Game development is a large process. In your experience, how are the total hours for releasing a game divided over the following major areas. I believe this is useful because few people (none?) are really good at all the areas, so this helps me balance the cost of items I'm not so good at when estimating the complexity of creating a game.

  • Modeling and raw asset creation (textures, audio)
  • Level design
  • Gameplay design
  • Programming
  • Testing
  • Marketing
  • \$\begingroup\$ There really isn't going to be a definitive answer, because this is speaking from personal experience. If it were asking about the "norm" (including professional and for-profit indie games on varying platforms), this might have a definite answer. But until then, this should be community wiki. \$\endgroup\$
    – Justin L.
    Commented Jul 15, 2010 at 21:47

5 Answers 5


It depends vastly on the kind of game and the tools you're working with. If you're making a first-person shooter in raw C++, you're going to spend a ton of time on programming. If you're making a 2d MMORPG in an existing game framework for 2d MMORPGs, it's going to be pretty much all asset creation of one kind or another. If you're making a puzzle game in an existing framework, you'll be spending nearly all of it on level design.

There's just no good answer without knowing, at the very least, the genre, scope, and tools involved.


This question really doesn't have an answer, but it's an interesting discussion anyway.

Modeling and raw asset creation (textures, audio)

  • this could take literally years, if you're a single person trying to make a make professional quality 3D models for a whole game. On the other hand, many indie games use retro pixel art, 3D primitives or hand drawn graphics, and then you could have all your art done in a matter of days! It's normally more cost effective to purchase royalty free audio from a site like http://www.soundrangers.com than professionally record yourself, although something like Garage Band or Sony Acid is great for music. You can also buy packs of off-the-shelf 3D models for under $100 dollars, but this will make your game a lot more generic and less unique. There are many good sites with free textures though.

Level design

  • this depends on how big your game is an how much of the fun comes from puzzles and challenges incorporated into the level design. If you can create a system that is lego-like and doesn't require special programming for each level, you can hand level-design over to other, less technical (ie cheaper!) team members. Some really fun games, like Spelunky, use algorithms to auto-generate levels, and that would certainly save you some time.

Gameplay design

  • Gameplay can actually come to together in a matter of hours by just playing around and hacking code. It can even happen by accident sometimes when you find an unexpected behaviour that is more fun than you were actually going for. That said, you want to put a lot of thought it to things like - how does the character interact with terrain, walls, ledges, water etc. It's better to design the game through your code than do too much on paper


  • For indie games it's normally better to use a pre-existing engine to handle the solved problems like collision detection etc


  • Testing playability is really important. For indie games you should be able to get friends and fans to do this for free. At the design agency I worked at we'd get the receptionist, project managers and interns to do testing.


  • Keeping a blog, twitter account etc is a good idea, but don't let it stop you finishing your game. Buying ads costs money but shouldn't take up any time.

There is a lot of variation based on the genre and scale of the project. On the indie/flash/iPhone side the amount of time spent on programming tends to be a larger percentage of the whole. With big console projects the majority of the time is spent on content development.


Feel free to flame but in my experience:

* Modeling and raw asset creation - 30%
* Level design - 10%
* Gameplay design - 10%
* Programming - 45%
* Testing - 10%
* Marketing - 5%

This varies largely on the complexity of the project however.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure if it was deliberate, but it is true that most projects take more than 100% of your time. :P \$\endgroup\$
    – Alconja
    Commented Jul 16, 2010 at 0:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes... Deliberate... shifty eyes xD \$\endgroup\$
    – SD021
    Commented Jul 16, 2010 at 11:53

Wow what a question. It really depends so much on the type of game. If you're talking about a very simple iPhone game then artists and audio bods will be twiddling their thumbs before programming in complete. But if you're talking about a big 3D game then art content is by far the biggest part. For a AAA console game there may be a large team of developers in-house, but the art team will be at least twice that number and these days will probably include a huge amount of outsourced content.

If you need a lot of art content try an outsource company like http://creativesintheattic.com there are many others but I've used them and it's been worth it. Unlike some outsource companies they were willing to work on a fairly small number of assets (my budget was low) but they also provide for AAA games so the quality is top notch.


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