Development Diary #16
THE POWER OF ASSETS: PART I
I wanted to blog about this a week ago, but I have been a little under the weather, and though I'm not 100%, I still wanted to share a recent experience. I had the opportunity last week to work on a promotional poster for Kingdoms of Immacus for a project. This wasn't for any formal mass media or print campaign, but it allowed me to explore how I want to present the game to players when it eventually gets to that point.
Show and Tell
When I was in creative writing in college, one of the key concepts the professor kept going back to in the group critiques was to "show, don't tell." I think all of us budding writers found it much easier to tell the reader everything we felt they needed to know about what was going on, how the characters felt, and why the characters acted they way they did. I took those lessons to heart, and now I am making the conscious effort to show instead of tell with every opportunity that comes before me. So what does this have to do with the poster and Kingdoms of Immacus? Well, I know I have talked about asset development in the past, but I wanted to share how important they are in showing the world you want to share instead of telling people about it.
A digital asset has a fancy definition that I've included, but for the purposes of this post it'll be an art component that may not be part of the core game, but instead may be used for icons, tokens, rule books, or other game-related ephemera. Assets are so important that even a big video game like PUBG can get accused of "asset flipping." In the PUBG example, the accusation is silly, but it shows the importance of filling up an environment with cohesive elements to bring a world alive, even if that means purchasing assets from a public marketplace.
The Asset of an Asset Marketplace
The idea of buying assets is nothing new. This can include stock photography, icons from a website like the Noun Project, or textures. Assets in and of themselves are important because of what they can do for a project, and when purchased from a vendor, it can save developers time in putting effort into other things like playtesting or art. The 3D-modeled playground in PUBG, does not make or break the game, but it does add perceived value to the world the player is in. The same can be said for board games. Buying icons from the Noun Project does not make or break the board game, but if the icons are cohesive to the game's theme and art direction, it will add flavor to the flavor that is already there - like salt.
Asset Bill of Rights
Assets are great tools for world building, but what can take the world building further are custom assets. One of the limitations to a public asset marketplace is more likely than not you cannot purchase an exclusive license to use the asset. This means any other person can purchase the rights to the asset and put it in their game as well. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes your world feel less special if the components that make up the world are easily reused by someone else for $2.99. Having cohesive purchasable assets are enough, and I don't think players will ding you for using them (unless your PUBG), but when I put this poster together for Kingdoms of Immacus, I realized how much the game popped when all the custom elements were put together.
You're a God, Start Acting Like One
As a game creator (or whatever project you are working on), you are a God to your own world. Assets are just one way to build it into something that is cohesive, unique, and believable. Even if you opt for purchasable public assets, you are still telling a story. And the point of all this is that assets show something that doesn't need to be explained to the player. You are manifesting a world that is tangible and understandable by having these assets available. I notice that a lot of Kickstarters struggle with showing their prospective players what the game is really about. Instead, they tell them in large paragraphs of text that are not immersive or engaging. Sometimes the story being told there is worthwhile, but some visual world building can help draw people into the text you want them to read.