Assets is an umbrella term that refers to pieces of content that make up a game. If an artist or designer creates it instead of a coder, chances are it’s called an asset.
There are endless resources for assets you can use in your games. The difficulty lies in finding what you need at a price you can afford.
Below we cover some of the most common types of assets along with tips, tricks, and suggestions for finding high-quality art, models, textures, and more, all at a developer-friendly price.
Before you even start looking for assets, sit down with your team, and come up with a detailed list of what you’ll need. Character designs, environment art, backdrops, promotional materials, and everything in-between, should all be considered at this stage.
Consult everyone from in-house artists to designers, coders, and writers. They’ll all have something to add to the discussion and may offer suggestions other team members didn’t consider. It’s better to make your assets list too big than too small, otherwise, you’ll break your budget before development even begins.
A lot of small dev teams start designing games using free asset sources. You might be surprised at the quality and variety of content that’s available for commercial use, all at no cost to your team.
One of the largest sites for the general use of free assets is OpenGameArt. Here you can find free textures, free 3D models, free sound effects, and free music, all from professional and hobby artists who are eager to help out the community.
A key advantage of using OpenGameArt is that licenses are usually quite permissive. Many are available as part of the public domain, meaning you’re free to use them for whatever purpose you like, no restrictions, and no credit required.
The search and discovery features on OpenGameArt leave something to be desired, but if you’ve got some time to sort through the collections, you may find exactly what you need for your game.
Itch.io is a digital marketplace that offers a mix of premium and free assets alongside other gaming content. Premium assets make up a good portion of the site’s asset offerings, but you can always check the “free” section to see what’s readily available. There’s a great variety of content to be found, and it’s generally easy to find, as well.
One drawback to the itch.io assets experience is the art tends to cater to a very narrow audience: niche indie game developers. Also, like many other open platforms, itch.io can become overloaded with low-quality content. Be sure to check licensing details before using art, too, as some releases are more restrictive than others.
Kenney Game Assets is a widely popular resource that offers 2D sprites, audio files, and 3D models for free. Similar to OpenGameArt, the free assets offered on this website fall under a public domain license, which means they can be used for all commercial purposes.
Textures.com has a number of high-quality free textures, such as scans of wood, brick, stone, fiber, plastic, etc. Sign up for a free account and you can download up to 15 images per day. Of course, if you purchase premium credits you can download more and have access to higher quality textures.
Other marketplaces like GameDevMarket, CraftPix, GameArt2D, and even the Unreal Engine Marketplace offer a combination of free and premium assets. If you can’t find what you need using the above resources, check these out as well.
Obviously, free assets take the lead with regards to price. Many developers, however, say that using a free asset will make your game look unprofessional or tacky. Most use free assets for prototyping, but there are developers that have managed to make a good looking game by using mostly free assets.
Problems and difficulties do arise in this situation, however. One downside is that you will rarely find a free asset pack that can be used for a whole game. In most cases, the art will need to be tweaked. Changing the color of the models can make a game look more put together and coherent. A free asset will not always meet the same standard of quality and design offered by freelancers or paid assets, either.
If you are working on a non-funded hobby project, free assets might be a good choice for you, since they do the job without the need for money. It is important to keep in mind that a certain type of asset might not always be available for free.
Ready-made assets can be a great addition to your game. They’re more expensive than free content, of course, but they can be more complete, more professional, and easier to use.
GameDev Market features 2D sprites, 3D models, music, and sound effects. It also has community forums that allow game developers to connect with asset publishers, giving you the ability to know exactly what is being sold and if the items match your vision. A disadvantage of this website is that it only offers a basic search that matches keywords and titles, so you may need to spend some time browsing to find what you need.
TurboSquid is a marketplace specifically for high-quality 3D models. Its strength is its multitude of models in a wide range of prices, and its weakness is it doesn’t offer enough SolidWorks projects.
The Unity Asset Store is the official Unity marketplace. It provides developers with an endless amount of assets such as 2D and 3D models, sound effects, music, shaders, animations, scripting assets, and much more. This asset store is ahead of the competitors due to the variety of content it offers. Whatever you need, you can probably find it here, though certain licensing fees may be too high for some developers.
Much like the Unity Asset Store, the Unreal Engine Marketplace offers anything and everything related to the Unreal Engine. This marketplace is still relatively new when compared to the Unity Asset Store, which puts it at a disadvantage. It does offer more free templates and assets than Unity does, however.
Prices of assets vary depending on where you buy them, the quality of the asset, and the supply and demand for it. Normally the price of an asset is much lower than its actual value since there’s a lot of competition between asset developers. Most of them try to infiltrate the market by setting their prices lower than their competitors, hoping that it will gain them more buyers.
Instead of buying single assets or asset packs, you can also download assets from a website like GameDevHQ, which lets you download any of the assets available for $14.99 a month. This may be a more affordable option depending on your specific needs.
An overlooked area of asset purchasing is licensing. You need to always make sure you have the legal right to use the content you’re buying for commercial purposes. Sometimes you can use the content however you like, other times you must include creator credits or will be forbidden from modifying the art.
TurboSquid assets, for example, are all royalty-free unless stated otherwise. You can use the purchased asset more than once without having to pay licensing fees for each use. Even though you purchased the asset, however, you do not have ownership over it, it is still owned by TurboSquid.
A number of sites use the Creative Commons licensing system, which is extremely easy to understand. All you have to do is check the logo and rights title when downloading assets.
There are thousands of ready-made assets to choose from on the web. They are easily available and cost-effective, all you have to do is find something suitable, purchase, and deploy.
Ready-made assets will not always fit your game’s genre, of course, which is a drawback. Other developers often use the same art for their games, too, which can decrease your game’s originality factor, especially if you use ready-made content for your main character.
You can hire freelancers for pretty much anything you need. Websites like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, Flexjobs, or communities like r/gamedevclassifieds and r/gameDevJobs on Reddit make it easy to find talented freelance workers.
Freelancers are more expensive than finding ready-made assets. So why spend the money? If you want to make a high-quality game, you probably won’t find the assets that perfectly fit your vision on a marketplace. Freelance artists can create specific assets for you that are exactly what you had in mind.
To know if you’re hiring a good freelancer, look at their profile page. A competent worker will invest time and energy listing their skills, level of expertise, and job experience. You could also ask to see their portfolio and previous projects they’ve worked on. A good freelancer should show credibility, professionalism, and skill in their area of work.
The cost of a freelancer is not a set salary. Each person will ask for a different price for their service, and accomplished workers might request a hefty payment. For example, a freelancer that creates high-quality, extremely realistic 3D models may charge $100 per model, if not more. Freelance workers usually work at an hourly rate. Of course, these can be negotiated with the worker themselves.
Hiring a freelancer carries the obvious benefit of getting you exactly the assets you want to complete your game. You won’t be restricted by what you can find on a website, even if your design changes direction. Freelancers will create high-quality custom art for you when you need it, and your game will benefit from the extra attention to detail.
The downside is, of course, cost. Hiring a freelancer is always more expensive than finding ready-made content. You’ll save time and effort tracking down and modifying assets, but your budget will inflate as a result.
Assets are a fundamental step in the development of a game. They can be found on plenty of websites at a wide variety of costs. Depending on your funding availability and personal preference, you can choose where to acquire these assets.
Be wise with which assets you pay for and those you don’t. Most developers recommend a mixture of all the methods mentioned above depending on what works best for your team.