開發者談開發一款成功的城市建設類手遊的成本預算

原文作者:Andrei Klubnikin  譯者:Megan Shieh

受到《模擬城市(SimCity)》系列遊戲的啓發,世界各地的開發商們爭先恐後地製作了數百款城市建設遊戲。可惜的是,這些遊戲都沒能取得優秀的成績,很快就被世人遺忘了。那麼,製作一款像《模擬城市》這樣的手遊通常需要投入多少成本?怎麼做才能取得商業上的成功?

首先,你的期望值需要符合現實情況,不要異想天開。

最初於1989年推出的《模擬城市》已經進化了成一個複雜的宇宙,一個由人工智能算法驅動的、自給自足的有機體,每一個過程和資源的建模是如此完善,玩家甚至可以觀看電能被送到房子裏的過程。難怪《模擬城市:建設》(2014年發行的iOS/Android免費遊戲)每月仍能獲得200萬美元的收入。

SimCity BuildIt(from venturebeat.com)

SimCity BuildIt(from venturebeat.com)

但是,你不應該嘗試着去克隆一個《模擬城市》;而是應該製作一款規模類似《The Tribez》的遊戲。

爲什麼?

想象一下。你在玩《模擬城市》,然後決定建一個核電站。一切都很順利,直到突如其來的地震產生了巨大海嘯波。你的核電站因此被夷爲平地,核廢料污染了土壤和地下水。城市中的居民選擇逃離,或死於輻射疾病。城市裏的工廠和商店都倒閉了,道路崩塌,你的城市徹底被毀了。

《模擬城市》的引擎可以評估單個事件的後果,並建立合適的場景模型。因此,如果你試圖克隆一款《模擬城市》的話,至少需要花費數百萬美元。再者,一個新手是絕對不可能有機會打敗像《模擬城市》這樣的3A級遊戲的,所以你應該先將就着做些比較簡單的事情。

另一方面,儘管《The Tribez》的玩法相當簡單——玩家成爲石器時代部落的首領並引領它走向繁榮,但是遊戲通過多種建築和資源的不同升級方式帶給玩家一種豐富的視覺享受。

那麼,製作一款城市建設手游到底要花多少錢?

圖像內容、編碼和故事開發最多將會消耗你預算的95%。

遊戲圖像

雖然城市建設類遊戲通常只使用2D平面圖像,但是遊戲中會有數千個角色、物體和場景。開發者需要給每個角色都配上動畫效果,即使這些動畫只會沿着8條預設的軌跡移動——比如在劇院裏鼓掌,在酒吧裏舉杯。給每個角色配上30個動畫效果、10個視角和10個幀數,需要做的工作就已經多到數不過來了。

此外,爲了展現建設、拆除和升級的過程,你應該給建築物和室外區域注入活力。別忘了,還有包括圖標和遊戲管理用戶界面(UI)在內的靜態圖像。這樣一看,圖像內容是不是就多到爆了?

總的來說,高質量視覺效果的製作最多可以花費掉整個遊戲開發時間的70%,花費約25-30萬美元。

編碼與遊戲優化

任何一個在城市建設遊戲中游玩了幾周的用戶,最終都會有數百人、一堆建築物和其他資產,這些資產都是自我管理的。整個城市成爲一個自我管理的個體;它應該能夠管理自己而不受玩家的干擾,並且消耗盡可能少的處理能力/存儲空間。

而這就是“遊戲優化”這個術語的意思。

爲了提供最好的用戶體驗,開發人員經常用黑白兩色來繪製圖像(它們可以減少高達400%的GPU資源消耗),並將單色調色板限制在15-20種顏色。然後,他們會創建出一個算法,將顏色分配給這些灰色陰影(例如,“灰色10”代表“藏青色”)並相應地渲染圖像。

當涉及到實際的編碼時,你可以爲IOS/Android創建單獨的代碼庫,也可以使用跨平臺遊戲開發解決方案,比如Unreal或Unity引擎。然而在第二種情況下,你的引擎供應商需要進行一次性能測試,以確定遊戲升級的上限(畢竟我們有大量的圖像內容)。

