Think Development on One Character Shouldn’t Cost $150,000? Let Seth Killian and Dave Lang Explain Why You’re Wrong

By on February 27, 2013 at 9:03 pm

After Lab Zero Games’ announcement of their $150,000 goal for the recently opened (and so far highly successful) Skullgirls fundraiser, Giant Bomb’s Patrick Klepek noticed a distressing emotion running through the comment threads of many articles: disbelief. Though the company was completely transparent regarding how the money would be spent and adequately backed up the figure, some still thought they were reaching too far.

To help shed some light on the subject, Klepek contacted Lab Zero CEO Peter Bartholow, Sony Santa Monica’s Seth Killian, and Iron Galaxy Studios CEO Dave Lang for their insight. His article and the answers they provided make for a very interesting read on the nature of game design and the extensive amount of work that goes into creating just one character for a fighting game.

We’ve included a short excerpt from the piece below, but be sure to visit Giant Bomb to read the entire article.

Iron Galaxy Studios has worked closely with Capcom, and is responsible for the upcoming Darkstalkers Resurrection, Marvel vs. Capcom Origins, and others. It knows fighting games. Additionally, the company is building a proper version of the cult hit, Divekick. When I tossed the $150,000 number at Iron Galaxy CEO Dave Lang, here’s what he told me:

“I don’t have any particular insights as to how the Skullgirls team works, but I can tell you if we were doing a similar game there would be two major time sinks: new frames of animation and time required to balance the game.

The frames of animation are very expensive for a couple reasons, but at the end of the day it gets down to volume. Say you need 500 frames of animation per character (arbitrary number, I don’t know what Skullgirls frame count per character is), you actually should budget for 1,000 frames of animation in time and materials because for a 2D fighter the animation is the gameplay, and you will need to rework a lot of the sprites to have the game play the way you want. If you were to outsource that many frames of animation you’d pay $20-$30/hour for that, and at that resolution/complexity each person working on them would get around 4 frames of animation done per day (these are highly involved sprites). That puts the cost of just getting the sprites done anywhere from 40k-60k USD. Keep in mind this will take time, and while you’re waiting for the art to get back from the outsourcer you’re still paying salaries, rent, internet, insurance, etc., so sunk cost for just the art itself is probably gonna net out to 90k USD.

Once you get everything in the game, now you need to balance it. And balancing a fighting game is a “n-squared” problem, meaning each additional fighter you add makes balancing the game much more difficult (and therefore take more time/people) to balance. This takes a long time, even with Skullgirls (now) 9 characters. Every studio has their own cost structure but you can safely assume each individual game developer costs their studio around 10k per month (including rent, insurance, etc.). This number will vary wildly for any given dev, but in the US it’s as good a rule of thumb as you can hope for. Sounds like the Skullgirls crew runs a pretty lean ship so let’s chop that to 7,500k/month for them. If there are 5 people on the team (not sure if this is right, but I can’t imagine doing this with less people so let’s call it 5), that’s 37.5k/month for them. If your budget is 150k, that gives them about 2 months to balance the game, which isn’t really a lot of time.

We haven’t even touched on audio, UI, etc. All that stuff adds up. This is why I think 150k is a bargain.”

Source: Giant Bomb, tips via James Chen and King9999

  • MasterChibi

    Hey remember when SRK used to write their own articles?

    Yeah me either.*waddles off*

    • Mabans

      The article addresses the larger issue between the perceived development cost by the consumer and the reality. Skullgirls happens to be the lightning rod for the discussion. The article wasn’t fighting game specific..

      • MasterChibi

        So that’s a no for you too, right?

    • Austin Davoren

      Only DUCKS waddle. 

      • Len

         Or really fat people

      • Peter Bartholow

        Let’s leave Duckie out of this, OK?

        • PETER B

          really? you people are NOT funny!

      • Andrew Oh


    • Pertho14

      I do. I remember a lot of things about the front page:

      I remember when Keits was the only one posting; he used to give reviews on stuff, call out random SRK members to give a shotout etc. He would add smarmy opinions to random stuff and it was kind of annoying, but damn if he didn’t put in work.

      I remember when they did the writer search. I remember the qualifications for it and I remember the lull that happened in the front page afterwards.

      I remember the sudden explosion of random nonsense that hit the front page. I remember forcing myself to read all of it so I knew what they were writing about. No idea why there was an article on fighting game that didn’t mention either Charlotte or Hilde.

      So yes, I actually do remember when SRK wrote articles. IF you have gripes, commit to writing weekly and throw it somewhere. Oh wait, you commited to following the Skullgirls scene. Everybody visit for all your Skullgirls news. Also visit for your Skullgirls forum action.

  • Mabans

    Just read the article 10 mins ago, love what Dave Lang had to add to the subject..

