Those Kind of Assets

In Dan Hon’s 186th issue of his newsletter, Things That Have Caught My Attention, he finds himself sitting in a suburban Starbucks thinking about the shipping container Starbucks near the Portland airport and writing about video game tourism:

“Sure, the idea of videogames-as-tourism, or escapism, isn’t necessarily a new one. My anecdata points to a bunch of people who just like wandering around other cities and climbing on top of things.

What I’m getting at, I think, is this: there’s a stupendous amount of value locked up in the high-res mostly-accurate models, textures and geometry involved in the production of contemporary Triple-A videogames. … I can kind-of imagine a company like Ubisoft offering some of their assets up on a CC-alike no-commercial use licence for educational or non-profit products. Imagine what could be created with access to those kind of assets.”

Dan Hon

“Imagine what could be created with access to those kind of assets.”

1. TKOA is Bullshit

That is the phrase that stuck in my head at 3am and wouldn’t go away. Access to those kind of assets. Those kinds of assets. In a sense I totally agree with Dan Hon that access to “those kind of assets” (TKOA) could spark some amazingness. But more importantly, amazingness doesn’t need TKOA. Amazingness needs something else, because TKOA are not actually the interesting part or every Triple-A game and blockbuster movie would be amazing.

This is related to the “Gear Delay Excuse”. I’ll make my movie after I buy that camera. I just need more software for this project. I better buy this fancy graph paper… I need more ______ before I make my ________ cause I want my ________ to look like Triple A. I need TKOA!

Nope, you don’t need TKOA.

2. MVR > TKOA

Amazingness isn’t limited by resolution (I’d argue that high resolution actually makes it harder to create amazingness). Instead of waiting for access to TKOA people should be building up the MVR (minimum viable resources) it takes to make something.

MVR is not Triple-A quality. MVR is ramen and a roll of toilet paper. MVR is the budget most indie game developers are asking for when they create a Kickstarter (there are 197 active video game projects on Kickstarter right now).

3. Concept + Repetition

Dan Hon is correct that there is a lot of value locked up in TKOA and it’s true that better gear will make a better project. But what won’t make a better project is sitting around waiting for access to TKOA and better gear. Waiting around makes no project.

You make with the assets you have on hand. Use crayons and construction paper. It might look terrible but you just make it again better. Then you make it again with something better. Rinse. Repeat. Eventually you make a new project because the idea is more important that the gear. The concept weighs more than TKOA.


Conclusion: Gear Delay is fear. TKOA are a fantasy masking fear. Make shit.