Chapter 4: Money
Budget & Expenses
Wow this is always a delicate topic! We've prided ourselves on most-all of our games generating a positive cash flow, and we manage that mainly by keeping expenses low low low. We make everything we can and try to shoestring the rest. We're also both on an indie budget, so that's where we're at going into this. I'm sure different studios have different budgets.
Our mobile game budgets ranged from $25-60- maybe some were more and some were less but the majority of them fell into that range. Translations, maybe a song license for the promo video, possibly a press release, sometimes a contest. Traditionally we kind of split the cost, one person or the other volunteers and we keep track of who spent what. Then as the game starts to generate revenue, we reimburse ourselves according to the expenses list, then divide up the profit. That's how we've worked in the past, and we decided to do the same for this game.
We were both willing to put down a couple hundred, more than usual since it was such a larger scope of a project, but we wanted to keep it under $500 if at all possible. I don't think we hit that goal exactly but we didn't go wildly over it, so that's decent at least.
We both came in with VR rigs already so that was not an expense we had to deal with, thank goodness. Unity is free so that was not a problem either, and I already have my art software. With Scott doing the code and me doing the character art/animation, we needed:
-3D assets for the game world- environments, props, special effects, etc.
-BGM- Ended up using some free music but purchased a nicely composed song for our minigame.
-Voice Actors- Haven't gotten to this stage yet but this will be our biggest expense. The game has nine characters and the script is not short, and neither of us really have a good audio studio to set up/enough friends to ply with pizza so we're just going to hire a bunch of voice actors and hope for the best.
-Steam fee- Haven't gotten to this either, but the last time I checked it was a $100 fee to list a game on Steam. I believe you can earn it back when you reach a certain threshold, but you do need to front that initial payment.
-Marketing- Been working mostly on the game, and while I do have ongoing marketing notes I don't have costs laid out for it yet. That said, I do have some plans and could easily spend plenty of money here!
So far our spending is on target but we still have the voice acting & marketing categories to spend in so the final numbers are not in yet. (hah! more on that later!)
Chapter 5: Timeline
Ohhhh gosh. Wow. Did we ever underestimate this job. We probably still are. It's still not done. (Edit- it's finally done!!!)
The Initial Estimate
We started in early January, and estimated it would take about three months so we'd ship at the end of March (I'm writing this in July). If we slammed on an app and both worked really hard, we could get it out in 1-2 weeks at the shortest, so we figured learning some new software and hardware would take a couple extra weeks, we'd have the prototypes in no time, and from there it was only a couple weeks to the finished product. It sounds so sunny and optimistic.
Anyway we both worked really hard on the game- getting the environments set up and basic characters in, working out how to set up the game's progression and organize all the scenes, devising the activities and just doing a huge amount of coding and art and animation. By March we had a pretty good prototype for the game- it was laid out into scenes, it had characters and some voices and animations the beginnings of the activities and placeholders for others to come.
It was nowhere near done though, so we had an code-red meeting on how to finish it up and ship it ASAP- I estimated if we both kept slamming, we could get it out by the end of June. And hey- shoot for the stars, land on the moon! Scott worked like crazy and I tried to keep up, we got an amazing amount of work done and by this point you could play most of the game the whole way though- some things were missing but the game itself was there! Many of the activities were totally functional, and I had gotten a lot of the art/animation in. I love animation but always forget it takes much longer than I think it will!
So the game is in a good state, and the light at the end of the tunnel is visible. It just makes me raise my eyebrow that I thought we could bang out a completely final game using new software for new hardware in 12 weeks. Haha, we were so young then, back when we started this game.
In the end it took 10 months- I was hoping to finish before my teaching gig started in September, that deadline flew by, then Scott suggested trying to hit mid-September so we could clear this project off of our desks and move on to our next ideas. We blew through so many deadlines, but eventually we did get it done.
To try and not become development monsters, we both took some time off as summer started for vacations/family visits/recharging but are getting ready to do the third and please-let-it-be-final round of crunch time for the summer! Fingers crossed we won't hit any road bumps and will be able to ship this out soon.
For real though, crunch time ended up being a big thing at several points in development. We'd set a date to finish, get amped, work like heck to try and meet the deadline, fail, and then naturally slow down a little bit since we'd been in crunch mode and were tired and still had to eat and do laundry and take care of life stuff.
We probably repeated that cycle two or three times- we got an enormous amount of work done in those times, but it wasn't sustainable and wasn't quite enough to finish the game each time (until the last time!)
Hi! It's me, Laura!