Discussion in 'Commercial Games Discussion' started by sgeos, Oct 30, 2017.
@onipunk Such threads exist. Check out the forum 'Useful Development Tools'.
As other people said, it depends. My Kickstarter campaign got over 15k$, which looks like A LOT of money, but is actually just enough to cover contractors! Most of the money will be used for music and animations.
But that was our choice; there's no need to spend this much for an rpg maker project. Think about what the strong points of your game are, and what you can do to enhance them.
In my case, my two team members are extremely skilled with watercolors, but have zero experience with animations. We decided to focus on making pretty backgrounds, and hired someone capable of making sprites on par with everything else. It's a big investment, but we think it will pay off because the result doesn't look like a typical rpg maker game - which means our audience will be bigger.
Speaking of money, please consider using Itch instead of Steam! It's much more developers friendly, takes a smaller cut and is much more suitable for smaller indie games. After Direct, Steam has become a bloodbath.
Pretty much this. It really depends on what you're doing, I made Strangers of the Power for less than 200$, 100$ which was Steam Direct fee. The game was a low budget game that's being sold for 1,99$. It made back "the budget" within like few days, so it's already a net positive to me to this day making me a steady income to help fund a bigger project.
I'd consider either;
a) Spend as little as possible - make a cheap product and sell it for cheap. Maybe something like 100-500$ (steam direct fee would be a minimum of 100$)? That's probably the easiest way to make a little bit of money.
When we're talking about RM games, I believe wholeheartedly that this is the best strategy if you're in it to make money. Although that being said, I'm not sure if this is as good of a strategy as it used to be, since STEAM have been flooded with RM games over the recent years. If your game looks too cheap, it might just drown in the flood and you end up with single-digit och two-digit sales. Maybe someone who've recently made a "cheap" RM game and put it on STEAM can say what they did (or failed to do) to make it stand out?
b) Spend "a lot" of money to perfect the game. The idea is to make such a pretty and great game that you'll not only sell more copies, but can use this game to promote future games (or promote yourself) as well.
Though I have to say, I see surprisingly many people with this mindset on these forums, spending several thousand dollars on their project, which if ends up never completed would be totally wasted.
What I'm saying might sound harsh but for most people I think this is a financial mistake. Sure, if you're somewhat talented/experienced and hardworking, you might just pull it off. But if the end result will be a "somewhat-good-looking-but-still-quite-generic-RM-game", then those money would probably have been better spend elsewhere.
As an indie developer, you have to spread the risk. If you go for high stakes high reward mentality, be prepared that more often than not you'll fail and make a loss. Those kind of risks are only justified if you have something to fall back on, like a back up plan. But putting all your eggs in one basket is a financial suicide, unless you get really really lucky.
It's one of the reasons why I never spend years on a single project, because what if that project doesn't do as well as you hope? 6 months per project or so is a pretty safe enough margin that also gives you enough time to make something reasonably good.
I read something about how the game studios of the 80's and 90's would often make many projects at once, and usually only 1 of them was a commercial success. The income from that 1 paid for the other projects. Occasionally they got lucky and maybe another 2 - 3 broke even (or did a little better than break even), but the rest were usually failures by a commercial standpoint, or were never even finished and scrapped.
So yes, that means that those companies like Sierra, Origin, Sir Tech, and so on? For every Wing Commander or King's Quest they made, they had a few flops as well (some of which they never released and just scrapped, and some we can still find sitting on gog.com so we can play and go "What were they thinking?"). However, they survived by releasing many projects at once, and hoping for the best.
Now, since most of us work solo, making many games at once is a recipe to end up burned out within a year. So what I think we need to take away from this is the following:
1: Odds are high your first game will not be a commercial success. You got say a 0.000001% chance of it being one, with you being an unknown dev.
2: Make your first commercial game using only money you can afford to never see again. I myself got the money for my game by working an extra evening for a year or so. That money I didn't need to pay bills or anything, so it went straight to game development. But by doing this, if I make a whopping $0 on my game, I'm still fine financially.
3: Use income from your first game to fund the second game.
4: Repeat from there.
My expenditure is funded by my full time job.
As I develop and grow so does my game.
I pay a little here and there to get artwork, scripts, resources (tileset etc.).
My projected cost is to be between $1000-2000. If I make this back, then I will be happy.
I am only ok with this now because I have settled into a "I don't want a generic rpg that everyone will complain about" frame of mind.
I have been working part time on making my game for two years now. It will likely take two or more to finish.
So your thought process for spending is not to be focused on "is it worth it?" but instead "will I be satisfied with it not being great?"
Plus keep in mind that if you buy script/plugins, artwork, resources; then those assets are yours to use again and again.
I am hoping to make a commercial game.
Some great replies here. For me it was like Stone Soup; the more I spent on custom resources, the better the game became and the more custom resources I wanted. Everybody has their own preferences. I spent about $4000, mostly on art. I composed a lot of the original music, so I saved $$. My game has made over $5000 on Steam and counting (no bundles); will break even soon. Keep in mind even AAA titles usually sell for under $10 on Steam sales after a few years, so the competition is FIERCE!
THIS. This (IMO) is how very small indies need to do business and expect not to lose their shirts, unless they get very lucky. With Steam Direct, publishing anything has become a real crapshoot and keeping your expenses lean is how you minimize risk, while still trying to make a solid game (concentrate on writing, story and spend your budget wisely on some custom stuff like mapping and such). My last game, Nightingale Downs, cost around $230 and is already in profit territory, and was there in the first week.
