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Offline dishmoth
« Posted 2012-05-15 12:06:04 »

A thought that's been bouncing around my head recently:

Everyone always massively underestimates how long it's going to take to finish making a game.  You start on a project that you think will take a couple of weeks, and after a few months of hard slog all you've got is a crummy-looking tech demo, so you give up and start a different project instead.

What if, when you first have an idea for a game, you could plausibly estimate how long it would take to turn that idea into reality?  How would that affect the projects you take on?

So what I'm thinking is, how about we make a list of example development times for different types of games?  To kick things off, here are some of mine:

Starbugs (a basic Galaxians clone) - 80 hours
Bug Bomb (a basic Scramble clone) - 250 hours
Bunny Golf (a simple mini-golf game) - 450 hours

Note 1.  I'm only thinking about finished games here.  (And by finished I mean properly finished, not just abandoned.)  Knowing how long it takes to make something half-finished isn't that useful when half-finished might actually mean tenth-finished or hundredth-finished.

Note 2.  The number of hours is a very, very rough guess.  I know rough start and end dates for the projects, and I'm assuming 10 hours of work per week (evenings and weekends) which is a balance between a typical productive week (20 hours work) and a typical not-so-productive week (ten minutes work).

Is this sort of thing useful?  Does anyone else want to share development times?

Simon

Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 404
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #1 - Posted 2012-05-15 12:36:49 »

Titan Attacks: about 12 man months
Ultratron: about 10 man months (so far)
Droid Assault: about 18 man months
Revenge of the Titans: about 8 man years.

Cas Smiley

Offline dishmoth
« Reply #2 - Posted 2012-05-15 12:57:44 »

Man month = 8 hours a day, 5 days a week?

Quick sums:
Titan Attacks: 2080 hours
Ultratron: 1730 hours
Droid Assault: 3120 hours
Revenge of the Titans: 16,640 hours

Just for comparison. Wink

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Offline 65K
« Reply #3 - Posted 2012-05-15 13:26:56 »

Hard to compare without knowing more details.
Like developer's experience, game features and usage of external libraries.
Maybe someone implemented a neural network better than that of Ltd. Commander Data while the other one is just rolling the dices Grin
Or multi player vs. single player.

Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 404
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #4 - Posted 2012-05-15 14:02:15 »

Man-month = more like 150 hours or so for us.
So:
Titan Attacks: 1680 hours
Ultratron: 1500 hours
Droid Assault: 2700 hours
Revenge of the Titans: 14400 hours

Cas Smiley

Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 404
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #5 - Posted 2012-05-15 14:05:07 »

Looking at our games you can get a pretty good idea of a) how much work really goes into an actual finished product (and what's in a finished product) and b) just how slow we are. It'd be nice if we were quicker but we have an arcane style that's quite labour intensive, and we've got absolutely no natural talent in game design - at least 50% of the development time (both code and graphics) is just testing ideas and throwing them out again afterwards.

Right now I spend about 50% of my actual time "developing" simply playtesting to make sure stuff is good.

Cas Smiley

Offline dishmoth
« Reply #6 - Posted 2012-05-15 17:43:29 »

Hard to compare without knowing more details.
Like developer's experience, game features and usage of external libraries.
Of course any quoted development times are going to be very, very woolly, and I wouldn't read too much into them.  But I'd argue that things like developer's experience and choice of tools are actually minor factors compared to the overall size/quality of the game being developed.  (And let's assume that we're talking about developers who are sane enough not to spend ten years implementing something that could've been done in ten minutes. Wink )

Offline dishmoth
« Reply #7 - Posted 2012-05-15 17:51:00 »

b) just how slow we are. It'd be nice if we were quicker but we have an arcane style that's quite labour intensive, and we've got absolutely no natural talent in game design - at least 50% of the development time (both code and graphics) is just testing ideas and throwing them out again afterwards.
Are you basing this on hard evidence?
I'd sort of assumed that everyone felt that way. persecutioncomplex

Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 404
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #8 - Posted 2012-05-15 18:36:50 »

Some developers really are genuinely talented in the area of game design, and prolific. See our very own Kev Glass and Markus Persson. They knock out really nice ideas in a trice. Unfortunately I'm not like that - most of my ideas are rubbish and take months of experiments before they end up with something good enough.

Cas Smiley

Offline _Al3x

Senior Duke


Medals: 7


Indie Games FTW!


