Epic: Next-gen dev costs to double

Chief technology officer at Gears of War studio Tim Sweeney says he anticipates cost of next-gen development to rise.

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Next-generation development will come at a price. Epic Games chief technology officer Tim Sweeney said at the Montreal International Game Summit (attended by GamesIndustry International) that he anticipates Epic will be able to make future platform games for "only about double the cost" of current-generation titles.

And it could have been higher. Sweeney added that Epic's first next-gen technology demo, the 2011 "Samaritan" video, took four months and a squad of 30 developers to create. This led Sweeney to be "greatly worried" about the cost associated with this kind of development.

“If we extrapolate that into creating an entire game, we were worried that the cost would go up by a factor of three or four or even five in the next generation,” Sweeney added. “And of course, we felt that was not acceptable.”

To fight this, Epic modified its content and production tools, boosting efficiency and lessening the total development cost along the way.

Sweeney's comments are in stark contrast to what Take-Two Interactive boss Strauss Zelnick said earlier this month. The Grand Theft Auto parent publisher executive said next-generation development may not necessarily be more expensive or complicated than it is on current tech.

"Do we believe the titles to be a whole lot more expensive to make for next-gen? And the answer is we do not," Zelnick said. "In many instances, we believe that it may be somewhat easier to make titles for next-gen, depending on how the technology comes together."

Discussion

2 comments
St0Ne4Ge
St0Ne4Ge

Remember a very large amount of time is spent optimizing games to run on consoles and cutting objects out of the world. A developer at Call of Duty said they build a level relatively quickly but it runs at 4 FPS on the console, they then need to spend hours taking out objects, optimizing code and effects to get the game to run at a playable framerate.

 

Optimizing takes a lot of time and resources but with proper hardware like 4-8GB of RAM instead of 256MB they won't have to spend so much time making their cutting edge software run on antiquated hardware.

 

Development Kits are getting more powerful as well, it's now easier to create detailed textures and 3D worlds and technologies such as Tesselation takes care of a lot of the detail without doing everything manually.

 

I don't care so much about improved graphics as I do about faster Processors and more complex AI and game systems. That is the next big leap in gaming we should expect like the online multiplayer revolution of this generation and the open ended 3D games of last gen.

Nathan_R_Rork
Nathan_R_Rork

Well, you're just gonna have to find a way to make it work, because people are only going to pay so much for games. Frankly, I have no sympathy for these developers. They've painted THEMSELVES into this corner.

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

It will cost more to publish the next gen titles - it follows a curve that has been trending since pong. 

But also - more and more players here in the USA and world wide are also playing more. And it showing no signs of slowing down. Games may cost more but also good selling games sell alot more. 

So since there have been trade itself there will have to be decisions on how much to spend, who will buy, will there be profit. I mean give them a copy of Ferengi rules of Acquisitions already. 

I have been gaming for 3 decades the double the cost has been thrown around every generation. 

tgwolf
tgwolf

Hmm, yeah but 'double' of necessity or just because that is the demanded cost...? I think it was more arbitrary than anything.

Ushae
Ushae

Lies, the costs will be similar or slightly higher. He's just trying to sell the license.

saltbalsak
saltbalsak

Ummm, this article completely contradicts what Epic has said previously all over the place regarding UE4:

 

"As for advancements of the Unreal Engine 4 over its predecessors, the new framework includes tools intended to shorten production cycles and LOWER DEVELOPMENT COSTS."

 

Make up your mind and get your story straight.

 

boomer0901
boomer0901

when I think next gen I think innovation, but sorry your over-inflated crappy products maybe next gen graphics, but they are still crap, yeah I'm talking to you EA, ubisoft, every theme park MMO, add to the list if you like.

pdfanboy
pdfanboy

I'm not surprised that indie games are rising...

DarthLod
DarthLod

I'd rather have good games that don't require half a city to develop than crap like Uncharted 3 that rely on QTE's and "cinematic events". If UC3 is the future, count me out.

Slash_out
Slash_out

Some say it will rise some say it won't.

In the end the most expensive part of the current gens are costs that are not from the developement but parts we don't spend as much on in the past, increasing the costs because expenses in that departement were close to 0 in the past.

