Payment for my work

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#1 aresh  Icon User is offline

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Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 06:11 AM

Hello everyone!

Recently, I was working with a Swedish guy on an indie pixel rpg game (don't bother pointing out that a million of them already exist, i know). We got in contact via a dic's post a job section, and at the time I started the project, since I wasn't too keen about money, we decided to negotiate that later (he was willing to pay, but i foolishly declined). I worked with him for 6 months, and the game is very nearly in it's alpha stage. Seeing as how the game was so nearly finished, he talked to some guys (in Sweden, the govt apparently has a free consulting service for small business owners), and now he's asking me for the source code. That isn't such a big issue by itself, but apprently he thinks he owns the game 100%. He has been paying the artists and stuff so the assets are owned by him, but definitely not the code - but apparently he assumes he owns that too. I talked to him yesterdy regarding the same, and he's (after a lot of talking) willing to give me 20% ownership of the game, an upfront payment of 400$ and 20% profit sharing. However, on earlier ocassions, he has already mentioned upto 50% profit sharing, and i'm not sure if 20% ownership and 400$ payment is enough to compensate me for my efforts.

So I'd like to ask you, what do you think about this? Is his offer fair, and should i take it? Is this the general pay for projects like this? Or should I ask him to consider some other terms? Failing that, should i leave the project?

I'm sorry for the broad question, but i'm just 18yo and this is (was supposed to be) my first commercial project, but now i'm just plain confused.
P.S. sorry if this is the wrong forum, but i really couldn't think of a better one.

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Replies To: Payment for my work

#2 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 07:09 AM

US$400 isn't even a week of time. I'm not sure it pays for the Mt.Dew a developer drinks in 6 months. I do know its an insulting amount to offer the person that wrote all the code if the game is actually far enough along to be in alpha testing.

6 months as a hired contractor (no benefits, no insurance, no taxes taken out so you have to pay all that) is closer to $50,000.
That would be for him hiring you to write the code for him, so that he owns it outright as he seems to think he does. Now you have to balance that against a percentage of POTENTIAL profits.

So do the math:

The break-even point at 20% profit share would mean a quarter million in PROFIT (not gross sales) (250,000 * .20 = 50,000).
If you assume that only 1/4 of gross sales is actual profit the game now has to sell US One million dollars for you to make $50,000.
Keep in mind that if he is in charge of the books its not tough to to swallow up all the profit in creative book keeping. His salary for example is a company expense before calculating profit. So is the company car and office and so on. Its not hard to gross 4m/year and have almost no profit.

What do you think the potential is for the game? If you think its the next Angry Birds then $50,000 is shorting yourself. If you think its the next BlahBlahWhoCaresTheresAmillionOfThemAlready then hold out for the cash.

It sounds like you're in the real seat of power here if you have the code and he doesn't. What can he do? If the guy gets huffy with you then hang up the phone until he learns some manners. What's you're worst-case scenario? You make some new art and release it yourself? You're already in it 6 months for $400 and a potential 20% of no sales. You might as well spend another 6 months of your time in Photoshop and have 100% of no sales.

Let's not forget that once he has the code you have no leverage. He's in a foreign country. What are you going to do if you give him the code and then he give you the shaft? Are you going to go to Sweden, rent an apartment for a couple years while the Swedish lawyer you're paying for sues him?

If it were me, I'd say "Just hire me as an employee. Pay me US$100,00/year, retroactive for the last 6 months. I'll handle my USA taxes." If the game does well you stay employed. If it doesn't you've been paid for your time.

This post has been edited by tlhIn`toq: 27 February 2015 - 07:11 AM

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#3 no2pencil  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 07:20 AM

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 08:11 AM, said:

We got in contact via a dic's post a job section, and at the time I started the project, since I wasn't too keen about money, we decided to negotiate that later


View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 08:11 AM, said:

So I'd like to ask you, what do you think about this?


What do I think? I think you already pissed in the pond. All (repeat that, all) financial decisions need to be made upfront, in contract, in writing. Any other way lands you right back into this mess. Fighting retro-actively is a huge waste of time, & only leaves people feeling hurt. He thinks he owns it 100% because you said you didn't care about the money. Now there is confusion. All of this should be sorted before writing the first line of code.

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 08:11 AM, said:

... but i'm just 18yo and this is

Just? At 18 you are old enough to make legal binding contracts. You have a lot to learn about freelancing.

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 08:11 AM, said:

P.S. sorry if this is the wrong forum, but i really couldn't think of a better one.

