How the creator of Space for Unity saves you time while earning money
Asset Store publisher Stefan Persson is a master designer of space packages and creator of numerous sound effects. This Swedish wunderkind’s 27 assets help accelerate fellow creators’ development dreams – whether they’re prototyping outer-space worlds or adding the finishing audio touches to an about-to-be-released game.
Space – and Unity – were literally the final frontiers on Stefan Persson’s journey to the Asset Store. As a hobbyist game-maker, he had used various development environments over the years, though when he first looked at Unity in 2009, he wasn’t impressed.
“I initially made the mistake of dismissing it because I was used to an IDE (integrated development environment) and not an editor-like environment featuring things such as a scene view and prefabs.”
Lucky for the thousands of users who have downloaded and implemented his assets over the years, he took another look. “I revisited Unity a year later and it became a game-changer for me. The speed at which I could prototype really made it possible to make games quickly, which was important given how little free time I had available.”
He’s not kidding. Based in Nynäshamn, Sweden, he works full-time as an IT security consultant, is helping raise three kids and, when he has “extra” time, he’s renovating an old house.
Somehow all that activity in his personal and professional lives hasn’t prevented him from publishing 27 packages on the Asset Store under the name Imphenzia. As well as SPACE for Unity, his most popular assets are Universal Sound FX (a sound-effects bundle for any game genre), and Procedural Planets (for generating high-resolution planets procedurally).
But his initial contributions to the Asset Store, circa 2011, were simpler music assets and sound effects, which he admits “weren’t very popular, with just a handful of sales.”
Changing the focus to prototyping
So after just meager success with audio, how did he blast off into space-based assets?
“I had started to manually paint space-themed skyboxes for Unity and I released a few of those early skyboxes, or ‘space boxes,’ and they got more attention than my music. And since they were easier to sell than music, I got the notion that maybe graphical assets are something that game developers would want early in their prototyping phase more than music, which is typically something you add at a late stage of development.”
He realized that he was missing an opportunity of selling assets to gamers whose games didn’t make it past the prototyping stage which, he says, “for good or bad, is a very large proportion of games.”
But rather than trying to exploit people who fail to build the next big thing, his impulse was actually the opposite. He reasoned that if a developer could purchase an asset early in the development phase, at a fair price, it could really accelerate their prototyping/proof of concept, making it well worth the investment.
“I believe that if part way down the dev path you realize you’re not having fun or you want to shift focus to another concept, early asset purchases can help save you a lot of time.”
And that is exactly how he came up with the idea of SPACE for Unity: “As I started to manually create and reuse smaller image elements for spaceboxes in Photoshop, I realized that I could let Unity assemble all my space images. This would save me a lot of time, but I also saw that if I combined and shared all these elements in one package, it would let other people quickly build and customize their own unique space environments.”
So what can you actually do with SPACE for Unity?
SPACE for Unity essentially contains all the building blocks necessary to create a believable outer space world. Everything from moons and planets (with or without Saturn-like rings) to entire nebulae, galaxies, asteroid fields, space fog and other particle effects. It also contains a warp effect for spaceships.
The challenges of supporting a popular asset
When he first released SPACE for Unity, Persson was surprised by its success but also slightly overwhelmed with the number of users he had to support, and the number of new-feature requests he had to consider.
“One of my two biggest challenges has been very limited free time. You have to remember that I do this as a hobby! So I have to balance my time with my wife, three children, house, and day job, with creating and supporting multiple assets.”
Scope creep was the other big challenge. After the initial release of SPACE for Unity, he admits he was overly ambitious and entertained too many suggestions from users, which led to his biggest mistake.
“Out of excitement, I publicly announced my plans before I realized the time required and complexity of what I wanted to achieve. Unfortunately, some of the plans I had back then still have not been realized five years later.”
An example of such a challenge was trying to solve the complex task of making a universe fit into a single Unity scene, which is effectively limited to a few kilometers in size compared to millions of light-years for the real thing.
“I’ve learned my lesson, and I have a better idea of my own limitations, so I try to be open with users about my time restrictions and the technical limitations of my assets.”
SPACE for Unity in the gaming world
Persson has received a lot of positive feedback since he first started publishing assets, and many of the people he has heard from are using it very much like he envisioned. By being able to easily spawn space scenes and generate planets, they can quickly explore their ideas. He’s seen SPACE for Unity employed for everything from strategy games and platformers to space flight simulators.
“It’s cool to hear the stories from users, especially during their development journey and right up to release. While some have used the space assets as placeholders during prototyping – before procuring custom-made content – he says a substantial percentage have actually kept the content exactly as it was generated in the early stages of development.
What drives him
When it comes to creating assets, Persson’s main goal is to make them intuitive, visually or audibly pleasing, and offer uniqueness and reusability.
“I favor artistic appearance over realism. And my preferred approach when developing games and assets is prototyping, iterating, polishing and refactoring. I like to encourage rather than discourage grand ideas but I also advocate a manageable iterative method to reach the goal. And I also want my users to have fun!”
Continuing his asset publishing journey
Without making any promises, he says his ambition is to make it possible to procedurally generate a universe. But with the lessons he’s learned, he admits it will take time: “I’ll deliver separate elements along the way, and I will have to fit it into my schedule to maintain the fun.”
As well, he says he will keep adding sound effects to his Universal Sound FX library (his most popular asset) and release new specialist packages. And if that isn’t ambitious enough, he’s working on a killer asset that will allow users to make simpler games and prototypes even more quickly.
“It will make it easy and intuitive to handle tasks such as game-state management, sound effects and music management, UI transitions, object spawning, and high-score, input, and player management.”
We can’t wait to see the results from this industrious one-man asset shop!
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