Revenge of the Litigated

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Revenge of the Litigated

There is a way that small companies can protect themselves, and it doesn't even require an overhaul to our legal system.

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Thank you, Shamus for proving once again that common sense is a rather uncommon thing in people. This is something every father should teach their children, but somehow a lot of people can't seem to put 2 and 2 together when it comes to certain companies and people.

The problem with the "don't do business with corps that have questionable background" is that the (Western) gaming industry is dominated by a few publishing megahouses that all have dodgy pasts to some degree. Consequently, by your reasoning, surely developers are left with a Hobson's choice since all publishers with the big bucks to spend on game development have got skeletons in the closet?,*

*in before someone starts worshiping Valve as the saviors of gaming

**double post please ignore**

Honestly, that advice seems very, extremely weird coming from someone who is a freelancer.

Anyone doing freelance business MUST know that often you simply don't have a choice but to accept.

Especially when dealing with big companies. Especially when big money is in place.

Seriously, let's not live in the dreamworld, please.

Cousin_IT:
The problem with the "don't do business with corps that have questionable background" is that the (Western) gaming industry is dominated by a few publishing megahouses that all have dodgy pasts to some degree. Consequently, by your reasoning, surely developers are left with a Hobson's choice since all publishers with the big bucks to spend on game development have got skeletons in the closet?,*

*in before someone starts worshiping Valve as the saviors of gaming

Well, there's companies that make mistakes, and there's companies that habitually make mistakes. When you have a long string of lawsuits against a potential business partner that's a strong sign that you shouldn't do business with them. You may have other options for doing business, and those other options may have done their fair share of dirty dealings, but that doesn't mean you can't work with anyone. You just have to find other people who are respectful enough to honor their agreements and hope that your summation of their character is at least mostly correct.

Shamus, if there's a smarter thing written on this forum somewhere, I don't know what it is. On a related note,
My father used to tell me a story about my great-great grandfather, it goes like this: (short, I promise)

My grand-dad once started up a carpentry business, and to do so he borrowed a lot of money from a lot of people. He was successful for a few years, but he was a carpenter not a businessman and he went under around year 5. He hadn't paid back even half of his investors.

There was no contract involved, my Grandfather simply shook hands with everyone who invested in his company. In this day and age, even an investor who had a contract as thick as a phonebook wouldn't be protected if a company went bankrupt. My great great grandfather paid back every dime, over the next 15 years. I've been inspired by that story of integrity my entire life.

It's not a DREAMWORLD for people to honour their word, and if you can't see that, I feel sorry for you. That kind of cynicism eats away at your well-being.

When you shake a man's hand, it should MEAN something. Forget people working FOR Activision, who is working AT Activision, and how are they rationalizing it to themselves? How can they look these people in the eyes, promise them something, watch the higher-ups screw them, and then go to work on the next project with any kind of hope? How can they not say, "I work hard for these people, and they turned me into a liar, I'm out."

sir.rutthed:

Cousin_IT:
The problem with the "don't do business with corps that have questionable background" is that the (Western) gaming industry is dominated by a few publishing megahouses that all have dodgy pasts to some degree. Consequently, by your reasoning, surely developers are left with a Hobson's choice since all publishers with the big bucks to spend on game development have got skeletons in the closet?,*

*in before someone starts worshiping Valve as the saviors of gaming

Well, there's companies that make mistakes, and there's companies that habitually make mistakes. When you have a long string of lawsuits against a potential business partner that's a strong sign that you shouldn't do business with them. You may have other options for doing business, and those other options may have done their fair share of dirty dealings, but that doesn't mean you can't work with anyone. You just have to find other people who are respectful enough to honor their agreements and hope that your summation of their character is at least mostly correct.

tbh it's more a case of "there are companies that make mistakes, & there are companies that are currently the media bogyman so their mistakes get all the press attention."

Westwood Studios. Never forget!

sir.rutthed:
You may have other options for doing business,

The key word there being "may". If you don't, your options are dealing with the shady folk and hoping for the best, or risking going bankrupt.

Sad as it is, dealing with the shady folk can be the only "reasonable" option.

