The serious business of making games


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.


Found the mean salary for Sweden, and that is at £43K. The numbers I can find for Norway are around the same level, which confirms my suspicion that the Danish rate is one of the better/higher ones in Europe.


Well, you’re entitled to your opinion regarding compilation times. They do certainly depend a lot on what kind if project you are doing, whether you are doing engine development along with the game development, etc. I am personally happy to base my views on what my clock on the wall says and what other C++ devs complain about and illustrate with data.

Regarding salaries: 60,000 GBP for an very experienced programmer is quite reasonable in Germany, UK, Denmark, Australia or the US. So here @cliffski2 I think is talking about an opportunity cost: he could get that salary, and from a purely accounting perspective, it is an estimate of his “cost per hour”.


Yeah, I said exactly that in my post :P.

It’s not a good estimation of project cost,(which is what the blog post seems to be about, he talks about accountancy, office rental, pensions…), not it indicates where most resources go in most games. An opportunity cost analysis says nothing on where you can save on production. It just tells you whether the enterprise has been profitable compared to the likely alternatives.

Compilation times are an issue, but so are artists times and integration time by the content producers (designers and integrators) both of which tend to be more numerous than programmers in average and are very dependent on machine power (and can’t be scheduled overnight). Singling out coding as a target for powerful machines is a bad analysis for the average project (because the base project cost analysis in the blog post is faulty, with the given numbers it would be obvious to prioritize coding as you say). Ideally you want everybody on good machines.


This is from 2014. Gamasutra salary survey.

Which is £36K on average and fits with what I am seeing (given that we are at lower than average here).