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Legal / copyright questions


Corwin

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Last July I've been contacted by a game company to create a quick level prototype using the CryEngine 3 so that they could experiment with their assets in it and show it to publishers to strike a deal. They promised me money but I didn't get to sign any contract (I know, stupid of me to have accepted, but I was excited to discover the CryEngine 3 and the CEO seemed like a good guy). So I delivered it in time and they were happy about it.

Well after two months I'm now sure they're not going to pay me for my trouble. They tried to use that money as leverage for me to sign up with them full-time, telling me that they'd give me the money as part of a bonus when I sign the contract, but fuck that. I told them I'd sign if and when I see the money they had promised me. They told me they'd get a contract done quick for that prototype then so they can pay me, but then they started ignoring me on chat for days.

I finally sort of told them to go to hell and that I revoke their right to use my creation and their response was "meh, we were the ones who said we'd pay you in the first place, like you didn't want it, and we still haven't got a contract from you anyway". Doh, send it to me first. Anyway, I'm done wasting time over this, this is getting nowhere, I've been scammed, that's all.

Nice first contact with that industry btw :XD:

Anyway, I'm now wondering if I could use that level in my portfolio. Not put it up for download since you'd need the CryEngine 3 and all, but just pictures of it since it's not bad I think, to show that I have touched the CryEngine 3 and its new features as well as the 2nd. They gave me a couple models to put into the level but I woudn't show them on my website because I don't have the rights for them, and the rest was done with demo assets that came with the engine, or Crysis/mods stuff ported over.

However, I signed a standard NDA form with them and after reading it I'm still unsure if I'm totally safe for showing this off. Could they have my ass on account that it reveals stuff about their upcoming unannounced game? (it doesn't, it's standard vegetation and a few buildings they haven't created). Or any other reason? Does anybody know something about that? I can send the NDA over by PM if anybody's willing to help.

Thanks! :)

PS:I also sent an email to that company's lawyer to ask the same questions but I'm afraid he/she may be biased, you know, like, of course he/she'd be.

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I'm not sure the problem is they don't have the money to get me paid, like I said they were willing to give it to me right away if I signed up with them. Plus they've got the CryEngine 3 license, and I don't think this comes cheap (although that may have been a sort of demo build for all I knew). I think it's more that it's easy to ignore me and not pay me, so why not do it? It would have been smarter to get them to pay me before I delivered the level, but they were supposedly in a hurry so I didn't want to act like a prick and withold it from them if that was critical. Meh.

I think I'll wait a bit to see if the lawyer will answer my questions, and go ahead and feature it otherwise. But if anybody's in to that legal stuff, I'd appreciate the advices :)

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Well, as much as you probably would love to show your work, don't do it right now. CE3 hasn't been released to individuals by now (read: crysis 2 isnt in stores yet) so you probably used a company-provided software. As such it is theyr work and your not allowed to show it. However, as I understood it, you worked with CE3 default assets not provided by the company? So in that case just ask Crytek if you could show it or wait until Crysis 2 has launched. "Recreate" your work in the editor (c'n'p it) and release it. They didn't pay for it, they don't own it anymore the moment you create it on your own licence of the engine.

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Yeah, that's something I sort of forgot because of this whole mess. I should at least ask at Crytek, especially because of these assets that come as demo.

Any of the mapcorians there would care to drop the question on whoever could answer it? No need to explain the situation, just in general would that be accepted for someone to release screenshots of an CE3 environment containing the demo assets? If you won't don't worry, I'll send a mail later. :)

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If they'd have the money to pay they would. Not paying you is very bad for them if it gets out that they hire people and dont pay. It basically means that they cant ever do it again if they get known as the studio who never pays.

That is an assumption. As Corwin suggested, maybe they do have the money, but they are total jerks. It was a mistake not to sign any type of legal document (other than the NDA :XD: ) before handing out the work and they totally exploit that. However you might have a case, if your e-mails prove that there was an agreement between you and the company on the creation of the assets for a fee. I'm no lawyer but if you're really pissed off and want to do something about this, you could explore to go down that road.

