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Hello all, I'm sorry if my question is in the wrong section, but I was wondering if some might have some advice. I was recently approached by a member from a game development studio for me to join them. Except the problem lies with what they have and they don't have. I had mentioned that I was currently working on a concept for a FPS game(yeah I know...bad starting game) and the guy I was talking to suddenly got 'hyper'(this was in an IRC network channel) at what I was doing and he wanted to know more...which I told him without giving too much info on the concept itself. I do not seem to trust them and feel that the group could possibly either steal the game from me or it'll never see any developement. I have found their history a bit unsettling. The group was formed 3 years ago and have since done nothing but modding projects since. What I find disturbing is that their goal is to start their own studio, but they have yet to actually come up with an idea themselves. Am I right to worry about making a deal with them? I can't offer anything else to them except giving them game worlds to build and create what I've written for the game.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
If they "steal" your game that probably increases by a factor of 10 the probability that the game will every get completed.

So, you win.

My only advice is to insist that before they talk to you further they either sign an NDA (you don't want them to, but present this as the alternative) or you will give them all the info on your game and allow them to develop it so long as they agree to:
- you have authoritative control over the game design
- you personally have 20% of all revenue that ever comes from the game

Not that it's got more than a 1 in a 100 chance of generating revenue, but with those in place the worse case scenario is that you're not going to get screwed over.

PS: no, I wouldn't trust them an inch, by the sound of things. But...the wise man knows to how to extort from the person he cannot trust ;).

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A tricky situation....I would get an NDA signed before you discuss anything further - it shouldn't be a problem for them to sign it anyway as it protects them as well as you (well, slight protection anyway) - if they don't then alarm bells should ring.

Quote:
I do not seem to trust them and feel that the group could possibly either steal the game from me or it'll never see any developement.

Do you have a full design doc ready yet?..if not, they will not be able to steal it, sure they can take the idea but an idea means nothing without the full design document in place, particularly if they have no notion on how to take it further without one. If it gets to the stage whereby you decide to join them, then a legal contract should be drawn up indicating IP, revenue split etc.

Also, it really all depends in how they want to use you and your design - would they be employing you as one of their staff or as a contractor or as a consultant sort of thing?. Either way, get it in writing and then decide how you want to proceed. Good luck!

ps...try asking Obscure by pm, if you haven't already done so, for his advice...he knows more than me!.

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Full design document??? I'm not exactly sure what that is, but I have a file that helps me plan how I want the game to start(it's basically a backstory) but I plan to add more such as dominate characters and certain missions{I figure it won't hurt to have some just plain shoot and run levels lol}). NDA's...the group doesn't seem to be interested in signing anything and are pretty demanding about getting the project by asking everyday 'HAVE U MADE A DECISON YET?' even though they gave me a few weeks to think about it.

Instinct is telling me to run...is it right?

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I'm still unclear on what they want you to do. All I understand is that they want your idea, which you admit isn't a fleshed out design - just a story concept. Are they purchasing it from you, or just expecting you to give it to them? Are you willing to give it away, with no guarantees of continued involvement in the development or of payment?

I think you need to discuss with them and outline what, exactly, your role would be in this project and what IP rights you retain, if any, and what rights you'd own to any further development that happens as part of the project.

As another poster asked: are you a partner, a consultant, or an employee?

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I'm nothing with them at the moment. What they want is basically a game design ready for them to work on and the topic about IP rights and rights....they insist that they have it all and all I'll get in 25% of whatever it brings in and any other future projects(even though I insisted on 100% rights and IP rights and 50% profit from it). They also seem eager to screw over the guy that had given me the basic idea(by basic he suggested what kind of game it was and gave a barebone template) even though he had quit a couple weeks after talking about it.

Just so nobody asks...it was a joint project which the original guy has given me full ownership of provided I give him credit for the idea(which the 'merging' group has said no to the deal I made with him{ie their game and thier game only}

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Quote:
evelyn - would they be employing you as one of their staff or as a contractor or as a consultant sort of thing?.

Quote:
hawk2k3 - I'm nothing with them at the moment

You don't make this easy, d'ya?.

Personally, I wouldn't sell a design on these kinda terms. If your instinct tells you to run away, then run away. There'll be perhaps better opportunities later on if you hold off and finish the design...then you would be in a better position for a more favourable deal.

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Well, to give you a quick and easy answer to your question: you're in the catbird seat. They want your idea, you didn't approach them. Unless you're desperate to get it made NOW, they have to agree to terms that make YOU comfortable, not the other way around.

I would, at the very LEAST, want to retain full IP rights to the specifics of the game I designed. I would offer them a non-exclusive right to use those IPs in marketing the current game, with the option to later lease the rights to the IPs in any future projects related to the game.