Meaning voice overs, and advertising.

 

The devs said the cost will rise, but in the end the costs are :

- software licenses, which don't double in price suddently.

- salaries. They don't double in price either. The cost is dependant on the time spent on the game and the number of employees. It might take more times at first, but efficiency comes with practice.

- all the office related expenses, utilities, health care and so on.  They don't magically double either.

 

There is no magic hole in which you have to put money to get code out of it.  You have people work on it, just like before. Saying it will double is a bunch of crap the cost of "people's work" won't double. There will be inflation, and they will be paid more, but in the end it will be a single digit in % at best.

Current pc releases aren't very far from what we'll get next gen of console, and the price of the pc versions is certainly not that high. At worse they'll spend more time on new tools for new effects and mechanics that will be useful for the next 10 years andb eyond, that's an investment.

 

All I see in Epic's answer, is a justification for an attempt to increase the selling price point of games.

y3ivan
y3ivan

no surprise. So another 10 more years it will cost x4 more

Elann2008
Elann2008

So if development for video games have increased in the past 20 years, then why were SNES, N64 games $60-70, again?  Same price as games today which costs more to make?  We going backward or forward? :P

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

Man I miss my old SNES.... R.I.P little buddy... Remember when it didn't cost a company f*** tons of money for a demo? Doubling sound a bit like an exaggeration... Btw, your a company, you should be boosting efficiency anyway, regardless of which gen its on. Don't make it sound like you had to go out of your way to do what you should have already been doing.

tightwad34
tightwad34

He should have went with something more believable than a 100% increase in development cost. I mean, really? At least go for 50% at the very most.

gokuss4z
gokuss4z

Stupid next Fu#king gen the ps3 and 360 have at least 2 or 3 years left,

just think the ps4 and xbox 720 will cost $800 most likely.

 

rarson
rarson

Gee, I guess that blows the whole "next gen will be cheaper to develop for" theory out of the water.

 

DUH.

Scorchstar
Scorchstar

Wait a minute, didn't they post a article recently about Next-Gen going to be cheaper than now?

BestJinjo
BestJinjo

If all 3 next generation consoles use AMD graphics cards, it would be so much easier to make games. Just make 1 game and reduced graphical settings a bit for the weaker consoles and move on. Also, supposedly PS4 will use an x86 CPU, which would make game development/programming even easier. They should focus WAY less on stupid scripted/quick-time events and movie sequences - improve AI, physics, textures and character animation as well as polygon models. But it's not necessary to try to make a game look like a CGI movie where I get told to press E only later to end up watching 2 minutes of boring scripted movie sequences!! You can make games a heck of a lot more expensive if you put in 'movie-like' elements. That's not what games should be like though. With single-player campaigns shorter than ever, and games like COD which are more or less similar to a previous version with just new skin and maps, Why in the world are developers going to spend 3-5x the amount of today? They are doing it wrong. 

BlitzkriegBob
BlitzkriegBob

Seriously, I kind of doubt it. With the technology on the developper side evolving and with the fact that you need to spend less time optimising assets because the machine running the game can handle it, I think it's gonna cost the same thing. Except if you wanna make longer game... but with my experience, I feel like machine requirement is kinda restricting art and design developpement to a better capacity. When you have to cut here and there to achieve a certain amount of quality to match the best of the current gen (at least if you dont have the tools) you spend way more time and money. With the next gen, you'll set the limit higher and will remove some restriction we have to cope with. Im with the Ubisoft guy on this... 

Zid96
Zid96

2-5 time more.... So what game would be $120 or $300 each? mmm No cuz then there be no more use for the tech cuz no one would buy your stuff.

xophaser
xophaser

just like in movies, if the bigger the better it will get more people to view.  Also in th emovies world indi and small budget film can still survive.  Donnie Darko is a cheap good movie.  Just re watched it and the film quality isn't great.

Buck_Swaggler
Buck_Swaggler

These guys are looking at it wrong.  Gaming is bigger than ever.  Next gen games are going to sell at even larger numbers than this Gen.  The first game that comes out looking like Samaritan will set record sales and a new franchise will born.  Just like Gears of War, several years ago.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

What required Epic to use 2-5 times as much resource for the tech demo than a similar demo in current gen? Could any game designer out there shed some light?

