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What are your experiences with other similarly focused games/teams?


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#1 indiewhite   Members   -  Reputation: 148

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 03:46 PM

Recently, I've encountered something I find very perplexing. Often I hear people say "join another team" in reference to games that are rather large for an indie team (ie, MMOs, RPGs, etc). Well I am part of a team that is making a rather ambitious game. We've definitely been told before to find other likeminded people and join teams, or otherwise collaborate. This has never really applied to us because we've never seen another game trying to do the same thing as us. But just last month, we found a team on reddit making a game nearly identical to ours, only a few days old. We brushed it off and said 'hey, let's finally put that advice to good use!' and approached them about joining forces as equals to create something we both wanted to make. Well, I have to say the experience definitely left an insanely bitter taste in my mouth. They started right on the offensive, claiming that they owned the IP to our game that's been in development for quite some time, and requested that we join their project under their leadership simply because they had more active members.Unfortunately it ended with them slinging insults and threats of legal action. Needless to say we were IP banned from even viewing any of their content in any way and we don't sit on pleasant ground.

 

I imagine not every interaction with another indie dev is like this, but I haven't had enough to judge. What are your experiences, and have you ever encountered a situation similar to mine? What was the outcome/process?



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#2 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 22227

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 06:11 PM

We don't know exactly how you approached them, or the context they were in.

 

Imagine how you would have felt when you started out if somebody came to you exactly the way you approached them.

 

 

Asking someone to join projects with yours, to some people, could be just as emotional as asking to give up a baby. If you decide to bring it up with someone, proceed with care.

 

As for the legal threats, that is a valid point.  Hopefully you already had your own legal house in order.  That means collaboration agreements, rights assignments, and so on. If you don't have those then your own project is legally tainted.  Without those legal documents you can never really publish your game or legally sell it.  If their legal house is in order and yours is not, then perhaps they are correct in their claims.  That is something you should also consider.

 

 

Contacting them is a very intense personal communication, so I'm not too surprised about being highly defensive.


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#3 indiewhite   Members   -  Reputation: 148

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 10:40 AM

I can understand them being defensive about their project, but I didn't want to get into too much detail about my situation because I didn't want it to come off as a rant. But let me fill in the rest of the details:

 

We sent their leaders an email while their project was 2 days old, only having primary communications through a dedicated subreddit. At this point they had no ideas save the main one that was "it would be cool if we made a martial arts game! But lets make it the new big thing by adding water guns!" (it wasn't really martial arts, just an example). We contacted them proposing a 50/50 merge, and handed them the legal contacts that we have all signed (a collaboration agreement). We have an enormous amount of design done, but we only just started programming a few months ago. So we proposed that our two groups join up, and start over from scratch with our design as a foundation since they had little to nothing. We never once suggested that they join our project; we wanted to create something new inspired by both our projects, and we made that clear. A little more background, our team is 3 people, misc writer/artist, 3d artist, and programmer (all semi-pros), and their team is comprised of 1 semi-pro programmer and a number of hobbiest who have never worked on a game previously. In return to our proposal, we receive a counter-proposal from them offering to take our three members in under the leadership of their group and absorb our project into theirs (which still only has "martial arts, yeahh!" as their design). We turned them down on this 'offer' because frankly we were all insulted. In return we explained that we didn't feel their offer was fair considering the amount of work we had done (yeah it was like being asked to give up a baby) and it was rude considering what we had originally offered. Then their responses blew up. They accused us of trying to steal interest in their project by posting recruitment threads in reddit on public boards, and stealing their ideas, and breaking the trust they had 'bestowed upon us'. 

 

I believe that their legal threats were simply empty threats. I talked to a lawyer that I personally know and he said they have no foundation for a case. They were talking about how our game had copied aspects of their game, and how we had copied business methods an example of which was 'creating a twitter'. These were people who obviously were pissed off and didn't know the law. I also don't believe that they have any internal legal files since they scoffed at our collab agreement.

