Hello, this is Blaine Smith from Gunpowder Games. Our recently released multiplayer fantasy naval battle game Maelstrom uses a ton of content from the Unreal Engine Marketplace, and we aren’t ashamed to admit it!
As you’ve likely heard, the Unreal Engine Marketplace offers a fantastic collection of models, animations, FX, plugins, Blueprints and even example projects to assist with the development of content no matter the scope or style.
With the proliferation of easily accessible online video game storefronts, it’s hard to avoid seeing games which either use out of place and obviously store bought assets, or even ‘flip’ entire example projects and sell them with a different name. As a result, it’s understandable that many of you might be put off by the idea of using store bought visual assets for fear of being associated with these low-effort projects, but that doesn’t need to be the case.
The visual appeal of Maelstrom is one of our biggest selling points and, as far as we know, nobody has even realized that the game uses Marketplace assets. So, what’s the secret to using content from the Marketplace without making your game look generic?
Let me explain.
Get the right assets to fit your visual style
Make sure it fits – This might seem obvious, but it’s the absolute baseline for using store bought content. If you aren’t sure what your visual style is, you should probably sort that out first.
Be critical – Get a really good look at assets you’re considering buying, maybe even going so far as to screenshot the assets and mock them up in 2D.
Read the reviews – We made a lot of decisions based on reviews of products from other developers.
Post Reviews – This helps others make good decisions and helps Epic curate its Marketplace, making it better for everyone.
If an asset isn’t quite perfect, that’s okay because the next thing is:
Modify and make assets your own
Keep in mind that you aren’t buying assets to save you from doing any work; you’re buying assets to save you from doing unnecessary work. Unless you have an uninspired project, you should have plenty of details you want to change in the assets you buy.
Doing this keeps your visual style coherent, prevents people from instantly recognizing assets they’ve seen in the Marketplace, and lets you make use of your creativity. Some people might not like the idea of using store bought assets because they’d rather have everything be their own work, but this step is where you transform purchased assets into your own thing.
Create original art
For the same reason you need to modify purchased assets to fit your game and your vision, you’ll want to create original artwork for the key parts of your game. You could use a store bought asset as a base of course, but it should be unrecognizable when you’re done.
Several packs on the Marketplace have good looking vessels, but we would have made a big mistake if we had just bought one and used exactly what was included rather than creating our own ships from scratch for Maelstrom. The ships are so central to the player experience that they have to have custom artwork – the same thing goes for the sea monsters!
Using Marketplace visual assets properly is far from an insurmountable challenge – you just have to put the same care and attention into the assets you’ve purchased as you would for content you’ve made yourself!