Armantium

How to protect yourself and your game?

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Let's say you need to hire a few freelancers across several different countries to solve specific problems that occur during the development, but in order for these problems to be solved you need to give them full access to all the game assets, everything you've built so far.

What can stop them from completely stealing/hijacking everything so far developed and releasing the game as their own?

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Have them sign an NDA. It really will come down to Contract law. Obviously, once they have access to the source, they have access to the source. You can't force your contractors to not be nefarious, but you can certainly promise legal repercussions to such actions.

You may want to get an Attorney, or at least schedule a consultation with one. At the end of the day, "trust" is the keyword here. If you have any reservations of the people you are onboarding, then simply don't bring them on.

Edited by markypooch

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2 minutes ago, markypooch said:

Have them sign an NDA. It really will come down to Contract law. Obviously, once they have access to the source, they have access to the source. You can't force your contractors to not be nefarious, but you can certainly promise legal repercussions to such actions.

How can this be enforced if everyone lives in a different country?

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Geez, the point was that you can't do that much. You can make them sign stuff, you could try your luck filling DMCA requests to the sites where they uploaded your stuff, but there are no guarantees.

If you contract someone who lives on a dirt house in the outskirts of Cairo, good luck trying to enforce your contract clauses there.

The best thing you can do is to try to research who you contract. People with long portfolios and a extensive list of published things will be a safer bet, but they wont be cheap. You could try to luck out with a newbie that looks that has talent, but you can't guarantee he/she wont screw you over.

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Just now, markypooch said:

Don't outsource beyond your legal departments jurisdiction? I'm sure there is a lot of untapped talent all around you.

So, does anyone here know how Virtual Game Studios work?

I couldn't possibly be the first one with these concerns.

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This is the nature of contracting out your workloads for a, "confidential product" If you simply cannot trust anybody with the workload you plan to give them, than you simply need to learn how to do it yourself. You could always attempt to STIFF the workstation they are likely to use. I.e. disable USB ports, setup web-proxies, ect.

But even than, there is always a work around.

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Any kind of business endeavor works like that. You implicitly depend on that all the people involved aren't insane. That it wont turn out that the "John Williams from DC" artist guy you contracted is actually Juan Carlos Lee, who lives in Mongolia taking care of sheeps, and has been selling what whatever he was making for you to multiple people at the same time behind your back for two years. Or that the sound effect gal you hired isn't actually just stealing other people's sounds and slightly tweaking them when you ask her to do so because they don't sound appropriate for your game.

Everything is a gamble. You can just make some efforts to make your fall softer if it comes to it.

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Hiring in your country is likely the best idea and have them sign NDA's written by a local lawyer who is aware of federal laws in your country also.  This would be my non-legal advise.  Seek a lawyers assistance in the matter.  It will be cheaper over time then finding out we may have given you poor information in an online forum.

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There is only one way I know of protecting yourself after something has been stolen. Get a legal contract for every piece of work someone does for you.

Some Freelancing sites create contracts like this for the Freelancers and clients, a other way is using a email contract. For a email to be considered a contract both parties need to reside in a country where emails can be used as a contract and there must be a way to confirm the persons real identity using only the email account; for example gmail needs a mobile number and some countries require registration for a person to buy a sim card.

Most contracts require the exchange of money.

These contacts will work for removing stolen assets and games from app stores and asset websites, you just have to prove ownership and the contract works most of the time. Turbo squid for example removes models if you can prove someone uploaded it without you permission.

 

To prevent people from stealing in the first place a NDA is your best defence. A professional wouldn't break a NDA even if there is bad blood between you, doing so would make it impossible to get hired if word got around; it also allows you to then take legal action against them.

 

Unfortunately even if you do all you can people will steal from you, look at AAA games you can even illegally download there assets if you wanted. The only way to fully protect a game is to never make it.

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I hired a lot of freelancers for some of my stuff and i protected myself dead simple.

If you're afraid someone will steal your art - give them a project (or a part of the project) with only placeholder art to work on, then copy the things they did to the original project.

If you're afraid someone will steal your code - give them as little as needed for them to work on it, a scene with placeholder art, basic functionality needed for them to have a grasp of the concept.

If you're afraid some will steal your idea - don't worry, they need to start working on the game from the beginning, and you're probably far off already.

But the best way is to precisely define what exactly do you need and have them to that only, without accessing your project. It may take a bit more time and be more expensive since you'll probably need to revise the work done a few times, but it's the ultimate in protecting yourself and your project.

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2 minutes ago, FatPugStudio said:

But the best way is to precisely define what exactly do you need and have them to that only, without accessing your project. It may take a bit more time and be more expensive since you'll probably need to revise the work done a few times, but it's the ultimate in protecting yourself and your project.

Yes, you're right. It will require a lot of preparation and dissection, but it would be the safest, along with the NDA contract.

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This might not work in your particular context, but in terms of indie games I think it's worth asking what you gain from keeping everything under lock and key.  Are your game ideas really so original and valuable that you'd take a monetary loss if anyone learned about them?  Better yet - would you benefit from people knowing what you're working on?  Both from the point of view that if it's publicly known that the ideas are yours it would be easier to defend them as such, but also, building hype is an important tool for indies who don't have the marketing power of an existing IP to bank on.  Keeping an indie game as a strict secret seems counter-intuitive to me.

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Yes, my game is original, both in terms of story and game mechanics.

If implemented properly, it will ooze money.

But you are right, publicizing the game as my own will help greatly in this regard, but this will come much later. Before that phase it will be under a lock-down.

 

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40 minutes ago, Armantium said:

If implemented properly, it will ooze money.

Implementation is by far the most important part of any game.  Good implementation of a rehashed idea will be far better than poor implementation of an original idea.  And if an idea is never implemented at all, it's guaranteed to make zero money.

My point is, don't get so paranoid with protecting your idea that nothing ever comes of it.

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I know this is an unsatisfying answer, but it's:
"Hire professionals with a track record."
That will cost you more than if you took the cheapest bid from "a few freelancers from several different countries" but it will also cut the odds your game will be stolen to close to 0.

People who do this for a living aren't going to steal your code/art/sound.

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4 hours ago, Armantium said:

If implemented properly, it will ooze money.

If you're THAT confident that your idea is worth that much, then you should be able to borrow against your future success and hire the proper experienced devs and legal assistance to solve your problems.

I would be VERY careful with that level of confidence though.  "If implemented properly" presents a big risk.  Everyone has all the best ideas, but unless you've got the experience to back it, and you're lucky enough that nothing goes wrong (whether or not that's really luck is a whole other conversation), then the ideas aren't worth anything.

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