 

Is it the payment to console makers and other licensing fees? New game engine? More visual and sound artists and programmers? Rising salary? Inflation? All of the above? What's the biggest contributor?

Ravenlore_basic
Ravenlore_basic

Face it, FOR games that want to LOOK next gen 1080P at 60FPS  NO JAGGIES ETC...  then its going to cost.  That is just how its going to be.  IF you want PHOTO REALISM thy you will have to PAY for IT!!!

 

BUT if its not gong to change the GAME  PLAY one iota!!  We will still be playing the SAME GAMES just with better graphics. 

eva02langley
eva02langley

I don't understand... Crytek was a PC developer at heart able to make engine from the ground and challenge Epic.

 

Oh well, at least Valve is gearing up something with Source 2... and CDProjekt is developing their own amazing engines to.

 

eva02langley
eva02langley

Drop consoles and go back PC... simple...

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

Or we can all go and play something like minecraft or something... oh wait, I already am.

rasterror
rasterror

He's just trying to advertise and sell the Unreal engine to make it look like a great way to save money.

jerryatricrejec
jerryatricrejec

...at least now we get to pay double for games online which give you additional stuff like more decals for your gun, a bonus soundtrack you'll never listen to and additional camo - oh wait, that's right, who cares?

Orgil220
Orgil220

@DarthLod Of all those games you had to choose uncharted3, not cool man not cool, lol

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

@Slash_out

Nice job with this, but all in all I may be at the end of my gaming cycle other than last gen games. It's getting too expensive with all the associated cost just to play a friggin' game.

theend3r
theend3r

 @Elann2008 The development can be 10 times more expensive if they have 10 times more customers and still not affect the final price. How many people had SNES? Nowadays every child has a console and begs parents for money to spend on games.

rarson
rarson

 @gokuss4z 

 

Those systems are 6 and 7 years old now. Even a $250 console would be significantly more powerful than the PS3 and 360.

GPRx3
GPRx3

@gokuss4z Just remember, console manufacturers usually sell their machines at a loss to increase their userbase and recover the money over a longer period through software and peripheral sales.

tightwad34
tightwad34

 @gokuss4z

 Uh, no, that is not an option. The industry would take a huge, huge hit and the devs along with us(the people who keep money in their pockets) would never let that happen. This is just fodder and something for this particular editor to spew at us.

theend3r
theend3r

 @BestJinjo You left out most important qualities: gameplay and story. I'd rather play Chrono Trigger or Golden Sun than Dragon Age or Skyrim.

rarson
rarson

 @BestJinjo 

 

"If all 3 next generation consoles use AMD graphics cards, it would be so much easier to make games."

 

Wrong. It would make them easier to port, not to make.

 

Also, we already know that all three next-gen consoles will be using AMD GPUs (not "graphics cards" because those are physical cards).

StarSfrife
StarSfrife

 @Unfallen_Satan Part of it is that you need more and more people to make development happen. The graphics, art, sound, programming, etc is getting increasingly complex, yet you're still expected to release better and better games as a whole. If you don't work in the games industry it might be harder to grasp, but think about all the people involved that aren't necessarily working on the game itself. Network support, software/platform engineering, quality assurance/bug testing, server administration, network security, etc. Most of this didn't really exist ten years ago, or if it did, it was very small/low budget. Now all of this is a very big deal and the general upkeep and tech needed for next generation development costs a lot more. 

Ravenlore_basic
Ravenlore_basic

 @raahsnavj Like myself I am not going to buy next gen til I think its worth it!!!  after a FEW price drops.  '

 

I still have a huge back log to play this gen and its not going anywhere. Not to mention a few games from the last gen that I'm working on slowly but I will get it done before I pay for next gen this time around.

norabbitnofun
norabbitnofun

 @jerryatricrejec I don't know about you, but I am not really excited at the idea of paying 120 dollars for a brand new game and about 60-80 dollars for a 2-year old title...

The demo looks good, if you want that much of my money, you damn better have invented one hell of a great new type of gameplay.

