about bones

I m trying to find some kind of documentations about armatures to understand how many bones i can use in order to dont waist processment, but I couldnt find this kind of stuf, there is a simple tutorial on blendercookie.com but that isnt makes me understand about the bones on game engine.
There are some guys saying that the perfect number fo bones is around 18, but with 18 bones i cant do nothing decent.
For example on games like resident evil 5 or kane & lynch dog days 2 or some other more recent game, how many bones they use?
Because 18 bones is ridiculous, if i mix the 18 bones with shape keys this dont improve the frame rate too mutch.
Please if someone can send me a url that shows something about this subject or really knows about it, please share your knoledge with us, because i m totally lost with this.

If you must use more than 18 bones than you should. Just try keep it responsible.

Thanks, but can you be more specific? your answear reallydont help me mutch because i keep dont understand how many bones use, i know about rigs for animations, but for game engine i cant understand what to do.
I read that is good to use the maximum of 4 bones per vertex, but i dont know what that mean.
If someone could help me i ll very happy.

Looking at the characters that come with the Unreal Development Kit, those character have 70+ bones. But I am sure the unreal engine has hardware skinning, which means bones work much more efficiently. I am using a similarly complex bone setup for my own characters at the moment. I haven’t done a lot of stress testing yet, so we will see how it goes xD

Also it depends on the type of game you are making. In my project there will not be a large number of characters on screen at once. If you were making an RTS this would be different, and you would need to use very simple armatures to get a lot of people on screen at once.

Hope that helps

ok thanks KUPOman, you help me a lot. I think that I ll need to make all the animations for the creatures with sapekeys, since the blender 2.53 not is complete yet.