Kitbashing your Prototype to a Work of Art
Prototype boxes and capsules can get us pretty far but eventually, we need some real art assets, animations, and effects. Now while it’s nice to have custom art assets made for the project, if you’re still in the early stages of prototyping sometimes you need to use a model kit and animation kit instead to avoid wasting an artist’s time.
These likely won’t be the final models but for a few dollars or a little google searching for CC0 assets can lead to model packs that look passable for a small game’s final build. The hard part can be finding consistently styled assets and making do with what you find, so here are a few tips.
Search for modelers that work in Themes
Typically a good 3d modeler isn’t going to create a one-off asset type, they’re going to make an entire “Kit”. Overall it’s just good for business for them as if you buy one space mech, they can guess you are probably going to need a 2nd similar-looking one, and maybe say a base hanger to store them in. So they’ll also be aimed at keeping it all in a similar style and way of working making them perfect for making polished-looking prototypes.
Re-Use, Re-Color, Combine Assets
We’re going to replace a majority of the assets eventually, so often it’s fine if we just do quick material-based re-coloring to save time. Enemies or NPCs can look like the player with slightly different shirt colors for example.
Other times, we can take seemingly simple asset shapes and combine them to make something new to demo an idea and get it working before modelers make a low poly version.
A good example for the above points I like to use is this Mech Asset maker on the Unity Asset store, Slava. He builds Mech kits that work like Legos allowing you to build dozens of different style mechs off a few simple parts. And as he’s one artist, the majority of his packs are combinable so it’s like buying multiple lego packs and combining them.
Avoid Spending If You Don’t Have To — CC0
There are amazing resources of royalty-free, no attribution, commercial usage artwork out there. While they might not fit your needs or have enough assets to fill the game if a five-minute search saves you $10 it can still be worthwhile to check.
Quaternius is one of the CC0 artists I always check as they have solid simple models to just spruce up a prototype from interactable green orbs to an actual room of objects. This can also be amazing to work out what is working or missing from a room to ensure the art team is building the “Right” assets for the game.