A recent GameInformer magazine described the budget and related parameters for an "A list" console game (I cannot recall which game or platform.)
(Sorry, it was a student's copy of the magazine, I didn't write it down at the time, and I could not access it online--so this is from memory.)
There were 1,767,000 line of code in the game. Let's get a handle on this. A single-spaced normal page has 54 lines of text. Let's round that down to 50 because some program lines will be longer than the width of the page. 100,000 lines, then, is 2,000 pages of text. A million lines is 20,000 pages.
So let's try a million lines. How long would it take a typist, typing 50 words a minute, to type 20,000 pages of text? A line is about 13 words. Let's call it 10 to account for short lines. Then each page would be 500 words, or 10 minutes. 20,000 pages is 200,000 minutes. That is 139 days of typing 24 hours a day.
Actually, 50 words a minute is optimistic; code is much harder to type than normal text, and must be completely without typos or it will not work.
Now consider that this code must actually be written (created) and tested, which takes immensely longer than mere typing. Nor can we have people working nonstop for 139 days. And this is only just more than half the entire game program, since we did only a million lines.
Now add in the time for creating the artwork. Generally, at least twice as many people work on art as on programming.
So now we've covered just half the budget!
In contrast, we have three hours of lab a week, times 16 weeks, or 48 hours (really less than that considering breaks). So what are the chances that we, in a one semester class, can even scratch the surface of creating an A-list video game? Nil, nought, nada, infinitesimal: none.
The days when one person could create a well-known video game ended around 1990. And even then, that person took much longer than both our game design classes combined, in an era when graphics were primitive and everything was much simpler.
There's a saying, "you can't get together nine newly-pregnant women and have a baby in a month." In other words, some things just take a long time, no matter how badly you want them to happen faster.
This is why I tell people, if you want to learn to create good games, you need to use non-video games, where you can get to a playable prototype in a short time, not in "forever". Until you have a playable prototype, you haven't done even 20% of the work.
Be sure to read Ian's comment to this post, as he has the full figures and makes an interesting comparison to numbers of semesters of work involved.
A related post explores the percentages of work done.
October 26: I have worked on this further and made a set of slides (a rarity). The file is linked here.
"The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal." -- Aristotle
"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest."Mark Twain
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exup'ery
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Albert Einstein
"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." Albert Einstein