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Feedback Using "borrowed" assets as placeholders

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by MoonJellyGames, Sep 21, 2021.

  1. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    Edit: The community has made it crystal clear that using assets without permission, even for private use, is not acceptable. Knowing this, I promptly removed the image that was in my project. Shortly after, I (somewhat amusingly) discovered that the image is public domain after all, but the point still stands.

    I was feeling anxious and obligated to reply to folks who only read the first post here and weren't up to speed on my situation, so now everyone who pops in will know what's up...



    Hey all,

    I have a question that I think I know the answer to, but just in case, I'd like to hear some feedback.

    My WIP game is currently using a (very poorly-tiled) space-y image that I ripped from Google images. It will absolutely be replaced once we get to the point where we're ready to create our own, but for early playtesting, it's important to have something vaguely similar to what we'll end up with in there for now.

    I assume that this is common practice and not a big deal on its own. Here's the concern though: I decided that I'd like to start tweeting about this project with links to the YouTube dev logs (which are currently unlisted) I've been making. Most of these have (and will continue to have, for some time (Edit: No, they will not)) these "borrowed" assets. I don't expect a significant number of people to even see my tweets, let alone click on my video links, but if this is bad practice, I don't want to do it.

    Would it be enough to dig up the image and give proper credit in the description of each video? Or am I just being silly about this?

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021
  2. neginfinity

    neginfinity

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    Actually that's something you really shouldn't be doing.

    You shouldn't ever pirate assets for your game, because you if THINK they'll absolutely be replaced, that doesn't mean you won't forget it and that creates a possible legal landmine in your project.

    Learn to respect the authors since the beginning and do not "borrow" assets without permission, ever.

    No, if you are using pirated images in your game, you should remove them from your project. If you aren't complying with the license to begin with, then "crediting" is not going to cut it.

    There are many legal image sources with permissive licenses. Use those.
    https://pixabay.com/images/search/space/

    Basically, by using someone else's work or intellectual property without permission you give them a way to kill your project. Why would you ever do something like that?
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2021
  3. bobisgod234

    bobisgod234

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    All that does is tell people that you know you're using assets that you don't have the rights to use. That looks worse!

    There are plenty of sources for copyright-free images. You can even throw together some crappy placeholder and use that instead.
     
  4. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    Thank you both for the info. I honestly had no idea that it was even a problem to use placeholders privately. I absolutely do not want to misuse anybody's work-- that's why I asked, after all.

    I'll be removing the image file immediately. Thanks again.
     
    neginfinity likes this.
  5. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    I never even thought of it as "pirating" given that the image is freely available online and I only intended to use it privately.

    I made the thread because I wasn't 100% sure what the rules are when it comes to placeholders in WIPs featured in screenshots and videos, especially when used by a "nobody" hobby developer.

    But, I got the answers I was looking for, as well as a good resource (thanks, neginfinity). This has been equal parts embarrassing and enlightening.
     
  6. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    And in that context I wouldn't call it "pirated". But you're talking about using it in social media content, which is a different context.

    As someone already said, the real issue with the "personal use" case is the risk that it'll accidentally get left in there. Something like that even happened in one of the Last Of Us games. Don't let it happen to you.

    As others have said, there's plenty of cheap / free stuff. Be in good habits from day 1 and you don't need to put in the effort of swapping it out later.
     
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  7. neginfinity

    neginfinity

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    Basically, pirating is breach of copyright.

    If an image is available online, that actually doesn't mean that you're allowed to reuse it in any form. If you want to reuse, you should check its license. CC0 and CC-BY are good free license to look for, where CC0 is public domain, and CC-BY requires attribution.

    The "private use" is a lawyer territory, but you see when you want to showcase what you're working on and want to post it on youtube/social network that's not exactly private use anymore.

    That's why the best idea is to avoid unlicensed content from the day one.

    Another royally bad idea is making a game with someone else's characters or intellectual property. Nintendo, for example, is famous for shutting down fan projects, even when people worked for years and decades on them.
     
