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A Dream at Work! Starting up a Studio.


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#1 sahsoon   Members   -  Reputation: 102

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 04:29 AM

Hi Guys. … I’m a writer/producer/artist that has a game in mind to develop.  The subject matter is in place and I’ve narrowed down an interested party that would back me up with the investment needed.  I’ve been passionate about gaming for most of my life [since the release of the commodore 64 and then on], but due to my lack of technical knowledge in the field, I find myself in here humbly asking for help from you gentlemen.
 
The game script is being written as we speak, but what I lack is the technical and physical requirements needed to finish my proposed business plan.  I’ve researched thoroughly the web and I’ve somewhat came out more confused than anything, as there are too many variables concerned. 
 
The proposal made is for an AAA Open World game for console platforms: PS4 and Xbox One to be specific. 
 
Through my scavenging the web I’ve found the contradictions baffling. Especially concerning the required number of a team to create an AAA game.  There is no question you need a team of people with a variety of artistic, technical, and design to create a modern videogame. 
 
I pray you excuse my lack of knowledge and silly questions; if some of you are inclined to think of them as so. 
 
- What is the average number of personnel a small Development Studio [From software engineers, to programmers, animators, testers and so forth] needs to develop an AAA cross platform game in a time span of Two years?  What are the least number of people and their specialties needed?
 
-Would the option of building your own game engine [weighing in the time factor in doing so] be better than using existing game engines out there?
 
-Are there top notch Game Engines out there that can create an Open World, sophisticated, modern videogame for PS4 and Xbox One?
 
-I am aware that the cost can go up to 10’s of millions, so I risk in being candid that my projected proposal is between 3 to 5 million US dollars.  Have you heard of Studios that have done so with such a limited budget?
 
-Is there an existing business plan out there I could use as an outline?
 
All thoughts would be highly appreciated.  Thanks a mill. …H



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#2 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 29885

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 05:28 AM

First, I edited your post so I could actually read it.

 

Even though the fancy editor offers font and text size selections, please don't use them for making weird and tiny fonts. If you are pasting something from somewhere else, use the little eraser button on the editor to remove any existing markup.

 

 

Now, on to the questions.

 

 

PS4 and Xbox One to be specific. 

 

Are you licensed developers for the platforms?  If not, you won't be able to develop a game for them. 

 

 

- What is the average number of personnel a small Development Studio [From software engineers, to programmers, animators, testers and so forth] needs to develop an AAA cross platform game in a time span of Two years?  What are the least number of people and their specialties needed?

 

Depends on the game, the experience of the people, the budgets, and much more.

 

AAA does not have a formal definition. It means whatever people want it to mean.

 

Go look at the game credits of some games. You'll see bunches of names. Some people are on the project for all of development, some only come in for a short time. Some do tasks that have nothing to do with development, such as studio management, marketing, and more.

 

The main development group might be 30 or 40 people, or it might be 60 or 100 or more people. It depends a great deal on the game and the technology they use.

 

 

-Would the option of building your own game engine [weighing in the time factor in doing so] be better than using existing game engines out there?

 

 

Google: "Not Invented Here Syndrome"

 

They've build it, fixed bugs, and shipped lots of games with it. Existing engines might have several million work-hours invested in them. 

 

If you have a business case to develop your own engine then it is your choice in how to spend the money.

 

 

Are there top notch Game Engines out there that can create an Open World, sophisticated, modern videogame for PS4 and Xbox One?

 

Yes. 

 

After you become a licensed developer for the platforms you can use their respective support systems to get lists of approved engines. Or just use Google.

 

 

-I am aware that the cost can go up to 10’s of millions, so I risk in being candid that my projected proposal is between 3 to 5 million US dollars.  Have you heard of Studios that have done so with such a limited budget?

 

Fifteen years ago you could make a mainstream PS2-era game or Nintendo DS title with that budget. You would have about 8-10 months worth of money, not two years. 

 

Today, not so much. You might be able to make a relatively small downloadable title on the modern consoles for that budget, at least, in the US. Since the market is not yet saturated on the platforms the game might even be commercially viable since you can spend less money on non-development costs.

 

Development and production of the game accounts for only about 1/3 of the money. So your 3 to 5 million proposal gets about 1/3 spent on marketing, about 1/3 spent on certification and manufacturing and other post-development and pre-development costs, and 1/3 spent on actual development. For an online-only game you might spend about 1/2 on development, 1/3 on marketing and release-related costs, and 1/6 on the remaining.

 

You never specify your country, but in the US it costs roughly $10K per month to keep game developers employed, on average.  (That is not salary, that is the cost of salary and benefits and equipment and facilities and insurance and HR and legal and other costs.) So doing the math:  $1M - $2M on development means a budget of 100 to 200 work months total. You'll have producers, designers, concept artists, modelers, animators, programmers, audio, and testing. That means a small team and a short development cycle.

