We’ve teamed up with Asset Store creators for our newest bundle of made-with-Unity games – plus the assets used to create them. Meet the teams from Five Studios Interactive and doorfortyfour to learn how Asset Store publishers use assets to create amazing games.
We’re celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Unity Asset Store with a Humble Bundle that shines a spotlight on both the folks who make the assets and the folks who use those in their amazing games. Both Five Studios Interactive and doorfortyfour do double duty – they publish and sell assets on the Asset Store, AND they use Asset Store tools and art to create their games. You can get your hands on both in the Humble Bundle, but we also wanted to share a chat with these prolific developers to see what it’s like to both publish and use tools and art from the Asset Store – both sides of the Unity Asset Store coin.
“The Asset Store brought us together,” states Nathaniel Doldersum of Five Studios Interactive. “We were all individuals who somehow ran into Unity working on our own projects about eight years ago.”
They joined forces to create DRONE, a fast-paced 3D multiplayer combat game set in a series of stunning sci-fi arenas that showcase the team’s creative chops. “This is basically our dream,” says Peter Rößl, “a new visionary game that would combine several creative aspects players love – building, competing, progressing – all in a tasty sauce of great gameplay and immersive artwork.”
The two processes – creating assets and games – are complementary, but not identical. The Five Studios Interactive team tends to work more independently on assets – they publish individually on the Asset Store, as Tomasz Stobierski, Peter Rößl (a.k.a. Becoming), and Nathaniel Doldersum, rather than as Five Studios Interactive – but explain that “the game is 100% a team effort.”
“An asset can deal with an isolated aspect of game creation and is something you can tackle alone,” Tomasz explains. “As Asset Store providers, we work mostly solo with some feedback given by other team members. A valuable aspect here is that the team can share ideas about how to implement features, and/or to get better usability or performance. We also complement each other by sharing expertise on art, prototyping, general or graphics-related programming.”
Each of them has a broad skillset, as reflected by the tools and systems they publish. Tomasz’s assets include Uber – Standard Shader Ultra, VolumeGrass and the Relief Terrain Pack terrain shader; Becoming’s offerings range from the Snazzy tools for grids, splines, and material painting to a horizon and thunderstorm systems; and Nathaniel Doldersum has published tried-and-true terrain- and world-composing systems, plus tools for debugging, combining meshes, and creating caves and overhangs in scenes. This eclectic mix reflects the breadth of their skillsets, but also their game’s changing needs.
“Ideas for assets are mostly born when we need them for a game, but sometimes we simply find an asset idea useful for a broader audience,” says Nathaniel. The team also uses other Asset Store packages. In particular, they cite Bakery – GPU Lightmapper, which they used to bake lightmaps and manage a custom light probe system, and Editor Console Pro, an Editor add-on that reveals the source code around each method call in the stack.
The team argues that while creating assets and games is different, one inevitably informs the other. “First and foremost, you learn how to improve your assets as you gain deeper insight on the process of game creation as a whole,” Tom explains. “You learn to anticipate better what the user is going to expect and need. You also learn that an asset that works in your own game is not necessarily something you can release as is, you need to generalize, create documentation, tooltips, and an intuitive UI. The good side about creating an asset that you need for your own project is that it has a purpose, even if it does not sell.”
On the flip side, the Asset Store helps the Five Studios Interactive team to create DRONE (which is still in Early Access on Steam) their own way. “We declined a few publisher offers in order to maintain 100% creative freedom,” says Peter. “This was only possible because we have had enough success on the Asset Store to get the project started. Now roughly 50% of the funding for the game is coming from the community, and the rest we invest from our Asset Store earnings.”
Married couple Miriam and Marc Egli do double duty as both game developers and Asset Store publishers at Vienna-based indie studio doorfortyfour. Marc is a 3D artist with over a decade of experience in the game business (and a few AAA titles under his belt), while Miriam’s architecture background gives her a strong base in 2D and 3D graphics.
Both are avid gamers, especially keen on RTS and tower defense play, which is how the concept for their first game, MarZ: Tactical Base Defense, came about. It’s a real-time strategy game that deploys players to manage resources and defend towers against zombie hordes while uncovering the secret history of the planet and its undead (you can read about the game’s creation in greater detail in this blog post).
Doorfortyfour use Asset Store tools to create their own games, citing the Volumetric Fog & Mist, Amplify Shader Editor, and Script Inspector (which Marc calls “the first asset I import into an empty new project”) as essential to the development of MarZ. But working on this project also gave rise to their own tools, which were eventually refined and published on the Asset Store.
“An idea for an asset usually arises from a problem we need to solve during the development of a game. Most game studios do have in-house tools which helps them to solve project specific tasks. But to make it a sellable asset these tools do have to work globally with any project,” Marc explains. “After the development of MarZ, we thought about the tools I’ve created for the game and how we could adapt them so they would work with any project. That’s how Databox and FlowReactor were made.”
The concept for Databox, a system for managing game data in one place, emerged when the team was having trouble balancing their game. They were working too much, trying to manage complicated spreadsheets and respond to player feedback, then Marc decided to create a simple game editor EI that let them test and change values on the fly in the game.
“Miriam could then playtest a build without using the Unity Editor and make her changes directly,” Marc explains. “Later on, I implemented an upload system in the development build, which allowed us to upload the new values to our servers and make sure the latest build always had the newest values. This simple editor tool was then further developed into Databox.”
FlowReactor similarly emerged from the team’s development practice, evolving from a tool for creating in-game dialog into a more complete flow graph solution. Doorfortyfour used it for tutorials, dialog, menus and other actions in MarZ, then continued to develop the high-level visual scripting editor to include UI flows, AI behaviors, game mechanics, level scripting, and more.
“It’s very fascinating how flexible Unity is in terms of creating your own tools, which can absolutely speed up your productivity,” Marc explains. “Having an idea is easy, but making a product out of it is incredibly hard. Start with a small project, and try to finish it so that you end up with a beautiful product that you can be proud of.”
Our newest Humble Bundle celebrates Unity creators and the power of gaming to make a difference. Get games like The First Tree and MarZ : Tactical Base Defense, and support the creators of Unity extensions and AAA art. Plus, funds from your purchase will be donated to amazing game-related community programs like Girls Who Code, GameChanger, SpecialEffect, and United Roots (Gameheads)!