Whiffs of a conspiracy involving the art assets of a large portion of the game from buildings and weapons, to props and vegetation, have been brewing for some time now in PUBG land. Ostensibly, PUBG has purchased and implemented assets from the Unreal marketplace into certain maps. Furthermore, it seems certain of these assets have been reused, or flipped, across multiple maps, leading to PUBG being tarnished with the highly derogatory ‘asset flip’ brush.
The occasional rant from affronted players on reddit reverberate into echoes that have finally reached the ears of the battle royale’s developer who has come out to set the record straight and explain what exactly is going on. The catalyst for this was an interview with Brendan Greene, the mastermind behind PUBG, at E3 where he voiced his distress at having to repeatedly weather the criticism. Following Greene’s choice words along the lines of murderous fantasies against naysayers, a number of posts have popped up on the PUBG reddit reigniting the polemic.
In an effort to put the matter to bed once and for all, head of communication at PUBG, Ryan Rigney authored a lengthy response on one of the accusatory reddit threads to clarify in what capacity bought assets are used.
He begins by painting a portrait of the early days of PUBG; the team was small and would be unable to create bespoke assets for every single component on the Erangel map if they hoped to release it within budget and within a reasonable time. He explains that setting up an art department to test the waters would have been financially irresponsible given the popularity of the game wasn’t established at that point. Consequently, assets were bought from the Unreal marketplace, combined with art designed by the PUBG team in Korea, and a subsidiary in the US, to populate Erangel.
Following the success of PUBG upon release, the US subsidiary was brought in-house under the guise of a PUBG studio in Wisconsin for the sole purpose of creating game assets. The studio went on to create Miramar in collaboration with Korea. Miramar did continue to rely on the strategic use of purchased assets and a number of assets from Erangel, though to a significantly lesser degree. Rigney states that ‘the majority of the external assets are adjusted by our artists after the fact for visuals and for optimization/performance’. Sanhok followed suit, but with less reliance on external assets, and PUBG’s newest map, set for release later this year, even less.
As it stands, the whole debacle has been convoluted into something bigger than it truly is. Buying pre-made assets is extremely common among smaller developers and only triple A studios realistically have the financial backing to create all assets in house. PUBG’s actions are not inflammatory in that sense. Why waste time recreating an original interpretation of a sign post for example, when time could be better spent improving elements that affect game play? Yet, memes will be memes. If anything, the whole ordeal reveals just how little numerous players know about the intricacies of the development process. Much ado about nothing if you ask me.