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  8. HIBIKI_entertainment

    HIBIKI_entertainment

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    I'm sorry for the mega post here, but it's good to at least be aware and may give you at least some piece of mind with the level and scale of things



    As you and most others have noted, it is a form of pirating.

    Even for private use.
    but it's the mindset and that's bad practice and the biggest problem.

    You said it yourself



    The good side, is you are feeling maybe guilty about it, you very much wish to do the right thing.

    giving credit through legally fine, if that isn't what the original owner has outlined then it's just not good enough,
    for example, pirating an asset from a unity asset store but giving credit to the owner anyway.
    it happens all the time and some see it good or bad really, a very common phrase " If my product is being pirated, i must be onto something good"

    they may not mind, they may not even care, but what is good practice is reaching out and asking about it.

    if that's just way too much effort, not feasible, then at least legally that would make sense for you to not chase them up, you wouldn't chase every single minute thing that you apply that might not be your original thought and skill, after all, cause nothing would get done.

    But a bad
    Scenario:
    You find an image on social media you like it you want to use it in your project.

    later you find out that that image was taken from an artist put on social media to distribute and they earned no pay, no royalties nothing. their life's work.

    This isn't your fault of course.

    but, say you wanted to move forward and start tweeting about your new project and this artist sees their work in your project, they're going to be extremely hurt, and very angry, they probably no longer have the funding to challenge it though.

    as you could probably imagine the scenario could just get worse and worse for anyone.
    OR nothing could happen at all ( at least that you're aware of).
    -----------

    In the really high-level law of things.

    If you download a paid music asset for free, and only you listen to it, pirating.
    If you bought a CD at a store( physical or digital) and then played it at someone wedding, it's still another form of pirating because you don't have the licence/right to do that, you don't own that content.

    Similarly, if you go to google, google doesn't always have freely available images, most are hot-linked so they display them anyway. ( boo to google for making people think this is okay)
    also social media, technically they often state, they ingest the media it becomes theirs, rights are lost to the IP holder etcetc they simply get away with it just because ( burning bridges and ladders).

    Most of this just gets diluted with time and the expansion of megacorps, but it will always affect the lil' guy.

    ----------

    So for the most part, as also stated, it's best practice not to do this kind of thing, so that you can make it a habit not to.
    but also to set examples to peers too.

    god, forbid if you grow into a studio and one of your artists uses something they found on google on social media to build off into one of your integrated systems. the owner of that would absolutely be in their rights to take a large share ( and damages) of $$$$$$$$$.

    You're not going to prison or anything, but it's good to be considerate of what you feel is as honest and fair.
    Even if the world has many who will just take take take for good or bad reasons.

    At the very least, the image asset you have.
    find the original owner and contact them or find their licence to see how much of that image you could use.

    There was a high-level dev conference once where a developer simply said " torrent everything, who cares"
    and well, honest living people and probably those getting the shtick for having their assets pirated.

    So as much as the asset you have is just super super super minor, and probably does come under fair use in some way or another. Just be aware that as soon as that becomes public, you have taken another step on the 'bad practice path' and it's a whole new ball game, so to speak.

    on the other hand, it may simply just be so completely unrecognisable that and at this stage, really have no impact at all, that, okay fine, because otherwise, it might take you 5 years and $6k later to find the owner.

    As you can see, it's hard, there are many situations, circumstances and variables to consider.
    and I completely understand your point, you're starting something, it's small, maybe it doesn't matter yet, and you're probably being fair at that stage

    Just remember if you do make it public and later down the line you make it big, it only takes the asset owner to scroll back through your videos, or you to do this again at a later stage with a high profile asset.
    That's what mostly makes it ' bad practice'

    if you made it this far, congrats, maybe go get something to eat, you must be starving. :D
     
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  9. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    If the game isn't being played at some official event or being distributed to a bunch of people you don't know, don't worry about it.

    If it is just replace the offending variable. You only need placeholder art at this point so just take 20 minutes to make something new.

