I still have a ways to go to hit the look I want out of Auto Fire.
All my visual assets so far are bought from the Unity Asset Store, or made by me (and I am no artist). The challenge of using purchased assets is that often cars or environment elements are created to look super-realistic, since that's the direction Unity is making its biggest improvements. However, I don't want the game to lead too far into the realistic direction for a couple reasons:
The first reason is legibility. Everything needs to be exaggerated somewhat because all the elements: Obstacles, buildings, vehicles are pretty small onscreen. Any top-down game has this problem since a vertical-standing object often has a pretty indistinct silhouette from above.
The second reason is the fact that I am taking massive liberties with scale. Buildings are the size of cars are the size of people, because I want the game to feel fairly roguelike in how its world is constructed and navigated. When I had some realistic looking assets at the start, everything looked really weird. I had purchased some realistic gun muzzle flashes and smoke and somehow it emphasized the scale inconsistencies. I then put back the stylized explosions you see now.
For environment art I am trying to use the lowest-poly models I can find, and then I put the textures through a cleanup filter, but I want to do more (and I have to just for performance anyway). I'm not looking to make the game look cartoony, but "clean" and "easy to parse" would be great targets to hit.
Those "rooster tails" you see when accelerating or braking are just an experiment with stronger, stylized feedback for speed changes. The look isn't quite right yet... In the end if I can get something closer to the ground VFX from Auto Modellista, that might be pretty rad.