Currently I am putting together a proposal and design document for a new game, it's title is still up in the air at this point but we know it will be a sci-fi RPG (3rd person RTS style view). My question is: what would be the appropriate poly count and texture size to work towards if the game is to be completed in about 2 years time?
Bare in mind that I am not really looking for exact poly counts, anyones opinions on what it could be would be appreciated as well.
Also you might like to know that there will most likely be a maximum of 12 player controlled characters and 24 bots on the screen at any one time (usually half in heavy combat).
Regardless of totaly poly limits, always cut it where you can man, for a 3rd person RTS, depending on how close you get to the character and how much action you want, I seriously believe you should always try cap a character off at only a few thousand polys. Artists will disagree with me here but gameplay always overules art, framerate comes first no compromise.
Its all about texture really, and how big they're going to be on screen, if the character will not take up any more than so many pixels on the screen then theres not too much use in hammering up the texture beyond that point. The more experienced members on here would give better advice but I reckon with 36 characters just make a low cap early, maybe 5000 a character, less even, yes it is next gen and you can do more but the original soul calibur characters were that, and were close too, they took up the majority of the screen and still looked fantastic. It'll allow you to get more out of the gameplay as well, more detailed and interactive environments, vehicles, better weapons and effects, and whatever.
For a straight up action, the Player will watch their character directly for a while yeah, but they'll be watching the environments and action the most, you have to make that the most impressive. Don't let the artists run away with more polys here and more polys there because later you will find yourself having to cut things or change the original plan and the game will be crap, the Game as a whole is the piece not their individual character, and if the framerate is slow then even the most beautiful character will look crap... and seriously, if a game artist cannot make a character look good with 5000 polys? Then where do they get off calling themselves a game artist, 5000 is heaps.
Of course you also have to consider if the characters will be used in cut scenes and with facial animation and all that as well, obviously that buxes up the limits a bit...