First of all, nobody forces you to make all your content public. Just say "hey, I'm making this <short description> game, contact me if you're interested", you don't need an nda to do that.
Agreed. Too often teams/managers get excited or to eager to fill out documents instead of taking time to evaluate potential audio vendors with vague info. The initial evaluation should be focused on if my audio content/talents fit your needs, am I available and do the numbers work out for both parties. More specific, sensitive info can be shared later, once a vendor is selected and on board.
- Of course the nda is mainly about that person then revealing all of the content. Fortunately, our brains are quite capable of evaluating whom we can trust. If the other one is someone trustworthy, you can simply ask them to please not reveal anything and they most likely won't. If on the other hand the other one is someone out to screw you, they will do so with or without an nda, there's always a way.
Hmmm, not so much. Without an NDA it makes it harder to show a clear case of violating trust. For example if I over hear someone in a public place talking about a cool game project and I blog about this new, neat idea - have I violated that person's trust? I say no because the discussion was held in public, without any documentation and no shared expectation of privacy. Just asking someone to keep a secret often doesn't pan out and is poor business.
- The above is even more true considering that an nda is nothing but a piece of paper with a little bit of ink applied if you're not willing or able to enforce it. If someone actually breaks the nda, it will cost time, energy and money to actually hold them accountable for that. Even if you are willing to move time and energy from the gamedevelopment to the courtroom, being an indie-team, you most likely won't have the funding to pay a lawyer.
Could be but just because funds or available interest/time may be low, are you actually advocating indie projects simply ignore the common business practices and standards? That hardly seems appropriate. I agree with your first point regarding the timing but I disagree with your later points.
- "But what if someone steals my idea?". That is certainly the most-asked question in this context. And even though it's been said countless times, let's repeat once again: ideas are cheap. They're a dime a dozen and anyone working in gamedevelopment has more ideas in their head than they'll ever be able to produce. What makes a good game is the execution, not the initial idea. The only reason someone in indie would prefer to steal your idea instead of working together or making one of his own, is that they don't have any. But if that is the case, they'll hardly be capable of making that idea into a game any better or faster than you.
True, implementation is what maters but surely even you can agree having all of the legal documents in hand can make it much easier to prove malice/copying/cheating happened. Also the stronger the case, the easier it is to settle and not end up going to court in the first place. I'm not a lawyer but I've heard the amount/type of damages that can be sought change with what kind of documentation and set up is in place.
- The other main reason for NDAs is marketing. The trick with mystery-marketing however is that, while no one knows what the answer is, everyone knows that there is a 'mystery' (in this case, the content). The big industry can pull that off pretty easily, they can just push content into the media until everybody is sure to have heard about that at some point. Indie teams on the other hand do not have the budget for that and mainly rely on word of mouth advertisement, and it's just really hard to get people to say "I've seen this cool upcoming game. I've never heard of the guys who make it and I don't really know what it's about, but you should definitely check it out." Maybe there are examples where it worked and it would be great to hear of them, but most of the time, indie-gaming is still too small and at least I wouldn't know of any cases where that really worked on a large scale.
Wrong. An NDA is a mutually binding agreement where we can evaluate and "audition" each other. For example the NDAs that I sign state that I'll not release sensitive info on the company and it's project and they'll not release my info such as rates, test pieces I may have provided or other nonpublic materials I provided so they could help evalute me. Every NDA I've signed remained private and I never once say the company use my NDA as marketing. In fact for months and months no public discussion whatsoever took place. It wasn't until the project reached a certain maturity that marketing started putting out teasers and such - and that was related to marketing and PR not NDAs.
- Methods and standards have evolved in game design and continue to do so, but in it's core, it is a creative process. And like any creative process, it relies heavily on the dynamic within the team and the motivation of the individual members (even if money keeps them working, motivation is what produces quality). NDAs damage these dynamics by introducing yourself with two basic premises: Even though you might make a 180°-turn from outside the team to inside, the very first connection between the team members on which anything else is built will be distrust. Secondly, even before the new guy is joining, you define an unhealthy hierarchy: You are the boss and you alone decide the rules under which one might work with you. While I certainly don't say there shouldn't be any hierarchy at all, the role of the team leader should be a supporting one, not the bad boss that want's to control everything.
Interesting take but, again, I find fault with your logic. First off ANY job requires you agree not to share company secrets. This applies to jobs in and outside of the game dev industry. Secondly every single job I've taken on had a boss. Zero jobs have hired me on without at least one person to report to, who holds me accountable. Also having a clear hierarchy can help creativity instead of hurting it. I've been on teams where there wasn't a defined vision and there was weak leadership. That project ended up missing deadlines, lacked a coherent vision and morale fell drastically. This didn't help creativity, it hinder and blocked it. Folks often do best when there is a clear vision, a defined leader (or leaders) and a set standard.
While there might not be many that are higly opposed against ndas in indie-teams, the simple fact that they have to make quite an effort to only view the most basic content of the game and thus even consider joining the project is a huge inconvenience for many people when looking for a team. The result is that quite a few of them simply won't and stick with a project that tell's them what they're up to from the beginning instead, resulting in fewer that are even contacting you. Those that do contact you are then likely to contact the other teams with ndas as well, resulting in them having lot's of options which project to join. All in all, it will result in you having a much harder time finding members than you would have had otherwise.
I've never experienced this as both and employee or a freelancer.
- As Katz already said, this will also take away the exchange with other developers and the community. While many might do well enough without input from other developers, a quick glance at the gamedesign forum shows that most of the people that ask for advice there get tons of ideas they wouldn't have ever thought about on their own. Even more important might be that this doesn't apply to design-questions only, but also to tech-questions. So especially if someone on the team is inexperienced or trying out something new, they won't be able to ask "I'm trying to <do this>, how do I accomplish that?", making work much harder for them and lowering the quality of the product.
There are many interviews, articles and guides (often as post mortems) that show the good, bad and ugly behind a project's development. The only trick is they're often after the game is out... which makes sense because during development the team is too busy and still figuring stuff out. Also there are many ways to discuss problems and their solutions without violating NDA. I do it all of the time on here. It could just be me but I do not find NDAs a hinderence or harmful factor to the industry. In fact, I would encourage more people to behave like professionals so we have fewer clients expeceting free-yet-Hollywood-quality audio for their games. It would also help deter people stealing audio work or flaking out on their committments to the folks they hire for their indie projects.
- Finally, a game idea evolves and changes heavily during production. While it's always good to have a design document, an nda requires you to have a very detailed one so that as many of your ideas as possible are covered by the nda, and then reinforces the notion that those ideas are "worth protecting". This leads to a very static design process, where many deferring roads remain unexplored and lots of potential goes unused.
I'm not sure what NDAs you're signing or talking about but every NDA I've signed had a blacket clause that covered project X as well as a time frame. That allowed the game (and it's design) to change as needed.