Jump to content
  • Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  
Nick of ZA

Indie questions: Volunteers, Management, Release method, IPs

This topic is 2992 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

Hi all. I'm a starting indie game developer, and have been working solo on my current project since January (lead design/dev). Though it's still early days in development, I've recently turned my attention to matters of getting the game (and name) out there for when the time comes, as well as matters of pulling in help and maintaining rights to IP. First let me list my relevant circumstances, so you can see the reasoning behind my apparent choices (see questions below). -I don't have a lot of funding available to me, only enough for my own upkeep. -I will need to take breaks from this development for part of the year to pay the bills. -If I take any help it is going to have to be volunteer work, with a possibility of divided profits if/when the game goes commercial. -I've had a bad experience of working with volunteers who simply could not deliver. Again because of my limited resources, I cannot afford to waste time micro-managing the clueless. -I am able to do the graphic assets myself, but it would be folly, and even if it were not, I'd rather focus my efforts on quality gameplay. My goal is to release a game that, through it's innovative gameplay, makes a fair impact, enough that I will have made a solid name for myself as a designer. This will obviously take time. I'm a professional software developer and visual designer so I'm aware of most cost/complexity/scoping concerns. It is also my firm intent to retain all IP (or at very least everything with the exception of graphic/sound assets), as it is crucial that I am able to build on this in future. *** QUESTION 1. VOLUNTEER HELP & PROJECT MANAGEMENT. These are my options as I see them at present: 1. Continue alone. I am able to do everything myself, but whether that is wise is a whole other kettle of fish. Hence this post. 2. Continue with a team of volunteers, especially modeller/rigger/animator, a texture artist and a dev to work on simpler tasks or to focus specifically on AI (either way, to help me split the coding work). 3. Continue with one volunteer who can do all the 3D modelling, texturing, animation and rigging (low poly, low detail work). Re option 1, in a way it is a safer option (no management), but in a far bigger way it seems an impossible route, as I need playable results within the next 4-5 months (alpha is fine, but I will need something). Re option 2, and this is the tough one: If I take on a group of volunteers, then my time as primary dev is going to be eaten into by PM work. Also, with respect to bringing a dev onboard, there are concerns including code quality and code security (I'm really not interested in hearing "as if anyone wants to steal your code", BTW). Re option 3, to me this seems ideal, if I can find an artist who is "one-stop-shop", i.e. can do all four asset production tasks competently and is willing to commit themselves. If they show enough initiative and ability, and management of that process is minimised from my PoV, that's great, and it could be the foundation for a more solid partnership (commercial). Can you offer any thoughts on what option seems best? *** QUESTION 2. PATH TO COMMERCIAL RELEASES Here are my options as I see them at present: 1. To go for a saleable game straight away. I've seen numerous people stating their opinion that "if you do it full time, you should expect pay for it". And I tend to agree with this, because the financial pressure I'm experiencing to do this full time, is considerable. 2. To release the game free at first, with a view to turning it commercial later (once there is community support). Make it very clear to player community from the start that the game will ultimately go commercial, but the free version will remain free forever. This way, I can use a developed product to get investor/publisher interest. In a way it seems a safer route. Which do you think is ideal? And can you see other options, bearing in mind my circumstances as outlined? *** QUESTION 3. LEGALLY RETAINING IP WHILST WORKING WITH VOLUNTEERS I think this speaks for itself. Considering that I will not have members under an employment contract where they will sign away their rights to any intellectual property that develop while working within the scope of a company's projects, I need to be sure that the key IP remains mine. This means at minimum story, codebase and concept art; assets would be a bonus but I don't see these as essential (I may be wrong here?). I know most of you are unlikely to be lawyers, but this is something that has had me concerned for a while, and I'd like to get some idea of where to go next on this issue. EDIT: This appears to be relevant to Question 3. Looking forward to your replies, Nick [Edited by - Nick of ZA on April 15, 2010 9:14:25 AM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
http://www.igda.org/games-game-september-2008
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/article58.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson29.htm
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson64.htm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
>> Question 1: Do I do everything, get a single person who is awesome at everything, or get a bunch of people who are awesome at specialties?

Since these are all unpaid volunteers, you get as many people as you are lucky enough to find.

Your concerns about time in project management will always apply. Any time there is more than a single person, the leader will need time to coordinate the project.


>> Question 2: How do I make money?

Read books about how to develop a business, and figure out your own personal plan.

This should be part of your business plan. If you don't know the answer to this question yet, then you aren't ready to be in business.

It is a very broad question. There are University programs dedicated to this question. Some smart people make money by writing books about paths to making money. The path you want to follow is highly personal.



>> Question 3: How do I protect my intellectual property?

You need to find a local lawyer. Somebody who knows the law in your country, your state, and your city. Every level of government has their own set of rules. You need to follow them all.

Before you accept anything from a volunteer, talk with a lawyer. You need them to sign the CORRECT forms to assign rights. You mentioned having them as "work for hire", but that my be wrong because you aren't actually hiring them.

Using the wrong kind of legal tool can be much worse than using no signed document at all. A local lawyer can explain what is necessary and what is customary.


Before you hire anyone, talk with a local lawyer. There are employment laws you need to know about. You may need to register with government agencies, pay certain taxes, provide some insurance, or perform other government-mandated actions.




Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Folks, your advice is appreciated, and I don't want to appear ungrateful, BUT...

I feel the same information is being repeated ad nauseum, as I'm sure you both do. I'm aware of your site, Tom -- and many thanks for such a great source. But as an individual I have a few more specific concerns that can't be answered by a FAQ, and I've outlined in my post. frob, that was *somewhat* helpful but I still feel very generic and doesn't really help me to move my plan of action along much.

"This should be part of your business plan. If you don't know the answer to this question yet, then you aren't ready to be in business."

