Since my last post went so well, I thought I might make another post since this topic has recently come up and has been on my mind.
As you guys may or may not know, I’m a play tester/writing consultant on a project that was launched on this website called Forks . I highly advise towards you all to check it out, even though so far only the first demo is up and another one is currrently nearing completion. I still suggest you bookmark the topic since it’s a wonderful game being worked on by wonderful people.
After working with @Tron (creator of Forks) I’ve come across the typical online artist issues. Not from Tron, but from people within this forum. I won’t name names, that’s not what I’m about. Mainly because there’s 2 sides to every story. And I can kind of understand where these type of people are coming from.
On this wonderful site, there are projects much like Tron’s. Games that center around weight gaining. What I’ve been noticing in an influx of people creating games and reaching out for help within the community. Harmless right? Well, here’s the kicker: the creators of these games are not willing to pay the people getting involved as coders or writing staff. See here’s where I feel like it’s a double edged sword. These games are all going to be free upon release, and all the people involved are going to be properly credited. So, is it a volunteer project, or is it abuse of the community’s kindness? To an extent I don’t think it is, so long as you’re making it abundantly clear in your post in the Projects section. On top of making sure you’re not asking anyone who posts any ounce interest to work on said game. I’ve seen some creators guilty of this.
Whenever I work with someone, I hold them to what I call the “Tron Standard”. Tron has treated me and the enitre team SO WELL throughout this entire process. Despite the fact that the game is free, he compensates everyone for their time. Which, during a pandemic, is crucial to some people. So even though I’m not the most excited about doing volunteer projects, if you have a team of people and the work exceeds more than an hour’s worth of work: PAY THEM. At least that’s my take on. Feel free to comment below because I’m very interested in what y’all think.
I think it comes down to expectations and what is agreed on when signing onto a project. There’s also something to be said about scope, where if you’re doing a game jam proof of concept whose workload measures in a few dozen hours it’s easier to not worry about compensation.
The biggest thing is when someone joins a project is to ensure they aren’t being taken advantage of, and that project leads are aware of how much they are asking of volunteers in this case.
That said, especially in this time this kind of thing can be a great way to expand one’s personal skillset and possibly earn some cash. Scatterbrained response, but this topic is very pertinent these days with people looking for any way to stay afloat.
As a programmer I would like to be compensated for my time. But I don’t expect it here.
As a developer I have no money to pay a team. But that’s a big reason why I have no projects right now.
I think if you plan on getting involved in a project you need to have a conversation about compensation. If you can’t reach an agreement, or one side or the other can’t fulfill their side of the deal you should walk away from the project. BUT the terms need to be clear from the start. Especially if you expect to get paid.
The fact or the matter is we are only aware of about 3 devs that actually pay a team (we are going to exclude those who simply commission work from one or two artists for simplicity sake though they are also few in numbers).
The devs are:
@Dr-Black-Jack (constantly contracts out artists for his VNs though they tend to be the only ones to receive pay to our knowledge)
Weight Gaming (we have 2 contract workers atm)
@Tron (which we only just found out about due to your post)
The fact of the matter is getting compensated for ones work is actually quite rare with most projects seeking help. The main reason for this is it can be quite expensive to develop games. To give you some hard numbers we pay ~$2000 a month for our 3D modeler alone and for a programmer they can charge any where between $50-$100/hr for custom work (and that is what I have charged people in some of my freelancing projects).
In short labor, is not cheap and it can easily make up 80-90% of the operating costs of a studio especially since games take a fair bit of specialized labor.
Most people can not afford to fund such a project proper and those who do usually treat it as a commercial endeavor. Funny enough out of the 3 I named I know 2 of them treat it as a commercial endeavor. @Dr-Black-Jack VNs are actually commissioned works and the game we are attempting to make is actually a commercial endeavor for the most part.
Due to this most projects are seen as a collaborative or individual effort. Instead of the expectation of pay, most projects accept that the assistance they are given is due to the participants excitement for the project and the fact that they can contribute on their own time.
Now not all projects work this way and I know a few that have demanded strict time tables with no pay but for most projects its really an attitude of “if/when you have the time feel free to help if you wish” as they know the labor is being donated to them.
I can go on a whole rant about this stuff as we have been highly researching this ourselves, but the fact of the matter is your “Tron Standard” is THE GOLD STANDARD and you will not be able to find very many people that are willing or able financially to front the money required for these projects. Also, from what we have seen, most cases are not an abuse of community kindness but sincere volunteer projects.
That all being said this is why we are focusing so hard to open this up as a viable indie market. It is our belief that by working on opening up the market so more games can be treated as commercial endeavors that more projects we not only have the insensitive to but also be able to fairly compensate those who are working with them.
Depends on a plethora of variables and circumstances.
If the project is a passion project that the author is seeking help for, then it is understood by whoever comes aboard the team will not receive monetary value, which is my case. I simply reached out because I would like fellow-minded individuals working with me. I also have a pretty good rapport with those I work with.
