It is not entirely clear to me whether this is a multi-player game or not. Reading the description, I gather it is meant to be single player, but there is also mention of other party members; are those AIs taking commands from the player?
Not immidiately, that's for sure. May be, after it becoming stable enough, I can think of something, but first milesones will definitely be single-player with AIs under command. And there will never be anything more massive then coop with single-digit number of players.
The project appears to be quite an ambitious one and probably a lot for one person. What plans do you have for recruiting a team?
I understand this fully, but my current plans are to produce first playable release solo, maybe through investing my own money into "outsourcing" less integrated parts (UI design, textures, music, etc.) to temporary contractors. This way is unfortunate byproduct of financial model I'm aiming for. It will be hard, of course, but I'm ready to code day and night. Only then I'll use the result to lure one or two additional team members from my local gamedev scene. I will definitely not be recruting core team on distance working terms - this never goes well.
There is mention of first person control of the player avatar. This raises the bar significantly, even if you use a first person 3D engine, especially if the player is planned to be able to move through environments in the scale of an asteroid field. Art requirements will be also quite high as a result.
Well, as I said, I am competent programmer and I'm pretty sure of my ability to make seamless streaming of asteroid field - that's exactly my kind of coding puzzle. Speaking of art reqirements - first milestone will definitely be of minecraft-grade models/textures.
If this is expected to be a life changing decision or a more interesting way to earn a living, is it prudent to distribute it for free? Expecting to charge for DLC is viable only if the game manages to generate a large enough community that will be able to support it. Also, the idea of having an open financial model sounds nice on paper, but in my opinion it would be a nightmare to handle. Why not just try to sell the game or put it on Steam or Desura once it gets to a presentable state? If this is a way to earn a living, better have it generate some income for you.
Prudent?.. Maybe. But I think possible outcome worth taking such risk. You see, I do not want to make another "indie" game - there is a ton of very promising projects on greenlight and kickstarter already. Market is oversaturated with good games that are using traditional financial model (going to greenlight or kickstarter is already traditional gamedev practice). This may sound too amitious, but I'm aiming for something rarer - a game that inspires players to invest their time and endeavors in it. That's why free distribution, that's why eventual source release, that's why open finances - I want to earn community trust rightfully, not with promises of bright future. Paid DLC's are not to make me filthy rich notch-style, they are just to support my pants - not very high hurdle for reasonably ascetic person living in Russia
Overall, the document is very generic and before you get to have a core team working on your project, you will need to persuade them that their time will be worth it. For this, you will need, at the very minimum, very, very detailed design documents, describing exactly what the scope of the game is meant to be and how each and every single part of it will be implemented and tied together, what tools will be used to build the game environment (a quick mention of a scripting language is not really deemed sufficient) and how exactly. How is the extensibility system going to work? How is the player going to be viewing the universe? How are they going to move through it? What will the user interface be like and what controllers are you planning to support? How many entities will the game be expected to handle at once? Is it going to be a seamless universe or a map-loading based one? These are all just random example questions that you need to have a perfectly clear answer for, before you even write the first line of your game. And there are many more as I am sure you understand. The most difficult part of it all will probably be not how to put a solid design down, but how to convince others that it is really solid and it's worth it, so be prepared to do the heavy work on your own, before you consider a core team. For sure we are looking at a long-term project here.
Yes, another very good point. Actually, I have already generated a lot of text files on project design, but they are hardly ready to be released for public critique - this generic document is only a summary of big pile of shorthand notes that are unreadable for anyone but me. I'm not sure it will be viable to spend time expanding this document, keeping in mind that I'm not going to hire another coder till first releases. Though, I'll probably will be answering questions on wiki page, if people will be genuinely curious of something.
Good luck with your project!
Thank you! Every kind word is appreciated.