Hello! I can tell you my cost making a solo venture conversion of my book stories. Kind of a step by step as well as a cost as a solo developer.
Step 1: Get to Know Whether Your Design is Fun
The first iteration was in the Aurora Engine (NWN1) then Electron Engine (NWN2)…both of these are inclusive toolsets to those games and anything made with them are free. The good side here is that I learned a lot of details about how to make a game function as well as making a game ‘Fun’ for players (myself included). Both of these engines had multiplayer functionality as well…so the testing was very good. I would HIGHLY recommend using NWN1 Diamond Edition (includes all 3 expansions) with CEP and CTP which are both addons called HAK files…basically Bioware’s 7Zip file container with the files inside to load at Editor and Runtime. Take 4-6 moths to make this happen including some dialogue and questing.
Cost = Time
Step 2: Figure Out Your Design Standard
*This can actually be done in line with Step 1 if your really know you want to make a series of games.
In my case it took a lot of time and investigation. The graphical improvements in NWN2 were really good…especially with my personal and various community HAKs. I wanted a game that played like NWN1/2 but with the graphical fidelity of a Skyrim or Shadows of Mordor. This led me to DAZ Studio as well as several other modeling systems. Since I already knew Blender a bit I started trying to transfer files into 3 current game engines…Torque, Esenthel, and Unity 4. Torque I just did not get. Esenthel was fairly decent but it just did not ‘click’ since my mind is still in the Bioware and Skyrim way of doing things. Unity 4 however was a different story. Remarkably easy to use and the imports gave me what I needed. So I stuck with it and even bought the Pro license since there were things I had to have that only the Pro version gave. Many stated that DAZ art cannot be used for gaming since the poly counts are too high…I called BS and developed some excellent workflows and LOD levels that worked really well in Unity 4. The Standard was formed in about 6 months.
Cost = ~$175 USD
DAZ Studio Pro is Free and comes with some great things to get started with…but you will want some morph expressions and body morphs to really unlock what you need.
*If you want a list of required addons to really get started it is about $175 to get the right ones…I have this info in PDF. Just send me a PM and I can link up the PDF from my site.
Step 3: Make your own design documents that you have to follow yourself.
This is huge. Naming conventions of scripts and models and all of that makes a difference. If you took the NWN1 route you can learn from one of the best developers there are…Bioware. They did an amazing job at naming conventions. So much so that it can be followed as a guideline for these current gen engines. It is too bad that many coders and artists just go wild with naming or use **** naming standards all together. 1 Month to get the spreadsheet nailed down.
Cost = Time and Spreadsheet Program (I use MS Excel 2007)
Step 4: Start making/buying 3D art.
*Buy On Sale! DAZ has Great Sales all the time but the big ones hit 4 times a year. If you do the DAZ route then get the Platinum Club Plus (PC+) Membership…crazy deals saving huge piles of green.
Why not make the artists from DAZ work for you. Simply study what licenses are offered and stick to the fewest you can. Anything with DAZ Originals in the artist title is all under one license. Whether you make and/or purchase your art you will need to use your naming styles and prepare your art to be game ready. This is actually easier in UE4 (outside of making sure your scaling exports are right for UE4). Textures and Materials all need to named and cataloged for Insurance and License challenges that could come later. Takes a little extra time to add each model to a spreadsheet but it is very well worth it later. I am still preparing art as well as going back through and setting the scale properly for UE4 in Blender. This process is ongoing but it took about 1 year to get enough in game format to actually start building some nice stuff.
Cost = My Total Cost ~$45,000, also Time to make my own 3D Art, and the large dose of time to export and game prep the 3D art. $30 per hour per artist
Step 5a: Game Logic Coding.
*Can be adapted in Step 4 but really be careful with time and burnout here!
I made the ORSv5.1 - Olander’s Realistic Systems for NWN1 (ORSv5.1 - Olander's Realistic Systems | The Neverwinter Vault) and a private ORS v6 in NWN2 using the advancement of the scripting capability and the XML based GUIs that were available to do some cool stuff. The ORSv5.1 is free of course and you can use much of the code for doing things shown in the description in UE4/Unity. The code is very similar to C but uses Bioware’s functions to get the work done. These functions located on the NWN Lexicon (NWN Lexicon) can be reversed engineered (did many of these in Unity…and currently doing some/many in UE4) and used in almost the same detail as in NWN1/2. These functions are handy and are as go to gaming since they also make sense. If you hire a coder…especially in the C++ world…introduce them to NWN1 script and take a couple of weeks to go through the ORSv5.1 in how it integrates nicely into the Bioware engine. The code is highly optimized and once again…translates very nicely. This will take about 1.5 years to get the Framework Overlay done on top of the engine of choice…in this case UE4.
Cost = Time (My Cost) or $40 per hour per coder.
Step 5b: Game Story and Writing.
If you went the NWN1 route your should have some nice conversations made that also do questing/missions. You should have quite a number of these ideas for players to have some fun with. This is obviously very wide open depending upon your game…but that main thing here is to make certain you stick with your Standard with your writers. Especially if you are writing your own stories/missions.
Cost = Time (My Cost) or $30 per hour per writer.
Step 6: Testing your Designs.
I do testing but I also pay others to do testing as well. Usually this is just a young guy/gal from the local Game Stop or Microcenter/Fry’s to test out a level and give some verbal feedback (recording while play testing). Metrics are a curse…don;t use them in my opinion. Go with what the players are saying and what feels right. Makes certain to test tightly…meaning small easy to focus on tests. Less details lost and you gather better feedback. Takes a little additional time to set these tests up but the result in fabulous and very high QC. Once something changes…makes certain to go back and test…example being after the testing project is transferred into the real game project and integrated…run another QC test on it to make certain everything functions.
Cost = 100 Hours of Testing @ $25 per hour $2,500 may as well double or triple this as your game gets closer to completion. 2 hours of good play testing goes a loooooong way!
My total cost currently is almost $55,000 and I live and breath game design. I am single and love what I do. I am an engineer in my paying job and really like that as well…my real love is game design. My Unity 5 sales demo of my game design proof of concept did not get investor funding as I hoped. Close but just not good enough…being in Unity 5 was part of the big reason why I did not get the investor funding (some real pros made the statement that if I was doing the project in UE4 I would have gotten the funding). This is now why I am fully vested into UE4 and do a full rebuild. I miss Unity…and I miss Aurora even more…but UE4 is awesome sauce that I am really cruising along in.
I know this was a wee bit long winded but I hope this gives some details on not only what my game development in a very frugal way has cost me out of my own pockets as well as some insight into what it will cost to hire talent. This talent could be as a freelancer or in house employee (recommended).