Working on an indie game for free.

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DerkaWeverka polycounter lvl 2
Hello everyone, I wanted to post my situation and some questions to see what people in the industry think.

I have been working for an indie studio remotely from home for about a year and a half now. All for free as a Props/3D artist. I have only the experience gained on this job and a 2 year game art degree. That is why I am working for free, to get experience, some portfolio work, and in hopes of our game/studio picking up funding.

That is the issue though, I work a full-time day job, and give any free time I can to this team and game. However, my lead artist has told me for months on end that were 1 month away from getting funding, or finishing our demo and me finally being hired on and paid a salary. No one else is getting paid, everything is still volunteer work, but I was just wondering if I am wasting my time and resources "getting experience" and "paying my dues".

I love working on game art, with a team, and contributing to something more than myself. That is why I am still here, also, in light of my dream to work in games and actually make a living off of it. So, thanks in advance to any advice or time anyone can give me. It'd be very appreciated as I am in a tough spot.

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  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor polycount lvl 666
    You should never work for free. You need to value your time. Anybody talking about "dues to pay" who isn't a veteran, firefighter, teacher, or some other kind of public servant is just a punk. What nonsense. That is not how a team works. A team is a collection of individuals who gain mutual benefit by working together. It's not little dog proving itself to the big dogs. This is not the way adult humans interact with each other. So, are you getting benefit or not? If not there is zero shame in politely saying, "hey guys, I'm sorry but I don't have time to work for free anymore." No need to give excuses why, that's enough. I know it's hard, especially if you are a bit young, to assert yourself like that. Just do it. People will start treating you with respect. If not, that means they don't value you, which could mean your skills aren't really that valuable, or that they are chumps. Either way, always look after number one, because nobody else besides mom is going to.

    If these ain't your good buddies that you love working with and are all passionate about learning and accomplishing something together, I'd drop the thing real fast. People who use you like this will abuse you the moment there's money. Don't count on anybodies loyalty. Especially people you haven't met.

    Also, I hope there is some kind of contract written up so that, should there be money, there is a clear plan for how it will be handled. If everybody is putting in the same effort right now, working for free, why should anybody else have total control of the money? To pay you like a boss? Gotta get stuff like this figured out. Need to plan for the rare chance that you game takes off and earns a million dollars. How are you gonna get your fair share? This is a good time to learn about that side of things. Learn it now and you won't get burned tomorrow.


    On a positive note, publishing a game is a fantastic learning experience and probably a good thing to show in your portfolio too. If the team is faltering but you think keeping it together to pump out a finished game is gonna be worth it, do your best to motivate others and keep them focused on the goal. Always a good thing to get up in peoples business and talk about the goal, talk about what you've been working on, solve problems together...communication makes the team stronger. Less likely to fall apart.

    Just be wary of becoming "boxer". You know, the horse in Animal Farm who worked himself to death while the rest of the animals played petty political games.


  • TheGabmeister
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    TheGabmeister greentooth
    Agree with Alex's advice above.

    My general advice for cases like this is to never work for free unless you gain something non-monetary that can compensate or be equivalent to the time you spend on the project.

    For example, a friend of mine made a VR app for a certain cultural museum for free. That app eventually got featured in various news sites which led to more deals and opened more opportunities.
  • RyanB
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    RyanB Polycount Sponsor
    I have been working for an indie studio remotely from home for about a year and a half now. All for free as a Props/3D artist. I have only the experience gained on this job and a 2 year game art degree. That is why I am working for free, to get experience, some portfolio work, and in hopes of our game/studio picking up funding.
    You can make asset packages and sell them.  If you had made one asset package every two weeks, you would have 40 asset packages for sale that you own and would make you money for years. 
  • DerkaWeverka
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    DerkaWeverka polycounter lvl 2
    This all makes a lot of sense, it's kind of what I have been thinking for a while now. This team I am with aren't my buddies. Just a team I joined to get some work. Thank you everyone for your replies and time. I appreciate it.
  • Meloncov
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    Meloncov polycounter lvl 8
    Working on collaborative projects can be a valuable educational experience, but if someone is promising that you'll get paid at some unspecified point in the future, you should assume that you will absolutely never get paid. There is a ninety-nine percent chance that they're overly optimistic and/or flat out scamming you.

    If you are gonna work on an unpaid project, the only consideration on your mind should be whether you're learning more and getting more useful portfolio work than you would if you were doing projects on your own.
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