What is in-game asset flipping and is it still bad?

Asset reversals are a growing phenomenon in the gaming world. Particularly with the advent of gaming markets such as Steam and the Nintendo eShop.

But what is asset reversal? And is that a bad thing all the weather? Let’s dig deeper into the concept.

What is asset reversal?

Asset flipping is a term applied to the practice of buying or using pre-fabricated / pre-rendered core assets in video game development, without modifying them or adding any original assets around them. We have often used it as a derogatory term, and we generally think of games made with mishandled and flipped assets.

For example, let’s say you are a beginner who wants to develop a game in Unity or a similar development engine. If you are a novice, you can purchase assets or a demo game from the site Unity Asset Store to use as a base to build your first game. Assets like this can also help you have a pre-made world, so you can focus on other areas of expertise, like game physics or AI enemy.

Using assets in this way is fine. In fact, using predefined resources to build your game is also great, as long as your game is actually playable. If you’ve problem-solved, created some nice atmospheric effects, and your characters and NPCs are working in harmony, there’s no reason not to market your game.

However, all you have to do is gather a bunch of assets that don’t work, or just rename a demo that was meant to serve as a base, in order to build a game quickly and then market it without thinking about it, that’s when the turnaround is. active becomes a harmful practice.

Related: What is Shovelware in Games?

Where can you find reverse headlines?

hammer 2 asset storage unit

Image Credit: Unity Asset Store

Frankly? You will find games with returned assets all over. Literally check out any marketplace like Steam, PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store, and Nintendo eShop, and you’ll find countless spilled titles cluttering the digital storefront.

A great example is a full game asset available through the Unity Asset store, called Hammer 2. This is a complete game model, which its developers have devised as the basis for creating a new game. However, there are several shameless asset reversals going around, some even more cheeky than others.

The description of the Hammer 2 asset from its developers, XFormGames, says this. As you can see, using the resources of this game is absolutely fine, the developers even say it:

This sample project is for hobbyist developers who want to make the leap to a publishable game. Use full scripts, snippets, or architecture in your own game.

Look in the eShop, however, and you’ll come across a game called The bullet: time for revenge. Seems familiar? Yes, that’s because it contains returned assets from Hammer 2. However, take a look at this beauty; Hammer 2: Reloaded. At least the “developers” of The Bullet: Time of Revenge bothered to change the name of the asset they returned and sold! Bad luck with Pix Arts and its blatant trump flip, however.

This is just one example of a game that we might see as an asset reversal and we would see negative use of pre-fabricated assets.

Is flipping always bad?


Image Credit: DCStudio /Freepik

No, this is not the case. Think about the time it takes to develop a game, even if the crunch culture is very present.

Would you rather wait 20 years while a developer literally builds everything from scratch, or would you be okay with a few generic assets used as part of an original title, in order to save time and focus on things more important than the background NPCs that you can’t interact with?

Let’s face it, the answer will probably be the last. Many game developers use predefined resources. This is not a problem and we should not blame them for it. It becomes a problem when people shamelessly snatch an entire base game from the Unity / Unreal Asset store and sell it as their own for profit.

So maybe the real issue is terminology. A growing number of people are using the term asset rollover to describe all play with prefabricated assets, and do it in a derogatory sense. Such games then become objects of derision, which is detrimental to developers and is also underserved.

So remember, using assets is not a bad thing. At least, not before plagiarizing other people’s work and passing it off as your own for the players’ hard-earned money.

Related: What Is Crunch Culture In Video Games?

To return or not to return?

As you can see, there is a problem with the way we refer to using predefined assets in games. There is nothing wrong with it. At the end of the day, even the active pinball machines in there is nothing illegal about the negative meaning of the sentence. This is not appropriate, but it still does not violate any law or rule of the particular asset market that they have used.

Maybe gamers need to fully appreciate how game development works and the time it takes. And how, in the end, using a few predefined elements in the background of your game doesn’t hurt anyone, or hamper the overall gaming experience.

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