Monday, November 28, 2016

I don't "Asset Flip"

Screenshot of Blender Made original Game Assets (By Snowconesolid)

     "Asset Flipping" is when pre-made or store bought game assets (typically art assets such as character models, game props, environmental props, etc) are used to quickly create and sell a video game.

The Unity game engine user base has a very bad rep of doing this (mostly indie Unity developers) and are the ones who are typically called out for doing "Asset Flips". These pre-made game assets are typically purchased from the Unity Asset Store or are the standard free default game assets provided with the engine itself. Other than the use of store bought art assets, another common form of asset flipping is when the developer purchases a template for a complete game project off the store and simply resells it as their own project either on Steam or other digital gaming store fronts in hopes of making a quick buck with little or no effort put in at all. 

Why? Cuz money baby!

These pre-made game templates have had a lot of work put into them by their original developers and their purpose is to serve as a starting point for the developer to build off of for their own original game projects, or as a learning tool for new and under experienced developers. However, as stated above, there has been many incidents where devs look for an opportunity to obtain an easy profit. 

I'm not 100% sure about this, but I believe the term "Asset Flip" originated (or at least became a popular term) from a well known game critic and YouTuber named Jim Sterling - who has even done an entire video about "Asset Flips" 

Somewhere in the video Jim states "using assets to form a basis for your work - not a bad thing, but stitching together nothing but pre-made objects without any rhyme or reason - it simply cannot be called game development can it?" He also talks about how buying a bunch of pre-made assets from different sources/developers and throwing them in your game ruins its art direction and just becomes a huge mess. "It's an artistic car crash" - Jim Sterling (same video linked above). 

Jim Sterling can be seen as a very harsh and over critical person when it comes to games. Especially indie games. I personally have experienced this first hand because one of my games, "Potato Thriller" was a victim of Jim's criticism and was featured on his "Best of Steam Greenlight Trailers" - a segment where Jim picks not the greatest looking greenlight submissions and gives feedback and criticism based off of the trailer, screenshots and description. In his video he called my submission "cringe", "terrible mic quality" (the mic was pretty bad, i'll admit) and trying to be "memes". After Jim's video went up a whole lot of his viewers poured onto my Steam Greenlight page, left nasty comments and down-voted the game to Steam hell. I'll be honest, looking back at the trailer I created at the time - it was terrible. I had no idea who Jim Sterling even was at the time and it wasn't until he covered my "Potato Thriller" game that I found out about him. I took all this in a really lighthearted manner and even subscribed to his YouTube channel on that day. I found it really funny and was even happy. Sure the game was getting an insane amount of downvotes and negative feedback, but it was getting feedback. It made me happy that my game was getting some kind of notice, even if it was infamy.
Sad Potato man...

Anyway, to get back on topic about "Asset Flips", despite all that has happened with my first Steam game, "Potato Thriller" - I actually agree with what Jim has to say in his video that covers "Asset Flipping". He makes a pretty good argument and very valid points.  

I personally have nothing against developers who do purchase assets to use in their games. I support this very much actually. I even created several of my own original asset packs and am selling them at extremely affordable prices on the Unity Asset Store in hopes to help other Unity developers with their projects (This ad has been brought to you by Snowconesolid Productions - buy my asset packs and you will become a successful indie game developer! ....and I really need a couple of dollars. please! I'm so poor!).

It is understandable if you are on a low budget, aren't a very good artist and need some props to use in your project, or if you are a small indie team and you are on a tight schedule to finish your project. But don't make your entire game based off of store bought assets. Don't buy an entire environment of a city, then buy a package of animated zombies character models and mash it together. Try to make your own unique character model, don't just purchase the typical standard "Army Guy" character model from the store and use that in your game as a main character. If you need to decorate your level with with some foliage and trees to add more to the atmosphere then buy a package of pre-made trees. But don't buy like 20 different asset packs each from a different developer/artist and mash it all together. It will be visible in your game and show that no effort or originality was put into the game you are developing. People could tell if you are using store bought asset packs. They would point out and say "hey I saw these same exact models in a completely different game developed by a completely different developer".  Aside from the art assets, purchasing an entire complete project and just reselling it as is without putting in any effort to make it your own original title is just a setup for failure in the indie game development community. Nobody will care about your Temple Run template you purchased then put out on the app store.... 