There is an entire freelancing section. I would suggest (if you have the desire to continue forward in freelancing) that you spend some time reading the other posts in there. Learn from others mistakes.
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#4 aresh  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 08:01 AM

@no2 : Yeah, I guess - in your words - I have already pissed in the pond. And I regret it. A lot. But when talking about the game, when I said I didn't want money, I also said that the reason I agreed was because having no previous game to my name, I was agreeable to profit sharing, since it also meant I would get ownership of a game. Half ownership and profit sharing didn't seem that bad a deal. And it was 50%.

However, seeing as how he wants to make it 20%, and I barely get 20% ownership, I'm having second thoughts.

@tlhIn`toq : The game is good. Not angry birds good, but it definitely has potential to make money. But yeah, not a quarter of a million. So, do you think breaking off and commissioning an artist (or, as you said, learning graphics myself) and getting new assets, and releasing it independently is better? Also, what's the standard rate for new freelance programmers?

*my work is not in any way sloppy, I've already added all the features he wanted and then some, and have been making it perfect, since I thought it was my game. So yeah, I might be a bit prejudiced, but I still think it's good.


Also, both of you, your advice seriously means a lot. Thank you.
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#5 no2pencil  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 08:07 AM

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 10:01 AM, said:

the reason I agreed was because having no previous game to my name, I was agreeable to profit sharing, since it also meant I would get ownership of a game. Half ownership and profit sharing didn't seem that bad a deal. And it was 50%.

However, seeing as how he wants to make it 20%, and I barely get 20% ownership, I'm having second thoughts.

& this is in writing? At least documented in emails? Logged? Something?
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#6 aresh  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 08:14 AM

NSA might have the skype calls logged with them, as so they might have a copy... But no, I don't have any mails or anything to prove the same.

Yeah, I know I messed up. Big time. Hopefully I'll learn from this :sweatdrop:
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#7 modi123_1  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 08:17 AM

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 07:11 AM, said:

and at the time I started the project, since I wasn't too keen about money, we decided to negotiate that later (he was willing to pay, but i foolishly declined).

Then.. yeah.. you will probably end up with none.

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 07:11 AM, said:

I worked with him for 6 months, and the game is very nearly in it's alpha stage

I am curious - how many hours?

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 07:11 AM, said:

That isn't such a big issue by itself, but apprently he thinks he owns the game 100%.

Well, yeah. You told him you will work for free.

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 07:11 AM, said:

I talked to him yesterdy regarding the same, and he's (after a lot of talking) willing to give me 20% ownership of the game, an upfront payment of 400$ and 20% profit sharing.

You get some cash, 20% of the say in how things are run, and 20% of what ever money comes in?

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 07:11 AM, said:

Is his offer fair, and should i take it?

It depends on your situation, your time in, your area's pay scale, etc.

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 07:11 AM, said:

Is this the general pay for projects like this?

No.. typically all of my work was done for cash and to be done with it.

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 07:11 AM, said:

Or should I ask him to consider some other terms?

What other terms do you think you need?

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 07:11 AM, said:

Failing that, should i leave the project?

Well.. duh. I mean that is your option to bail on it.


View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 09:01 AM, said:

Also, what's the standard rate for new freelance programmers?

That depends on where you are. Typically figure your base is what your minimum wage is if you had an actual job and go from there.

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 09:01 AM, said:

So, do you think breaking off and commissioning an artist (or, as you said, learning graphics myself) and getting new assets, and releasing it independently is better?

A pretty dick move, but it's hard to say what you wrote or verbally agreed to. Then again this is swedish to where-ever-not-sweden legal issues so.. yeah.
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#8 aresh  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 08:28 AM

"I am curious - how many hours?"
Uhh... I'm guessing something close to 1000 hours.

"Well, yeah. You told him you will work for free."
It was more like "we can negotiate the exact payment terms later, but I guess something like profit sharing". But yeah, I did say that.

"You get some cash, 20% of the say in how things are run, and 20% of what ever money comes in?"
Sounds about right.

"What other terms do you think you need?"
I meant either more money, or more profit sharing, or both. For whatever reasons, 400$ and 20% profit in exchange of parting with my code doesn't sound too good.

"A pretty dick move, but it's hard to say what you wrote or verbally agreed to. Then again this is swedish to where-ever-not-sweden legal issues so.. yeah. "
Yeah, ik it's a dick move... but being a dick with a game and some money is better than being a dick with a fifth of a game and nearly no money. That's why I'm asking, if it sounds reasonable to do so.


