The serious business of making games


The game was horse shit.


Is there an obvious reason Unity should want to restrict this kind of thing? Does it let small devs effectively do an end run around Unity licensing costs by going through Improbable?

I really don’t understand enough about the business model and the implications to understand what this dispute is even about.


God. I can imagine it now.

MEA team: We want to use UE4. We’re experts in Unreal and it’s a great engine.
Management: The corporate engine is Frostbite.
MEA team: Frostbite sucks. It doesn’t do X at all. Y is painfully slow, and Z is so buggy we’d rather reimplement it ourselves.
Management: We need you to help make it better than. Think about what’s best for EA.
MEA team: The Frostbite team won’t listen to us because the stuff we want them to do is boring and they’ve already overcommitted to doing impossible things that won’t help us but that will impress senior leadership. And even if they did listen to us they just don’t have the talent the unreal folks do.
Management: Look, criticizing other teams in the company is unprofessional. Everyone in this company is smart and capable.
MEA team: But this will set us back 6 months and its our reputations and jobs on the line if MEA fails.
Management: You’d better make it work then.

[Edited because Activision and EA are only interchangeable when talking about “evil” AAA publisher behemoths, not when talking about the actual companies]


EA using more Frostbite is indeed probably for the best of Activision.


From what I understand, the rumour mill is that unity want to get into the cloud services game themselves, and basically cut improbable out of the picture. Improbable has 170 employees and a ton of VC money, and I guess unity want to absorb that potential market, so step 1 is just to kill them off.

I’m no cheerleader for unity, but tbh the people who I think have fucked up are the likes of softbank who threw $500million to a company (improbable) who seem to be heavily dependent on the goodwill of a company that (to put it mildly) they do not have a good and sustainable long term partnership with.

Anyway, being an indie (INDEPENDENT!) dev, and relying on both improbable AND unity to not fuck you over and keep you in business seems… risky?


My reading is that that does seem to be the crux of it. Improbable was essentially redistributing Unity SDK components as part of their service, which apparently requires a “partnership license” (I think they call it) rather than the license a typical dev would have.

*eta “SDK”


To me, this is a company that was getting away with some grey area legal stuff before, Unity told them to do something about it (pay or partner or something) and they said no.

It is similar to the outcry from the youtube community over the drastic reduction in ad revenue in 2017. When you build your business or career off of someone else’s product or marketplace, they hold a lot of power over you.

I am not on anyone’s side her per-se, just that initial statement from Improbable felt very catty. “We broke up with them, they didn’t break up with us”


Epic Games Store - 88% split goes to devs


Aw, man. AER was a really great little game.


Just as one studio closes another one happens to be expanding. IO Interactive have opened a new office in Malmo, Sweden apparently.


That makes it seem like the issue with Improbable was a trademark issue?

Anyway, good to see it resolved in that manner.


LOL!! Yeah, no.

Unity tried to put a partner out of business because they had forked out $19M to acquire a competing platform (Multiplay) after seeing SpatialOS as a threat. It’s not rocket science.

Unity got busted. Then amid a major outcry, they blinked.

I have four (1, 2, 3, 4) very detailed threads about this; complete with pictures and everything :)


Ah Rocky Boots, even with a freshly minted EE degree I found that game charming.



@cliffski2 has taken the bother to go and do an audit of the costs of development for his upcoming game, Production Line

I found it very interesting, and if anything, it basically sends the message that for an indie, the single most important aspect to optimize and invest to increase productivity is in the coding (like spending big $$$ in a good computer with many cores to compile stuff really quickly) .


I don’t think compile times are that much of an issue.

Of course £60k a year for a coder is over AAA salary for most of Europe, and not really indie pricing. You can see @cliffski2 is a very successful dev, and he most likely does over that number since he has his own company, so the salary he quotes is not a salary that had to compete in the market and is illusory. His games (which I really like, btw) are very programming heavy and art light, while normally (although the indie space allows for extremes) you’ll have 3-4x more artists working on a project than programmers so artist cost is 2-3x times coder cost. Even GSB doesn’t have that much art. So it’s a cost breakdown of a very specific kind of game using a projected coder salary that wouldn’t probably be there with a real employee. I would be much more interested in seeing the cost had he outsourced the coding too, as he did everything else.

But if you had to hire somebody to do the coding (and thus wanting to compete in price), in the indie game space you probably can get somebody much cheaper. If you are willing to outsource (to an European developer with,say, over 5 year experience) you can lower that cost to 33%.

Example: The recent Eugen Systems kerfurffle was because the devs (several years of experience, many games, working on a custom engine…) were getting paid $25k(£20k) and given that they did lose and got fired, it’s probably lower but not that much lower than the market price (I would say it’s about €30k here for somebody with several launched games, depending on how much you want to negotiate and if you want a very specific previous experience -console work, for example-).

Tll, dr: good computer for your artists (normally) save much more costs that good computers for your coders (although ideally you want everybody to work swiftly and have good computers anyway, but certainly, once you factor in the graphic tablets, the artist computers tend to be the most expensive).


earning £60,000
$200 a year

@cliffski2, why are you paying your 'leccy bill in dollars? ;)

I think his intention there was “I’d be paid £60k if I ran off and worked in a bank” or something, because ultimately what stops him from running off to be a salaried employee is his potential to earn from games combined with his love of making games / being self-employed, so if he were “really” paying himself he’d ideally pay himself at “market rate”?


Yeah, I understand that, but the market rate in games is (sadly) way lower than in other businesses that employ software engineers. As a profit analysis using opportunity cost, the blog post does work, but as a cost analysis for a project it doesn’t. It’s fantasy money that wasn’t paid upfront, so it’s not really a cost and to get the possible cost of the project you need to look at proper market rates for the bussiness and scale the project belongs to.

Case in point: he could work in a bank and outsource coding for a fraction of the quoted cost, reaping even more benefits.


A lead game programmer earning £60K sounds pretty high to me. But probably comparable to what a senior developer would get in the regular software industry (though with 20 years relevant experience, you can easily earn more than that, depending on where and who you’re working for).

Checking salary statistics in DK, the median salary for game developers is around 50K UKP and I’d expect that salary to be higher than in most other EU countries (due to the relatively high tax rates there). For comparison, the median salary for a standard software developer with an M.Sc. in Denmark is at ~65K UKP. Which just underlines how much game development is a young man’s career (unless you’re fortunate enough to hit the jackpot or able to build up a portfolio of games like cliffski or Vogel). There’s just no way to justify working in the industry as a developer otherwise, from a financial point of view.

I’m pretty sure that if I did a “per hour” cost on my project, coding “costs” would dwarf out everything else, but I think I’d want to see a much more detailed breakdown of “coding” activity (design, actual coding, testing) before I’d draw any major conclusions. Also, how much of the design/coding is intended to pay forward (i.e., make things more reusable in future) vs actual new features/bug fixes on the game. Personally, I very easily fall into the trap of refactoring/optimizing stuff that ultimately costs a month of work to no visible benefit for the game I’m working on.

Finally, ~£2500-3000 for art (if my guess based on the numbers he mentions are right) is pretty low for a game. Not unreasonable for the game in question, but very genre/game dependent.