Is this too ambitious?


A group of friends and I have been brainstorming a potential game development idea for a long time now. However, I fear that it is far too ambitious for us to ever complete. I’m hoping that the experienced minds here can help me determine if it’s impossible for us to complete the project, given the resources we have. Here’s the scoop:

The idea is a single-player RPG. The format: top-down. We would be using Unreal Engine 4. We have a team of at least 2 very talented modelers / animators (3+ years of experience), and then a number of not so talented modelers / animators that can do more simple objects and animations. For programming, 2-5 people, all with 2+ years of programming experience. Then we have others that are skilled in the way of concept art, soundtrack creation, things like that - but I don’t think that’s what would be the limiting factor. Our time frame is two years - one of working mostly part-time, another of working full-time.

This top down RPG is planned to occur over 5 acts (I feel that we have a strong story). However, I am aware that 5 acts would be very difficult to complete by people who have not actually released any fully-featured games (though we have individually made a handful of little, personal projects). So the plan would be to complete 1 act of the game, which would take place in a semi-open world environment -think Knights of the Old Republic. The act would take place in a single, large area, broken up into parts (chapters) depending on story stages. There would be the expected features of an RPG - side quests (for instance, help a village by killing a nasty beastie nearby), a main story thread guiding you along, a stat and inventory system, etc. The combat system would be sort of reflex-based - think top-down Dark Souls, relying on strategic blocking and evading and carefully timed attacks. Obviously, there’s no way our combat would be as finely tuned and masterfully done as Dark Souls, but that’s the principle.

The way we hope to stand out with our game is with an intriguing story & world, and some “true RPG” mechanics that we feel have been lacking in recent years (such as meaningful / impactful choices in the story, survival mechanics that make it so that each trip to the wilderness or in a dungeon is actually dangerous and challenging).

But however wonderful (or not wonderful?) our ideas are, I am aware that nothing is as easy as it seems (Hofstadter’s Law and such) to create such a thing. And when I look at who is creating these big RPGs, I see big studios like CD Projekt Red and Bethesda (if you want to call those things RPGs). Hell, when I see that Obsidian leveraged a few million dollars to do their Project Eternity, another top-down RPG, I can’t help but feel that I’m missing something as to the real challenge of creating an RPG. Granted, our scope is perhaps more limited than many of these games (completing only one act), but I still feel doubtful of the possibility of this enterprise. What can you all tell me about the difficulties of developing a game like this? What kind of obstacles would we run across? What would the limiting factors? What do we need to do this?

I realize I have not given that much information about our ideas / resources, and I’m willing to expand on anything you want. But I’m hoping for some general information on what makes a project of this magnitude difficult and perhaps impossible for us.


The biggest challenge that comes with developing an rpg seems to be budget. If your team has the tools necessary to create the game, and aren’t turned away by the fact that they might not get much payment until the game is finished, then the only challenge is your commitment to making the game and seeing it through. I’m assuming you all have jobs given that you will be working on the game part time? With regards to your 5 acts, how long are they? Typically story RPGs have 3 acts, you may not want to stretch it out to 5, especially on your first run. What you have to remember though, is with these studios such as CD Projekt Red, Obsidian, Bethesda, Bioware, etc. They have to pay quite a handful of employees, and sometimes they have to outsource work to 1-2 extra studios in order to gain additional manpower. Then there’s the cost of the composer, voice actors, marketing, etc. You seem to have a pretty solid team already. What most indies have to realize is that they’re not going to be able to front the amount of money like developers who already have publishers. Now you can attempt to pitch your idea to one, but you should know that you may lose a bit of creative control over your IP. It’s a tradeoff. If your team is working in their free time on this project though, whatever money you can spare should be going to furthering the game. Things like website fees, copyright/trademark fees, software you may need to license, and such. If you manage to crowdfund your game, then you can start paying your actual employees, because you’d have money to give to them while still maintaining the upkeep fees for the game/company. Generally it can be difficult to get people to work for you for free until then, but if you’re able to show them that you have the skills and determination to see the project through, it will give them confidence that the project will be a success and they will want to be a part of it.

One thing I will say is that you should do plenty of research into the process of game development before you start this. You’ll need to know how to manage your team, a fully thought out game design doc, knowledge of legalities regarding your company, IP, employment, how you will market your product, and much much more. There are plenty of sites that can give you a head start throughout the web. Good luck.

Thank you SE_JonF for the response.

Could you point me to some good resources for finding out about these topics? I’ll learn all I can, but being shown the initial direction would simplify things.

