Some of the devs/contractors replied on neogaf as well:
All right, I'm gonna go through this one more time.
Before I start off, though, let me give you a little background. With the exception of Ravi himself, there is almost certainly no one on GAF who is more qualified to talk about voiceover in games. Not only am I literally a voice actor in Skullgirls (AND League of Legends, and several other games), but I run my small indie studio, which made a game with over 1,400 lines of fully voiced dialogue, certainly more than Bastion and likely more than most, if not all, indie games out there.
The question, of course, would immediately come up: how much did I spend on Sequence voiceovers? The answer is, truthfully, about $2,200, but this is an incredibly misleading number. Several...well, most...of the actors in Sequence were my friends, who worked for free. My friend Geoff, the audio engineer, mastered and edited over 1,400 lines *for free*. And of course, all the work I did...directing, picking takes, inserting into the game, modifying for time, and let's not forget, writing all the lines themselves...was unpaid. The studio was out of some guy's house; he charged me $40/hr, but it was mainly for the microphone. We recorded in a living room, for the most part. The quality wasn't horrible...I doubt many people were yelling at the screen...but from a professional standpoint, it was pretty rough.
I still feel bad about doing this, and I love my friends dearly for helping me. I had no choice; I couldn't pay more money, everything was out of pocket, I was a 23-year-old struggling to live in Los Angeles paying the bills via SAT/ACT/GRE tutoring. But *I can never do this again*. A professional studio, making a game that isn't just a project of passion but a proper, commercial endeavor that's meant to help support actual full-time jobs, *CANNOT JUST NOT PAY PEOPLE A FAIR WAGE*. It's insulting and, frankly, illegal. If EA told you to come in a do a shitton of work on Mirror's Edge 2, would you do it for free? No. You wouldn't. Your skills and time are worth money, and you expect to be compensated accordingly. In my next game, There Came an Echo, I've already paid the VOICEOVER STUDIO ALONE (Soundelux Design Music Group) over eight thousand dollars for their services, nearly $7,000 in SAG/AFTRA fees, and suffice to say, Wil Wheaton's acting isn't free either. I did this because this is what it costs, this is the price of entry, for the highest quality voiceover services in a game that absolutely requires those services to reach its highest potential.
Ravi (who I know personally, by the way, and is sacrificing a lot for himself and his team even with the 150k) isn't doing that. Ravi is making the best use of his money. He's hired Cristina Vee to direct...with whom I was hanging last night, by the way, and she was utterly appalled at this shit...who charges an utter pittance compared to hotshot Hollywood VO directors who wouldn't do any better a job, they're using an independent voiceover studio and a single sound engineer to run the whole setup, which is pretty shockingly professional for the cost. And I'm sure they have someone in-house doing all the editing, mastering, and placement for the VO lines, which is extremely time-consuming.
Two voice actors, a director, a sound engineer, studio costs, equipment costs, and a pretty massive workload back at the office...and you people are bitching about four thousand dollars? Honestly, fuck off. You have no idea what you're talking about, you want quality for pennies, you want people to work for free, or fucking pizza, or something. It's demeaning. I can't speak for animation...Noogy's got you covered on that...but I can speak for this.
This thread is clearly evidence that this is a conversation that really needed to happen.
...But it still makes me sad that being honest spawned what may be the worst thread on GAF.
Wonder why more devs don't post openly here? You're looking at it.
I fully expect people to be ignorant of how this stuff works, which is why I provided the breakdown I did. It's one thing not to believe me, but I'm really confused why people are doubting Seth Killian and David Lang?
These are the same people that helped us out with hitboxes at Reverge. They're hand-picked friends of Mike's, and fighting game players themselves. They do it in their free time over the course of a few weeks while Mike implements the characters.
Hitboxes are an important element of the design, and really time-consuming, because you need to precisely tune them on 1500 frames of animation. If Mike had to do this himself it would make it hard to do the stuff only he can do, which is implementing and balancing the character, and probably significantly increase the development time of the character.
What people don't seem to understand is that you use contractors to save money by eliminating bottlenecks. Because Mike is free to focus on the things only he can do, that is time we don't have to worry about paying the rest of the staff.
Yeah, no - these are our actual costs.
There is virtually no overhead in those figures, because we don't have an office, no one is getting health benefits, and everyone is using their own computers. We're all working from home, tracking the project online. And during the development of the game, Mike and the artists frequently worked 80-100 hour weeks.
