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Edited by GuyMac

Typically I've found that (towards the media and general consuming public at-least), game studios are very "Black-Box" about their development process and costs. Whether this is to protect trade-secrets, or prevent the assets of a game from being leaked, in order to stop a games promotional campaign from being partially deflated before it's even started. Or perhaps even none of the above.

The amount of transparency I've seen from the SG team in this article alone has made me more sympathetic toward their cause, and were I not a poor graduate, trying to force my way into the industry myself, I may have been persuaded to part with some of my money to contribute.

Is this approach of "we need THIS much funding, to pay THIS amount of staff, for THIS long, to bring you THIS content!" completely new to the industry (Crowd OR Publisher funded)? Because I think I prefer its humbled vibe to Capcom's - "BUY IT!..... BUY IT AGAIN!...... BUY IT AGAIN NOW!" sales pitch.

Who knows, perhaps Capcom are in a similar "sympathizable" (if that's a word) situation, and have just been going about it the wrong way. What's the right way? Yet to be seen. But i feel that maybe if they had decided to immediately release a statement with the general vibe of, "DLC costs $xxxxxx to hold on X's online service, whereas we had X MB free-space on the disc, and X-months budgeted development time for extra characters, with X number of staff...etc,etc.....THIS is why it made monetary sense for your damn "DLC" content to be on the disc.", the reception may've been a tad warmer.

Posted by StarvingGamer

@murdoc_: Because hitboxing has to be handled by experienced fighting game players for balance and tuning issues. It is cheaper to have outside help than to force the leads to spend all their time fiddling with hitboxes rather than focus on key design.

Konami, as the publisher, requires QA to go through them. The $20k is an unavoidable cost if they want to put out the DLC.

Numerous experienced fighting game developers have stated multiple times that $150k is EXTREMELY inexpensive.

So tell me why it's bunk?

Posted by Murdoc_

@shintsurugi: It doesn't take 8 people to make one character, and for a small indie studio why are they contracting hitboxing and QA?

That break down is bunk, it was $150k to make the character AND keep the studio in business for that time.

Edited by Ravidrath

@enigma_2099: The original budget for the game was around $1.7M, and that actually only covered the development of the last 7 characters. Because we were being paid much more realistic salaries.

Edited by WMoyer83

150K seems like a lot, but with the way the game industry is today...

isn't this a good thing?

A lot of developers struggle or even go under, so this is a great way to get the content people want, and it helps people keep their jobs doing what they love.

Posted by DCam

So an interesting point of comparison. How much do people think that the Giant Bomb site re-write cost?

Edited by Enigma_2099

Damn... props for being honest and actually TELLING people where the money goes.

That said, if one character costs $150K, how much did the whole game cost to make?

Posted by heatDrive88

As much as I respect the heart of where all this development is, I still really don't like any of the artwork and general visual design of all these characters or this game.

Edited by Chibithor

@magikgimp: Indiegogo gets 4%, which would be 6k from the 150k. The additional $4500 would be for processing fees which are 3%. Now that the campaign is far beyone 150k more will accordingly go to indiegogo+processing fees.

(edit: for comparison Kickstarter takes 5% and around 3-5% for payment processing)

I don't know where you're getting that Squigly is 'based on' Zone, all I could find was trivia on the Skullgirls wiki that one of Squigly's palette choices will be colored like Zone.

Posted by MagikGimp

I think my reaction concerning exorbitance here is how IndieGoGo get ten grand out of this. Someone explain to me how they can justify that one, apart from the obvious reason that they bothered to make the company in the first place and there isn't much competition out there.

Also, haven't see any mention of Z0NE at all; yes the Flash porn guy, don't pretend you don't know who. Squigly is based on his titular character and he's tweeted hard about the fund-raiser which is fair enough, the guy has a lot of followers (I wonder why) and he's getting some legacy here. Oh and he did do a Skull Girls porn as you may be wondering so there's that too.

Posted by DG991

Good article and it is nice to see the Verge linking their fan base over to my favorite game related site.

Posted by SPCTRE

This article confirms most of my estimations regarding dev cost structures. Unsurprising, all in all.

Edited by Chibithor

@levio said:

They're spending $30,000 on the fundraiser itself. It's really unfair to include those costs as part of the "cost of creating a new character".

You're right, you could cut the cert out as well, it's a cost they can't avoid but it's not an inherent part of making a Skullgirls character unlike animation etc.

But consider that they want 200k for Big Band, because they hadn't started working on him yet. So to say that the 110k or whatever that goes directly into Squigly represents the cost of creating a new character isn't really true either, as they had already done some work.

Posted by Levio

They're spending $30,000 on the fundraiser itself. It's really unfair to include those costs as part of the "cost of creating a new character".

Edited by ArjanN

I just want the PC version :(

At the $30 reward tier, you get the PC version and beta access.

Posted by Wannabe_Hipster

I just want the PC version :(

Edited by Maurdakar

The salary cost seems way to low and the other costs seem too high. So if it's 150k per character the game itself took a couple million to make? I guess that sounds right. I won't be chipping in, but as a fan of Skullgirls I will glady reap the benefits of free characters and purchase any DLC that follows this up.