    Here is basic idea about risk management:

    5-Table2-1.png

    E.G. - how serious is the risk, how easy is the solution?

    In this case risk is potentially serious, but solution is dead easy. So it's hardly worth time to discuss if you are operating from a model like this.
     
  10. MadeFromPolygons

    MadeFromPolygons

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    Its not placeholder images if they are viewed on social media. Thats the same as having it in a released game, point is its in your game and you dont own the rights and are now marketing said in development game using images you do not have the rights to.

    Basically, remove them immediately and never do it again, and really you should take down the tweets and videos (And anything else you have shared with them in) as they are not within your rights to distribute any longer.

    Nobody here is a lawyer, important to bare that in mind so be safe rather than sorry.

    This is literally the need asset packs exist on the asset store to fill :)
     
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  11. Coin9

    Coin9

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    This is like adding some random supermodels pictures from google to your tinder profile and let it collect lots of likes and then replace back your own pictures and hope people will still be interested :rolleyes: Basically you are illegally taking someones ip and using it to gain a fans :oops:
     
  12. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    Yeah, I get that. I think part of why it didn't strike me that way in my case is because of how obvious it is that the image was placeholder. I blew it up much much bigger than its resolution intended, and had it overlapping in some places, and with big gaps in between in others. As everyone has made abundantly clear (which, I appreciate), it doesn't matter, but that was my thought at the time: "Nobody in their right mind would think that this is anything but placeholder".
     
  13. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    I had some videos in my WIP thread, which I took down. The funny thing is that I actually accidentally deleted those videos and a bunch of others (including my trailer for my released game trailer ) shortly before creating this thread. I didn't think I made any of these public outside of the WIP thread, but after checking my Twitter, I found that I actually had posted one early on. Apparently I didn't even consider this whole issue at the time. In any case, I'm glad it's gone so I can move on. I absolutely do not want to misuse anyone's work.
     
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  14. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    I appreciate your input, but I wasn't really looking at any of this from the perspective of trying to minimize risk to myself for being "caught". Rather, I wanted to know if what I was going to do would be wrong in the first place. As it turns out, I had already crossed that line, which I'm extremely frustrated with myself for.
     
  15. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    Thank you for the response. I've made threads specifically asking if some coding design I've come up with is "bad practice"-- a totally separate issue, but my point is that I do make an effort to do things the right way.

    Heck, I even make a point to buy CDs of albums that I like even though they're freely (and legally) available through Spotify and/or official YouTube channels. I want to support the artists.

    I've been looking at my first post and thinking, "of course you can't do that, ya big dummy!"
     
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  16. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    the internet makes it really easy to accidentally "borrow" without hardly thinking about it. I wouldn't beat myself up - if you got some benefit from somebody else's work and you can actually track down who they are, you can buy some of their work, tip them, etc. Maybe even hire them. That's actually how I've found a lot of the people I've hired.
     
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  17. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    I've done it for prototypes or just to try out a few things in the game before actually choosing. But I found it to be a mistake. You've got to be pretty meticulous about tracking what you've licensed, and what you haven't, and 6 months later it is pretty easy to forget. If you're not keeping good track, you might have to spend a few days going through your entire project auditing where you got everything from, and what is and isn't licensed.

    One time I "borrowed" some music that worked really well in the game, and when I decided I wanted to pay for it months later, I found the artist pulled it down. No longer available. Damn, I should have just paid the measly $5 or whatever they wanted in the beginning. It turned into a big waste of time trying to hunt down where else I could get it from, or who the original artist was, to no avail.

    So my recommendation is to not "borrow" any art during development. It isn't worth the hassle. You think it is getting you a head start for free, but that isn't the case. My 2 cents.
     
  18. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    That seems to be the prevailing wisdom. I had placeholder music in my last game, and it actually helped me get a sense of what kind of music worked best in the game. But I understand the risk and (now) the ethical/legal issues with doing this.

    Just to update my situation: I found the source of the image I was using. Turns out it's free to use (personal and commercial, no credit needed) if you sign up for a free trial with shutterstock. I'm sure I'll hear the collective facepalms at some point while I'm working.
     