Cousin_IT:

sir.rutthed:

Cousin_IT:
The problem with the "don't do business with corps that have questionable background" is that the (Western) gaming industry is dominated by a few publishing megahouses that all have dodgy pasts to some degree. Consequently, by your reasoning, surely developers are left with a Hobson's choice since all publishers with the big bucks to spend on game development have got skeletons in the closet?,*

*in before someone starts worshiping Valve as the saviors of gaming

Well, there's companies that make mistakes, and there's companies that habitually make mistakes. When you have a long string of lawsuits against a potential business partner that's a strong sign that you shouldn't do business with them. You may have other options for doing business, and those other options may have done their fair share of dirty dealings, but that doesn't mean you can't work with anyone. You just have to find other people who are respectful enough to honor their agreements and hope that your summation of their character is at least mostly correct.

tbh it's more a case of "there are companies that make mistakes, & there are companies that are currently the media bogyman so their mistakes get all the press attention."

Westwood Studios. Never forget!

That's exactly my point. We shouldn't forget how these poor bastards got screwed over, and we learn from their mistakes. No more business with companies that pull evil tricks like that, and no more accepting it as the business norm. Sure, it's not a perfect world, but that doesn't mean we should encourage the people that are actively making it worse.

"Don't go into business with people who have dealt poorly with their other business partners."

Or the corollary: Sure, sell out to Activision: but then immeditately liquidate all your company stock, quit, and move to Bermuda.

Well the "Don't do business with publishers who have bad PR," Is probably the basic guideline all aspiring developers should follow. But there's a difference between informing the developers "Look, if you sign deal with so and so, you're going to be fucked," And the developers actually applying that to all their business deals.

Think of all the leaders and people who have fallen for the "It won't happen to me," notion. Following the exact same steps as predecessors but foolishly thinking that because they're aware of the previous mistake it won't happen to them.

Hopefully Bungie knows what they're doing. They've managed to be part of Microsoft for almost 10 years and managed to make it through alright, where others(Rare) weren't so lucky.

I really don't want to see them go the route of IW...

Irridium:
Hopefully Bungie knows what they're doing. They've managed to be part of Microsoft for almost 10 years and managed to make it through alright, where others(Rare) weren't so lucky.

I really don't want to see them go the route of IW...

well considering how they say they were treated by ms I imagine that activison couldnt be that worse for them but then again it is activision and they tend to be horrible to those that make them money

Shamus Young:
And "massive fines" is a tricky notion. What's massive for a ten person company is peanuts for a hundred person company. And a massive fine for a hundred person company would be a rounding error for a thousand person company. And how do you calculate how "big" a company is, anyway? Some companies employ a ton of people. Some are just a few people who employ a lot of contractors.

This is kind of at the core of what's gone screwy with the oil industry over the years. Ships like the Exxon Valdez didn't/don't comply to safety regulations because the sale of oil from the tanker vastly exceeds the cost of fines if they get caught. The moral of the story is, there's no real way to implement "massive fines" except possibly simply rummaging through a company's and assessing a percentage of their operating capital as a fine, which is impractical for other reasons.

Shamus Young:
Character matters. Don't do business with people you can't trust. This advice will never change, no matter what business you're in.

Truer words have never been spoken.

It's unfortunate that there are now so few large companies out there for smaller developers to work with who wont screw them over one way or another. Perhaps if all the little guys formed their own coalition where all would come to the aid of another when one of the Big Boys decides to give the little guy a financial swirlie.

The sum is greater than the whole after all.

Of course, this advice doesn't help the first in a businesses habitual screw list. But, that is the risk of business I guess.

I'm sorry I don't seem to understand why you think a games company would somehow behave more ethically than any other large company thats under pressure to increase its low profits. Why would EA or Activision be more moral than Wallmart or Goldman Sacks. Even the creative industry Hollywood is nest of vipers and law suits. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Starke:

Shamus Young:
And "massive fines" is a tricky notion. What's massive for a ten person company is peanuts for a hundred person company. And a massive fine for a hundred person company would be a rounding error for a thousand person company. And how do you calculate how "big" a company is, anyway? Some companies employ a ton of people. Some are just a few people who employ a lot of contractors.

