How to accidentally make a zero budget $400k+ videogame
So myself, Rohan and Morgan (from our co-developer at Epiphany Games) were recently speculating about the size of our project. From humble beginnings, we realised that the size and scope of the project had well exceeded not just the expectations of Rohan and I (Noobs), but also Morgan, who projected that it’d take about three months to make and would end up with a budget of about $180’000 give or take. (Granted, this was at a Bavarian Bier Café – Morg)
That was full time work for a decent sized team of people, but for one reason or another circumstances conspired to mean that the game was worked on part time by Rohan, myself, Epiphany and our contracted contributors outside of our other gainful employment. I have been writing about videogames to pay the rent, Rohan has been working in IT, our musician was working time in between looking after his kid and working in video production and our character artist was forging through an ever-increasing amount of study while working at a bar.
The bottom line – the game has now taken 18 months and counting. And when we took a look back over all the hours and take a conservative estimate, our best guess at a budget, if we’d had one, would be somewhere in between $400-500k.
The best advice I can give for anyone looking to create a very large game with very little up front capital is as follows:
- Why? Seriously, it’s a stupid idea, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
- If you must, don’t make it something which is designed to be using the latest and greatest graphics or audio to make an impact – make something which is unique and interesting, relies on its gameplay, sense of humour or something else intangible to drive interest. That way, you won’t be technologically redundant come release.
- Don’t have a project manager. This isn’t really advice, per se, as much as it is anecdotal of how our project got this far. We were always looking at the next feature we had to implement, developing essentially with blinders on.
- Don’t rely on the game’s release date for your living. We couldn’t have possibly done this if we weren’t all able to support ourselves in the meantime.
We didn’t mean to, honest.
It just kind of, happened that way.
Still, we’re happy as hell that our first game out the door will be one with some depth and production value. Couldn’t be more pleased with how it’s gone. We just also know that we naively thought we’d be on our third game by now. But hey, if you want to make something really big, just make sure you a) don’t realise you’re doing it, b) don’t set a firm release date and c) don’t have one of those dastardly project manager / producer types informing you of the imbecilic nature of your endeavour.
Here’s to doing something stupid and being all the happier for it!