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3 VITAL GameDev lessons from the YogVentures! Kickstarter
by Zachary Strebeck on 08/18/14 01:57:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


A few weeks ago, I wrote about the potential legal implications of the much-publicized failure of the “YogVentures!” Kickstarter from the perspective of the backer. This week, I’d like to touch on some of the lessons that can be learned by developers who are using Kickstarter to fund their projects. Hopefully, these three lessons will help others avoid a similar fate in the future.

Get a team in place that knows the business you are in:

However, sometimes getting just any attorney, accountant or project manager isn’t enough.

A team of qualified professionals can be a vital part of any entrepreneurial journey. This is particularly true when the entrepreneur is embarking on a project with little to no experience. However, sometimes getting just any attorney, accountant or project manager isn’t enough.

As with any other aspect of game development, it is important to hire the right people for the job. For instance, a lawyer who is familiar the game development process can help to anticipate some of the problems that may crop up throughout development. Knowing this, they can build solutions to these problems into whatever contracts are drafted before that development starts. Many of the major legal issues in game development are similar to those in other fields. However, there are plenty of GameDev-centric problems that may not apply to, say, film or television production.

Another example might be an accountant or manager who understands how Kickstarter works and the ins and outs of getting paid (such as dealing with the fees and with backers who don’t pay). This can help them to plan the financial realities of the project better and keep the scope within that budget.

Know thyself:

I often recommend that new developers start small and expand as they gain experience, infrastructure and confidence.

Socrates was right. It is important to be very cognizant of one’s experience and limitations when embarking a game development journey. I often recommend that new developers start small and expand as they gain experience, infrastructure and confidence.

Similarly, this works with Kickstarter as well. A smaller crowdfunding project potentially has a better chance to fund and is an attainable goal. In the “YogVentures!” case, the project had the potential to be huge. Though a proof of concept early on seemed to show that the game that was envisioned would be attainable, this was obviously not the case. Had the parties involved had more experience, they may have better understood the amount of work that the project would take to get right.


Understand and plan for the difficulties of working with a partner:

As I always say, spending a little money up front can help to avoid losing a lot of money later.

Game development is often impossible to do all by oneself, particularly something on the scale planned for “YogVentures!” In that case, the theme of the game and many of the creative decisions were the result of a partnership between Winterkewl and YogsCast.

However, creative differences abounded from the start and would plague the project throughout development. Then there is the issue of the $35,000 that was paid to one of the artists, which seemed to be the jumping-off point of the real issues between the two development entities.

Having clarity in the roles of the partners, particularly when it comes to who is in control of the product, milestones that must be met and how decisions are made, can be a vital part of the partnership agreements. Rather than just skating by on trust, it is usually better to get all of this down in writing to ensure that all parties have the same understanding of the partnership going forward.

While some of these issues can be addressed in a “boilerplate”-type agreement that can be obtained through a site like LegalZoom, many issues are not anticipated in such documents. It is important to have a professional look over or draft a custom document for your uses. As I always say, spending a little money up front can help to avoid losing a lot of money later.

photo credit: alkruse24 via photopin cc

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Robert Carter
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Wonderful advice, thank you for sharing!

I am currently working on a weekends-only project by myself, and when my contract is up next year I plan to evaluate my chances of finishing a nice polished game on my own with my savings and the progress I have made on the game so far.

If I stick to the plan I will be lucky to have enough money to maybe pay bills for he better part of a year, but will not have any money for additional help. I have people willing to help with audio, and I can do design, programming, and even decent placeholder art myself. But I dont know anyone with legal expertise for the industry.

How much would you recommend one set aside to have legal council? How early in development would you recommend legal advice (pre kickstarter, post alpha, after release)? If the game is single player and relatively minor in scope compared to many games (Cave Story, Shovel Knight), is there less need than something massive in scope (MMO, online shooters)?

Zachary Strebeck
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My belief is that you should get someone involved early on in the process. I work on an "unbundled" or limited-scope basis. So basically you do a free consultation where we discuss what would be involved, legally, throughout the entire process. Then, at least for an attorney like me, you would just purchase services as needed. The fee is paid up front for that specific work.

Some firms prefer that you pay a retainer up front and charge hourly. Others may work on contingency, where they will either get paid a portion of profit from the project or equity in the company. The beauty of this is that you can find a professional that works within your needs and your budget.

You don't necessarily need to do trademark registrations or get terms of service and privacy policies written before production even begins. However, it may be prudent to set up an LLC or other entity before the Kickstarter project is posted (not legal advice, of course...).

The point is that you don't necessarily need to front-load all of the costs. Rather, you can spread them out through the project. Hope that helps!