Edited by dvorak
@mmann said:

@logan3 said:

Those development costs that the developers broke down are completely dirty & deceptive. They're relying on the fact that most people won't look further into the numbers once they've broken them down, thinking "Oh, they've provided the numbers." But no, they haven't. You can stop just after analyzing the first number: "$48,000: Staff Salaries - 8 people for 10 weeks." As for the other numbers, they've' exaggerated and rounded them up by a huge margin. 150,000 'is' ludicrous.

Thank-you for the interesting news story Patrick.

So what are the numbers then?

If you're going to call them liars provide a bit more of a line item breakdown, explain why 1,200$ a month per staff member (on average) is where we need to stop analyzing. Is 14,000$ a year somehow a ridiculously high salary in the USA now? The poverty line for a single income house is considered to be 11,270$ so 14,000$ doesn't seem like a massive yearly income.

Where have the numbers been inflated and where is the proof?

The onus is on you as the accuser to back up your statement, not on the company to defend themselves because forums user logan3 said he totally knows they made the numbers up.

Part of the unquestioning acceptance might have to do with the perspective of the interviewer, and his perspective on the value of a dollar.

Posted by EverydayOdyssey

Fantastic article - it's writing like this that keeps me coming back to Giant Bomb and happily paying my membership. Keep up the good work.

Edited by PsiKick
@plipster said:

Hey...guys...guys...isn't Skullgirls a little sexist? Fight the patriarchy.

It kind of bugs me when Skullgirls is called sexist because of its appearance. From what I know of the staff, the lead animator, voice director, and composer are all women. The voice cast is made up of mostly women, some who were inexperienced and are now getting more roles after being cast in a decently known video game. And the story is largely driven by the female characters.

Also a tumblr post from Erin Fitzgerald, one of the voice actresses. Her response to Skullgirls being called sexist:

http://erinfitzvoiceartist.tumblr.com/post/22702400731/my-response-to-calling-skullgirls-sexist

Edited by Matoyak

@yellownumber5 said:

48000 for 8 people for 10 weeks is 15 dollars an hour at 40 hours a week, or an equivalent of 28,800 a year. That's about as much as school teachers make, and both of which (teaching and game programming) we know work way more than 40 hours a week.

Yup, there's a reason in the development space it's a well-known fact that for semi-equivalent jobs you will often get paid double in a different field than what you can make in the games industry. That thought is built in to the game design and game programming curriculum at basically every college that bothers having said programs.

For further perspective if this math checks out: I work as Customer Service at a sporting goods store. (General returns/exchanges and cashier-work). I am paid roughly 9.50 USD/hr ('cause I've been with the company 2+ years, my pay was boosted .50 cents up from the .75 cent bump for moving up from regular cashier-work. Woot.) These guys who are in a WAY more technical field are being paid roughly double what I am for my non-technical, non-salaried "field' in which I've only been working for 2.5 years.

That's kind of nuts.

@hyst said:

Sure, developers probably often do spend a lot more on things than we think, but that doesn't mean they HAVE to. People can pull of some amazing things when they have drive and vision, but don't have lots of money. It happens all the time, it's not like it's impossible.

However, it also depends on what you're already accustomed to. If you're already used to having a certain amount of money to spend on something, you can easily end up believing that amount is required, and there's no way to get it done for less.

The cost of this stuff isn't quite so arbitrary. Yes, you can cut the salaries down to the bone (and doing the math: they have.), but beyond that, there isn't much to cut from this list. You have to have an office, and that costs rent. You have to pay for cert, and that's a hard number with very little give. You have to pay IndieGoGo's cut. You have to pay shipping on the physical goods. I'm really curious as to what you feel could realistically be cut, or lowered on this list. Heck, I'm shocked it's so low to begin with...those devs must be really tightening their belts.

(Granted, I might have misunderstood you and you were just speaking in general broad terms, or might have even been agreeing with what I'm saying here, it's hard to tell tone via text on the internet. Apologies if I misunderstood in advance).

EDIT: because I'm an idiot and quoted the same guy/gal twice. Derp.

Posted by Nictel

Wow some real insight here into game development and how budgets get bigger and bigger.

Posted by Zlimness
@dennistm said:

Am I wrong or does 48k sound really low for 8 people for 10 weeks? Technical staff no less.

It's really low. 64k per sounds more realistic.

Edited by Reisz

Thanks Patrick, I am supremely interested in the nuts and bolts behind things like this, it's given me a better appreciation for the Skullgirls team. Another really good read man.

Posted by Nerdmotron

Great Article Patrick.

Posted by iragequit

Insightful. Surprised to see the breakdown including what employees likely earn.

Online
Posted by Chibithor

@king9999 said:

@cybexx said:

The thing this article doesn't mention is that the reason the character is only 150k is that she was partially finished at the time the layoffs happened.

It was mentioned on the Indiegogo page that the $150k includes the time and resources already spent on the WIP Squigly. Basically, all this means is that it costs even more to create a character.

