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Developing A Game With Compensation By Shares


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#1 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 935

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 08:25 PM

So I am working on a game whereby a person got themselves a license for the Hero Engine and is attempting to recruit players from an mmorpg site to make an mmorpg. The way that volunteers are to be paid is a share system based on work contributed and also experience in the games industry and being able to say you had your name on a published game. Now I don't know whether we will ever get a game shipped and if we do I doubt the credit or the money will be worth much. What I do think is interesting is the test of whether a game with a limited primary vision and with programmers who initially have no experience with HSL will ever get published. Now I don't really care if anything happens with the game, there is no reason not to learn HSL, probably won't be too much work given my other language experience, and is a good language to know. I am only spending my copious free time and I already make lots of throwaway games to practice mechanics and for shits and giggles.
What do you guys think about this sort of business model?

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#2 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 31938

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 08:45 PM

Does this "a person" have a registered company, and are there signed business agreements between them and the "staff"?
If not, I'd be reluctant to call it a "business model" at all; I'd call it a hobby pretending to be a real business venture.

#3 L. Spiro   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 14415

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 09:27 PM

Does “a person” live in Canada and go by the name “Byron”? I can’t say more until I know the answer to this.


L. Spiro
It is amazing how often people try to be unique, and yet they are always trying to make others be like them. - L. Spiro 2011
I spent most of my life learning the courage it takes to go out and get what I want. Now that I have it, I am not sure exactly what it is that I want. - L. Spiro 2013
I went to my local Subway once to find some guy yelling at the staff. When someone finally came to take my order and asked, “May I help you?”, I replied, “Yeah, I’ll have one asshole to go.”
L. Spiro Engine: http://lspiroengine.com
L. Spiro Engine Forums: http://lspiroengine.com/forums

#4 Cornstalks   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6991

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 09:34 PM

Does “a person” live in Canada and go by the name “Byron”? I can’t say more until I know the answer to this.


I'm gonna guess you got screwed over by a guy named Byron who lives in Canada, though I thought it was an Asian company that screwed you over... Either that or you're suggesting anonymity is not something to be desired when it comes to contracts, and if this guy is serious he needs to get his real life info out there in a contract.
[ I was ninja'd 71 times before I stopped counting a long time ago ] [ f.k.a. MikeTacular ] [ My Blog ] [ SWFer: Gaplessly looped MP3s in your Flash games ]

#5 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 935

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 09:39 PM


Does “a person” live in Canada and go by the name “Byron”? I can’t say more until I know the answer to this.


I'm gonna guess you got screwed over by a guy named Byron who lives in Canada...


I can't have gotten screwed over since I haven't done anything. The guys name appears to be Matt. The "company" is called Nefarious Means.

#6 Cornstalks   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6991

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 09:40 PM

I can't have gotten screwed over since I haven't done anything.


Not you, I meant Spiro.
[ I was ninja'd 71 times before I stopped counting a long time ago ] [ f.k.a. MikeTacular ] [ My Blog ] [ SWFer: Gaplessly looped MP3s in your Flash games ]

#7 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 935

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 09:42 PM

Does this "a person" have a registered company, and are there signed business agreements between them and the "staff"?
If not, I'd be reluctant to call it a "business model" at all; I'd call it a hobby pretending to be a real business venture.


Well it is a hobby I am guessing, but he says he does intend to publish the game. As I said even if the game doesn't go anywhere I am fine with just getting to play around with Hero Engine for free.

#8 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 935

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 09:43 PM


I can't have gotten screwed over since I haven't done anything.


Not you, I meant Spiro.


If you and Spiro want to start a derail take it to PMs.

#9 Cornstalks   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6991

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 09:54 PM

If you and Spiro want to start a derail take it to PMs.


