But I’d rather know so I can plan for it being late than simply not hear from the artist and get a late delivery. I have a boss, too. I report to my boss, and telling my boss it’ll be done on a certain day and getting it later makes me look like I can’t manage my artists or stick to a schedule. No one wants to feel that way, and that affects you directly, too!

I appreciate honesty and giving advance notice that you will be late. I do not like being surprised by a late delivery with no warning. In fact, that always irritates me. If you make me look like an idiot to my boss because I trusted you, do you think I would ever trust you or want to work with you again? Of course not. I’d cut you loose without a second thought because it is in my direct, immediate interest to replace you. No matter how cool a person you are, this is still business. Be a Professional.

THE SECOND COMMANDMENT

Thou Shalt Heed the Words of the Technical Guidelines Tablet.

Amateur: “Here’s the delivery!” File’s a technical MESS I’ll spend hours fixing. Textures assigned wrong, files named wrong, directories assigned wrong, total chaos. Bonus points for weird or profane filenames. (note: Not actual bonus points.)

Professional: “Here’s the delivery!” Files are properly named, textures are properly assigned, technical guidelines were met and I don’t have to fix anything because he paid attention to my instructions.

Manager’s Insight: I don’t know if the Amateur just didn’t read the doc, or if he simply didn’t understand it. If I explained it badly, I’ll cop to it. But please, try your best and ask questions.
My three options in order from most desirable to least desirable are as follows:

a) Repeat myself. Tell him to reread the doc and hope he suddenly gets it. However, this could be another blown deliverable if he doesn’t. High risk, very little time spent.
b) Explain myself. Write up a detailed changelist and tell him exactly how to fix it. Medium risk, lots of time spent.
c) Do it myself. Low risk, excessive time spent.

Ideally, this will never happen. Practically speaking, it totally will.

Don’t make me do your job. I respect attention to detail and people that think of ways to do their job well, understand my bottom line, and try to save me time. It’s good customer service, good business and the Professional way to act. It’s the mint on the pillow.

Honestly, no one’s perfect. Sometimes I’ll have to rename a file here, tweak some verts there. That happens. If it’s just one or two issues small enough that it would be faster for me to fix them myself rather than telling you, I may just do that. It’s likely that a client may not even mention it. But if there are a lot of issues like this and it happens consistently, that’s more work for me, and it’s going to really irritate me over time. This is Amateur hour nonsense. It makes us both look bad, and will make me rethink working with you again. Your mom doesn’t work here. Clean up your own mess.

Be thorough, check your own work, pay attention to the directions I give you, and be a Professional. A manager may not mention this as being one of the reasons he continues to send you contract work, but trust me, it is a major factor.

THE THIRD COMMANDMENT

Thou shalt heed thy client’s word to the letter.

Amateur: “Sure, I’ll incorporate that feedback!” Misses half of what I asked for and acts like nothing’s wrong. Did he not read it, not understand it or just ignore it?

Professional: “Sure, I’ll incorporate that feedback!” Nails every single point spot-on and (as a bonus!) verifies point-by-point what was fixed.

Manager’s Insight: This comes down to two points: 1) The Professional is showing me he pays attention to what I say, and 2) he’s focused on details and doing a good job.

Plan for this. I need time to review the assets and generate feedback. If my workday ends at 7pm and I get it long after I’ve gone home, that doesn’t do me a lot of good, does it? Especially if I have an imminent deadline.

This all comes down to this timeless adage: Under-promise and over-deliver. The earlier in the day I get a delivery you’ve promised, the happier I am. But if you dramatically overestimate when I’ll get the asset and I get it uselessly late, what good is that to me? I can either stay late at work — guess how much I like that? — or put it off until tomorrow morning.

Remember: You are not the end of the pipeline. You’re an important part of the process, yes. However, other people are lined up after you take your finished product to the next stage of production and finalize it. This takes time, and issues like this pile up and affect a lot of other people down the chain. Do not be the cholesterol in the artery of my project.
It’s easy for an Amateur to slack off, misread something, not double-check, or just let things slide and hope he’s not called on it because he doesn’t want to do the extra work. Maybe he doesn’t get called on it and it’s handled in-house. But just because a client may not bring it up doesn’t mean it wasn’t noticed and remembered. It absolutely should be brought up, but they may not have the time or desire to confront you.

