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Game Templates vs Custom Built Games - Which is Better?

Today, we are comparing two different development methods: game templates vs. custom-built games — which is better and why read in our blog.

Game Templates vs. Custom-Built Games

In the past, it was incredibly hard to create your own game. Today it has become much easier with services like game development outsourcing and products like game templates. Having a preexisting game template sure solves some issues right out of the box but is it a viable solution for serious projects? Or do custom-built games still reign supreme? Is it possible to make a game with a template as good as a custom one? We will give answers to these questions in today’s blog entry and explain what is better and why.

What are game templates?

A lot of people think that if they go to the Unity asset store or Unreal marketplace, they can just buy a template, swap out the art assets, and kind of have a good game. Well, it is a lot more complicated. Every template needs thorough examination and analysis – whether it comes with all the things you need or plan to have. Some of them allow minor additions, while others are severely limited, leaving you to work with a scarce toolset.

After looking through template marketplaces, you will realize that there are not many good products but tons of mediocre solutions and really bad ones. Therefore, it is possible to create a small or rather simple game with a template, but for building a completely unique game with original mechanics, it will not cut it. Even with expensive paid templates that promise development freedom and flexibility, you are kinda gambling.

Individual and independent game developers see templates as an MVP-maker tool. Having a minimum viable product before diving deeper into development saves them a lot of trouble. You can do the same. Use a game template where you can basically just swap out the art assets and make a game prototype as quickly as possible to see how it plays out.

Why do we need custom games, then?

When you are planning to start a game project, there are many different questions to consider. Some of them can be answered on your own; others might require qualified advice from experienced developers. For now, let’s focus on the questions from the first category, which are:

  • What are your goals with the project?
  • How big is your budget?
  • Is time an issue for you?

Goals. If you are planning to enter the industry or make a name for your company, then a custom-built game is a must. You cannot just take a premade template and pretend it is going to be a unique product just because it has original visuals and mechanics. The audience will immediately notice that you are trying to feed them the concept they have seen already, thus feeling you are trying to fool them. Think of your reputation as a game-maker before daring to pull such a trick. Some tried and got burned, effectively shutting down all opportunities to redeem themselves. Just take it as a fact that even good templates won’t do for big games that seek commercial success. Every huge project today is custom-made.

Budget. Money is one of the main limiters in development. You may have a cool vision and may know people who can realize it, but whether all those features will come to life or not depends on your budget. We believe that even a partially completed custom game with unique ideas is approximately ten times better than a copy-pasted template clone. When funds are limited, consider making at least a section/act of the video game in all its grace: with full functionality and visuals that would represent the quality of the finished product. Showing people a fragment of something genuine is much better than presenting something bland in one piece. Look at the Star Citizen – announced ten years ago, accumulated more than $400M to date, and is still in development!

Time. Creating an innovative gaming experience consumes it mercilessly. The more elaborate mechanics you want or, the more sophisticated art style you require, the longer it would take. With a custom-built game, you are certainly taking the “scenic” route, but the final result will be worth the effort. Especially when you can take a shortcut by hiring more specialists to speed up the development (note: the option is primarily for multimillionaire publishers that care much less about game budgets). The “better safe than sorry” principle works in this case perfectly. Meaning you should not rush with development and don’t take questionable solutions that are not guaranteed to work or have certain limits.

Push it to the limit

If you are just starting out with game development, you must learn as much as possible about all processes and procedures associated with it. Buying a template for your first project will not make much sense if you don’t understand what benefits it provides. Furthermore, most templates do require some level of programming logic, game design knowledge, or some other expertise you don’t necessarily have right at the start.

However, having some gamedev experience does not automatically mean that templates are your way to go. This approach has severe limits you must consider:
  • Each template is a finished product that you buy in a digital store. Don’t expect its creators to make improvements in the future or support it above the bare minimum. They can help you with setting it up and fixing bugs, but they won’t add a single feature that is not included in the initial configuration.
  • You cannot just take the first template you like. Before buying one, you need to do meticulous research, evaluation, and deconstruction to figure out the full capabilities and limitations of the product. In addition to that, it would require consulting with a senior developer who will assess the development stack and make purchase recommendations.
  • There is always a chance that your game won’t function as you envisioned due to functionality and feature limits. Game development is a creative process, but templates take creativity out of the equation. In other words, if you come up with a new fantastic idea for the project, you may not be able to realize it.
  • When you are done with the project, you will have to throw all your developments and additions away. Why? Because the template you bought was designed for specific tasks, plus it most likely has poor scalability on top of other restrictions. Therefore, you are going to need another template soon (or switch to custom gamedev).
  • Neither gaming audiences nor big companies and marketplaces love products that are made by following common patterns. So the amount of work to transform a template into a more original thing is astounding. Most times, it is not worth the effort.