One of the biggest things I refused to do was have a game that looked too "RPG Maker". Sadly, you see one, you've seen most. Undertale was a huge motivation, not because of the game itself, but the fact it was made in Game Maker Studio, another engine known for just the overload of shovelware on there. It stood out. So I have spent a lot of time, found some AMAZING talent, and carried it all over to RPG Maker. It's costly, I've spent a few thousand on my artists and a guy doing some secondary coding for me when I don't have the time, and I know it'll cost more (especially if we convert to something like Unity, which is possible).
Like many have said, it just depends on what you're doing. I want mine to look a specific way and because I can't do that myself, I know it'll cost me.
It highly depends on the amount of work you're doing yourself.
If you hand a lot to third parties like composers, artists, coders the budget will need to be way bigger than if you're capable of doing most of that on your own.
For my current project... I bought the FSM tilesets on steam, that has been around 45-50€ if I recall correctly.
I also commissions a soundtrack which runs roughly around 170$ so far.
And I know that I'll have to pay the steam direct fee which will be another 100€.
Since I don't have anything to fancy going on that would new plugins I don't need a programmer, unless I encounter a compatibility issue.
Anything else regarding art, mapping, eventing etc. I can do myself.
Another thing that will influence your need for a budged is time. If you don't have much time but want stuff to get done soon, you'll most likely need to hire someone to support you, even if you would be capable of doing that yourself.
I also love the exchange of experience and ideas on budget calculation in this thread
I am already $600 into a free game. This isn't even for a commercial title! I haven't even gotten to the music, sprites, and scripts yet. I've resigned myself to the fact that if I want to make quality I have to learn myself or pay for it. I expect when I finish the three free games I want to do to get my name in the field that I will spend a considerable amount more in a commercial game!
Seeing the numbers here, that's about right.
I've been working on a free game where I've done everything myself as much as possible. Art, writing, eventing - that's all covered by me. But then I still needed customs plugins and I needed music. That set me well over €2500. Luckily the voice acting was the cheapest because I didn't do dialogue lines, I did grunts/sighs instead. That was about €100.
Eventually I hope to turn it into a commercial game, but right now it's free to play. I don't expect to break even or to gain any kind of profit, I simply want to finish it and at least get some amount of money back. Save money where you can, but you're going to have to spend money regardless.
The most expensive parts has always been custom music for me. They're dayum pricey.
You ever want to trade music for map work, you let me know.
That's actually been something really beneficial for me too, trading what I do well for what others do well. I traded a custom set of 5 fully orchestrated songs (one that was more symphonic metal) for a set of scripts I desperately needed but was too bogged down with other scripts to get done. Guy was a godsend and we both got what we needed in the end, while keeping ourselves from spending necessary money. Everyone wins.
It takes between 100 to 300 hours to make 1 hour of gameplay (maybe more).
For a 20 hour game, that's 2000 to 6000 manhours.
How much do you get paid per hour? That's a small fortune right there without even assets. Don't forget that your time is valuable.
That...isn't exactly true. Considering it at that level is kind of the wrong way to approach it, mostly because you'll never build a game starting in a linear path. Assets, once completed, are reusable for the most part. It's very possible to then use those assets to build any length of gameplay. There's too many variables to consider it by game length. Consider something like battles. If it takes 100 hours to complete all animations for all characters for battles, then the only factor after that is how long it takes you to make each battle. If you have 2000 battles, that 100 hours to make the animations stays exactly the same. The only difference then is programming the battle, which is fairly easy.
That's a big long paragraph to basically say counting by hours of gameplay is not a good way to do it, and you won't figure out any sort of budget info by using it.
(Very big number) times (the regular rate you could get paid doing something else) = opportunity costs
No need to be rude about it. Was pointing out that an hour of content can be anything from bare minimum with reused assets and a few events/scenes, to massively detailed designs with intricate builds where every minute is accounted for, and the time each end of that spectrum would take vary wildly. Quality, availability (if a plugin is free and already made, you save tons of time), and many other factors can greatly affect. Even then, an hour of gameplay may involve revisiting an old location, talking with a few people, and a boss fight, something that takes maybe 10-20 hours of dedicated time.
Another way of looking at opportunity costs is - what would you have been doing in that time anyway? Playing games? Watching Netflix? Making model boats? Enjoyable, but not 'productive'. If you have been making a game instead of playing CoD, what are the costs involved? Compare that with the opportunity costs if you would have been doing a paid occupation. Opportunity costs is too global a metric to use without taking into account the precise circumstances of the 'opportunity' lost.
Yeah, the development time doesn't go in proportion with game content. In my first month of development any game I barely have a few minutes of gameplay, maybe none at all, because it's all spent making/editing/finding resources, databasing, importing tilesets, plot building, planning, etc. Then after that, you can make faster progress, but then again, certain types of content can take more development time than others. E.g. complex cutscenes, levels with big maps, complex battle eventing - these drastically increase dev time. Reusing the same maps, such as presence of hub areas you return to multiple times, more simplistic eventing or eventing that can be applied multiple times, or even focusing your game entirely on one gameplay aspect (e.g. only battles and forego complex plot, or vice versa only story with choices and forego combat altogether) - these things reduce dev time in comparison to playtime.
But yeah, I agree that developer's time is important to consider too. The only thing is, it's hard to put an exact value on it, because everyone values their time differently, and this can even change from one day to the next, not to mention we price our time higher when doing stuff we don't enjoy quite as much than stuff we do enjoy (since enjoying stuff is a reward in itself too). For these reasons, I don't personally factor dev hours when figuring out the break even costs for a game. But it all depends on whichever system you find most reliable for you personally, so long as it stays consistent for all projects.
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