Oh relax, dude. I was simply trying to clarify for the sake of the thread what it was Spiro was saying. I'm not sure if he's talking about a Byron from Canada because of a specific past experience, of if he's trying to make a more general statement (and exactly what that general statement is). My post was more or less asking Spiro to add more to his post so that I (and others, you included) can understand it better. I wasn't trying to derail anything, and I suggested in my post (while guessing it may be what Spiro was referring to) that if you want serious business, get a contract signed without anonymity (which should help show that I'm not here to derail it, but am giving you my response to your question, though I was giving it while guessing at what Spiro was saying).
[ I was ninja'd 71 times before I stopped counting a long time ago ] [ f.k.a. MikeTacular ] [ My Blog ] [ SWFer: Gaplessly looped MP3s in your Flash games ]

#10 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10173

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 09:56 PM

What do you guys think about this sort of business model?

Our thoughts are expressed in the other thread on this business model, entitled: "Fair/Realistic Profit Sharing Breakdown?"
And I've written about it in my column.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#11 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19418

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 10:00 PM

What you're describing seems to be a pretty common approach amongst inexperienced hobbyist teams, and on the face of it sounds pretty fair.


They need help with creating a game but they don't have any money to pay potential team-members up front, so they look for people who are willing to volunteer their time in exchange for a share of any money that gets made if the game is released. When making this sort of offer there seem to be two common approaches to how the payments will be structured:
  • The team leader has some idea of what they think a particular job is worth, and they offer a fixed share of any money made based on that. As an example, they might think creating the soundtrack is 10% of the work, and therefore offer to give that amount to a composer. It isn't uncommon in this case for the percentages to be somewhat poorly thought out; the amount offered often indicates poor or no idea of how much work a particular job entails (usually leading to offers of tiny portions that wouldn't be worth the effort even for a guaranteed success), and sadly it isn't uncommon to see the total number of shares being offered for the various roles totally more than 100% of money made. It's also often not very clear what would happen if someone contributes but leaves before the project is completed.
  • Realising the above can be unfair, a system is proposed where contributors will be paid a share of any money made based on the amount of work put in. In this case it's almost always unclear exactly how this will be calculated; what if one artist contributes only a single really complex model, whilst another contributes many models that are very simple -- how should shares of money be split? How much is one piece of music worth? Again, it's also usually not clear how the situation of someone contributing but not seeing the project through to completion would be handled.
The second option above is essentially what has been proposed to you, although with the addition that the amount of money given will vary based on experience; which as with most of the above, sounds reasonable on the surface but has a number of problems. What if a seasoned industry veteran joins the team and contributes a single simple model to the project, whilst a wet-behind-the-ears beginner puts hours on end into producing many many models -- as it is described, the system in place would pay the industry veteran more money even though they don't really deserve it.


The point I've been making with all these example situations is that such a share of profit is almost always very poorly defined; this is a bad thing for everyone involved, and is something you should endeavour to have corrected before taking part. Preferably, how payments will be split amongst team members, under what conditions they can be given or taken away, etc. should all be outlined in a proper legal document drawn up by a lawyer.
Failing that, everything should be decided up front before any work is done, and everything should be written up clearly and concisely in a plain-English agreement so that there are no misunderstandings about how things will work. Note that I'm not endorsing this approach -- proper legal agreements should absolutely be used -- but if that isn't going to happen, don't try to write your own legal documents, as the language used has very specific meanings and you will likely make costly mistakes; just use plain English and be sure that all parties understand the conditions before proceeding.



As for whether such a system is a good idea or not?
It's all about risk. Normally the studio/business/team takes on the risk by paying out money up-front to have work done; if the game is a success they will (hopefully) make that money back, but if the project isn't completed or doesn't sell very well that money will be lost. In the case of a profit-share or royalties the risk is shifted to the team members; you're working for free (or sometimes for a reduced up-front amount), and if the project is a success you'll hopefully earn enough money to compensate for the time and effort you've put in.

In this particular case it sounds like you want the experience of working with Hero Engine, which helps to balance out the fact that you're pretty unlikely to actually earn any money. Is it worthwhile? Depends on your own situation. Personally I'd push for at least some payment up-front as well.


