23 October, 2006
Things are going to start happening to me now.
Er, anyway, you might notice a cute little graphic over to the right. That would be the book I’ve been working to finish over the past several months. It’s heading to the printers in a few days, and will be available for purchase very soon!
Anyway, I’m an Amazon.com associate, so if you want to support your favorite starving artist you can purchase Business & Legal Primer for Game Development from Amazon.com and I’ll get a small kickback, even before the advance is paid by royalties. :)
Read on for more details and some personal comments about the book.
The first thing to say is that I couldn’t have done it without other people. Greg Boyd is a wonderful friend and co-editor. He did a great amount of the work, and the legal issues covered in the book show his intelligence and smart judgment in what to include. Of course, Greg doesn’t deserve too much praise; after all, his name is comes first and is the only one showing on the Amazon image over there. ;) The chapter authors are also individual stars that really preformed superbly. They share their experiences and knowledge in this book.
People aren’t joking when they say writing a book is a lot of work! Even though I was “only” an editor (meaning I’ve read the whole book about a dozen times by now), it still took an astounding amount of planning, reviewing, begging, and organization to get it done. I had to manage a sizable group of people to finish the book. Thankfully, we had some pretty great people writing, so we had few problems compared to the other horror stories I’ve heard. I think we got off easy. :) Working with the publisher was good for the most part, until the end when the editor decided to edit one of the chapters one day before the book went to the printers. As any developer knows, making that “one last change” before gold master always leads to problems. Needless to say, I’m not happy about this turn of events; I doubt I’ll write another book for this publisher.
I think the book is excellent, but I have my own biases. This is a book the industry desperately needs, IMHO, since business is one of the big issues facing game developers. If you fail at running a business, you will also fail at making a commercial game. Sadly, most people have to fail once before they get this lesson, wasting valuable time they could be spending making innovative games!
A quick breakdown of the chapters:
- Chapter 1: Introduction
Your typical introduction trying to convince the person reading the book to buy it. ;)
- Chapter 2: So You Want to Start a Game Company? by Spencer Zuzolo
A humorous look at what it takes to start and run a game company. A good overview of what you’ll be getting into once you decide to start your own company, peppered with anecdotes from Spencer’s experiences. Spencer is the director of GameCamp!, and used to work at Ninjaneering. Unfortunately, due to last minute changes by the editor, a version of this chapter that neither Spencer nor I were able to review is being included in the book.
- Chapter 3: Business Operations by Matthew B. Doyle
A deeper look at what it takes to run a business day-to-day. This chapter focuses quite a bit on employees: how to manage them, how to organize them, how to hire and fire them. It also includes information about managing money and networking. Matthew founded Plutonium Games, which was developing the ambitious project Cleric. He also worked at Mythic and now works as a designer at Midway.
- Chapter 4: Contracts – An Introduction by Matthew Hector
A wonderful chapter about the basics of contracts. This is a must-read for anyone wanting to start any kind of business; if you don’t understand contracts, you don’t understand business. Matthew Hector is better known as CmdrSlack on various community sites, but he’s still a real lawyer. :)
- Chapter 5: Marketing Is a Game, Too by Roxanne Christ
An amazing chapter on the basics of marketing. Even though Roxanne is a partner at Latham & Watkins and is usually consulted about legal issues in the game industry, she has a background in marketing and wrote a superb chapter. This chapter contains information that most game developers don’t properly understand.
- Chapter 6: PR Plans and Programs for the Game Developer by Ted Brockwood
And here’s the other half of the information most game developers don’t understand. PR is the second missing piece, and this chapter contains an example of a full PR plan. An great resource for people that haven’t thought about this side of development before. Ted runs his own PR firm for games: Calico Media Communications. That’s a link to his informative blog.
- Chapter 7: Intellectual Property by Greg Boyd
The first of the chapters written by my co-editor, Greg. This covers the basics of intellectual property with the detail you would expect from an IP lawyer. This chapter contains great information, and is useful since there is often a lot of misinformation about IP out there. As Greg points out, game development is all about intellectual property, so knowing how to protect your IP means knowing how to protect your game and company. He’s an associate at Kenyon & Kenyon.
- Chapter 8: Licensing Intellectual Property by Gary S. Morris and Richard A. Beyman
A nuts-and-bolts chapter about licensing IP. This primarily covers licensing IP from other companies, but it also contains a bit about licensing your IP to other companies. Keep in mind that traditional publishing contracts are essentially IP agreements, so understanding the details can make a lot of difference. This chapter gives great information about licensing music, movies, and other non-game entertainment for your game. Gary is a partner at Kenyon & Kenyon, and Richard is with Franklin, Weinrib,Rudell & Vassallo, P.C.
