Realistic Budgets

Discussion in 'Commercial Games Discussion' started by sgeos, Oct 30, 2017.

  1. sgeos

    sgeos π/180 Member

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    I have read that some projects have had small fortunes invested in them. How much is a small fortune? What is a realistic budget for a commercial RPG Maker game? Realistically, how much custom work needs to be done in terms of features and dollars? I realize the short answers is, "it depends".
     
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  2. Amarok

    Amarok Veteran Veteran

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    First thing you need to know is exactly what kind of graphics/aesthetic you want for your game.
    If you dont mind relying on rtp/free assets to do most of the work and just rely on a single artist to do stuff like character portraits, maybe some sprites. The cost can go up to 500-1k+ usd/euro, etc depends a lot on the artist, its not the same hiring someone who draws for 30 bucks than someone who does it for 300.
    Now if you wanted something completely customized prepare to invest thousands, even for a small title.
     
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  3. Andar

    Andar Veteran Veteran

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    As always, it depends on how much exclusive content you want. It is always a lot cheaper to use general resources for most of your game and only use exclusive resources where absolutely neccessary.

    The best example is the tileset. A full multisheet exklusive tileset of a halfway decent quality will cost you a minimum of several thousand dollars - celianna posted a calculation on that on her blog some where.
    That is because in a full tileset you'll need dozens of base tiles for grass, stone and so on, and you have to pay for every single of those tiles.
     
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  4. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    A "realistic budget" is basically whatever you want to pay to have your game customized. You can't really "shop around" for assets that much. Even some of the more "terrible" looking assets from the cheaper artists will run you close to $30-$50 depending on what you need.

    The problem is that all these assets are done by rank amateurs. There's no "default price" for anything, because of it. Artists charge what they think they can do business for. This isn't a full time job with an hourly wage like professional titles get. This is commission work, which means the only pay they might see for a while is whatever they charge an individual. It also means, they likely have to hold down a real job as well as do their commission work.

    Art prices themselves are going to vary, depending on quality, workload of artist, style you want, and other factors (like whether or not these are busts of characters, a title screen, custom items, animations, or a full tileset).
    Music prices tend to be anywhere from $10-$25 a track... or sometimes they charge you by the minute.

    To create any kind of budget, you just need to set up an amount you're willing to spend on the project. Because, you aren't working with people getting paid hourly. You're working with people getting paid by project. It's an unreliable payment schedule at worst, and turns into a nightmare of time management at worst.

    So, decide what game you want. Decide on everything about the game... except the stuff you want customized. Create placeholders, or use placeholders. Then, set up a budget of what you're willing to spend, to change out some of the stuff. To commission work. Then, you just shop the forums here, or somewhere else where they do that work, and look for the best quality for what you're willing to pay. Some negotiating is also useful in this area, especially if the artist may be very good... but ultimately incapable of giving you what you're looking for (some artists can't handle specific genres, it is what it is. Some can't handle specific art styles. Same deal. It is what it is).

    Personally, I'd just look for someone who can do what I want done, and just pay them whatever they were asking for, provided I had the money for it. What I'd like to do is ask artists to submit "samples" of what I'm looking for, pay them each a small fee for the samples, and then give the project and the full pay to whomever I select as the "best possible outcome" of what I'm looking for. I mean, I can't do that, it's not feasible when these people don't get paid by the hour, and there's a lot of room for shady things to happen with it... But, it's the way I wish I could do business. To avoid getting "subpar" artwork, or paying someone a sum of money and getting something that isn't really worth what I paid for.

    So, just look around. See what people offer. Ask if they can give you what you're looking for. Provide specific details and rough drafts. Negotiate a price and a timetable for completion.

    Your budget on an Indie title is whatever you're willing to pay. Whatever you can afford to part with to get your Vision.
     
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  5. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    For my first game I spent about $4000 - $5000. I'd say about 1,500 was art, 1,500 - 2,000 was music, and the rest went to little purchases here and there (engines, DLC's, etc). And I still have mostly RTP for tiles and sprites even with that, because a full custom tileset would have quadrupled that budget easily.
     