This is kind of at the core of what's gone screwy with the oil industry over the years. Ships like the Exxon Valdez didn't/don't comply to safety regulations because the sale of oil from the tanker vastly exceeds the cost of fines if they get caught. The moral of the story is, there's no real way to implement "massive fines" except possibly simply rummaging through a company's and assessing a percentage of their operating capital as a fine, which is impractical for other reasons.

Why is it impractical? Why can't they treat a fine the same way they treat something like income tax. Oh we see by your books you pulled in a cool million. Well we are fining you 10% of that mil. Oh you only made a fiver? Well we'll take 10% of that then. That way everyone is being punished the same even though the millionaire will be paying more.

It would be very hard (and more importantly, expensive) to prove those lawyers were or were not working on any particular case and not just playing FarmVille.

And while it would be amusing to listen to executives claim that their lawyers spent 80% of their time on Farmville, I don't for an instant doubt that they would.

The "don't do business with people you trust" axiom is definitely the smart one. And if you can't avoid it, make sure you have backup plans.

I still don't get why Bungie would sign a contract with Activision. However, Bungie is the legal owner of the new IP they're developing for publishing by the Evil Empire, and they are still independent, but I still wouldn't risk two decades of working from literally working out of your appartment to becoming one of the biggest and most renowned game developers behind one of the greatest(and arguably the biggest and most succesfull) franchise for any console.

At this point, only the profoundly stupid and those so profoundly greedy as to cross the line into stupid would do business with Activision-Blizzard.

The problem with this idea is that some companies may take it to heart and refuse deals with larger companies (like Activision) but there will always be one or two that could take advantage of the situation and work as... well... scabs.
Like those shifty people who fill in worker positions during a labor strike only more videogame-y

squid5580:

Starke:

Shamus Young:
And "massive fines" is a tricky notion. What's massive for a ten person company is peanuts for a hundred person company. And a massive fine for a hundred person company would be a rounding error for a thousand person company. And how do you calculate how "big" a company is, anyway? Some companies employ a ton of people. Some are just a few people who employ a lot of contractors.

This is kind of at the core of what's gone screwy with the oil industry over the years. Ships like the Exxon Valdez didn't/don't comply to safety regulations because the sale of oil from the tanker vastly exceeds the cost of fines if they get caught. The moral of the story is, there's no real way to implement "massive fines" except possibly simply rummaging through a company's and assessing a percentage of their operating capital as a fine, which is impractical for other reasons.

Why is it impractical? Why can't they treat a fine the same way they treat something like income tax. Oh we see by your books you pulled in a cool million. Well we are fining you 10% of that mil. Oh you only made a fiver? Well we'll take 10% of that then. That way everyone is being punished the same even though the millionaire will be paying more.

Because then you get into a nightmare that is corporate accounting. Seriously, if you've never tried parsing this shit out it's flat out a nightmare. And this is before you get into "hilarious" "fun times" that shell companies and subsidiaries add to the mix. It's impractical because you'd burn a lot of time trying to figure out how much money they actually have in order to figure out how much you can take, and you have to then combine that with the overall court proceedings in general.

EDIT: I really do not mean for this to sound condescending, and if it does, I apologize.

Pugiron:
At this point, only the profoundly stupid and those so profoundly greedy as to cross the line into stupid would do business with Activision-Blizzard.

Or desperate. I mean, you're making $10.50 an hour at your day job, and programing at night, you've got no free time and then Activision sails into port and offers you a boatload of money to develop your project? You've got no guarantee that if you say no, anyone will ever repeat the gesture, and this is your ticket out. What do you do?

"First Rule in Dealing with the Devil, Don't" ~some terrible movie

Excellent post, Shamus.

And a sound principle in any situation: take note of other people's characters, and protect your own reputation in your dealings with other people.

Well, the "free enterprise" and "free market" start to disappear when all of the major industries are allowed to become tied at the top, doesn't it?
Is it so bad to not allow one person to control too much?

It's kinda weird that no-one has pointed out the implications of Bobby Kotick inviting someone he barely knows to a barbeque. You see, there's Kotick (aka "Emperor Palpatine"), and there's that meat cleaver... *crazy giggle*

That sort of thing, Shamus, is a recipe for disaster.

