Wow! My appeal for reviews and ratings for the asset pack in Unity’s store has had quite a response.

Many thanks to everyone who took the trouble to click on those stars and jot down a few words. I’m very grateful.

You guys are great!

Work on the synth droids is slow. Life is getting in the way, as usual, but I’m hopeful that progress will accelerate. One of the things that has slowed me down (not family related) has been a ‘re-tooling’ on my part.

The screen grabs you will have seen in a previous post were from ZBrush, which is a new package to me. So I’m essentially getting up to speed with everything it can do. My previous experience with sculpting packages has been the excellent, and free, Sculptris. Now it is also part of the Pixologic stable of programs. But I’ve probably done most of my sculpting in Mudbox over the last few years, but never in anger – not for a ‘live’ project. We teach Mudbox to the students at Solent University on the Computer and Video Games degree course in the South of England. So I knew it well enough to really enjoy it (it is a great program) and to be able to teach it to the students.

My experience with creating game characters is a little dusty. In short, at the start of my career in games (at the end of the nineties) I was an animator and character artist. Gradually I because more of a technical and lead artist, and if I did do much asset creation myself it was, more often than not, environments. So I missed out on the great sculpting revolution that has occurred since then with ZBrush leading the way. Now I want to create characters again it is a real pleasure to use these tools.

I wanted to make sure I was using the right tool. Mudbox is great to work with; it has a fantastic interface and excellent sculpting ‘feel’ (something really important) BUT, and its a big but, it needs decent base meshes to avoid stretching out the polys during a sculpt. If you are freestyling and want to push your sculpt in a radical direction you start to encounter problems. There are work-arounds. The new(ish) retopology tools in Mudbox are good. They solve some of this issue. The thing is they don’t solve it nearly as well as ZBrush with the amazing Dynamesh and Zremesher combo. Amazing! So fluid, it hardly interrupts the workflow.

I also felt I had to explore 3D Coat as I have trusted friends who use it and swear by it. I tried it and liked it. The voxel sculpting and live clay tools are equivalent (nearly) to the ZBrush tool set. You don’t feel restricted on ‘form’ like you do in Mudbox. However, what let it down for me (and your experience may differ) was that the ‘feel’ of the brushes was patchy. Performance in ZBrush and Mudbox was good, for me. Sculpting was silky smooth with almost all brushes. But 3D Coat, I found, had some brushes that performed well, with very fluid ‘feel’, while others were unusable. It’s a shame because many aspects of the package are great.

So that’s a very long-winded explanation of why I’m taking my sweet time. It’s a big decision, choosing the right tool. It’s a pity that ZBrush’s interface is such a nightmare to learn. Another reason progress is sluggish.

Unity_WIP_forum_post_001

I’m reflecting upon sales of the assets in the Unity store.

When I first got the idea to sell some assets in the store it was quite some time ago. At that time there didn’t seem to be much in the way of competition. There were some high quality assets packs of the sci fi persuasion out there, most notably from the excellent Manufactura K4, but even his pack was of the classic dirty, industrial sci fi look. So in choosing the clean look I thought my assets could stand out.

It’s my own fault. Too much time has passed and now there are plenty of other assets competing for screen space in the store pages. It’s tougher to stand out. Like any on-line store, assets are sorted by attribute chosen by the user: by date; by rating; by name; by popularity. When you click through to the category you are interested in (3D Models/Environments/Sci-Fi in this case) the default attribute for the page sort is by ‘Popularity’. So naturally this makes it the most important ‘sort’. If you are on page one for this sort then your asset will be seen first. First in the queue is always best. It takes more work to click through and sift out what you want so naturally the assets near the top get more clicks. Its not because people are lazy, it’s just that we are all restricted by time. Many customers of the store are keen hobbyists so they are doing this in their spare time – time which might not be plentiful.

So, from the publisher’s perspective, how do you get more clicks and thus more sales? Because if you don’t get more clicks and sales then soon your asset sinks down to the bottom of the pile. That is very dispiriting, especially if you have sunk a lot of time into an asset like I have. What to do?

Well, I can’t do anything about sort by ‘Name’. That’s not a criteria which matters much to buyers. It’s important to give your assets a descriptive and memorable name but simply choosing something like ‘Aardvark Acme Sci Fi Pack’ just to get to the top of the list is silly.

Sort by ‘Date’ is really out of my hands. If I update frequently then it keeps the asset ‘young’ which is a good thing, and something I intend to do. I’m working on version 1.1 now.

‘Popularity’ is plainly based upon a mysterious algorithm used by Unity based upon (I’m guessing) sales, ratings, review count and even clicks. So its easy to see how people with assets near the top of this list are likely to stay there, unless they let their asset stagnate and do not provide updates regularly. A young asset like mine is going to have a hard time climbing this ladder, which is depressing as it is the most important.

