What would the best indie developers do with Star Citizen’s $100 million?


The ever-rising Star Citizen has made 100 million dollars during its crowd-funding/microtransaction campaign of selling starships to the gaming populace. For the mega-rich who happen to be reading, to us meer mortals that’s rather a lot of cash. An exceptional amount of moolah. It’s quite a bit of money, is what we’re saying. So, while the PCGN team would probably all invest the money in further imaginary spaceships (Tim’s would be little models), what would a group of the best and definitely most sensible indie developers in the world do with that kind of funding? We decided to find out.

Or we might pocket the cash to spend on the best upcoming PC games.

“Sim Death Star”

Cliff Harris, Positech Games – Democracy series

Playing Democracy 3 with Donald Trump's manifesto

“100 million dollars? How about making ‘Sim Death Star’, where every single texture of the entire structure has been lovingly textured with 4K textures, and everything all of the stormtroopers on the station say has been voice acted.

“Failing that, I’d buy a huge area of de-forested rainforest and plant new trees in the outline of the Klingon empire logo, so it could only truly be recognised from space.

“Or I’d buy a full copy of Star Citizen.”

We did encourage no small amount of sass for the replies, but there were serious answers too.

“What I hoped Spore would be”

Gary Chambers, Introversion Software – Prison Architect

Prison Architect alpha Introversion

“I have a whole lot of game ideas rattling around in my head and a lot of them tend to be a bit overly ambitious to work on solo. I also don’t have much skill when it comes to art or sound production, so if I had that kind of money I’d probably hire a bunch of incredibly talented people to help me finish all the projects I’ve started over the years.

“The first project would be an idea I’ve had for a game about evolution, which would require you to survive as a species in an ever-changing environment. Something along the lines of what I hoped Spore would be, way back when.”

While others just found the whole idea a bit terrifying.

“Money can’t buy you happiness”

David Goldfarb, The Outsiders

“100 million is a big number with big expectations. Too big for me, in fact. The thing about 100 million is you can’t sit there and go, “Well I’d like to work with 10 people for 20 years.” There is no way to do anything but make a big game with tons of people. You can’t have a small team doing small team work. You have to spend that money on something, and the something is people. Lots of people. The pressure to knock something out of the park with all the pressures and complexities of a giant team would be everpresent from day one, and NO THANK YOU THAT’S ENOUGH ALREADY. This is to say nothing of the expectations of the people who filled your coffers in the first place. What do they expect for their 100m? Bet it’s pretty fucking special!

“So short answer: money can’t buy you (me) happiness. Development isn’t different.”

Meanwhile, others disagreed that one massive game was the only option.

“The highest-budget game jam in the world.”

Tom Jackson, Bossa Studios – Surgeon Simulator 2013

“That size budget? Honestly, it’s terrifying rather than inspiring for me. I’ve spent pretty much my whole career making smaller more focused titles, small budgets, limited timelines and many game jams with numerous layers of restriction. That’s what I’m used to, and so far it’s always inspired rather than left me feeling held back. So in that vein, rather than making a $100 million dollar game with Hollywood voice actors, Hans Zimmer soundtrack and a massive team of dedicated artists…

“What I’d probably do is rent a big space, hire 100 small and dedicated teams of independent talent, and give them a million dollars each, then pretty much just see what happens. I reckon we’d have quite a year for indie developers when the fruits of this experiment started surfacing. At the very least, it would go down in history as the highest-budget and longest-running game jam in the world.”

What about away from the development side?

“A small fortune to spend on marketing and PR”

Andrea Chandler, Total Monkery – MagNets

“First thought on looking out of the window at the rain is that we’d spend it on relocating the studio to the Caribbean. If it’s good enough for bands it’s good enough for us, and the whole team assure me it would make them much more creative and productive. But if you want a sensible answer, it’s all about capacity – a bigger team so that we can take our current project as far as we want to go with it and still have it out in under a year, and from a business perspective, a small fortune to spend on marketing and PR. A bit dull I know…”

For some, it isn’t enough dosh.

