Budget


Sep 07, 2015

During last week's podcast, I asked Gary and David what scares them the most about the project. I find this a useful exercise to do with the team to see what they are worried about. The answer always changes as the project progresses and new worries come and go.

The common theme from the three of us was the amount of work there is to do. It's daunting. But as I've said several times on this blog, that's normal. I've never not been daunted by the amount of work facing me on any game I've done. If you're not daunted by the amount of work, there's probably something wrong and you need to be pushing harder. Be daunted and push yourself right up to the point of being overwhelmed.

During the podcast I mentioned my concern about money and seeing the bank account go down each month. This was somehow turned into "we're running out of money", which is far from the truth. I am worried about money, anyone running a project should be.

The thing is: I worry about things so they don't become problems, and worrying about money is one of those things. If we didn't worry about money everyday, we would run out of money. It sneaks up on you.

Seeing $500,000 in your bank account can make you cocky. It can seem like an endless supply of cash and more money than most people (including me) have ever seen in their bank account. But you have to treat that $500,000 like it's $5,000 or even $500. Every dollar matters.

It's why I like to have a budget.

It is one of the advantages of having a publisher, they will poke your budget full of holes and challenge your assumptions. The downside is, they will also push your budget down and it's not uncommon for developers to then fake the budget so they get the deal (which their studio is often dependent on to stay alive). It's not malicious, they (and I have done this as well) just convince themselves they can make it for less, and that's often not true.

I want to know where every dollar is being spent from here until the end of the project. You start putting line items into the budget and you instantly see your money starting vanish. A few line items later and you're out of money. It's sobering and a necessary process. It really makes you appreciate spending anything.

We had budgets back at Lucasfilm, but we were very isolated from the gory ramifications of those numbers. I could make a budget and if I went over by 20%, I might get a stern talking to, but it's not like people weren't going to be paid. When you're running your own company and project with your own money and you run out, people don't get paid and they don't like that. In the real world, they stop working.

I do a first pass budget before I start designing. I often know how much money I have and I want to see how many people and how long I have before that money is gone. If I know I have 15 months and can afford 5 people, then that helps me in scoping the design. If I have 24 months and can have 100 people, that's another scope.

Once I've done the preliminary budget, we'll start designing and then enter pre-production, all the while, adjusting the budget as I know more.  When pre-production is done, we can look at the amount of work and do a final budget based on the schedule. Budget and Schedule are two different things that feed into and help refine each other. You can't do one without the other, but they aren't the same thing.

A schedule lists everything you have to make and who is going to make it and when. A budget takes all those people and how much they cost and tells you what the project is going to cost.

Below is the current budget for Thimbleweed Park.  It's what I like to call a living budget. You'll notice that the first monthly column is October, not the beginning of the project. Money spent is "water under the bridge" and is only relevant for historical and educational reasons. What I want to focus my attention on is how much we have and how much we need to spend going forward.

Anyone who has a real background in accounting is probably having spasm right now. There are much better ways to do this, but I'm not an accountant and neither are most indie devs. This is a much simplified way of budgeting and it works for me.

Each month I look at what we spend versus what we expect to spend then make any adjustments to future costs. I then remove the current month column, look at the projected total and the bank balance. If there is more in the bank then we're projected to spend, then we're OK, back to programming and designing.

Let's go through the budget.

First up are the people. Gary and I are working for peanuts (honey roasted). Neither of us can afford to work for free for 18 months and we're making about a quarter of what we could get with "real jobs" but we do need to eat and pay rent.

Everyone else is working below what they could get, but I do think it's important to pay people. I don't feel getting people to work for free ever works out and usually ends badly (and friendships) or you "get what you pay for." The reality is that when someone works for you for free, you aren't their top priority. They may say you are, they may want you to be, but you rarely are and you end up dealing with missed deadlines and hastily done work.

It's important to have team members that can work as professionals and you pay people that are professionals. You should respect people's time and talent and pay them for their work. It's what the Kickstarter money was for after all.

Everyone is budgeted in at 5 days a week and 8 hours a day as we're trying to keep normal hours. I have no doubt these hours will go up towards the end of the project, but I try to never budget crunch time, it's a dangerous precedent. It's a cost we will have to manage down the road, either by hiring someone new, spending for extra time, shifting resources or cutting content. There is enough slop built into the rest of the budget to cover some of this, but I never want ink to paper, because then crunch becomes real.

We do have two additional artists budgeted and yet to be hired. We don't know if we'll need both of them, but I've budgeted them just in case. We might need help with animation and there are also a lot of close-ups (telephones, control panels, bulletin boards, etc) and ancillary screens that aren't on Mark's schedule right now.

There is a line item for an additional writer. We made the decision to go with full Monkey Island style dialogs and I don't feel confident I can get all those done with everything else I need to be doing (like budgeting).

Testers, testers, testers. One of the most important and often forgotten roles in a game. It's money well spent because not testing will cost you down the road in emergency patches, dissatisfied players and crappy review scores. The original budget had 3 testers, but I added a 4th when we added the Xbox. I over budgeted for testing and it's an area that will probably come in under budget (ass, prepare to be bitten).

It's important to distinguish between testing and beta testing as they serve very different functions. The paid testers on a project are there to (primarily) find and help squash bugs. This is a paid role because it's grueling work and, quite frankly, not a lot of people are really good at it. Testers don't just "play the game". They are "testing" the game and that often involves countless hours of playing the same 5 minutes over and over, trying to get an elusive bug to appear. Testers need to write clear and concise bug reports and endlessly regress bugs to make sure they are fixed. It's a hard job. Good testers are worth every penny.

Beta testing is different. Beta testers (an unpaid role) are still finding bugs, but what you're really looking for are big picture issues, like puzzle complexity, game flow and story clarity. You want beta testers to "play" the game like normal players will and get feedback (mostly through silently watching, analytics and debriefs). You want to turn 50 beta testers loose and see where they go and what they do.

Next we come to Music and SFX. Musicians usually charge by the minute, so if you're going to have 15 minutes of unique music and they charge $1000 a minute (not uncommon), then your budget is $15,000. That $1,000/minute includes a lot of exploration and revisions and mixing. If you're saying "Hey, I'll do your music for free" you need to ask yourself if you're willing to spend weeks exploring different styles and tracks while getting constant feedback, then spend months composing it all, then additional months of making little revisions and changes, then producing 3, 4 or 5 flawless mixes. It's a lot of work and all the while, you have to hit deadline after deadline. And this is all for a relatively low budget game.

Next up on our journey through budget land is Translations, Voice Recording and Mobile. I'm kind of rolling the dice on these. I don't have a good idea what these will cost so I've padded the hell out of them and I expect this is where a lot of the slop will come from to fill other leaks. I got bids for voice acting and translation then added 30%. I have no idea on iOS and Android. I just chose a big number. This is where the voodoo of budgeting really plays out. If we had a producer, they would be spending more time nailing these numbers down. I've added enough extra that I feel comfortable.

On to Events. This is for stuff like PAX, Indiecade, E3 and other events we might want to show the game at. All this is really marketing and PR. It's also where we will pull extra money from if we get in trouble down the road. Not showing the game will screw its long term hopes, but not finishing the game is worse. Plus, it's a number we can scale up and down as needed and it's far enough down the road that we'll have better idea of how we're really doing.

Then it's on to the really exciting part of the budget: Legal, Accounting, Software, and the always important Misc. Assuming we don't get sued, these are fairly predictable and fixed expenses, but don't forget them.

And finally, the Kickstarter physical rewards. We have a fixed budget that was based on our final Kickstarter pledge numbers. It's probably around 25% too high, but that gives us some flexibility to make a better boxed copy or use the money elsewhere on the project. Or, we might have estimated wrong.

At the bottom is a total. I look at that each month and look at the bank balance. So far, we're fine. But that's because I worry.

One thing that is not on this spreadsheet is the money that is currently coming in from Humble Bundle and new backers. It's not significant, but it's not inconsequential either. I choose the leave it off the budget calculations because it provides this small margin of error.

We are planning on some new stretch goals in the next few months, and those are also not in the budget because if we don't make the goals, they won't become expenses. If we do, then all the numbers will be adjusted to account for the new work.

It's also possible that we'll move resources around, spend less on an artist and add a programmer. Budgets are living documents.

One thing to note, and I'm sure it will raise some eyebrows, is the monthly burn rate. That's a lot of money to spend each month. No one line item is very large, but they add up and can catch you by surprise. This is a pretty barebones project (but not scrappy) and it still costs $20K-$30K a month. It why when I look at other Kickstarters asking for very little money and they have a three page long team list, I get skeptical.

I hope this was informative. There are a lot of ways to do budgeting and I'm sure there are better ways, but this has always worked for me.

Please be respectful that we're sharing a lot of information with you, not only to be transparent, but also to educate and inform. This is how games are made, they take time, cost money and it's a very messy process.

- Ron



Bogdan Barbu - Sep 07, 2015 at 18:35
I'm too lazy to read this post cause it's too long but since it's named "Budget" it must mean that you've run out of money.

Pat - Sep 07, 2015 at 18:59
Read it ...Lazy bones. Have faith in the Mighty Ron!

Bogdan Barbu - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:09
Don't worry, I was kidding. Even though I hadn't yet read the article when I posted that, Ron's care in addressing the issue (every time) did not go by unnoticed.

PS: You have weird insults and even weirder compliments.

Max - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:08
Then you might be surprised to hear this is the longest document I've ever seen about budgets saying "NO, WE AIN'T"...

Mattias Cedervall - Sep 08, 2015 at 07:20
Ron was born on Wall Street.

Iron Curtain - Sep 08, 2015 at 20:20
Take it from a New Yorker…There are no residential addresses on Wall Street.

Yes, I know it was a joke.

Wall Iron Curtain - Oct 19, 2015 at 08:38
I say his mother was at Wall Street crunching some raises until labor started.

Mike McP - Sep 08, 2015 at 07:10
I was too busy fashioning my pitchfork to read it, but I agree that they must be out of money.  Let's get 'em boys! ;)

Mattias Cedervall - Sep 08, 2015 at 07:18

Mattias Cedervall - Sep 08, 2015 at 07:18
Rumor has it Ron will sell a kidney. I don't know whose kidney.

Javier Berezovsky - Sep 07, 2015 at 18:46
Interesting read about one of the less glamorous aspects of development

vegetaman - Sep 07, 2015 at 18:50
Nice to see the reality of budgets vs. game development laid out so well. Nice post, Ron! :-D

Allen - Sep 07, 2015 at 18:51
Thanks for the insider info - that is a lot to think (and worry) about while trying to make a game! So much for unburdened creativity. =]

Josejulio Martínez - Sep 07, 2015 at 18:57
I find your posts very educational, Thanks for letting us know how you do it, we get some info from the literature, but in practice is a kind of different beast. Thanks again.

Peter - Sep 07, 2015 at 18:57
Nice post Ron! It is good to read about a budget where I can get an actual idea of the overall costs of a small project, other companies talking about these things are often very misleading (whether it's intentional or not, I don't know), anyways ...Go Ron!

DaeSkaarj - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:01
What a practical way to manage accounting! I really like how you accommodate for variance in this document and allow a margin of error. I'm inspired (i.e. probably going to draft docs in Comic Sans to try it out for myself.)

Ron Gilbert - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:05
Comic Sans is the go to font for accountants.

onkelosuppo - Sep 11, 2015 at 04:07
And should numbers turn out bad, they just switch to Wingdings.

urielz - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:06
Great post! Thanks for sharing this info with us.

If I may ask, can you give examples of "rent equipment"?

Also,  looking forward to read about the new stretch goals!

Ron Gilbert - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:11
Rent is just that, rent for Gary's co-working space (I work at home). Equipment is computers or any "hardware" we might need. There is none planned, so the row is empty.

Bogdan Barbu - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:12
Those seem to be separate boxes. ;)

Giulio - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:09
Maybe this won't end up being the kind of post that receives 100 comments. Still I believe it is one of the most interesting posts to have appeared on this blog. Thank you very much for the insight and for all the transparency. It is appreciated a lot.

Charles - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:12
Poor mobile development, always an afterthought...

Ron Gilbert - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:16
We are thinking about it a lot and the engine is being engineered to handle it (my engine started out on iOS), but, yeah, point taken.

Patrik Spacek - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:22
Best post so far!  I like it. No comment needed.

Threeheadedmonkey - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:30
Thank for sharing, would love see that for projects like star citizen.

Rum Rogers - Sep 07, 2015 at 19:38
Posts like this are precious because they keep a boundary with reality.
No, really, I've thought countless times about recruiting a team of aficionados to make a graphic adventure and avoid the money problem.
Guess what? So far it never worked, people are (rightly) needing money to work properly.
It's as easy as that: passion and love are not enough in the real world, people need to eat food.

Alain - Sep 07, 2015 at 20:19
Awesome. Budgeting and scheduling are always boring, but just as important as everything else. Ironically, very interesting to read, since no-one ever talks about them.

Paulup - Sep 07, 2015 at 20:44
Will you get a proof reader (or copy editor) to go over the final script/dialog to check for grammar/spelling errors? Or is that something you do yourselves as you go along?

Mattias Cedervall - Sep 07, 2015 at 20:48
It was very informative and interesting to read although I'm usually not interested in budgeting. Keep up the good work, Ron! :-) I'm sure you were inspired by ABBA's song "Money, money, money". :P http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETxmCCsMoD0

Jonny - Sep 07, 2015 at 20:49
Send me a TP t-shirt saying "Ask me about thimble weed park" and I will roam the halls of Tokyo game show next week.

Sushi - Sep 09, 2015 at 01:55
Just take a white shirt and a marker... Do it the pirate way!
Should be a badge, by the way. Oh, and wear a sailor cap with your name on it for authenticity.

Peter Campbell - Sep 07, 2015 at 20:57
Dang, I hope Ron didn't create this entire blog entry because of my previous posts in the last podcast entry lol.  All I was saying, and people can give me all the flack they want, was that doing a 2nd kickstarter campaign for TP solely for the purpose of enhancing the game to it's fullest potential and giving people who didn't back the project the first time around who probably didn't know about it a 2nd chance to back the game to make it even better and get some cool exclusive kickstarter rewards, that there's nothing wrong with doing that and it'd be a good thing to do imo.  

Obviously TP is being made no matter what because of the success of the first kickstarter campaign, that's what the kickstarter campaign was supposed to be about, to make the game exist.  There's nothing wrong though with trying to make the game even better than it's already going to be through a 2nd crowdfunding campaign, since it already is a much more ambitious project than originally advertised primarily because of the addition of Mark Ferrari and his awesome art style.

Anyway though, thank you for the very informative blog entry, I think this is the first detailed report of it's kind that a game developer has ever given!

Dominik - Sep 08, 2015 at 02:50
If anything your post probably made Ron understand that it's quite a problematic thing to talk about budget without being absolutely clear. So, in a way, it probably just helped to make the point clearer and lead to a Gary interesting blog post.

Also this whole thing shows the different perspective: Ron, as a professional game designer & developer, has a different view of the project as us the fans. While we want primarily the "GREATEST GAME EVER!" with no compromises - which is of course a legitime wish for a fan! Go hype train ;-) - Ron has also to face business reality and make sure the game doesn't vanish in a cloud of wishful thinking. This is what makes a developer a good developer: Delivering a great game within the constraints of the real world.

Thorn - Sep 07, 2015 at 22:55
Interesting post, and dang, those expenses do add up quickly, but I guess there's a healthy amount of padding in there too. Heck of a thing to manage, and I'm sure it isn't much fun. But you seem to be doing a great job of it so far. :)

Derrick Reisdorf - Sep 07, 2015 at 23:49
Dang. I was hoping to see something budgeted for Event/Booth in Jan 2016...for PAX South. But, I guess it's a shade too early at that time to be showing it off to the public. Plus, PAX South the the smallest of all the PAXes.

Of course I was hoping to see it at PAX South because I most likely will be there.

Ron Gilbert - Sep 08, 2015 at 00:06
We are talking about PAX East. I have total for events, but I just threw the number into months, the actually events aren't locked down yet. PAX East is expensive because we have to pay for flights+hotel in addition to the booth. PAX Prime is easier because I live in Seattle.

tyler - Sep 08, 2015 at 01:05
Great! Thanks for giving us such a close look at something so personal. Sorry if my merch suggestion seemed off color, part of it is that I was a little worried about funding, but part of it is that I just really want Thimbleweed merch and $150.00 was a bit out of my pay grade.  ;) Would you have any opposition to fans making their own stuff ? Just for personal use.

Soong - Sep 08, 2015 at 01:46
Do you and Gary not get paid every month? Maybe I'm reading those columns wrong.

I also hope that this project is way more fun for everyone involved than other projects if you're taking a serious paycut.  Especially the totals columns for you and Gary look awfully narrow so far.

I'm also curious if the money that Microsoft presumably paid for the exclusive covers the costs of the port in your current budget.  (I'm really just curious, not secretly critical.  I trust you, Ron.)

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Sep 08, 2015 at 02:07
Speechless. You are really great! Thank you Gary much for sharing all these information with us!

Zak Phoenix McKracken - Sep 08, 2015 at 02:11
Gary = very ...

Dominik - Sep 08, 2015 at 02:50
That should be a thing! Thank you Gary much!

Pieter - Sep 08, 2015 at 02:39
Money for food?!...I mean really Ron, water and bread aren't that expensive. :-)

hihp - Sep 08, 2015 at 03:07
As many have said, very interesting post! It does make you realize that while 500,000 bucks sound like a lot, if you spread it over 20 months, the numbers suddenly become much smaller...

I do wonder if I am reading it correctly, though. Are you really paying David and Mark only 176 $ per month?!

Herbert - Sep 08, 2015 at 04:41
It’s hours per month.

Mario F. - Sep 08, 2015 at 03:07
@RON: you made me feel so sad today about  David and Mark. Can't you raise the salary for them? 176 a little bit low. LOL.
ok. i know, you just pranked us with that numbers. but funny anyway.

Herbert - Sep 08, 2015 at 04:43
Also here, numbers without dollar sign are hours per month. (22 days, 8 hours each.)

unwesen - Sep 08, 2015 at 03:10
No, that budget doesn't surprise me. What does surprise me is just how little you guys are working for. Yes, I can reverse-engineer that. It'll be inaccurate, but it'll be in the right ballpark.

Hat's off to that!

Diduz - Sep 08, 2015 at 03:38
Hey Ron, I don't understand why some numbers are not blurred. What do "176" and "106" are for?
Great post, anyway. :-)

Diduz - Sep 08, 2015 at 03:39
I meant "stand for", sorry. I'm still sleeping.

Soong - Sep 08, 2015 at 03:55
I think it is because Ron and Gary work on the project full-time while some others are working on the project on an hourly basis.  That's why what they get per month does not directly relate to how much they make an hour.  This is why the number doesn't need to be blurred.

Herbert - Sep 08, 2015 at 04:29
The numbers without the dollar sign are hours per month.

Soong - Sep 08, 2015 at 04:54
Thanks for pointing that out.  That makes perfect sense.  Maybe those columns contain the hours for Ron and Gary too.  That would make me feel better for the column being so narrow.

MIK0 - Sep 08, 2015 at 06:35
As Ron said in the post they are budgeted for 8 hour a day for 5 days a week. 5 days for 52 weeks on 12 month give roughtly 22 work day a month on average. 22 x 8 = 176 hours per month if working full time.
Testers will probably work in sessions or days as the hours are always multiple of 8.
The not blurred numbers are days or costs not directly related to a person. I think it's fair to not disclose how money are shared at this point, the important number is the monthly cost of developement.

Soong - Sep 08, 2015 at 10:38
I agree. No one should have to disclose their salary here.

Jan Duin - Sep 08, 2015 at 04:20
Interesting, and a quite sobering, read. :)

Chris R. - Sep 08, 2015 at 04:32
If you ever run out of money, maybe try to sell concept ships to generate more income. It works, I promise!

kevin mung - Sep 08, 2015 at 18:10
hahahaah

Simon Simon - Sep 08, 2015 at 04:42
Thank you for this blog post! I am inpressed.
(And now I suspect even more that many other Kickstarters do not do any realistic budgeting at all, unfortunately)

Julien - Sep 08, 2015 at 04:45
Learning how to produce a game is one of the biggest concerns of the game Indie scene :) But you have enough experience to know it's a job on its own. And that's why, I always say, Brian Fargo is one of the most successful indie guys of the new wave: because producing games, budgeting and scheduling are his job for 30 years now.

A few words about localization:

As a French, I can tell you that a good localization is costly. :( Especially for games like yours with high litterary qualities.

For a professional localization done by a real writer, cost is usually 0,15 or 0,20 $ per word. For a talky point & click game, the total is often 5000 $ per language - in Latin alphabet: twice the price if translating into Arabic or Chinese. Monkey Island games were of this quality - and even sometimes you could see the English sentence behind the translation or the wordplay, but there was also creativity so the foreign speaker can feel his own language, which is primordial for the immersion.

You have to translate a style, emotions, humorous puns into another style and other humorous puns, not just UI instructions like "load" and "save". And respect technical constraints (French takes more words than English to say the same thing). And knowing the context where a phrase is pronounced. Many English-speaking developers don't understand that, unfortunately. They are tight in budget and think that a cheap or misinformed translator or even, at the worst, a Google translation, will be enough. Result is horrible as you can guess. Often, indie p&c are translated by free volunteers. They are passionates and sometimes really efficient but it's always a bet.

Good luck and good work for Thimbleweed Park !

Herbert - Sep 08, 2015 at 05:03
At least the German translation will be done for free. :-)

LogicDeLuxe - Sep 08, 2015 at 09:28
And it will be done by a very good translator, too. :)

longuist - Sep 09, 2015 at 16:16
Free? By no means! 1$, in words: one dollar!!1!

T.M. - Sep 08, 2015 at 07:06
This actually provides me a good change to pose a question not so necessarily to devs but the adv.game fans in general. How important is translation to your native language? I mean, I’m from pretty small language group and have actually never played any seriously taken game in my native language and don’t really know how I would feel about it, whether I’d like it or just feel awkward about translation.

I guess what I’m trying to ask is, how good are translations to your native languages generally? Do you feel they are usually well done and are necessity for good gaming experience or more likely they are just something done in hurry, feeling like something is missing in translation and you’d rather play the game in English? I don’t mean to insinuate TB would have such problems, I’m just curious in general about the games which are not solely based on graphics but text also.

Oh and thank you Mr Gilbert, Winnick and Fox for this incredible blog, it just keeps getting more and more interesting post by post.

LogicDeLuxe - Sep 08, 2015 at 09:42
In German, the quality of game translations (just like in movies and tv shows) varies a lot.
My favorite German version is Grim Fandango, which also has a very good dubbing. I like the German voice acting even more then the original. That quality is very rare, unfortunately.
The LucasArts adventures are all good translations, imho. I usually still prefer the English version, though.
The Telltale games' translations are rather poor in comparison. I always play them in English.
Games with only English voice acting available, I prefer to play with English subtitles rather then German subtitles.

It would be great, if Thimbleweed Park could get German voice acting in the quality of the LucasArts games, too. But I guess, foreign voice acting isn't even on the budged, right? Even many LucasArts and Sierra games didn't got German voice acting.

Arto - Sep 08, 2015 at 11:47
I'm Finnish, and don't really ever see translated games. But I feel that if I would have an option to play a game translated from English to Finnish, I'd play it in English, and for the heck of it, would try the Finnish version later.

Translations are always a tricky business. I deal a lot with translations, and usually we find two pitfalls:
1. The translator isn't a copywriter, i.e. the translation is not creative, which often results as poorly translated content. The language can be impeccable, but awkward.
2. English is short. Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Italian etc. are not. It's often very hard to squeeze translated content into space reserved for English copy. With Thimbleweed Park, I guess the Occult Book Store titles will be especially difficult. It was difficult to fit them in required character count even in English.

mr. T - Sep 08, 2015 at 11:57
I would prefer original english (text & voice) over a translated local version. Stuff sometimes goes missing in the translations (or just sounds ridiculous or weird after the translation) and I want to get the original voice and feel of the author. I'm not used to stuff getting dubbed over either.

Julien - Sep 08, 2015 at 16:22
Translation has always been an important business in France because for a long time, French was meant to be a dominant language, so we never really had the structures for a massive learning of English. English is taught generally only from high school. 40 years of American pop culture changed this a bit (I learned a lot in English from the Star Wars movies !), but still today there are gamers who don't want to play in English because they don't know enough or that would be too much an effort instead of entertainment. I myself hardly understand long spoken sentences and I couldn't play The Last Express for that - only with an open guidebook.

So we had a tradition of excellent localization and VAs in the 60's-70's-80's and were raised in this. We all discovered Star Wars and Indiana Jones in French. Didier Dorval's voice made Stallone even more iconic in French - we only know him with this voice. Guybrush in MI3 and 4 had the same voice as Aladdin's French VA. And Murray was awesome.

Quality has dropped from the 90's, though. Since the VA's strike. And there are more production restraints in the cinema. And production has been democratized so it's difficult for smaller studios.
AAA like Mass Effect have a Hollywood-quality voice acting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXSW6wYS23s (ME3 ending) and are enjoyed as they are. Planescape Torment's French version was great as it unforgettably adapted the slang language in French. Most games are good. Some have problems. Baldur's Gate 2 Imoen's voice has stayed infamous. More and more often translations are almost word-to-word and you can read it no problem but you don't feel as it had been the primary language.

It's actually a very complicated question. There are several theories of translation (fidelity or transparency ?). I'm a huge supporter of transparency (a translated noir novel should feel as if it has been written by a noir author), but the debate is still open.

LogicDeLuxe - Sep 09, 2015 at 04:34
The Last Express is an interesting example. Actually, the voice acting is in multiple languages, which made the environment very authentic. It is especially the subtitles which matters here. There is also a German version, but I don't have that.

Julien - Sep 09, 2015 at 11:44
The subtitles appear only for the non-English parts, which are maybe 15% of the game. The French voices don't really "feel" right for French ears.

Sushi - Sep 09, 2015 at 02:17
I never played a translation (I'm also part of a smaller language group).
Hey, I even install most software that does have -presumably- decentlanguage packs (windows, browsers, iOS,...) in English. Makes it easier to find back stuff online. And even simple translations do seem awkward when you're talking about IT. More in general, I always watch movies in their native language (with subtitles) but I prefer reading translated books over reading the English version. Although it becomes weird if , e.g.  in Game of thrones a name such as Jon Snow gets translated... Ugh!<shivver>

Marco - Sep 09, 2015 at 06:40
The translation means a lot to me - it just feels different playing a game in your own language. I loved the translations of Monkey Island and other LucasArts SCUMM titles and since Boris Schneider will do the german translation for Thimbleweed Park, I have very high hopes.

I would love a (good quality) talkie version in German (the one for Monkey Island 3 was great, for example) but as far as I can see it's not budgeted.

"Wie passend, du kämpfst wie eine Kuh" :-)

Tunrip - Sep 08, 2015 at 04:56
I love the transparency you provide and find these updates fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing some of the more superficially "boring" (but essential!) aspects of the development!

Zarbulonian - Sep 08, 2015 at 05:09
You've said several times you wish you could have someone else in the producer seat, yet you budget a writer...

Couldn't you hire a part time producer to hand off the budgeting/scheduling burden, and dedicate your full attention to what you're a world class expert at?

If it doesn't exist yet, that's a job that must be invented (BSaaS, that's rad on a business card). I'm sure you're not the only project in this situation.

Mattias Cedervall - Sep 08, 2015 at 07:12
I agree!

Paulup - Sep 08, 2015 at 08:27
Good point... one of the main, key reasons why people love Monkey Island to this day is the distinct type of humor...  not sure if that can be replicated by someone else (though maybe Ron has some particularly funny people in mind for the writing job)...

Soong - Sep 08, 2015 at 10:43
At least in MI2, there were other writers as well.  I don't think that's a problem as long as Ron as the project lead gets the final say (that is a given here I think).  Plus, the character design already determines a lot, so I think the writing will be great.

Roberto Cano - Sep 08, 2015 at 05:40
Hats off! Really informative post, Ron! It sounds completely sensible to me. I know nothing about budgeting (not being a freelancer has its advantages) but what you explained and they way you explained sounds reasonable to me. Also for me in particular as a backer and having my money invested in the game, I do it mainly for the ride, the info, the insight, the contact. You guys have surpassed my expectations in that sense!! Of course I want to play TWP, and I want it to be great, and I want you to deliver a game. If the game has less art, less voices, less story, puzzles or locations I understand it is for the greater good: to deliver a quality game! In my opinion these posts will help people appreciate more whatever you deliver at the end. Thanks!!

KJL3000 - Sep 08, 2015 at 06:18
Here's one free Beta Testa for you, Ron! :)
I´d also do the german translation for free... :)

Grafekovic - Sep 08, 2015 at 06:41
Are voice recordings really that expensive? Seems like 10% of the whole budget goes just to that position... It would be totally okay for me, when you guys do all the voices ;-)
But I won't turn the talkies on anyway, since I will enjoy that game as old school as possible.

Arto - Sep 08, 2015 at 12:05
Good voice artists are not cheap.
There is incomprehensible amount of lines to speak, and these lines take more than one take.
There has to be people to do the voice planning, directing and sound editing, which is a lot of work
The final edited lines (huge amount of them) need to be managed as well.
Voice recordings has to be done in a proper studio, and the hourly cost for those are not cheap either.

This translates to big bucks.

tomimt - Sep 08, 2015 at 06:43
I have to agree what you've said about KS projects that are asking very little money. It propably surprises people, but things tend to cost money and many people don't work solely from the warm, fuzzy feeling they feel when they get to help someone.  You burning 20-30k a month already shows that even this kind of an old school game is far more expensive to make than you'd at first think, and that's why I'm always a bit worried about some smaller projects that have been funded about the same time Broken Age, and with lot less money, was and are not still finished.

Some people like to think, that when a project is funeded the problems have been solved. But that's the moment when the real problem solving really begins.

Blurry Eyes - Sep 08, 2015 at 07:10
When I blink my eyes real fast I can read the blurred out numbers ;-)

Grafekovic - Sep 08, 2015 at 09:53
I tried the same. In fact there are no numbers but some insults.
Btw, you fight like a dairy farmer.

nikola - Sep 08, 2015 at 08:15
Problems with voice recording would delay the release? It is scheduled in the middle of testing. Two months before release.

Lomion - Sep 08, 2015 at 08:26
Very interesting and useful post. Thanks.

Steffen - Sep 08, 2015 at 09:56
Don't worry. The most important thing is that you make a good game.

JanW - Sep 08, 2015 at 10:02
As always, today's blog was extremely interesting. I feel like the amount I put into your Kickstarter project should pay only for the blog posts and I should have to buy the actual game once it's finished. It are really the BEST insights I ever got with a Kickstarter and I perfectly see why it is time-consuming.
Thank you again so much for making this game for us!

Johanna - Sep 08, 2015 at 10:36
Thank you so very much! I am currently struggling with budgeting myself. And being able to learn from one of my biggest heroes is so great!

crion - Sep 08, 2015 at 11:40
Because I think this can't be stated often enough: this is a very insightful post, thanks a lot for it!

Question to Ron: why don't you budget hours for you in the months besides October and December? Do you plan to stay the remaining months until the release on some carribean island :-P ?

Ron Gilbert - Sep 08, 2015 at 12:02
Because Gary and I don't get paid by the hour.  We took a little money every few months but won't be taking any more at that stage.

Soong - Sep 09, 2015 at 03:09
So am I getting this right?  You won't be making any money anymore after the end of this year?

Arto - Sep 08, 2015 at 12:32
Roles are clear: Ron and Gary are entrepreneurs, who are responsible for this game and for the release of the game. They (as the company of Ron and Gary, the Terrible Toybox) carry the risk, and will get the profit of the game. They define the working hours for themselves, which, I reckon, is more than normal hours. If they would be millionaires, they might not raise any salary. But they need to live, so they raise what they really need. David and Mark are employees who get paid for their work. (Startup) Business 101.

cirion - Sep 08, 2015 at 13:54
That's clear that as entrepreneurs they will fully participate in the success (or missuccess) of this endeavor. However, I just got a little bit worried that Ron and Gary won't have anything to eat until September next year ... and there is also a young puppy who needs to be taken care of! Please think a bout the young puppies!

Bogdan Barbu - Sep 08, 2015 at 17:39
I can already see the next post where Ron feels the need to clarify that they have in fact not run out of food.

Arto - Sep 08, 2015 at 17:50
I think Ron has lost weight though...

Leak - Sep 12, 2015 at 18:40
If a new Kickstarter for dog food created by the puppy shows up we'll know that something's amiss...

mr. T - Sep 08, 2015 at 12:19
Ah, the joys of budgeting. I think this post was really educational though. I would be curious to hear if anyone knows some similar posts about game project budgeting/scheduling. I also wonder if one really gets better at estimating stuff or if it's a project type dependent skill and the insight "gained" wouldn't actually be that usable in another type of game project.

Maybe a question for the artists too: do you track any metrics on how long it takes to produce art of different types (to help project leads to budget and schedule the work) ? Perhaps this would be better left for the Q&A thingie actually.

Arto - Sep 08, 2015 at 13:02
If I can answer at this point: I'm a commercial graphic artist and a web programmer. I have done hundreds of budgets, and with experience, there will be good touch to what different things will cost. The best I have done is 0,0005% accuracy. That's $10 in $20.000 project. But then again, I have been 5000% off, but they are really small projects, and have things that can't be anticipated. Fixed price with not-that-well-defined-definition-of-delivered-content is bad...

A good way to do a budget, is to divide things into smaller chunks and define them individually. Also, as Ron wrote, scheduling is part of this. If you do a good schedule and commit people to it, the budget is almost done. I think this is the same with any project, even if they are completely different. "What will we do, and what is the cost, item by item".

If one is in any way responsible for a project, one should do time tracking. That is the only way to have any reasonable base for budgeting, as all we have in life, is finite time.

mr. T - Sep 08, 2015 at 14:28
That's interesting. Thanks!

T.M. - Sep 09, 2015 at 07:13
Well it’s not game related but there’s another perspective to budgeting Kickstarter project and challenges that comes with it.
http://mariancall.com/kickstarter-math-is-weird/

KickstarterSkeptic - Sep 08, 2015 at 13:02
This kind of disclosure should be required for all kickstarter projects.  As a securities lawyer it boggles my mind that kickstarter projects can be funded with absolutely no accountability on how money is spent.  I think that some major upsets/frauds down the round will probably change that with laws coming in to mandate much more comprehensive disclosure to backers.   At the risk of being flamed I'll admit that despite being a huge fan of this blog and being very excited about the game, I have been waiting to buy it on release - solely because I fear the kickstarter machine.  This is a bit conflicting because I know the money would be more useful to the dev team now than after release.  Perhaps I'll let my kickstarter skepticism slide just this once...

Azure - Sep 08, 2015 at 13:28
This is an excellent breakdown, and as someone who tests games for a living I'm glad to see the difference between play testing /beta testing explained.

Stefano E. - Sep 08, 2015 at 13:37
Ron, thanks for clarifying on this topic. I can see why the last podcast worried people quite a bit - you guys are super open and communicative about the game progress, and listening to all of you worrying about what's left and what happens if the game is not ready yet by the planned release date (which the budget is based on) just made people worry. I think that all folks here really trust your judgement as you have much more experience in making games than all of us combined and multiplied by 10 - in the worst case scenario, I'm sure a new kickstarter or some other way of raising additional fund will be possible. Keep up the awesome work!

Peter Campbell - Sep 08, 2015 at 15:06
Ron,

(Don't worry, this is the very very last time that I mention doing a 2nd kickstarter campaign for TP lol).  

Can you give us more info yet on these new stretch goals you mentioned in this blog entry or is it too early to say?  Are you planning on doing a 2nd crowdfunding campaign for TP that focuses completely on stretch goals to enhance the game to it's fullest potential (just show off Mark Ferrari's art for an easy win and explain that while the game is absolutely being completed regardless of how the 2nd crowdfunding effort goes due to the success of the 1st KS campaign, but that you want to the game even bigger and better) or are you talking about something completely different in regards to these new stretch goals?

EdoBvD - Sep 08, 2015 at 16:43
Respectfully, many thanks.
Very educating.
This blog gets better at every post.

PS: Make sure you keep enough money for the shovel and the 'map' with the big X.

Big Red Button - Sep 08, 2015 at 18:14
Do you have your own cloud (NAS)?

Jez - Sep 08, 2015 at 18:22
Correct me if I'm wrong but...

$250 x 12 = $3000 (not $2750)

Robert - Sep 08, 2015 at 18:57
I want to use the opportunity to thank the Thimbleweedpark team for doing such an exceptional job in connecting with the backers. In my opinion you are going above and beyond here in keeping the community not only informed, but proving insight, education and also laughter. The blog alone was worth the entire pledge in my opinion. Thank you.

Aris - Sep 08, 2015 at 20:13
How less/more expensive would things would be if you have had your engine up and running before the game was created?? would that make another game easier to develope if you could sit right from the begining and think on graphics and story instead of having to build the whole engine from scratch like it was the case in this game?

Grafekovic - Sep 09, 2015 at 10:16
Especially the second headline could be directly adressed to Tim Schafer, followed by "What a classic point & click adventure game looks like".
I'm still disappointed of "Broken Age" and have never played through the second act although I paid $110.

Grafekovic - Sep 10, 2015 at 06:18
I have a question to Ron and Gary regarding this matter.

Was the huge success on the one hand, but also the huge difference of what the DoubleFine Adventure promised and what it in the end delivered on the other hand,  a motivation for you to make your own kickstarter and do a "real" old school adventure?

Bogdan Barbu - Sep 13, 2015 at 18:29
It's a bad idea to equate your feelings about something with other people's feelings. Broken Age was well received (by critics and general players alike). I didn't play it yet but it seems like an important distinction (which applies whether or not I'll agree with you).

HolaPlaneta - Sep 08, 2015 at 22:35
Ron, start planning the Kickstarter for the book on the "making of" the game. With all these blog entries and expanded chapters and interviews. It would be great and when the machines attack and the net disappears, people in the post apocalypse can still learn how to make games. ;)

dada - Sep 09, 2015 at 04:20
Do i see well, are those 6 digit numbers blurred out in the Gary's and Ron's rows?


But seriously i absolutely love this blog. If i was a millionaire i would give you million for this blog and another one for the game, and maybe one more just to drag Steve Purcel and Michael Land into the project.
In fact millions all around!!

John Gottschalk - Sep 09, 2015 at 04:36
I notice you don't have a breakdown of the writer's hours. Is it expected they writes a manuscript before production? Or are they so integral they get paid a lump sum and percentage and are on board like Ron is?

I've done interactive writing (which included a lot of event scripting) for an open-world indie game (westerado)  and writing changes were happening right up to release.

I'm interested to know how that works for professionals who actually know how to plan out games.

Mario F. - Sep 09, 2015 at 04:53
get back to work and code that god damn game.

Jammet - Sep 09, 2015 at 05:24
Ron, is it possible to still upgrade the pledge I made with the kickstarter? So that I could still be in the phonebook at all, but also receive a signed boxed copy?

Alex Stevenson - Sep 09, 2015 at 16:37
I'd also like a chance to increase my pledge.  These updates are fascinating, and worth a lot more than I pledged - feel like I'd like to buy an additional momento :-)

Davide - Sep 09, 2015 at 06:36
This post is rich with humility and real educational purposes, both values that come from the best kind of persons.

Julio - Sep 09, 2015 at 11:55
Hi, Ron

Out off topic... Since you all have changed the graphics in a better way, why don't you change the upper image of thos blog?
I think it could make people who know nothing about the project to get some interest... We have follow all the proces and see the new ones, but someone who enters for the first time...

Sushi - Sep 09, 2015 at 18:06
I wasn't too excited seeing the new blog post title: "budget". Really? But oh boy, this turned out to be one heck of an educational and wisdom-packed post. Thanks for sharing, Ron!

urielz - Sep 09, 2015 at 18:58

Peter Hoogeveen - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:44
Hot damn this is very interesting to read, thanks! :)

Also: I was listening to Monkey Island opening theme all the time while reading. AWESOME!!

Budgeter - Sep 11, 2015 at 05:17
Ouch. Five figure monthly salaries for both Ron and Gary. Maybe that's where the overhead is coming from. An average American makes $3,769 per month.

Franklin - Sep 11, 2015 at 10:47
One of those digits is a $ and you'll notice they don't happen every month. Do you really think they should be working for nothing? Ron's post seem to indicate they weren't making very much, which is also sad if they can't make a  living do this.

Alfred D. - Sep 11, 2015 at 09:38
Really great and educational post!
Btw,  I didn't find it mentioned in comments but I use YNAB (You Need a Budget) as budgeting tool, and it works almost as your spreadsheet, but with lots of tool to adjust, analyze, budget, and make recurrent expenses and income automated.
I use it for my personal budgeting and also for small projects! :)

Disclaimer: I don't work for YNAB I'm just an enthusiast :P

Seb - Sep 14, 2015 at 16:23
Hi Ron...

Writing your own engine sounds like a great choice for this project (and, ahem, future project).

But I'm curious - how drastically different do you think the budget would have been if you used and possible extended an established engine?

René - Sep 14, 2015 at 17:18
Amazing post. I dont think anyone here expect You, Gary or any other on this project to work for free. I sure dont. And everyone has different living costs.

Im just happy to see that there is being put so much thought into the budget. Not to write a long story. But i kinda feel like  Ron and Gary should have been there to help with that stuff on Tim's broken age, not sure what went wrong there.  But making games is expensive, no matter how you cut it.

On another note, im definitely one of the people that would like to upgrade my pledge and throw some more money at you guys for this great project, give you some more leeway and money to work. This is one of the few out of the 100's of projects ive backed, that i have absolute 110% faith in. You guys are doing a great job. Keep it up

ac - Oct 02, 2015 at 15:26
I think it's possible to solve all the blurred numbers based on the visible numbers within some small error % and as each number left very specific kind of blur you can probably guess the remaining numbers :)

Recently I wrote some code to help take results from OCR library to try to get it recognize some numbers but even then the results weren't reliable enough. The I figured that as there was a relation between the numbers, I could only figure out some numbers and brute force solve whether the other numbers were in line with expectations.

Edu - Oct 11, 2015 at 06:18
Thanks this is very educational.

Pritesh jain - Nov 06, 2015 at 01:01
This was a fantastic article. Really loved reading your we blog post. The information was very informative and helpful.
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