A prototype...

Anyway, that's not really the point of this article. I am not writing to tell people how they should develop their games or what to do. Not at all. I am simply giving advice and sharing my personal thoughts on the subject of "Asset Flipping". I understand that there are many game developers out there who would completely disagree with everything I said and that is completely fine. To each their own. If one development style works better for you then all the power to you.

 The main reason I bring any of this up is more of a personal preference for me as a developer and artist. Negative comments and harsh criticism over any of my games never bothered me one bit. I accept all forms of feedback with open arms and try to use that feedback to improve and better myself as a independent game developer. In fact, I even enjoy seeing negative feedback over my work to some degree. What gets me however, is when I am accused of being an "Asset Flipping" developer who buys pre-made assets and quickly throws something together for a quick dollar. That is the only thing that hits me right in my passionate game developing heart.  

Lana the Lemon, Potato Man and Hotdog Man.
I mean c'mon! where the hell will you find characters more original than this! ^^^ >:(

I do recall reading some comments on the "best of Steam Greenlight trailers" for my game "Potato Thriller" saying things such as "it's an Asset Flip", "Dev just bought everything from the Unity Asset store.", "I swear I have seen that weird Potato looking thing somewhere on the asset store before", etc. I know they might not be the best looking game assets, but they are definitely not store bought assets. 

Originality is something that is extremely important to me especially when it comes to visuals and art. My whole life, I have always had a great appreciation for art and always aimed to become a good artist myself. I have said this many times before throughout the years on the blog and other places, but I don't "Asset Flip". I never use anyone's art besides mine in my own projects and I don't like including anyone's artwork except my own in my projects. 

Screenshot of some Potato Thriller Art assets source files - The entire game, Potato Thriller is made up of pretty much everything you see in this image. 

Wireframe screenshot. All models made from scratch in Blender3d

Throughout all the years I have spent as an indie game developer I have always been very open about the development and work that goes into my projects here on the blog. I have always taken great pride in the fact that I created everything you see in game myself. I'm going to take a quick step back and admit one thing here. The only visuals in my game that I have not created myself and are store bought are particle fx (such as explosions, fire, rain, etc) and skyboxes (which most of the time I rarely even use a skybox in my games and often just use a generic color as the sky) that is it. But I created every other thing that you see in the game. Everything. Everything from the main character model to the tree that is just in the background and this is something that I am very proud of. I have spent years practicing and learning good 3d modeling, texturing, game asset creation, etc and I have greatly improved over the years since I first started and it shows in my work even.

Screenshot from one of my first 3d games ever from early 2012

Fast-forward a couple years. Screenshot from a newer project, late 2016

Screenshot of one of my first original character models. Early 2012

Screenshot of a much newer and modern character design. Late 2016

By this point, if you read this far into the post then I must sound like a really whiny egotistical hipster who just sits in a coffee shop all day trying to act like some successful artist. Looking back at what I wrote, it does sound like that actually... But I am not writing this article to brag about what a good artist I am. But instead to express how passionate I am when it comes to the artwork behind the games. I care very much about how my games look and the originality behind them. If anybody ever asks me "did you make all of this yourself", I could confidently say that  I did create everything in the game myself. It is all my own original art and design. (Okay, so yeah for bragging rights then..... Shut up! you brag about your accomplishments too!) :D

As I just said above, I care a whole lot about the artwork and I put in a lot of time and effort creating each art piece/3d model from scratch to be unique and original. In all honesty, I know that I don't create the greatest games and I don't make the nicest most visually appealing looking artwork. I might be terrible at game development, I might be a lousy artist, but one thing I am not nor will ever be is an "Asset Flipper". That is not my style...

Monday, November 21, 2016

Skies and Lighting

     Today I want to talk about lighting. Lighting is a very important in both in games and movies. In games, especially 3d games - sure it is important to have good quality 3d models and a unique style, but it is really the lighting that can make or break the visual look you are going for. The lighting is important because it sets the mood. With good lighting you could set pretty much any mood you could think of. Making a scary horror game? Do something unsettling with the lights, make them flicker, change them to an eerie dark red. Want a bright cheery colorful day? Turn the lights up, give them a warm sun color. Is the game sad? Make the lights darker, gloomy and depressing. You get the idea.