I actually had some good links that I was trying to dig up when I responded, but I can’t seem to be able to find them. You should be able to google for some information no doubt though. Good luck.

If you have any doubts about your teams ability to create the game why not start by making something on a smaller scale to gain experience and funding towards your big dream project?

I’m not as hugely experienced as most in these forums but I have a good idea of the scope of a project like this and its a massive commitment for each discipline in its creation. It’s unlikely you’ll have the same team working on this project 2 years from now, people will leave due to new commitments such as family, work, travelling, etc. and keeping interest in the game may be difficult when/if key members drop out. This is more a fact of life than anything else.

If you start a smaller project there’s a better chance you’ll finish it and you can focus on creating a complete and well realized product that will be a much better credit to everyone involved. Doing this will give you time to decide if you can work well together as a team and begin a new project with much more experience and funding or maybe you’ll want to go your separate ways with a fully complete and released game under your belt.
Good luck whichever way you go with this.

Your team can probably build something like that, somewhat depending on what an “act” is, and if you’re not aiming for Bioware-level visuals and interaction. This assumes the team can work well together and sticks together.
To figure out whether you can get there, how about developing Act 1 as an indie game of some sort, perhaps selling it for $5? Then you can develop each act after that as a separate release with a separate price (say, $10.)

How many games has your team released?

Start off with a simple Pong clone and then a Pacman with AI and multiplayer. Get those completed and see how long it took to get done.
Once you’ve done those two projects as a team you’ll have a much better idea of the time and effort involved in creating the RPG.

You can make anything in UE 4, the problem is this:

Are you asking about making some sort of campaign for this game using UE4? (sucking instant success through their release) or just using UE4 for it? if you want UE4 alone you have plans to cut out Epic in your sales, now… if you are looking into modding a sort of campaign for this even in third person (thought I would suggest first person mass effect game)? I would say go for it, it has never been done ( to a famous point at least ), this is quite intriguing, it would indeed add a lot to the possibilities of the engine’s flexibility while being limited by the title.

I have seen a lot of stuff on mods but never a well made RPG.

If you could make an RPG on this game and it were to turn out successful, you could sell your meshes and stuff on Epics market which could end up in a win-win for everyone (since they get their cut), our winning part would be witnessing something new produced by the modding/UE engine in this game, you could literally spawn a genre through mod as has resulted in title like DOTA through Blizzards engine.

Try it and see what happens.

I was in a similar position a few years ago working on a Torque 2D game.

The single biggest obstacle a group of friends is going to face is commitment. Do you have a strong team lead that can herd the cats and complete the project? How are you going to feel if people aren’t pulling their weight? Do you have plans to pull in as much help as you can get? Will your project survive if the next great game comes out and 50-90% of your team stops working on the project? The backbone of your team will be your programmers and scripters. If they lose interest you may be screwed.

Leadership and vision is going to be key.

The second biggest obstacle is workflow bottlenecks. Will your programmers and scripters be able to prototype systems quickly enough to keep your artists employed and vice versa? What will people do if you are waiting on some key system to be completed? Hitting a bottleneck could cause people to lose interest and thereafter commitment.

I agree with Hum…You need to start smaller and get a couple of projects made, no matter how simple…Then work up the ladder…It is great that you have ambition to undertake a project of that magnitude, but you have to gain experience…by finishing a couple of smaller projects, you and your team will have a good feeling of success and gain confidence and experience working together…hope this helps…CO

Seeing as I’m trying to be a generally positive person and all round nice guy I really want to say ‘Hey, nothing’s impossible dude, shoot for the moon’ but the realist in me wants to add ‘then flail your arms uselessly as you end up adrift in the endless black void between the stars’…

Firstly, as others have mentioned, it’s well worth sorting out the legal side of the project in advance. It can seem a small thing to worry about now when everyone is champing at the bit to get down and dirty with the world building and project goodness, but better now than a year-18 months down the road when someone pulls out and tries to take half the project with them or stalls the development forever with a legal fight over who owns exactly what IP/code/whatever. Sadly it’s almost inevitable that at some point bad blood will happen among a team. People will come, people will go; make sure your project is safe from the petty vagaries of egos.

Once legals are done it’s project time, for now forget about world building or the whole 5 acts of glorious semi open wonder, that stuff’s largely suit. What you need first is the body to put it on! Concentrate on the various mechanics and systems you’ll definitely need. Wherever possible brainstorm with your group to work out small games that can be developed to flesh out these sub systems - These’ll serve a few purposes; they’ll give you the elation of getting small projects done and complete, they’ll raise your teams profile, help people flex and expand their skillsets and they could give a small revenue stream that’ll help pay for your ongoing costs such as software etc.

