Sofia, my 8 year old daughter, has become my Playtester Zero. I figure if she can play it, most people can. She was getting kind of frustrated by my misty city level - even though the buildings are packed pretty tight together it's still easy to fall in the alleys and cracks - so I put together a tutorial level over the last couple of days. Although at first I wanted something simple that I'd just pound out in sketchup I wasn't satisfied and got all caught up in trying to make it prettier, which is really fun. These days, even though I've got a long list of games to play, I find myself just laying out stuff in Unity for the joy of it, even if it's not for Energy Hook. (Example.) Creating is fun! We learned that all the way back with Sim City, yeah?
Anyhow, I digress. So Paul hasn't had time to model anything new lately, and whenever I try to model something I always end up despising it, so I'm back to kit-bashing what's out there. Part of me thinks, "Cheap! People are going to castigate me for using the same assets they've already seen in other games!" Another part of me thinks it's not so different movies using the same actors and set decorations, so I should just get on with it. And I really have no other choice, so that part wins.
So I spent yesterday going through a lot of Unity samples and taking bits that I liked then tweaking them to fit Paul's look better. Here's a building that's quintessential Paul:
Here's a free Unity asset, a door from AngryBots, that is conveniently made up of two sub-meshes.
If I just drop that detailed door into our mostly flat-shaded scene it looks wrong. But if I take away its textures and color the meshes from Paul's palette:
(Paul put all his colors in one master texture which the models then index into. This allows us to easily use one Material on all our models so we can batch lots of models into single draw calls. There are other ways to do that, but this fits well with how Unity is set up.)
Then, if I scale it up and put it on the floor:
Well, I don't know what that is anymore - it's probably not a door - but it's weird and sci fi and cool. Maybe it's some kind of generator. Shown here with other Unity sample assets that I've recolored.
And, with lightmaps and post effects. (Ambient occlusion lightmaps are really key to our look.)
Of course, you're probably going for a different look than we are. So the steps you'd take to make someone else's assets fit your look would be different. You might bring the textures into Gimp or Photoshop and tweak them; you might attach different shaders to them; you might change their size so their texel density matches; you might stretch or squash them.
(There's an example of tweaking the texture to get the rust and detail out. The irony - most people are trying to put more detail into their games...)
Really the hard part for me was the mental shift, telling myself it's okay to cobble a game together out of spare parts like this.
Even our heroine and her animations are stock: change her material, add a jetpack, boots, and shades - slice and dice the animations in new ways - and she's our own thing. Like I said, it's like using the same actress in a different film. Not so bad, right?
I think kit-bashing stock assets is going to become more and more of a thing. After all, Gearbox and Epic do it too, though not to this extent. What do you think?