@Orymus3: I am being a bit optimistic, yeah.
It really all depends on the nature of the game. I was part of a small orpg hobbyist project, programmed by a single programmer (the program lead), and though we never finished the project, it was fully playable and almost feature-complete. We worked on it, as hobbyists, in our free time. We worked on and off over several years - from 2006 to 2010, with large gaps of inactivity sprinkled throughout.
The lead developer did 100% of the programming, but often didn't have time to work on the project because of real-life.
I was the lead artist (and a mighty poor one, back at that point in time), lead map-maker and world designer, and one of the two scripters.
We had a third developer who also helped with scripting and map making inbetween his college classes.
This was our team of three.
From time to time we had others do a spot of art here or there, and someone made the GUI artwork, but it was mostly us three.
Mostly, we all just messed around, but we had a decent-sized game world, functional combat, guilds, guild halls, PvP areas, non-PvP areas, hundreds of items, fully-scripted mini-event-games inside the game (player races, treasure hunts, and others), quests, skills (ranged, DoTs, AoEs, buffs, de-buffs), equipment with special effects, an auction hall, and a few other things as well.
We never promoted the game (since it wasn't finished), but we had a tiny active community of a dozen players, sometimes reaching as high as twenty. Without even announcing the game anywhere.
With a focused team of four (two programmers - who both also script, two artists - at least one of who can make music), working full-time, and getting paid to do so, I think it's within the realm of possibility.
The challenges are:
Reasonable featureset - not too extravagant in scope.
Having the game design mostly locked in place - so things aren't changed halfway through development.
Finding people who have skill and are willing to do the work full-time at around that price.
Managing the team, leading them, coordinating them, coordinating and organizing what still needs to be done, keeping the team focused and motivated. (This is much harder than it sounds if you don't know what you're doing - 'managing'/'leading' is not the same thing as "telling people what to do". It's not the "idea guy" position, it's an entirely different skillset)
None of those are insurmountable. For half a million ($250k as your employee wages and additional contracting work as needed, plus another $250k for when the project goes longer than expected), I think it's possible. You just have to know what you are doing, which the OP already said he does not.
Optimistic? Yes, definitely. But still possible. I just wouldn't risk my imaginary $500k on it.
The key element of note here is lack of experience. a Project relying upon a man with no experience in management (or making games at all), lack of understanding of what everyone on the team really needs to be doing, and more importantly, lack of experience designing games (resulting in poor quality documentation and lack of foresight) could be catastrophic.
Agreed - that pretty much sums the entire situation.