Game developers often find themselves with very close deadlines, and the need to create the best possible work in the least amount of time. This means that reusing assets from previous games as a base for new ones is a quite widespread practice, as explained by Naughty Dog Environment Artist Anthony Vaccaro and Bungie Digital Matte Artist Isaiah Sherman on the Polycount forums.
Sherman, who previously worked at Sucker Punch on inFAMOUS 2 and inFAMOUS: Second Son, explained that every trick up the sleeve is fair game, as long as it’s legal.
Personal work: Best to do things from scratch so you can learn everything
Client work: Do every trick / cheat you know within legal limits to get the best work done in the shortest amount of time. “Cheat” as much as possible.
Vaccaro confirmed, also explaining that some assets in Uncharted 3 and The Last of Us made a long trip all the way from the first Uncharted, used either as a starting point or with a new texture.
There are assets in Uncharted 3 and TLOU that were originally created for Uncharted 1. Some things were used as a starting off point and some were just updated with a texture.
Like small pebbles for example, no point in remodeling the same pebble shapes again when what you already had was already perfected before. You can then spend that time making new awesome stuff that is super different.
That’s definitely understandable. While graphics improved massively since the first Uncharted, there are only so many ways you can model a pebble.
Sherman also clarified that it’s important to work within legal limits, and there are sources where pre-made models can be purchased to save time.
So long as you are working within legal limits, there would be no integrity or IP issues.
You can buy models from places like Turbo squid and kit-bash them into something new if it’ll save you time.
In the end this kind of practice is definitely understandable. It takes a lot of time to create a whole new 3D model, and the preliminary steps to make, for instance, a human body, are always the same. Creating it completely from scratch would not provide a better result, and would be a waste of time that can be better used where it’s really needed.