Why is custom game development better?

The gaming scene across all platforms is saturated with numerous titles. Some of them are in early or beta access, unfinished and unpolished but still attracting people with original ideas and cool mechanics. Players tend to forgive minor flaws and ignore small bugs when the gaming experience is unique or does not have many analogs. This is only achievable with custom game development. But it is not the only reason why professional development is usually preferable to the approach with templates.

Custom-made games are always in demand and remain popular longer. The audience sometimes appreciates even unsuccessful attempts to take an innovative approach. Like it was with No Man’s Sky when the game received a second chance with the “Next” update that changed everything. Game communities can wait for fixes, patches, and updates if they like the initial concept. Furthermore, avid fans can even suggest new ideas and point out design flaws, thus prolonging the project’s life. Such modifications are impossible with set templates.


Custom development is the only way to ensure a high-quality user experience. When game designers have full control over the process, they can execute your ideas to the letter and find out the most efficient way to do that. Some templates do offer some development flexibility, but you never know whether it will be enough. Let professionals create a game architecture and custom design for you. You would not save on the foundation when building a presentable house, right?

Setting your team free from the majority of restrictions imposed by the nature of development processes boosts their creativity. So why would you intentionally limit devs by forcing them to work with templates made by someone else? Yea, it will most likely cost more, but you can discuss the budget question with your outsourcing partner and choose the optimal solution(s) while maintaining quality in all aspects.

When is a game template OK?

Templates are a nice and cheap way to test your ideas before plunging into serious development. Depending on the genre, your future project will surely have some elements invented and realized by others. So instead of recreating those fragments from scratch, you can take a premade pattern and fill it with your content and vision, plus work on some marketing magic.

By the way, producing early marketing materials is a smart way to use templates. Such promos are often created to pitch ideas and visualize how the final product might look. Getting a decent preexisting game template, for this matter, kills two birds with one stone: saves time/money and provides a concept for investors. A good illustration of your ideas might persuade publishers to fund your project, especially if you explain that in the future, it will be a custom game and you already have a blueprint.

In other words, if you don’t have an outlined development plan or are not sure about the game’s concept, then templates might become your source of inspiration. But when you have a clear vision and set objectives, you will have to switch to custom development in order not to limit your creativity. This assures that people will play the game you planned, not a random template maker.

How to find a good game development studio?

It is always a tricky question that obliges keeping many variables in mind. Having a clear vision along with detailed ideas helps a lot. For dedicated outsourcing studios, this information will be enough to propose a development plan and suggest necessary improvements after a consultation. If your potential partner is weaseling during negotiations and cannot provide answers to your questions, that’s not a good sign.


Other than that, we can think of a few solid criteria to consider before striking a deal with an outsourcing development studio. First of all, check the range of the services your partners provide. The wider it is, the better (meaning that you will not have to search for specific expertise in case of emergency).


Then learn about their reputation. Every dev company has a history, portfolio of works, reviews from previous clients, and other testimonials. The history will tell you how long these guys have been in the industry, completed projects will demonstrate their capabilities, and client feedback will explain how they perform in general on all levels. Projects with higher ratings might very well indicate that games in a particular genre are what the company specializes in.


Don’t hesitate to call managers when you have questions, especially regarding the development approach and methodology. Unfortunately, this info is rarely put on display in comments due to its complexity, but you need to know as much as possible about internal working processes before signing a contract.

Final words

After completing a multitude of projects as a sole outsourcing developer as well as one of many third-party contractors in some AAA scenarios, we can totally understand why our clients opt for custom development. They want to make something more than just “a game that works”; they want to express their ideas or values and leave a trace with their product.

If this is your case as well, then we welcome you to check the development services we provide. At Argentics, we truly love making and playing games. We share a mutual enthusiasm for creating innovative, original, and inspiring titles to make our clients proud of. Development is our passion, and that’s why each project we take on is special for us. We are happy to help you build the game of your dreams today!
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