50% of the profits may be a lot, considering you don't have a design doc done up and presumably they'd be doing all the programming and graphic artwork - you're selling them an idea, which frankly they could very easily take for their own (changing the names and any specifics you may have given them) right now without asking you for permission. Remember, you can't copyright or trademark an idea. You're fortunate in that they sound like a very lazy, disorganized group looking for inspiration - which you can provide.

Even if you don't go with this group, document all your communications and save them somewhere. If it turns out that they do come out with a game based on what they took from you, you MIGHT be able to get some relief if you can prove they didn't have an idea for the game until they saw what you created, and that they attempted to buy your design initially. I'm not saying this scenario will ever come about, but I'm sure you'd rather protect yourself in any eventuality.

If you do decide not to go with them, I'd suggest you send them a "formal" letter stating as much, being sure to mention a summary of what specifics you divulged to them in your rejection letter. Then save that letter. I might even go so far as to get a mailing address so you can notarize two copies of the letter and mail them one. Maybe overkill, but hey - I work for a law firm as my day job, I'm paranoid ;)

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There are several points to consider here.....

1. You should never place your financial well-being in the hands of people you don't trust.

2. You should never do business with people who wont sign and NDA or formalise a relationship with a contract.

3. Unless you have a written assignment of IP rights from "the other guy" then you don't actually own the IP. He co-owns it and can come after it at any time in the future.

4. Even if you have the IP you still don't have what they want. They don't just want an idea, they want a proper design that they can reference to develop a game - you have admitted you don't know how to make a design and I assume from this that you have no actual game development experience. If that is the case then you wont be able to produce what they want and the relationship is going to go bad.

Basically everything you have said about this whole deal smells bad. The only way to protect yourself would be to hire a lawyer and draft contracts and frankly that is going to cost you more money than this deal will ever make. These guys sound like unprofessional cowboys and the fact that they can't come up with their own idea (as you mentioned before) simply confirms that.

Conclusion
If it look like a duck, quacks like a duck and is served cold and roasted in your local Chinese restaurant then it is a duck. You know it doesn't feel right so walk away.

If you really really want to do it don't show them anything until you have a contract (not just an NDA).

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EricTrickster-I'm not worried about them stealing something they've never seen or know about.

As for the design document, I hope that what I'm doing right now will turn into that...except I currently do not know where to find an example of one. As for the other guy that was working on this with me, we've agreed that I get the 'game' provided that in the end that he gets his name in the credits for the game(and a little cash too if I decide to make money off it, but don't tell him lol).

I am in no hurry to 'get it out the door' it doesn't matter if it take 2 years of 6 years to do it(even if ever done). Right now I'm just having fun creating the world events that lead up to and in the game.

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Sounds dodgy. I wouldnt give them anything unless you see money or contracts on the table. If you dont see this, and continue getting an unprofessional misspelt message "HAVE U MADE A DECISION YET?" simply say.

I'm not interested

Intellectual property, your finances and reputation are at stake. You cannt afford to an unprofessional group having anything to do with you. By the sounds of them they're not going to make any money anyway.

Perhaps it would help more if we knew who the group was. I understand this maybe private information that you do not wish to disclose, so if it is: dont.

Make sure you make the right decision.

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As far as I know their name is suppose to be private for now. I find it a bit odd that their excuse for modding games instead of creating them is 'So we can get our name out'. I'm sorry, but after 3 years of modding and no one still knows who you are? I'm dumping this group like a bad habit and if I get the game done, I won't worry because I'll still be 10 years ahead of them(even if it takes ten years to get the game made lol).

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I would forget about dealing with these people at all. There are many reasons.

1) All they've done is modded games. This is totally different from making their own games. This project probably won't be finished.

2) They are dealing with you in an unprofessional manner. Spelling words like "U" is the mark of people who aren't serious about what they're doing.

3) They won't agree to terms that you are binded to. You own the IP but you have to give your friend credit? Then if they want to use the IP from you, they have to give him credit. It's a matter of the law and of ownership. They can't refuse that obligation, it's not an option for them.

4) They aren't negotiating very fairly with you. You say you want control of the IP, you want to give credit to your friend, you want 50% of the profits....and all they offer you is 25% of the profits. Sure, that's still a lot of money, but they're disregarding the other issues you want taken care of.

5) They don't want to sign stuff. This is a bad sign. It means they're liable to string you along until they can screw you.

Take your business elsewhere and save yourself the trouble.

-Gauvir_Mucca

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Quote:
Original post by hawk2k3
As for the other guy that was working on this with me, we've agreed that I get the 'game' provided that in the end that he gets his name in the credits for the game(and a little cash too if I decide to make money off it, but don't tell him lol).
This is a very important point which you don't seem to have understood.

Just "agreeing" with him doesn't mean anything at all. IP rights can ONLY be transfered by written agreement and not by verbal contract - he still owns part of the IP regardless of what has been agreed. If the game gets made and generates a lot of cash then this person will have a legal right to claim a share of the money. Worse still he could actually get far more than he deserves by threatening to prevent publication.

