In my previous post, I wrote about making a first playable game. This time, I take some time to look into making the game more presentable to other people. As I said before, for this type of game, visual presentation can be very important since many clues are found in what you see. This is very different from other kinds of games, where gameplay remains unchanged, whether your playable character and enemies are soldiers, ninjas or cubes.
Since this is a small project made by one person, I figured making everything myself would be extremely time consuming. Can you imagine modeling every house, tree, rock, plant and object you need for a game, even if it's a small one? I can assure you, it can take you a long time. For this reason, I thought it was best to use models created by other people.
Unity offers their Asset Store, where you can buy models made by other artists, among other things (effects, particle systems, sounds, music, characters). You can find both free or paid content, and you're allowed to use that content in any kind of game you want (for more information, you should read the Asset Store terms of service).
Right from the start, I knew I'd need to get some content for my game, and since I was already somewhat familiar with the kind of content you could find, I knew what kind of environments I'd need to use in the game, so I'd find that kind of content in the store. For example, I already knew I could find all kinds of forest models, but not many alien plant models, so I decided my game would feature forests. Likewise, the asset store doesn't offer many options for certain types of alien architecture, but it has many fantasy-looking villages and houses, so my game would feature fantasy-looking houses as well.
There's something you need to keep in mind when you're looking for assets in the asset store: what developers and gamers call "asset flipping." In many cases, you'll find models that are extremely cool, photorealistic PBR village model, but it doesn't fit the overall look and feel of your game. Or, maybe you're shopping for enemies, your main character looks like a cartoony character from Warcraft, but then you find a photorealistic barbarian model and you want to add it to your game because it looks cool. Asset flipping is what happens when you start throwing in a bunch of different assets that have no aesthetic correlation between them, and you simply add them because they are cool.
It is always good to remember the game is an entity as a whole, and that you're not just buying assets for your game; you're buying assets that will work with each other, either right out of the box, or after some tweaking. I think "tweaking" is the key word here. You may be tempted to get that specific asset that looks extremely cool, thinking that some adjustments are enough to make it fit the rest of the assets of your game. However, depending on the model, those adjustments may be closer to actually building the entire model yourself from scratch.
When I was looking at the assets, I found an amazing Bloodborne-esque haunted village. I was ready to buy it, but the reason why I didn't was because the rest of my assets looked very Diablo 3: semi-realistic, cartoonish models. Adding that area would have been a big contrast from what I already had. Granted the models were somewhat similar, but the textures were very different, since some are more cartoony, so maybe the combination wouldn't have worked.
A nice feature in the Unity Asset Store is lists. When I was browsing the store, I found it was better to keep some sort of list of the assets I wanted for that specific game, instead of adding the assets to my main wish list, since that would have meant going through the wish list again just to see the assets I wanted for that game. Keep in mind that, after you've published your list, it becomes public, so it's a good idea to keep that list in draft mode so you're the only one that can see it.
And here we conclude this chapter. Next time, I will take some of my assets into the game and build a small prototype.