“$100m isn’t very much money”

Ben Cousins, The Outsiders

“$100m isn’t very much money if we are talking about triple-A development. If you hope to recoup some money from the product then you’ll need to market it. Generally you’ll spend half your overall budget on marketing. So that leaves me with $50m. Assume a developer is $10,000 a month including all overheads like office space, insurance, internet, pension etc. $50m gives you 5000 man months, or a team averaging 138 people for three years.

“Bear in mind the team size for many types of triple-A games is generally in multiple hundreds of people and often take longer than three years – we are talking about a medium-sized project in the Uncharted range rather than a huge, multi-layered project in the CoD, Halo or Assassins Creed range. It’s certainly impossible to build something like an MMO or a multi-genre project with that budget, assuming triple-A production values. You need more money, less features, worse production values, or more time.

“So if I had this relatively modest budget, I’d make a relatively modest triple-A game. I’m a big fan of System Shock 2 and I feel like that type of game has been lost – nobody is doing it in triple-A and the indie games that try don’t have the production values I’d like. So a nice contained 20-hour story-driven single-player horror/sci-fi first-person RPG in the System Shock vein!”

But nevermind all that, how about some horror?

“Face-to-face with the dreaded TrumpFish”

Shaun Leech, BeefJack- Iron Fish

“$100 million? Yeah, I could have some fun with that. Since Iron Fish is all about psychological horror, I think we’d ramp up the immersion to 11. That is to say, I’d fly out every single one of our players to an enormous, ultra-realistic Iron Fish environment (i.e. the luxury swimming pool we just spent half the budget on), literally immerse them in the water, and frighten them to death by bringing them face-to-face with the dreaded TrumpFish.”

A truly terrifying idea. Many were worried about increasing the scope of their projects too far.

“That’s such a ridiculous amount of money”

Adam Simonar, NVYVE Studio – P.A.M.E.L.A.

“That’s a tough question… to be honest, we would probably hire a few specialist developers to round out the team’s skillset, upgrade a few things here and there, but probably not much else! At our current stage, and given that we’re working on our first game, massively increasing team size and scope would probably just spell disaster and derail the project. That’s such a ridiculous amount of money that I think it skews people’s expectations of how difficult it would be to translate that money into a cohesive final product, especially when doubling or tripling the initial scope.”

“Try to keep focus on a limited number of features”

Ryan Payton, Camouflaj – Republique

“Big budgets usually come to projects with relatively safe business plans, but if I had $100M to make a game, I know we would try our damnedest to create something unique and innovative. I would also try to keep focus on a limited number of features and polish those, instead of getting sidetracked by all those ancillary features that we just assume needs to come along with a $100m+ game…”

“Imagine spending all of that money on just one game”

Matt Gambell, Skatanic Studios – RPG Tycoon

“Considering how close to complete this game is now, I think I’d spend it on making a multitude of more games. It’s kind of difficult to imagine spending all of that money on just one game, when your current game cost less than 1% of that value to make! There’s lots of cool ideas I have for games, so it’d be fun to spread the money between bringing those to life.”

There are also those who have clearly already been thinking about it.

“Create a massive open-world surreal sci-fi fantasy”

Simon Roth, Machine Studios – Maia

“If I had the money I would create a massive open world surreal sci-fi fantasy single player game focused on exploration. With scale and awe akin to that of Morrowind, and the beautiful insanity of Zeno Clash.

“The aesthetic would be that of a 1970’s science fiction book and album covers, with a over saturated airbrushed feel. Think Chris Foss or Jim Burns. I would throw 80 million at designing the world down to the finest details, every character animated down to their smallest mannerisms, every rock and pebble a piece of artistry. I’d then use another few million to get Brian Eno to make an intense ambient soundscape for the project.