And yeah, ik you can't answer all questions for me.. I just want to know if the alternative I'm leaning towards (releasing independently) sounds good, or if I've missed anything.
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#9 modi123_1  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 08:42 AM

You worked for free.. for one THOUSAND hours? Wow... just.. free? Well.. but, 1000 hours? Wow...

At this point I am not even sure I can apologize for initial reaction.
Spoiler


In the end you need to figure if you are going to be on the long haul for this and to keep on top of this cat to be included for decisions, etc. If/When you turn over that code your only leverage in this relationship is gone, right? I would get what ever you need in writing, checks cashed, etc before you hand over the code to be shared.

As for "is it enough" - again - your area's minimum wage times the hours put in is a great base for what you think if you are right.

As for ownership/profits - how much effort do you want to put in long term? Are you sharing any debt if that happens? Liability for any reason?
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#10 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 08:52 AM

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 10:01 AM, said:

@tlhIn`toq : The game is good. Not angry birds good, but it definitely has potential to make money. But yeah, not a quarter of a million


Why not a quarter of a million? What's stopping you from hitting that point?
I don't know much about the economics of game development, but it strikes me as a little odd to think that it can make money, but that $250,000 is not reachable. Who did this valuation, and what is their experience in the gaming industry?
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#11 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 09:06 AM

View Postmodi123_1, on 27 February 2015 - 10:42 AM, said:

You worked for free.. for one THOUSAND hours? Wow... just.. free? Well.. but, 1000 hours? Wow...


I don't think I'd be laughing quite so much. You're looking at someone who's just spent six months, at the age of 18, getting an intensive schooling in game development and apparently did quite well at it. You know all of the people we see who say "can I be a developer without going to school?" This is the kid who can do it.

My advice: get this game into people's hands, either with or without this Swede. If you go with the Swede, get an ownership stake. If they won't give you that, open-source it and use it as a resume piece. Cash money isn't actually that important at this point - the last six months that you've spent are what's called a "sunk cost". You've already paid for this, what's important now is that you get what you paid for. And what you paid for is a very good resume item.

If you spent six months on this and it gets you into a position as a junior dev with an experienced senior to help you move up, that's an amazingly good investment - it'll have bought you three and a half years, which most people never even get a chance to bid on.
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#12 aresh  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 09:18 AM

"As for ownership/profits - how much effort do you want to put in long term? Are you sharing any debt if that happens? Liability for any reason?"
As I said, initially I thought it was my game. Apparently, I was wrong. Earlier I was going to stick with it through to the end... Now I'm not so sure.
As fir debt, no. I won't be spending a single dime out of my own pocket, no matter what happens. But then again, since I don't have this in writing, I might be wrong. That's something I probably should ask him as soon as possible, if I continue.


@Jon : That "evaluation" (read: wild guess) was done by me. No experience whatsoever in the gaming industry, so I might be off by a long shot.

And I am going to start college this year, so till now, I had a lot of time on my hands. Which is partly the reason why I was willing to go into a profit sharing arrangement, without upfront pay, since I figured having something on my resume at this point in time was more important. Although I have to ask, is putting it up open source any better than releasing it commercially?
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#13 no2pencil  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 09:30 AM

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 11:18 AM, said:

Although I have to ask, is putting it up open source any better than releasing it commercially?

Better is relative. Depends on your goals, depends on your abilities.
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#14 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 09:43 AM

View Postaresh, on 27 February 2015 - 11:18 AM, said:

@Jon : That "evaluation" (read: wild guess) was done by me. No experience whatsoever in the gaming industry, so I might be off by a long shot.


Almost certainly you are, but I don't know in what direction. :)

Quote

Although I have to ask, is putting it up open source any better than releasing it commercially?


Depends what matters to you - but it's mostly a poison pill for your negotiations. The threat, deployed well, should get you into business with your Swede with an ownership stake. (which I think is your best position: ownership and authorship will serve you much better than any check he's likely to be able to cut you)
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#15 aresh  Icon User is offline

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Re: Payment for my work

Posted 27 February 2015 - 10:02 AM

"Better is relative. Depends on your goals, depends on your abilities."
My goal is to start my own game dev studio, cliche as it may sound. As for abilities... Well, my programming abilities aren't terrible, to say the very least... although I can't say the same for my negotiation abilities, and forethought.

One last question - do you think 20% ownership (and profit sharing) is enough, given that I have worked for free till now, and have made - IMHO - a great game, that would cost him a lot more than just $400?
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