 

You could balance that to be roughly 20 people for 8 months.

 

 

-Is there an existing business plan out there I could use as an outline?

 

Not really.

 

Every game is unique. There are many commonalities between projects, but each one will be a different experience with potentially wildly different schedules and costs.

 

 

All thoughts would be highly appreciated.

 

Since you don't have industry experience, if you happen to have your $3M on hand, your first hire should be a project manager with years of experience. Let them help you generate realistic numbers.

 

 


Check out my book, Game Development with Unity, aimed at beginners who want to build fun games fast.

Also check out my personal website at bryanwagstaff.com, where I write about assorted stuff.


#3 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 40074

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 05:36 AM

The proposal made is for an AAA Open World game for console platforms: PS4 and Xbox One to be specific. 

'AAA' isn't a very well defined term, usually meaning "over $10M budget" in my experience, or just the comparable quality to the other big-budget games ;-)

Having a brand new studio that's never worked together before, trying to produce a project like that, is a pretty big risk.

- What is the average number of personnel a small Development Studio [From software engineers, to programmers, animators, testers and so forth] needs to develop an AAA cross platform game in a time span of Two years?  What are the least number of people and their specialties needed?

A small console game team would be about a dozen programmers and a dozen artists -- though this isn't quite up to the "AAA" standard... More the budget developer who might produce a rough game that still might rate well or become a cult hit...
 
For bigger games, just check out the credits sections on games that you're comparing your own project to.

-Would the option of building your own game engine [weighing in the time factor in doing so] be better than using existing game engines out there?

If you have some senior/experienced console engine programmers on the team, and you're prepared to stay in pre-production for a year before ramping up into full production mode, then maybe ;-)

Otherwise, CryEngine/Unreal are very affordable these days, plus many workers already have experience with them...

-Are there top notch Game Engines out there that can create an Open World, sophisticated, modern videogame for PS4 and Xbox One?

Yes, assuming you've also got a highly experienced team of console game programmers to make proper use of it!

-I am aware that the cost can go up to 10’s of millions, so I risk in being candid that my projected proposal is between 3 to 5 million US dollars.  Have you heard of Studios that have done so with such a limited budget?

I've worked on a bunch of $3-5M console games, some involving big IPs but I wouldn't call them 'AAA'...

If you've got the budget up front, that's obviously a constraint on the planning. You may have to compromise a lot on the game/world in order to stay in budget.
Also, developing the game is only half the cost -- marketing/selling it can cost just as much as making it! Does your budget cover publishing costs, or do you plan on partnering with a publisher? 

-Is there an existing business plan out there I could use as an outline?

Its going to be extremely game-specific... You'll optimistically want a fairly complete design, and then a collaboration between the designer, a lead programmer/technical director, a lead artist and a decent producer / project manager.

#4 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 11677

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 06:29 AM

Moving this to the Business forum.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#5 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 11677

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 06:35 AM

Starting up a Studio.
I’m a writer/producer/artist that has a game in mind to develop.


A game idea is not a business idea. One game does not make a business. What's your plan for what to do with the studio after your one game has been made? What's your plan for how to keep a sustainable business going after your one game has been made?
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#6 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 15238

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 08:01 AM


- What is the average number of personnel a small Development Studio [From software engineers, to programmers, animators, testers and so forth] needs to develop an AAA cross platform game in a time span of Two years?  What are the least number of people and their specialties needed?

 

You'll need at least one programmer (software engineer) at the bare minimum. Depending on the scale/scope of your project, more likely many more. Be aware however that, much like other resources, programmer's efficiency will diminish the more you have (because communication will become challenging, and some of them will need to operate a more "macro" level).

 

I'm going to assume your game is 3D, so you'll need a minimum of:

1 X 3D modeler (for characters, props, etc.)

1 X Texturer (2d Artist)

1 X 3D animator (for characters)

1 X Rigger (though that person may also do something else such as animation, but you'll still need someone who's very good at rigging)

1 X FX artist (possibly 2D animations, or particle effects)

1 X UI Artist/Designer

 

I'm going to assume you are able to handle everything design (but you may need somebody else to handle this aspect of production)

 

1 X QA (or more)

 

Later in production:

1 X Community Manager / Publisher / Marketing Agent (anybody that can help you go from a working state to a shipped title)

 

Assuming everyone on the team does doubly duty and is extraordinarily skilled, I think a team of 10 people could pull this off, but that's more than likely not the case. Most AAA projects will go for 60-200 staff.

 

 


The proposal made is for an AAA Open World game for console platforms: PS4 and Xbox One to be specific. 

Is it really AAA? It is possible to make a good open world game for console without it being AAA. How did you come to the conclusion that it is a AAA?

 

PS4 and XBOX ONE can be challenging. You need to be a certified developer. What you could do (if you are not certified) is develop in-house and deal with an external 3rd party to handle submission. There are a lot of them eager to help with that (many of which are not publishers specifically). 