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  19. Mauri

    Mauri

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    Just a tip: A good source for free images is Unsplash. Texture-wise, there's ambientCG (formerly CC0 Textures). Everything is under CC0 license on both sites.

    I don't think it's necessarily a bad idea to use borrowed art assets as placeholders for prototyping only (unless you plan to tweet or devlog about your project - that's a no then), but then I also get what Joe-Censored says.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2021
  20. BIGTIMEMASTER

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    I've got a third party tool for windows, cant remember what the name is, but it allows you to put color coded tags on files in explorer. You can filter via tags as well. Things that need to be replaced I have red flag on. I do same thing with code to. Like to-do list things get a tag.

    Then you dont have to hold anything in brain memory, just at some point you have time when you go through project and clean up all the tags.

    I think joe has made excellent point about preventing human error from onset, but using some sort of tag system like this can help for those times when you just wanna grab some art quick and keep the ball rolling. For me, if I start digging around internet that can became distraction and hurt productivity.
     
  21. HIBIKI_entertainment

    HIBIKI_entertainment

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    @BIGTIMEMASTER i wish i was amazingly colour co ordinated on my personal computer, very cool. :eek:


    This whole topic scales again when you're working with internal and external. keeping track of your, freelancers, contractors. unity has a pretty intuitive system for that tbh ( has tags too heh.)
    but that's still only one piece of the puzzle.

    it only takes one person to upload something unlicensed into your project.
    Always always always, have an assigned data controller who can check this.

    Or if you're solo, dedicated yourself a few passes or a chunk of time on your assets storage ( local server etc)
     
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  22. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    No need for that. You asked about it and then you fixed it, and it was fairly minor to begin with. Nobody's perfect, and you're actively improving.

    Permit yourself some mistakes, they happen. :)
     
  23. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    Thank you for saying that. If the way I was using the image was different, I probably would have known better. The way I grossly scaled and tiled the image is probably the worst offense of all. :D

    When I get a chance, I'll whip up a nasty MS paint starfield and be done with it until my buddy draws something beautiful.
     
  24. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    In my case, I'm the primary designer and programmer. My friend is doing the art, and our other friend is doing SFX. I'm the only one that actually works in Unity (they just send me files), so fortunately I don't have to worry about anyone else sabotaging the project-- only I can do that, apparently.

    There's no way I'd forget to replace the horrendous background in question (the art is nice, but the way I was using it was not), but there would still be the risk of forgetting to remove the file from the project. I can't handle that kind of stress, so I'll just stick to self-made (or proper free) placeholders. :)
     
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  25. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    I'm going to make myself look even more stupid, but only because I think it's kinda funny.

    I posted earlier saying that I found the source of the image I was using, and that it was free with a free trail subscription to shutterstock. I did that during my lunch break at work. When I got home, I double-checked to make sure that was the same image, and it wasn't. In fact, the image I had was from publicdomainpictures.net. Hah!

    If I had gone to look up the source before posting this thread, I never would have learned that it's neither common practice nor acceptable to use non-licensed assets as placeholders period, so there's that.

    I'm sure I'll come across somebody in the WIP forums making the same mistake I did, and I'll have this thread to refer them to. ;)

    Edit: With the discovery that the image that I unwittingly "pirated" was, in fact, public domain (free) after all, I am going to go ahead and upload my early WIP videos to YouTube and share them on Twitter. Not only was the image from publicdomainpictures.net, but I was able to find the image in the set that does not require any kind of subscription. It's underCC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Copyright, meaning anybody can use it for anything provided you don't imply endorsement by the author.

