Lets say we have a situation where u need to choose if u are going to hire 25 or 15 people.
If u hire 25, u think u will get the game done in 1,5 to 2 years.
If u hire 15, u have a dev. time on 3 to 3,5 years.
Which would u choose and would you have a fulltime position for everyone?
For a project of that size you need to organize all resources, maybe using a Gantt(sp?) chart that breaks down the different pipelines for AI, Art, Research, Engine development. Buy some project management software or take a course. It''s more important that you have that organization. Then you''ll have your answer as to how many people you''ll need and the time frame.
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Bear in mind that when you add extra members to a team there is a risk that your output will increase linearly yet your time lost to communication, administration, and co-operation will rise exponentially. (A team of 4 people has 6 developer->developer ''relationships'', whereas a team of 10 has 45 such relationships.) As ZoomBoy said, organization is certainly the key. But even that introduces overhead (you have to start employing people just to manage the extra people you employed!)
Personally, I''d say hire as few people as possible to get your game done. More does not always mean better.
With different sized groups you have different styles of management. With 4 people there''s no such thing as a lead artist or lead programmer, with ten or more people there''s a necessity for such things because they abstract the interaction to a higher level. Yes, it means more bureaucracy but that''s a price you have to pay.
The reason you have to pay this price is because you don''t want to suffer burn out of the core members of you team. This is something that is very likely to happen over a 3 - 4 year project. It happens on 18 month projects, so pushing how far you can push your team is a very bad idea. As long as you can modularize the areas of the game so that there is as little need for interaction as possible larger teams make more sense.
And, besides, any game you spend 4 years making will have sections behind the times before you even release it.
You might want to really consider why you need so many people. Look at some of the successful games out today and try to find out how many people they had in each department. You may be going overboard if you were thinking all those people would be working and not including 2 layers of management.
Also, your time line seems a bunch off for the people to time system. There are a ton of business books on this explaining that people dont just get work done in a linear manner. The more you add, the more communication problems there are, the more beauracracy you HAVE to add to get them all on the same page, the less work you can actually do.
You may run faster lean and mean (to final product). You should also probably evaluate that 3 year term. Very few games take that long to make, and the ones that do are almost always RPG''s and RPGs are very hit and miss. I guess if you have the funding it doesnt matter, but its a risky proposition.
Being a dyed in the wool independent, I tend to prefer small teams. The smaller the better.
My basic approach is:
1. Create the game concept. Usually this comes from myself or a partner. 2. Create the game design. Whoever the "game designer" is for this project gets most of this work. It''s a lot of writing, but worth it. This would include some research into existing technologies so you know what is readily available and what is "product development research". 3. Based on the game design, you now have a good idea of the effort required to complete the game. This is the beginning of project management. You figure out how many programmers, artists, level designers, et al, you need. You estimate how long you need each one for, and identify the "core" team members. The core team are the ones you have to have available for the entire project. Ideally, this would be the game designer, the producer/project manager, lead programmer, and lead artist (Ok, and maybe lead sound guy). These are the people you find as soon as possible, the rest you can locate later.
I''ve never officially gone finance-hunting, but if I were going to do it, I wouldn''t bother until I had my core team at least mostly assembled. All the other team members can wait until the funding arrives.
This isn''t meant to be a dissertation of the Right Way , just a quick look at how I would handle it. Hope it''s helpful.