Question about production costs for mobile game.

If I have all the art assets, what would it take to put a mobile game together, considering that the art assets are all I really have (i.e. I can’t code). Any ballpark figure ideas and time involved in a medium production sort of game?

What kind and size of game? Medium could be anything! All figures depend on how complex the game is

And if you want to do it yourself, you’ll need to learn to program well enough to implement your ideal. So that’ll take years.

If you want to pay some cheaper coders from the Philippines to do it then you could have it done in 6 months, assuming you have the cash and the time required to manage the project, and more importantly can specify the requirements to another person in exacting and excessive detail.

Chances are that the art assets you think you have will be next to useless when trying to make an actual game. You really need to provide more info here.

I’m not trying to be obtuse, but the material the game is based around, is already successful, and has a built in market. Suffice to say I have very close ties to the people responsible. Managing the actual game design and direction I have covered. The question is, in ballpark terms, how much is hiring an outside coder to work with going to cost, and post coding what other sort of production costs are involved. The art assets are solid, and can be worked on for free as part of the project.

Think Kerbal space program, but for kids. Not too many locations/screens.

Sorry, but this all sounds…incredibly naïve.

Coding is not some fixed-cost asset that you can reasonably predict ahead of time, especially when you’re asking an extremely vague question with zero details.

Someone could whip up a reasonable side scroller in GameMaker in weeks or months if you want something shoddy. Or they could create something in Unity or Unreal that takes years of work. Or it could be anywhere in between.

A single contractor could easily cost you thousands of dollars per month depending on how much time they dedicate to the project and what else they might have. You’d need to work with them constantly to make sure the requirements are understood - you can’t just throw something vague over the fence and expect them to magically get it done.

By “art assets” what exactly do you mean? Do you have everything completely wired up for animation? Do you have animation skeletons defined and everything else a coder needs in order to plop it down in the world with zero extra modification? If not, you’ll have to hire other people, because it’s a completely different discipline and expertise than coding.

Do you have a lawyer that has looked over all the licensing rights and has ironed out contracts between the “already successful” property, who will be paying for development, and how payments back to you and them will work? Because that’s literally the first thing any developer needs to do before money exchanges hands.

There are many other things to think about too which go into every successful mobile game you’ve seen, before you even start to think about hiring someone to do programming work. I’d recommend heading to Gamasutra to learn more.

I understand that you want to be secretive about the project before it’s shipped to customers but unfortunately without providing more details it’s pretty much impossible to answer. Maybe someone would be able to provide a ballpark figure if you gave us a better idea for the scope. As of now you are asking “how much does it cost to construct a building?” We have no idea if you want to build a dog house or the next hq for Google.

What about ‘kerbal space progam but for kids’ is vague? I’ve managed a lot of projects in my day, dealing with millions of dollars. I’ve spent my life in production. This area is outside of something I’ve done before, so I figured I’d float something out looking for a rough estimate…you know…like a ballpark figure, as I’ve never actually hired a coder for 6 months. Yes, I’m sure mobile games run into the tens of millions, it’s probably next to impossible to achieve lol.

When I don’t know something, I ask questions, it’s worked out really well for me so far in life. I’m not sure where the chip on the shoulder attitude comes into play here.

At any rate, never mind.

Probably from most of this board being IT/CS guys who get really tired of the “I’m an ideas man; I just need to throw a coder at my ideas until money comes out!” attitude from Silicon Valley types. Not that I’m implying you’re such a person ;-)

The building analogy’s a good one. You might very well have the perfect color scheme and set of artwork ready for the interior, but without knowing what size building, what kind of plot it’s on, what sorts of amenities it needs, what sorts of power/water/sewage hookups it needs, how many storeys, etc., it’s difficult to give you a useful estimate. Particularly since many of those tasks require specialized craftspeople, managers to guide them, and experts to design how it will all interact in the end.

Consider that Kerbal Space Program’s been under development for quite some time–and by a fairly sizable team for a good portion of that time–and has mostly been supported by millions in early access monies. If you’re shooting for something on that scale, however primitive it might look compared to Skyrim or Watch Dogs, you’re really looking at a very significant project with all sorts of moving parts. . . and having a bundle of drawings of Kerbals tooling around in spaceships doesn’t put you meaningfully closer to a finished product than you would be otherwise.

If you’re lucky enough to find a singular genius, like Chris Sawyer of RCT1&2 fame, it’s not unfeasible that a couple of years of dedicated 12-hour-a-day work might well produce a complicated, if somewhat perfunctory-looking, game.

Otherwise, if you’re stuck with average coders, animators, writers, editors, artists, musicians, sfx guys, and producers. . . or even better, trying to find individual people who fill multiple roles there. . . well, your costs go up significantly from there.

And he wrote it in… assembly.

There are several people here with game PM experience, I’m sure you could find somebody willing to take the conversation private and sign an NDA or whatever.

(Note: not me, I’ve done games programming work, but it was a long time ago, and I don’t really know how you’d scope the whole thing. I’d probably just start with the IGDA’s salary survey.)

Until you have a GDD it realy is hard to say.

BUT if you are talking a single player experience like Kerbal but much lighter say using Unity for the physics then I would estimate a good programmer could do it in a year for an unpolished experience. Add an extra coder if you want a polished experience.

Cost varies by location but at least $80K salary for most of the USA, add more for higher cost of living places like the bay area, I would also say its unlikely a good coder would work for just a salary like that on a contract and would also want back end participation.

All the above options are assuming no micro transactions or social features etc. That adds at least one more engineer, that stuff gets complicated very quickly.