  • michael bradford

    the more characters the harder to balance well tekken says your full of crap


    • Lestatx

      The ignorance in your comment is ridiculous lol. They said it’s hard, not impossible.

    • sludgepuppy

      How balanced a game is isn’t indicative of how difficult it is to balance it.

    • That’s not exactly accurate.
      Tekken’s system has some very basic, but powerful tools that it gives to everyone in the roster. In this way, there are few matchups that are actually “counters” in the traditional sense, because everyone has the same basic toolbox. In this way, the worst character in a Tekken game is much better off than the worst character in most other games.

      Also, established Tekken characters movesets haven’t really changed all that much since Tekken 5. The basic game system is also pretty similar. They dealt with most of the balance problems back in Tekken 5 DR, and the game hasn’t changed all that much since then.

      Balancing Tekken is more like balancing Mortal Kombat 1, where all the characters are really similar (Even though Midway failed at balancing MK1, lol)

      •  “Also, established Tekken characters movesets haven’t really changed all
        that much since Tekken 5. The basic game system is also pretty similar.”

        That pretty much sums it up.

        • sb

          Tekken is the same game sense Tekken 1 with added characters and better graphics havent played Tekken sense Tekken 2 played TTT2 with law and yoshi it was like i never stop playing it

      • Dubsys

        Animating a 3D model is a lot easier than getting a set of sprites for an animation

    • Louis Lam

      Just because it can be done doesn’t mean it’s not harder.

    • Simply Chun-believeable ^_~ ♥♥

      I’m assuming you’re talking about TTT2, where half the cast are clones, with a few moveset changes? Not really the best example.

      • NYC01301

        Hey! Do not start spewing ignorance about Tekken xD It has a VERY diverse cast and it would be incredibly ignorant to say half the cast is full of clones. That just comes from people who have limited knowledge of the game. Just saying.

        • Robbie J

           Don’t feed the troll bro, this guy know he said the equivalent of ryu, ken, dan, gouken, akuma, sakura, oni, and evil ryu are clones, which nobody who actually has knowledge of the game would say

          • Simply Chun-believeable ^_~ ♥♥

            Trolling? Wow I have no intentions to troll anyone. I’ve had TTT2 since release as I pre-ordered it I’m sure I have knowledge of the game.

            I was just simply stating that the game has a lot of characters that share a moveset with another character (sometimes the same character). I don’t understand how everytime someone has an opinion, SF gets involved somehow.

            Also those characters than you listed aren’t even half of SSF4AE’s character roster and it’s still in it’s most balanced state yet. I never said that other games don’t have their share of clones either. (SF, Melee, DOA, MvC2, etc.).

            I actually agree that a game can have a healthy variety of characters and still be balanced. There are just better examples than Tekken. (KOF, BB, VF etc.).

          • NYC01301

            Well just because you pre-ordered and own the game, doesn’t mean you understand the game’s system. The  characters that actually share movesets would be Alex and Roger. Lee and Violet. Eddy, Tiger and Christie. Jack-6 and P-Jack. Miharu and Xiaoyu.  Kuma and Panda. Jun and Unknown. Forrest and Marshall Law. Most of the characters I just mentioned were added to the game because of fan-service. They incorporated every character throughout the entire series to make everyone happy. This is a sub-series within Tekken that is basically a “dream match”. Other than that, character’s like Jun and Asuka share very little similarities. Other than whiplash and some parts of the leg cutter extensions, there is absolutely nothing similar about them and the way they need to be approached. Nina and Anna are completely different, the Mishimas are completely different. Just because a character shares 2 moves with another character doesn’t make them a clone. That’s like saying Lau and Pai or Jacky and Sarah from VF are clones. And I’m sure we all know that’s not the case. There is a reason why Tekken has always maintained popularity in Korea and Japan. That is because of the depth, basically limitless ceiling for improvement and variety of characters. It just irks me a little bit when people have fallacious notions towards Tekken and think they really understand the system, when 85% of the people who play Tekken don’t even know the basics. 

          • Robbie J

            Just because you have had TTT2 since it released  doesn’t mean you have knowledge of the game. You showed you didn’t when you said half of the cast are clones……….anybody with knowledge of the game would know that you don’t play any of those characters the same. (maybe bears but that’s about it)

            And 9 out of 59 characters isn’t half the cast. And please tell me that characters who use Mishima style are clones just so you can further my point that you don’t know anything about this game.

        • Jeff Jarlett

           TTT2 has a diverse cast, but it also has a ton of clones.  There are plenty of chars in TTT2 who are thrown in just because they were in a previous game.

        • sb

          Its full of CLONES no knowledge needed just vision one of the reasons it flopped

    • Andrew Espinoza

      Cuz we all know how balanced Tekken has always been.

      • Legion

        Ahh it’s actually always been pretty well balanced (except for 4). Way more balanced than any capcom fighter I have ever played.

        Dont look at americans at evo playing t6 and think that’s indicative of the balance of tekken.

