Ancient Civilizations Challenge Retrospective

We run ArtStation Community Challenges to give aspiring artists a platform to improve their skills and compete in the spirit of community-based learning. Our most recent Community Challenge, Ancient Civilizations: Lost & Found had thousands of participants and some pretty amazing results. (See the winners and submissions here.)

After every challenge, we do a retrospective to see what went well, and what didn’t, so that we can improve next time round. This time, we’re happy to share our learnings to the community so that you all can see how things went, and how we’re going to improve them again the next challenge!

What we set out to do

For the Ancient Civilizations Challenge, we wanted to try solving 2 major things:

  1. Help participants get more feedback – we hired professional artists to help us host each category, giving feedback and encouragement to the participating artists. Adam Middleton, Donovan Valdes, Randall Mackey, Satoshi Arakawa, Victoria Passariello, Tiberius Viris, Mathew O’Halloran ran their respective categories.
  2. Help more 3D artists to participate – we split the challenge into 2 phases: Viz Dev and Production. The Production categories could base their submissions on Phase 1.

After each phase of this two phase challenge, we gathered survey results to help us better understand how we can make our challenges even better.  Whether you participated in this round of challenges or not, check out some of our findings below for some interesting and surprising facts!


77% of people who took part in the Ancient Civilizations Challenge for both Phase 1 and Phase 2 are students or aspiring artists with less than 5 years of professional experience. This is really fantastic and fits in squarely with our vision for the challenges. The Community Challenges are aimed at aspiring professional artists to hone their skills, engage with the community and build their exposure.


In Phase 1, 75% of the ArtStation members who participated were first time challengers and in Phase 2, the number of newbies was even higher at 86%!

Why people join the challenges

What we love best about ArtStation Community Challenges is that participants see the value of taking part as a learning experience for themselves and being able to get the exposure from the judges and community. It’s not about competing against each other for a prize but working alongside and with each other to hone your skills and make some amazing work.

This is an important distinction about the ArtStation Community Challenges – there are no software/hardware prizes (instead, there is a virtual award). This is key to keeping the Community Challenges in the spirit of learning and self-improvement. As soon as you bring tangible/cash-equivalent prizes into the mix, people are competing for a different reason and the dynamics of the challenge change. The Community Challenges are different from the other kinds of challenges we run on ArtStation that do have prizes to incentivize participation – e.g. the THU Challenge, Foundry Challenge and ILM Challenges had prizes.

As you can see from the data, the vast majority of people participated in Ancient Civilizations because they wanted to learn, have fun, get exposure and it was a rad topic.

Concept to Production

A new option that was offered for this Challenge was that artists taking part in the Production Phase were given the option of working from a concept from the Viz Dev Phase. It was so cool to see that over 65% (almost 2/3rds) of participants did this. For the artists who had participated in Phase 1, they got to see their design come to life. For those who work in production and are less design oriented, choosing an existing concept allowed them to get working right away and gave them the opportunity to connect and collaborate with the original artist, while giving them the additional challenge of doing justice to the original design.

Character Concept by Tony Sart

Character Render by Valerio – Korax – Carbone.

Time + Difficulty

Nobody said it was going to be easy! The feedback from the challenge indicated that on a scale of 1-5 where 1 is “Too Easy” and 5 is “Too Challenging”, the mean of difficulty for Phase 1 was 3.46 and just slightly lower at 3.36 for Phase 2. Most people answered between a 3 or 4 which was “Just Right” and “Challenging” which was the intention! Aspiring artists should partake in ArtStation Challenges to test themselves and work on improvement so if you’re taking part in the next one, get ready to work hard!

Below is the chart of how much time people spent on their submissions for the challenge in the respective phases:

The Best Part

Of our respondents, the most popular results for what challengers liked most besides the challenge itself were between the learning experience, working with an cool concept, getting feedback from hosts and the community and seeing others’ work. Having the competition to be open and including a progress allows artists at all levels to learn from each other and discover the many different ways others can come to a masterpiece!

Keyframe art submission by Ryan Richmond

Future Challenges

We learned a lot from this challenge. Some things worked really well and we’re going to keep them. Some things need improving.

What we learned:

  • The 2 phase Viz Dev to Production challenge worked well – we’ll do this again.
  • The 2D concept art challenge requirements confused many artists because they were expecting to just make a single painting and be done, whereas this challenge challenged artists with things such as character line ups, callouts, etc. Now that we’ve done it once, we’ll make the requirements more clear in future challenges.
  • Some categories had many more submissions than others and hosts were overloaded, we’ll have to add more hosts to these categories.
  • Peer to peer feedback (needs improvement) – we must find ways to incentivize more people to engage and give each other feedback.
  • Improve the completion rate – In future challenges, we’ll find ways to help artists get across the line.

We’re glad to see a really positive response to challenge. Out of the hundreds of responses we received in the surveys for both the Viz Dev and Production Phase, 99% have said they would participate in another ArtStation Challenge and 99% have said they would recommend it to their friend and colleagues. The feedback was really constructive and helpful for us to creating these valuable community events.

See you in the next challenge!

See all the results from the Ancient Civilizations Challenge here. 


A massive thanks to the team who came together for the Ancient Civilizations Challenge:

ArtStation Staff: Daniel Wade, Sierra Mon
Hosts: Adam Middleton, Donovan Valdes, Randall Mackey, Satoshi Arakawa, Victoria Passariello, Tiberius Viris, Mathew O’Halloran
Judges: Devon Fay, Sparth, Andrew Maximov, Renaud Galand, Raphael Lacoste, Efflam Mercier

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About the author

Leo is the CEO of ArtStation.