Stealth system? Make a top-down stealth-em-up. Fast twitch combat? Try a beat-em-up / street fighter clone. Branching conversation system? Pub quiz machine… and so on.

Of course you can’t forget entirely about the larger goal, you can develop the visual style and assets while you work on the smaller aspects and hit those short term achievable targets.

I must say I somewhat disagree on your point regarding conflicts within the team. Generally I’ve seen that happens when the director doesn’t have a clear idea of what he or she is doing, or when everyone on the team feels they should have input on the direction of the game. Those are usually the common factors to team breakups, at least from what I’ve witnessed on the indie front. While yes we are indie developers, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t approach our work as your typical professional developer. Screening your potential employees and making sure they aren’t only talented, but demonstrate positive behavior is a must when putting together a team you want to last. It is also good to establish what their roles are for the project. Many approach indies as a mod team, with people doing random things or whatever they feel like, or as mentioned above thinking they should have equal input as the people on the top, and subsequently take offense when an idea they wanted to implement isn’t making the cut. When there is no order or structure, conflict is inevitable. I realize you said almost, and weren’t speaking in absolutes when referring to this, but I just wanted to let the OP know there are many steps you can take to ensure the team you build lasts.

Zeustiak hit the nail on the head. People are going to be looking to you for leadership and direction as the project director, which is why you need to know as much as you can about what roles you’ll be needing and how they will all mesh together. Vision is an absolute must. When you have a plan and a direction clearly panned out, it’s just a matter of careful execution.

@Ramesside, Yes, your project “Is too ambitious

Is this your first game? If so, try to make 2-5 small/medium games first and then when you consider you got the experience and you can attack such project (if you have enough money to support it), do it. When that moment will come, you will not ask anyone about their opinions on what you need to do. Apparently you are not there yet.

Realistically, you can do it, but considering what you said will:

  1. never be released
  2. be released and mediocre in some parts

You said “you and a group of friends”… what’s exactly is the relationship? Do you have your own company and they will work for you? You pay them? If not, what will happen when one of them will not deliver what you expect or rest of group?

RPG? Single player? Online also? Do you have experience with online servers? I mean… not talking about 2-10 players what you can host at home, I am talking about dedicated servers.

You said “programmers with 2 years of experience”… what language? what part of game development? Game development is huge, lets be realist here, math? physics? audio? file formats? spatial partition? animations? net code? UI? shaders? API’s? etc. just an example to understand a bit the big picture.

“This top down RPG is planned to occur over 5 acts (I feel that we have a strong story)” … NO, you don’t have a strong design from start, you may have a nice story, but from start DO NOT try to copy Diablo series, please. Why are you using “ACTS”??? Be original!

And in the end, let’s talk about money. You can have a super nice idea, if you can’t finance it, does not matter. Before starting, try to put on paper the costs of what you need, and try to figure out the unexpected spending’s also, as much as you can. If you can support the project with money, then you can risk. In most cases, the money invested into a game are direct proportionally with the final quality of the game.

Also, consider another thing, you will invest 2 years and money in the project, why do you think your game will be better that other RPG’s on the market? You think you will cover the costs when you release it or you do it just for ego? You realize in your 2 years time frame, will be released another 100 RPG’s also? (just a speculative number) Will your RPG compare with them at release date with everything?

Now now, let’s not overthink things. You have a group of people and you want to make a game. There’s certainly good advice here, but don’t forget to just go and do it. If you fail, so be it. You’ll learn from it. Life is full of failure, and their can be no success without trying.

@Gigantoad I totally agree with you on that part! :slight_smile:

Honestly if you have to make a thread asking if it’s too ambitious, it probably is.

Eh, nothing is too ambitious if you start block by tiny block and you never quit.

The OP’s biggest challenge will be managing the team(or whoever’s job that is).

There are lots of tutorials out there on what people want to do. Even if a project is too big, don’t let that stop you from trying. If i didn’t have that “I want to make this game so much better” even if it was from modding something, i wouldn’t be here now.

I enjoy editing and making things and if you are of similar mind, you will jump in the deep end regardless. It’s great you have a group of friends to do stuff with you. But tbh, I wouldn’t rely on them. Learn to be self dependent and the things your friends do will add so much more to the experience. you will learn so much more and can do the things you want as you may get in that position of “I want to do thi but my friend is away, and he/she is the only one that can do this”. Being a jack of all trades is far better, as you will find something you enjoy and you will master it naturally.