Hope that helps! Posted Image

#12 AltarofScience   Members   -  Reputation: 935

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 10:17 PM

This is much more useful than Tom's column link. We will be discussing the value of shares. I believe with the HE license they get 30% of the total profits, which is honestly much less than they deserve since engines are a bitch, but I suspect they do that because its basically free money for them. Personally I don't care too much about the money. I know enough from talking to various indie developers of games I own, Academagia/SPAZ that making real money is unlikely. I consider the credit for the game, although not worth a huge amount unless the game has a quality it is unlikely to have, to be the most likely value.

I know some lawyers, friends/friends' parents/gamer friends, but frankly I consider the fees for a lawyer to be not worth the amount of money I would be getting screwed out of if indeed the guy is being dishonest. I don't think pushing for up front money is viable. He is setting up a forum and the homepage of the web page is done, and I believe he has the HE setup going. He says he will be giving me the details for my account to use for that. If he indeed has secured the license I am willing to consider him to be in good faith. He can't expect to make a big profit ripping off a bunch of hobbyists, that's just silly.

#13 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19418

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Posted 20 December 2011 - 11:58 PM

This is much more useful than Tom's column link.

Thanks, although I think realistically what I said is very similar to the message Tom was giving with that particular column; this particular "business" model is more usually used by naive or inexperienced developers, and is unlikely to result in you getting any money. Be wary of joining such projects if you're wanting to make any money, and be aware that developers who use this model quite commonly abandon their projects when things don't work out, are too difficult, or are taking too long.



It sounds like for you personally the project will be worth while simply because you're interested in working with the engine along with any credit you might receive should the project be completed. You're unlikely to see any money, but given that you seem to already know that and are ok with it I'd say you may as well go ahead. Given your stated reasons for participation, the important things you need to ensure are that you will be properly credited should the project succeed, and that you're able to use your contributions in a portfolio.


Posted Image

#14 L. Spiro   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 14415

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 12:34 AM

I didn’t expect so many replies so soon.
If I had checked back sooner I could have cleared up some things before they got out of hand.

I asked who it was because I am providing consulting for someone in Canada doing the same thing, with the same engine, etc.
Seems to be the Hero Engine team’s strategy (to give the engine away free in return for revenue shares).

Since you are not referring to him, I have nothing more to say that would be more enlightening than what was already said.

Only extra thing I can say is that his project is very far along and is expected to be completed in a few months.
While it may be true that hobbyists tend to go this route and are notorious for being unable to finish what they start, there are also people such as him who have experience but have had a few recent rough patches in life and simply don’t have the money to start a real studio and pay people, even though that is the ultimate goal.
He considers this project a step towards his ultimate goal, so you can believe he is serious about it, and won’t quit when things get tough etc.


L. Spiro
It is amazing how often people try to be unique, and yet they are always trying to make others be like them. - L. Spiro 2011
I spent most of my life learning the courage it takes to go out and get what I want. Now that I have it, I am not sure exactly what it is that I want. - L. Spiro 2013
I went to my local Subway once to find some guy yelling at the staff. When someone finally came to take my order and asked, “May I help you?”, I replied, “Yeah, I’ll have one asshole to go.”
L. Spiro Engine: http://lspiroengine.com
L. Spiro Engine Forums: http://lspiroengine.com/forums

#15 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 19418

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Posted 21 December 2011 - 12:47 AM

While it may be true that hobbyists tend to go this route and are notorious for being unable to finish what they start, there are also people such as him who have experience but have had a few recent rough patches in life and simply don’t have the money to start a real studio and pay people, even though that is the ultimate goal.
He considers this project a step towards his ultimate goal, so you can believe he is serious about it, and won’t quit when things get tough etc.

...and that's all well and good, but it's very rare to find any of them who don't make exactly the same (or similar) claims -- it's always "a serious project" with a leader who won't quit when things get tough... until they do.


Hopefully the person you're working with proves to be one of the exceptions to that and releases his game; it's good to be wary, but some of these projects are the real deal, and it's always great when someone succeeds.

Posted Image




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