Schol-R-LEA on Apr 29th 2017 at 12:54:35 PM
Last Edited By:
Schol-R-LEA on May 5th 2017 at 12:57:14 PM
Page Type: trope
Since the introduction of inexpensive and even free open-source game development tools starting around 2005, one of the key elements of the democratization of game development has been the trade in pre-made assets which can be included in games. Generally speaking, this has been a useful thing, as it gives independent developers a starting point for their work; they don't need to recreate common elements such as trees, wall textures, furniture, NPCs, and the like; they make it easy to mock-up the game early on with stock assets that can be replaced with more game-specific ones later; and the character and object models can serve as a template for creating original models.
However, as with many things, this freedom comes with a price: while it can give capable developers a lever to push good ideas even further, it has also allowed passable games to be created with considerably less effort. This has partially contributed to market oversaturation and these games often rely on a low budget/low returns model, as well as residuals from platform-specific monetization such as Steam Trading Cards.
The logical extreme of this is when the developer takes a fully pre-made game package - ones sold either as tutorials or as frameworks for building a more complete game - and re-packages it as an original work.
Frustration with this development model led games critic Jim Sterling to coin the term 'asset flip' for this, by analogy to the process of 'flipping' real estate, that is, purchasing a property at an extremely low price (often in a foreclosure or seizure auction), performing some repairs, and selling it for several times the purchase price. House flipping is entirely legal, but can be considered mildly unethical when the flipper puts almost no effort into restoring the property or does only cosmetic fixes for serious issues. Asset flipping, too, is legal (assuming the assets were purchased rather than pirated), but since it can be done repeatedly with the same game, and with the same assets in nominally different games, it is seen in a much harsher light by its detractors.
The rise of online game marketplaces with minimal barriers to entry, such as the Google Android Store and Steam's Greenlight program, has led to hundreds or even thousands of would-be developers taking this approach, either as a way to raise capital for more serious development projects, or in some cases, as the primary source of income from the program.
The problem game industry critics see in this is less about the lack of effort in developing new models, per se, as it is about perceived cynicism behind its inception. Inexpensive assets, while a boon overall to indie developers, have also indirectly contributed to the market saturation that makes it hard for games to be discovered and assessed by both players and reviewers. Developers using this approach have been accused of depending on low consumer commitment - in a saturated field where the number of games available is so vast, and the cost of a bad purchase so low, that a significant percentage of players are willing to spend a small sum on things unknown games and then write off purchases afterward if they don't like the game - to make sales without regard to the perceived quality of the work.
Asset flipping can lead to popular asset models appearing in several unrelated games, detracting from player immersion for many players. Also, games using flipped assets often use whatever assets the developers happen to have already bought - they often mix elements that are radically different in design and tone (e.g., mixing realistic character models with highly cartoonish or stylized ones), or ones from drastically different periods and settings, which also can affect immersion.
This is a Video Game Production Process trope, or perhaps a game marketing and sales trope, though similar 'methods' can and have occurred in other media. Because this is a controversial and highly subjective trope, there should be No Examples, Please.
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