The problem with ‘future proofing’ game assets.

Stop wasting time trying to save yourself time in the future.

Posted by Sheila Nash on March 10, 2019

Front loading possible future requirements onto current art creation processes is a bad business practice. Taking time and money from the current development cycle to create a time savings in the future is a gamble and it almost never pays off. 

Also a decision like this is not usually properly vetted. There is a cost to doing the extra work and in maintaining this unused data that should be considered. It is a far better decision for a company to invest in making more flexible art processes that will benefit your company now and in the future.

Front loading possible future requirements onto current art creation processes is a bad business practice. Taking time and money from the current development cycle to create a time savings in the future is a gamble and it almost never pays off. 

Also a decision like this is not usually properly vetted. There is a cost to doing the extra work and in maintaining this unused data that should be considered. It is a far better decision for a company to invest in making more flexible art processes that will benefit your company now and in the future.

Author the art assets for the game you are making today.

Why is this a problem?

Lets look at a common example of creating larger textures just in case you use them on a future project. Maybe your current game resolution for a character face is 1024 x 1024 but your artists are working with PSDs that are 4096. 

Because the document starts out large so it doesn’t take long for files to get massive with each layer that is added. Each time you back that PSD up or someone needs to download it, you are moving dealing with huge files. Remember, the texture is being resized to 1024 x 1024 for the game each time so you gain zero benefit now for the cost of storage and time delays. 

The justification used for this approach is - if you need larger texture maps, you can just export them out larger. The problem is that the same decision to increase texture sizes is usually associated with other general technology improvements overall. Meaning, those textures  usually need to be reworked anyways. 

In our example, let’s say the big moment has finally arrived! The team decides to increase the size of the face textures in the game, from 1024 to something crazy, like 4096. Pretty soon after you here something similar to this:

"Good god, these faces look awful at this size. Can someone fix this? The camera is getting much closer now …and the faces look flat! Lets add better lighting too. Maybe change the textures so not include the mustaches because they are looking really sad at 4096 and baked into the texture. Can someone fix all the PSDs we have?"

Sure the PSDs can be fixed up - but they are absolutely huge right now, and the next guy in the massive PSD is going to start by duplicating a layer, and hiding the old one. 

Don't get me wrong - it is okay to do things to make it easier to work with the art over time but there is a balance. Actually its a serious business decision that should be treated as such.

We don’t know what is going to happen in the next 5 years but we do know that how we create our art assets is constantly changing. The companies that adopt art processes that are more flexible will be positioned to quickly take advantage of new innovations and ideas.