Personally, I have no problem with confrontation, and I will be a jerk if I have to because I have a job to do. I don’t like doing that, and you don’t like being on the receiving end. Save us both the time and drama. Strive to be the Professional that makes a client think “Wow, he nailed it!” instead of the Amateur that makes the client think “Well, he completed items A, C and E but forgot B and D. Again. And now I have to either write it up or fix it myself when I have a mountain of other work to do. Splendid!”

One important point, however, that you may not realize: Sometimes — emphasis on sometimes — the sign of a job well done is the quiet, peaceful absence of problems. Everything flows smoothly, is exactly as expected, people are happy and there is no cause for complaint. Doing the job right simply may not bring open acknowledgement or kudos, but doing the job wrong is going to set off alarms that everyone notices. It took me many years to realize that, sometimes, lack of acknowledgement is something to take pride in. It’s not ideal and I try extremely hard to acknowledge and appreciate everything I can, but I have a lot to do and may not always be able to afford the time. Remembering this can keep you sane.

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT

Thou Shalt Honor Thy Customer and Thy Reputation.

Amateur: “I’m just this guy that makes art. What’s customer service? If I make good art, that’s all that matters because that’s all they really want.”

Professional: “I’m a service provider and I take customer service seriously. I am an artist, but my success in that depends on creating art to my client’s exact specifications.”

Manager’s Insight: You are in the customer service business. Be responsive and make the client happy and maintain it.
A lot of artists coming from a studio environment don’t really have to worry about doing much else besides showing up and doing what’s asked of them. It’s usually hard for people to get fired for unsatisfactory performance, so a lot of annoying little habits and behaviors can get glossed over. (note: Everyone notices even if they don’t bring it up.)

It’s a lot like dating. You work out, dress well and try to get in “dating shape” so you can look as attractive as possible for potential mates. [Insert charming romantic comedy “how they met” story here, possibly starring Gerard Butler and Jennifer Lopez.] Then when you’re in a relationship, you let a few things slide because you’re safe. Contractors do this. Contractors should not do this.

This is the difference between being a contractor versus being employed full-time at a studio. As a contractor, you are ALWAYS dating. You are ALWAYS selling. You ALWAYS have to keep that standard of careful attention to detail, composure, and will to go the extra mile to make your client happy so you’ll keep working with them long-term. And even clients like flowers from time to time. (note: Please do not actually send clients flowers.)

THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT.

Thou Shalt Not Mock the Client with Feeble Protestations.

Amateur: “My dog ate my stylus!”

Professional: “I dropped the ball on this, and I will do my best to correct it.”

Manager’s Insight: I don’t want excuses, I want results. If you screwed up, be honest and let me know so I can plan for that. I’ve heard EVERY excuse. I know the difference between a reason and an excuse.

I’ve seen weird technical issues that are magically resolved when I try to step in to help.

Oh, you never got that email you had actually already replied to?

Wow, your wifegirlfriend DEMANDED that you nap through this deadline (true story!)

The list goes on. For my part, when I make a mistake, I own up to it. It sucks, it’s awkward, and I feel bad. But making lame excuses makes me look irresponsible, sloppy, and insults my client’s intelligence.

There is definitely a difference between an excuse and a valid reason. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference. But if enough of those stack up, that’s a red flag. It’s easy to think to yourself “These are all perfectly valid reasons! If they’re reasonable, they’ll totally understand and forgive me.” Sure, but the more mistakes there are the less I’ll ultimately trust you, valid or not. If I hear one more “It was an Act of God!” story…

Don’t be a mistake factory. But if you make one, just fix it. I don’t always really need to know the details of why, just that a mistake was made and that you’re on top of it now. Honestly, I just want results and honesty so I can understand the situation, troubleshoot as needed, adjust the schedule and allocate resources to keep production moving.

THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT.

Thou Shalt Start a Website and Find a Good Domain.