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Obscure, would a log file containing that chat session(with him saying 'go ahead it's yours provided I get credit{co-credit, I'm not going to let him have all the credit!}') be a written agreement? Besides, he lost interest like a week later and he wrote the 'go ahead' bit so that I could continue without him.

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No, it wouldn't. In some countries telephone calls and emails are legal evidences and can be submitted as proof while in certain countries the same does not hold good.

But in most countries a signed piece of paper is valid.

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This isn't legal advice - you need to talk to a lawyer.

The answer is that even a lawyer can't give you a proper answer because there are so many possibilities and, at the end of the day, he may still make a legal challenge that would cost you time and money. He are a selection of the points...

1. If all that happened is the two of you chatted about an idea and then you wrote it up on your own. Then he doesn't own it because you can't own/protect ideas - they are not IP. The document/graphics/code you create based on that idea can be protected - these are intellectual property.

2. But, if you "chatted" via IM, where he writes his ideas down, then a court might decide that the log file was a creation based on his idea - that it is in fact part of the design document and as such intellectual property, which he owns.

3. If both of you typed up documents and merged them or swapped them back and forth with both of you working on them, then he owns whatever he created and you have a nightmare of spaghetti where it is impossible to prove who actually owns what.

4. The log file - an assignment of rights has to be pretty specific. If the guy just said "you can have the idea" (remember you can't actually own/protect an idea except by keeping it secret) then he hasn't actually assigned you anything. The idea and the IP are different. He would actually have had to state that he was giving/selling/assigning his intellectual property and/or moral rights for it to count.

5. Number 4 above doesn't apply in some parts of the world (I told you this wasn't going to be easy). In some countries it is actually impossible to give away or sell your moral rights in an IP. Instead you have to license them for X amount of time in exchange for Y.

Conclusion
The only way to be sure you are covered is to get an assignment of rights, otherwise the guy may pop up and try to claim a share when the game is done. He may or may not win but it will be expensive and time consuming. An assignment needs to be done right and that means getting a lawyer, which costs money.

The reason you need to do it now is that the IP is currently worthless so you have a much stronger bargaining position. As it is worthless there is a much better chance that he will assign it. Alternatively he may realise you are serious about the project and may decide he wants a share - this is good because you can agree now and then get on with the project or not agree and simply abandon the idea and you have not wasted any effort.

If you wait until the game is made then it has value. Not only does it have value but any delay in selling the game will cost you money - this means he will have a much stronger bargaining position. He might only own 5% of the IP but he could still demand 50% of the revenue because you can't sell his 5% without his permission and you can't really go back and remake the game without his 5%.

Reality check
All the above is really far too much work for a hobby project. The first game you make is a learning experience and as such is seldom any good. The far better option would be to go through the design and remove all this ideas or better yet start afresh and come up with a new game idea.

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Quote:
Original post by Obscure

The reason you need to do it now is that the IP is currently worthless so you have a much stronger bargaining position. As it is worthless there is a much better chance that he will assign it. Alternatively he may realise you are serious about the project and may decide he wants a share - this is good because you can agree now and then get on with the project or not agree and simply abandon the idea and you have not wasted any effort.


Reality check
All the above is really far too much work for a hobby project. The first game you make is a learning experience and as such is seldom any good. The far better option would be to go through the design and remove all this ideas or better yet start afresh and come up with a new game idea.


First off, he is quite aware that I'm serious about it. Secondly all he gave me was the basic 'you could find it in any game' concept. So unless he plans on suing Id software, Valve, Ea, Etc...I'm not worried then.

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> I find it a bit odd that their excuse for modding games instead of
> creating them is 'So we can get our name out'.

Modding is the smart way to start a game studio, especially for an FPS title. Counter-Strike was initially released as a mod. Many PC titles are in fact large scale mods based on the Quake or Unreal engines; and knowing those engines inside out, along with knowing how to build game assets for them are critical core competencies for any game studio.

> I'm sorry, but after 3 years of modding and no one
> still knows who you are?

Nobody knew who Valve was before they took on the Q2 engine and 'modded' it. Look where they are today...

I'd be more worried about the number of *full games* they have released in this time frame and how many units were *sold*. If they have been modding uncompleted tech demos for their entire 3 years, then I'd turn around and run away!

Do they have a publisher or do business with some company that represents them to publishers and distributors? A little due diligence on prospective business partners is always a good idea in such a case.

-cb

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Actually....they've have only done 2 mods for a couple recent games(I'm not sure if that is a different type of modding then what you're talking about). They keep mentioning that they have unlimited resources and when I ask them what some of those 'resources' are they either point me to one of their mod sites or change the topic(which it was this that set off my instinct).

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