        Go watch tekken crash or busters and see all characters are competitive and represented…

        btw Sb if you really believe that you are an idiot.

    •  and the point is proven how exactly?

    • PJ

      Yes let’s compare a game that’s had 8-9 previous games with repeating characters already balanced against each other to something brand new. Let’s also compare a 2d fighter where a few frame tweaks means completely new frames of animation with a 3d fighter where all you do is tweak some lines of animation code on the model. Well done sir.

    • sb

      Lol using Tekken as a example a crap game with not much put into it as you can see

      • yamato101ps

        Tekken after Dark Resurrection started going downhill, but the series has always been better than that ST crap.

  • sludgepuppy

     The backlash was kinda crazy, but I guess it’s hard to blame people. If you don’t work in any of those fields, it’s not like the costs of these things come up in general conversation. It’s the same as when everybody was so shocked that patches cost like 40k or whatever amount. The information is out now, which is good. People won’t treat characters and patches like some sort of casual addition that devs are just too stingy to toss in. Hopefully, at least.

    • Andrew Norris

      I feel other Kickstarters are largely to blame.  Internet kids backing games up see that some dude in his basement thinks he can make an entire game for 50k when that dude doesn’t understand anything about the business he’s trying to break into has misled everyone to think that games cost way less than they do.

      • Snow Loss

        Same thing with graphic design or any other kind of creative work.
        The donation page laid it all out pretty black and while, but I guess the majority of people calling foul on the pricing haven’t ever really dealt with any kind of finances or budgeting (personal or otherwise) before.

  • ExHaseo

    The only thing I’m confused about, is what Lab Zero is actually doing. If they’re contracting the animation, audio implementation, and hitbox implementation, what are those 8 people doing? Are they all doing balancing? Do they really need 8 people working on just balancing?

    I don’t pretend to know how making a fighting game works, but it doesn’t seem like it’s even possible for that many people to be working on balancing at once. Since I assume you would need to test out builds and tweaks as you go, and even if they all are just taking direction from one person, seems like there would be a lot of people just sitting around after the first few builds.Like I said, I don’t pretend to know how making a fighting game works. I’m just basing this off of the little I’ve learned so far about making games in general.

    • They’re not outsourcing the animation.

    • The 8 staff members are dedicated members, working at all times. This consist most likely of the main artist and engineers. 

      There is no outsourcing, just simply contracting other artist to do additional work needed to complete a character. First, the main artist draw the general animations of the moves. After those are decided, they send the rough sketch to another contractor to clean up the lines. The cleaned up and inked lines are sent back, reviewed by the artist, then given to most likely another contracted person to do the coloring. The process repeats until most likely the lead artists art satisfied.
      Taking into consideration the amount of animation needed, if 8 dedicated people working to draw animations, clean up, ink and color, that’s a lot of additional and wasted time, if they were to do them themselves.

      That’s only IF all of the staff are artist. Again, this isn’t including programmers, management, and maybe those involved with the audio production. 

      • As far as I know, the core staff is:

        MikeZ: main programming
        Alex Ahad: Art design/animation head
        Peter: Day-to-day
        UI/networking guy
        + other dudes.

        I’m assuming “other dudes” is one more programmer and then animators.

      • ExHaseo

        Definition of outsourcing – the purchase by a company of labor or parts from a source outside the company rather than using the company’s staff or plant.

    • Michael Zaimont

      What ARE those 8 people doing?  I’ll try to give a more in-depth breakdown.
      If it’s anything like a typical Skullgirls character, which was made under the same arrangement, we’re doing about 60-80 hours of work a week:

      Me – programming, scripting, balancing etc.  (Note that the Squigly update will also contain other fixes that didn’t make it in the patch.)
      Earl – scripting and tuning assistance, PR.
      Alex/Kinuko/Persona – animation and art (character portrait/promotional art/model sheets/story art/etc).  Note that most animation is roughed in-house, put into the game to test, then keyframed in-house, and only outsourced for the final inbetweens.  There’s *more* than enough work left.  :^P
      Richard – cleanup lead (cleaning up important animations like idles/walks/attacks, directing the cleanup contractors).
      Brian – palettes, contractor management and misc everything else art-related.
      Peter – coordinator (ever try dealing with 200 contractors?), PR, producer.

      Plus, even outsourcing for this much art is a ton of work since you have to manage everyone, review everything, get fixes, etc.

      [edit] Not to mention that with the crowdfunding there’s also the whole dealing-with-getting-the-rewards-to-everyone thing.

      • ExHaseo

        That makes sense. I didn’t realize so much of the animation took place in house, or that there were that many contractors o_o

      • d3v

        Persona is only doing art? I’m surprised. I thought he’d be helping you with balancing.

        • Jeff Jarlett

           That’s a different Persona.   He isn’t the guy doing KOF combo videos.

