The starting idea; questions; a glance at Asset Store (06-05-2021 10:51)

Well here I am about to start thinking about this project in the actual harsh light of day instead of the dim light of the bathroom while I’m in the bath thinking of this game.

The starting idea

As it came to me, the idea was to pursue that element of v r 3 that was about price comparisons and assessments of the “worth” of water assets into a related game/exhibition purely about the cost of assets on the asset store.

My intial thought was that I would buy assets at different price points and then display them in some way that invites thought about what they’re worth etc. Notably

Importantly I figure I can leverage the fact I can spend some money from a research account to not give a shit so much about paying for things I wouldn’t pay for.

Questions

I wonder if it’s too vague for a player to get a grasp on. Obviously I can have the usual didacts etc. presenting the objects as costing money. I wonder if there’s someway to make price comparisons a real thing (that could then leverage things like number of instances, scaling, etc.)? Or perhaps I “just” make installations that draw attention to those particular qualities of the objects in question?

I wonder if there’s a need to focus in on a thematic area of the asset store? I mean, I think 3D models is the correct overall thing to look at, but should it only be “horses” or something insane like that? Are there enough horses? But then that because essentially another instance of v r 3 with a harder bent toward money. I guess the choice of items at different price points can really be a key part of it - I’ll curate the objects for maximum fun for myself.

I wonder about the nature of the assets you buy - many assets are packs rather than a singular object. Many assets involve animations and interactivity in scripts rather than a static thing, and those things would need to be shown off.

I wonder about how much it could end up costing. If I limited myself to one item at a series of price points then

I wonder what the actual range of prices on the Asset store is. Guess I’ll have to… find out!

I wonder about the relationship between ratings and cost - should I be buying the highest rated thing at each price point as a way to navigate that? Should I be buying the highest and lowest rated things?

I wonder about the context/exhibition space and how that will interact with these ideas. There are many different ways to show an object the most obvious right now are

Did that other game at IGF in 2019 already do this??? circle0? No, not really.

A glance at the Asset Store

Let’s actually just take a look at this thing and see…

Packs - as I look at them I can see just dropping every available prefab somewhere and that’s that (though this of course raises questions about price versus showing them in their best light? Like if I just dump things from a village pack in a pile am I really exhibiting them in a fair way?)

Pricing - so many things are at .99 I’m starting to wonder if I should call this v r 4.99 or v r 3.99 ha ha. Maybe I should. There are 62 3D assets priced at $4.99 by the way. If you bought them all it would cost you $309.38. Which is not actually out of the question! Huh. I mean… that’s kind of fucking amazing… oh wait, maybe I fucked that up though… yeah I think there’s a lot more than that, bugger. Yeah actually there’s a bizarre hard line between FREE and $4.99. And there are WAAAAAAYYYY more than 62 things that cost exactly $4.99. Not doable, fuck. That said, I don’t have to buy all of them… I do like the idea now of everything costing the same amount I think… and $4.99 is a fun price point for this. There are 6042 3D assets that cost $4.99 for the record, which would cost over $30,000 and probably not the best use of my money.

Selection - if I proceed with the idea of v r $4.99 how can I then select specific items? I quite like this idea in general because I’m able to get 20 items per $100 (US) I spend, which feels like a good number for an investment. Even 20 thing would work. 26 things would be interesting if I can get an alphabet as a curation approach? Given there are 6042 that seems likely, but there’s no alphabetical sort? Here’s the base query anyway: . Do I need to literally just start look at 6000 assets and picking my favs? Maybe alpha and maybe some other criterion? I can already see there are a couple of environments in here which is a little bit interesting but might overwhelm the idea quite easily.

This is going to work. I mean compare these two just for hilarity:

That is fucking comedy GOLD my friend.

OKAY, so I think that just decides it for me on the $4.99 price point right now, I think it’s easier to grasp and easier for me to populate the game with a diverse set of things.

Curation is going to be other some rule-based thing like alphabetization, or the “top 20” things that cost that much or whatever. Although I worry that a “merit” system may eliminate some really fucking funny terrible things? Oh and wait there is an alphabetization: https://assetstore.unity.com/?category=3d&price=1-4&orderBy=5

I think it would make sense to only exhibit one work per creator to avoid samey things like low poly town construction kits etc.

Ooooo the Cyber Room could be very worthwhile.

Oh wow, so I’m officially excited about this one my friends. The curation needs some more thought but this is absolutely going to work and be kind of spectacular I think.


Selection; exhibition strategy; other thoughts (06-05-2021 15:29)

With the idea of making this a project about assets that cost $4.99 more or less settled (I even renamed the repository and the project itself), I can turn my mind toward the key curatorial questions

Selection

There are a few strategies for selection, as already approached above to some extent, here is just a list of what I can think of for now

Currently I’m leaning toward my own opinion because I just think that would be more fun? In that case I think the method would have to be to literally go through all 6000+ items, write notes about the interesting ones as I go (probably more notes early as I think about categories of things and their relationship to exhibition strategy), and then select based on that?

