Thanks to the recent success of the Kickstarter, Rocket Jump Technology is looking for a freelance artist to take on some commissions to contribute to the in-game artwork of King under the Mountain. If you’re not already aware, King under the Mountain is a simulation-based settlement-building strategy/management game set in a fantasy world. The gameplay is inspired by Dwarf Fortress, The Settlers, Dungeon Keeper and others, and the visual style is inspired by Prison Architect and Rimworld. Here’s the latest trailer to give you a feel of where the game is up to:
The graphics in King under the Mountain are pretty simple – the game is effectively top-down 2D though the visual style has a cartoony side-on and slightly above perspective for most of the assets. Rather than a pixel art style, it is more of a flash/vector-based style (it’s up to you if you’d prefer to work in a raster or vector graphics format). The in-game map is a grid of tiles which are stored as 64×64 pixel images, and the characters and items in the game are also stored and rendered at this resolution, scaled up or down depending on how the camera is zoomed in or out.
Sprites in the game are made up of one or more layers. Most of these layers are stored in greyscale (or something close to it) so that they can be multiplied by a different colour by the game engine to represent different colours for skin, hair, wood and so on. Other layers/images are stored in true colour as they’re not re-coloured by the game engine, such as clothing in the following example of how the different layers are combined together (note that the eyes and eyebrows are at very much the wrong scale):
The other thing of note are the different orientations (or directions) that characters and items in the game can face towards. Rather than the simple up/down/left/right 4 orthogonal directions, the game uses up/up-right/down-right/down/down-left/up-left for 6 different orientations as this seemed to work best with the art style.
At least some of the assets used in different orientations are an X or Y-flipped copy of the original, so most of the left-facing assets are usually the same asset as the right-facing ones flipped along the X axis by the game engine. Sometimes the down-right orientation is used as the up-left asset, and vice-versa, as in these wooden planks which are shown when carried by a character (so there are only 2 unique images stored and used):
It’s worth knowing that King under the Mountain generates bump-mapped “normals” of the sprites to use for directional lighting in the game engine. These are mostly auto-generated by tools and not something you need to worry about as an artist.
Finally, while the sprites are stored in the game as separate images (one image file for each layer for each sprite) as PNGs, they are combined by the game engine into a spritesheet automatically.
That’s most of what you need to know when creating assets for King under the Mountain. When delivering assets for use, it’s best to supply them as 64×64 pixel (or larger where necessary) PNGs rather than trimming the image to just the non-transparent section as this should also be handled by the game engine (it’s currently done by hand), so that the developer(s) can tell how they’re supposed to stack on top of each other (as in, where they are positioned relative to each other). Additionally, you might prefer to work in a higher resolution (such as using a “tile size” of 128×128 pixels), and if so it is nice to have the assets delivered in this scale as well as the final 64×64 px scale in case the team or a user wants to support a high resolution mod.
With all that out of the way – we’re looking for a freelance 2D artist to take on packages of work which will usually involve a group of related assets/sprites, which might need drawing in several orientations as described, and might additionally be made up of several layers each. Ideally we’d prefer to commission artwork based on an estimated price per asset or image, having been burnt by a couple of artists charging per hour with an estimate of 1-2 hours for a piece then charging around 20 hours for a small piece of work. Still, we’re open to working with an hourly rate, and even with a per-asset pricing adjusting the rate as you discover hidden problems or complexities with some of the pieces of work.
If you’re interested, please email me (Ross) at email@example.com with (ideally) a link to your portfolio, and most importantly, your hourly rate or examples of quotes for jobs you’ve done in the past. I won’t try to haggle down your rate (everyone should be paid what they feel they’re worth), and in return please be open with what you charge for this kind of work on the basis that (hopefully) I’ll have much more for you to do in the near future.
I tend not to have any hard deadlines (instead aiming to get artwork created well in advance of when it will be implemented into the game) so you can work on commissions as and when suits you best, rather than me demanding certain things be done in a few days or weeks (though I’ll start to worry if I don’t hear anything at all for weeks or months!). That’s all for now, but please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’ve any questions at all!