     The lighting makes the game world feel more immersive and really just brings everything together in terms of the art assets. Lighting is an area of its own that designers usually study. There is a lot that goes into good lighting. With that said, I am not a professional lighting artist and some people might disagree with some of the statements I mentioned above. However, I personally feel that it is important to at least have a good basic understanding of creating good lighting. Again, I am no lighting master and i'm sure many professional lighting artist might slam me on my lighting skills if they saw them.

     Anyway, with all that said, this blog isn't really about how to make good lighting, or what makes good lighting. It is more about the type of lighting that I want to achieve in my upcoming game "Samer Hills". Throughout the years, all my experience with making games - "good lighting" is an area that I often just looked pass. Actually, looking back at any of my older games, I can shamelessly say that the lighting is absolutely terrible. I didn't know at the time how important lighting was. I started getting a better idea for lighting with my previous horror game "Potato Thriller", but it still isn't really good. It has all really been a learning process all these years (and in some way will always be a learning process) but I have come really far since I started and just gained so much more knowledge about game design and development.

     So let's talk a bit about what I am trying to go for with "Samer Hills". I want the game to have a surreal and unsettling mood. Like it is its own reality. I don't want it to feel like the player is in familiar place that they could see in real life. But at the same time, I want it to feel real enough to pull the player into that world and is an immersive experience overall. Kinda like how immersive the movie "interstellar" was. But at the same time, I don't want them to feel like they are in outer space because its not a space game. Not sure if that made any sense. It probably didn't. But it makes sense to me and that is all that matters. I think?

     With my new game "Samer Hills" on the horizon, my new found goal is to really focus on nailing not just lighting, but all major important areas of game design down this time around. I don't think it is impossible for one person either (I know, it sounds really ambitious and even narcissistic to some degree, but I honestly feel like I have gained enough skills as a game developer to accomplish this, and I hope to show it in my next title.)  I want to create a really good quality polished game. I am taking game development more seriously and want to be taken more seriously as a game developer. I look forward to sharing my next game soon and hopefully I don't disappoint. More updates soon to come!

Friday, November 18, 2016

What's beyond these vast virtual worlds?

     Absolutely nothing. Video games are all lies and illusions. The curse of learning how to create and design your own video games is that it takes the magic away. As a little kid I always liked to imagine and think that there where places beyond the in game worlds that you could explore. Areas that are hidden. There is this sense of curiosity when you are thrown into a big game world for the first time to explore for yourself.

    You look at high mountains and think to yourself "is anything on the other side. Can I climb up those mountains and see what is behind them?" Later you find out that it is nearly impossible to get even half way up these in game mountains. That is because they are designed to act as game barriers to prevent the player from going beyond the boundaries of the game world. Why? Because there is nothing left in the game world to see. There is nothing behind those mountains except for an empty infinite space that will just go on forever and ever. Those mountains aren't even modeled/detailed from the backsides most times. They are just awkwardly cut and empty and you could see through them if you look at them from that side. 

     But the player never sees the other side of the mountain. Because the player isn't meant to see the other side of the mountain. That would ruin the experience and break the immersion for the player. The game developer on the other hand sees the game from every single possible angle. They are the ones putting it together after all. The game world starts out as this empty blank space that is then filled up by the developer to create this illusion that this tiny little world has some sort of life to it. But the developer knows that its all illusion. The game world is all fake. So the magic and excitement of being able to imagine that there is something more there is none existent to the developer. 

     Back to my earlier point, as a kid I would spend hours in front of my TV screen with my N64 constantly playing Zelda Ocarina Of Time. I was fully immersed in the game world and I always wondered if there was anything beyond Hyrule. Was there even a way to get out of Hyrule? The game felt so magical to me. I was sitting in my tiny bed room, yet I was exploring this huge lifelike world through my TV screen. I eventually learned about a glitch that lets you go past the boundaries of Hyrule. There was this area in the Hyrule castle section of the game. If you angled and positioned Link just right, you could have Link walk up this area that is not meant to be a walk-able area for the player. It was designed as a barrier to hide the ugly truth of what is behind the beautiful game world. 