- Chapter 9: Intellectual Property Litigation (Avoiding It, But Winning If You Have to Fight) by John Flock
This is likely the most expensive book chapter ever written if you consider the billable hours put into it by the author and his assistants. This chapter alone contains tens of thousands of dollars of legal advice. As the chapter title indicates, you’ll find out how to avoid litigation and how to win if you have to go to court. This chapter also includes information on alternate dispute resolution (ADR), including mediation and arbitration. John is a Partner at Kenyon & Kenyon and has a wealth of trial experience.
- Chapter 10: Selling Internationally by Kellee McKeever
This is the chapter where I learned the most, personally. Games are quickly becoming a global phenomenon, and it is important to know the details of what it takes to sell your game in other territories. Even if your publisher is handling the international distribution, this chapter can show you the details so that you can be smarter about negotiating your cut of international sales. Kellee is Director of International Sales at NCSoft, so she has plenty of experience to back up her writing.
- Chapter 11: Taxation by Peter H. Friedman
If you are running a business, this chapter is the one chapter you need to know throughly. This chapter covers the basics of taxation in the U.S. on the federal level. The one thing that can hurt your business faster than anything else is running afoul of tax laws. Peter is a CPA and has been dealing with e-commerce and game issues for a while. He’s a fairly regular speaker at Dragon*Con talking about tax issues as well.
- Chapter 12: Exit strategies by Greg Costikyan
This chapter covers an issue not usually considered by people getting into business: what happens at the end? This includes upside exits (“Hooray! Someone is giving me a lot of money for my company!”) and downside exits (“Can’t make payroll… again. Time to file for bankruptcy.”) Greg took some time out from working on Manifesto Games to finish up this chapter. Hopefully Manifesto has one of those upside exits. :)
- Chapter 13: Virtual World Law by James Grimmelmann
This chapter was included because both Greg and I work extensively with online games. We thought it would be great to include a chapter about the current state of law in virtual worlds. This is primarily concerned with the EULA and related documents, since most legal issues revolve around these documents. Of course, this is the chapter most likely to be invalid in a year, since the law is changing so fast. So, buy the book now and you can be up-to-date on your legal knowledge! James is a cool guy that has a varied background, including programming, a law degree, and a stint as a law clerk to a federal judge. He’s been interested in the legal aspects of virtual worlds for a while, and was glad to write this chapter. You can find more info about him on his homepage.
- Chapter 14: I Wish I Knew
An interesting chapter with advice from a variety of people about games. Most of it is business-related, but some people ventured into the realm of game development. Also, some of the advice seems a bit out there, but it’s at least interesting to see what people have to say. Contributors include:
Dave Ahl, Ralph Baer, Richard Bartle, John Erskine, Matt Esber, F. Randall “Randy” Farmer, Scott Foe, Steve Goldstein, Brian Green, William Leverett, Alexander Macris, Jessica Mulligan, Jeff Vogel, Gordon Walton, Andrew S. Zaffron.
The links were whatever I could find on the person in a few minutes, so don’t be too harsh if the link isn’t terribly informative.
- Chapter 15: HUSTLE & FLOW: The Intangibles of Running a Game Company by Peter Lee and Eric Zimmerman
This is probably my favorite chapter in the whole book. The co-founders of GameLab write about the secret behind their success. This is a bit of practical application of the theory in the other chapters, particularly the second chapter. This chapter shows you you can make great games, treat your employees well, and still be a raging success.
- Chapter 16: Game Development Agreement Analysis by Greg Boyd and Erik Smith
This is another of those chapters that you should have to pay extra for. Greg took various developer agreements, changed the names to protect the guilty, and made a sample development contract which he reviews on an almost clause-by-clause basis. He includes intelligent commentary and a bit of insight into why certain clauses are included. Keep in mind that Greg usually represents the publishers, so this chapter gives away some of his dirty secrets! Seriously, before you sign any agreement with a publisher, you absolutely must read this chapter. I don’t think this information has been presented in a similar form anywhere else.
- Chapter 17: Wrapping It All Up
I considered naming this chapter, “Don’t Commit Suicide Just Yet!” It’s mostly a review of the book, and I tried to include some words of hope for people feeling overwhelmed by the end of the book. Hopefully inspirational words to encourage people to take the plunge.
- For Further Reading, Glossary, Index
The usual stuff you expect to find in a book. The glossary is pretty complete, so if any term is confusing you can probably find information about it in the glossary. (And, yes, even the cute pun made it into the glossary!) To be brutally honest, though, the For Further Reading is a bit thin. I wish we had been able to spend a bit more time on it, although James Grimmelmann did a wonderful job on his section.
Well, there’s a good overview of the book. If anyone has any particular questions, post them in the comments and I’ll answer what I can.