      • Ben Brocka

        Love that you guys are being so transparent about this. I think it’s important people see what goes into the games they love, to give them a better appreciation that this stuff doesn’t just magically appear on shelves.

  • They’re releasing the character for free, you ignorant dumbfuck.

  • Yeah, they will all be free.

    Go die in a fire.

  • Just take the fact that you got exposed for posting ignorantly without knowing all the information like a man and move on.

  • well, they’re not selling you the character if you donate…donors get varied levels of reward and the game itself. you should try thinking next time

  • windsagio

    for me its not so much that it costs that (it would especially with the way they insist on doing it, 3D is cheaper), but more that they keep going to the same well.

    I mean on one hand its great that these dedicated fans are willing to shell out absurd cash well beyond the objective value of the product (I’m always big on going all in on something you love and am no stranger to the crowdsourcing), and I presume that the only people bitching are the ones not paying anything anyways, but it’s also… kinda weird.

    • MasterChibi

      Nah, it’s impossible for you to be content in any way, shape, or form if Skullgirls is involved. Period. Forever. 

      • Cellsai

        In his defense (yes, defending Windsagio. I know right?), this was actually a pretty reasonably phrased opinion and not just wild put downs.

      • windsagio

        you will note that the above says nothing about the game either way :p

        I’m impressed (and somewhat mystified) by peoples dedication tho’.

        • Peter Bartholow

          Yeah, I’m a little surprised to see a reasonable comment from you, too!

          It’s not like we enjoy having to do that – it was the only option.
          Also, I’m not sure that participating in Evo’s breast cancer fundraising contest and crowdfunding characters are exactly “going to the same well.”

          We were already planning the crowdfunding campaign when the Evo drive happened. And we were going to leave the Evo drive alone until our fans got it started, but then pushed hard once we saw the support was there.

          In the end, we delayed the crowdfunding campaign about a month so they didn’t overlap or end up too close to each other. We’re ecstatic about the results of the Evo drive, but the team had to make additional financial sacrifices to space them apart.

          • windsagio

            its going to the same well in the sense that its coming out of the same fanbase.

            It’s almost certainly the same people that put money into the evo drive that are now putting money into the crowdsourcing.

          • Ashilyn

            In the sense that, yes, the hardcore people who wanted SG in Evo are probably donating to this too. But the scope of people donating is probably much larger due to the fact that a) there’s more people who don’t go to big tournaments/don’t watch every stream/ultimately don’t care about something like Evo who can contribute money to something like this, and b) this isn’t a competition between games to get into a tournament, thus opening the pool of donations up much, much further than the Evo donation.

            So yes, almost certainly the same people are donating. But those same people are likely what is ultimately a very small part of the overall pool of donors..

    • Mr. X

      “keep” going to same implies this happened more than once. This is the first time “they’re going to the well”.
      Seth worked in 3D animated fighters as did Reno, the later who pointed out $150K gets you one of Ryu’s hands animated. I don’t think you understand the cost of a fighting game character, 2D or 3D.

    • Mr. X

      Hell, you’re a fan of NRS games, ask the guys on TYM like Check, Boon, or I can’t remember his name atm, he’s a real cool dude. I’m sure they would cosign their 3D characters are a lot more than $150K.

      Edit: Hector

      • windsagio

        the question is ‘would a character cost more if done in 2d or 3d’ rather than ‘would the character cost more than an arbitrary number’

        The answer is double-obvious if you say ‘would the character cost more done 3d or 2d with 1500 frames per char’

        • Mr. X

           The answer isn’t obvious as much as you want to pretend it is. It depends on who’s working on it and the level of detail. Pretty sure Lab Zero is cheaper 2D than any of the other companies that make fighting games 2D or 3D.

          But you’d rather fantasize you’re right instead of investigating by asking anyone working on fighting games or flat out ignoring the people who are in the industry that did respond. I guess ignorance is too good to give up.

    • d3v

      Yet Reno, Haunts and Seth have confirmed that this is peanuts compared to what Capcom spends on their 3D characters.

      • Jeff Jarlett

         Why did Capcom go 3d if it costs more?  

        • Mr. X

          Because once it’s complete (the model and its moves), it’s “easier” to reuse and modify if they want to use again somewhere, An initial invest is always steep. They can avoid a Morrigan’s sprites deal where a character made 12 years ago looks out of place with current ones because redoing the entire sprite is too costly.

          Each has it pros and cons, like 3D is either extremely expensive or the technology isn’t there yet to make something like Double, which you can do or do easier in 2D.

          They are taking full advantage over what 2D can do that 3D cannot.

          • d3v

            This.  The skeleton/IK data should also help lower the cost of making future installments since they can apply that to new models.

        • Peter Bartholow

          Because of the marketing perception that it would be seen as “new” and sell better if it were 3D.