 

I just find it interesting that some indie dev communities just want to make a game and put it out into the world, and others are really closed off and selective about other devs.

 

The whole experience just left an insanely bitter taste in my mouth, and I can't help but feel that everyone in the dev community is like this, selfish and douchebaggy (I realize it isn't true).


Edited by indiewhite, 10 February 2013 - 10:40 AM.


#4 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 9959

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 11:01 AM

Legal matters aside, this is something that has happened to me in the past, several times in fact.

I've suggested partnering on several occasions, and I'll list the outcomes I've seen:

 

"Project A: an unambitious retro turn-based RPG"

When working on Project A (a 2 men somewhat dedicated team) we've stumbled accross a community with like-minded goals.

Initially, we've approached them, pitchting our idea, open for discussion or debate, simply so we could get an appreciation from them, perhaps they could shed a light on what we did right/wrong and help us progress, or perhaps they could embrace the idea and merge it with them.

Our ideas were rejected (and eventually 'stolen'). We were initially offered to work as programmers-for-hire on their project, minus the creative input, which, obviously, was of no interest to us.

Lesson learned: Some established team have set themselves in a hierarchy that cannot adapt to changes. The team we had approached had such a rigid foundation: they liked our ideas, but by principle, the ones holding the reigns of creativity did not want to integrate new members. That said, they recognized our value as programmers, because, quite frankly, they had too few (they were one of these teams were a lot of people put themselves in a position of power as acting ideas-men, but hadn't convinced enough developers to hop aboard). In the end, they took our ideas for themselves, and continued on them. I won't name names, but this project is still active to this day, and its been years now...

 

"Project B: 3D FPS/RPG Hybrid"

While working on my own take on the fps/rpg genre (much influenced by the original Deus Ex: The Conspiracy), I've met with a 'project lead' that had a similar project in mind.

The project lead was pretty much a producer from my understanding at this stage. He had a large team ready to work (programmers, artists) but was lacking creative input.

After initial contact, he has put me in a position where I would flesh out initial story elements, art descriptions, general gameplay, etc. It was a pretty big deal, and I was interested because, while he had difinitely different opinions than me, and would insist on overseeing everything and ask for changes, I had the opportunity to do what I do best with the support of an entire team.

Pre-production began very quickly, even as design continued to evolve, and we were off to a pretty good start. It seemed like our 'teams' had merged wonderfully.

A few weeks down the road, the project lead was harder to grab a hold of, which was peculiar, but still not alarming (we all get busy with real life).

Then, things started to take a wrong turn and I realized only too late what was going on:

Artists eventually came to me discretely wondering when they'd get paid... With the project lead's sudden disappearance, it appears they had no one to turn to but me, but I hadn't planned on investing into this one particular project. I was under the impression the project lead had taken the necessary legal steps (I hadn't ask for compensation myself at that time, thus I did not know it wasn't the case).

It turned out the project was like a plane with no thrusters.

When the project died, I was left with the original documentation I had produced before merging, knowing I probably couldn't use it anymore now that it was mixed with this project I had boarded. While defunct, it smelled of lawsuit and everything, and I'd rather not associate with a project that could die at the end because of former employees taking action against the project lead.

I walked away...

 

I have a few others, but I'd rather not go on a wall-of-text rant.

 

Here are a few conclusions I've come to regarding these situations:

 

Authority clash

Major issue here is the authority clash, in other words, who is in charge. When you suggest to merge, the hierarchy of the two teams will go through a tough time. If the team you are contacting had a cool thing going on with minor issues to solve, they may not be interested in making drastic changes to the project's structure. Its like if you're running a slightly undermanned business, say, a grocery store missing one cashier... to get the missing cashier, will you suggest to merge with another grocery line? Probably not... At least, not on that count.

