Behind the Scenes: Staff Members

Samu-kun Behind the Scenes

Hello everyone, this is Samu again with another behind the scenes blog post about running a visual novel company… Thank you for having me.  m(_ _)m

So let’s say you want to make a big visual novel. It’s unlikely that you’re going to know how to make every single asset in your game. A VN needs character sprites, CGs, backgrounds, music, sound effects, code, and a slew of other assets. To make all the assets, you’re going to have to build a team.

I started out just making everything myself and using free assets for the things I couldn’t make, so that’s a good starting point. Remember, the bigger your team, the larger your monthly operating expenses, so making most of the game yourself with some contractors doing small tasks and using free to use assets is a sound strategy.

So there are a large number of roles in a VN company… Usually, a single person can perform multiple roles, so there’s no need to hire an individual per role. So here they are.

  • Administrative
    • Financial Officer: Records the company’s finances, minimizes the company’s tax liability, works with a CPA (bonus points if this person already is a CPA!)
    • Legal: Makes contracts for employees and third party contractors, drafts and analyzes licenses, deals with intellectual property issues
    • Producer: Pays team members, works with the publisher/distributors, predicts future revenue and market trends
    • Director: Holds the creative authority, oversees all the following roles
  • Visual Art
    • Concept artist: Designs the art assets
    • Character artist: Draws the character sprite
      • Sketcher: Sketches the characters
      • Inker: Lines the character art
      • Base colorer: Lays down the base colors
      •  Finish: Shades the colors
    • CG artist: Draws the event CGs
      • See above
    • Story board artist: Draws the story boards, sets the cinematography
    • Background artist: Draws the backgrounds
    • 3D: An artist who makes 3D models
      • Mesh artist: Sculpts the 3D models
      • Texture artist: Makes 2D art to slap onto the sculpture
      • Rigger: Puts a skeleton frame underneath 3D models so that it can move around
      • Animator: Moves the skeleton to make the 3D model move
    • UI artist: Draws the UI
  • Programming
    • UI programmer
    • VN integration coder: Codes the VN
    • VA coder: Codes voice acting into the game if your game has it
    • Gameplay coder: Codes gameplay if your game has gameplay
    • Engine programmer: Creates your base engine
  • Audio
    • Sfx Engineer: Creates sound effects
    • Music composer: Composes the music
    • Music mixer: Mixes the instruments in the music
    • Theme song: A separate vocalist + band which creates the OP/ED songs
    • Voice director: Someone who oversees the voice actors
    • VAs: Voice actors
    • Vocal Audio Engineer: Someone who mixes and cleans up recordings of the vocal lines
  • Story
    • Writers: Writes the scenario

Whew, making a VN sure is a lot of work eh… So you hire staff members with a general knowledge in one of these areas and them assign them various roles. Some skilled staff members will be knowledgeable in more than one area, allowing that person to program and write the story, or to draw characters and code them into the game! Oh, what great fortune, you better pay them well to keep them on board…

Now that we know just how many different roles are involved in making a VN, we need to fill them. Here are some types of staff members you might employ.

CORE/PIVOTAL/”LIFER”

Basically, someone who’s a lifer has quit everything else in life and dived so deep into the project that this person will die if the game doesn’t get released. Most likely, this person is paid both regular fees, on top of royalties from your game’s revenue. This person is highly skilled and will almost never quit, but the draw back is that all lifers perish with the game is it bombs at the market. :\ You generally want the director, artist, and writer to be lifers because those roles are pivotal and must be placed into the hands of someone who’s not going to back out.

CONTRACTOR

A contractor is someone who is skilled at a certain role, and who makes a living off providing that particular skill to various clients. You can expect skilled and reliable services from contractors, provided you pay what they want. As the name implies, you sign a contract with this person, specifying the exact assets you intend to buy from the contractor, and for what price. So they’re expensive but reliable. They’re good for putting in charge of programming, art, writing, and audio.

LIBRARY

A library is simply an online collection of assets you can buy. The plus side is that you immediately get access to what you want as soon as you pay. The draw back is that you don’t have exclusivity, so for all you know, 300 other games might use the same asset. Also, the library might not have exactly what you’re looking for. There are various art, sfx, and music libraries you can use to fill in gaps in your assets.

AMATEUR

lol… There are many of these people floating around the VN industry. Generally, they’re students in undergrad who like anime and VNs! They comes in varying skills. They’re cheaper than professional contractors, but heavily unreliable. You can hire them, but never make your company reliant on them or else you’ll regret it… Make sure they’re in non-essential roles.

VOLUNTEERS

These people are kind of odd balls. There are really two types of volunteers.

1. REALLY amateur: Basically, someone who’s so inexperienced that they’re willing to work for free. Don’t expect much from them… Sometimes they can actually harm you if they make mistakes.

2. Someone who already have a modus vivendi who just wants to do something exciting and get Internet famous: This is someone who’s already financial stable, who happens to have spare time and they just want to do something more interesting than their real job. Usually, they’re quite reliable, although they won’t be as skilled as contractors. They’re in it for the glory, so they usually want their names associated with the project and for the project to be popular. Also, if something unexpected happens which removes their financial stability, they won’t be involved with the game any more.

Whew… What a long post… Okay, I think that’s all I’ll talk about today… Good bye…