***

Yet another option: if you ARE going to make a game for Activision or similar company, make something expendable - the IP you can afford to lose. I really wonder if sabotaging the project by deliberately reserving your love and imagination is a viable option.

Crunchy English:
-snip-

It's not a DREAMWORLD for people to honour their word, and if you can't see that, I feel sorry for you. That kind of cynicism eats away at your well-being.

Very unfortunately for us The Good Guys, chivalry and good sportsmanship are kinda dead at the moment - far deader than i'd like them to be. I do not believe they are lost forever, but i do not see the easy way to reanimate them either. I wonder what kind of people we'll get in power a few decades from now - same cash-crazy packs of wolves, someone even worse, or someone better?

Sgt. Sykes:
Honestly, that advice seems very, extremely weird coming from someone who is a freelancer.

Anyone doing freelance business MUST know that often you simply don't have a choice but to accept.

Especially when dealing with big companies. Especially when big money is in place.

Seriously, let's not live in the dreamworld, please.

There is ALWAYS a choice to avoid a company with such a shitty record. That choice is called Sticking to your fucking principles.

Look at the massive indie market. These people stick to their principles and don't take the easy way out because they don't want anything to do with publishers.

Sometimes people care more about the game they made than making umpteen millions that will then be promptly taken away because they signed a contract with a shitty publisher.

The solutions are out there, no need to deal with the devil anymore. kickstarter.com is a way to get individuals to pledge toward a project

here is one for an ATARI! game http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/667413212/skull-island-a-puzzle-game-for-the-atari-2600?pos=10&ref=spotlight

Or you can do it the old fashioned way a business is started, max out a bunch of your personal credit cards and if it doesn't work out declare bankruptcy and go back to a day job.

Maybe you won't get 100 million to make the prettiest grass for your next brown space marine shooter but you might just get enough to pay for pizza and beer while you work on your "pretty good" game. Then if that succeeds you invest that into yourself or into a company and actually pay someone else a salary.

Primer is one of the best movies ever made for a budget of about $7k mostly for film stock.

Ink http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ink_%28film%29 was a great fantasy movie made for $250k with NO publisher at all.

World of Goo had a budget of around 10k

A budget might be a limitation to getting Martin Sheen's voice but it isn't to getting your cousin Ray's voice. And it might be a limitation to making photorealistic grass and trees but it isn't a limitation if you have your own style.

Anyone can realize their dreams without selling their souls, just very few people have the integrity to walk way from a table with a big pile of money on it.

Some thoughts on these legal battles...

"Massive fines" can't really be imposed unless you have some sort of regulation on use of the legal system. Instead, you'd have to add a count to the complaint for malicious prosecution or abuse of process for filing a claim without merit or unnecessarily drawing out the legal battle with a losing case.

"Losers Pay" systems do happen in the US when there are fee-shifting statutes in place. However, since most contract law isn't governed by statutes in the US most little guys in this situation can't take advantage of those systems, though it might be a good idea to write that stuff into contracts as a deterrent to both sides to bringing frivolous lawsuits.

All in all, I think Shamus has the right idea on this one. Solving these problems is generally a much larger headache than simply avoiding them when you can.

If this forum supported singantures I'd use this quote:

" Activision is like a guy who has had his last five spouses die under "mysterious circumstances". Maybe he's a murderer and maybe he's just had bad luck, but at this point only an idiot would marry him and find out. "

Btw, why doesn't this forums support sigantures?

Some of the roots of our interpretation of law can be found in Kant's Critique of Pure reason. Other than the golden rule, he states that one ought to act as though all your maxims are universalizable. In this case, it is pretty clear that Activision's maxims are not Universalizable - so avoid them. An elegant solution.

Well thought out as usual Shamus!

"I can't imagine what would possess anyone to sign a deal with Activision, knowing what is publicly known about the company now."

Maybe because,douchebags or not,Activision are one of if not the largest games publisher in the world right now.Game developers are always going to be tempted by the possibility that if they take the risk and sign on the dotted line then their game will become the next blockbuster franchise regardless of what happened to the guys before them

I'm sure massive record labels like Sony Music and movie studios like Universal have screwed over plenty of people too yet will never have a shortage of people queuing up to do business with them for the same reason

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