Polishing the Turd

August 10th, 2016

So last week I talked about my recent experiments in rapid game prototyping and how it got me a prototype I’m interested in working with. But what now? well now I have to start fleshing this prototype out into a full game. There’s a lot of things this game is missing that I could start with in order to make this a little more playable. I probably should be working on game logic and trying out a few different mechanics that I’ve got on my mind, but I’m not gonna, because right now the grey box assets are driving me insane.

Grey boxed art assets are necessary for prototyping because they let you skip that whole art part and make sure your core game play is actually good. They look absolutely horrible though and after working with a prototype for a bit, they can really start to wear on you. So my next step is to prototype out a visual aesthetic.

I’m not that great of an artist. I’m also not that fast of an artist. Art assets take me forever which isn’t great when you are trying to prototype an aesthetic that you might wind up throwing away anyway. If I were a little more talented I’d probably do a bunch of concept art till I got something I liked but unfortunately I’m not.

In a lot of cases like mine developers tend to turn to the asset store. It’s a great way to get assets into your game quickly. Unfortunately that comes with a few drawbacks

  1. You no longer have a say in how your game looks.
  2. Your assets tend to be pretty generic
  3. Gamers will often write off games that they think just look like asset flip projects.

These are valid problems with relying on an asset store. I’ve decided to split the difference by taking assets from the asset store and altering them. I use them to save me time by getting me in the ballpark of the asset I want and then make small changes to really dial them in.

I use Substance Painter and Substance designer a lot in this process. They allow me to quickly re-skin the assets. Use of substances inside Unreal is helpful as well. I can dial in the colors and levels from inside the engine which allows very quick iteration.

Asset before any changes


The same asset after being re-skinned


I decided to try to go for a science fiction dystopian theme for my first aesthetic prototype. Below are some screen from my first pass. Keep in mind this aesthetic overhaul of the prototype only took a couple sittings and still functions the same as the grey boxed prototype.



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