Orgil220
Orgil220

@rarson you mean $250 pc?

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

 @StarSfrife Thank you for sharing your insight! I have a few more questions now.

 

The first part I can understand. The tools are more powerful but require more effort to reach full potential. A scene made by two people a decade ago may require ten for the added physics, lighting, effects, so forth. What, in your experience, has the been the highest increase in required manpower? I feel both art, excluding graphics engine and animation, and sound complexity has not increased significant over the past decade or more and certainly not 5x from current gen to the next (though I have yet to play any game on next gen). I would have thought the whole point of next gen technology is to allow the same team of people working over the same period of time to make a better game. I guess that hasn't happened?

 

I would not have expected networking and other support staff to contribute significantly to doubling, or heaven forbid, quintupling the product cost of a game like Gears of War 1 to that of 3 or perhaps 4. Could you offer an example of a dramatic increase in cost in this area?

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

 @Slagar  @StarSfrife You've helped me to see game development, for games relevant to this article, on consoles in a different light. Maximizing the full hardware capability may sound obvious, but I truly didn't think of it before. Now it makes more sense to me why developing the first games for a new console costs a lot more than the last games of the current one. And here I thought twice the production cost should be reflected by twice the game in an obvious way. Bah!

 

Thank you to you both.

 

I think it's past time that more resources and talent be devoted to developing new tools that directly tackle the demand for realism in games, something analogous to motion-capture's replacing brute force animating/coding character movement. I think I will go learn more about the current technology for making graphics in games.

Slagar
Slagar

 @Unfallen_Satan  @StarSfrife

I think mostly it comes down to programming and art, but certainly QA and all those other faculties increase also.

Sound, I can't really comment on. You could be right, but again it's still difficult to get an engine to manage increasingly complex numbers of assets simultaneously.

Everything art-related increases a great deal with each generation. As ALL of these aspects increase, you need more programmers.

I can see how you might think graphics haven't increased in leaps and bounds in the last decade, but I disagree. They have increased in leaps and bounds - it's just less obvious.

Think of it a bit like an exponential graph with photo-realism as the limit. ie. As we get closer and closer to photorealism, it takes more and more work to see increasingly small gains.

Take Halo:CE (2001) to Halo 4 (2012). The differences are less large-scale and obvious, but more in increasingly complex subtle details, such as (made up examples!) the way the master-chiefs helmet reflects shadows accurately, better lighting on objects in the world, more complex AI, bullet shells ricocheting off objects etc.

The big issue is programming. Making all of these increasingly complex tiny details work perfectly in harmony is a mammoth task. Hence larger and larger QA departments.. more engineers, more everything.

As for your question: "I would have thought the whole point of next gen technology is to allow the same team of people working over the same period of time to make a better game. I guess that hasn't happened?"

Well, technically you're right - that is true. But it's not that simple. Yes, the same number of people/time can create a better game with more powerful hardware. BUT that's only because a significant portion of the time spent making a game is optimizing code, making scripts as efficient as they can to max out hardware. With faster hardware, in theory, less time optimising is necessary, so you can make a better game. You see this effect during a console's lifecycle too - early games represent a leap from old hardware, but are not so refined, but after 2-3 years you start to see games really maxing out the new hardware as developers learn to harness a platform's idiosyncrases.

BUT I digress; there are other forces at work here:

Lets say you make Halo, a AAA+++ franchise. You need to make this game look as good as you possibly can, and to do that you need to max out the hardware as best you can. Why? Because you can guarantee those guys making Assassins Creed are going to be maxing out the hardware - you wouldn't want Halo to "have bad graphics". So, with newer more powerful hardware, the bar is raised ACROSS THE BOARD. What was amazing graphics before, is now horribly ugly on the new hardware.

And to raise that bar? You need more artists, more programmers, more time, more money...

This also creates problems as we approach the limits of photo-realism and economic viability... I think, graphically, eventually we'll reach a kind of plateau where most AAA games are of similar graphical fidelity, and it will be increasingly hard to "impress" gamers with better graphics - REGARDLESS of improving hardware. So you can see why some theorists suggest we're very near the "last" console generation, and why some big developers suggest the current consoles are "fast enough".