Thanks for the reply Nut, I appreciate the advice and comments. At the moment I have been pondering over which new company name to use and register, which had been delaying the creation of my NDA's. I knew I'd need to get on the ball and register my LLC in time for those forms, so it looks like I might as well do it sooner than later. At least then I'll have the legal stuff ready for when I start picking up new team members.
As for the web site, I guess for now I'll wait on that until I'm further along in the project. I'm guessing that at first I should post up just the general information on the project, such as an overview/summary of the game concept. I can then use those forums to seek out new help or content volunteers (contributors) as needed. I know that if I do eventually opt for the "Kickstarter" route, I'll need an active site/forums to broadcast the project's progress and everything, but I don't see too much use of the site before that point.
I've put some lengthy thought into the pros/cons of hiring out work via contract compared to hiring someone as a dedicated content contributor. I spent hours browsing over content sites of available products for licensed use in games, and at first it looks like a great idea. I can buy up tons of pre-made models and stuff for just a few dollars each, and have it ready almost immediately. I know that would save a lot of development time, meaning reduced costs, but are there many downsides to such a tactic? I know it will sometimes be challenging to ensure all of your assets fit into the final product smoothly, you don't want your audience to be fully aware that every little item or character was made by a different artist. But with careful asset selection and the proper team, I think we can make the best of it.
I know that outsourcing or buying ready-made assets does mean you have far less control over the final product's appearance, and that in most cases you'll never get exactly what you had in mind. But when you're running on a limited budget and/or time/manpower, it just seems like the pros outweight the cons so much that you can't ignore the overall benefits of doing so.
You know I've been getting a lot of odd looks and sneers from my peers when they hear that I'm leading such a project, or taking on such a task. Most of them are aware of my past experience, but I think they assume I am aiming for a much larger target than I am actually going for. I'm not expecting to produce something that is meant to compete with the other AAA titles, nor am I looking to get rich. In fact, I don't expect to make any profits from this, I am just hoping that I can wrangle up enough investors when the time comes to make the project happen. As long as the gaming public can get their hands on our game and enjoy it, then I'll be happy.
And even if the final product doesn't meet our expectations, if it doesn't do well in retail, then I still know it wasn't all a failure. The members of the team should be able to walk away with new experiences under their belts, and have plenty of new material to bolster their resumes and portfolios with. As long as something good comes out of this experience, then I'll be happy. Of course, I'd be much happier if the game is a hit and I do end up fattening my wallet a little. But that is pretty much at the bottom of my wish-list.
One benefit that I do see with having this project start out as a "hobby game" is that I really don't have many set deadlines or outside expectations and demands. I can take my time to ensure the game is done properly, and that the primary focus of the game is left to gameplay and enjoyment, not so much on profits or buying a new BMW. I can hire staff that are honestly devoted to the project and dedicated to making the vision of the game happen, instead of working with other people whose only main interests are making another paycheck with minimal effort or care.
Most of the projects I've worked on before were very major products, used by millions of people around the globe and for very important purposes. The quality of our work was important, but the teams always had the interests of the end users in mind at all times and our primary focus was always to see that the final outcome served its purpose. Sometimes we worked for free, because the project or users were close to our hearts and minds. Of course getting paid was good, it meant we didn't have to survive off of Ramen noodles all the time. But we put much more blood, sweat, tears, and lack of sleep into that work than was ever expected or required. I'm just hoping that in the end, I can build a team and produce a game that has a similar feel to it. Something that is just as enjoyable to build as it is to play.
Stainless posted while I was still typing my last reply, so I'm editing this post with a reply to his comments:
From my experiences in the past, the only real concerns with running the business is that you need to keep track of every cent you bring in. And if you intend to use any costs as tax credits, you need accurate/detailed receipts of all expenses. I have a few professional bookkeepers/accountants in the family, so I'm all good on keeping those aspects in line. Things won't get complex until I start finding investors though, or fire up a Kickstarter (or similar) fund. Expenses with my last company were minimal, mostly just the up-front licensing fees, deposits for opening a business banking account, etc. As long as I keep the books accurate and pay attention to details, I think we'll be okay.
Your comments on advertising are exactly what I had in mind, and I have seen exactly what you described myself on past/current projects that I've worked on. It's something that I am hoping to avoid as much as possible, so I'll have to agree and hold off on the public web site/forums creation until we're much further into the game's progress. And even then, I'll want to make sure we have enough stockpiled "goodies" that we can gradually release as development progresses, and hope we don't have many of those issues.
As for the outsourcing, and use of "competitions", I've never been a fan of those either. I don't mind offering up simple tasks to volunteers, in trade for listing in the game credits or something, but I'm talking about simple content such as a 55-gallon drum model or a graffiti logo image. When it comes to the more important assets such as character models, world levels/maps, UI graphics, etc I would prefer those be done by a dedicated team member that I can be assured will do the work as required. If they don't get it right, then I ask them to keep going back and redoing it until it is right, or find someone else who can. If someone is offering up their time as a volunteer contributor, you basically get what they offer or nothing at all. I much prefer having some sort of limited "leash" on the assets team so I can make sure we get what we really need, and not trying to rely on what we can scrap together.
On the other hand, I did spend several hours browsing through the store on DAZ 3D's site of products. They have all kinds of stuff that at first glance seems perfect (or quite close) to what I want. I'm not sure how much leverage I have in making modifications to those assets before I place them in my game, but when I see something that is 90-95% of what I'm already looking for, it's readily available, and only costs a few bucks for a licensed copy, it just sounds like a great deal. But then again, maybe I'm lacking enough knowledge into the subject.