A byproduct of this issue is, who will be in the topmost creative position. Perhaps the team you are willing to merge with has a person that has secured a position of creative input. To this person, this position may be more important than the final result even. They may be more interested in overseeing their idea from start to finish than to collaborate. They have no way of knowing whether they do it for best or worst, but they like their position and see no reason to jeopardize this. They know their idea rocks, they know 'they rock' and while your idea may rock too, they don't know if they can totally trust you making the best out of both (perhaps you're just trying to impose your vision after all). Its a big ego battle that usually plays on the creative level, but you might see this at other levels too (art, even technology).

I'm not saying this is always the case, or always on both sides, but its a variable that plays into this.


Edited by Orymus3, 10 February 2013 - 12:03 PM.


#5 Norman Barrows   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2204

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 12:34 PM

my first question would be is your project for profit or fun?

was their project for profit or fun?

they sound like they reacted as though it was for profit.

so it seems you went to your direct competitor and proposed a merger.

a defensive response is not surprising.

if your project is for fun, and theirs is not, your reaction to their reply is quite understandable.

 

i have attempted partnering with others in the past.

non-gamedev artists and programmers  are clueless as to the labor required for a typical game (which i've estimated to be about 2000 man-hours), and therefore think 10 hours of part time work is worth more than 0.5% share of the profits. Note that i'm talking about a high end FPS, RPG, or sim title, not tetris!

when partnering with folks who develop for profit, there's always a problem with creative vision and control. Unless all minds think exactly alike and therefore it doesn't matter who has the final say, some _one_ will have the final say. and it takes more than _one_ to form a partnership. in these cases, and employer / employee relationship is all that can be hoped for.

 

About the best you'll be able to hope for is to find a complimentary team who has what you don't and vica versa, who's making the same basic game, and who's not in competition with you (IE a "for fun" project). 

 

Other than that scenario, it's basically a corporate merger or acquisition type thing. one team will basically hire the other team, but still be in charge.


Norm Barrows

Rockland Software Productions

"Building PC games since 1988"

 

rocklandsoftware.net

 


#6 indiewhite   Members   -  Reputation: 148

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:25 AM

@Orymus3: The first situation that you described is basically the one I just got through dealing with. Unfortunately, I believe they plan on selling their game, and I know they've taken a few aspects from us, but I no longer have access to their forums (registration is closed, viewable only to members) to see if they're still pillaging our IP. I'm sorry to hear about the second game you described, that sounds pretty miserable ): I've only ever done collaboration agreements, what /should/ have been done in that instance?

 

I guess it's unavoidable that the authorities are not going to play nice at least at first because no one wants to cut someone else a slice of their pie. While I can understand, I think their point of view was incredibly ignorant considering they could have used at least 1 person with any prior development experience. I mean, you can be king and boss around a bunch of fools, but what good does that do you? 

 

@Norman: right now our project is not for profit, but I believe they intend to sell in some way. I think we could have easily sorted our differences since we were all pretty much on the same page ideas wise (especially considering many of our concepts and art have made their way into their design). I think it really came down to the fact that they didn't want to split what they had more ways than they had to, and they thought it would be fun to play god and manipulate people into making things for them (remember that their leadership group are all beginners in their field). I think they're too ambitious and didn't see that what we were bringing to the table - people with management skills in both the professional and indie world, and people highly experienced in what they do - is more than what they will be able to learn in a few weeks. 



#7 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 9959

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 07:36 AM

The first situation that you described is basically the one I just got through dealing with. Unfortunately, I believe they plan on selling their game, and I know they've taken a few aspects from us, but I no longer have access to their forums (registration is closed, viewable only to members) to see if they're still pillaging our IP.

 

Problem is, you really can't make a compelling case against them. Here are your options:

1 - Going non-profit, for fun. It can still be used as a portfolio item.

2 - Going for profit, under the radar (assuming they succeed, you don't want them to know you did too)

3 - Going for profit full-on. Either they fail and you manage to succeed, or, there's a lawsuit, but you've sold enough to afford the lawyers. In this case, it won't be about whether you or they are right, but whether they're willing to enforce their claims on you (knowing the costs).

