What’s a Good Length For Game Projects?

How many months (or years…) should game projects take? I’m thinking of calendar months and motivation aspects, not just financials. The longer the project lasts, the more it costs and more chances for lack of motivation will be there. If getting from idea to release takes little time, then it’s just the opposite: you benefit financially and it’s also easier to keep yourself motivated.

What you feel is a good length for (indie or other) game projects? Why?

12 thoughts on “What’s a Good Length For Game Projects?

  1. tycoon games

    Curiously, the games I spent more time on, weren’t the one that made me more money. I am going to spend 3-4 months each game now, if possible even less.

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  2. MrPhil

    Thanks for the perspective Jake. I like your rule: “if you REALLY need to extend the deadline for a reason that will guarantee more money then you can do it, but not for some designer whim or because you slacked off” It makes all the sense in the world, I’ll be using it!

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  3. Simeon Pashley

    In my world, 2 to 4 years is about the norm for a AAA console game. 12 months for a Xbla or Psn game. I’m writing a series of posts about his on my blog right now.

    It is possible to stay motivated over that period but it’s hard work trying to keep 100 developers all going in the same direction and happy at the same time.

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  4. Juuso Post author

    I feel that calendar length is somewhat more important than real working hours… due the motivational factor. Long projects mean harder times for motivation.

    I really like that Jake’s “if I was to start again, I’d put 3 intense months”. I like that.

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  5. Ranko

    I’m going to create a game in 1 month maximum then spend 1 more month to focus on attracting targeted people to my website and improve the game with updates depending on the users feedback.

    If you don’t focus on providing next gen graphics it’s doable.

    But i agree that for bigger projects like rpgs or adventures games 3 to 6 months is necessary.

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  6. Jake Birkett

    Yes MrPhil, I do agree with that, with the proviso that if you REALLY need to extend the deadline for a reason that will guarantee more money then you can do it, but not for some designer whim or because you slacked off. I made 3 games with unmovable deadlines: 2 Christmas games and 1 Easter game. I got them done on time otherwise I would’ve had to wait a year before releasing!

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  7. BrainCandy

    Aiming for an 11 moth dev cycle, but if you are taking pre-prod into consideration, we should be hitting a 2 year milestone when we expect to release. It seems long, but we could actually go with a bit more time. Alas, as you said, time is money and a budget can only take you so far…

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  8. MrPhil

    Does anyone think a drop dead date is a good idea? The idea being to scoping the project and committing yourself to publishing on that date or killing the project. At least, this way you don’t flounder around on an idea way past your motivation and enthusiasm. Plus, the next project will benefit from the experience you’ve gained on the last project. You can always comeback to ideas down the road if your passion remains or returns later.

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  9. Jake Birkett

    If I started again now, I’d make something in 3 intense months to test out my chosen platform and marketing techniques. Then I’d repeat, gradually increasing time and investment. Of course some platforms require less time (Flash) and some require much more (XBLA). Still too many Indies fall into the long project trap. Plus think about this: what about overrun? For example, you say it’ll take 6 months and then you spend a year. At least if you scope for 3 months, hopefully it won’t overrun beyond 6.

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  10. Sam

    Like many have said it’s what kind of a game you’re working on.

    I would like to add another point to that – how much time you can devote to the project/day.

    My projects have been on the sidelines, so I go on and off the past couple of years, partly because of a full time gig, family and changing of the guard – losing/gaining artist/programmer, etc.,

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  11. Mikushi

    I have a project i have been working on since 2006… But that’s more my guinea pig that anything else.

    Aside from that, it depends mostly on the type of game. I can pull off small flash game in a week-end, but for bigger projects, i try to put myself a limit of 6months.

    I am currently trying to get my company running, and one of my goal is to keep game development (i do web based only) between 3 and 6months. Why? It seems like a reasonable amount of time to pull off a first stable version for game, without getting the costs to the roof, while you can start monetizing it quick (and continue development of extension/patch while your v1 is running a potentially making money).

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