Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WotC, PDFs, Retro-Clones and the Professional...

So yesterday WotC pulled the plug on their products on the PDF side of the house. No more D&D PDFs available for sale today anywhere. Bummer.

I think it's a knee-jerk reaction to the less than stellar sales of their D&D 4E books which they "blame" on piracy, but I really believe is due to selling an expensive product in a recession.

Smaller-press publishers immediately pulled out all stops on their PDF sales. Good for them. My concern is more for the industry as a whole rather than WotC (granted, the survival of WotC means a LOT to the industry as a whole...but it's not the whole enchilada).

So I'm doing the AD thing for Mythmere Games and their Knockspell Magazine. On one hand I like having some creative control over the quality going out the door. On the other hand, whiel I wear the Art Director hat...I'm doing no art for them. It's a conflict of interests.

I've seen too many products where the AD also is a contributing artist. What happens? What's the downside?
The AD gets his pick of assignments, fills the book with his/her art (which may not be as good as they think it is) and ends up sacrificing quality, and work for freelancers to feed his/ her own ego.

I won't go down that road.
The job of the Art Director is to safeguard the project/ product by striving to maintain the highest possible standards inthe artwork and smoothing the road for the layout guy (who is next on the production path). To temper this AD's also have to balance all this with trying to maintain a stable of qualified artists.

What makes an artist qualified?
Skill? That much is obvious, but even more important is how easy to work with the artist is.
Are they a primma-donna or do they do what they are assigned with a minimum of guff?
Are the communicative? Can you reach them when you need to? Do they respond when you call?
Most importantly, and I can't stress this enough...are the punctual? If you ask for a no-shit assessment on whether they need more time...do they bullshit you, or tell the truth? I'd rather give an extension and hold up the whole project for good art and an honest artist then have the artist half-ass the job because they underbid the project.

Ultimately, like anything else the relationship between Art Director and Artist is a RELATIONSHIP. You have to work together smoothly and that takes both sides making the effort to do so. As an AD I'm looking for a stable of guys/ gals I can depend on to produce quality work ...on time. Dependable people.

This brings me to a post I read on a blog regarding the retro-clone movement and products like S&W and how it's a product made for players and talented amateurs to make for themselves.

That's cool and all...but where does that leave me? Granted I may not be Todd Lockwood or Frank Frazetta, but I consider myself very much a professional in this industry, yet I love working on S&W and other retro-clone products. I dunno, it just left me with a bad taste in my mouth.


Robert Saint John said...

I'm confused, Jeff. What left you with the bad taste? WOTC's move, or the blog entry about the OSR movement? Which blog was that?

Jeff said...

Oh, good question: the latter.

It's like "Hey, I may be a professional, but I work on these because I love em...don't leave me out in the cold"