What would it cost to produce a game?

Discussion in 'Indie Basics' started by Pande, Dec 4, 2007.

  1. Pande

    Pande New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2007
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Now, this is something I've wondered for what's bordering on a year now, and though I've lurked here before I've never actually mustered up the courage to register and ask. It's come to that point, and here I am, asking.

    All licensing and trademarking and shipping and manufacturing and whatever costs aside, how much would it cost to make a game? I have no idea what programmers charge, and I realise it's very subjective (I.E. tetris versus 2D rpg) but a ballpark figure would be awfully handy for us beginners to work with.

    My specific situation is this: I'm a 2D artist. I've always wanted to make a game, and I've tried many times to arrange deals that would end up with me making a game (Mostly "I scratch your back, you scratch mine") but I've never yet even got to the stage where my game has a workable demo.

    I feel as if I'm going to need to hire someone in order to motivate them to continue working on it. I have no intention of actually SELLING the game once it's finished, as I'm not really a fan of money. All I want to do is fork over 400-500 bucks to get a "frame" for the game* happening. Having a financial investment in said game should be enough to keep me and the programmer going, I hope.

    * "The game" will be a 2D platformer with a few physics elements. It's not overly complex, just picture a combination of Yoshi's Island for SNES and Cave Story for the PC.

    All I personally need to know is just that: How much do programmers charge?

    But, for the sake of general beginner's knowledge, knowing how much artists (Both 2d and 3d) and musicians charge as well is also good to know.
     
  2. Pande

    Pande New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2007
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yes, yes, double post, terrible pande :)

    As I mentioned, I am a 2d pixel artist and have a bit of information that I can contribue to my own thread, so I might as well.

    From what I've gathered, there are three basic an' common ways to price things.

    First, and most logical is a by-the-hour system. This is exactly as it says, and is rare to find outside an in-house position. I've done it once before for 9 bucks an hour, which seemed fair to me as I was still learning the ropes. I asked a few artist friends, and they laughed at me, saying that at my skill level I shouldn't be charging less than 11 per hour. Fair enough, and I noted that for next time.

    Though I've never asked them directly, I've heard tell of the "professional" (The ones whose work stuns you) artists going upwards of 25 bucks an hour. Considering their quality and speed, I'd say it's quite worth it.

    Second is a size-based system. This works exceptionally well with pixel art, as most things are cut into their specific restrictions. For example, one 32X32 tile might be priced at $1.50-$5.00, or a 32X64 character priced at 4$ a frame. The prices vary widely depending on complexity, but a couple bucks per 32X32 seems to be the running rate.

    Third, and most sane in my opinion, is a pricing for the entire project, or a pricing in segments. Simply write out a few pages of what you'll need with as much information as you can muster (Dimensions, colour restrictions, frames, style, etc etc) and ask your artist to review it and give a price for it.

    If any other artists feel I'm mistaken, go ahead and correct me :)
     
  3. SteveZ

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2004
    Messages:
    398
    Likes Received:
    1
    I would say $15-$25/hour with good amount of hours should be suitable for a starting / young freelance programmer. Then again, from my experience, stretching the budget thin is also possible. 4-5 years ago, I was once able to find a programmer for $5-7/hr, a musician for $5/song, and a graphic artist working for peanuts - they were all students at that time.

    -Steve Z.
     
  4. Nikos Beck

    Nikos Beck New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2007
    Messages:
    321
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think $15-25 an hour sounds reasonable. If you hire a student or a beginner programmer, you need to be mindful that it might be a slow process. But, they'll be on the low end, even as low as $10/hour. A professional will complete their work faster, have more experience integrating art and working with their tools of the trade.

    I would consider a weekly salary. You set a budget each week, say $100, and pay the programmer once a week. Each week you can get a copy of the work so far, discuss the projects progress, the next step. You want to have consistent progress and maintain a clear view of the project.

    I would suggest Torque Game Builder (because I'm familiar with it, although other packages like Game Maker are equally easy to use). It has excellent support for non-programmers. A progammer could add functionality to handle the player's character and some of the physics. As an artist, you can design the levels visually without any additional programming.

    I think a $500 budget would be very reasonable for this type of project.

    If the game is designed well, you should be able to swap all of the art, tweak some numbers, and come up with more than one game. You could have a Mario Bros. clone, adjust the player stats and abilities, change the art and come up with a Mega Man clone.
     
