Digital Extremes’ Warframe is a live service game which makes money largely through cosmetics, and part of its success has come from the studio’s willingness to embrace all forms of fan expression, whether that’s guides or incredible 3D art. In 2015, it started a program called TennoGen, where artists can submit cosmetic designs for consideration to be included in the game. If the work makes it, the artist gets a 30% cut of sales.

Similar programs have been criticized alongside the practice of soliciting ‘spec’ work in creative industries, which is when work from artists is requested by a company but only paid for if it’s used. For creators who find success with revenue sharing programs like TennoGen, though, being an independent videogame item designer can result in a life-changing amount of money. Lendel Farjado, who goes by the handle LED2012 online, is one of those creators. 

Fajardo, who lives in the Philippines with his parents and siblings, spoke to PC Gamer via DM. “I started doing this since the very first round, announced Nov 2015, but on my first try, I didn’t get in. I was familiar with paid stuff from Dota 2 Steam Workshop before and there were some internet conversations about it being lucrative so I didn’t [give] up, reworked and focused on one of my items and eventually got picked on the second round.”

Warframe art by LED 2012. (Image credit: LED 2012 / Digital Extremes)

Fajardo had no formal training in the field of 3D art, but he had a hunger to learn.