Good question indeed. Because we sadly are not able to train monkeys to do things for us yet, we do have a huge amount of assets to create. That means less bananas, of course.
There is one main idea of keeping our work efficient: Re-using existing created material. This comes into action in two ways: While creating assets and while placing them in a level.
Splitting up the work
We divide our assets into two parts: common assets and unique assets.
The unique assets are mostly bigger assets. They are created for a specific purpose, a huge entrance door, a special place in the level. Those are handmade and fitted in the level. For that process we take a geometrical snapshot of the scene and extract a kind of a proxy mesh. Those proxymeshes approximate the colliders and give us boundaries for modelling. Along that mesh a blockout is created from which we do a highpoly modelling. From there it is texturepainting, retopology, baking, and prefab creation. That workflow is extremely time consuming, especially when different artists are involved. But as a small team with quick communication, things like concept art can be avoided. Just a general style and quick proportional sketch is provided for a 3D Artist, for example. Sometimes the artist even does everything on their own, from idea to implementation.
In contrast to the uniquely used assets, common assets are objects and textures that are more frequently used. For example ground textures, rocks and trees. Not every stone and tree in the game is individually made. We do have so called kits of those kind of objects. A kit is created as a toolkit for decorating the level. We choose from about ten options and variations and then tilt and maybe even scale them a bit, so you don’t see the similarity. So we do reuse a lot of the created objects. Kit bashing would be a fitting description for that. What looks like endless woods are maybe just 4 different trees.
While in process of making things, we also try to reuse a lot of existing material. For example a Brick for making a ground texture:
Remember that dice have 6 sides and you can rotate it quite easily?
After a bit of fumbling you have a nice ground plane:
And the final output:
A ground or wall texture, that looks like a few different stones, but really is just one stone. Magic you say? No! Illusion!
Most of our trickery consists of avoiding unnecessary work and reusing a lot of our objects. It sounds pretty easy, but actually it can be quite hard, especially because you have to keep track of your assets like a maniac. Where was that highpoly tree trunk thing again…?
I hope that answers your question :)