    The videos show the game in states of development that I can't recreate. Having them on YouTube will allow me to show them (and the slow, steady progress) to the kids at work, which I hope will inspire them to be proud of themselves when they make seemingly small steps towards their goals. And, of course, because I personally like looking back at them. Free or not-- I decided that I don't want any assets in my project going forward that haven't been made by me or my team, so I've replaced the image with a hilariously crude MS Paint drawing.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2021
  26. HIBIKI_entertainment

    HIBIKI_entertainment

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    heh at least you took the time to check up on it
     
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  27. You really should pay more attention to assets in general. Even if you dodged this situation, if you use assets which requires third-party notice or credit, you can easily get into trouble. My advise is, even if it feels painstakingly slow, when you import an asset into your project, make an entry in an .md file that you use an asset, where is it, where did you get it (unless it is absolutely free without credit). Also this is one of the reasons I never import asset packs in my projects. Only what I use.
     
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  28. MoonJellyGames

    MoonJellyGames

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    Loud and clear. As I mentioned above, I have no interest or intent of using outside assets as placeholders going forward.

    In my last game, I didn't have somebody making the sounds for me, so any sound that I wasn't able to create on my own, I had to find in a free library. I kept a file with the name of these files, where I got them from, and a link to the CC license attached to each one so that when the time came to write my "credits" page, I was able to credit them all exactly how they indicated that they wanted to be.
     
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  29. Martin_H

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    I haven't read the whole thread, but it seems like no one mentioned that you might find space images you may use on the nasa website. I'll leave digging through the license details up to you:
    https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/guidelines/index.html
     
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  30. Nefera

    Nefera

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    In my opinion that is completely fine as long as you keep it private and don't forget to replace the music/asset before going public in e.g social media. Nothing wrong with taking inspiration.
     
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  31. Ryiah

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    You're brave. I wouldn't trust family or friends with anything that has the potential to get you in trouble if a screenshot of it is uploaded to social media. It's not even necessarily that they would do it on purpose.
     
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  32. Martin_H

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    Even if you have a lawyer, that is no guarantuee whatsoever that you don't get sued. People that didn't break the law get sued all the time.
    Imho both the "need for" and "benefit of" having a lawyer is often blown out of proportion in online discussions.
     
  33. MoonJellyGames

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    Very true. And, just to reiterate, it's not even just a matter of consequences that could befall somebody doing what I did. Just knowing that it's bad practice and disrespectful to the artists ought to be enough to put an end to it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021
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  34. MoonJellyGames

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    I understand this position, but as others have said, it's still using someone else's work in a way they didn't approve.

    There is a line somewhere, and I think most people would agree that (at least, morally) it's precise position is a little fuzzy. For example, if I had started making Cataclysm now and wanted to see if a song from Earthworm Jim fits, the 100% proper way would be to unbox my SNES, hope my EWJ cartridge still works, use the debug cheat to get to the sound test menu, and then play the song from my TV while I playtest my game. Would anyone actually do that? Of course not. I'd just look it up on YouTube, even though those aren't official uploads.

    But as far as putting files in my project that aren't mine (or I don't have permission to use) I'll call that "not ok", even if it's private, just based on the input folks have given.
     
  35. MoonJellyGames

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    Thanks! I found the image that I was using (and others like it) on a public domain website. But I also replaced the file with a crappy MS Paint drawing anyways. That'll do until my partner does a good-looking background.
     
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  36. kdgalla

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    I couldn't find the article, but back around 2015ish there was actually an indie game company that was sued for using a AAA game's models in their finished game. According to the developers these were put in as placeholders and were always meant to be replaced but so many staff had come and gone that no one could keep track of what asset came from where, so no one knew to replace them.
     
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  37. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    Guess what? I use boxes and greyboxing as placeholders. Funny how that's actually better, faster and completely safe. All the professionals do it.
     
  38. MadeFromPolygons

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    Its not called "whiteboxing" for no reason :D
     
  39. MoonJellyGames

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    Yup. I have a bunch of grey circles and neon green boxes as my placeholder "space junk" and asteroids.

    The thread has gotten a little long, so I guess I don't blame you for not being up to date on the situation, but I've been well-informed that using unlicensed art as placeholders isn't OK, so I've removed the offending image (which, I later learned, was public domain after all).
     
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  40. MoonJellyGames

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    That's a valuable cautionary tale.