Is it possible for a small team to make a good-looking game?

I continue my series of posts where I summarize the advice I give to the members of FGL game development community. Let's talk about art.

Art is the key issue for the indies of programming background. Speaking about Art, I understand, that the standards are constantly increasing and it's difficult for an indie team to make an excellent-looking visuals. Besides, the standards are constantly growing. As an example, here are the screenshots of the games which received the FGL rating of 9 in 2009 (Top defense). and 2011 (Kingdom Rush).

Top defense, 2009, rating: 9/10

Kingdom Rush, 2011, rating: 9/10

Top defense was made by 1-man team, scmorr. The developer created the visual effects frame-by-frame.

For the unit models he used the following technique. He built the 3D-models in Blender, and then created 2D vector images of them using a Blender plugin.

Kingdom rush was made by famous Ironhide Games. The were a team of 3 at that time and had 2 artists, as far as I remember. Both games had around a year of development time.

So, what about the present days? Can a small team produce good-looking game? Yes, if you pay attention to the style in general. Make all the game elements fit the same style.

What does it mean? Think of a common concept which can describe all the visuals in the game. And check, does everything on the screen fit the same concept. For example, for the game "Tricky Fish" by DeGrail the concept can be "cardboard puppet theater".

You can also decrease the number of game colours, like in Round World by BeGamer. Also, note, that every elements should fit the same style, including the interface elements.

As the third example I selected my own game Something Deep:) I made it at Ludum Dare 33. I'm a programmer not an artist. But for this game I picked a concept "Everything consists of polygons with acute angles" and made sure everything, even the fonts, fit this style. The game got the rating of 3.59/5 in Graphics and became #220 of 2727.

I want to tell about one more visual style idea. Quite a number of indie games on different platforms use "Everything is drawn with a pen on a paper" style concept. As examples I can show Ragdoll Cannon by Johnny-K, 12 is better then 6 by Ink Stains Games and State of Anarchy by Andrew Jr.  They all achieved high results in gamedev contests and ratings. Often such style was caused by time limits. Did you know that the initial version of State of Anarchy was made within 2 days during Global Game Jam Minsk?

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