I’m about to dive into something which I’m learning is a rather touchy subject among game devs… Stick with me.
If you scroll through Reddit’s threads on the use of free assets in games, it seems there’s a bit of a split verdict over it. Many game developers ask “Why not?” and we agree, especially in early dev and for assets that largely disappear into the background. Although we would recommend custom character designs though, don’t scrimp on this key game asset.
The range of asset packs out there is phenomenal and chances are you’ll find something to match your requirements. Plenty of packs are free, and those that aren’t free are often still seen as a good investment both financially and for saving time.
However, when budget allows, we would recommend upgrading at least your focal assets to custom-made or customised assets. Here’s why.
CONSISTENT GAME ART STYLE
Art is obviously a topic we feel strongly about, and we know the importance of the art style of a game is undeniable. The art style should be what sets your game apart from the competition. In fact, let’s go a step further to say we believe that the art style sells your game!
The art connects the player with the vision that you had when you came up with the concept. Allowing the player to enter an alternate reality and getting it right determines if they engage in a deep connection and love for the game, or not.
Designing and creating your assets from scratch gives you full control of the look and feel of your gameplay. You only get one chance to blow your player’s mind, games like cuphead and Genshin Impact wouldn’t have been the successes they are without such incredible art direction.
I’m gonna hit you with a hard truth, your gameplay idea likely isn’t unique – so you need to make sure your art style is.
Hardcore players can become familiar with overused asset packs and this can put a player off straight away. Using custom assets allows you to provide those players with a new experience and keep them engaged.
CONTROL OF ASSET QUALITY
One of the problems with asset packs is you don’t know who created them, and you’re relying on their ability without any knowledge of what quality control measures were in place.
We’ve been asked to modify pack assets in the past, and we warn it comes with its own risk. In our experience, they can be filled with unnecessary code that causes untold issues when trying to customise them. Often leading to a more lengthy and expensive solution.
Our recommendation? Create them from scratch and then you have full control over quality and code. This also means the asset’s quality can be easily improved as the game develops.
INVESTMENT AND PUBLISHING
Publishers and investors are presented with hundreds of games a year, why should they invest in your game? What makes your game different?
By building your art style with custom assets, the chances of being taken seriously by investors and game publishers are substantially improved. Not only will your game not look generic, but it also shows them you’re committed to the game’s development. The closer the game is to final quality or execution, the lower they’ll perceive the risk of investing.
In conclusion, we understand that budget won’t always allow for custom assets and that using packs lowers development costs. However, to give your game the highest chance of success, we recommend designing and creating those focal game assets from scratch.