A look at the character art outsourcing studio
While most know that Assassin’s Creed II, one of the year’s biggest games, was built by a team in Canada (with help from sister studios in France and Shanghai) – did you know that an art outsourcing team in London also mucked in with the game’s development?
Aldgate-based character art outsourcing firm Slide has been open for two years and in that time worked on the likes of Ubisoft’s Christmas opus. Founders Etienne Jabbour and Robin Deitch first met as colleagues at Kuju’s London studio Headstrong while working on first-party Nintendo titles – but they didn’t reunite to form the business until 2007. The two are now the firm’s only full-time directors, while employing a handful of freelance artists.
Being based in central London hasn’t just given the pair ready access to its creative community, but has helped them shape the still relatively young art outsourcing field for games. Slide is structured more like a TV creature/character shop – but is staffed by games experts.
“The role of UK art outsourcing was fairly unclear when we set up, and it took a while to identify exactly who our market would be,” Jabbour tells us.
“Being located in London was key at this stage, as we had access to both clients and talent from the capital’s long-established games, entertainment, advertising and post production industries.
“Art outsourcing was of course already big business (albeit a business tainted by many bad experiences across the games industry). We knew from the start that Slide would not be competing against the many large and established firms. We had decided instead to focus on providing more bespoke principal assets, illustration and animation where our specific character-centric 3D production skills would make us a cost-effective solution.
“Key to this endeavour was the belief that we had great artistic and technical talents, as well as the necessary communication skills and lead/director experience to get to the core of a client’s brief with the minimum amount of revision and reworking possible.”
Winning the contract with Ubisoft has helped thrust the studio forward to. Having worked on a series of digital character sculpts for Assassin’s Creed II, Jabbour says that Slide is now “the only dedicated character development studio with triple-A credentials” not just in London, but the UK. But the London connection has boosted the firm and enabled such quick success – even though the city is expensive to live and work in.
Says Jabbour: “We also benefit from the pull of London’s existing VFX/production scene on talent from around the world. There’s an increasing overlap in the skills needed to deliver high quality characters for games and production, so our location helps our ability to source quality digital character/creature sculptors.
“Opportunities in London for drinking and networking definitely shouldn’t be underestimated. There’s a huge variety of formal and informal ways to meet, discuss and most importantly gossip, and there’s no better way of measuring the pulse of our client industries.
“Let’s also not forget that London itself is bursting with art and architecture. It’s an inspirational environment for a creative company.”
Number of staff: Two full-time directors, three to five freelance artists
Location: Aldgate, London
Previous projects: Assassin’s Creed II and numerous others
Currently working on: Character art for unannounced titles