Another option would be to have a contract game house in a country such as vietnam or ukraine to build it for you. That might end up being cheaper than trying to build your own team.

Hope that helps!

I’m pretty good with a controller so if you need anyone to tighten up the graphics drop me a PM.

[quote=“ArmandoPenblade, post:8, topic:127081, full:true”]

Probably from most of this board being IT/CS guys who get really tired of the “I’m an ideas man; I just need to throw a coder at my ideas until money comes out!” attitude from Silicon Valley types. Not that I’m implying you’re such a person ;-)[/quote]

Yes, this.

Ideas and art are easy to come by. Implementation is the insanely difficult part.

It’s why I asked what you mean when you say you have the art assets all available already. Chances are that you don’t actually have anything close to what you need for art assets. Simply creating a 2D piece of art is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what it takes to create a fully functional object in the game.

Let’s also dig further into the Kerbal Space Program example.

KSP has been in development since 2010, and it didn’t come out of beta until 2015. Despite the game’s success, they’ve allegedly under-paid and over-worked them.. They’re also in Mexico where even well-paid employees cost a lot less than in the United States, Canada, or the UK/EU. I don’t know how large their team is.

Then let’s consider what makes KSP a difficult game to develop. It’s certainly not the art assets, since it’s not exactly the best-looking game in the world. KSP’s 3D models could be created by a competent modeler in a month or two. Then an animator could finish all the animations as-is in another month or two. But the real bulk of the work is actually in designing and implementing the game.

Building extremely complicated and precise physics simulations is not easy to do. Even if you license Havok or any number of physics add-ons, it’s not simply plug-and-play. It takes a huge amount of time and effort to get to where you want to get to, and to specially tune physics to work exactly how you intend them to work.

KSP also has a super customizable configuration model, which is an entirely different system that still needs to tie into that physics model. I cannot begin to comprehend the challenges that team faced when figuring out not just how to enable a player to build what they wanted to with all of the given parts, but how to represent all that in-game, how they designed the editor to make it easy for players to do so. And then figuring out how each little part you add affects the physics model is yet another order of magnitude of complexity.

We haven’t even gotten to the raw game design yet - how does all this fit into how you envision the game actually playing? What are the rules and scenarios? Do you have win conditions? If so, what are those win conditions, and how to you make sure all players can feasibly reach those win conditions? Especially when everything is so open ended and customizable? All of those considerations have major implications on everything else - from what things look like, to how characters animate, to how physics are tuned, to how interactions work, to how levels are designed, etc.

A “simple” win condition of “the player needs to successfully land on the moon” first required a million other game systems to be tuned endlessly for years to make sure it’s not just possible to achieve, but easy for the player to understand how to get there, and making it difficult because of problem solving, rather than being difficult because of an obtuse and inscrutable UI design.

But everything I’ve mentioned so far is just the bare minimum for a raw unoptimized PC release that might run pretty poorly, but since PC hardware is pretty fast these days, you can probably get away with it. If you’re asking about a mobile game, then you have an entirely new set of challenges to solve around how you get this all to run on very slow mobile chips (compared to PC components). And then UI design for a touch screen is a completely different beast from UI design where you have a mouse a keyboard available.

All of this means that there’s no such thing as the perfect design document, so there’s never a situation where you can simply hand off a document to a generic coder and say “make this”.

Software development of any kind is a very difficult, complex, and error prone process. But then specifically game development is one of the most difficult kinds of software development. Every single thing in a game is inexorably related to every other thing in that project, no matter how mundane, or how unrelated you may think they are on the surface.

One other thing I’ll add in a separate post - here’s a great article about a specific development project:

It’s about how the developer of the fighting game Skullgirls started a crowd-funding project for $150,000 to create a new character, and how the audience reacted incredulously to the money requested for the project.

(It doesn’t help that so many notable Kickstarter projects have asked for laughably low sums, distorting that perception even further)

‘A mobile game’ is incredibly vague. Mobile games now can be the equivalent of what was a AAA game in two generations ago, so the cost, only in the programming side, could be still on the millions dollars range.

This is why the thread isn’t being considered as very serious. Are you talking of a Pokemon Go equivalent, heavily dependent of server side of things? Or a new Minecraft type of game? The equivalent of ‘cut the rope’? Or ‘Clash of Clans’? Or ‘Asphalt 8’? Just a board game like Settlers of Catan? Etc

‘KSP for kids’ is much more specific but still is pretty vague. For kids implies the game would be simpler, of course, but also means the quality isn’t up there, as others ‘for kids’ games? And even if the game has three times less complexity of KSP, we would still talking of a pretty complex game!

To be really concrete on why this is vague: after three posts from you we still don’t know whether it’s going to be a 2d or a 3d game!

On one hand having it be 3d would be absurdly ambitious. Just the UI challenges of making it playable by a child on a mobile phone might be unsolvable. On the other hand being 3d is such a fundamental aspect of KSP that a deviation from that should be stated up front.

Ultrazen, you’ve been given a lot of detailed and informative answers here. As you’re probably becoming aware, the art assets are only one small part of making a game. It’s all the other stuff that’s so hard, and so complicated. Design session after design session, choice after choice, compromise after compromise.

If you’ve managed large projects you know there are huge variables in cost depending on the team size required, complexity, etc. If you want to make a game like Kerbal Space Program you might want to reach out to that team or its leadership and figure out what their budget was. Your game would probably cost something similar.

Or perhaps see if their engine can be licensed.

Their engine is Unity.

Y’know, I guess I should have checked that before I posted, but for some reason, I had it in my head that it was one of those ground-up designed projects. My bad.