GDD 015 : What To Do With $10K?

By June 25, 2014 Podcast No Comments
Game Design Dojo Podcast Episode

There’s a million ways you can spend $10,000 but what would be the best way to make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck? Brian and Ike discuss a few different scenarios on how they would handle a big chunk of money.

Today’s Developer Diary

Ike launched his game Rhythm Friends on iOS and Amazon! Although it’s technically his second game he’s shipped, it’s the first game he started and finished this year living up to the New Year’s Resolution of “Ship It”. Rhythm Friends is a rhythm tapping game intended for 6-8  year old’s. Ike worked with his 6 year old daughter who just started taking piano to help her improve on the feeling of the notes rather than just knowing the counts of each note. He goes into some detail about the gameplay and challenges he faced but all in all this was a great experience and if nothing else a great memento working with his daughter. We wish Rhythm Friends luck and be sure to pass it along to anyone you know with kids in that age group!

What Would You Do With $10,000?

We decided to challenge ourselves a little and think about what we’d do if we had that kind of money and had a game we were working on, how would we spend that money? Since it depends on what stage you’re in and where you want to go next, we explored a few different scenarios.

Scenario 1 : The 1-2 Person Programming Team

We can break it up into categories:

  • Marketing
  • Key Art Points – Character
  • Store Front Presence

For the programmer heavy team, it would be wise to spend your money on art and hopefully you’re not making a game that is too character heavy but more of a puzzle game like Doodle Jump.

It is really important to have good looking promotional screens, a landing page and an icon because it can give people a vibe of your game. With that said, we would put about $2500 towards getting all the promotional art and marketing materials including a video. An artist can polish anything indefinitely and in the world of art, the saying goes “It’s never truly done, it’s only abandoned.”

Here’s a breakdown:

  • $2500 – Marketing Materials
  • $500 – Music and Sound Effects
  • $3500 – Characters and Effects
  • $3500 – Backgrounds and Props

How do you squeeze the most amount of the highest quality art as possible with the amount of money?

Focus on monetizing. In the free-to-play market you want to drive the player to purchase by trying to figure out how to get money in a way that is rewarding for both sides (you and the player).  So focus on the up-sell art that gets the consumer looking it and wanting to have it.

How much art should you expect?

An artist can ask anywhere from $20-$100 per hour.

  • Seasoned Artist – $50-$60 per hour
  • Mid-Level Artist -$30-$40 per hour
  • Junior Artist – $15-$20 per hour

If you find an artist that charges $35 per hour, $3500 will get you 100 hours or two and a half weeks of work. It will take the artist a day or two to get acclimated to the style unless you provide them with a style guide with color palates and so forth this helps the artist to not go in a direction you don’t want them to.

Keep in mind you’re probably going to have some lost work. It’s really hard to have a game almost 100% done and then plug in the art and it all works perfectly. Some of the work will get lost, called art waste.

It also depends on how much business vs art orientated you are. As well as your inspiration and goals.

  • More Art: the game is done when  say it’s done – can end up spending more money, not having it out as soon but have an amazing game
  • More Business: This is the game – have it all gray boxed in, put in final art and when we’re done with the budget we’re shipping it. If does well, maybe invest 10-20% back into the title


There is always an expense related to every platform that you launch on, usually a couple hundred bucks. You might have to purchase devices during your development. Brian likes to purchase the older models simple because you develop for the lowest common denominator and the widest user base. Once you have your game running on an older model, you can push the graphics on the newer machines.

Scenario 2 – The Generalist

You’re working a job not related to games and you want to start making a game. You’ve downloaded Unity to your computer, gone through a few tutorials and have an idea for a game. What’s the next step?

The best way to spend the money is to invest in yourself by taking a look at your own skills and deciding  what you’d like to get better at. Then go through some tutorials, look at the asset store and find some starter packs and then modify from there.

The important thing to remember is the always keep it fun for yourself. It has to feel like your down time and it has to stay fun and interesting.

Scenario 3 – The 2 Artist Team

Most likely if you’re a working artist, you don’t really have a lot of time to devote to making a game so you might have to outsource the programming and most of the design. It is really tricky to hire programmers since they are smart people with business smarts and may want to become your partner. Try to find the programmer/designer type to help put the art together and run with it.

There are tools that artists can use as game making apps:

Scripting is relatively easy and since artists are good at adapting like chameleons because they generally have to learn so many high end programs so jumping into Unity is basically easy. However, opening up a scripting file might look confusing to a lot of artists which is why some use visual scripting tools like schematics. Brian used to use Vicious Engine by Vicious Cycle.

Everyone Should Be Knowledgeable

There should be no more just artists or just programmers, everyone has to learn both sides. Artists should learn scripting and programmers should learn Photo Shop. In the 90’s programmers ruled because they had to write their own engine, but now it’s art that’s separating the men from the boys. Somewhere between the blurred lines of art and game design is the content and that’s the most important thing.

A few insights:

  • Be the composer – learn all the different skills
  • Be smart – download rocks, trees, textures from the asset store – not your main character
  • Invest in yourself – decide what skills to invest in

Here’s some more:

  • Marketing in the mobile space is an unknown quantity
  • Most important piece of the marketing puzzle is the video trailer
  • Video is king – if you can’t make a high quality video then spend the money
  • People want to hear from the developers – be honest with yourself and with the people

 A Hundred Different Ways to Spend $10,000

If you are fortunate enough to have $10,000 we suggest to focus your attention towards building your own skills and getting your game across the finish line.

We wouldn’t take $10K and put it into a $200K game. Remember, anymore than 2 or 3 months of development and the risk profile of you getting your money back becomes a lot higher. Seasoned developers can go beyond that point but generally start with a small bite sized game and go from there.



About Deanna McRae