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Sam James

Cost and team size of a Diablo / Path Of Exile style game to Kickstarter demo stage?

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First of all, sorry if this is the wrong place to post this - I looked at the other forum titles and none seemed to fit given my lack of background in games dev...

I have a game concept I want to get developed and I was wondering what the cost to develop a prototype of a Path of Exile / Diablo style game through to a good looking demo ready to present on Kickstarter / crowdfunding?

From what I've read, the first step is fully scoping the project to make sure phase 2 costs etc are projected accurately, but providing you have that and it checks out economically; for a proof-of-concept, I imagine it would only need some basic gameplay with a heavy focus on the art etc? Basically just a single map through to a "boss" at the end. That way if the market hates it, at least I would only be down the investment of the demo.

As I mentioned I don't have any history in game development so I'd expect I would need a project manager co-founder with industry experience (has worked on previous successful shipped products, etc), but I don't know who else you would need to put a demo together, and what they would cost?

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8 hours ago, Sam James said:

First of all, sorry if this is the wrong place to post this - I looked at the other forum titles and none seemed to fit given my lack of background in games dev...

I have a game concept I want to get developed and I was wondering what the cost to develop a prototype of a Path of Exile / Diablo style game through to a good looking demo ready to present on Kickstarter / crowdfunding?

Since you're asking about cost and crowdfunding, this is a Business question so it's moved there. The cost to create a good-enough demo to obtain crowdfunding could run anywhere from $0 to $10,000 or more.

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13 hours ago, Sam James said:

From what I've read, the first step is fully scoping the project to make sure phase 2 costs etc are projected accurately

That is true, and the best way to estimate costs are to look at projects you (or the group) has completed in the past, to look at other projects of similar scope that the team members are familiar with, and use those as a benchmark. If you don't have experience with projects of that scope, and if nobody on your team has experience with projects of that scope, then you are going to have a very difficult time making projects of that scope, let alone estimating the budget for it.  

 

If you don't have the experience in making games of that scope and estimating their budgets, it seems the first person your group needs to hire is a project leader who does have that experience.

13 hours ago, Sam James said:

I don't know who else you would need to put a demo together, and what they would cost?

It all depends on the details.  Do you need 50 hours of artwork, or 1500 hours of artwork for the demo?  Do you need 10 hours of animation work for the demo, or 2000?  Do you need 160 hours of programming work, or 3000 hours?

Also note that game developer skills are not interchangeable.  What takes one person 5 hours may take another person 50. Give the two people different tasks and the number may be reversed, the 5 hour worker takes 50 hours on the next task, the 50 hour takes 5. Each person has a unique background with unique experiences.

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Ok, that makes sense, I suppose a good experienced project leader would be able to answer these questions.

Where would you find a project leader if you have no current "in" within the industry? I imagine tradition job boards aren't great for this sort of co-founder role, and having dealt with recruiters many times in the past, I shudder at the commission cost of using one for a "test" project. What have you seen turn out the most statistically successful method?

I now understand it's a "how long is a piece of string" type question but for that basic scope of "1 playable map using 1 programmer and 1 artist", is the ~$10k mark around about right though from experience if done correctly?

 

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On 12/30/2017 at 4:22 PM, Sam James said:

 

I now understand it's a "how long is a piece of string" type question but for that basic scope of "1 playable map using 1 programmer and 1 artist", is the ~$10k mark around about right though from experience if done correctly?

 

If you want to get to the stage of having a prototype level, then you'll at least need a programmer/lead, an artist, and a designer.  Maybe the programmer will also be the designer?  I dont know.  But, there's no chance you will get that prototype for $10,000.  An experienced senior engineer will cost you a lot, especially so if you're hiring a contractor.  We're talking maybe $100/hour or more, and I'm not sure how much the artist will cost you.   Assuming they start with an existing engine, I'd also assume we're talking at least 6 months to get to a working playable and coherent demo.   So, do the math on the cost.   But, $10,000 for that prototype is never going to happen.

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Posted (edited)

In the USA, estimate $10,000/month per employee. (See another of frob's posts for details.)

If you think you can get away with off-the-shelf art for the concept demo (which is entirely possible, given the amount of good quality, royalty-free art on places like the Unity Asset Store), you can postpone a significant amount of art costs. Careful not to let this come back and bite you later, though.

Similarly, there are outsourcing studios that specialize in making prototypes. A good outsourcer can save a lot of costs. The risk is that, once the prototype is done, you won't have a team ready to make the actual game.

If you make the game in-house, you'll need at least three people to fill the roles of producer, programmer, gameplay designer, level designer, and marketing/community manager. (A game producer, unlike a movie producer, manages the team's schedule and keeps the project on track, a vital role requiring experience.) If you're not going to use off-the-shelf art, you'll also need at least one artist. Attend meetups of your local IGDA chapter to meet developers. Keep in mind that they run the gamut from novices to veterans, all with different personalities and work styles.

Optimistically, you could get a prototype working in 3-4 months, with another 1-2 months preparation for a crowdfunding campaign. So the best case is 5-6 months with 3 employees, or $150k+. A more realistic timeframe may be twice that. The challenge is that your demo will need to tackle most of your game's main structural hurdles just to be able to run. 

