Getting Lawyered Up

Today I meet with lawyers. This is an important step in forming a company. There's three legal documents I'm going to need everyone to sign before we start production. We'll need an NDA. A Non Discloser Agreement is a promise that people on the project won't tell people outside the project what's going on. I'm not so much worried about people on the team telling their friends about the game or even letting them peek at their monitor to see stuff they shouldn't be seeing. I'm more concerned about people on the team bragging about how we might get an endorsement deal and have that spoil the deal, or talking about features before they're finalized--especially if those features need to be changed. Otherwise, I'm going to be a lot less secretive about Dawnshine than just about any other game dev company. Like I've said before, if it makes us look less professional if we're more open and people can see that we're just regular people, then I'm ok with that.

The second important document is the Contributor Agreement. People are going to come and go. It's important that the work people do on the project stays with the project. If a modeler creates a figure and several other artists rig, texture, and animate that figure, if the artist says they're leaving and taking their work with them, it could mean hundreds of hours lost from people that put work around that figure. The combination of NDA and CA also means people can't take their work and try and use it on another game, thus damaging the Dawnshine IP.

The third document is the one I'm having the most trouble with wording correctly, and what I'll need help the most with when I talk to the lawyers today. It's a Share Agreement, one that says if the project makes money, I need to pay the people that contributed to it. If I trust myself to do the right thing, you might wonder why I would need to have people sign such a document. But this actually protects me. It protects me from people having a reason to accuse me of potentially pocketing all the profits and not paying anyone. Much to the disappointment of my parents, money has never been something I cared about. I'm fine living pretty much anywhere and driving a beat up car. Even through all the years that I used to book bands at night clubs, I never took a cent of money for doing it. If there was money left at the end of the night, I gave it all to the bands. I do care about taking care of people that work with me whenever I can.

Let's see, also recruiting programmers has gone pretty well. Artists, not so much. I've been in touch with some really promising artists lately, ones that have sent me some great portfolios, though most of them seem to be pretty busy. I'm really hurting for environmental concept artists and modelers right now. I do know a few that are fantastic, and have worked on block buster, AAA games that might be willing to help, but they don't live locally. I'm really kind of burnt out on trying to work with people over the internet. Still, it's nice to have amazing talent as a plan B.

I met a few artists at the open house for Pride Animation. It's a studio that produces cartoon shorts featuring characters from the LGBT community. I'll be honest and say I was a little nervous about going to their open house, but they were all really, really nice. I was impressed by how dedicated they were to the work that they produce.

While I was there, I also met a few people from Loki's Planet. As kind of a side note, for the last 20 years that I've chatted with people on the internet, I've used the chat name "Lokana." Lokana is a fictional character I've been working on for the last couple decades and has finally settled into being an incredibly important character in the world of Dawnshine, but before that, it was my chat nickname. When I used to meet people off the internet at big IRC get togethers, I used to have people actually assume Lokana was my real name. For a long time people called me "Loki" as a nick name. So when I heard about Loki's Planet, I thought the name was a funny coincidence.

Anyway, so they launched about a year ago, had some management issues and re-organized. Now they plan to relunch in two months. Loki's Planet is a sort of Facebook for gamers. It's a place to talk about games and keep in touch with all things related to games and gaming culture. They also want to bring back lan parties, which sounds like a lot of fun to me. They were really excited about everything they have planned coming up so I'm eager to see how things shape up.

Oh, also, though this doesn't really relate to us, there's good news for another Sacramento game company--KlickNation. They only make Facebook games, but EA Games has decided to join the FB Game mix by buying out KlickNation and renaming them after the BioWare brand that they also own. So now KlickNation is called BioWare Sacramento. Though I don't know them, I'm still pretty excited to see a company that, just 2 years ago, were just a couple guys posting on craigslist looking for programmers and now they're owned by one of the biggest game companies in the world. That's pretty awesome to see what a couple guys in my hometown can do. It fills me with optimism to follow in their footsteps.

Speaking of EA and BioWare, I got into beta for Star Wars: The Old Republic. It's supposed to be the most expensive game ever made. Since it also uses the HeroEngine, of course I was interested in paying close attention to how they did terrain detail and other things. The dynamic shadow map generation is still pretty blocky, and the terrain billboards for flora that HE uses still sort of creeps me out. If you don't know what I'm talking about, if you ever play SWTOR, point the camera straight down at grass or flowers, then rotate the camera. You'll see that the grass and flowers don't turn with the ground, but stay fixed fully facing the camera at all times. Rift and WoW both use static meshes for their flora instead of billboards, and thus escape this problem. Static mesh doesn't get as good performance this way so they can't use as much of it. I think the HE method of billboards is fine as long as everything you use is tall and skinny. I bet most people won't notice either way, so it might not be an issue.

Aside from the technical aspects of SWTOR terrain, I was really impressed with the use of music. There's one quest, Man With a Steel Voice, in particular where I noticed it. So there's an old, dying man whose entire life's work comes down to one moment. You can either help him and hurt others, or help the others, dashing the old man's one chance to complete his dream. If you chose not to help him, he tells you(all voice acted), how you've robbed him of everything he ever cared about. And the music that played was really, really sad. I've never had a game really appeal to me on an emotional level like that. I thought, "I don't want to play this game. It's too sad." Then I got to run around blowing up people and I was ok again.

But it made me realize I've got to really lay out all the zones, instances, and quests in Dawnshine as soon as I can to give the composers on the team the best chance at really reaching people. Audio is a huge part of games, and one that has to be taken seriously.

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