How to make game assets and sell them for a profit
If you're an animator, there's a good chance you've considered creating and selling game assets online. After all, it sounds like a great way to make some extra money on the side. But how do you get started? And how do you make sure it’s profitable? In this blog post, we'll answer those questions and more. So read on to learn everything you need to create and sell your game assets online.
What are game assets & who uses them?
Game assets are the files and resources used in video games. They can include 3D models, environments, textures, sound effects, and more. Independent artists and specialist studios create these assets and release collections to marketplaces for download and commercial project use. Indie game developers are the most frequent users of such assets.
Big in-house game studios (like EA Games) rarely purchase game assets as their current studio can already develop a massive amount of content. Smaller game designers are far more likely to supplement their production with assets, ultimately speeding up development timelines and reducing budget. During timed game jams, for example, indie creators will rely heavily on free assets to create an MVP within the deadline. Assets can be used by any mobile games and desktop games alike.
Typically, assets within the animation pipeline (e.g., 3D characters, textures, rigging, backgrounds) will be modified to fit the game project's visual style. In this manner, one game asset could be used in hundreds of games without issue.
Why would you want to make game assets?
Creating assets has a low cost to entry as a potential business. It’s free to list on asset marketplaces, and you can even use a free tool or software to create game elements.
Commonly, you might get started because:
- You’ve already got a bunch of assets that you’re not using.
- You want a freelance income stream where there’s no big boss involved.
- You want a passive income stream by building products.
But something to remember about creating assets; It’s not a quick fix. Many creators say it takes a year or two of making assets before you can earn enough to think about quitting your job. That doesn't mean you should give up, just that it’s a good idea to have another goal in mind. In his asset seller’s guide, Lincoln Hughes says, “Creating tutorials [for assets] online isn’t just a way of selling stuff. It’s a way of establishing your name and reputation in an industry filled with an overflowing pool of incredibly talented people. It’s one of the best ways to demonstrate to companies that you know what you’re talking about.” So beyond making a lot of money, here are some good reasons to start creating game assets:
- Help others with personal projects you’ve already built.
- Establish a name for yourself online and within the game industry.
- Establish expertise in a particular field or software.
- Build an audience that you can sell to in the future.
- Show potential employers your expertise.
- Improve your speaking by recording YouTube tutorials for your assets.
The eight types of game assets
Millions of elements go into creating any kind of game, whether it’s 2D, 3D, first-person shooter, or a “Candy Crush” style puzzle game. Developers typically supplement their own skills with assets to make up for a lack of knowledge or time. The most popular type of game asset is character models or artwork followed by environmental visuals such as backgrounds or interactive objects. Animation is another popular asset (especially true for 3D games) as it can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of game development.
- Rigged character models: These are models of characters or objects that have been rigged with bones and joints in 2D or 3D software. This type of asset ranges in time to create. Character assets that are easily customizable and have multiple characters in the same style will sell better than one-offs. You can also create concept art for potential clients, but this is done more on a commission basis.
- Background elements / Game items: Backgrounds can consist of 3D assets or 2D painted scenes. When creating background assets, try to develop variations that many games could use to increase your customer base.
- Textures: Textures are images applied to 3D models to give them color and detail. Texture assets are usually sold in themed packs and require hi-res photography. Some artists also use software like Substance Painter (now owned by Adobe) to create reusable custom textures for 3D objects.
- Motion capture animation: Motion capture animation is a technique used to record the movement of real-life subjects and apply it to rigged 3D models. You can use these assets to animate your characters. Check out the Rokoko Studio Marketplace to find out more.
- Sound effects & audio assets: Sound effects add another layer of immersion to a game by bringing the environment and characters to life. But the competition for a music composer is intense. Audio is some of the least popular gaming assets — likely because few people in game development make it to this later stage of game creation.
- Game User Interface (GUI): This interface can be designed in 2D or 3D. To create a good GUI, you need a rock-solid understanding of game navigation.
- Scripts: Custom scripts perform specific actions that would otherwise take a game artist hours or days to create. They can sell very well, provided you write a script that’s high in demand and relatively easy to use.
- Game kits & asset bundles: Game kits are collections of premade assets that can be used to create a basic game easily. They typically include rigged 3D models, textures, sound effects, and other necessary elements.
Each of the game assets listed above can and does sell on asset marketplaces. The one you choose should be related to your own personal skills and interests.
How do you know what kind of asset will perform well?
This is the million-dollar question! Eight years ago, a Reddit user made over $10,000 in under a month from a single asset. While that’s quite the headline, the whole story reveals that it took six months to develop, and the massive spike in sales was mainly due to a promotion within the Unity store.
Selling assets is like selling anything else in a marketplace; you have to get yourself at the right place, in front of the right people, at the right time. If you have the network, social media following, or marketing knowledge to do that, then fantastic! If not, you’ll need to learn. The first thing is to decide what software you will use to create your assets and what type of assets you will make. Next, narrow down what category of asset you think will sell. Browse your target marketplace and see what’s currently selling and what’s not. Try to conclude as to why, and decide what to make first. Check out the in-depth video below to learn more about selling on marketplaces (specifically Unreal Engine).
Don’t rush the research process — it’s wise to test the viability of your idea by posting about it on social media or forums before even beginning development. You can even create a waitlist at this stage by getting people to sign up for an email newsletter. When you’re sure you’ve got a good idea, start making and releasing assets. Creating high-quality assets is always recommended as those will gain better user ratings. And better user ratings mean a higher number of sales.
How to prepare your own custom metahuman for animation
Now that your mesh is pretty much complete, there are just a few simple steps you need to take for it to work smoothly with motion capture tools. Close Unreal Engine and open up your computer’s file explorer. Navigate to the project folder that was auto-generated by Unreal Engine. Go into YourProjectName → Content folder path.
Delete the current “BoneMaps” folder and drag and drop the “BoneMaps” folder provided for this tutorial. These new bone maps can be used for animating any Metahuman with Rokoko motion capture. They’ll get you set up with a mocap rigging system and a foolproof ik rig. Next, add the provided “Mocap” folder. This folder is to correct a minor bug within the MetaHuman motion capture workflow and may not be necessary for later releases. Open Unreal Engine back up. Open up the MetaHuman Blueprint in your project files, and you’re ready to start.
Setting up mesh-to-metahumans with Rokoko motion capture
There’s no significant difference between the Rokoko Motion capture setup with characters generated via the metahuman plugin vs. created in Metahuman directly. Currently, some minor bugs exist, but they’re easy to work around. If you get stuck at any point with the animation features or setup process, feel free to reach out to Rokoko support or the community on our Discord. The tutorial below will walk you through the steps you need to take to enable body motion capture, hand motion capture, and facial motion capture using Rokoko’s tools.
Discover Rokoko’s motion capture tools
Motion capture dramatically speeds up the animation pipeline while increasing quality and freedom of movement. Along with the mesh-to-metahuman plugin, creating lifelike game characters for your ue5 projects has never been easier. Take full advantage of MetaHumans and check out Rokoko’s motion capture tools in more detail here →