One of the biggest areas of feedback we found in the AnimState of the Industry Survey was around people having concerns about time size, scope and proper support. In a first step towards helping teams better understand and quantify that, I wanted to release editable industry wide Game Animation Team Size Calculator. This is based on a sheet I have been using the last few years, to better understand and quantify the different team sizes across the industry, and how the team size I am leading relates. I have gathered these numbers from either talking with people on the team, reviewing credit lists, or both. And I am excited to now create a living document of this that people can add their projects to.
There are a number of caveats to this list, so it is in no way a silver bullet when working with production or studio leadership in trying to validate solid team requests. More, this is meant to get you in the ballpark by looking at industry trends and getting an idea of generally how many animators you should expect to need, per feature, to reach the competitive quality bar your game is aiming for. But let’s break down how the sheet works.
First is if you want to use the sheet to calculate the team size you should be aiming for. In this case, you will want to create a copy of this, so that you aren’t entering proprietary information onto a public sheet.
There are two tabs available. The Verified Sheet tab is is locked, because I have verified it to be accurate. The Public Updates tab is able to be freely edited by anyone, which means while it could have some unverified info, it will also always have the most up to date games, as I will certainly be unable to instantly verify and transfer data over to the Verified tab.
At the top of the sheet is where you can enter your current animation team size. And to the right is where you can list out your features. Make sure to fill out how many hours of cinematics you are planning on having, as well as the number of features you are expecting. If you have less than 10 features, leave those entries blank. And if you have more than 10 features you plan on supporting, then feel free to add those. Examples of features would be combat, traversal, multiplayer, living world, world interactions, etc.
Next is setting the quality bar next to the games on the list that matches the competitive quality bar you are aiming for on your game.
I have given an example of what I could expect a AAA project to aim for as having a reasonable quality bar within the next year or two. This DOES NOT mean that games listed as Below have bad animation. In fact, all of these games have had their animation specifically called out as a strength of the game and experience. It just happens some are either a bit older now, or their systems aren’t as complex to stack up to more recent technology. I have personally worked on two of the games I listed as Below, and am still incredibly proud of the animation work within. But again, this is all rather subjective at a certain point, so definitely adjust these as you see fit to match your tastes and needs.
At this point, once you have filled out the Quality Bar to fit your needs, you will see the projected number of people needed for your project. I have included both the Mean and Median, as the accuracy of each can fluctuate depending on the titles being grouped together.
Next to that, you will see an average number of animators needed per feature and cinematic hour, based on the desired quality bar.
Finally, at the bottom, you will see how many animators your team currently has allocated per feature and cinematic hour.
One other part to this is the Genre column that you could use to sort games by. I don’t have any cells that will populate any data by genre, but I thought it might be something people could find valuable as the list grows. And setting those calculations up would be pretty trivial for anyone wanting it.
And there you go! You should have a ballpark estimate on how your team size stacks up against your projected quality bar. Minus the following caveats I am sure your production partners and leadership will bring up.
- You don’t know how many of these people were on the project for any specific amount of time. These are likely the numbers at full production, though even then additional credits are likely people that weren’t there during full production. And outsource partners were likely scaled to these peak numbers at different times.
- Tech Anim, Animation System Designers and Animation Programming are hard to get full clarity on, in terms how the type of work they are doing and if they are fully dedicated to animation work the entire time.
In a perfect world, there would be separate tabs on this sheet for pre-production vs production. But beyond the nightmare of trying to validate that information, how many people could even remember that, or accurately tracked that, is hard to say.
Though, my hope with making this document public is that the second point around tech anim, systems design and animation programming can be better quantified. And ideally, if someone felt so inspired, expanding this sheet in another tab to include columns for leadership and additional/os for each group, along with dedicated vs shared programmers, would be amazing.
Which gets us into how the Public Updates tab works. That tab is open and free for people to edit and add to as they see fit. Add a row with any game you have worked on, and fill it out! Add more genre types! Add rows of animation focused disciplines that are missing here, such as tech anim leadership, or shared vs dedicated animation programmers. I will try to validate and bring over the information as I have time. But we are operating under a wikipedia sort of space here, where the animation community is going to need to keep each other honest. But I have faith in this community and the benefits of being able to get as much information and data in here as possible can be such a huge win for the everyone as we work towards more and more transparency and empowerment of the game animation community.
Thanks and I look forward to seeing how the Animation Team Size Calculator grows over time!