Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

A video game budget breakdown: Gratuitous Space Battles 2.

Indie developers, especially ones working on their first game are always very interested to know how much stuff costs, and whether they should spend more money on X or Y. It can be a bit intimidating and scary when you have no idea what you are doing and its your first game. To try and help with this, I thought I’d release some data about the last full game I shipped as the developer, which was Gratuitous Space Battles 2. For those who aren’t aware, its a top-down 2D space strategy game with more lasers and particles than you can shake a stick at, and it looks like this:


Or in video form like this:

Anyway, here is a pie chart breakdown of the cost (EXCLUDING MY CODING TIME) for Gratuitous Space Battles 2.


And for those who hate marketing, here is the same chart but without any:


Obviously you have to strongly remain aware that there was a LOT of coding time by me which I have not included here, because obviously as the owner of the company its hard to work out how much I should value my own time at. Regardless of this, maybe some people find this useful;. If you want more insight into why the costs are the way they are, you probably need to check out the game. GSB2 is a VERY GUI and visual-effects intense game. It has a lot of very complex GUI elements, and thats why its such a big chunk of the cost. It also has very good dramatic music. If you are making a 3D game, costs might be different. If you are working on mobile or ipad, again it might be different. This was a hardcore PC strategy game designed for huge monitors and hardcore players. How does this budget breakdown compare with yours? Share in the comments :D

8 thoughts on A video game budget breakdown: Gratuitous Space Battles 2.

  1. I’ll throw my data out there since I do have code included so there’s nothing left out of the equation. (It’s easier for me to do that regardless of how coding time is valued because we’re only speaking in relative terms here, and I’ve done most everything myself.)


    So-called “community” refers to all marketing and community-related activities (I don’t do advertising, so the latter term is more appropriate here.)

    The data is missing the most recent couple months, but there’s still a good year of work remaining (in early access right now) and I plan to eventually do a huge report on my blog examining where the time and money goes, once the full set of data is available. I do a categorical hourly breakdown, and have been doing it for years, so the data produces some nice graphs I’ll be sharing :D

    Oh yeah, the game is Cogmind, with more ASCII particle effects and sfx than you can shake a stick at :P

  2. very interesting.

    I’m quite suprised at how much of the breakdown seems to be required to support Achievements and Trading Cards (I’m assuming this is Steam Trading cards?) – that seems like a not-insignificant amount of investment to support those 2 features..

    1. Probably because coding time isn’t included.

      Anything Cliff did (more-or-less) himself – like that beautiful graphics engine he’s posted about on this blog – will barely show up.

      Anything outsourced – like, I’m guessing, artwork on the trading cards – would show up as a big-ticket, chunky cost.

      To an extent these are pie charts showing “things Cliff can’t/doesn’t do solo”.

  3. I do pretty much all the UI layouts and coding myself, saving me lots of money outlay for artists, etc. My last Steam game (Elysium: Blood Games) cost around $260, not counting my coding time. All of that was for art and 2 pieces of original music/music licensing. If I had outsourced everything except coding, it would have been double or triple that amount, at least.

    It really does sometimes pay to roll your own. :-)

  4. I would definitely include coding. Your time is you most valuable resource. Not including it at all is ridiculous. How many hours do you think you worked on it? Coding, level design, art, people management, etc?

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