      • E_Tap

        I wonder how big the patch fees were for Capcom when they had to go fix Rolento’s hard lock knife glitch shortly after patching with another patch they had to pay Microsoft and Sony to release, and if that one mistake combined with the patch that broke it originally cost more in patch fees combined on both systems  than the $150000 it takes Lab Zero to develop just one character. :v

  • Snow Loss


  • Michael Zaimont

    Two corrections:

    1) Each character will have a free period, assuming we get to make more than Squigly.
    2) The free period isn’t “play Squigly free for a while then after time’s up you have to buy her anyway” it’s “if you download her during the free period you HAVE HER forever and don’t have to pay”.

    • Till Glaubitz

       I think 2) is something you should emphasize more. You do mention it on your indiegogo page but just watching the pitch video one could easily get the impression that it’s only “play for free for a while”.

      anyway best of luck with the fundraising! I really hope to see this succeed beyond all expectations.

  • BeholdMyPower

    Always good to get some education. I’m curious though, how do development costs work for 3D fighters?

    • Don’t quote me on this, but I remember SFIV characters costing close to a million per.

  • Remster

    $150,000 sounds pretty cheap to me. I really don’t understand the ignorance of some people. Just think of all kinds of triple AAA titles and what they have to sell to make back what they’re doing. Look at all the game companies that have had problems when their titles aren’t as successful as they would of hoped.

    It’s probably why downloadable games like Skullgirls are so popular now for developers. They can get a small team and work really hard to make a great product without companies having to make an insane investment on a new IP all the time.

    • E_Tap

       I love how transparent the team has been about the game throughout it’s life, explaining what they’re working on, how characters get made, how files are stored and how they affect load times on old xboxes and cause hitbox sprites on tags, patch changes despite how many others think the patch is a load of crap, and several other procedures. That said, it’s really depressing to see it met with so many people that have absolutely no clue what they’re talking about make claims that they can make files load easier than lab zero, that make the game cheaper to develop than lab zero while keeping in mind you’re referring to people that were laid off and without a job when the game got released as their reward for their hard work on the game, and do everything magically better than lab zero without one single explanation of why.

    • Ben Brocka

      Not to mention movies costing tens or hundreds of millions USD. I wonder how much people would excrete bricks if they saw what it costs to “add a character” to Spider Man 3

  • ReoAyanami

    Can I pay to have ownership over the Skullgirls IP instead of any of  the currently offered rewards?

    • Cellsai

       I’d say Lab Zero would probably like to buy the Skullgirls IP themselves before they offer it up for sale ;D

    • Jake Long

      If I ever came into an obscene amount of money, I’d be somewhat sensible with my money, but Skullgirls would be my one ‘crazy rich guy’ purchase.

      1) Purchase Lab Zero from Mike Z and crew for ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY, ANY AMOUNT.

      2) Buy the Skullgirls IP from Autumn and make it a Lab Zero asset, but maintain a working relationship with them.

      3) Set up a fund to be used solely for funding Skullgirls-related projects and make that a Lab Zero asset.

      4) Sell Lab Zero back to Mike Z and crew for $8.95 a share.

      • Snow Loss

        I don’t see how it’s a crazy purchase. You’re buying IP. an IP that has done pretty well for an indie title and costs you nothing to stock or supply it. You can then sell the rights or license it to various parties and projects while accumulating money from royalties or sales pending on your contract(s). Buying intellectual property or patents is actually one of the smartest ways you can spend money,

        • Jake Long

          My intent would not be to make money with it or even own the IP for any significant amount of time. It would just be me buying the company just to put some funding into it, then selling it back to them for next-to-nothing.  That’s why it’s a ‘crazy rich guy’ purchase and not a ‘sensible rich guy’ purchase.

  • I don’t like Skullgirls but just looking at this as a statement about how much it would cost to create new characters for a fighting game, any fighting game, it seems reasonable when they spell out the parts that go into it. My only issue is why not go for like 500,000, then they’d be able to get 4-5 characters done since some stuff could be done at the same time, primarily they would only have to pay certification costs to Microsoft and Sony once (which appears to only be 10,000 of the budget).

    • SomeScrub

      It’s 150k for Squiggly (achieved) 175k for her story mode (achieved) 375k for Big Band (in progress) 400k for his story then 600k for a 3rd character. Saying something like get 500k for 4-5 characters in one stretch might be pushing too much. They set these goals but the higher one (3rd character) might not come to fruition since 600k is a lot of money. In addition, Squiggly was partially done so her cost is lower than the rest (150k as opposed to the 200k for Big Band and the 3rd character). Adding to this, the team is taking a pay cut to finish Squiggly and do any further work on the potential 2 extra DLC characters.

      The characters take time to make so doing a lot of characters simultaneously will slow the overall process down since each is unique and some are starting from scratch. Patience is virtue and Lab Zero’s work has been of very high quality. You can’t rush art =P

    • Mr. X

       They’re not big enough to have more than one in the pipeline. 500K is getting you 2 characters, 1 stage+music and at least 1 story for one of the 2.