     I climbed this area over and over again and Link constantly fell back down to Hyrule grounds because of the game physics as if the game was trying to tell me "No! you aren't suppose to see what is beyond this point! You can't go here!" (it was a pretty hard glitch to do) Determined to see what was beyond these flat mountains, I finally got to the top. What I saw when I got to the top broke me. As a child, I was crushed. There was nothing behind these mountains. I could see the games skybox moving around. Rotating almost as if someone glued a picture of clouds on this cylinder shaped lamp shade. I looked down from those mountains only to see a dark empty void of nothing. I could see other parts of Hyrule castle rendering out from the distance, but everything was flat. There was nothing at all. I moved Link forward and he fell out of the game world into the empty dark square pit of darkness. He fell endlessly. I could see Hyrule castle and the rest of the game world start to disappear because of how far Link fell. 

     Everything in the game just felt so fake at that point. I felt like someone just took Link and put him on this movie set with all these fake props. Video games have been ruined for me ever since I had this traumatic experience as a kid. I never looked at them the same. The magic was gone forever...

     Of course, I am only joking about how this ruined video games for me. Actually, when I saw this I was like "woah cool! This is so awesome!" because it gave me an idea of how games are made. It let me see for the first time ever a more "behind the scenes" look at video games instead of just seeing the game world for what it was suppose to be seen as and to me that was super interesting. I actually tried to see if I could glitch out of other parts of the game later on. And I think this is something that all gamers try experimenting with as well. They try to break the game, they see if they could create a situation or do something in the game that wasn't intended for the player to do. I have even seen some people trying to do this with my own game before such as "Potato Thriller" and I think it is hilarious. Watching someone else do that to your own game is very cool actually. Because its like "hey thats not what I wanted you to do. No! you aren't suppose to go there! you aren't following my game rules! I knew I should of blocked off this area..." So it is really interesting to see someone essentially rebel against the rules of the game world you created. You see the player play your game in a completely unexpected way and that is because they are curious to see what lies beyond. That, or they just really want to break the game because of how board they got from playing by your rules. But either way, it is really cool to see and a great feeling.

      I am starting to just ramble and even switch topics at this point so I will end this on a short note. In all seriousness, if you are thinking about becoming a developer, going into game design, learning how to make games, becoming an indie dev, doing it as a hobby, working in games in a professional AAA studios, etc. I say go for it! Learning about how game worlds are created, what goes into them, how they work, etc - is all very very interesting stuff to read up on. It is very fascinating to see the hard work behind everything. I always loved seeing behind he scenes stuff in movies and games more than the actual game, movie, etc itself.  Seeing the tricks used to create an illusion for a certain moment or scene in any kind of medium is really satisfying because you have that moment of "ahhh! that is how it was done. I was wondering how they did this". You then have that realization that you could do something similar. It is a very awesome feeling to be able to create your own games and share those experiences with others. I forgot where I heard this saying but it went something like this: "It's fun to play video games, but it is even more fun to make video games."

     PS: This is the first blog post I do in a long long time that isn't about me or the current game project I am working on. It feels nice to change things up every once in a while. I might do more posts like this in the future. Definitely more development blogs on the new game coming up as well.

More updates coming soon!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

His name is "PonyTail"

     Today I wan't to talk a little bit more about the main character of my next game "Samer Hills" and reveal some more information on the game. This is a character I created a while back and even posted a "making of" section here on the blog which you could find here: "Making of PonyTail"

     His name is Ponytail. Why? because he has a ponytail. (I am very good at naming my characters) 

The information that follows in the rest of this post are considered minor spoilers for my own game. But knowing me, I am terrible at keeping quiet about my work and just can't keep things secret. Also, I really enjoy sharing each step of the development process here on the blog.

      So anyway Ponytail is the main character in "Samer Hills" - a chubby, mustached pink wearing stylized comical character who sports a ponytail hair style. I have always enjoyed games that are closely connected with their characters and show how their characters evolve throughout the game as the player advances deeper into the story. This is what I want to achieve with "Samer Hills". The game itself will really be focused around this character. 

    A couple days ago I posted this picture on my twitter saying "brothers or same person?" And right now is the time where I begin to give away minor spoilers for the game. So the bearded man is actually the same character as the original pink wearing Ponytail character. As I was just saying, this game will focus on the main character and his evolution throughout. At the start of the game you are this worn down big bearded crazy looking guy who looks like he has had a pretty tough life. As you progress more and more you get see how he changes. 