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  6. Matseb2611

    Matseb2611 Innovate, don't emulate Veteran

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    Technically you could have a budget of $0, excluding the price of the RPG maker and any other software you're using (such as Photoshop).
    If say you have talents in pixel art or making music, etc, you can cover that side of assets yourself. Or you can have a game made entirely out of store-bought packs (I guess the budget is no longer $0 here, but still very inexpensive compared to commissioning custom stuff).

    Whatever's the case, you have to establish a few things first:
    - What assets are you willing to use in your game? RTP, store-bought packs, freeware stuff on the forums, paid royalty free assets on other sites, or entirely custom-made stuff.
    - What assets are you able to make yourself? And even if you can, do you have the time to allocate to handle all the workload yourself?
    - Is there a cheaper alternative for any of the assets you're thinking of using? Is there a necessity?
    - Lastly, how many assets do you need for your game? What's the size of the game?

    Obviously, a huge game will have a higher budget than a smaller game using similar assets, custom-assets will cost more than royalty-free or store-bought stuff, spending a big chunk of your budget on an asset that will only be seen or heard for 10 seconds in the game is a waste, and making (or even editing) some assets yourself will save you up on a lot of costs.

    I normally tend to spend somewhere between $500 - $1.5k per project. So it is of course possible to make a reasonably good commercial game without shelling out thousands.
     
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  7. Shaz

    Shaz Veteran Veteran

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    I've spent over $10K on my project - probably closer to $15K. I've done the eventing and the majority of the scripting. I hired out pretty much everything else - writing, art, music and most of the mapping. And now that I've switched to MV, most of the art is not usable.

    I accepted that there are things I'm not good at, and was prepared to pay for people who were good at them. I don't know if the game will make enough to cover those costs (and it is very unlikely to make enough to cover the cost of my own time, which hasn't been factored in), but I do know it'll make a lot more than if I pretended I didn't need help and tried to do it all on my own.

    I think art is probably the greatest expense to any game. If you're a good artist, there's a whole heap of savings to be made right there. Audio would be next on the list. Funnily enough, I think I paid my writer more than the artists or musicians, but he was worth it.
     
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  8. onipunk

    onipunk Archmage of Procrastination Veteran

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    I think something that often gets overlooked is playtesting, as well. If you know from the start of your project that you want it to be a commercial release, you'll want it to be as bug-free and smooth as possible. RPGs are lengthy games, and asking playtesters to go over 40+ hour builds repeatedly to seek out any bugs, log them and then try to replicate the bug to see if it's been fixed in your next build is no small task. I imagine most people would want compensation for that sort of time investment, which is why major developers and publishers pay a lot for it (and also because if they miss any big bugs it can cost them up to $10,000 per patch to fix them after the fact). I think a lot of people in the gaming community are very tired of buggy, broken games being released, so I reckon playtesting is a hugely underestimated factor when it comes to budget.

    Art is definitely the most expensive part of any project, and it's the one thing you really don't want to skimp on. I found that post on Celianna's blog, and in her hypothetical example (which I'm inclined to agree with, knowing how bloody good she is at what she does and knowing she full well deserves the $30 an hour she uses in her example), a complete custom tileset, interior and exterior, can reach as high as $18,000. Her post is here, and it's definitely worth a read if you're seriously thinking about being as down to earth as possible with your budget: http://pixanna.nl/uncategorized/on-the-subject-of-pricing-tiles/
     
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  9. Shaz

    Shaz Veteran Veteran

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    I don't think it's realistic to compare major developers with indie developers here. None of us would have to pay anywhere near $10,000 for a game patch, nor would we pay a massive amount for testers.

    I've worked for some professional indie game developers doing testing for their games, and I was only ever paid for it once - on that occasion I was the lead tester & go-between from the testers to the developers and had to keep track of the issues register as well as verify all of the bugs (and the fixes) on each platform, so a lot more work involved than just testing. All of the other testers I've worked with have also been happy to be included in that vital process. Payment is usually a free copy of the game and your name in the credits (though there's one company I've tested for a few times who don't list tester names in credits) - people are usually happy to get a glimpse of the game nice and early, and to have a say in some aspects of its development.

