Mike Z on the cost of making (fighting) games


#1

If anyone was watching the Salty Cupcakes stream, Mike Z went on a long, epic rant directed at all the people complaining about the amount they were asking for the Skullgirls Indiegogo thing and about how they didn’t understand the real cost of making video games. To illustrate his point, he breaks how much was spent when he was still with Pandemic working on the Star Wars Battlefront games.

Happily, some guys at the official Skulheart forum have transcribed the entire thing.
<…> topic-relevant
(…) off-topic chatter
*** annotation

Spoilered for epic wall of text.

Spoiler

Stuff to take away from this:
It cost them $28,000,000 to make a AAA PS2 game (imagine how much it would cost today)
It cost them at $950,000 to create a single character in an FPS ($175,000 just to reskin)

Stuff to ponder:
These are FPS characters, with none of the depth and nuance that you’d need to add to a fighting game character.
Skullgirls DLC characters cost $200,000 - now you know why Haunts and S-kill are saying that this is “cheap” or "a steal."
How much then do characters in a big budget AAA fighter from the big names cost, considering that they aren’t cost cutting like Lab Zero?

To Preppy or the other FGD mods, feel free to move this if you don’t think it belongs in FGD (though I think it does and that everybody needs to read it).


"Execute." The Decapre thread
#2

Shut the fuck up Mike Z.

mod edit: Don’t make posts like this. Unintelligent antagonism is corrosive.


Ultra Street Fighter 4 General
"Execute." The Decapre thread
"Execute." The Decapre thread
#3

I bet you never listen to anything he says and just sit there calling this pretentious hipster Kike Z all day without even knowing what he’s talking about am I right?

get the fuck out with that shit yo


#4

Of course I don’t. Why the fuck would I? He’s unlistenable. He’s an egotist who has a exaggerated sense of self-worth and thinks of himself as the FGC’s holiest savior. He speaks in a condescending tone and automatically assumes everyone is a fan of his and is rude to people who dare imply that his stupid ripoff game has any flaws whatsoever. One time on one of his streams he called me a troll because I wouldn’t donate money to him. He’s an idiot.

I’d be supportive of his game if he wasn’t such a dickhead.


#5

Honestly, a small developer shouldn’t be comparing their costs to a AAA developer, as much of the costs in AAA development comes from iteration and production that never makes it into the completed product. I’m sure that the Skullgirls team does run through money like that for each character, but I’m not convinced that their development resources are wisely spent, especially considering their position.

Anyway, people are willing to be their patrons by throwing cash at them, so they must be doing something right.


#6

So this is what it’s all about…

Anyway the whole cost of vidya thing is because people became used to “indie” games that any guy can make in his garage, not taking into account that these games are extremely shallow and extremely ugly. Hence the whole “retro 8 bit” theme since it takes the least talent and effort to make. And even the commercial 2D games like the current Rayman rely on motion tween to be cost effective while that shit won’t pass in a 2D fighting game, which has to have real animations.


#7

i thought mercenaries 2 was a good game


#8

So what he says is wrong and the development of fighting games doesn’t cost that much and is probably more like 1337$ to make a complete game?
Mike Z; love or hate him, but don’t be a dick, when he offers you free edjucation on development costs for a game.


#9

I never said that. All I said was, “shut the fuck up Mike Z”.


#10

I think that owes more to the design of the game and cast than anything. Rotoscoping looks a hell of a lot more obvious on Elena than the KOFXIII cast.

Oh, and while I definitely see his point, at the same time, that’s also implying mainstream Western games’ budgets don’t usually dwarf the hell out of everything else regardless.
Ya really downplaying the price of your game when you’re talking about STAR WARS when your genre equals’ main country is known for its penny pinching and badly paid employees?
EDIT: Actually Capcom is a real bad comparison too now that I think about it, the company had 8 years of games before SF2.
I liked it when Barkley 2 Kickstarter explained their scenario, it isn’t something on the side anymore, its a full time project that pays many people who couldn’t survive as a collective working on it for at least that much.
Granted the only thing you could call indie about Skullgirls at this point is its origins.


#11

Regardless of what you think of Mike Z, this article has a realistic breakdown of cost from a third party:

giantbomb.com/articles/the-little-fighting-game-that-could/1100-4587/

Also, for anyone else out there who doubts how much it costs, check out the Skull Girls credits and see how many extra clean-up artists/inbetweeners they had on the team. It’ll surprise you how many there are, and ALL of them had to be paid. That alone is huge.


#12

Haha XD

Good breakdown of the costs, good to see about a fps costs too.


#13

Watching a stream by someone you don’t like to declare you won’t support their shit sounds like trolling to me.


#14

From what I’ve read people say here, especially on front page articles, I don’t think most players are ready for this type of responsibility. I remember, at some point, people were calling for Ono to be fired over very silly things. To me, that type of mass reaction just shows me that a vast portion of the community is just a little too immature to handle something like crowdfunding, responsibly.

I say that, only because the complaints about the cost had to be large enough for Mike Z to create this sort of response. I haven’t played Skullgirls yet, but the quality from what I’ve seen, is exceptional for an “indie game” and I’d have no problem in supporting that.


#15

Actually, I believe that it’s been mentioned that the Skullgirls team actually had less wasted frames of animation/moves compared to what Arc or SNK usually have for their games.


#16

Dunno man, i sincerely feel that SG is way more expensive than ASW games, the only reason why i am not sure about SNK is because the amount of time that it took for snk to show something.
Also that claim that they have less wasted animation frame hasn’t a solid base considerin that ASW and SNK barely share anything about their process.


#17

Wasn’t it from when Mike actually got to talk to some folks from Arc?


#18

Possibly (although I don’t know how they would be privy to this information), but they’re also not in the same financial position as Arc or SNK. If I was in their position as a start-up, I’m not so sure that I would prioritize the same aspects of the game that they did. Sure, it might be cool to have so many unique frames of hand drawn animation, but there are always questions of how you manage limited resources and what you sacrifice in order to make the end product better.

In the specific case of their cost breakdown, I wonder if spending $9k on sound for a single character is a good value, or if you really need to contract “audio implementation” when you have 8 staff on the project (one of whom could probably spend a little time entering data into an .xml or .csv or whatever). I have no doubt you COULD easily spend $9k, but I’m not so sure you need to in order to deliver a solid product. Same goes for the $2k “Hit-box Contracting”… there might be an expert who is worth that much for a little work, but is it really necessary?

I suppose my point is that it is perfectly reasonable to say that it cost their team $150k to make a character, but it’s also reasonable for people to wonder if it should. The Skullgirls team did some things very well, but I wouldn’t say that project scoping was one of them.

Edit on reread of linked article: Why is their cert so cheap? $10k?


#19

Hitbox Contracting is so Mike doesn’t become the bottleneck.
Costs get estimated up obviously, since that’s better than being underbudget and they can’t make what they promised.


#20

Didn’t somebody in the NeoGAF thread break down how much audio recording costs and state that even at that price, VAs aren’t really making much considering they also have to pay the rent for the studio as well as other people (voice director, etc.)?