From the Indiegogo page, on the cost of Big Band:

Why is Big Band $200,000 instead of $150,000? Because we haven’t even begun to work on him, meaning he’s going to need at least an extra month of development time, as well as extra money to cover the additional rewards needed to fund him.

Also, on the Shoruyken page there's a comment detailing what the team members are doing which has been asked here as well.

Posted by King9999

@cybexx said:

The thing this article doesn't mention is that the reason the character is only 150k is that she was partially finished at the time the layoffs happened.

It was mentioned on the Indiegogo page that the $150k includes the time and resources already spent on the WIP Squigly. Basically, all this means is that it costs even more to create a character.

Posted by King9999

I took the liberty of bringing this article to Shoryuken.com's attention. It's on their front page now.

Edited by Jason_E_Sigler

Fascinating read, Patrick! I admit to thinking that cost was ridiculous when I first heard about it, but the breakdown you got via Dave Lang is eye-opening. More transparency in the financials and numbers behind games would certainly help me to know that my money is going to the right people when/if I decide to pick up a game at retail versus used or through other means.

Edited by Cybexx

The thing this article doesn't mention is that the reason the character is only 150k is that she was partially finished at the time the layoffs happened.

Posted by gelatinabomination

@whirblewind: I think he never brought that up because it wasn't the point of the article. It's about the real cost of indie game development, not OMG Boobs.

Edited by yellownumber5

48000 for 8 people for 10 weeks is 15 dollars an hour at 40 hours a week, or an equivalent of 28,800 a year. That's about as much as school teachers make, and both of which (teaching and game programming) we know work way more than 40 hours a week.

Edited by Shinryu

Log in to account and come face to face with a inbox full of people flaming me for my opening comment with replies along the lines of "ZOMG DUDE READ ARTICLE!!"

Can always count on this community to jump to assumptions, I have and did read the article and i understand its points about costs of creation and the opinions of insiders on how this pricepoint is actually a bargain.

But in the spectrum of things, 150k for a character in a game is a ridiculous sum of money to me.

Edited by Y2Ken

Y'know, I might have to pick this up. It's always looked cool and has a decent following, and seeing stuff like this makes me more endeared towards the dev team.

Edited by Rolyatkcinmai

did this article just try to say the entire thing was nonprofit, because if so thats hilarious

Nope. Probably should actually read it.

Posted by Plipster

Hey...guys...guys...isn't Skullgirls a little sexist? Fight the patriarchy.

Posted by Tajasaurus

Rad article. It's a lot of things I have never thought about before. It makes me appreciate smaller studios a lot more.

Edited by Seb

Interesting read, enjoyed the trip into the Lang Zone aswell.

Edited by leebmx

@donpixel said:

@superkenon said:

@donpixel: So basically, Giant Bomb is worth it because you like it. Well, guess what Skullgirls fans like.

I'm not a fan myself, but it seems reasonable to me. Perspeeectiiiiiiiiive!!

I say unlike Kickstarters, Giantbomb is a service and it is a non-speculative product, meaning: It actually exist and its being running properly for some time now.

Skullgirls is a game which actually exists and has been running for some time now...

EDIT: Also Kickstarter is no different from any other way of raising investment for a business, it is just done via small donations rather than by large corporations.

How do you think an Internet Start-Up, or new business venture raises money? They go to investors or private equity with a plan for what they want to do and ask for money. If people like their ideas they give them money.

Of course the big difference is that Investors look for a return on their money, but they are investing a lot more and profit to an investor does not always have to be measured in cash.

People who are investing in Kickstarters are doing it because they want to fund games they think they will enjoy which might have little chance of finding money elsewhere. When it works it is a brilliant chance to cut out publishers and managers and go straight to the fans. - In a way it is capitalism at its most pure.

Sure, sometimes it doesn't work and games don't get made and people lose their money. However, this happens in the real world as well. There are countless stories of investors funding projects which don't get completed, or whole states funding games which never finish, Should banks stop lending and investors shut their wallets?

Posted by Kaineda77

That was really interesting, thanks Patrick.

Edited by ThunderSlash

I want that TF2 hat for some reason...

Posted by lurkingsalt

@dberg said:

I don't get how the Internet can be up in arms about the new Tomb Raider, while this pedo bait of a game continues to lead a healthy life.

WTF?....... Please stay on topic.

Anyways, I have learned so much about what it takes to get this done and I hope everyone on the dev team doesn't get burned out. Reduced pay etc, it's so easy to see how much passion you have for this franchise. I hope all the sacrifices are worth it.

Posted by Dberg

I don't get how the Internet can be up in arms about the new Tomb Raider, while this pedo bait of a game continues to lead a healthy life.

Posted by Dark_Lord_Spam

Ace headlining skills by Joystiq, there.

Posted by Trilogy

Some interesting insight into game development. I still think that 150 thousand dollars is fucking ridiculous for one character, but I suppose it's the harsh realities of the industry.

Posted by williamflipper

Thanks Patrick, I didn't know or realize the real cost for ''just'' create a sprite based character in a fighting videogame....

Posted by big_jon

@big_jon: Someone else didn't read the article! Read, please. It'll stop you saying stupid things.

That statement is sort of ironic.