  1. you@yourname.com email is professional. If you use webmail, Gmail only. Hotmail, Yahoo, MSN, etc look amateur.
  2. Get a dot com. Second best is dot net.
  3. Avoid weird TLDs (top level domains) if you can. Also avoid subdomains.
  4. Bad example: “ieatpaper.iamaprofessionalartist.co.xxx.nz.abc.123.omg”
  5. If you don’t use your real name, be simple. If you say the name aloud, can people find it on the first try?
  6. Bad example: “Superdeliciousartistboythatmakesart.com/portfolio/lookatmeIamcreative!!11/”
  7. Avoid internet slang.
  8. Bad example: “lolwutplsbesrs.net”
  9. Avoid bad spelling.
  10. Bad example: “imaektehthreedeemodelz.net”
  11. If you must hyphenate, use only one.
  12. Bad example: “c-o-n-c-e-p-t-artist.com”
  13. Avoid complicated words.
  14. Bad example: “www.archaeologicalartisan.com”
  15. Avoid unintentional words.
  16. Bad example: www.FerrethAndJobs.com (yes, this is real, it’s a law firm)
  17. If it takes longer than three seconds to speak aloud or explain, it’s too long.
  18. Bad example: “It’s incompatenceingameduhvelopment.com, but ‘incompetence’ is spelled ‘i-n-c-o-m-p-a to be funny blah blah blah”
  19. Don’t pick something offensive. If it has to do with drugs, sex, poop, communicable diseases or Nickelback, reconsider your life.
  20. Bad example: “snotinmyhair.com”
  21. Short and simple is best.
  22. Good examples: “chrisholden.net,” “autodestruct.com,” and “twotongraphics.com”

THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT.

Thou Shalt Know and Love Thy Web Tools.

(but not the Biblical “know.”)

Manage leads and deals.
Resource: www.zoho.com/crm/
Manage time tracking, billing, invoicing, profit and loss.
Resource: www.freshbooks.com
Shareable online documentation, spreadsheets, etc.
Resource: docs.google.com

THE EIGHTH COMM—oh, I’m done.

Thanks everybody!

Free agency is the future of video games!

Man, I really suck at posting notices about events where I’m speaking. Last night there was an event called Infinite Resolution Zero LatencyI at the University of Texas in Austin. They had several game developers taking two minutes each to describe their vision of the future of video games. After that, they adjourned to check out video games on the world’s largest HD screen.

Well, I got a chance to speak there on my vision of the future of games, and I wanted to repost the text of it here. Here it is:

Hi, I’m Jon Jones and I run smArtist, an art production management agency where I specialize in art outsourcing.

“What do I see as the future for video games?”

I’ll take this in a different direction: From a production standpoint, I see the future bringing more freelancing, free agency and freedom. As long as expensive AAAA blockbusters exist, dumb money will follow. Mistakes will be made. Studios will crumble, and layoffs will abound. Behold the system.

I see the rise of contract studios, of mercenaries, hired out on a project-by-project basis. They move nimbly from one client to the next, work with several in parallel and stay afloat to grow and prosper. This, rather than bowing to one master and hoping to see forbearance and returned loyalty where, in fact, that is often a non-reciprocal transaction.

This is a tough industry. And I see a lot more boutique contract art, production, and perhaps design and engineering houses opening and prospering. It’s a safer way to hedge your bets against studio closures, cutbacks and layoffs outside of your control and to take care of yourself and exist outside the system. It’s not for everyone, but I see it coming and I believe it’s a truly viable option for more people than you’d think. Working with people in this capacity is absolutely energizing, and I think it’s the future.

I did an “Ask Me Anything” reddit post about getting into games!

Hi everybody! For those not familiar with reddit, it’s [essentially] a website where people post links, create discussions and comment on them. There are tens of thousands of small communities there, one of which is called “AMA” — short for “Ask Me Anything.” Sometimes they’ll have celebrities, or politicians, or people in interesting lines of work. People submit questions and the person answering them does their best to answer all they can. More often than not, it’s really interesting.

Well, I did one recently on what it takes to break into the game industry. I spent about 12 hours answering almost every single one of the 250+ questions asked. I’m going to take all that content and turn it into a big long Q&A or series of articles for my blog here, but I wanted to link to the original thread:

I AmA 10yr video game industry vet that likes helping people break into the industry. AMA!

Warning: The language can get very salty, which is wholly unsurprising to anyone that knows me. 🙂

Hope you guys enjoy!