In defence of placeholders

A completed title should never completely rely on licensed third-party assets alone. No serious game developer with an inch of integrity would be proud of doing so. However, for prototyping, it is unavoidable. Game developers themselves refer to such use of “asset flipping” as placeholders. It’s such a ubiquitous practice, that it’s odd why I must defend it.

Total Rendition’s current versions (as of May 2023) has these too. “Asset flipping” has acquired a bad rap since there are many instances of shovelware using it, insisting that these are already complete, because of it. The flip side is that nearly every big budget title you have ever heard of probably has had used placeholder assets in some shape or form over the course of their development.

You may not have readily noticed that (because screenshots featuring placeholders were traditionally, rarely, if ever released), but then again, the video game publishing landscape was different. At that time, game publishers were still prepared to invest in video game developers. That is to say, without demanding from developers statistics on users like venture capitalists do now. In other words, the resources of developers were arguably less externally strained than these are now.


Indeed, for a game developer in this day and age, it is stupid not to use placeholders. If all assets had to be made in-house from the very beginning, software engineers would get stuck. In fact, programmers highly frown on this attitude and even name this “Not-Invented-Here” when it involves code. They would not be able to test out the mechanics, animation code or audio design code, until the relevant artists had completed these.

However, while originally-made assets will help a game make truly stand out, a small degree of licensed third party assets, even in the final game, are not necessarily a bad thing, if done within reason. Film production often reuses certain locations and production designs. If you think this only happens in B-movies or Direct-To-DVD sequels, consider that one particular building – the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles – appeared in a variety of movies, including Blade Runner.

I realise perfectly well that SchiZotypy released Total Rendition as early access at an earlier stage in development than most other early access titles that went before it. I have had hopefully made it clear that I envision the completed version to have mostly originally made assets.

What it has accomplished is giving you an early insight of Total Rendition’s gameplay mechanics. How these mechanics may support the narrative. And all this in spite of SchiZotypy’s close to non-existent development budget. And even in spite all the smear campaigns perpetrated against it, making it even harder to obtain backing. Yet, by demonstrating what Total Rendition already has, SchiZotypy will obtain access to the resources necessary to complete Total Rendition anyway.

See also

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