The Mouse and the Asset Store: The Story of Ghost of a Tale
During the Ghost of a Tale Indiegogo campaign, many were surprised to learn that this game wasn’t the work of a whole studio of developers. According to Lionel Gallat, the veteran animator behind this little gem, being a one person studio isn’t what it used to be. And that’s a good thing.
“I get a lot of indispensable help from a lot of people. There are so many things I can’t do. I needed a proper programmer helping me. Same with music.” The crowdsourced funds allow him to pay freelancers and use the Unity Asset Store as much as he needs to.
“It’s indispensable, I find a lot of things there that are the building blocks of my game,” says Gallat. As an artist, he didn’t expect it to be so useful. “But soon enough, I found tools that I needed to build the game’s world. I don’t waste time trying to reinvent the wheel.”
When he worked as an animation director for such films as Despicable Me and The Lorax, big technical teams were available to adjust details at short notice. Often, he could just walk over to somebody’s desk and ask. As an indie developer, he doesn’t really have the same options.
Fortunately, the Unity community has been very helpful. “I send requests to developers of different assets, when I need some extra features. Most of the time, they’re really helpful and adjust the assets quickly, which is really great.”
However, in a few instances, communication with developers was an issue. “For example whenever there is an important bug to be fixed and the publisher is not quite responsive about it.” Gallat would like the publishers to consider how hard this is on small teams.“I’m mostly doing the thing on my own, so if they give up on support, there’s nothing I can do. Thankfully it doesn’t happen too often and the vast majority of publishers I worked with do offer excellent support.”
The assets that Lionel Gallat, aka Seith, praises the most are those that help him to achieve high-end graphics.
Decal textures are those that overlay other textures, providing a more detailed and realistic feel to the rocky terrain of the Ghost of a Tale world. Decal system allowed Gallat to use them easily and without burdening the performance of the game. And it’s one of those assets with helpful and swift support. “It’s amazing. The support is top-notch, and this system allows me to slap beautiful decals anywhere I want at almost no cost. Oh, and it’s free—although I donated money because it’s so good,” he said.
Recently, all the game’s shaders have been converted to physically-based shaders using the Shader Forge tool. Why was this effort worth it? “It just looks so much better. Physically Based Shaders are more intuitive. Non physical shaders have always been a bit of a cheat and they tend to break in different lightning conditions,” explains Gallat.
But the main reason for the switch was that programming shaders took too much time. He needed an artist-friendly tool that would better suit his workflow.
“Shader forge is great, the manipulation, the UI, everything feels very integrated to Unity,” he says. “ The developer, Joachim Holmer, also assisted me with some customization. It was very fast, the features that I needed were already in the next beta.”
Ghost of a Tale is progressing at a brisk pace and Lionel Gallat hopes that his work will be even easier once he gets his hands on Unity 5, which he has already pre-ordered. “I’m really looking forward to all the graphics features, especially to real-time Global Illumination. Also, the Mecanim updates will come in handy.”
Whatever features are in the new version of Unity, however, the Ghost of a Tale developer plans to keep taking advantage of the Asset Store. “It’s always great to supplement skills that I don’t have. People specialize, develop very specific things that can be extremely useful”.
So when are we going to get our hands on the game? “We’re probably going to show the game around at conventions in Europe during the summer. I really can’t wait to show that the screenshots that I post are in-game footage and not just concept-art!”