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04-03-2014, 10:37 PM #1
Particular question re: making games (sorta) - advice appreciated
(This is a slightly odd question, maybe? Might be no-one cares or is interested - totally fair enough if so. And I wasn't sure which subforum to put it in. Mods, by all means move this thread if you think it's necessary.)
Short version: I did some work for someone on an idea they had for a game to be made in their spare time, which ultimately never went anywhere. Technically they're a professional - they work in the industry, last I knew - and could theoretically have another go at it without me. I think I could maybe use the work I did on something similar but not the same as this person's idea. I am not planning on ripping them off - but I don't really want to have to talk to them about it. Do you think I could go ahead and work on the idea anyway, or is that too risky/too rude/just a bad idea all round?
Long version: Okay, so I've tried, on and off over the years, to find some kind of modding or game development project I could sign up to as a writer of some kind, without much success. (More than no success, but still not much.) Some time last year I got in touch with someone who seemed a little more promising than most - they had what I thought was a good, solid idea for a game that could be done by a very small team within a year, say (yes, I'm aware of the pitfalls of making bold statements like that, but in all seriousness I thought this was at least theoretically doable).
They had a general premise, but not much else. I did a whole bunch of rough planning, plot outlines, character sketches, ways we could use this person's themes, ideas for how the game might progress - I showed them what I'd been working on, they made suggestions, I went away and incorporated that feedback, lather, rinse, repeat, you know how it goes.
Now where it went wrong was, this person apparently worked for an established game studio (and I saw no real reason to disbelieve them). This was going to be a project in their spare time, which may be setting off alarm bells for some people. First they started basically sending shorter and shorter replies and saying this was because they were busier and busier at work, and given what I knew (and subsequent things I learnt) about the studio in question, again, this seemed perfectly plausible. Then they went quiet altogether.
I got angry once, mailed them saying (as politely as I could) look, I can't really get all this done on my own with no input from you, can you work out what you're going to do about this? They apologised, we started up again, then the same thing happened again - and this time they'd been saying that apparently the company lawyers weren't happy and were insisting anything they worked on would be the studio's property by default.
Then they just went silent again.
Now I stress I had no problem with this individual personally at any stage during this whole thing. They were perfectly nice and like I said, everything they said seemed plausible enough, they did back it up (real studio, real portfolio on their personal website, other stuff like that) and it never seemed likely they were running some kind of scam or whatever. I just threw my hands up, so to speak, and gave it up as a lost cause (life's too short, I already tried once, etc.), and they never responded again.
My question is, would I be able to make use of the work I did for them without getting in touch again with them first, if I can incorporate it into a project which is different enough from their original premise I'm obviously not ripping them off? (Because I do not want to rip them off.) Given the whole thing fizzled out on a sour note and they already went forever without responding to me I'm just not dead keen on sending them some polite inquiry after this long and then trying to guess what more dead silence means this time.
I stress again I've really not got that much invested in this - I liked the work I did for this person a lot, and I can think of a way I could re-use it but at the same time all it's cost me so far is time, and I've got plenty of other crap to play around with instead if there's basically no way I could do anything more with this particular project. It'd be unfortunate to have to let it go forever, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it if people think I ought to, or if no-one cares enough to offer any suggestions :-) .
I'm well aware all this might seem like a totally dumb question - sorry if that's the case! - but I just suddenly thought I could pose it to the internet anyway, since this person is theoretically in a position to have another crack at the idea with someone else in tow and I really don't want to step on any toes. So I thought I'd give RPS a shot. Anyone? Any thoughts? And if they're reading this - it's possible, I guess - boy, will my face be red. (They might well connect my nick with me.) Still, hopefully I've been vague enough (and respectful enough) not to have betrayed any confidences.
04-03-2014, 11:01 PM #2
If you did the work for them or involved them in it, I suggest sending an email telling them you are working on this using your own content, but are willing to acknowledge them (a Special Thanks To is nothing) if it was free and are willing to buy back your work if it was contracted. If they really haven't responded to you in ages and fell off the face of the earth, just word the email in a "If you don't have any issues with this..." form
Just look at the Troopers mod for UT2k4 a while back. Finishing a project is hard enough, but once legal/"legal" issues enter the fray it is a crapfest.Steam: Gundato
If you want me on either service, I suggest PMing me here first to let me know who you are.
14-03-2014, 10:18 AM #3
If you never signed an agreement transferring your works rights to the person, then it's still your work, so legally you are in the clear. Whether it's "ethical" or not depends entirely on your relationship with the person and nature of the work. If its just personal project modding that didnt go anywhere, personally, Id totally reuse my own assets.
Especially if it's just ideas. Ideas are dime a dozen. It's the execution that matters.