This is a broad and sweeping statement that, though it may have good reasoning behind it, I find difficult to unquestioningly accept. I doubt that everyone who ever published a game successfully necessarily did it precisely this way. When the very existence of my business relies on an initial product offering, I'd have to say that product comes before anything else. When the product approaches a point where it can attract interest, then I can start to consider using my very limited time in favour of business planning. Perhaps I'm mistaken but that's my take.

You'll note in my other post today that I am concerned about legal issues re project contributors only because that needs to be done now *in order to* up the rate of production.

Re the solicitors, agree with you both, I'm looking into that now.

Yours,

-The guy who disagreed with the bigshots

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Nick of ZA
.....I'd have to say that product comes before anything else. When the product approaches a point where it can attract interest, then I can start to consider using my very limited time in favour of business planning. Perhaps I'm mistaken but that's my take.

You are indeed mistaken. Frob's point was neither broad nor sweeping. It was specific and straight to the heart of business. Business is about making money and the concept that you would spend any money at all developing a game, without first having a plan as to how you intend to monetize it, is daft.

Who will your product "attract interest" from? How will you contact them, are the deal terms you will want/need close to realistic for the market.... etc? If you spend money without knowing who/where/how you are going to get that money back then you are taking unnecessary (and therefore stupid) risks.

A guy came here a few years back (before digital download and high bandwidth) and complained that video game retailers were rubbish because he couldn't afford to sell his game at retail. He had spent two years developing a game that was so large it had to go on a disk and therefore had to be sold at retail. He had planned and made this game without bothering to find out what the standard business terms of all game retailers were. Having spent all his money making the game he then started to try and sell his game, only to find that retailers all require substantial "marketing contributions" of up to $10,000 before they will agree to stock your game. He had spent all his money making the game but couldn't recoup the investment because he couldn't bring the game to market due to an easily avoidable error. His best case scenario was to sell the game on to a publisher and get a reduced % per unit sold. Worst case he just wasted two years and who knows how much money.

Business planning first - product second. Anything else isn't business.

Quote:
*** QUESTION 2. PATH TO COMMERCIAL RELEASES

{snip}

Which do you think is ideal? And can you see other options, bearing in mind my circumstances as outlined?
Quote:

It would certainly be nice if it was that easy to identify the ideal plan to follow but sadly we can't look into the future and see what is ideal; especially with no clue as to what your game is. Both the options you suggested work - they also both fail when the product is poor or a business is badly managed or marketing is executed poorly.

Free-to-play/freemium/ad supported/single payment purchase/subscription/micro-transaction. They all work, if applied to the right product in the right way. Each has its pros and cons and the reason you need to do a business plan is so that you can determine if you will be able to survive the cons. - If you give your game away for free, do you have enough money to live until it gets to the point where you start to earn money? To even know this you need a plan - you need to research how long it took for similar games to start to earn money. If it turns out that the average is a year but you only have enough money to live for three months then you just saved yourself from becoming the guy I mentioned above who wasted two years and who knows how much money trying to do something that was clearly not viable.

*** QUESTION 3. LEGALLY RETAINING IP WHILST WORKING WITH VOLUNTEERS

I think this speaks for itself. Considering that I will not have members under an employment contract where they will sign away their rights to any intellectual property that develop while working within the scope of a company's projects, I need to be sure that the key IP remains mine.

List of lawyers

Quote:
...This means at minimum story, codebase and concept art; assets would be a bonus but I don't see these as essential (I may be wrong here?).

Yep wrong again, you seem to be developing a bad habit there ;)
If someone leaves and you don't own the assets (or at least have a license to use them) then you just wasted all the time and effort you went to getting them created.

There is no reason why your volunteers shouldn't sign an agreement that, while not actually granting you ownership of the assets they create, certainly grants you a license to use the assets, even if they opt to leave the project part way through. Of course I wouldn't sign such an agreement unless I was going to get some reward if the game made money when it was released.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Nick of ZA
This is a broad and sweeping statement that, though it may have good reasoning behind it, I find difficult to unquestioningly accept. I doubt that everyone who ever published a game successfully necessarily did it precisely this way. When the very existence of my business relies on an initial product offering, I'd have to say that product comes before anything else. When the product approaches a point where it can attract interest, then I can start to consider using my very limited time in favour of business planning. Perhaps I'm mistaken but that's my take.

One released game is not enough to base a business plan on.

One game is a "get your foot in the door" plan.

Once your foot is in, you better have a plan to either open the door wider or remove the foot. You also better know that you have your foot in the correct door.




You have your foot in the door with a single game written. How will you open the door farther? Who do you talk to? Where will you publish? Where will you market? How will you support your customers? How many sales can you expect through various deployment avenues? How long will the revenue stream last?

Once that game is done, what next? What about after that? And after that? What is your five year plan? What is your ten year plan?



You *MUST* develop your business plan first. You could spend millions making a game only to discover that you will never sell more than a few copies, or even worse, discovering that it is unsellable and violates the rights of others.

Consider the recent news story of an indie/volunteer game that followed that route. They developed a Kings Quest clone. They got sued. They got a short-term license, and continued to make it. After a few years, the license was eventually revoked. Now they have many years invested in a product that is unsellable. They can't work with the publishers directly because they didn't follow strict legal guidelines for asset ownership. That was several million hours of work, and it can never be released or marketed except under the terms and grace of a global corporation.


Any investor and publisher you talk with will ask about detailed long-term plans. They will require detailed information about the legal state of your game. If you haven't got anything in your plan beyond monetizing a single game, they will ignore everything else you say.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement
×

Important Information

By using GameDev.net, you agree to our community Guidelines, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy.

Participate in the game development conversation and more when you create an account on GameDev.net!

Sign me up!