Asset Store Assets

Asset Store Assets

A little article today about this question that sometimes pop up: Is it ok to use assets from an asset store (e.g. the Unity Asset Store)?

I believe it depends on many other aspects than just using it or not, and it also depends of course on who your game is meant to be played by. I have found that the players familiar with indie games (sometimes indie devs too) are a lot more tolerent about this and many other questions, since they often search for an experience rather than just visual artifacts and realism, for example.

A good example is Life is Strange, which I mention often, the graphics are hand-painted, which is nice in its own way, doesn’t look like AAA-graphics, but if you’ve played the game, you’ll know that it has many, many other qualities.

I mean, the question of using Asset Store assets is closely linked to our relation to the different elements of a game, and the importance we give to one or the other. The assets at the center of the debate being of course what can be seen on screen.

So, let’s separate this question into several cases.

Scripts and Modules

Dreams of Ylina - running

Dreams of Ylina – running wild

By this I mean things like, AI, night and day cycle, etc. Things that are not mostly just 3D (or 2D) models. Using them will most of the time be less visible for the average player, with the exception maybe of the few visual elements linked to these modules (like, clouds or rain for a weather system).

Of course, it is always better to set these plugins a little bit to suit your game (changing color of dawn, etc.) which will result in more personal visual look of the effects of these plugins.

3D Models & 2D Sprites

Here comes the main problem. Of course music also enters this category, and in a lower level (to me), sound FX.

I have been told or have read a few times that, even as indie devs, we should try to find a designer, 3D modeler, etc. to create the resources needed for the game we’re working on.

And when I have the occasion to reply, now, I usually reply: « If I have the budget, sure, that’d be great! » Because yes, it’s (almost) all a matter of budget. Is it better to have your game using assets that you may find in other games, or not to make your game at all?

I’m not at all a pro-AAA graphics (I don’t mean I don’t appreciate realism though). I’ve grown up with Super NES, and SEGA Genesis, and I’m ok with having fun with pixel art games. So, I guess the graphics in a game are not my main criteria to evaluate a game. Therefore, finding some generic assets in a game, like, especially for peripheral elements, is ok with me.

Dreams of Ylina - water, water, everywhere

Dreams of Ylina – water, water, everywhere

Now, I have to admit, an over-use of generic assets may influence the gaming experience, in a bad way, especially if the light/post-FX/level design/etc. gives the impression that the assets are just put together to make the game.

So?

So, this was a really short article, not really in-depth, but in the end, here is my opinion in several points:

  • You can’t please everyone
  • Your game is first about what it gives to your audience, (therefore depending on who is your audience), either graphics, gameplay, fun, adventure, good story, good music, … Graphics is just one of the component (often not a minor one though, but still just one of them)
  • Money does not grow on trees, and yes you can make a good game with more or less 0 budget (apart from your computer, internet access, electricity, and time)
  • Last but not least: the main idea here may be coherence, rather than other things. The game must be coherent as a whole, and feel coherent to the players (or also producers?), this way the game feels like a real whole that you have mastered more or less in every aspect, I mean, that you’ve worked on every perspective.

Well, that’s it. I have work to do, so please excuse me, and see you someday for the next article!

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