This is the economic overview of a Kingdom. A kingdom, has a King who is considered first among his peers, who are other Princes, either by vote, vassalage, or conquest.
There are 17 Principalities. These Principalities are the largest organizational assets a faction can hold. The cost it takes to hold and run such assets test the limits of each faction capability. The most powerful individual, the King, has the revenues and resources of more than one principality.
Typically this is the principality his faction calls home, lesser assets and the seat of power. A principality that constitutes a "seat of power" has symbolic and strategic importance. Typically it has the greatest economic prosperity granting it population and developed resources, as well as the ability to hold other competing principalities in check by being the center of a logistical network ("all roads lead to Rome").
The size of each Principality, powerful enough to influence events and "play the game of thrones" typically falls within a range of 60% different from the largest to the smallest. Many principalities fall somewhere in the middle. The smallest happens to be in the "running" because of some exception to the rule.
How to proceed.
Part 1: Greater Map
The best way to proceed is to take a map, probably using Google Earth. Take a map with sufficiently diverse and large land area. Modify its features to be unrecognizable through stamp tool and healing brush. Apply vectoring tools to sketch and paint features, allowing for greater magnification. Then work with "broad strokes" dividing the area by its geographical and strategic features. Dividing things up to the largest swaths of principalities. Divide this into layers in the vector drawing tools. Overlay with hex grid, with 20-30km wide hex scale.
This would take about 4-6 hours with the right tools.
Part 2: Focus on one portion of the Map.
Proceed next into detailing one particular faction. Using vector drawing program's layering options, hide the layers containing other principalities and proceed to map out the particular principality. Follow water sources, having villages about 4-12 km from each other, depending on the natural barriers. Use "Medieval Demographics Made Easy" to determine a rough number of villages. The naming convention of villages default to Hex code and clock-wise count of the villages. Create a smaller hex layer scaled to 2-5km.
This would take 8-10 hours easy. This is about one week of GM prep, as long as all resources as easily available. Given that it takes multiple sitting, its better to spend the first sitting creating an outline of objectives.
Part 3: Asset Calculations.
Count the number of villages and towns, these are assets. Assign Incomes and Costs to these assets, and consider around 10% of all costs are ultimately tribute that finds its way to the Principality's ruler. Take the largest community, typically a city, and calculate for city income, assets and probably expenses.
Using demographic tools found in "MDME" or other sources, derive the population of various socio-economic classes. This helps determine the number of household man-at-arms, and raw numbers for knights and man at arms; also the professional soldier population; also the available militia/levy from peasant freemen available in the area. With such numbers, one can make a org-structure of the principality. The org-structure, using drawing tools, allows for understanding the force numbers available to the particular principality.
This can take 4-6 hours, if all resources are accessible. Assembling all demographics resources and writing down the objective, and what must be achieved in greatest priority will help keep within time budget.
Part 4: detailing a Smaller region and its Cast.
Having achieved a gross org-structure for the principality, proceed to detail one large manor, the particular branch of an org chart. This manor hold, would ideally be one of a town or an important fief. Using SWOT, describe the situation of the manor, emphasizing the challenges and threats worthwhile for adventuring.
Create a Minor House, develop its family history in relation to the major events of the Principality and potentially the setting. Write ups add up to 500-600 words, for player's consumption. This becomes a launching place for PCs, as they are somehow connected or relevant to this Minor House, and this is where their path to greatness begins.
Writing up the 400-600word story will take 2 hours if one is not attempting to create so many weaving plots. Writing up one relative to the major history events cannot be done. A prerequisite of 2,000 words general setting event overview would eat up as much as 4-6 hours by itself, even with a random name generator (without it takes more time to decide on names without a preferential pattern emerging). Another 600 principality history overview would be an hour to write up. Great reading preparing for such is overview of historical events like: War of the Roses, The Hundred years war, First Crusade, and other overviews of great wars or upheavals.
Total of 16-20 hours. Probably 2 weeks of reading and researching and then writing.
Part 5: Props, details, and preparation.
The GM will need tools to make the preferred conflicts and challenges run smoothly. Take the "Character Generation Tables" from Low Tech world (still under construction) and tailor fit it to the game's setting. Create a fun system to generate NPCs and PCs, and the GM gets to use it by making 10-20 cast, NPCs, members of various backgrounds.
Have several tables of load outs and combat stats available for easy reference. Include the social stats that make social interactions challenging and require a level of cunning from the players.
Have a "script" how things are supposed to proceed based on how the key members of the cast, NPCs, are trying to achieve their own goals. Note the resources they have in case the PCs get in their way or help them achieve it. Highlight all those who can easily benefit from the utility of the PCs.
These all would take one afternoon, 4-6 hours, if all the tools are easily available.
In an hour or two, creating and having a walk-through the Character Creation, Setting Immersion, and Introductory Session plans. Also organizing all the data and storing them properly for future continuance, if proven fruitful.
A total of 52 hours.
If the setting would be fully developed, that would be about 1000 hours. If that could be delegated and be made into a full time job and outsourced, hiring an artist and a writer fulltime. Discounting the management of the writer and artist, $2700 and probably have a turn over of 3 months. This doest count fixed costs of office and utilities.
If I would have a secretary make sure everyone followed the GANT progress chart, I can say it would be finished on time but not at the best costs, probably $3500. To fully utilize the secretary asset, leave him to assemble, organize, and lay out the material. Probably keep a blog and webpage with all the material.
If I did this all with part-time workers, a serious consideration since the people I know who can do this are all working, maybe i can do it at 1/3 the cost but at a production turn over of of 8-10 months.
Objectives.. If I were to try to make this profitable
Making this setting profitable is not the objective. It would be, for me, making a very usable and GURPS 4e very low fantasy (practically realistic) setting with maps detailed enough to use for Mass Combat and play a "Game of Thrones" seizing cities, forging and breaking alliances, and making a lot of enemies.
If I were to make it profitable, I would approach Tale Worlds and venture such a game with their Multi-player Mount and Blade Engine (the game company with a rep for historical very low fantasy game market). Develop a Multi-player game where such options are available. Probably offer a method to outsource and sub-contract the game module development here and create a 100 play-hour game module with a 6-8 week turnover for a number of modules depending on sales. Although they would, of course, rather build on their existing setting. All that money can be attributed as proof of concept.
If making independent Low-Fantasy Game, designed primarily for multi-player (near Table-top-like, near free-form style of play), such a project has a turn around of 2-3 years... definitely out of the question.
Given all the risks of developing a game, what will probably happen if things are ok (3% chance).
Even if it is an Ogre SDK, it will take $90,000 of labor costs and fixed costs of $25,000. Yikes $115k, that doesn't even count marketing. Marketing on history websites, google, Gamer magazines for 6 months before release of $15k and the Datacenter to host these games $25-60k (assuming I can get a Cloud Service to be my datacenter on demand instead of buying a datacenter).
The ROI with $8 play per month plan (free download) and 20,000 players (1/5 of the mount and blade players) will be in 4-6 Months. After those months, maybe profiting 10% of the lowest play per month plan and benefiting from the PEZA tax holiday. All the other expenses in running the datacenter, game services, and "betterment".
Probably ROI in 3 years, have really small margins while investing heavily in betterment in the only year you are profitable. After the betterment, sell the damn thing for its future income x the betterment for about $30M (revenue per month x betterment over 5 years x inflation of 5 years - operation and fixed costs) if anyone is interested.
As a Low-fantasy game with a more conservative graphics, it can compete in emerging markets with expensive online infrastructure costs. Develop more 90s styled-adventure, problem solving modules, along with the combat and mass combat.