I’m thinking something like n=20 to n=40 so that it’s up to a couple hundred bucks to make.

Exhibition strategy

There are a lot of different ways to present these items to the user, as many ways as there are to build worlds in Unity I suppose, so I need some kind of strategy that is a) doable by me, a not-very-good Unity user and b) plays into the theme of the exhibition suitably, highlighting the idea and making it accessible.

Current thinking about options for location/place here…

And what about labelling?

Other thoughts

Overall I think we’re getting there. I think there’s a ton of really generative work to be done just going through the assets and dreaming/thinking/designing through them. And then could it be that the assembly “just works”? No of course not, but we can wish.


Welcome to the desert (07-05-2021 16:06)

Well! Exciting times as I actually created the Unity project and bought my first asset for $4.99 (plus tax and so on), which is, as promised, the Sahara Desert Landscape. Also grabbed the evergreen wonder that is the First Person Drifter character controller, though I’m still wondering whether I should be looking for a character controller that costs $4.99? How would I indicate it though? Maybe with an instructions screen at the start? Is there one? Doesn’t look like it.

Anyway, I copied the sample scene from the Sahara Desert asset and put the controller into it and hey presto I can walk around on the quite nice sand dunes…

Which is to say that at least for the moment I have my environment! I clearly need a placard of some kind of credit the landscape… I guess it should be the first thing you see when you spawn into the world. So I’ll need some kind of informational display object (which I guess I won’t actually buy but will just model in Blender or even in Probuilder potentially).

It’s pretty exciting to already be building something and to have the first purchase look like it’s going to work. It’s a fairly large environment, though I’ll need to pace it out a bit more with perhaps some cubes of different sizes to understand scale. Definitely feels like a solid choice for some fucking land art and other stuff. I really want to buy the Cyber Room now and figure out how to put it inside a little cube area that you can walk into… I think that may feel quite magical? We’ll see.

Anyway this thing is underway and I’m still optimistic. The horrible problems are yet to appear.

Oh I should say quickly that I’m putting all the purchased assets into a folder called 4-99 which I’m excluding from the Git repository so that I’m not exposing paid assets at all. It means the repo is a teensy bit useless in terms of recreating the game, but so it goes, so it goes.


Controllers and communities (10-05-2021 11:58)

I tweeted sadly about first person controllers the other day and, although I’ve already installed and have been using the classic First Person Drifter, I got another couple of recommendations I’ll probably check out when I have a moment. They are Gold Player by Hertzole, (recommended by Robert Yang), and The First Person by Breogan Hackett (recommended by Federico Fasce). Hertzole was so magnificent as to notice Robert’s recommendation and implement a zoom feature in the controller which is something I need/want; and Breoghan kindly offered support if needed.

All of this is to say: oh yeah, communities. I don’t avail myself of the broad community of experimental/indie game developers I’m a de facto part of, so it feels especially remarkable and magic when you say something into a warm and inviting void and have it reply with helpful and supportive words and links.


PBR Statues Pack; Loss of the cyber room (11-05-2021 16:19)

I’ve felt oddly significant anxiety about putting assets into this game. I suppose it’s in part just because they actively cost money and that feels significance, but it’s also curation anxiety. I don’t want to end up picking a bunch of dumb stuff that’s dumb. At some level I suspect that any reasonably diverse set of assets will work, but the only way to find out is to do it and that’s taxing somehow.

PBR Statues Pack

Anyway, I did add my first non-desert asset, which is the PBR Statues Pack by Maksim Bugrimov. They’re pretty fancy looking with nice textures and… stuff. I’m realizing I don’t know much about how to speak about these kinds of assets. They reflect the light nicely? They have a kind of generic fantasy world idea behind them. Buddhas, monks, Norse runic stones. Actually it’s pretty weird how diverse they are? Why would these different categories be together in the first place? Very museum-y actually which is funny and appropriate.

For now I’ve just dumbed the available prefabs in the pack into the desert near the player and taken a look at them. They’re certainly there, in the desert. It raises a few things:

I also really need the informational plinth next because that will help situate them as something to look at etc.

Anyway, I don’t have reduce anxiety but it was nice to do something and see a result. Maybe a touch underwhelming, but that’s fine that’s fine.

Also I haven’t really resolved any selection stuff.

Loss of the cyber room

I wanted to use the Cyber Room as my first asset - I love the idea of an interior scene and I’ll still look for one. But now it costs $5.55! What the fuck!?!? Damn you!

Not really, they’re welcome to charge what they want, but I’m saddened I have to say. I was genuinely excited. I guess they’re probably repriced everything up to $5.55 by now, which is fine. What the market will bear blah blah.

And anyway there’s probably something interesting about the fluctuation of prices and my ability to put particular kinds of work into this game. It’s a good thing to run into.


Plinth; label; curation documentation; the desert (12-05-2021 15:15)

Plinth

Well we now have a plinth. I’m moving achingly slowly on this project but that’s okay there’s no rush.