    Having said that, testing IS a vital part of game development, and shouldn't be skimped on. Even if you're not paying testers with cash, you still need to get as many of them as you can, and find people who are prepared to spend the time to try and break your game, who can communicate well, and who are happy to play over and over. Testing can really be a drag sometimes, but sometimes it can be a really fun experience - this is where you put your game out there and get genuine feedback.
     
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  10. onipunk

    onipunk Archmage of Procrastination Veteran

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    There definitely is a difference between major publishers and indie developers, but the patch cost is why Fez was stuck with a game-breaking bug on Xbox 360 (and Tim Schaefer pegged Microsoft's patch costs at $40K, so I was actually dramatically underestimating it). This was back in 2012 mind you, so I don't know if or how it's changed since then. We do have the advantage of being on Steam which allows easy and free distribution of patches and updates, so as RPG Maker devs we wouldn't have to deal with that specific issue but it was more of an example to show how important testing is to a game. I wonder if there's any sort of community out there purely for game testers to offer their services, in the same way people can offer themselves as alpha and beta readers for novels?
     
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  11. Golden Unicorn Gaming

    Golden Unicorn Gaming Savior of Astoria Veteran

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    I tried to go as cheap as possible with as much free music/art/resources as I could. I still had to pay for a few songs, title screen art, logo art, character art, sprites, and lots and lots of scripting and I think I did a good job at just under $2,000. But, again, RM games get criticized/immediately dismissed for using stock assets by a great many :( I also spent hundreds and hundreds of hours scouring the internet for free resources that would be allowed.

    I also made a few mistakes along the way that probably cost me about $300, but those are the breaks in life... you live and learn.
     
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  12. Vayne88

    Vayne88 Veteran Veteran

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    Hmm do you all even get "break even" moment when you spent $10k-$15k for a rpg make rgame? Im curious
     
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  13. sgeos

    sgeos π/180 Member

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    To follow up on Vayne88's question, break even can be calculated with and without factoring in your time. When considering new RPG Maker projects, what are the chances of breaking even? Given the hit driven nature of the game industry, making a significant amount of money is clearly a long shot. For the people who have pulled it off, how many years and how many titles has it taken?
     
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  14. Shaz

    Shaz Veteran Veteran

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    The majority of games make very little money.
     
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  15. sgeos

    sgeos π/180 Member

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    Games are a hit driven industry. Most games are losers. Successful companies figure out how to get the winners to pay for the losers and then some.

    Would you say that commercial RPG Maker games make very little money net or gross? In other words, are the chances of recouping an investment in assets reasonable or exceedingly small? This goes back to Vayne88's "break even" question. It is also a heavy factor when deciding on a realistic budget for a project.
     
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  16. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    This is so variable that I believe it is not possible to give a definitive answer.

    My games have sold well, with all costs covered and a decent profit. I do not go straight to Steam, but sell elsewhere for a couple of years - possibly fewer units sold, but at a higher price and without Steam's cut slicing into the income. But I work extremely hard to keep costs down, especially by learning how to do many of my tiles myself, either extremely heavy editing or from scratch. So "recouping an investment in assets" depends on how big that investment is.

    Realistically, I would say (guess?), based on what I have seen, that few games earn more than $3000 before Steam's cut and taxes. Most probably earn less. I have been more successful than that, but you cannot assume that you will be, just as I cannot assume that my next game will be. I suggest you use that as a very rough guideline for your budget.
     
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  17. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    Like I said, go to Steamspy and look up some popular titles. Just remember you won't know if they made the full retail price or not, as Steamspy doesn't tell you what they made. When I did that, there were almost no RPGMaker titles that had sold over 100,000 copies, very few over 10,000 copies, and most were stuck at the 1,000 - 3,000 copy point (especially newer titles). This seemed independent of assets used even, as one of the over 100,000 copy sold games is mostly RTP, and one of the games under 10,000 copies is all custom art.

    The only factor I could find that determined how much you have sold is time. As far as I could tell, every game that sold over 100,000 copies has been out since 2014.

