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Licensing an engine

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I'm just getting started on a game and I'm looking into engines to use. Our team is very small, yet experienced (in non-commercial games), but writing from scratch would take an eternity to achieve the features and quality we want. We intend to put the game on Windows, Mac, and as many consoles as we can. The engine we are looking into would probably end up costing $70,000 or so after factoring in support, number of developers, and number of target platforms. My question is, when we go shopping for a publisher, will they have a problem with this? In my opinion, a publisher would pay much more in programmer salary to create a similar engine from scratch. I would imagine that it's a fair bit of money to just get a license to develop on the consoles, buy other dev tools like Max/Maya, etc, so maybe $70K is not too bad. Considering how many platforms we would put the game on, and the fact that cost is for an unlimited amount of titles, makes me think we'd be ok using it. If we were an established commercial developer, I wouldn't be concerned, but we're commercial newbies. No money needs to be exchanged until the game is ready to be sold. So the publisher wouldn't need to fork over any cash until they knew the game was done or close to it, and was assured we wouldn't flake out. Anyone have any input/experience with this? -jim

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Original post by jamba
We intend to put the game on Windows, Mac, and as many consoles as we can.

And how many consoles can you put it on? Are you registered console developers? If not the answer is zero. To become registered console developers you will need to convince the hardware companies that you are a financially stable company able to pay the necessary money to purchase development hardware. You also need to convince them that you are actually able to make a game.

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My question is, when we go shopping for a publisher, will they have a problem with this?

No. It is part of the cost of development. You pay for an engine or you pay people to programme one. Either way you pay. The publisher may question the cost (as mentioned below) but if you can show good reason they wont mind.

Having said that the publisher wont pay $70,000 unless they think the game is actually worth that. If your game ends up being budget quality then the publisher may be unwilling to pay an upfront fee of that size (or in some cases any up front fee at all).

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In my opinion, a publisher would pay much more....

It is unwise to enter into a commercial venture based on opinion. You may well need to justify the cost of the engine to the publisher and in that case just saying "in my opinion..." wont be enough. You should calculate how much it would actually cost to do the work so that you can prove to the publisher that this is a good investment.

Easiest way to do this is to talk to the engine developer and simply ask how many person-months it took to develop the engine. Then multiply by your month person-cost to get the total. Add to that the additional "saving" due to the engine already being developed, so you don't have to wait while it is developed and can get on with making the game.

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Original post by Obscure

And how many consoles can you put it on? Are you registered console developers? If not the answer is zero. To become registered console developers you will need to convince the hardware companies that you are a financially stable company able to pay the necessary money to purchase development hardware. You also need to convince them that you are actually able to make a game.


Right now we can't put it on any consoles, we're not registered developers. We're focusing on a Windows demo to present to publishers. If we convince the publisher we can actually make a quality game by presenting a good demo, doesn't the responsibility for the money part of console developing fall on the publisher as part of the "cost of development"? If not, that's a problem. This type of game is made for consoles.

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It is unwise to enter into a commercial venture based on opinion.


Agreed. I'll have to ask about how many person-months their engine took to develop. I can't imagine it'll turn out to cost less for us to develop it since their engine runs on 4 platforms, including 2 consoles. There are some non-trivial additions we'll need to make to the engine to fit our game, so I would have to factor that in, too.

Thanks for your comments. I've a lot to think about, I just feel like I'm spinning my wheels in indecision sometimes while the rest of the team is ready to go.

-jim

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Original post by jamba
Right now we can't put it on any consoles, we're not registered developers. We're focusing on a Windows demo to present to publishers. If we convince the publisher we can actually make a quality game by presenting a good demo, doesn't the responsibility for the money part of console developing fall on the publisher as part of the "cost of development"?

No. Your first post said you would complete the game first and sell it to the publisher when they could see that it was good. If you haven't developed it on console then it isn't complete and ...[I think we all see where this train of thought ends up.]

1. You are newbies. No publisher will pay you money until the game is complete - not alpha, not demo... complete.
2. You can't sell a console game on PC or pitch a console game to a publisher using a PC demo. The PC and console markets are very different. The only games that sell on PC are high end PC games (or conversions of an already successful console game). The publisher will expect the game to be finished on the format you intend to sell it on. It makes no sense (to them) to pay you to rewrite the game on the right format - you should have done that in the first place.

As Sherlock Holmes was fond of saying "Once you eliminate the impossible whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the solution."
i. You don't have the experience or finance to get developer status or to fund the cost of console development and no publisher will give you the money so eliminate that option.
ii. No publisher will buy a console game on PC so eliminate that option.
iii. No investor will give you the money because you don't have experience in the target industry and I assume you have not recently inherited a fortune from and aged aunt as you would have mentioned that - eliminate that possibility.

What remains, no matter how unlikely, is...
You put your console idea on the shelf for now and develop a PC game on PC (a game designed for PC players). When it is complete you sell it to a publisher or self-publish and (if it is any good) use the profits to make your next game [rinse and repeat until rich enough to move to console].

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