In this post I would really like to focus everyone’s attention to the almost universal act of Googling for content you will eventually use in a game, Be it a photo for overlays, a mesh from some web site. Which can be fine – if Google leads you to a reputable site like CG Textures or Turbo Squid, but other than that, you need to be careful!
I love googling for gold as much as the next person and there are millions of amazing things on the internet to get inspired by as well as millions of quality royalty free assets and images laying around for free and or relatively cheap! Meaning you have no excuse for using some random persons artwork / photo which you do not have permission to use.
There is so much stuff out there that people allow you to use! all the way from scripts to photos for overlays to actual 3D assets and effects! So why steal? Do yourself a favor, if you need to do this, do it the right way!
You can’t just grab any ole asset and slap it in your game, or copy/paste work from another artist simply because you “found it on Google”… There is a lot of things to consider when yoinking things off of the intertubes! Such as: Is the person who posted it actually okay with you using it? If so, how do you know? and how do you know that they did not just steal that from somebody else? This is tricky business! Here is a breakdown of all the good/bad, fun/terrible things that can happen!
Now keep in mind that I am specifically referring to the direct use of any part (Whole or individual elements) of content found online, as opposed to using anything found online / anywhere as reference / inspiration. Go ahead, Plaster your second monitor with 40 pictures of art from everyone who floats your boat, just don’t even think about copying even a single pixel off of that Q3A texture or that WOW painting, that’s just wrong.
This is all _very_ important because in the video game industry, I am going to say that _every_ artist at the very least uses Google to grab overlays, and if they do not do this on a regular basis, they have at some point! (I know you have a friend who takes all his own photo reff… But I bet even he has used Google once or twice! and if he says otherwise, hes a liar… maybe.)
So read carefully! and If you have any experiences, thoughts, gripes, links or ideas to share that I may have missed, Please post a comment and I can update the article.
* Do not steal, not even a single pixel from anybody, make that pixel yourself damnit.
Are you just too lazy to reproduce what you see? Afraid to learn how to do it yourself? bah!
* Using Royalty free overlays / 3D models / Unity store assets is okay! this is why and how!
Why would you spend two weeks making a Harley Davidson engine or a whole damn train when somebody else made one, and is giving it to you to use, for free or dirt cheap? No shame in saving time and making progress, Grab whats out there! BUT do not just grab any ole picture or model you find on Google! here is why!
* It may belong to somebody who does not allow / want it to be used in this way. Respect that person, they deserve it.
* It may be stolen or plagiarized itself!
* It may simply be somebody elses art intended purely for showcasing.
* It may be intended for resale.
Remember! if the author does not expressly give you permission to use it then move along!
* seek royalty free 2D art and Textures.
If you find yourself googling for “leather overlay” and “grunge texture”, do you click to view the site and read it in context? Is this some dudes vacation photos? or is it a website where somebody is proudly showing off some art they created? If so, Think twice about using these, in fact, just don’t! Why? A) Its strange and awkward. B) Its not your art! so back off, respect that and maybe send them a message telling them they should watermark their art!
There are tons of great websites with FREE stock photos, And tons with really high quality stock photos which are well worth every penny!
One great site I found after two seconds of googling is TextureKing… There, you have NO excuse! stop using other peoples photos without their permission! This site is free! and do this guy a solid and tell everyone how rad you think TextureKing is while your at it.
Need Normal maps and Unity shaders already set up? Easy!! Check out the Unity Asset store! Plenty of great cheap/free assets to get you started, like this Forest Ground Texture Package , Download it, Use it, love it, update it, send it back to the creator with all your updates/changes along with a thank you note! let him do whatever he wants with it, It’s the least you could do.
* seek royalty free 3D assets.
Do the same thing for 3D assets as well! there are tons of models of an AK47 out there, most of them are free and in all honesty, several of them are _AMAZING_ quality, so why would you spend days modeling one when you could download it for free? Save yourself some time! Make sure to check the sources and _READ_ the readme files included with the file, Double check that the creator is actually okay with you using it commercially/personally/educationally. Most important of all, do _not_ claim this work as your own, rather you should thank profusely the person who gave it to you for free.
Check out TF3DM and TurboSquid as mighty fine examples of websites which provide free and pay 3D assets.
Again, be sure to check to the best of your ability that the asset is not stolen and that the author is in fact giving you permission to use that asset in the context which you intend to.
Remember that by not finding royalty free assets or paying for assets you are STEALING.
* Stealing is terrible terrible practice, and it is a lie.
First of all, Do not steal, Like ever. And second of all, do yourself a favor and do not make employers or clients to think that you can produce something you actually cannot, or you will be forced to continue to hack your way through the rest of your career, while risking your job and credibility. Only do what you know how to do, and if that is not cutting it anymore then learn new things!
* Do not copy and paste from others into your art… Ever, Not even privately.
Don’t even begin to give this a try, Do not even temporally use somebody else’s work, As you do not _ever_ want to become accustomed to stealing art. Do yourself a HUGE favor and re-produce it as best you can if you must. You will likely end up with wildly different results in the process and better yet, you will have learned something new.
* Potential Legal issues.
By stealing you are opening up a huge legal can of worms! Imagine if your theft gets sniffed out and you wind up getting your employer in deep legal / financial troubles! It can happen, and you will lose your job as well as earn a huge black mark among the people you depend on for work, and all of their friends, and their friends friends, and that right there is the entire industry.
* Credit Asset Sources.
Do this, Always, Even if the author says ”its fine, you don’t have to credit me”… Do it anyway, because you are such a good person.
* Credit Inspiration.
Why not? The artist who inspired you put their work out there, why not make their day and let them know that it made a difference! chances are they get trolled more than they get complimented, so pat them on the back because you are such a good person.
*Appropriate and Inappropriate times to use royalty free assets
Go ahead, use royalty free stuff on your own personal projects/games! But try not to use them when working for a client, they hired you to create things for them, not download them! Unless they specifically ask you to for whatever reason, In which case keep track of those who created the initial assets and make sure they get the credit that is due!
As an example of totally inappropriate use: In the case of 3D assets it would be highly inappropriate if you were a freelancer that received an assignment to sculpt a 6 shooter pistol and just download one, acting as if you made it! Not only would this be immoral but illegal! Check your contract again, find the line where it says you are not allowed to use content which was not created by yourself and then reevaluate your life choices.
* Watermark your own content to make people think twice.
Help solve this problem by adding a watermark to your images, this should stop the average person who thinks nothing of using Googled images.
* How not to improve.
* How to improve.
Find what inspires you and what you love in other artists, imitate it in your own work!
Maybe its J.C. LEYENDECKER‘s amazing painting style, Maybe its Kenneth Scott‘s stunning sculpting style, you just need to try it for yourself! learn to do what they do by doing studies of their art.
Do your self a favor and do not just reproduce a shape Ken made, or a brush stroke J.C made, rather you should attempt to make the things you think they would in the context of your study and ideally somewhere along the way you will learn something.
So lets try and do this the right way because with Google it has become very easy to be a low down dirty thief and that is no good! Save yourself some legal trouble and have a clean conscience by seeking out proper asset vendors.
On a final note, Please be aware that I do in fact have a number of Royalty Free assets within my Unity game, which I will be explaining in a later post, as well as giving full and appropriate credit to! I also plan on returning my modifications of the assets to the initial authors for them to do whatever they want with, after all, its only fair.
Thanks for reading!
Barry Michael Collins.