13 January, 2007
Gamasutra has a post with commentary on a development contract. This is really fascinating, because game contracts are usually very restricted affairs with confidentiality clauses and all that. Anyway, it looks to be a good review of a real contract relating to the Activision v. Spark suit. Highly recommended.
If you like this, then you should also check out Business & Legal Primer for Game Development as well. Greg Boyd wrote up a contract and made comments on it; Greg’s worked for publishers, so he lets you in on some dirty little secrets from the publisher’s point of view.
Personally, the more I look at things like this, the more I am loathe to think about even trying to sign one of these beasts. They’re usually so lopsidedly in favor of the publisher that you just can’t win. In the case of the contract linked above, the publisher took the game assets, the technology, even the tools. To be fair, it looks like Activision did provide a lot of this, but you will get nowhere if you rely on the publisher so heavily. The overuse of intentionally vague terms is also problematic, because it’s usually the person with the better lawyers that get to define the terms later. That’s usually not the developer!
Overall, it looks like Spark was just hired labor to get the game done, though. Activision controlled all the creative and technical aspects, and Spark ends up with just a sum of money to get the job done. Not exactly my idea of the glory of “making games”, but I guess some people are happy just to get paid.
Overall, I think it’s better to be an indie! :) Or, at least, work at the publisher.
One interesting bit on page 13 shows Activision’s requirements for a Technical Design Document (TDD) and Game Design Document (GDD). A very interesting read even for people not looking to sign publishing agreements.