 


-Would the option of building your own game engine [weighing in the time factor in doing so] be better than using existing game engines out there?

 

Depends on what the game features are, but a generic open world game sounds like something that could fit well within a number of pre-existing engines. Would probably be cheaper to use a tech that's already there (plus finding the right crew will be easier if we're talking about an established tech). The big plus of mainstream engines is that they've been used by other teams and are less likely fail on you. building your own thing will create contingencies where you might end up delaying everyone for a month because a feature isn't working as intended. This takes a serious toll on your budget.

 


-Are there top notch Game Engines out there that can create an Open World, sophisticated, modern videogame for PS4 and Xbox One?

Yes Many. Having more details on your game concept would help better refine what tech to use.

 


-I am aware that the cost can go up to 10’s of millions, so I risk in being candid that my projected proposal is between 3 to 5 million US dollars.  Have you heard of Studios that have done so with such a limited budget?

There are a few of AAA-quality level indie games out there that have managed to "almost" out-sell AAAs. These are generally made by industry veterans with a wealth of experience however. Your objective is not entirely impossible, but I'd advise being a bit more humble on your expectations. You could make a great Open World game for 3-6 M$ without necessarily out-selling assassin's creed 99.

 


-Is there an existing business plan out there I could use as an outline?

No. The reason is that you don't need a business plan just because. You need a real plan for your specific needs. What you'll do in the coming months/years matters, and investors will need to have a feel of that. If you don't feel sufficiently qualified to undertake this on your own, I would recommend discussing more in-depth with professionals. You don't want to "mess up" the business plan because you were in a rush to make the game: it could kill it.

 

Best of luck!


-=- My Articles -=-
Getting Games Done - Method and tools on how to start a hobby project and get it Done!

Retro Mortis - "RTS" - Article Series (3 Parts) on the history of RTS development


#7 Pink Horror   Members   -  Reputation: 1785

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 07:03 PM

-I am aware that the cost can go up to 10’s of millions, so I risk in being candid that my projected proposal is between 3 to 5 million US dollars.  Have you heard of Studios that have done so with such a limited budget?


Wow. I wish I knew someone who was willing to hand three to five million dollars to somebody who needs to go online to forums to ask what the budget should be for a "AAA Open World" game.

I'm sure this is one of those things where if you gave us the information we really need to find a comparable game to determine the budget, you'd be giving away your big idea, but your big idea is probably all you have. It's probably something like, GTA, but with X!, or in Y! Of course the latest sequels to GTA, Assassin's Creed, The Elder Scrolls, Infamous - those are all games that have all the tools and engines and assets from the previous iterations, but I doubt they could pull off what you're asking to do with the budget you have.

Maybe my definition is not the consensus, but to me "AAA" is not a quality measure. It means, to me, a game that actually has a huge budget, so in a way I'd consider your proposal impossible on a technicality. Also, IMO, a "AAA Open World" game is the sort of game that has tons of little side quests and mini-games to round out the experience, the kinds of things that can be easily farmed out to many separate teams and studios, but with only one small studio, and considering the hit-and-miss quality of that sort of thing, it doesn't make much sense to me to even try to make a game like that on a smaller budget.

Of course, I'm not going to deny that it's possible to do what you want. However, for some new studio to come out and do what Ubisoft or Rockstar does, only much more efficiently, I cannot imagine how that would happen unless the company was founded not by someone with an idea for a game, but someone with an actual conceptual process for how to make that type of game faster and cheaper than the competition. If your only idea for how to do that is to license an existing game engine, the best you can expect to do is what other game studios have managed to do, on average, with the same budget and engine. If you have a better idea than that, well... I really, really doubt you'd have to ask any questions.

Edited by Pink Horror, 17 June 2014 - 07:09 PM.


#8 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 11677

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Posted 17 June 2014 - 07:58 PM

Maybe my definition is not the consensus, but to me "AAA" is not a quality measure. It means, to me, a game that actually has a huge budget,


I think that's a reasonable definition.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#9 sahsoon   Members   -  Reputation: 102

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 06:00 AM

Thank you all your thoughts.

I evidently had the wrong impression on what a AAA game is. I have no false illusions as to what a venture of this sort consitutes.

I failed to mention that the Studio will not be located in the US, but in the ME [Costs are much less in certain areas].

The big idea is not a one off, but a series of ideas that captured interest with the potential investor.

Thanks again for all the comments.  Will keep you posted. ....

 

Heads up to gamedev, love the website.    



#10 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 15238

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Posted 20 June 2014 - 06:17 AM

Where in the Middle-East specifically?


-=- My Articles -=-
Getting Games Done - Method and tools on how to start a hobby project and get it Done!

Retro Mortis - "RTS" - Article Series (3 Parts) on the history of RTS development





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