    Now...if you are wanting to make sure you break even, here is what I suggest. Pick a selling price early. Set it. Multiply that by 50%, as you will probably only see half of that after taxes and distribution costs. Multiply that by 1,000, in case you stall out near the bottom of the pack on steam. Doing this, gives us the following for our maximum budget for the game:

    $4.99 * 0.50 * 1000 = $2,495
    $9.99 * 0.50 * 1000 = $4,990
    $14.99 * 0.50 * 1000 = $7,485
    $19.99 * 0.50 * 1000 = $9,980

    If you can get an RPGMaker game to sell for more than 19.99 on Steam, I'd be shocked. And don't forget that $100 of that budget will go to the Steam Direct Fee, so plan for that!
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
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  18. Tai_MT

    Tai_MT Veteran Veteran

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    I had never considered a "break even" point in RPG Maker games. Mostly because of what bgillisp brought up. RPG Maker games, in general, rarely sell well enough to be "making a profit". Or, if they do, it isn't enough to "Make much of a living" doing.

    Personally, I've kind of viewed the RPG Maker engine as a "stepping stone" to get your work out there. Essentially, you're investing in a resume and industry connections. You're building up skills to possibly do it full time, and turn it into a job. You're building up a catalog of Indie games to showcase your talents that you could most likely use to either break into the industry, or get onto an Indie dev team who are using something more robust than RPG Maker, where you'd likely get paid an hourly rate for work... or a salary... or be paid via commission.

    I don't think I've ever once considered what I was doing with this engine a way to make money and have a job. I've always kind of viewed it as "a way to enhance my skills and a way to build a resume". I've always calculated whatever I spent on my game as "total loss". I'm not going to even be selling my first game (if I ever get it finished and released), because trying to recoup costs on what is most likely going to be a terrible game, seems like a silly idea to me. I'd rather build up the "good will" of "hey, this game is free, I'm just looking for feedback" instead of the, "Hey, this game costs some money and is probably crap, pay me, I need to recoup costs".

    But, maybe I'm looking at it wrong?

    I don't know, I'm doing the game making thing just because I love to do it. I don't care if it ever makes a profit. I like the medium for storytelling. It feels more interesting to me than what I've done in just writing books. So, I just factor that anything I spend making a game is just lost profit regardless. But, maybe, just maybe, that cost in making the game, will make someone sit up and take notice of my writing talents... if I have any at all. I'd love to write for a living. I don't care if that's books or if that's in the back room of some AAA developer doing storyboarding and lore and whatever else.

    So, whether I spent $2000 or $15,000 to create my game, it's just viewed to me as a "resume enhancement". It's something I can throw on there for when I apply for other jobs in the future. "Created a 20 hour video game, wrote all the dialogue myself, created the design documents myself, etcetera". I can then provide a link to the work if the employer is curious. They could look up reviews or try it themselves.

    I just can't imagine using RPG Maker "full time" as a job and making any kind of significant money that you'd be able to even live on. Especially when games created on the engine don't sell as well as other Indie titles, even when they're amazing, and it often takes them years to hit the "break even".

    So, I think, what you are really budgeting for, isn't for a "break even", but for how much you're willing to spend to enhance your own skills at game design and your resume for future projects.
     
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  19. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    Right. For that reason I entered into this with 0 expectations for my game. If it sells well and is somehow the next To the Moon (dream on, right?), fine. But if it is not and I sell a whopping 12 copies, and most are to Mom, at least I can say I made a game and got it out there.

    Because though I entered the game making with 0 expectations, I did decide early that all money used on the game had to be money I could afford to lose. To that end, I earned most of the money I needed to buy the art and music by taking on a few extra hours at work (mainly by teaching a once a week night class). This way, if I don't break even, I still paid my bills and did fine financially elsewhere, and it doesn't hurt me in the end.

    Though...the extra income if it does well would be nice!
     
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  20. Vayne88

    Vayne88 Veteran Veteran

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    Btw steamspy isnt accurate.
    Some of my friend published game on steam, steamspy said it havs 1500 owners, buy its actually only below than 100 sales
     
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