« Reply #9 - Posted 2012-05-16 04:08:24 »

I wish I could work with you princec, I think I have plenty of good ideas but I have very little experience in programming games.
I guess I'm more of the designer type more of the coder one. I came with pretty fun ideas every week  and I started writting them down 'cause I think they may be good to develop someday!

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Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 404
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #10 - Posted 2012-05-16 07:42:47 »

I have 1,000,000 ideas. Unfortunately I only have 2 hands and most of the time it seems they are used to bat off my pesky children. What I need is a miserably subservient autistic savant programmer who obeys my every whimsy and is paid in magic beans. And a clone of Chaz.

Cas Smiley

Offline endolf

JGO Coder


Medals: 7
Exp: 15 years


Current project release date: sometime in 3003


« Reply #11 - Posted 2012-05-16 07:57:10 »

What I need is a miserably subservient autistic savant programmer who obeys my every whimsy and is paid in magic beans.

I'll take 3 please.

Endolf

Offline gimbal

JGO Knight


Medals: 25



« Reply #12 - Posted 2012-05-16 08:40:00 »

Unfortunately I only have 2 hands and most of the time it seems they are used to bat off my pesky children.

Seems like what you primarily need is one of these two things:

1) an office away from home
2) a door with a lock Smiley

Or go crazy, both!
Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 404
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #13 - Posted 2012-05-16 08:47:26 »

I do wish I had the sort of money to burn to rent an office but as it'd only be me working alone there I'd be incredibly lonely. It's already pretty lonely upstairs in my man cave. Sometimes I welcome being hassled by the kids.

Cas Smiley

Offline theagentd
« Reply #14 - Posted 2012-05-16 10:18:35 »

What I need is a miserably subservient autistic savant programmer who obeys my every whimsy and is paid in magic beans.
Hey! I'm doing my best here! xD

Myomyomyo.
Offline ReBirth
« Reply #15 - Posted 2012-05-16 11:50:59 »

@OP
I want to see your starbugs in applet but it lies Angry
Love your quote, "homemade games" like cookies or candies Cool I wanna adopt that words.

Offline dishmoth
« Reply #16 - Posted 2012-05-16 19:50:40 »

I want to see your starbugs in applet but it lies Angry
Lies?  You mean it hangs?

That's annoying.  If it's purely an applet problem then maybe the old webstart link will still work.  (I did see applets hanging on a Windows/IE9 machine recently.  It seemed that the browser plugin was completely broken - even the Oracle "which version of Java do I have" applet was hanging.  Updating the plugin fixed that.)

Ah well, I guess we're all used to applet problems by now. Tongue

Thanks for trying it though.  It does rather undermine the original discussion if I'm quoting development times for games no one can play.

Simon

Offline ReBirth
« Reply #17 - Posted 2012-05-17 04:16:36 »

@dismouth
no, your button says applet but when I clicked it a jar file thrown (not that I don't like desktop though) Smiley

Offline dishmoth
« Reply #18 - Posted 2012-05-17 06:38:10 »

no, your button says applet but when I clicked it a jar file thrown (not that I don't like desktop though) Smiley

Ah, I see.  What a shame.  I'm using a plugin that's supposed to handle applets correctly - and clearly it's not doing its job.  What OS/browser are you using?  (The plugin does say it requires Javascript, but that's always present these days, isn't it?)

Simon

Offline endolf

JGO Coder


Medals: 7
Exp: 15 years


Current project release date: sometime in 3003


« Reply #19 - Posted 2012-05-17 06:41:38 »

Among certain groups of people it has a good chance of being disabled though.

Endolf

Offline ReBirth
« Reply #20 - Posted 2012-05-17 07:30:22 »

Endlof right. I have NoScript here to block those useless flash ads and annoying webs that play music. Gonna need to whitelist it.

Offline dishmoth
« Reply #21 - Posted 2012-05-17 08:25:11 »

Doh!  I'll have to add a no-Javascript link or something.
Thanks for the info!
Simon

Offline gouessej
« Reply #22 - Posted 2012-05-17 08:45:28 »

Hi

A thought that's been bouncing around my head recently:

Everyone always massively underestimates how long it's going to take to finish making a game. 
As time goes by, I don't really underestimate the required time to finish any project in computer science in general, not only for games. Working a long time on some projects learns a lot of things about our own abilities and our limits. At the very beginning of my main project, I estimated I would need between 4 and 6 years to finish it if and only if I don't switch to another engine. At first, I switched from d3caster to my own engine. Then, I switched from my own engine to JMonkeyEngine 2.0. After that, I switched from JMonkeyEngine 2.0 to Ardor3D. Finally, my game will still require between 4 and 6 years of hard work without replacing the current engine.

Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 404
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #23 - Posted 2012-05-17 08:56:45 »

You only have to look at how trivially "simple" our games are versus the time taken to produce them to realise just how much effort really goes into making something commercial.

Cas Smiley

Offline dishmoth
« Reply #24 - Posted 2012-05-17 11:34:58 »

You only have to look at how trivially "simple" our games are versus the time taken to produce them to realise just how much effort really goes into making something commercial.

Just for fun we can try putting a number on that.

Two of the games in our little list are Space Invaders/Galaxians clones, but at different ends of the spectrum.

Starbugs is at the 'hobby' end.  Gameplay is very basic, but I'd argue that it's reasonably polished (at least I remember it being a hard slog getting it into a state that I felt was finished).

Titan Attacks on the other hand offers the deluxe, award-winning (I'm too lazy to check but presumably Grin ) alien-shooting experience, and is very obviously 'commercial'.

One took 80 hours to make, the other 1680 hours.

So we could claim that the difference between hobby-standard and commercial-standard is a factor of 20 in the development time.

As I say, just a bit of fun. Wink

Simon

Offline Orangy Tang

JGO Kernel


Medals: 56
Projects: 11


Monkey for a head


« Reply #25 - Posted 2012-05-17 12:02:58 »

So we could claim that the difference between hobby-standard and commercial-standard is a factor of 20 in the development time.
For a game as polished as Titan Attacks that sounds pretty accurate from my experience. However these days I'm questioning just how important that level of polish is.

Skyrim (and F3, and Oblivion) are horrendously unpolished games, yet everyone loves them and they sell by the bucket load. Similarly, I bought Dark Scavenger last week ( http://www.darkscavenger.com/ ) which is a hilarously unpolished game with terrible production values, yet it's still strangely compelling.

Of course Dungeons of Dredmor was hugely polished and also sold a bucket load, so who knows what this tells us.

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Offline gouessej
« Reply #26 - Posted 2012-05-17 12:42:04 »

One took 80 hours to make, the other 1680 hours.

So we could claim that the difference between hobby-standard and commercial-standard is a factor of 20 in the development time.
It is true in some cases but not in general. We can find examples showing that it is completely wrong and what is a standard? I don't find Minecraft graphics pretty, it doesn't mean that the game itself "is" bad but it is a commercial game whose graphics are not very polished, rather quite "simple". An hobby project can require a lot of work and some people are ready to spend a lot of time on such a project even though it does not lead to something commercial.

Offline princec

JGO Kernel


Medals: 404
Projects: 3
Exp: 16 years


Eh? Who? What? ... Me?


« Reply #27 - Posted 2012-05-17 12:46:33 »

You'd be surprised just how much polish you don't even notice in games like Skyrim. It's already polished to buggery and could be polished far, far more. It's all a balance. For indies polish can make or break sales because there's so much dross to stand out from. For Skyrim they've got a AAA marketing budget and don't have much competition. They make up for polish with marketing.

Cas Smiley

Offline Orangy Tang

JGO Kernel


Medals: 56
Projects: 11


Monkey for a head


« Reply #28 - Posted 2012-05-17 12:46:53 »

Minecraft has roughly the same factor of 20 I'd say - ignore the graphics, that's a red herring. Minecraft 'classic' took how long? A few weeks? And then a couple of years of development / alpha / beta after that to turn it into Minecraft 1.0.

[ TriangularPixels.com - Play Growth Spurt, Rescue Squad and Snowman Village ] [ Rebirth - game resource library ]
Offline gimbal

JGO Knight


Medals: 25



« Reply #29 - Posted 2012-05-21 09:42:24 »

Minecraft has roughly the same factor of 20 I'd say - ignore the graphics, that's a red herring. Minecraft 'classic' took how long? A few weeks? And then a couple of years of development / alpha / beta after that to turn it into Minecraft 1.0.

In other words producing a tech demo took a few weeks, producing an actual game on top of it (which still had half-implemented features at 1.0 release time by the way) took an additional 1.5 years and required at least 3 rebuilds of the internal plumbing to keep it going.

Minecraft is a bad example though; its not only a sandbox for players, its also a sandbox for the developers and modders. It is the one game for which "its never done" rings true as people will probably be adding stuff to it long after Mojang ditches it - which I sort of have a gut feeling is going to be sooner rather than later. The modding API they're implementing isn't just to keep the community happy, its also a possibility for Mojang to let it go when it is polished off.
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