     Eventually Ponytail looses the beard, gets a cleaner look and begins wearing this pink uniform (which will also be explained more in the game) The character himself is going to be a very strange and questionable character. If he is good, bad, crazy, sad, etc is really going to be left up to the player to decide. 

     This game is all about character building. I think that Ponytail is going to be a really unique complex character to play as and will make the game an interesting experience. I am working my best to deliver this experience as it will be the first time where I make a game that focuses on building who that character is instead of focusing on the game world and its enemies. Of course the game world and other characters will contribute to the main character as well. As always, it will turn out to be a really weird game but I am really excited to share it with everyone once its done and then maybe what I am saying now will make a little bit more sense once people have actually got to play it. 

More updates coming soon!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Punished Ponytail...

     So I posted this "box art" for my new upcoming game "Samer Hills" on my twitter about a day ago. Does it look familiar to anyone? This boxart shows "Punished Ponytail".... "Woooooahhh hooooooooo!!!! Wooaaaah hooooooo-oooooooo words that kill!!!"

     In case you haven't figured it out yet, clearly this is a reference to Metal Gear Solid V. I have stated this before on the blog many times, but I am a huge MGS fan and a huge fan of Hideo Kojima and his work. He is one of my favorite game designers of all time. 

     As you can see, I shamelessly copied used inspiration from the Metal Gear Solid V box art to make mine. I originally did this as a joke but then I really liked how my box art actually turned out. So there it is. A harmless parody box art of the original MGSV box. Hideo Kojima is actually a huge role model for me as a game designer and one of the reasons I am so into game development. I often use inspirations from his works in my own work and that can be seen in my projects. My previous game "Potato Thriller" was heavily inspired by his Silent Hills/PT demo. Actually, Potato Thriller was essentially a parody game of PT but at the same time didn't really have anything to do with PT and stood out as its own game if that makes any sense. 

     With all that said however, I would just like to clear a couple things up for "Samer Hills". Just because I made a parody box art of the MGSV box art does not mean that the game itself will be a parody of Metal Gear Solid V. Again, this box art was just done jokingly and for fun. "Samer Hills" will be nothing like MGSV and it will not be a parody game of MGSV. I am trying to create a very "Samer Khatib" original horror game experience. 

     This game is going to be very different than any other game I have ever made so far. This time I am extremely focused on the overall quality of the entire game. Every area such as graphics, mechanics, etc will be a huge step up for me. Polish is very important because I want to really deliver a good quality game and I am very excited to hopefully share the game with everyone soon in the future. More updates coming soon. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

It is no longer "Hamar Hills" - Game re-named to "Samer Hills"

     Hello everyone. Just as the title says, I have decided to re-name my newest upcoming game to "Samer Hills" (originally "Hamar Hills") . I have decided to rename the game for a few reasons actually and all of them are perfectly valid. So today I want to take a moment and talk about the new name and explain why it has changed. 

     First of all, the game was originally called "Hamar Hills" so right from the start it sounds confusing to many people. What the heck is a "Hamar" or what does it even mean? Why was this even considered to be the name of the game originally anyway? These are all good points and I agree that it was a very silly and stupid name for a game actually but the reason why I did want to originally name it this is because "Hamar" is an arabic word which means "Donkey". So essentially the game "Hamar Hills" translates to "Donkey Hills". You are probably thinking now: "wow, this is still a really dumb name even after hearing the translation. Why would you call the game "Donkey Hills"? 

     I originally came up with the name "Hamar Hills" or "Donkey Hills" because the main enemies of the game were going to be this group of donkeys that you encounter throughout the game. The game was originally planned to be a game about a character who wonders off into the town of "Hamar Hills" only to later find out that the town is abandoned and is being run by this evil donkey gang - hence the original name of the game "Hamar Hills". This all still must sound very silly as a game idea and writing it down makes me realize that it is. But you really need to be in my head to see how I was originally imagining it to play out and I don't think I could really describe it. But anyway that is not the point right now. 