I managed to produce the world’s simplest (or second simplest after a cube?) plinth that’s just an elongated cube with the top face angled up. Attached some text to it, prefabbed it, added plinths for the desert (visible on startup) and the cluster of PRB Statues. Basically it works surprisingly well as it is. You can kiiinda read the text without zooming in and it’s nice and crisp with the zoom. Importantly the plinth doesn’t look utterly fucking stupid.

Also Unity’s prefab editing seems to be far better than I remember, with an actual little “blueprint room” where you can edit what’s on the thing in peace and quiet and with the knowledge you’re specifically editing that thing. May even mean that when I inevitably get sick of my plinth I can easily remodel it without having to replace however many I’ve already positioned in the scene.

Had a microcosm of my usual problems with Unity as I struggled with Probuilder (but only a bit) and shadow acne (but only a bit). In short, I got in the saddle faster than usual. It helps I’m trying to do nothing even remotely complicated. For some reason the Desert’s lighting came with no shadow bias or normal bias which caused the shadow acne. Had to reread Things on the Internet to remember how that particular problem works to find the appropriate window among the millions in the UI.

Anyway, a plinth.

Label

Having a plinth raises the question of what to write on the plinth. For now we only have

The most obvious missing piece is a medium statement, which I guess can just be 3D models? Meshes? Terrain and lighting? That kind of thing.

There’s also room to make some kind of small curatorial statement about the thing, but perhaps I don’t think that’s a very good idea when there’s likely to be room for only something like 30 words or so.

I’d also quite like to think about linking to the asset on the asset store.

Oh and it probably makes sense to list the purchase date (and time?) to avoid that issue where an asset changes in price. That’s a few things. I kind of need to at least try to get this right early on so I don’t spend ages repairing 20-40 plinths later on.

Curation documentation

Having diddled around (productively) I do need to “just start buying work for the exhibition”, which implies I need a curation strategy and some way of documenting the process specifically of selection.

I’m tempted to create a separate curation document where I can

a) Go through the 6000ish items in the Asset Store and make notes about the ones that are most interesting and worth including, as well as more general principles that emerge as I go

b) Write specific notes on how the whole thing is being staged and thought about.

In many ways this would be more for me than for anyone hypothetically reading this as it’s mostly so I can organize my thoughts about how this thing can be approach.

The desert

Oh by the way I eyeballed the scale of the desert and it should be pretty good in terms of including 20-40 elements, taking account of the fact that at least one or two may be quite massive (e.g. a medieval village or whatever).

Does it need paths to indicate where stuff is, or some other way to show that, or an actual map you can look at, or should people just wander around in the desert? Gosh there are a lot of decisions to be made.


Curation progress (18-05-2021 16:11)

Well I’ve made some progress with the whole issue of curation as you can go and see in the curation document just over there. I’m not going to recap everything, but here’s the gist plus some extra thoughts (some generated while talking to Jim and Mary about it all)

Basically I feel a bit more like I’m in the driver’s seat here people, okay? Okay.

Tomorrow I’ll begin selecting by category and installing work.


Return to the saddle (27-05-2021 10:54)

It’s been a little while since I wrote about the project in this diary (and a little while, frankly, since I did any work on it). I did manage to review all $4.99 assets in the 3D category and made selections or near-selections for everything.

So in that sense I’m ready to start genuinely installing things and thus to run into the inevitable problems that actually putting things technically together will generate. My biggest fears are:

And those are just the things I can actually think of! Imagine all the lurking difficulties I can’t perceive yet! Yaaaaay!

HOWEVER, the actual process of installation does seem like it can be pretty fun and gratifying. Just to actually see some stuff in the space and build toward a complete experience seems awesome, so no real complaints here. Let’s try!


Ozymandias (31-05-2021 16:23)

A very quick note to say the other day I did position all my prototyping materials from BBlock:


Returning (30-06-2021 11:03)

Hi there, it’s been a while since I actually did much, and of course the main line of commentary right now is over in the Curation document, but I’m attempting a return! I have opened Unity! I am looking at the seagull’s plinth, which was the last task I managed to complete before life took over savagely in the form of… what? What happened around the 8th of June? Well we were writing the Design Issues paper, that’s probably what it was. Followed by VOLUPTAS.

The only kind of noteworthy thing I can report here is that I’m running into potential trouble being reimbursed for the materials I’m getting from the Asset Store via my grant. There’s policy at the university around software needing to be pre-approved by IITS (the IT people of the university) and I’m in the middle of trying to argue it’s kind of ridiculous in my case.

At any rate, I’m just going to keep working away on this game, finances be damned! (Though it’s funny there have now been two external money-things that have interrupted work a bit, the credit card fiasco and now the reimbursement grant stuff.)

Oh and I’m thinking I’ll write an essay about this game and its process and its focus on MONEY for the book! Let’s see how that goes too.

Anyway, it’ll be nice to be back to making something, that’s for sure.