Grim Dawn - An ARPG from Crate (ex Iron Lore aka Titan Quest devs)


At an average of 60k, you don't have any developers unless they really like your company enough to to stay when they can make a significant bump going elsewhere.

And yes, art assets are so complex they can take a month to make.

Regarding indie games, a lot of the indie games out there of any quality are usually in 2d -- with 3d you immediately sign on for significantly larger costs.


The answer is that a) 3D models with full articulation and animations do take a lot of time for even an experienced artist (or more likely, modeler + animator, plus maybe a rigger too) to make, and b) good art direction and game design takes a lot of time to get right - iteration, testing and communication become significant drains on production as a project gets bigger.

And yes, cliffski deserves a ton of credit.


Travis dropped quite a bit of interesting detail on Torchlight's development process, design, and constraints in (of all places) the Zero Punctuation thread in this post.


Thanks for the pointer (and all the info). I've been in academia so long that I've rather lost touch with the world outside of academia it seems. Big surprises were the number of artists vs. "programmers" (splitting level designers as 50/50 on that one, which may/may not be fair), as well as the estimation of actual pay rates (per Charles' above and a quick google search).



Hmm... so those Unknown World guys raised $220,000 via preorders and got twice that from angel investors. That's about $700,000 total. Torchlight cost $2 million. Titan Quest was much more expensive, and Grim Dawn builds on the TQ engine.

Sorry, not seeing how this can possibly work out -- unless the game is dramatically shorter and uglier than TQ, or Torchlight sales are so good that Valve (or some other publisher) decides to finance almost the entire game.


Bear in mind that Titan Quest also entailed building the Titan Quest engine. If they are reusing it, then Grim Dawn could be considerably cheaper to make. $700K is still a low figure, though.


Torchlight also used an existing engine. The Grim Dawn setting is very different from Titan Quest, so they'll need all-new artwork. That's going to be very expensive if they intend to deliver a game comparable to Titan Quest in scope.


Right, I agree. My point was that Grim Dawn will likely be cheaper to make than Titan Quest, not cheaper than Torchlight.


Yeah, I agree. They’re basically asking you to be an investor without any chance of realizing a profit on your investment. At the very least they should offer you some kind of discount on the purchase price when the game is finally ready.


You don't need a discount though since your donation includes a copy of the final game. It's actually more like a really, really, really early preorder.


I hope they get their preorder system fixed soon. A few bucks to help fund a post-apoc ARPG (by some of the TQ guys!) isn't too much of a gamble for me.


Wow.. $2 million? Anyone in the know who can talk about where the money goes? It doesn't seem like the art assets would be that much, and in both cases the engine tech was relatively robust before the project started (TQ -> Grim Dawn and Mythos -> Torchlight). I realize that the sound/music/VO for Torchlight was likely reasonably pricey, but it seems like Torchlight was a nice throwback to games from yesteryear with a small team that was imminently doable. Compare it to that indie ARPG from a while back.. what was it, Depths of Peril? Presumably indie devs aren't spending $2 mill off their credit cards, so what's the difference in cost? (I'm not claiming that the quality is the same, but if the primary difference is simply polish, well, polish costs a whole truckload more than I would have expected!)

As Linoleum says - it's the people.
It's amazing how many people it takes to make a game, and how expensive it is to run a business. It was certainly an eye-opener for me. I was the programmer/designer/producer for Fate - I'd say I averaged about 3 people on the game ( artists came and went as I could get them ) - but I heavily outsourced with a pretty cheap bid on that game.

Fate probably cost approximately 1/6th of what Torchlight cost. Where did the money go? Well, to the people - and what that bought us is fairly easy to articulate. Torchlight looks a lot better, has a great deal more content, and is less procedural - there is more 'handmade' stuff in it, from the levels, to the gear, to the monsters, to the effects. Less of Torchlight was outsourced, percentage-wise.

Even if you think of a person's salary and do mental math as to how much it costs to hire a person for a year, that's not really the whole of it. Fringe cost of an individual is usually about 20-25% - healthcare, transportation allowances, retirement, and so on. We ran really lean on equipment and pretty cheap on office costs too - about 9k a month for our lease and we got most of our equipment at liquidation at the start.

Everything gets a lot more expensive once you leave the basement - your network and telecom costs, servers, software licenses, middleware licenses, accounting services, payroll, the list goes on.

2mil sounds pretty expensive from the outside, but if I mention the cost and time to most folks in the industry who have been involved at the financial level, their eyes bug a little bit and they say - 'that's ALL?' - most of them tend to estimate we would have spent 17-19 months on the project for 4-5 mil, and that that would have been fairly fast.

Now I won't begin to argue that Torchlight isn't a better game, but let's assume Fate had a team of 5 equivalent full time for a year. Is Torchlight 3 times better to justify 15 people for the year it took to make? I don't think so.

I don't think you can make some sort of linear association between time and quality - from a business perspective, it's probably a case of time vs marketability/profitability. From my standpoint, it's fairly easy to say that Torchlight was 3X more marketable than Fate, and will (probably) be 3x more profitable. From a pure reception standpoint, the first is already the case. Is it 3X better? shrug - I dunno. But I DO think it is a much better game.


I don't know why you'd think they're planning something as big as Titan Quest. They are targeting a $20 price for their final product so I imagine they are taking their cues from Torchlight as far as scope is concerned.


Thanks for the answers Travis. It definitely took me by surprise considering the similarities to Fate and the fact that Torchlight doesn't smack me in the face with "This is where the high dollar effects kick in" type of stuff that I would have assumed went with that type of relative increase in spending. I think Torchlight is indeed a better game, but I too wouldn't tend to think the relationship in what I perceive as "quality" vs. increase in people was linear. Then again, you could have been eating Top Ramen while doing Fate all alone and this time you actually make a salary more reasonable for your efforts (and likewise for everyone else) so that's probably not a real fair way to judge either.

On a quick side note if you stop back in, is there a postmortem up somewhere for Torchlight? I'm specifically intrigued by the fact you guys used an open source engine and was wondering if you talked anywhere about the extent of effort that had to go into modifying that for usability for a viable commercial product.


That would be fascinating. The use of the Ogre engine was especially interesting to me.


We haven't done a postmortem yet ( though our AD did a piece for gamasutra ) - maybe we should. One other thing that comes to mind as far as dev cost - because Fate was made at Wildtangent, cost is PURELY dev cost - no lease, equipment, telecom, payroll - none of that. Fate's cost was the cost to make a game. Torchlight's was the cost of a business, which is pretty different.


Screenshots Up.

Also some answers to questions from earlier in the thread. Fan funding only accounts for about 3% of their total budget. Also in one of their forum posts the developers said that it will definitely be smaller than Titan Quest, but they expect to give very good value for the $20 price.

Personally I'm pretty excited and hope they can pull this off. I loved Titan Quest, and I'm definitely psyched about the Victorian setting. I'm much more interested in this than the Black Legion medieval game which they were originally pitching.


Not directly to do with Grim Dawn, but just a cost-saving measure to cutting costs with art assets: Why bother paying for artists? Asian devs just steal or trace the assets.


Meh not just asian artists: