First off I wanted to apologize if this isn't the right place to post this; I wasn't sure where else to go. I plan to cross-post this question to the Game Maker forums since that's the engine the game will be run off of.

My problem:

I'm looking for the amount of hours it would take and at what rate two mid-level developers would charge to code a game with the following requirements, at about 5 hours in length. Note, the definition of 'mid-level developer' in this context would be someone with 3-5 years of experience. Obviously I know that the answer to this varies widely across the industry, but I'm looking for more of a general average, if possible. The reason I'm trying to find this information is because I'm developing a project proposal and my potential investors want to know what the estimated cost/schedule look like.

About the project:

This project is a 2D action platformer with similar mechanics to the games "Hollow Knight" and "Dead Cells".

We would like to take generic mechanics like those found in Hollow Knight such as dashes, jumps, and other shooting and melee mechanics and combine them with basic follower mechanics (i.e. one sprite follows behind the other without getting stuck, and in the event it does get stuck has a method for getting unstuck), camera perspective changes (from side scrolling to top down and vice versa), static image cut scene triggers, and a light RPG customization system to allow players to focus on melee or shooting customization paths depending on their preferences.

What I've tried:

I've tried scouring the internet for a possible answer to this, but I can't find anything since average salaries and programmers' abilities to code vary widely. The research I've done suggests mid-level developers would charge anywhere from $21-$40/hr but I have no basis for the amount of hours they'd need to put in to finish the project. This has left me without the ability to figure out how much time and funding I need to set aside and/or raise to allow them to complete the project.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please let me know. Thanks!


  • \$\begingroup\$ It's behind the times, but the last Gamasutra Salary Survey (2014) might be a reasonable starting point. This summary appears to use newer data. Either way, I'd say your salary numbers are low. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pikalek
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 20:06
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "I have no basis for the amount of hours they'd need to put in to finish the project." - this is likely more of an issue than the rates. Have you ever seen a software project go over time and over budget? Yeah, it happens all the time. Really hard to predict, even for the experts. Good luck \$\endgroup\$
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 23:46

1 Answer 1


Your mid-level cost estimate is about right, $30 / hr for most mid-level freelancing game devs over the last few years is normal, but it can be up to $40 / hr or even above depending on country etc. The rate also depends on duration of contract, urgency etc.

As for estimating the time it will take, this problem is the age-old one of waterfall approach to software development. This is where you try to plan everything out up front, the number of hours calculated from said planning, and multiplied by the hourly rate(s) per developer (experience level). That is what you are presently trying to do, even if you don't realise it. There are numerous problems with this, and being a poor fit for most of today's complex software projects, it is a terrible fit for game development especially, given the highly creative / iterative nature of this field.

I suggest getting hold of a book like Agile Game Development With Scrum. Use the expertise in the book, along with paying experienced people for an hour or two here or there (gamedev.net forums, Discord gamedev channels, LinkedIn etc.) to advise you in planning various prototyping phases. These experts should provide a safe, third party perspective on durations and costs without being involved in the project - this assures their views are unbiased.

You can then fund these phases individually, limiting the cost each phase will take. For example, 2 weeks app setup and basic combat, 3 weeks physics, 3 weeks combat refinement, 2 weeks character assets, etc. Your timeframes and categories may differ widely from these. Planning of each successive phase will be based on the results of the last phase, hence "Agile" not "Waterfall".

As you can see, this is more about saying "this is what I'm willing to pay for such and such an amount of progress or discovery". Games development is very much discovery driven.

It is a risk as you cannot be certain that you will get results out of any given prototype phase; the best way to avoid that risk is to hire individuals who can provide solid references, portfolios etc.


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