Hire the Perfect Game Art Outsourcing Studio First Time by Asking These Key Questions

Diving into the world of game art outsourcing can feel like navigating a maze blindfolded. Sure, there are plenty of “top 10 game art outsourcing studios” lists out there, but how do you ensure the studio you choose aligns perfectly with your dev team’s needs? 

In a previous blog, we touched on some questions you should ask when outsourcing, but now, we’re delving deeper.  

Finding the ideal fit isn’t just about luck, it’s about asking the right questions and conducting thorough research. If the match isn’t spot-on, you’re left with no choice but to diversify, leading to potential money-wasting, time-wasting and ultimately game development delays. 

We’ll unravel the key questions you should ask to land the perfect game outsourcing studio on your very first try. 

How does communication and feedback work?

One of the most critical aspects of successful collaboration is effective communication. Who is your main contact? How many rounds of feedback come standard, and how is feedback communicated? You need to know exactly who you’ll be working with and the level of collaborative freedom you have. 

The 2023 XDS report highlighted that the second biggest issue developers have with service providers is communication challenges. Sometimes studios enable developers to have direct communication with their artist/s (like MLC, with a Producer on hand too), some may only permit communication with a “middle man”, i.e. a Producer or Project Manager.   

Find out what platform you will communicate with the studio on and, if preferred, whether they will integrate into your own channels. Likewise, in what format is feedback provided? 

Most studios will have a fantastic internal set-up that they’ll invite your team to, and feedback will be communicated within the chat. 

MLC Pro

Can I choose my artists? 

Understanding who you’ll be working with should be one of the most important factors aiding your outsourcing studio choice. Questions you could ask include: How long have they been at the studio for? What’s their expertise? Why have they been chosen in particular? Will I work with the same artist/s throughout the contract? 

Typically, outsourcing studios will try to keep the same artists on your project for consistency and overall experience. Be wary that some studios will be much better at this than others – you don’t want to lose fantastic artists mid-project. 

What’s the typical workflow? 

When outsourcing art for your game, you want the process to be as simple as possible. Everyone’s way of doing things will be different. Find out how they manage projects from start to finish. What are the key milestones and deliverables you can expect throughout the process?

It’s crucial to understand the workflow specific to the service you are looking to outsource. What’s their 3D pipeline like? What are the stages?

Ninja Cat Character rig illustration

Can I see examples of past projects you’ve worked on? 

This is one you can investigate yourself or ask about. We recommend asking because sometimes studios may have worked on games they can’t yet display on their website. Of course, an outsourcing studio with a track record of games and/or studios you recognise will give you confidence in their credibility, along with high-quality testimonials (here’s ours!). 

See if you can find out what experience they have with particular genres and platforms, to get an idea on their expertise. This expertise means they will understand what does and does not work, aiding your success. 

HINT: Their portfolio and track record are not the be all and end all! Take time to compare different outsourcing studios, it’ll be less time than if you are forced to change to a different studio midway through a project. 

How do I track progress? 

When passing the baton to an external development studio, you want to know how you will be kept in the loop throughout. Usually, studios will first agree on a timeline with you. They will then track their progress internally and share updates with your team as needed/requested.

It’s important to find out the frequency of progress updates, how you will be updated and what systems are used. Ensure they have a clear process for tracking milestones and sharing deliverable updates with your team. 

MLC Pro

What’s your QA process? 

An outsourcing studio without good QA practices is obviously a no-go. Ensure they have a robust QA process in place to maintain quality standards throughout the project. You could ask the studio:

  • Are there lead artists who QA all deliverables? (Yes, in our case
  • How does the QA process work?

Another XDS 2023 report finding was that third and fourth in the “issues developers have with service providers” list were iteration issues and poor quality deliverables, which actually worsened from 2022. This highlights the importance of only fantastic QA! 

Can I scale up my team? 

Enquire about the studio’s process for accommodating an increase in project scope to investigate if they can meet demand, have the available resources and how easy the process is in the face of inevitable changing requirements. Questions you might ask: 

  • Do they have the resources and flexibility to scale up their team if the project requirements expand?
  • How do they ensure that additional tasks are seamlessly integrated into the existing workflow without causing delays or compromising quality?  
  • Do they have a streamlined process for recruiting and integrating talented professionals into ongoing projects?  
  • How do they ensure that new team members align with the project’s requirements and maintain consistency in quality and style?  
  • Do they have a pool of skilled artists and professionals readily available to meet increased demand? 

For example, scaling up with MLC is a breeze. We have a wide network of game artists that can spring into action whenever needed, seamlessly integrated into projects through efficient and well-tested onboarding procedures.  

How flexible are you with deadlines and project scope changes? 

Ask the outsourcing studio about their approach to deadlines. Are they willing to accommodate changes in the project timeline if necessary? Do they have a process in place for handling unexpected delays or urgent requests?  
 
Are they open to discussing and implementing modifications to the project requirements as needed? How do they handle scope creep and ensure that changes are properly managed? 

Ask how the studio plans to keep you informed about any potential adjustments to deadlines or scope changes

Review the terms of the contract regarding deadlines and project scope changes. Ensure that there is clarity on how such situations will be addressed, including any associated costs or adjustments to the project timeline. 

Other things to consider when choosing a game art outsourcing studio 

  • Studio Values – You’re going to be trusting this studio to be part of your game development, their values must align with your own. If they’re not published on their website, don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Service Offering – Chances are you’ll need many different creative services throughout your game development and release. Check if the studio provides a majority of the services you expect to need. This can help save time later down the line.   
  • Thoroughness – how thorough are they when communicating/quoting? Do you feel like your communication has been handled with professionalism and care? 
  • Response Times – We recommend that responses to your questions should come 1-2 days after you’ve sent them for a good standard of speed. 
  • Team Attrition Rate – Check Glassdoor, 29% of service providers reported increased attrition in 2023 – however our team retention rate has been 98%+ for the past 5 years! 
  • Cost – It’s important to compare quotes and do your research into standard industry rates.
  • Overall Feeling – Which studio are you drawn to? Why? 
  • Ask for a test! – Most studios will be happy to undertake a paid test for a small part of the scope so that you can gauge the experience and deliverables to identify a good fit. You can test multiple studios at once if you so desire. 

Conclusion – Choosing Your Game Art Outsourcing Studio

As we’ve uncovered, every game art outsourcing studio, despite wearing the “art outsourcing” badge, boasts its own unique approach – its own secret sauce. And while their selling points might appear to be just what you’re looking for, when it comes to collaborating with said studio, it may be wildly different.  

Of course, other questions may come to mind than those listed in this blog depending on your game’s needs and wants. These questions provide a great starting point for you to ask a game art outsourcing studio if you’re just starting to outsource, or indeed changing partners. 

Reach out to MLC and ask us anything, from the questions we’ve covered in this blog to how we take our coffee (oat milk for the win). Let’s chat about your project needs over a virtual coffee

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