The size of development teams for AAA game titles this day is astounding. On the original Godfather Game we had nearly 300 people working on it and filled an entire auditorium at Redwood Shores for each team meeting. Getting information to the right people became quite a chore and there were many people that I never even met during the development of that game. As the project started to wind down, a buddy of mine made the joke: "With the team size getting smaller...how will we not communicate?"
When I bring up making games with smaller teams, the typical response is that large teams are required to get a multi-platform game done in a reasonable time. But, having large teams also means you need much more management folks to keep things organized. A lot of unnecessary or incorrect work gets done because of how quickly things can change in development. Outsourcing has been the "hotness" for the last few years, but I have seen that fail nearly every time.
I promise you that games CAN be made with small teams! I point to Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath which we completed with 27 total people in development. It achieved a Metacritic score of 88 and a user score of 9.5. Sure the development cycle was relatively long but with a team size of 1/4 of a normal team size these days...we could afford a little extra time.
The tools provided these days for doing things like XBLA games are astounding. Small teams are able to create some stunning games for download (see LIMBO) and a guy that used to work at Volition is single handedly making games as well. Every time I play a great XBLA game, I want to take our destruction engine from Red Faction: Armageddon and make a small game that's just fun to blow stuff up in.
I fully admit that it will take some time for this type of development to get wider spread, but something has to change in our industry. We can't keep putting over 25 Million into each project and expect each one to be profitable. There's just too many games coming out these days to sustain this model.
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