Without prior knowledge, I'll say this: there's a high chance at least one of these project will fail (yours or theirs) so it may be worth pursuing, but you need to know of the risks is entails.

 

Also, I've come to terms with people stealing my ideas. In the end, I have come to understand IP in a different way now. You could copy every single event and character from my book, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to write it as well as I do. While the IP is important, execution is the key. If you have confidence in your abilities more than they, your execution might make them look like copycats in the end, so long as you did the GAME better. What's a gameplay mechanic on paper? shit. Its once its in your game that it really counts, and how it feels.

I like games such as "The Binding of Isaac" because its rehashed content, barely original, with what would feel like a cheap web-portal storyline. But the execution makes it awesome.

 

I'm sorry to hear about the second game you described, that sounds pretty miserable ):

I'm not sorry. I've learned a tremendous lot from this era. I didn't get to ship a game then, but these were valuable lessons that also apply to the real business.

 

I've only ever done collaboration agreements, what /should/ have been done in that instance?

I'm not sure what you mean there. Please define.

 

I guess it's unavoidable that the authorities are not going to play nice at least at first because no one wants to cut someone else a slice of their pie.

I actually have success stories in terms of merging management too, so it all depends on the conditions and people involved really. Some people are about their ego, or their vision, whereas others are genuinely interested in making a great game regardless of the role they end up playing (most of us are in-between). I tend to fight off my urges to command when faced with these conditions because I'm much more interested in the product than the position I'm in. In Project B above, I was initially leading a different project and was drafted. Originally, I even thought about fighting for the top, at least, until I was convinced the Project Lead had some management skills. It was a leap of faith, but I'd still do it. I can't lead all of the projects, especially not anymore with my day-job and family.

 

I mean, you can be king and boss around a bunch of fools, but what good does that do you?

I understand your point, but you have to realize a lot of big successes started from very small unexperienced teams. One of the reasons, I believe, is that there are no boundaries, just exploration. A lot of industry veterans also have industry traits, and they tend to stay away from risky designs, etc. Look up most indie successes and you'll realize a lot of them didn't have prior industry experience (super meat boy's programmer for example) or they felt especially bad in there and left very quickly. It is an essential element of understanding what makes indie different I believe, so don't be too quick to judge.

 

That said, experience helps, for sure, but it is not a guarantee of anything. I know a bunch of veterans I'd never hire for an indie project despite their experience. To me, its much more a matter of attitude. The best indie devs want to do everything they can to help and really won't stick to a job description...

 



#8 Norman Barrows   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2204

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 07:53 AM

@Norman: right now our project is not for profit, but I believe they intend to sell in some way. I think we could have easily sorted our differences since we were all pretty much on the same page ideas wise (especially considering many of our concepts and art have made their way into their design). I think it really came down to the fact that they didn't want to split what they had more ways than they had to, and they thought it would be fun to play god and manipulate people into making things for them (remember that their leadership group are all beginners in their field). I think they're too ambitious and didn't see that what we were bringing to the table - people with management skills in both the professional and indie world, and people highly experienced in what they do - is more than what they will be able to learn in a few weeks. 

 

Sounds like they're a bunch of wanna-be's who have yet to go through the learning curve of actually building games. Given the disparity between your team's experience level and their's, you're probably better off without them.

 

You started this post by quoting the oft heard advise of "join another team". If you think about it, this means you give up on what you're doing (because the scope is too big for the current team size), and go work on some other project where the scope and manpower are more in-balance. If you have two team's, one can join the other, or both can disband to form a new team with a new project (perhaps based on the old teams' projects). those seem to be the only options.