    #4 Nikos Beck, Dec 4, 2007
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2007
  5. Spore Man

    Indie Author

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2007
    Messages:
    843
    Likes Received:
    0
    Problems #1 and 2 right there. If you're just in it for the hell of it, then that's why you never got far enough to even have a demo. Working on something with no goal, no point to it is... well, pointless.

    Won't happen for a side-scroller. Do you know how much companies spent developing side-scrollers back in the 90's when that's what everybody was making? $200,000 and up. And that was the budget for the crappy ones. The ones with lots of well done animation, and special programming level features (you know, like swinging balls on chains, destroyable blocks, stuff like that) cost around half a million.

    Shareware quality side-scrollers on PC cost more reasonable amounts... say $50,000 for a 2-man team working 6 months, but they were far from "Yoshi's Island" level of quality.

    Not if there's no point to the excercise. (See response to #1). People need to feed themselves, pay rent, etc. It's REALLY hard to devote time to something with no pay off or PAY, and inevitably people just end up delaying and delaying, giving other things priority. I'm sure you're already familiar with this situation. As for $500, that might get you 20 hrs worth out of a programmer from India, but that's not enough time for a side-scroller engine.

    What!!?? $500 for a side-scroller engine? I strongly disagree... Unless TorqueBuilder already has this built in?
     
  6. Pande

    Pande New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2007
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks, sporeman, I appreciate your response.

    I'm not a madman, and there is a "point" to making the game. I've got all kinds of theories as to why games sell, or why games are popular, and I want to see if I'm actually right. The "goal" is to have a completed project that I designed, not only for the sake of my resume, but for the sake of my... confidence?

    The reason I mentioned I've no intention of selling it was to avoid pricetags that break into the tens of thousands of dollars. I'm not gonna work a year just to blow all my cash on my own ego. I'm SURE people have done it, people have made games for less than 10,000 dollars.

    Also factoring in to that, I am the artist. All artists fees are nada. All I need is a damn engine, and if I could spend around 500 bucks to bring that into fruition, then I think I just might.

    Niklos Beck:

    Thanks for the encouragement, and I'll go check out torque in a few minutes. As for just changing a few things and having a new game... that's against my religion ;)
     
  7. Qitsune

    Qitsune New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2007
    Messages:
    358
    Likes Received:
    0
    Did you actually try to use some of the shareware and/or commercial game makers available? Some programmers with no artists friends already did the opposite of you and released frame works for games, RPG makers are actually really easy to find, you would only have to learn some basic scripting.
     
  8. andrew

    andrew New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2007
    Messages:
    487
    Likes Received:
    0
    Engines aren't the problem, it's making the game inside the engine that's non-trivial.

    For $500, you're basically stuck with getting a novice programmer who will work for peanuts, and hoping for the best. If you are a really good artist, you might be able to attract a higher caliber of programmer who'll do it for the backend %, but that's also assuming you're a good designer (and that you have the chops to get the game mechanics right).

    Also, the speed at which one can crank out game type X is usually directly proportional to how many times one's done it before. If neither you nor the programmer have made this type of game before, expect lots of slow progress as you wrap your head around the basic programming and level construction issues.
     
  9. illuminarc

    illuminarc New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2007
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    0
    If you hired someone with a TGB license to develop the game for you, and gave them complete design documents, artwork, level design, everything they needed to just build/code straight away, and they already had a platformer framework, and you handled QA concurrently, for $500 you would get 1 pro day to 3 novice days of pure implementation.. which is a good start for a prototype.

    On a similar note, does indie freelance programmer rates mirror the mainstream industry pay scale, do programmers here work on 1 full time or multiple part time projects..

    or is it simply a case of charging what you need to, and taking the projects you need to? Similar question to artists/composers I guess.

    (Currently reviewing my business model for the new year)
     

Share This Page

  • About Indie Gamer

    When the original Dexterity Forums closed in 2004, Indie Gamer was born and a diverse community has grown out of a passion for creating great games. Here you will find over 10 years of in-depth discussion on game design, the business of game development, and marketing/sales. Indie Gamer also provides a friendly place to meet up with other Developers, Artists, Composers and Writers.
  • Buy us a beer!

    Indie Gamer is delicately held together by a single poor bastard who thankfully gets help from various community volunteers. If you frequent this site or have found value in something you've learned here, help keep the site running by donating a few dollars (for beer of course)!

    Sure, I'll Buy You a Beer