     The game is taking a different direction, its not just about donkeys. The more and more I develop the game, the more ideas I get and want to add in. So its really not just focused on one thing anymore. It is going to still be a pretty weird and silly game though. So, because the change of focus, I have renamed the game to "Samer Hills". This name makes more sense. A lot more sense actually. The game is about many strange and random ideas that I just picture in my head. My real name is Samer, so essentially in "Samer Hills" you are just entering this world of ideas that spawned from my head instead of just a silly game about evil donkeys. It is kind of hard to explain, but I think it will make a lot more sense once the game is finished and people can play it. Also, the game is somewhat inspired by "Silent Hills". It won't really be anything like "Silent Hill" or a parody of it or anything, but renaming the game to use the same initials feels nicer than what was used before. 

     Another major reason I changed the name (and this one is seriously important) is because after doing some research I found out that the word "Hamar" isn't just an arabic word. Okay so it means donkey in arabic but it might translate to something else in different languages and I don't want this headache. I don't want to possibly bring up any problems because of naming a game a certain name. Also I found out that "Hamar" is the name of some kind of cultural tribe or whatever in some parts of the world and I don't want to confuse people with the name and make them think that it is a game about this real life tribe or anything. The game has nothing to do with this tribe, it has nothing to do with anything in real life. Whenever I make a game, I always just make up my own fictional worlds, characters, story lines, etc that are not connected to or related to anything in our real world. The original name for my game "Hamar Hills" was implying the translation from arabic to mean "Donkey" as I stated above. It was a coincidence that I found out that the word "Hamar" is used differently in other cultures and languages and was not intentionally trying to be anything other than being translated as "Donkey" from arabic. It is a very good thing that I did my research and caught that before continuing to go with the original name. Moral of the story, be careful when trying to pick a name for your game. Do some research on that name. See if it is used differently other than the ways you originally thought. 

     Anyway, I am really glad I changed the name. I am very happy with the new name I decided to go with and it does make more sense overall for what the game will be about. So bottom line, yes. I did just name my next game after myself... 

More updates soon!

Playing with fire

Not really a blog post. Just sharing more screenshots from development. Enjoy! 

^^^ looks like he's farting while running. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Here is some more...

screenshots for ya....

You may have already seen some of these posted on my twitter page. But in case you missed anything here they are! By the way, that is Potato Man up there. Why is he in the game? I don't know yet...

More soon!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What is Hamar Hills?????

     Okay, I have been doing a really bad job posting updates here on the blog lately. I always say I want to post more often but then never get to it. I have a ton of stuff I want to share though and I will actually have a lot more daily blog post in the following days because I can't cover everything in just one post. So, let's just get straight into it.

     Today I want to talk about my next upcoming game project. Actually, most of the following blog post will all be about this. "Hamar Hills" is my newest game in the works. I started talking and sharing some stuff about this project a couple months ago here on the blog, but then would just disappear for a while after that. So I was never consistent with the updates on progress. Also, barely anything was even shown for the game. I showed off development screens in the past, a couple days ago I released a very short confusing teaser trailer (which actually really has nothing to do with the game) so what the heck is "Hamar Hills" even suppose to be!?!

     If you have followed any of my previous work or played any of my previous games (Potato Thriller for example) you should know by now that when I start working on something, over time I end up changing my mind about a lot of stuff and end up going a completely different route with it. Things usually start to get real weird and random real fast in my game projects. I would say something about the game one day, then the next day do something completely different. I have said this many times in the past before actually, but I am terrible at planning games from beginning to end and usually I end up randomly making it up as I go. This isn't fully true for "Hamar Hills" because I do have a really good idea of what I want this game to be. But a lot of change in direction has already  been done since I posted the teaser trailer a few days ago.

     "Hamar Hills" will be a third person horror game about a man who wonders into the abandoned town of (guess the name of town) "Hamar Hills". I have made a lot of progress on this game so far in terms of development and I think it will be a very unique game experience. I have no exact finish date just yet. A lot more work needs to be done on the project. But like I said, more  updates will be following in the days coming so keep checking back here.

For now, here is a ton of new screenshots to look at I took from development. I always like to talk a ton about my new project, not really say anything about it (even after saying that I was going to explain it more, and then show off a ton of screenshots that aren't even from the final product. But you could kind of see some cool behind the scenes work going on here I guess and I like sharing this kind of stuff. Please enjoy!