Creating game without assets

Is it possible/would it make sense to make all the functionality for your game using the starter/basic assets if you aren’t able to create them and can’t currently afford to pay someone to make them? And then to later replace the assets with the permanent ones? Or would this cause problems when trying to replace them?

I need to brush up on my 3D modeling, rigging and animations but I’m trying to learn Unreal and start building a game, and don’t want to try to relearn/learn everything all at once.

No, but also yes. Depends.
Most assets get heavily customized during development to add or fit specific needs.
This can and often does lead to changing gamplay to fit the objects. Or changing the objects to fit the gameplay (for performance for instance).

this also depends on the type of game ofc.
if you want to make a 3rd person game, 90% of stuff that is on screen is the character’s animations / movement.
Prototyping that without making custom animations is pretty pointless, since you will need to start fresh when you change the skeleton and add proper animations.

Personally i also find the process of “blocking out” a level a complete and utter waste of time.
make assets with excellent geometry and UVs instead and you can reuse them wherever is needed.
learn to make them modular, and levarage the merge actor system, and the 4 hours you spent “blocking out” stuff can easily become making a whole new level/building instead.
The one exception May be when working on/with a team, since you can set the overall idea and let someone else deal with replacing the specific assets.

If you just want to learn unreal the Learn tab and the Academy have some decent courses and free assets. The twin stick shooter is porbably a good start…

The type of game I am interest in making is a 3D puzzle/adventure game. Excluding enemies/bosses (which I know are a big part) couldn’t the puzzle portion of the game be created with simple objects? A rectangle for a bridge, buttons/pressure plates with the same functionality of the final models, but simple objects temporarily.

Another problem I face is I don’t want to simply follow tutorials on how to create a copy of what is being taught. I am currently caught in the “tutorial trap” where I follow tutorials, creating what they do but walking away with no actual knowledge of how to create my own idea, just following and slightly tweaking someone else’s code. My goal is to make my first project of my own idea, and use pieces of tutorials/courses/guides mixed with trial and error and critical thinking to cement the knowledge better than just basically copy and pasting.

I am don’t have a team or anything to help me so I’m trying to focus on one thing at a time, should I spend a bunch of time relearning modeling just to then relearn what I’ve figured out about the engine?

(I’ve gone through many hour of tutorials such as the expensive course on Udemy for Unreal Engine and feel I need a more hands on figure it out approach, my final goal is to be a programmer but I do enjoy the other fields of game development)

There’s defintely enough free stuff on the market to make a game with no outlay whatsoever…

You can make a prototype of your game with simple objects, but later if you go into details you will find out that almost everything will be different. I also started my game with a roughly complete class structure. That was a good idea. But without much experience and when going into details I have to split a class into twenty to achieve what I’ve planned.
I you want to make your game all alone, you will not get around learning how to use much more software like Blender, Substance Painter, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe After Effects and something for audio editing (this is the software I am using). There is much free stuff on the web, but it almost never fits 100% to your game, thus you will have to modify it.

The thing is, prototyping a timed lever mechanism in blueprint or c++ takes about 2 minutes.
Its a core concept you should have learned from any number of tutorials involving the imementation of interfaces perhaps so you can reuse the timer function.

If you just don’t know this, the only way you will ever figure it out is if you follow a tutorial step that explains why what and how.

The way you power the bridge would depend on 1000 things. Initially the asset. Are you animating a skeletal mesh? Sliding a part in place? Using a morph target? Winding and unwinding a prerecorded matinee sequence? Etc.
having an almost final asset solves most of those enigmas for you.