Lastly sort by ‘Rating’ is something that I can hope to improve upon. I’ve made a good quality asset (I think) so I think it deserves high ratings. (I hope that doesn’t come across as arrogant. I just think I do need to believe strongly in my product and project that to potential customers, and I have the experience in game art production to back that up.)
I’ve been lucky so far, in as much that two users agree with me and are kind enough to give me reviews with 5 stars. Thanks guys!

If I can get more users to give me 5 star ratings then my asset pack will climb the sort by ‘Rating’ ladder. Looking at the asset store, by my calculations, I think I need another 2-3 five star ratings to really make a difference.

Of course I cannot contact my customers directly. For obvious reasons buyers details remain anonymous. But I can at least appeal here to anybody reading this who has bought my Clean Sci Fi asset pack to take the trouble to post a rating/review (however short). Please make it a 5 star rating!

That’s very cheeky isn’t it? There’s a good reason why I’m asking this, besides the obvious. Looking at the sort by ‘Rating’ ladders it is obvious that if your average review rating dips below 5 then you cannot possibly make page one. No chance. If I have just one four star review then my rating prohibits me being on that crucial page. Everyone on page one has five stars.

Now, I don’t want anyone to be dishonest. If you are loving the assets and think it deserves five then your conscience is clear. For those of you who want to help but cannot, in all honesty, give it five stars then please do contact me (either by commenting here or emailing me at simon@madewithmice.com) and tell me what would make it five stars for you. If I can I will respond to that feedback and try and make it worthy in your eyes.

20th May: Just a quick addendum. If anyone out there really likes the asset pack but just doesn’t want to have to compose a review, it turns out you don’t have to write anything after all. At least, not if you don’t want to. In the Asset Store/Downloads page where you have the entry for my asset pack and the option to download/import into Unity there is also a row of 5 stars. Simply click on the stars to set your rating.

Just published a short playlist of videos to support the asset pack.

I’m getting somewhere, I think.

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Ideas for the synth soldiers.

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The client work is done and I can concentrate on assets for the store again.
I’ve been thinking about this as, so far, no sales have materialised. I think there are several reasons for this. The chief one is that when I first researched what to make for the store I looked at Sci Fi environments. At that time (so long ago now) there was not much. One or two environment kits and only one stood out with any quality. That was one of ManufacturaK4’s early asset packs and, critically, it was in the traditional grey metal industrial ‘dirty’ sci fi style. So a high quality clean sci fi environment pack seemed a good bet.
Since those days until now several quite good packs have emerged and other complimentary assets besides. There is also quite a lot of terrible asset packs.
So, simply put, I’m going to have to try a lot harder to stand out and get noticed.
My plan is to continue to add value to the asset pack (of course) and, at the same time, create smaller complimentary assets that can help drive people to discover the main assets. On top of this I’ll publish tutorials and materials that also show how to get the most from them; in effect showcases for the assets.
It’s a tall order but I really need to do this or it is all wasted effort.
First up is going to be a synthetic cyborg-like soldier to patrol the rooms and corridors. I’m gearing up for some sculpting. I’ll post progress as it happens.

Happy Daylight Saving!
Well it’s been a busy few days. I wish I could say I’ve been rushed off my feet dealing with support for the asset pack but sadly that’s not the case. In fact I can safely say I’ve fumbled the launch of the Sci Fi pack.

It’s not all down to my own ineptitude, I think it’s fair to say, but a bit of bad luck. In an ideal world I would have planned it to the nth degree and had time to react to anything that caused a surprise in the publishing process. Doing it for the first time, combined with two young children, plus other client work in the mix and it’s been a perfect storm. Okay, a bit of an overstatement, but the Asset Store surprised me to begin with by accepting my assets after just over a week. I was expecting a few lines of feedback and suggested fixes before a resubmission – being the first time I’d done this and all. So I thought I’d have another week to get some launch materials together to drip feed into my thread on the Unity Forums. Serves me right for being so efficient!

The biggest issue however was my wife coming down with mastitis the night I learnt the assets had gone live. If you can’t be bothered to Google it I can tell you that mastitis is very painful and also brings flu-like symptoms. And she had to carry on breast-feeding. Suddenly I’m helping to look after her and the other two.
So no launch materials.

She’s nearly over it now, I hope, but some client work has just come in so that pushes back anything I can do for the assets. Oh well, gotta pay the bills.

Clean Sci Fi: Modular Corridors and Rooms now available to buy on the Asset Store! Click the link below!

https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/32700

Just had confirmation that my asset pack has been accepted.

Actually something of a surprise since I’ve found a couple of issues that need fixing myself. Either the Unity crew didn’t spot them or didn’t deem them show-stoppers. So…hurrah!

Can’t find it in the store yet, however. I’ll post here when it goes live.

Wow! I’d better get my first update ready!

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