I’m working on a digital card game with a focus on simple but deep gameplay, and I have implemented lots of interesting cards. However, my artistic skills are… somewhat lacking. Why, then, did I copy other card games by trying to illustrate each card with beautiful art? This ties what I’m good at to what I’m not good at, so I can’t scale what I’m good at. That’s not a recipe for success.
Instead, I could illustrate cards with simpler symbols and runes. This way I can focus on what I’m good at, which is the only thing that sets the project apart. This doesn’t mean I can’t have beautiful art in the game, it just means I won’t let its cost limit what I create. I’ll be able to make the gameplay the best it can be without worrying about budget.
The same holds true when considering scale. When you’re small you have few (or no) users, so you can’t play like the big guys. In fact you don’t want to play like them, they are the ones wishing they could play like you! If they could do what you have the opportunity to do on a small scale they most certainly would. Where they build anonymous matchmaking you can build community and genuine connection. Where they try to appeal to the broadest audience you can totally envelope a niche.
Your project has constraints. Don’t fight them, acknowledge them.