Today’s opinion piece is going to be a lot different than what one would normally expect. We have been discussing the outcomes of video games a lot lately but what about the inner workings of certain creations? This time we’ll take a look at the mechanics of various games and see how they function. The catch? Said games all have assets borrowed from things made before them. Depending on how many pre-made elements have been used in these games, some people are bound to frown upon the practice at hand. The idea of simply rehashing the assets to sell again is often called “asset flipping”.
The latest case that comes to mind is RCMADIAX, the bad boy of the Nintendo eShop. His latest game is Panda Love for the Wii U. I was quick to point out that Panda Love is already available for free on mobile devices and computers. Recently, Nintendo Life did an article on his process; it turns out that a lot of “his” games are simply just tools being purchased for licensing. A great chunk of games are just “templates” on the website Scirra.com. What RCMADIAX does is purchase these template games to re-publish them for sale on the Wii U eShop. The majority of what he brought is priced at a range of $5-15. One exception is Pixel Slime U, the one game he published that received the most positive reception. The assets for Pixel Slime U happened to cost him $360 to purchase from the Scirra online store.
However, RCMADIAX is far from the only person to engage in asset flipping. He is obviously the most notable Wii U developer to do it but this is commonplace on Google Play, Amazon AppStore, Steam, etc. This is especially the case for clones that mooch from a well-known game. If you were to look up “flappy” on any app store, I can guarantee you that you will see thousands upon thousands of lookalikes in hopes that some passerby will fall for them.
It’s absolutely disgusting.
Perhaps the most infamous of all examples I could provide would be Digital Homicide.
Oh deary me, Digital Homicide….
A tip for any independent developer: If you’re going to use blood images from a Google search, make sure the images are properly transparent. Anyway, Digital Homicide’s games are always massively awkward mish-mashes of random things they bought off of Unity’s asset store. For example – Their game, Temper Tantrum, is made entirely of pre-made assets that they thought could work for the concept of a baby running around a wonky house. It’s asset flipping of Unity store purchases. The environments are bought, the monsters are bought, and the “generic kid” model is bought. That last part is quite disturbing considering they deliberately chose to use his underwear variation to pass off as a toddler for the game.
There are lots of scummy releases that tend to pass off as actual creations for the sake of making easy money (or easy popularity and ad revenue for free releases). What about other releases that tend to get away with using assets handed to them? Why do certain games that also use pre-made assets get to have the pleasure of being regarded more favorably? It’s quite simple, actually. It’s because there is still visible evidence of artistic integrity. For the following cases, I shall call these games examples of “partial creation”. The creators of these games didn’t entirely make everything but did build on top of their resources to provide their own creation.
For example, we have the cult classic, Doom. Doom itself uses sound samples that anyone can use for their own projects, but I think it’s more interesting to look at one title that spawned from it. That title is Chex Quest.
Chex Quest is a game that was made to promote Chex cereal. It obviously uses Doom‘s game engine among other things. But what makes Chex Quest work in ways previous asset flip examples failed is that this game isn’t entirely an asset flip. The visuals, sounds, and overall tone are completely different than that of Doom. The aesthetics make it clear you aren’t fighting demons in Hell. Instead, you’re gunning off goop monsters that are trying to do harm to the Chex brand. Because of the efforts made to feel different, and that the results are way more child-friendly than Doom, it ended up being a successful first-person shooter people of all ages could play and appreciate. Some can even argue it’s a lot more fun to traverse Chex warehouses than grimy caverns filled with bleak monsters.
There’s also the matter of The Legend of Kusakari for Nintendo 3DS. Even a blind person can see this game is meant to look like a game in the The Legend of Zelda series. Why would it appear on Nintendo’s very own eShop then? Because Nintendo themselves know that although Kusakari shares some similarities, it is actually a completely different game altogether. It’s an arcade-like puzzle game about cutting the battlefield’s grass – a direct contradiction to Zelda‘s world exploration and playing hero to defeat the Big Bad of the story.
The lesson with Chex Quest and The Legend of Kusakari? It’s okay for there to be affectionate clones and titles that provide a fresh, creative spin on what would otherwise seem like a lazy attempt to copy another game. They each used a game as a basis for another rather than just re-releasing the base outright. Naturally, these methods of partial creation are infinitely more demonstrative of artistic integrity than the acts of asset flipping shown earlier.