This was originally posted in NeoGAF (www.neogaf.com/forum/showthrea…. There was a thread to discuss this GiantBomb article (www.giantbomb.com/articles/the… that outlines the cost of developing a character for Skullgirls. You can begin to read the reactions to this post in pg.10:
Here is some reference from my own experiences. Typically I don't like to share these kinds of details with people who just DEMAND information they haven't earned, but discussion has shifted here a bit and its good to see.
I was one of the contractors, well, still am! I did some of the cleanup animation. By the time I got an assignment, the animation rough had been approved by Kinuko and at this point it could make the final game or it could not (that's all in the testing, balancing and memory management) Smartasses in this thread have questioned the need for engineers in a game that's already "done" and that's a big mistake. The original game had to have animations cut because we had run out of memory, so on a technical standpoint, how the fuck are we gonna add more characters? Well shit, good thing there's engineers on the team to figure that shit out, huh? That's only one of the challenges too.
But anyways, to the point. You may get a short animation (6 frames aprox), medium (12, 15'ish) or large (20 plus) there's also varying degrees of importance (normal move vs animation that only triggers when two duplicate characters hit each other with the same move) and there's also character design details to add to the difficulty (Valentine is more simple than Painwheel, for example). One extra wrinkle is the level of sketchiness in the animation rough. Some animators will make the drawings so tight that there's no room for improvisation while others will basically blank out the face and all of a sudden you find yourself animating faces from scratch!)
For an outsourcer, since you don't have access to the team at your immediate need, its important to be diligent with the reference materials. Very few artists draw like Alex or Kinuko and its our job to make our art look exactly like theirs. If you look at my art you'll find that my style is not really close, so I cant just start on the task right away, I need to study the reference provided carefully and make sure I "get" the character before I start.
So once you start, the first deliverable is to digitally ink all the frames. I'm a classically trained 2D animator and have a fulltime art gig, so eventhough I'm fast I can only start working on this when I get home. This is another of the unfortunate realities that come with an ambitious project like this, that a lot of outside help already has other projects going on, so they cant give you 8 hours a day. I came home at 7 after drawing all day and spent another 5 hours doing Skullgirls work. Typically after two days I would send a medium sized animation over for approval from Richard, who is the awesome cleanup genius at Lab Zero. Approval usually takes about a day because Richard is getting deliverables from the outsources, who if you have seen the credits are way more than 20 … So basically Richard is art directing 20+ people AND doing cleanup work himself, meaning he basically doesn't get to go home (so its great to have to listen to assholes here tell me that he needs to justify his $600 a week) I had the pleasure of meeting him a few months back and hes going gray already, haha.
So yeah, approval. While I wait for that to show up I get started on the next frame. Very rarely does the linework get approved on the first try. Usually something is inconsistent, a weapon looks weird or the shapes are a little flat. Depending on the damage you may have to do 20% percent of work or maybe even up to 50. Its important to get this stuff approved because otherwise you cant move on to shading and coloring, which are the next steps.
Once you're approved and do the shading and color pass (which take about 60% of the time it takes to ink) you send those off for approval as well, make some last minute touch ups due to feedback and THEN the animation is done on your end. Before it ends in the game proper, chances are Richard has fixed some things himself … So Id say on average I could get about 60'ish frames of animation a week, and seeing how the character with the FEWEST amount of animations has about 1500 then you start to get an idea of how just one step of the process works.
THEN we look at Squigly. What a lot of you aren't realizing is that she has MULTIPLE STANCES. What does that mean? TWICE THE ANIMATIONS.
Can you start to see how the hours pile up and have NOTHING to do with proper managing? A fighting game is unlike any other game. A character in a fighting game is the equivalent of a character + level design + the game design of any other game.
But hey yeah, lazy devs, right?