“With the remaining funds, I’d buy a lot of puppies, feed all the starving indies and purchase a Challenger 2 battle tank.”

Some can’t even process the idea of making a game with that much money.

“I’d run for the hills. Without the money.”

Martin Jonasson, grapefunkt –rymdkapsel

“If someone offered me that amount of money to do anything, I’d run for the hills. Without the money.

“The amount of expectations weighing down on you when trying to deliver on that would crush almost anyone, me absolutely included. With that kind of budget there’d be no limits on what you could do, which is exactly the worst thing when you’re trying to do good work.

“It’s terrifying!”

We even asked some not-so-indies.

“A mix of Dark Souls and Skyrim”

Adam Turnbull, Guerrilla Games – RIGS

“If I had $100m to spend on my dream game it would definitely be a mix of Dark Souls / Bloodborne combat, bosses and difficulty and Skyrim’s open-world exploration and character customization. Both games had extremely detailed stories without throwing it in your face and so much replayability. I love being able to spend 100 hours on a game then start all over again with a totally different race and set of skills and get a completely new experience.”

“I know the exact VR eco-sim I’d want to make”

Harvey Smith, Arkane Studios – Dishonored

“I wish the Star Citizen team the best of luck as they try to bring their creation to life. If I had $100m to make my dream game, I know the exact VR eco-sim I’d want to make. I can see it in my head, feel the wind on my face, trace the falling stars in the air with one finger.”

“I’d probably blow $100m remaking Tie Fighter”

Shams Jorjani, Paradox – Stellaris

“I’d do ten different CK, EU, HOI, Stellaris, Victoria and Cities Skylines-style games in new weird settings. For the remaining $70m I’d make cool remakes of strategy, action, RPG, management and simulation from the ’90s.

“Who am I kidding – I’d probably blow $100M remaking Tie Fighter with mod support.”

Another Paradox employee had… different priorities.

“Keep the remaining 50 million for a yacht”

Johan Andersson, Paradox – Stellaris

“I would not be able to make a game with a 100 million budget. I am not entirely sure I could make one on 10 million either.

“But if people gave me 100 million for a game, I’d make a damn polished and bug-free 5 million one, and then continue to support and update it for a decade. And keep the remaining 50 million for a yacht and a mansion.”

Lastly, we asked William Pugh. That may have been mistake.

“I believe in the principle of ‘nega-money'”

William Pugh, Crows Crows Crows – A Whirlwind Heist

“I believe in the principle of ‘nega-money’ (that using $1 you are able to forcibly waste $1 of another person’s money). I would convert my 100 million to 100 nega-million (aka 100 nillion) and waste all of the money of my enemies:

  • Dominik Johann
  • Strangethink
  • Christmas
  • Most Americans
  • Mike Bithell (I know you have a Google alert set up for your name – do you want to hang out over christmas? DM me)
  • Androids
  • The concept of love perpetuated in our society
  • The midlands
  • The Dota Dude
  • Fairy lights that flash too fast causing an uncomfortable strobe effect
  • Netrunner??”

William also provided us with this passage from what appears to be some sort of wiki page on the Aladdin Disney moviethe Wikipedia page for Aladdin 2 – Return of Jafar:

“A clan of bandits, led by the incompetent Abis Mal, return to their hideout, only to have the brunt of their loot stolen by Aladdin and Abu. Aladdin distributes the treasure amongst the poor of Agrabah – with the exception of a jewel flower, which Aladdin gives to Jasmine.

“Meanwhile, in the desert, Iago manages to dig himself and Jafar’s genie lamp out of the sand, where they were exiled by the Genie. Jafar orders Iago to release him, but Iago rebels against Jafar and throws the lamp into a nearby well.”

Thanks, William.

And thanks to all these developers for giving their thoughts, serious or otherwise, on the best use of $100 million. What would you do with it, dear reader? Other than buy us all cake?