That's to do it in a professional capacity. An experienced individual hobbyist might be able to get a demo level ready in a few additional year(s) at relatively little cost.

Also keep in mind that Diablo and PoE occupy a fairly crowded market segment with very high production values. Your game will have to have some strong differentiators to gain any kind of crowdfunding attention.

Edited by Tony Li

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For more experienced needs or the big expensive hubs, I've seen $15K instead of $10K, although 10 is easier for the math.  For programmers you're looking at around $8K-$9K for direct wages, plus more for benefits, plus all the costs of having an employee like office space, computers, electricity, and more.  For non-programmers the cost is a little less, again plus all the costs of having an employee.  $10K or $15K are easy numbers to work with that cover those extra costs per worker.

But it doesn't sound like this is intended to be that kind of project.  Since they are completely unfunded and inexperienced, I'm guessing it is much smaller like a hobby project, if even that.

 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Tony Li said:

In the USA, estimate $10,000/month per employee. (See another of frob's posts for details.)

If you think you can get away with off-the-shelf art for the concept demo (which is entirely possible, given the amount of good quality, royalty-free art on places like the Unity Asset Store), you can postpone a significant amount of art costs. Careful not to let this come back and bite you later, though.

Similarly, there are outsourcing studios that specialize in making prototypes. A good outsourcer can save a lot of costs. The risk is that, once the prototype is done, you won't have a team ready to make the actual game.

If you make the game in-house, you'll need at least three people to fill the roles of producer, programmer, gameplay designer, level designer, and marketing/community manager. (A game producer, unlike a movie producer, manages the team's schedule and keeps the project on track, a vital role requiring experience.) If you're not going to use off-the-shelf art, you'll also need at least one artist. Attend meetups of your local IGDA chapter to meet developers. Keep in mind that they run the gamut from novices to veterans, all with different personalities and work styles.

Optimistically, you could get a prototype working in 3-4 months, with another 1-2 months preparation for a crowdfunding campaign. So the best case is 5-6 months with 3 employees, or $150k+. A more realistic timeframe may be twice that. The challenge is that your demo will need to tackle most of your game's main structural hurdles just to be able to run. 

That's to do it in a professional capacity. An experienced individual hobbyist might be able to get a demo level ready in a few additional year(s) at relatively little cost.

Also keep in mind that Diablo and PoE occupy a fairly crowded market segment with very high production values. Your game will have to have some strong differentiators to gain any kind of crowdfunding attention.

2

This is awesome, thanks! (And also to everyone else)

I was doing the maths from 0r0d's post and it came out to around $150k as well which didn't make any sense given that it would mean a starting version of the full game with 3 acts and ~15 maps each would cost $6.7m which seems impossible to crowdfund. Especially given the guys that funded Wolcen raised ~$400k and it has lasted them 2 years now. (Maybe you could shed some light on how this is possible?)

But the way you explained it around the bulk of that costs is getting the game's structural hurdles solved is the bulk of the $150k makes way more sense.

$150k isn't out of the question if I had to fund it myself, but would I be right in saying that if you found both a programmer and art co-founders and came to an equitable share arrangement that you could reduce that amount significantly? (ie I would prefer to spend most of the hard-dollars on promoting the Kickstarter campaign..)

If so; in your experience, what would that arrangement typically look like? Ie if I filled the roles of investor, promo/marketing, monetization, paying for 2d concept art etc, and also handled the bulk of level and gameplay design roles - how much would be needed to invest to bring on an experienced programmer that can fill the role of producer and a good artist? (I'm thinking of using CRYENGINE, so is this a common skillset?) What would they typically look for other than money to take on a project like this?

Lastly, just to manage my expectations - how likely is it that a non-technical founder ever connects with a programmer and artist in this way?

Again - Guys, thanks so much for taking the time to explain this. It seems like this forum is really positive and happy to help people learn, I really appreciate that!

Edited by Sam James

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19 minutes ago, Sam James said:

how likely is it that a non-technical founder ever connects with a programmer and artist in this way?

It depends. Do you look or sound like someone who knows something about business or management? For some more information on what you're up against, I wrote some articles. There's one on finances of game development, another on starting a game company, and others.

23 minutes ago, Sam James said:

I'm thinking of using CRYENGINE

You should let your technical wizard determine the proper engine for your game, don't you think?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Sam James said:

how likely is it that a non-technical founder ever connects with a programmer and artist in this way?

Not very. Global Game Jam is in 25 days. You have 3 weeks to familiarize yourself with a beginner-friendly game engine like Gamemaker or Unity. The specific engine doesn't matter. Then go meet people at GGJ. Ask if they can recommend any meetups or local gatherings. While you're practicing your level design on your own, go to those gatherings, listen and contribute, and in time volunteer your level design assistance on some small projects. After that, you might not be a technical wizard, but you'll be able to talk sensibly to programmers and artists. In short: With time and effort, you can do it.

BTW, I noticed you wrote "maths." In the USA, people normally write "math." If you're in Canada or the UK, there are government and private funding programs such as the Canada Media Fund that fund indie games. Thought I'd mention it, although applicants generally need a strong team with a history of success already.

Edited by Tony Li

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