  • Amperture

    Being a guy who’s big into the Giant Bomb community, it strikes me as odd that I’m only now realizing that Dave Lang is the CEO of Iron Galaxy.

    Guess we’re all part of the Lang Zone.

    • dkinpa


  • Audio 5k, Voices 4k… what else “Sounds 5k” ?  You should be able to record voices for one character in a day or two. Then have an audio engineer work on it and he should be done in less than a week.  1k total.  

    • Peter Bartholow

      The voice costs are for voice actors (two in this case), the voice director and studio rental time.

      Audio implementation includes creation of sound effects and scripting the sounds into the characters. It’s about 100 hours of work and our guy, Vince Diamante, is one of the best in the industry.

      • 100 hours?  That’s way more than I expected.  Why two voice actors for one character?  I also didn’t expect the team to rent a studio for some for some character voices.  I guess I still keep thinking about this game as a fan project.

        • OkeatosCetan

          One voice actor would be for Squigly, and the other would be for Leviathan.

        • Mr. X

          Squigly + Leviathan (the dragon thing coming out of her head)

        • E_Tap

           “I guess I still keep thinking about this game as a fan project.”
          Well, if you ask Mike Z, it kind of is, as a fan of MVC2 style gameplay from his perspective. It’s just not based on an existing franchise, having it’s own cast of characters, music, stages, animation, physics and mechanics. Not sure how that much work can look like a “fan project” to some, but hey people still think this is some anime game so whatever.

      • Chooch

        Vince Diamante? The same Vince that worked on the soundtrack to Flower?


      • Snow Loss

        >”You should be able to record voices for one character in a day or two”
        As someone who’s worked with a sound engineer and has done some minor voice work I can’t even begin to describe how wrong you are.Nothing ever comes out perfect the first time, not to mention you’re doing multiple versions and lines on top of it so the sound crew can produce the best results for the end product. Not to mention you need to pay for studio time as well as pay the folks who work on it.
        And that’s not even counting any SFX.

      • d3v

        Hopefully then the 3rd character (if you guys do reach 600k+) is the Science Shark so you can have Rockefeller voice him for peanuts (and nachos).

    • Sound effects. >_>

    • You forget SFX, like menu scrolling and hits and supers. Valentine has (from what I remember) about 100+ sounds for herself alone. And if you want your audio engineer to do a rush job, sure he could probably do it in a week, but it would sounds like crap.

      • windsagio

        you’d think menu scroll sounds would be done.

        Remember this isn’t a game from scratch

    • Mr. X

       Copy paste from GAF

      All right, I’m gonna go through this one more time.

      Before I start off, though, let me give you a little background. With
      the exception of Ravi himself, there is almost certainly no one on GAF
      who is more qualified to talk about voiceover in games. Not only am I literally a voice actor in Skullgirls (AND League of Legends, and several other games), but I run my small indie studio, which made a game with over 1,400 lines of fully voiced dialogue, certainly more than Bastion and likely more than most, if not all, indie games out there.

      The question, of course, would immediately come up: how much did I spend
      on Sequence voiceovers? The answer is, truthfully, about $2,200, but
      this is an incredibly misleading number. Several…well, most…of the
      actors in Sequence were my friends, who worked for free. My friend
      Geoff, the audio engineer, mastered and edited over 1,400 lines *for
      free*. And of course, all the work I did…directing, picking takes,
      inserting into the game, modifying for time, and let’s not forget,
      writing all the lines themselves…was unpaid. The studio was out of
      some guy’s house; he charged me $40/hr, but it was mainly for the
      microphone. We recorded in a living room, for the most part. The quality
      wasn’t horrible…I doubt many people were yelling at the screen…but
      from a professional standpoint, it was pretty rough.

      I still feel bad about doing this, and I love my friends dearly for
      helping me. I had no choice; I couldn’t pay more money, everything was
      out of pocket, I was a 23-year-old struggling to live in Los Angeles
      paying the bills via SAT/ACT/GRE tutoring. But *I can never do this
      again*. A professional studio, making a game that isn’t just a project
      of passion but a proper, commercial endeavor that’s meant to help
      support actual full-time jobs, *CANNOT JUST NOT PAY PEOPLE A FAIR WAGE*.
      It’s insulting and, frankly, illegal. If EA told you to come in a do a
      shitton of work on Mirror’s Edge 2, would you do it for free? No. You
      wouldn’t. Your skills and time are worth money, and you expect to be
      compensated accordingly. In my next game, There Came an Echo,
      I’ve already paid the VOICEOVER STUDIO ALONE (Soundelux Design Music
      Group) over eight thousand dollars for their services, nearly $7,000 in
      SAG/AFTRA fees, and suffice to say, Wil Wheaton’s acting isn’t free
      either. I did this because this is what it costs, this is the price of
      entry, for the highest quality voiceover services in a game that
      absolutely requires those services to reach its highest potential.