 

My advise is for your team to stay true to its vision and keep doing what it intended to do. If you might eventually turn it into a for-profit project, then you should start thinking that way now, and treat this other team as you would any other hostile competitor. Remember - no matter what game your making, at any given time there's an average of three other teams somewhere in the world working on the same thing (or similar enough in the eyes of the consumer to be a potential competitor). It may be just a bunch of wanna-be's with no skills, or it may not. So its always a good idea if for-profit might be in your future to keep an eye on the competition. Otherwise you may build a great game only to discover that some else beat you to market. As far as partnering, like minded souls will stick together. Folks who have a true interest in your project will join your team, and stay with it. If you need more manpower, you might advertise (post) for like-minded souls. its possible you might find a project suitable for merger with yours, but i'd imaging the chances are remote at best.


Norm Barrows

Rockland Software Productions

"Building PC games since 1988"

 

rocklandsoftware.net

 


#9 starbasecitadel   Members   -  Reputation: 699

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 12:25 PM

I imagine not every interaction with another indie dev is like this, but I haven't had enough to judge.

 

I think you just got unlucky more than anything.  There are jerks in any industry (even this!) but overall I've met several gamedev teams over the years and all of them were friendly or at least pleasant and professional, nothing at all like your experience.  Their interests and situations are typically too different to merge teams, but the people have been cool.

 

Chemistry is extremely important to any team, and particularly in the hobbyist case as you are spending your valuable free time on the project, so the people better be fun to work with!   

 

At the local meeting here in Atlanta, I met at least 10 people that I got to talk with in depth in small groups for hours and every single one was extremely friendly and just about everyone was potentially open to collaboration (most of them had a couple projects going on, and were into trading such as you help an artist's project with some programming and in return the artist helps your project out with some concept art etc).   

 

In terms of the posts above about ego playing a role, I think that can definitely be true.  If you have 2 teams, there are most likely going to be 2 leaders.  Which of those 2 will be the leader for the combined team?   For the merger to work, the leaders from both teams have to really like each other and also be highly compatible in terms of the goals of the project, to a point one of them would have no problem in stepping down from the lead position as you can't have 2 leaders.  A much easier scenario is where one team is both larger, further down the road in terms of development, and effectively managed as in that case generally speaking it is obvious that their leader should be the one to mange the merged organization.  

 

 



#10 indiewhite   Members   -  Reputation: 148

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 09:42 AM

Thanks for all the encouragement! To be clear, I didn't post here with the intention of fishing for support or compliments, but it's certainly a nice surprise to have been greeted by such kinda words (: I was really just curious what other people's experiences are. 

 

I agree that a lot of successful teams are inexperienced, but I wouldn't say that's what makes a successful team. Furthermore, the hypersuccessful titles like Minecraft, Amnesia, and Kenshi are devs who have at least worked on other titles, even if they didn't ship. I place a lot of the success of many indie games on the humblebundle's marketing strategy. Not to say they aren't good games on their own, but they don't have the solo marketing experience.

 

In the same vein, they definitely have yet to experience the number of art assets for an RPG, the number of subsystems to code, the number of AI rules, and the sheer time commitment. I agree we are probably better without them, but I guess we saw this as an opportunity to reach out to individuals we saw as we once were.

 

I've never heard the '3 other games' rule, but that's a good thing to keep in mind. After this stint we have started talking business and deciding what we want to do in terms of profit. I want to say with confidence we will make it to market before these guys, but I can't be sure. Though I think the fact that we have been around for quite some time already, and have more knowledge of what lies ahead would indicate positive things perhaps. I'd also like to think that the quality of our game will outmatch theirs because we know our stuff already.

 

Ego was definitely the main problem with negotiations here. I know none of us wanted to step down to being peons if you will, since we work collaboratively on design which may not be the most efficient but since there's only 3 of us, it works. But we were willing to bring more into our circle and make them equals with us, and work in a 5 person collaborative design structure. I think our team fits into the side where we are further down the road, more effectively managed, with the exception that we aren't large, but our team is of higher quality.

 

It's great to know that this is just a lone experience and that you've had good experiences starbasecitadel. I guess I'll just have to wait until something that works comes along; indiewhite used bide! indiewhite is storing energy!






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