On The Hook
As an amateur game developer using Unity, I often turn to the Unity Asset Store for stopgap measures used to cover aspects of the game development process that I can’t/can’t yet/don’t see myself ever being able to get around to making myself. Some of it has been specific — like buying 3D models for at least the prototyping stage — and others have been more general, nice to haves because an asset offers a faster way of doing something that I could do, but know would take me a lot of time (and momentum is important for me if I want to keep interested).
One major issue that I have with a community marketplace is…well, the community. I don’t mean in a typical forum way. Instead, it’s with the idea that just because one can doesn’t necessarily mean one should, especially when it comes to ongoing support.
I’ve recently been looking at an asset called The Spaghetti Machine which is a user-definable node editor. My plan for this would be to set it up so that each node would represent a sector in Project Universe, and the connections between nodes would represent the jumpgates. I would then (hopefully) be able to use the output of TSM to generate my Scriptable Objects, thereby creating a nice, visual representation of my game world. TSM would save me the “hassle” of having to learn to create my own node editor, although I put “hassle” in quotes knowing that learning how to do it would benefit me more in the long run than buying something off the shelf.
The last communication that I have been able to find from the developers of TSM has come in about a year ago. There are several posts on the official Unity Forum thread that are currently unanswered, and I checked into their Get Satisfaction support page only to find the same drop of communication. Links to a demo version of the product are broken, and even their sales-pitch YouTube video hasn’t had a comment in quite some time. The developers of the product have said that TSM was a tool that they developed internally for their own use, which means that it was never created specifically to be sold on the Asset Store, but at $100 for a single seat license, I have to carefully consider if this is something I want to buy. I’ve no doubt that the Asset is in sound condition because I haven’t seen too many complaints about it, but I am left to wonder if there will be improvements or even any responses to bugs in the software that fixing is going to benefit the developer’s internal use.
What bugs me the most is when a company sees a community marketplace as a dumping ground, or as a source of secondary income that they can take advantage of by releasing their internal projects for a fee. A lot of tools are made by experienced developers that have benefits outside of their own projects, and those tools would be a magnificent boon to people like me, but because supporting the product on the marketplace isn’t the company’s focus, I’ve seen several assets that have just been left to rot while still being sold at their original price point. That’s dangerous for people like me who come across them at a point after their heydays, who think that the asset is what they’ve been looking for, but who then have to seriously consider spending the money to get what they need, or to withhold the purchase because it’s well beyond it’s expiration date and the developer doesn’t care about the support of that facet of their project any longer.
If a developer is going to publish a tool on a community market, then the developer must make a promise to treat it as what it is: a real product for sale, complete with a support contract for the life of the product. If the product is to be no longer supported, then it should be removed or severely discounted in price to reflect this. Simply offering a mea culpa after months of silence claiming that they were busy with their “real project” isn’t good enough because who knows if that will ever come? It’s disappointing to search for a solution that would help significantly only to find that it’s expensive and yet poorly supported by the developers.