As an artist, I’m always fascinated about really great looking games (coz, you know, I’m an artist?). And getting into the gaming industry, I’ve always had this notion that amazing graphics = successful game. But my experience designing games for Popsicle Games, showed me that games with great, highly detailed graphics doesn’t guarantee success. Infact, some of our most highest performing games in our current roster of games are ones which only sported simple or basic graphics. Take this for example:

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Would you believe me if I told you that the art asset on the right (the one with no face and only has a dollar sign in the middle) performed better on our A-B testing based on the data we gathered? I bet your face would be like this:

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As in, it performed so well in getting players to download our game Scratch 2 Win (which is available BTW on Google Play and the iOS AppStore in case you guys are interested), the gap between the two was so huge there was simply no question which of the two icons players responded to alot. And this surprised me alot as well, since it’s completely opposite of what I’ve always believed in. But as I learned, what you as an artist might think is “cool”, might be too much or not attractive at all to your game’s demographic. It makes no sense if you think about it, if your game’s target market are older, and you’re trying to put “anime/cutesy” graphics in your game. That just turns them off alot as they feel they are downloading an app for kids.

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That’s why I’ve slowly learned to let go of highly detailed/cutesy anime art and this tendency to go overboard with the graphics, and focus on the core idea of what the game is all about. There I try my best to adapt my art to that idea or give it to someone else who might do justice to the game’s look.

Now before you all go and say that putting effort into making your game’s art good is a waste of time, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I mean the title did state of keeping the art look “Simple” and not make it “Ugly”. I mean there’s a difference between a game that’s made with lazy graphic artists like this:
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(Screenshots are from an actual Steam Greenlight game: Chipsse Solid 3)

And ones with simple graphics like this:

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(Screenshots are from our game; All Aboard the Ark. Available on both Google Play Store and iOS AppStore)

If you can make your game’s art simple, yet effectively charming in its own right, then that should be good enough. Also, keeping your art simple, gives it a more cleaner appearance when its on the game’s screen. Adding too much detail can be lost specially if your art asset would be just a fraction of the game’s screen. Take this for example:

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(Screenshots are from our game; Goodbye Galaxy. Available on both Google Play Store and iOS AppStore)

As you can see, while the art asset I made look great with all the details close-up, but in-game, you barely even notice any of that. It’s that small and quite frankly looking back, it was probably a waste of time on my part spending so much time on it. This is specially true in our case where our company‘s goal is to create “bite-sized games”, that usually means we aim to develop and produce a game’s MVP (Minimum Viable Product) as fast as possible to validate our game before we proceed in adding more stuff in the game. Most developers spend so much time in putting so much features and stuff in their game, without checking first whether or not their game would be warmly accepted by the gaming public, or if it would even generate enough buzz for the game to earn back the time and money invested in it. Because it would only be a waste of time to continue developing a game that performs so poorly that you end up bleeding your company’s funds dry. Same with art. Because in the end, its the gameplay that matters and keeps players from playing your game, not just your art.

Hopefully this has helped fellow artists who are trying to get into the gaming industry, to see and learn some of the differences in designing art for videogames. Remember, to K.I.S.S okay? :)