Lesson #18 – How much art is enough?

It’s the perpetual creator question: how much of the art really has to be done before I launch my campaign?  In today’s lesson, Dan takes a stab at answering that very question: how much art is enough?

The really simple answer to this question is, “as much as possible.” There are so many games on Kickstarter that you need to do your best to get your game noticed in the crowd–art is one the best way to do that. The problem is that art is expensive. For smaller studios, art is single most expensive component of a Kickstarter campaign preparation. However, art is definitely going to give you your best return on investment. I repeat, getting professional art, aka REALLY good art, will give you your BEST return on investment.

Ok, so everybody knows that you need good art to sell lots and lots of games. The problem is that many people, especially newer publishers and small studios, cannot afford ALL of the art needed for their game prior to the campaign. In fact, many need the campaign to fund the remainder of the art for the game. This is understandable and definitely an issue many of us have struggled with and been through, so I thought I would address how much art I think is really needed prior to launch.  

What is the bare minimum amount of art you should have?

Although it is best to have all of your art prior to launching your campaign, you can definitely get by without having everything. However, there is definitely a list of must-haves that you will need prior to your campaign:

Original box art and the final art for my game, Dirigible Disaster.

The box art. This is one of the most (if not the absolute most) important things you will need. Prospective backers are more likely to be interested in your campaign if they can visualize the final product, which you can easily provide them with a 3D render of a box with final box art. This is also very important as it sets the tone for your game and creates a teaser for the theme and immersion your game will provide. It will set the tone for the entire experience that comes with your game. Furthermore, your box art will most likely be what you use for your Kickstarter representative image, which is sometimes the first image of your campaign that prospective backers will see. You will want it to make a captivating impression.

Furthermore, the box art will be your best source for ad images. You can reformat, crop, dice, zoom, and alter your main box art to create a lot of different types of images you can use for ads and teasers leading up to the campaign, as well as for promotions during the campaign.

This piece will often be the most expensive piece of art in your game but it will be the most important.

One of every other type of component – You should do your best to get one example of each component included in your game. Again, there are a lot of Kickstarter projects running all at the same time and you need to provide backers with the direction you are going with for your entire game, you need to show how all of the components work/mesh together to create a cohesive unit, and you need to show you have a plan to get everything done in a reasonable timeline.

Component shot from my Groves campaign

If you only have one type of component, like a cards-only game, you should get at least one image for each type of card included in the game. Do your best to provide a great example of each different type of unit in your game.

What is the best way to approach having a campaign with incomplete art?

We have been lucky enough to have the funds to launch our last two campaigns with complete art but this was not always the case. Our first mainstream game, Dino Dude Ranch, was our first big project that required a lot of well-done art. We did not have the start-up to invest in all of it at the time, so we did as much as we could. I even asked my wife for more art for the game instead of a birthday present that year. I purchased art in pieces, so I created a section on my campaign page that I updated as art progressed. I shared concept sketches with backers and if new pieces came in, I would share those as well. Here is a quick example of how I handled it:

Art Update

Keep your eyes peeled as we will be working throughout the campaign to update all of the remaining placeholder art.  The final pieces of art to be updated are:

Final Thoughts

I really cannot stress how important art is for the success of your campaign. You need to invest in this and I promise that god art will be worth every penny. Furthermore, if you cannot afford art prior to the campaign, will you be able to handle financial problems that arise during fulfillment of the campaign?  No campaign is risk free, even if you way over-fund.  Businesses are an investment and you need to put your own money into your start-up. If you can’t, then you probably aren’t ready to start your own business.

Again though, you can get by with just SOME art. If you cannot get all of the art needed for your campaign, get a solid box art image and at least one of each type of component in your game. Be sure to communicate your plans very effectively to your backers and I am sure they will be understanding of your position. It is possible to fund without complete art but the more you can get the better. Best of luck on your campaigns and good luck pulling all of the art together before launch!

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