      Ravi (who I know personally, by the way, and is sacrificing a lot for
      himself and his team even with the 150k) isn’t doing that. Ravi is
      making the best use of his money. He’s hired Cristina Vee to
      direct…with whom I was hanging last night, by the way, and she was
      utterly appalled at this shit…who charges an utter pittance compared
      to hotshot Hollywood VO directors who wouldn’t do any better a job,
      they’re using an independent voiceover studio and a single sound
      engineer to run the whole setup, which is pretty shockingly professional
      for the cost. And I’m sure they have someone in-house doing all the
      editing, mastering, and placement for the VO lines, which is extremely

      Two voice actors, a director, a sound engineer, studio costs, equipment
      costs, and a pretty massive workload back at the office…and you people
      are bitching about four thousand dollars? Honestly, fuck off. You have
      no idea what you’re talking about, you want quality for pennies, you
      want people to work for free, or fucking pizza, or something. It’s
      demeaning. I can’t speak for animation…Noogy’s got you covered on
      that…but I can speak for this.

  • DAM Thats alot. no wonder the games has so few characters. LOL 7 + characters and you got a million dollar game

    •  This game is relatively cheap compared to all of the other ones.

      A lot of what SG did cost like a fraction of the equivalent stuff you find in SF4 for example.

    • Beb0p

      Well everything said and done… the game didn’t apparently sell that much to not require a fund raiser for a character.

      • Mr. X

        The game sold well, the publisher was funding Squigly until they got hit with legal stuff concerning RapStar and she was only 1/3 complete when they had to stop funding and lay off the team. The crowdfunding is to finish her and start and complete 1 or 2 more because the publisher, even if they wanted to, cannot.


    Americans working on a game? Aimed at american players? People who live in america are actually getting paid? In the world of outsourcing and little asian kids missing hands. They are actually using there own to complete the game. Respect.

  • O. G. King Haggard

    I think the problem here is that when people think about needing $150,000 to make one character, they for some reason don’t think of all the people working on it who have to Get Paid. Not everybody who works on Skullgirls is doing it out of passion or so that YOU can have a game to play. They’re doing it because it’s how they make a living. $150,000 sounds like a fortune (and it is), but when you split it amongst so many different people over a specific duration of time, it starts to look reasonable. I realize this is Captain Obvious talk, but I guess a lot of people commenting on this fundraiser still have yet to leave their house and get a job.

  • Austin Riddle

    It’s weird how audio and voice for one character in a video game totals 9000$, when recording a full band for 2 weeks straight (8 hours a day) in a prestigious studio costs around 4000-5000$ total.  But who knows, maybe recording her voice took 160 hours. 

  • Zonder88

    All that Skullgirls donation from the Evo Drive could’ve gone to more Skullgirls development.

    • It’s great that it went to breast cancer research, though.

  • Art Salmons

    Ah, the daily “pretend Skullgirls is relevant” article. Good times.

  • windsagio

    People keep saying the same thing so instead of doing 15 replies lets hit it here.

    When I say 3d is cheaper than 2d, bringing up Capcom is a red herring.

    The question you’d want to ask (if it’s relevant at all) is whether capcom themselves would find it cheaper to do one or another.

    Beyond that the comparison is silly anyways.  Costs for a big company are going to be inherently higher for a number of reasons (most of which rhyme with ‘bloat’)


    As to myself, I though 150k looked reasonable until I saw the itemized version.  At the very best they need to realize they’re a startup, not EA.  (my personal favorite is the QA cost)

    • Mr. X

       You’re going to break your armchair

      • windsagio

        I told you, I’m actually pro now :p

        Also, and more importantly, that’s not a refutation X.  

        • Mr. X

           “Now”? So you’re new?

          • windsagio

            should know this, I’ve talked about my other job before.

            still not an answer though.  Instead of taking the ‘try to discredit’ track, I suggest you either respond to the argument or ignore me entirely.  

          • Mr. X

            Oh were you producer? Or something else involved with budgeting or finance?

          • windsagio

            No I worked in healthcare :p

            15+ years as a hobbyist in the industry, but only 5 months as a pro :p

          • Mr. X

             So you’re not familiar with the expenses of QA testing a game that covers 3 platforms (PC, 360 and PS3)? Or Konami’s price on their mandatory QA before they send it to Sony/MS? Or what the process is in the Japanese market?

          • windsagio

            I’m certainly familiar with startups and the QA process.  We have a small inhouse QA, and they have plenty of other ways to do it (doing it their damn selves or using volunteers for 2)

            It’s what I said, they’re a startup not EA.

          • Mr. X
          • d3v

            Or you could simply stop posting everytime a Skullgirls article comes up.