The least you can do is drop the name of the company, mention the event in forums like this one or better write a blog, share the story and pay them back by showing up in their search engine results. This could become a warning sign for other developers in the future, too.

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I'm not sure I'm willing to go down that path of legal battle and technicalities, I may end up loosing more money or time than I have invested in the first place.

Most of my conversations with them were done by chat. When I confronted the CEO I also sent a cc to the art director (the only other person I had contact with) and I believe because of that witness the CEO tried to defend himself by saying stuff like "we never really told you we would pay, only that we would _like_ to pay you" and "I had no idea you didn't get the contract since you sent us no mails about it".

So I sent him a copy-paste of most of our past chats, where he explicitely told me they'd pay me and how much, that he'd get me a contract on a precise date, and all the messages I sent him almost every day and that he ignored. I think he didn't know Gmail records all Gtalk chat history, must have caught him offguard, cause he didn't even bother explaining himself or arguing and just said "For me, this chapter is closed, thank you". That was a weak hint that maybe I could use that against them, although I have no idea if google account history can be used as proof in court.

Anyway, the more I think about it, the more it would make sense that they just couldn't afford to pay me anytime soon and that the CryEngine license was just a trial version. That's no excuse however to keep me in the dark and ignoring me and eventually screwing me over. I would have settled for "we can't pay you right now but will do as soon as we can". It's not knowing what was going on that was killing me.

I'm considering that stuff of writing down a warning to others. Since the company is very poorly known, I guess I could manage to reach the first or second page on google and avoid other people maybe falling into the same trap I did. I'll see, like I said I don't want to loose much more time and effort over this than I already have. I may just move on, life's too short to spend it hating people that did you wrong, I guess.

The company is Trine Games (http://www.trinegames.com) by the way.

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Wait, let me get this right;

They dont have the money to pay you for your time time, but you think they'd have the money to hire a lawyer and sue you for showing off some stuff that you made and never got paid to do?

Seems pretty obvious to me what you should do =)

100% agree. fuck them. just do with your work what you want to do. i highly doubt that they will care about you. oh an btw: chatting with a so called CEO .... yeah... sure. you know? A good CEO has no time to talk to "little workers" who get the actual shit done.

i just visited their website... they actually advertise the add-on to a game i worked on back in 2005.

http://www.trinegames.com/index.php?opt ... d-2-venice

the rendering of "the guild 2" was part of my work. i am actually really curious if the "venice" addon was made by them. but i can tell you one thing: most of the assets are old ones they recycled from the original which was developed at 4head studios.

one thing i noticed over the years: game developers are not as fancy as they often try to tell you. often they are idiots.

hessi signing out, because i will sure get lots of hate mails for that statement :-D

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btw: chatting with a so called CEO .... yeah... sure. you know? A good CEO has no time to talk to "little workers" who get the actual shit done.

That's a common (mis)conception. A succesful CEO must be so busy negotiating all these deals and making important decisions, that he cannot afford to lose time talking to employees. The same must be true for customers. When a CEO responds to customer inquiries personally, there must be something wrong about this company, right? Wrong. Gabe Newell responds to e-mails, not every single one, but many. Same for Steve Jobs. A CEO mustn't be caught up in tasks that he could easily delegate, sure, but if he still finds the time to keep in touch with his lowest level employees and his customers, I wouldn't criticize him for it, I would applaud him. This doesn't mean that this particular CEO isn't a dick, but I had to make that point! :D

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Frie, on the subject of Steve Jobs, I can assure you he has an army of secretaries with access to his pro email account everyone has. Only a handful of people ever get to read an email he wrote ;)

But yeah, it's a misconception and a very usual one at that. I have spoken to every single one of the CEOs I worked under, and have had design discussions with almost all of them too.

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