100 free assets

mkapolk's picture

100 Free Beetles

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 8.29.58 PM (2).png

WASD: move
mouse: look
scroll: zoom
Space: Jump
n: next scene
p: previous scene

A mashup of 100 Free Assets by Blueberrysoft and Noisy Beetle by clyde.

I really enjoyed reading about the process of Noisy Beetle, that of making a series of
very deliberate and thoughtful formal experiments to see how the different
elements of the game interact with each other to form a whole. I went to school
for digital media art, but where I felt like the classes for more traditional
forms of media had exercises that let you practice these formal interactions
really closely, the program I was in didn't really have that level of rigor and
experience when it came to game development.

The unity asset store is a treasure trove, and I feel a particular
materialistic allure from the funny meeting of the val-u-store marketing and
toylike nature of individual assets on the asset store (Fantasy SFX Sample Pak
w/ 10 FREE WEAPONS). Importing and playing with free assets is fundamentally
satisfying, but if you arrange and select your assets in the way they want to
be arranged, you end up with a game that's, at best, as milquetoast as the
individual assets. 100 Free Assets felt like a very good experiment in
reappropriating and recontextualizing those assets in a way that resolved* them
somewhat. So I wanted to try doing that, but with more of a compartmental,
Noisy Beetle kind of way.

The scenes are presented in the order they were made. I think there's a sense
of progression among them. The car and mushroom skeleton, particularly, feel
clean and purposeful and intentional, although with the skeleton particularly
it feels like I found a few asset packs that fit together tonally and
thematically and made a scene with them, rather than working towards a more complete
resolution to the problem of assets, in general. But the idea of climbing on a big skeleton overgrown with mushrooms
was too delightful, and when I found that wonderful space within his ribs,
well, I couldn't resist. I'm not sorry, but I do think there's a lot more work to be done before I feel really comfortable using assets.

* By resolved, I'm referring to the process of removing the various tensions that one feels from these assets:
On a formal level, they have the quality of images cut out of a magazine: a skeleton with an attack animation
wants to have something to attack, a photorealistic rock wants to nestle alongside a HD river with bloom lighting.
There's a context that gets conspicuously cut when the assets live on their own.
And this also gives the assets a certain awkwardness, since they often
aren't created to live in any world in particular, or they're made with reference to some kind of amalgam of random artistic styles
the artist wanted to mimic, but they don't land in any in particular.

There's also a political dimension to this tension, since the ostensible
purpose of the asset store is to serve up *professional* assets. Assets that
look as if a professional made them, and they belong in a AAA game. The deal being, if you
use these assets your game can look like it's a professional game too. And
the games that are born out of this faustian bargain - you know the type, with
a 10,000 poly Dark Knight stomping around an empty field with cartoon goblins -
reveal, by turns, the optimistic dreams of some kid who Wants To Make Games
When He Grows Up, or the cynicism of someone taking a pre-built infinite runner
and hacking in a different player model, or the narcissism of a
3-idea-guy-and-one-programmer team's kickstarter ($10 pledged of $500,000)
who've got the next big MMORPG in the making. So this particular aesthetic
becomes a synecdoche for the whole fucked up relationship between individual gamers and
the multi billion dollar video game industry, with all the implications that that conjures up.

So, I know of two strategies to resolve this tension. The first is to simply
find the right assets that go together, polish up the gameplay, and make a
convincing fantasy that can hide the political dimensions of the relationship
between the game maker, the asset store, and the games industry. The other is
the strategy of the collage artist: to combine the elements in such a way that
their original purpose is subverted or obliterated. And there's a lot of ways
of achieving that: through punning recontextualization of the images, or
intentionally ruining the high quality assets, or using the objects such that
they're reduced to their formal qualities, or using the objects in such a way
that you create an aesthetic of ugliness, or whatever. 100 Free Assets makes
is another good one, and oikospiel looks promising, though I haven't played it
yet, but I think for the true masters you have to look back to Hannah Hoch or
Rauschenberg, and go from there.

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