          • windsagio

            I could, but I don’t want to :p

            I’m a crusader at heart, and I’ll keep fighting the good fight!

    • d3v

      Again you ignore the fact that people WITHIN THE INDUSTRY have come out to say what Lab Zero is spending is a steal compared to AAA fighters. So it’s not just Capcom (do I need to bring up SNK which admits to taking 16-18 man-months to complete a single, rotoscoped, non-HD character for KoFXII/XIII).

      At this point, it seems that you just want to paint the team/game in a bad light through any means possible.

      • windsagio

        except the part where I say its apples and oranges.

        Of course namco and capcom are going to be more expensive, I’m certainly not saying anything different.

        That doesn’t mean they’re not making some odd decisions and it doesn’t mean that 2d animation is cheaper than 3d.

        • d3v

          I also mentioned SNK. 

          Interestingly enough, one of the reasons it’s cheaper is because of the process Lab Zero uses that helps eliminate alot of wastage by testing animations from roughs before finalizing the art as well as automating the lighting and shading in the system in real time. Compare this to how sprites were traditionally done straight up by the pixel which requires alot more time and results in more wastage.

          I’d posit that companies like Arc and SNK could save alot if they adapted the things the team did.

          • windsagio

            except the process arc and snk isn’t the old traditional one either.

            There’s an almost universal trend in fighting games that (even those appear to be 2d), and the reason is because it demands so much fewer development resources.

            This stuff is bare common sense.  It’s not a dig at the SkG guys, they had specific reasons for doing it the way they did.  

            I get why some (read: a lot) of my stuff gets on peoples nerves, but I don’t get this bizarre rah-rah stuff.  Even if they were the right decisions, all the decisions they made had definite drawbacks.  Why’s that so hard to admit?

  • pootnannies

    TLDR do the same for my comment if you want. opinion time.
    if skull girls followed what many of us offered in advice it would have been made a long time ago for much cheaper. also, it won’t cost that much, that’s just a projected cost. it will cost waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay less. IMO IMO IMO IMO

  • Michael Gacillos O’Hair

    Somewhere in the equation there’s a process that can be simplified before cutting costs. Just looking at the illustration, the biggest expenditures seem to be sinking the boat.

    Remember in the old days where there were one or two principal artists? Animation didn’t have to be farmed out to Taiwan and still cost a shitload? When teams were smaller? Back when games were good? Yeah.

    Lesson learned: it’s really expensive to make a game that really, really wanted to be Guilty Gear.

    • …what?

      There’s like eight people on the team.

      • Michael Gacillos O’Hair

        That’s even worse. Are they all being paid King’s Ransoms, or are there too many middlemen in the process? I’m all for people making a living wage for their art, but at some point the question has to be asked “Is the investment worth the expenditure?”

        Sometimes sacrifices need to be made to get a vanity project out the door, especially when it’s not selling well enough to sustain itself or support further expansion. Relying on donations may indicate that. The layoffs after development ended may indicate that. It’s like keeping a zombie alive so it can dance and juggle for a handful of people. Is it worth it?
        Liabilities > Assets = Failure

        • You need to do the following things to understand:

          1. Realize that much of the clean-up is being outsourced to individual parties.
          2. Game development, in general, is expensive.
          3. People deserved to be paid above minimum wage for fairly technical work.
          4. Pull your head out of your ass and stop being a dickweed.

          • Michael Gacillos O’Hair

            An attack! I feel obligated to counter.

            1. Outsourcing. Is that a cost-saving measure, or costing more?
            2. AAA game development (the big budget/team projects that sell millions), in general, is expensive. In some cases, artificially expensive. It’s been looked into.
            3. By all means, people should be paid the wages they deserve. But the pay should reflect the success of the product. A product that requires donations to continue or complete could be classified as a failed product. The layoffs didn’t help, but hey, that’s just what happens sometimes. Money money money.
            4. Writing is good mental exercise in moderation, and I love competition. It can’t be helped.

          • 1. Outsourcing is almost always a cost-saving measure. Why do you think, like, EVERY animation studio in the world other than Pixar and Dreamworks outsources their tweening and clean-up?

            2. Game development is like filmmaking. It’s an inherently expensive medium to work in.

            3. Yeah. They needed money, and were screwed out of it. Fans were willing to help the (literally) poor guys out. What, would you rather the money go to Zach Braff and his shitty Garden State sequel instead?

            Just to add, the layoffs were due to Autumn Games being sued for a game unrelated to Skullgirls. Instead of just going “that’s just what happened sometimes” the community got together and gave these guys a job for about another year. How is that a bad thing?

  • Austin Davoren

    Skullgirls wanted to be GG?

    Damn, news to me.

    • windsagio

      It wanted to be a mix of GG and marvel.  admittedly the the systems ‘homaged’ from marvel are a lot more obvious