移動開發部分佔據了城建遊戲開發項目時間表的30%,大約會花費10萬美元。

故事開發

R-Style Lab工作室的首席技術官(CTO)Pavel Shylenok表示,(任何一款城市建設遊戲都是默認的休閒類遊戲,)休閒遊戲市場每兩三年就會發生變化。例如,在2010年代初,用戶對奇幻類遊戲非常着迷。如今,公衆的興趣已經轉向了科幻故事和太空戰爭。

我們不鼓勵你盲目地跟隨潮流,相反,你應該事先進行適當的市場調查,找出哪些類型的內容更能吸引你的受衆。

Pavel還建議:創建一款具有大衆市場吸引力的遊戲(並在發行後繼續擴大其拓展範圍)。

然而,市面上有這麼多的城鎮建設遊戲,你不能推出一款跟《The Tribez》一模一樣的遊戲,然後坐等收錢。

現在,讓我們來聊聊盈利模式戰略。

雖然《The Tribez》的用戶可以從其他玩家那裏獲得資源或者在facebook上分享他們的成就,但是城市建設遊戲通常不會依賴於多人遊戲元素(也稱爲“競爭精神”)來保持用戶的參與。

以下幾點可以幫助你獲得成功:

-高質量的視覺效果;
-原創(且不斷創造新花樣的!)情節;
-靈活性(按需參與)。

我們在上文已經解釋過了圖像內容和遊戲情節;那麼,“按需參與”是什麼意思?

現代模擬遊戲通常會包含某些益智/策略遊戲元素,使玩家能夠解鎖新的領地,同時,使用內購物品和模擬貨幣來構建多個城鎮並加速情節解鎖。

例如,你建立了一個城鎮並且完成了基礎設施的構建。到了某個時候,你會意識到自己已經準備好建造新的定居點了;然而,目前的科技發展水平阻止了你乘船旅行或飛往另一個星球。這時你有兩個選項:再玩兩週,然後自動升級到下一個等級;或者花真錢購買一件物品,給你的船隻一個目的地,從而解鎖新的地點。

城市建設遊戲中還可能包含時間管理或資源規劃功能;這些功能應該時刻準備就緒,然後按需出現,否則你將會疏遠城建模擬遊戲的愛好者。

遊戲開發(包括配樂和配音)會另外花費你5萬美元。

綜上所述,開發一款像《The Tribez》這樣的遊戲總共要花多少錢?

最後,我們得出了一個驚人的數字:40-45萬美元!但這是否意味着除非你的口袋裏有50萬美元,否則你就不能着手一個遊戲開發項目?

只要你能找到一家可靠的安卓/iOS應用開發公司,你就可以在更小的預算(30萬美元)上構建一款遊戲。一旦遊戲上線,你就能收集用戶的反饋,決定遊戲的功能集和需要加強的地方,並繼續進行開發。

製作出一款原創的新穎遊戲,並且注重圖像質量,成功就會隨之而來。

PS.本文引用的成本是根據東歐移動開發商/設計師的平均小時費率計算的。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Inspired by the success of the SimCity franchise, app entrepreneurs craft hundreds of city-building games that barely crack iOS/Android downloads charts and soon pale into oblivion. What is the median mobile game development cost for an app like SimCity and how to make your game a commercial success? Read on to find out!
City-building game development: aligning expectations with reality

Originally launched in 1989, SimCity has evolved into a complex universe, a self-sufficient organism powered by Artificial Intelligence algorithms where every process and resource is modelled to a point where you could watch electricity being delivered to homes. It’s no wonder SimCity BuildIt (a freemium game for iOS/Android which was released in 2014) still generates $ 2 million in monthly revenue.

However, you shouldn’t try to create a SimCity clone in the first place; pull a Tribez instead.

Despite a fairly simple gameplay (you become a chief of a Stone Age tribe and lead it to prosperity), the Tribez is a visually-reach gaming application with multiple upgrade options.

What makes it different from a full-fledged simulation game like SimCity?

Consider this. You’re playing SimCity and decide to put up a nuclear power plant. All goes well until an earthquake generates an enormous tsunami wave. Your plant is demolished, and the nuclear waste contaminates soil and groundwater. The inhabitants of your city leave or succumb to radiation sickness. Factories and shops shut down. The roads crumble. The city falls into ruin.

SimCity’s engines can evaluate the aftermaths of a single event and model appropriate scenarios – and that’s why a SimCity clone would cost you millions. Besides, a newbie doesn’t stand a chance against an AAA-class game like SimCity, so you should make do with something simpler.

How much does it cost to make a city-building game app?

Graphic content, coding and plot development will consume up to 95% of your budget.

Game graphics

Although city-building games typically use 2D images only, they feature thousands of characters, objects and scenes.

Every character should be animated – even if these animations will be limited to moving along 8 preset trajectories, clapping hands in a theatre and raising glasses in a bar. Multiply each character by 30 animations, 10 angles and 10 frames.

Also, you should breathe life into buildings and playing fields in order to illustrate construction, demolition and upgrade processes. Don’t forget about still imagery comprising icons and game admin UIs. Now you see where the overwhelming amount of graphic content comes from.

All in all, the creation of high-quality visuals takes up to 70% of the entire game dev time and costs about $ 250-300 thousand.

Coding and game optimization

Any user who plays a city-building game for a couple of weeks ends up with hundreds of people, buildings and other assets living their own lives. The city becomes a self-organized entity; it should be able to manage itself with little to no interference on a player’s part and consume as little processing power/storage as possible.

And that’s what the “game optimization” term refers to.

In order to deliver the ultimate user experience, developers often draw graphics in black and white (they consume up to 400% less GPU resources) and limit the monochrome palette to just 15-20 colors. Then they create an algorithm which assigns colors to these shades of gray (for instance, “gray 10” will stand for “navy blue”) and render images accordingly.

When it comes to the actual coding, you can either take the native approach and create a separate codebase for iOS/Android or use a cross-platform game dev solution like Unreal Engine or Unity. In the second case, however, your vendor will have to conduct a performance test to determine the upper limits of the game upgrades (we’ve got tons of graphic content after all).

The mobile dev part comprises 30% of a city-building game development project timeline and will cost you some $ 100 thousand.

Story development

According to Pavel Shylenok, CTO at R-Style Lab, the casual games market (any city-building game is casual by default!) changes every two or three years. In the early 2010s, for example, users were going crazy about epic fantasy games taking place in medieval villages inhabited by dwarves, elves and fairies. Today, the general public interest has shifted towards cyberpunk and space wars.

We do not encourage you to follow trends blindly; instead, you should conduct a proper market research beforehand to find out what type of content will resonate with your audience.

Pavel also recommends that you create a gameplay with mass market appeal (and continue to expand its outreach after the release).

With so many town-building games out there, however, you can’t put out another Tribez clone, sit back and relax. And we finally come to your monetization strategy (or lack thereof).

Although the Tribez’ users can receive resources from other players or share their achievements on Facebook, city-building games do not normally rely on the multi-player component (aka “competitive spirit”) to maintain user engagement.

Here’s what will increase your chances of success:

High-quality visuals;

Original (and ever-evolving!) gameplay;

Flexibility (engagement on demand).

We’ve already told you about graphic content and game plot; what does “engagement on demand” mean?

Modern simulation games often incorporate certain puzzle/strategy game elements, enabling players to occupy new territories, simultaneously construct several towns and unlock gameplay faster using artefacts and in-app currency.

For example, you set up a town and develop its infrastructure. At a certain point you realize you’re ready to build new settlements; the current level of tech development, however, prevents you from travelling by sea or flying to another planet. You’ve got two options here: play the game for two more weeks and upgrade to the next level automatically or purchase an artefact giving your ship “a following sea”.

A city-building game may also include time management or resource planning features; however, these features should be available on demand (and probably on a fee) – otherwise you will alienate city simulation game lovers.

Gameplay development (including soundtrack and voice-over work) will cost you another $ 50 thousand.

How much does it cost to develop a game app like Tribez: summing it up

In the end, we’ve arrived at an impressive figure – $ 400-450 thousand! Does it mean you can’t embark on a game dev project unless you have a half a million dollars in your pocket?

Provided you address a reliable Android/iOS app development company, you can build a game on a smaller budget ($ 300 thousand). Once you release it to the market, you’ll be able to gather user feedback, decide on the game’s feature set and upgrades and proceed with the development.

Bring something new to the table and invest in graphic content – and success will follow.

The costs cited in this article are based on the average Eastern European mobile developer/designer hourly rates (Source:gamasutra.com