A Warning About Buying Generic Art Bundles

Dec 30, 2011

I would like to offer a few things to be aware of regarding this Indie Game Dev Art Bundle (link to a partial screenshot mirror, for when that bundle goes offline) making the rounds recently, and generic art packs in general:

  1. The license indicates that use of the assets is “limited to a single application” – this is a one-time use license.
  2. That same license dictates that “You must not incorporate the Work in a work which is created for Resale by you or your client.” – anything produced using even a single one of these assets (including the textures) can never legally be sold.
  3. Non-exclusive rights to assets make them extraordinarily less valuable. When players start seeing what are obviously the same assets in other games it makes the developers using those assets look either cheap, amateur (this is clip art), or worse, like a thief (the majority of players do not understand nor expect licensing of content to happen across games). Exception to this expectation is made, if ever, for sequels of the same game, which concern #1 prevents anyway.
  4. Using generic assets in games for anything besides far off background decoration (ex. outsourced/generic assets may do if you need a few dozen spooky tree silhouettes on the horizon) dilutes a videogame’s opportunity to dictate and present a characteristic style. Whatever art your game requires that isn’t from the pack – and such art will always be needed for menus, interface, player character, cursor, etc. – will not match the art in the game.
  5. On a similar point: leaning on generic assets also tightly constrains a developer’s design freedom since they’ll be unequipped to extend on the same art style. If your game needs a chaingun, it won’t match the art style of the sniper rifle from the pack; if your game needs a robot factory, it won’t match the art style of the hospital from the pack, etc. Generally it would be far better to use a slightly less professional style but one that you or someone on the team is able to match with consistency across the entire game. If you’re really bad at in-game art, you’d still be better off using placeholder programmer art for everything, then once the game works and plays well enough to persuade a capable artist to get involved, fixing the problem that way. Or, alternatively, finding a style to employ that fits your constraints (pixelated and stickman games have both done fine, when the gameplay was done right) or strengths (ex. programmatic effects, minimalist design, etc.).

I don’t think that the people selling these assets have any ill intentions. But I think that in practice, whether or not it was their intention, they’re making a quick buck off people that will be no better off with the pack than they were before.

There are other types of files in the bundle besides artwork – a couple of Unity tutorials, example particle systems, etc. – but there’s no reason to suspect they are any better than similar things which can be found free elsewhere.

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