86: Creative Hara-Kiri

"Though not a member of the industry yet, I was familiar with the four-step publication process: Go to a publisher, submit your game, get rejected, repeat. It's a fairly simple cycle, and honestly, isn't that bad if you don't take the rejection personally. ... The response (well, the lack thereof) I received was unexpected."

Blake Schreurs goes through the process of creating a game, submitting it to a publisher and writing about it so you don't have to.

Creative Hara-Kiri

I learned a whole lot about the game publication process by writing this article. The fine folks at Popcap and PlayFirst were especially helpful. If anyone has questions about independant game development, or trying to get your game published in the casual market, I'd be happy to talk about it.

Blake

Interesting account.

I'm not as surprised as I'd like to be, though. Publishers only like innovation because a title the opposition haven't copied yet is worth money to them.

Any chance of a link to your game ? Having read about it I'd like to try playing it.

Wearing the "freelance journalist" hat, I was able to talk with a few folks on the publishing side. Certainly the revenue of a non-clone game is of value... But they also like innovation because it helps keep the casual industry from stagnating. Basically, if people get bored with casual games, the audience can (and and will) go do something else for entertainment.

I'm going to go try another round of submissions with the publishers before I self-publish... This time: No NDAs.

Blake

So, on the issue of protecting your game. I know a lot of publishers don't accept unsolicited game proposals, because if elements from the given proposal work their way into other games from that publisher, it would be a lawsuit waiting to happen. Is there a similar fear of misconstrued infringement with (relatively) solicited proposals? And, if so, do you think that this is enough protection for a freelance developer?

Your article demonstrates that there are publishers who are reluctant to deal with developers who take extra steps to protect their games, but are there publishers out there (no need to name names) who'll screw over developers who don't take steps to protect their work? You say it's more like book publishing than invention; did you uncover any trends about what segments of the industry are more like which model?

(This is all very interesting to me; it's a shame the article was so short, since this is good information to know. Also because I enjoyed it.)

I do think there is that same amount of fear of semi-solicited game proposals. A few publishers do actively seek game design documents from developers. However, in these cases, the legal agreement that you must agree to when submitting your game states clearly that 1) they could be working on a similar game, and 2) there is no real protection for the game developer. Submitting a design is just telling someone your idea, and there is no kind of agreement or protection (aside from copyright protection) for doing that.

It's not a lot of protection for a freelance developer... The problem is, I can understand why publishers are so shy of NDAs and such. In many cases it's just best to avoid legal issues altogether than to get into a fight which involves lawyers... One bad lawsuit at the wrong time could probably sink a publisher.

I am not aware of any publisher that would really try to screw over a developer. It's pretty dangerous, legally speaking. Not only that, but one or two bad encounters and the community will catch on.... It's a self-defeating business model. Of course, there is always the potential of a fly-by-night publisher that can really hose a developer, so I ~do~ recommend that you research who you may be doing business with a bit. A good place to start is the Casual Games SIG at the IGDA. They have a free whitepaper that talks a lot about the industry, and the major players.

The article was edited a bit from the origional version, where I talked more about the industry. The editors thought it'd be better to focus on my story, and less about the lessons I learned about getting a game published after I had goofed. I certainly respect their decision to do so, as it makes the article more targeted, and probably fits their audience better.

I think there are a lot of similarities between book writing and game design. By nature both are big, long-term, creative endevors. Though the medium is very different, the role of a publisher is pretty similar (albeit with a few extra hurdles). I also think manuscripts are like unfinished game designs. There are some interesting manuscripts out there, but finding them amidst the drivel is a daunting task.

Unlike books, games allow (require) you to define the means of interaction, which opens up lots of new venues for invention. Books, legally, are fairly simple. You have copyright protection, and that's about it. Of course, it'd also pretty difficult to disguise one book as another... By the time you've done that, you might as well have written the book from scratch. In games, I would say it's easier to plagarize game mechanics. Tracking down the geneology of ideas or interactions is a pretty daunting task. The controversies over the modern Graphical User Interface which involved Xerox PARC/Apple/Microsoft/etc. would be one example of the kind of conflict an exposed idea can create.

Blake

Hi!

Nice article!

Looking at the concept, it sounds like a DS title with lots of potential.

Add FX filters (like for example that nice "fat crayon" touch Yoshi Island has), let's have relaxing and joyful music playing, swapping animated backgrounds, sounds triggered by your pen's moves (that's trendy noawadays), eventually one or two small extra "game" mechanics, it could be a very cool.

I mean, if one can sell PacPix, Electroplankton and Brain Training on the DS, why not an ethereal and dreamlike Draw Training?

Most publishers are a bit shy when you start asking questions about porting games over to other platforms. Scares most of 'em I think. But yes... My game would be excellent for the DS.

Blake

dracolytch:
The article was edited a bit from the origional version, where I talked more about the industry. The editors thought it'd be better to focus on my story, and less about the lessons I learned about getting a game published after I had goofed. I certainly respect their decision to do so, as it makes the article more targeted, and probably fits their audience better.

There's also that pesky matter of word counts and production cycles, art assets and the amount of editorial head banging possible in a week's time.

That said, thank Vishnu for this forum, where author and reader alike can pontificate to their heart's content.

 

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