When you’re working on a project with a lot of assets, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why asset classes are a fundamental concept that’s becoming increasingly critical to software development of not just video games, animations or video editing software but applications of all sorts for a wide array of industries.
So what are they? Asset classes are a grouping of related assets, such as images, audio files or 3D models, that are managed and organized together. But when you’re developing software, an asset class goes further, and acts as a blueprint for a specific type of asset, defining its attributes and behaviors.
Let’s pretend we’re observing the developer of a video game about zombies — because zombies are in again. So our intrepid programmer, who’s helping form a totally new take on the walking dead, may create an asset class called “Enemy Characters.” This class would define the common attributes and behaviors of all enemy characters in the game, such as each enemy’s health points, attack power and how the AI behaves. The developer can then create specific types of the enemy-character asset class, like a regular zombie or an exploding mushroom zombie. This approach not only reduces the amount of code needed to create each enemy character, it also makes it easier to manage and maintain the code.
Why asset classes matter
If asset classes were to suddenly disappear overnight, developers would be in a serious bind the next day. Why? Because asset classes offer so much to any software project:
- Code reusability: The creation of asset classes enables developers to reuse code, reducing the total volume of code written and thus simplifying maintenance. For example, a developer creating video editing software may create an asset class for “Transition Effects.” This class would define the common attributes and behaviors of such effects, including but not limited to duration, type and ease-in/ease-out behavior. The developer can use the asset class to create specific transition effects, such as a fade to black or a wipe left. This makes for sleeker and less error-prone code.
- Modular and scalable software: Asset classes lend themselves to making modular and scalable software. Developers can create a class for a specific type of asset, such as a 3D model or audio file, and then create instances of that class as needed. For example, back to our zombie video game: Our developer may create an asset class called “3D Models,” determining elements such as number of vertices, number of faces and texture mapping. From that, the developer can use the asset class to make any 3D model from a human being to a zombie to a super car (which would be totally useless in a zombie apocalypse). As the number of assets grow — and they always do — this approach makes it easier to manage and scale the application.
- Improved organization: Asset classes make it easier and more efficient to organize and manage large amounts of assets. By treating assets as a categorized group, developers can make it easier to find and manage specific assets. For example, our zombie-game maker may create an asset class for “Environment Assets,” delineating common attributes such as size, type of material and collision behavior, making it easier to create trees and rocks (for players to totally ignore) in the game. By placing all environmental assets in a class, the programmer has made it easier for the game to find and manage those digital oaks and boulders that a digital artist spends days painstakingly perfecting and that not a single player will actually remember.
- Enhanced performance: Asset classes can also improve the overall performance of software applications. By defining asset classes, developers can optimize the storage and retrieval of assets, reducing memory overhead. For example, our zombie dev may create an asset class for textures that uses the most efficient way for textures to be loaded into memory, leading to an overall faster-reacting game and better user experience — and making the jump scares 1,000 times more frightening.
As you can see, asset classes are an essential concept for advanced programmers, providing benefits such as code reusability, modular and scalable software, improved organization and enhanced performance. By creating and utilizing asset classes, experienced developers can create better software that is easier to manage, maintain and scale. Incorporating asset classes into your development process is a best practice that will have a positive impact on the overall quality of your application — even if we’re like in the fourth or fifth wave of zombies in the zeitgeist at this point.