Some are necessarily estimates, but they're educated ones. For example, it's impossible to know what testing will actually cost, and I budgeted about half of what we spent testing the first patch. And I'm honestly concerned that it's not going to be enough.
In meetings people that actually know what they're talking about say that we are incredibly cheap and efficient. Out of the 100s of animations we made for Skullgirls, only 3-4 went unused. And, as RagingSpaniard can unfortunately attest, we pay our animation contractors very little - about half or less of what some other studios do, and I wish we could afford to pay more.
And, to the people saying "just test it yourselves" - that is not how reality works. We have to pay Konami's QA department test the patch for us so we can submit it and, hopefully, get it through on the first try.
The rewards are budgeted for what we perceive could be the "worst case scenario," like if we funded it entirely through some of the higher tiers with a higher cost of goods for the rewards.
It's clearly stated in the Indiegogo campaign - the budget for the core game was $1.7M, and the cost for individual characters was between $200-250k at more normal (but still below industry average) salaries.
Also, that actually only really covered development of 7 characters, because Filia was already basically completed when we signed the project with Autumn games.
Here is some reference from my own experiences. Typically I dont like to share these kinds of details with people who just DEMAND information they havent earned, but discussion has shifted here a bit and its good to see.
I was one of the contractors, well, still am! I did some of the cleanup animation. By the time I got an assignment, the animation rough had been approved by Kinuko and at this point it could make the final game or it could not (thats all in the testing, balancing and memory management) Smartasses in this thread have questioned the need for engineers in a game thats already "done" and thats a big mistake. The original game had to have animations cut because we had run out of memory, so on a technical standpoint, how the fuck are we gonna add more characters? Well shit, good thing theres engineers on the team to figure that shit out, huh? Thats only one of the challenges too.
But anyways, to the point. You may get a short animation (6 frames aprox), medium (12, 15 ish) or large (20 plus) theres also varying degrees of importance (normal move vs animation that only triggers when two duplicate characters hit each other with the same move) and theres also character design details to add to the difficulty (Valentine is more simple than Painwheel, for example). One extra wrinkle is the level of sketchiness in the animation rough. Some animators will make the drawings so tight that theres no room for improvisation while others will basically blank out the face and all of a sudden you find yourself animating faces from scratch!)
For an outsourcer, since you dont have access to the team at your immediate need, its important to be diligent with the reference materials. Very few artists draw like Alex or Kinuko and its our job to make our art look exactly like theirs. If you look at my art youll find that my style is not really close, so I cant just start on the task right away, I need to study the reference provided carefully and make sure I "get" the character before I start.
So once you start, the first deliverable is to digitally ink all the frames. Im a clasically trained 2D animator and have a fulltime art gig, so eventhough Im fast I can only start working on this when I get home. This is another of the unfortunate realities that come with an ambitious project like this, that a lot of outside help already has other projects going on, so they cant give you 8 hours a day. I came home at 7 after drawing all day and spent another 5 hours doing Skullgirls work. Typically after two days I would send a medium sized animation over for approval from Richard, who is the awesome cleanup genius at Lab Zero. Approval usually takes about a day because Richard is getting deliverables from the outsources, who if you have seen the credits are way more than 20 ... So basically Richard is art directing 20+ people AND doing cleanup work himself, meaning he basically doesnt get to go home (so its great to have to listen to assholes here tell me that he needs to justify his $600 a week) I had the pleasure of meeting him a few months back and hes going gray already, haha.
So yeah, approval. While I wait for that to show up I get started on the next frame. Very rarely does the linework get approved on the first try. Usually something is inconsistent, a weapon looks weird or the shapes are a little flat. Depending on the damage you may have to do 20% percent of work or maybe even up to 50. Its important to get this stuff approved because otherwise you cant move on to shading and coloring, which are the next steps.
Once youre approved and do the shading and color pass (which take about 60% of the time it takes to ink) you send those off for approval as well, make some last minute touch ups due to feedback and THEN the animation is done on your end. Before it ends in the game proper, chances are Richard has fixed some things himself ... So Id say on average I could get about 60 ish frames of animation a week, and seeing how the character with the FEWEST amount of animations has about 1500 then you start to get an idea of how just one step of the process works.
THEN we look at Squigly. What a lot of you arent realizing is that she has MULTIPLE STANCES. What does that mean? TWICE THE ANIMATIONS.
Can you start to see how the hours pile up and have NOTHING to do with proper managing? A fighting game is unlike any other game. A character in a fighting game is the equivalent of a character + level design + the game design of any other game.
But hey yeah, lazy devs, right?