On the other hand, if said project author is expecting/demanding AAA content for free there is something to be said about that. As the saying goes: beggers can’t be choosers. If an author is wanting volunteer work, expect volunteer content. If the author is paying or compensating in some way, expect better content.
I encountered a very interesting opportunity a short time ago on this site. An artist advertising free art for projects so they could practice. I was dubious at first, anyone offering anything for free is a little suspect (the community here are great obviously but I had some doubts). I decided to take the offer to help me develop the game I made for the previous game jam.
I was very pleasently surprised when the artist turned out to be totally legit. They very quickly provided me a test drawing of one of my characters, a really nice one at that. At that point I had to decide what I was going to do, they said they were cool working for free but obviously it feels a tad awkward reciveing such a thing for free.
I could only think of one thing, in a sense: Be happy with what they were willing/able to provide. A very “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” kind of mentality. I even decided that if the artwork was insufficent to make the game, or the artist wanted to pull out of the project for any reason, I had to let them go with a smile, no hard feelings.
Ive learned a lot from this approach. The artist in question has run into a little difficulty recently and can’t provide art to me at the moment. Still though I am cool with it. The very act of having this person draw one of my characters was just so damn inspiring that I went ahead coding away at the game anyway; with no expectations hinging on the art being done. It is such good practice and if need be I could find another way to get the art I need, either making it myself or paying someone to draw it for me.
I suppose what I’m saying is I think those that volunteer talents of any kind are real gems and even small gestures can make a big impact. It is up to the recipient of these kind acts to treat the person(s) in question with respect and not as if the volunteer owes them anything. If the thing falls through and the volunteer can’t provide everything that is required, there should be no repercussions.
Obviously for someone like me who is making a game for this site as a personal project alongside making other games for university, this is all quite easy for me to say. Ive not got money riding on it, essentially I am also a volunteer to myself i suppose — This route isnt a great idea for someone making a commercial product, but for a personal project or something with very little money behind it, I dont see a problem with accepting help from volunteers.
Hopefully this perspective is useful, thanks for reading and special thanks to my artist friend!
I think this bears repeating, though maybe not the part about ‘AAA’ because I don’t think anyone here expects that lol. Most people on the site have pretty grounded expectations, but there are always outliers. That said, a game can be very demanding on time and effort without fancy graphics, especially if it’s a tiny team running on the smell of lard-impregnated rags. I’d like to also point to time as a factor - the less you’re paid, the more likely you’re going to have paid work push back hobby-like activities. That in turn means less ‘buzz’ around the project which can also be a dampener on progress by its impact on morale.
As someone that provided free labour some time ago to a project as a writer (alongside some far more talented people) only for the lead to flake on the team, there 100% should be a set of realistic expectations among all participants to ensure a few people don’t end up throwing time on assets that aren’t used and the time/effort of people aren’t wasted. Being paid might mean fewer complaints but it doesn’t mean that if you’re in charge of a project you can slack off as a project lead and rely on them to bail you out.
I think you shouldn’t worry about the people requesting the work too much. I feel it is the workers who should bare the most responsibility on what they will put up with. If someone is asking and not promising anything up front, the worker shouldn’t expect payment. If the asker does not seem to have a clear idea about the things they are asking for but say they are going to pay for it, you should be cautious as they probably will waste their money if they pay and therefore have a higher chance of deciding not to pay anymore. And as mentioned before, someone asking for high quality work is likely going to be manipulative or just abusive so you should warn others about them.
Overall, the person you are volunteering for or working for would ideally not be pushy or
will show appreciation for whatever you can contribute. There are tons of people out there who will rip off creative people and programmers without a fail-proof arrangement. In a world where people believe in hateful or dangerous lies when all the evidence points against it, we should expect such harsh realities. Illegitimate people are probably about 50% of those requesting work and another good chunk are too inexperienced to be dependent upon.
I think some (most?) of the people asking for help are in reality looking to form teams to fill in the aspects where they are lacking) for non-commercial projects, and unless the “team-lead” (for want of a better term) has significant disposable income then these aren’t going to be paid roles, other than (hopefully) the kudos of working on a popular project.
If you are going to put significant effort into an unpaid role in a team then the lead flaking (or worse) is a real concern, a breaking of a social contract that can be very hurtful. There is a way out though - keeping the work in a shared repository, with an agreement that any of the team can take the project forward if someone pulls out - even the lead.
Being paid though changes that - in many ways you’ve received the (financial) reward whether or not the development goes to completion. It’s worth noting though that even in real commercial game development many titles never make release, despite many years of effort. It’s incredibly frustrating for the team that worked on it, even thought that’s something they are aware of from the outset.
Then there’s the grey area: the game starts out as a volunteer project, unpaid, but then subsequently it’s up on a site that brings in a revenue stream. Do the volunteers deserve a cut of that income? I’d argue that they do. How do you divvy it up - that’s much harder, especially if no ones been keeping note of the work they put in. It’s probably something that needs to be agreed at the outset, even if no one thinks it will end up earning anything.