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Legal/management functions in small team

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Hello all,

I have been working on a game and brought a few others in on it to develop it and make content. The team is currently unpaid (will be compensated after release/funding)

In this setting, what do you think are some good practices to follow to make the project a success and a good development environment?

The project is still early in development and I would consider this to be my first leading role in something like this

Managing vs Leading:

As I am pretty directly involved in the development of things, from story to design to actual coding, I have tried to steer clear of 'managing', or over-managing as its a small team and nobody is seeing the $$$ to put up with much BS.

I think I have mostly done this with some success, but it has made it difficult for me at times. I have tried taking less of the front seat and letting everyone pedal as well, but I found that people didn't really have much drive to contribute anything unless it was adding to something that I created or was already there.

So far I have created a wiki, a forum, a Google drive, and set up some other tools for the team, as well as a Facebook page and have managed the security of our information (like making everything non-public)

Legal stuff - NDA/other agreements:

When is the best time to do the formalities and write up things like NDA's and other agreements to protect the project? Gauging my team as it is, I think they would not be keen on signing things like this - it seems to be a big turn-off when I start talking about rules and organization.  I can understand the reticence as it is unpaid, but it also seems very risky in thinking of the future. I have already had a developer leave the project, and I have yet to see if problems are going to arise from this. 

I know these types of things are very standard for larger projects with funding, but it seems difficult to implement in this setting. I have read many stories of failed games due to petty internal conflicts, developers retracting their contributions, misappropriated funding, and dissatisfied developers that probably could have been prevented if everyone had some type of written, formal agreement adhering to some rules of conduct.

I dont see agreements and NDA's as an attempt to disadvantage people or deprive them of freedom, but as something to protect the project as a whole - which is bigger than any one person and affects everyone.

Is it a good idea to put write something up and get some signatures? If so, when is a good time and what would be the best approach (as far as selling it to the team)? Should any agreement be very light and plain, or well written and very detailed?

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3 hours ago, steelstrung said:

I found that people didn't really have much drive to contribute anything unless it was adding to something that I created or was already there.

The following is an elaboration of what I said in the other thread.

People you get as recruits to free projects have 2 basic motivations, in some varying proportion:

  1. People who are happy to be along for the ride and want to be part of something bigger. They won't usually want to get bogged down in big discussions and may never give much input.
  2. People who see an opportunity and believe the team and project can be a vehicle for their ideas. They will tend to push for their ideas in the hope that others will help to bring them to reality.

For the first, you need to understand people's individual motivations and be able to reward them. For the second, you need to set firm boundaries so that they either stay because they are aligned with you, or they leave because they are not.


3 hours ago, steelstrung said:

Legal stuff - NDA/other agreements

I would advise doing this early, but keeping it simple, In many jurisdictions written agreement is just as binding as any legalese contract, providing it's unambiguous and fair. There is also little point getting complex formal agreements drawn up anyway since you have no money or legal team with which to enforce them. And some contracts are unenforceable if there was no consideration (e.g. payment or exchange of goods or services) anyway, depending on jurisdiction.

Just let people know what you expect, and get written confirmation from them that they understand and agree.


3 hours ago, steelstrung said:

I dont see agreements and NDA's as an attempt to disadvantage people or deprive them of freedom, but as something to protect the project as a whole

Well, of course you'd say that - it's your project. Unfortunately it's not a fair assessment of how the power dynamic actually plays out. You need to consider the rights of these people if this project fails (which most do!) through no fault of their own, e.g. if one of the other developers doesn't do their job, or if you move the goalposts in a way that wastes their effort, etc.

I still insist that the best tool at your disposal is to be very strict over who you take onto the team and quick to remove anyone that doesn't belong. That makes it harder to get work done, but much more likely the project will be completed.

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Steelstrung, your two threads ("Issues with creative conflict for small unpaid team" and "Legal/management functions in small team") are so similar that both should not remain open. The latter contains (but is unfortunately not limited to) legal matters - legal topics belong in, and would be best discussed in, the Business/Law forum, not this one.  To make things easier for interested community members interested in helping you with your questions, I'm locking the latter. Folks can respond to your questions in the "Issues with creative conflict" thread.  If you want to post a thread about the legal issues, go ahead and post that in the Business/Law forum. 

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