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Do NDA's really matter given the remote work situation many developers are facing right now?

interpolator
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NikhilR interpolator
I am aware of their significance, but consider this one situation I'm aware of where 5 artists all working in different companies and sharing accommodation because of sky high rents are now having to work from home, each one quite aware of what the other is doing and fully capable of leaking content.
There are no key cards here, usb devices are everywhere, Was the information behind closed doors really that sensitive to warrant the extraordinary lengths some companies go to protect content now that so much of it is out there for everyone to see.

I mean given good faith that doesn't happen, but come desperate times, doesn't seem like a potential leak would cause that much of a dent in production, I mean given the circumstances they've anticipated that risk?

So many of the artists sent home have no experience working from home, let alone being able to properly secure their workspace. 
Kinda makes you question a lot of the protocol that is followed outside of a crisis situation such as this.
Like its nice to see them setting protocols aside given the situation but it does make you wonder how necessary they were in the first place.

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  • garcellano
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    garcellano greentooth
    I would think so, yeah, more now than ever. For artists, it should seem fine just working from home, since we mostly just make art at home. The rest is just general protocols you would do if you were at the office.
  • oglu
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    oglu ngon master
    We use encrypted folder structure at Home. I would say the data is save. 
  • Biomag
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    Biomag polycounter
    I don't see how a crisis like this is a justification to remove NDAs from regular worklife. People are currently doing their best to reduce the risks of leaking - and saying that the risks aren't that big barely a week into people working from home compared to several years of production is a giant overly optimistic stretch. Not to mention that right now its not like people have guests at their homes, so access to the work stations is severly limited in most cases. We are still taking NDAs most seriously.

    Keep in mind most don't just send assets. They need access to the engine and all files to do their work. This is a completely different beast than freelancing and doing just a few assets and having access to a handful of working files and concepts.

    It's simply naive to underestimate the importance of leaks on projects that can cost several hundred million dollars. Right now the costs of not doing any progress on a project while paying your staff vs the potential risk of a leak is just in favor of taking the risk. That doesn't justifydoing it under different circumstances. Probably home office wouldn't have happened if people thought its just 1-2 weeks of closing down.
  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    Biomag said:
    I don't see how a crisis like this is a justification to remove NDAs from regular worklife. People are currently doing their best to reduce the risks of leaking - and saying that the risks aren't that big barely a week into people working from home compared to several years of production is a giant overly optimistic stretch. Not to mention that right now its not like people have guests at their homes, so access to the work stations is severly limited in most cases. We are still taking NDAs most seriously.

    Keep in mind most don't just send assets. They need access to the engine and all files to do their work. This is a completely different beast than freelancing and doing just a few assets and having access to a handful of working files and concepts.

    It's simply naive to underestimate the importance of leaks on projects that can cost several hundred million dollars. Right now the costs of not doing any progress on a project while paying your staff vs the potential risk of a leak is just in favor of taking the risk. That doesn't justifydoing it under different circumstances. Probably home office wouldn't have happened if people thought its just 1-2 weeks of closing down.
       I was speaking more in terms of shared housing with roommates which is what many employees that live in expensive cities are facing like the example I mentioned.
       The risk of a leak is very much there in these situations though the circumstances make we wonder about the million dollar liability given little to no security protocols are being followed.

  • Biomag
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    Biomag polycounter
    Yes, that's why I don't see homeoffice and working remotely becoming the norm replacing big studios. Right now it can't be avoided because the alternative is shutting down for an undefinite amount of time. You can bet the studios, if aware of the individual situations like these they won't be happy. I guess as long as the information doesn't leave that apartment they will tolerate it, but I would expect some kind of legal action in cases it does if the employees didn't take a reasonable amount of care given the circumstances.
  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor insane polycounter
    I'm sure it's a mountain of legalese, but I'd bet if you read the NDA's they probably cover all types of situations, including working while away from the studio.

    But what's the big deal with NDAs? I mean, what's the issue to you? On a practical level it just means don't talk about what you are doing, don't share shit, and if you are supposed to use some secure email or something you do that, right? What's the problem?

    Even working on an indie game with only one contractor we cover who gets access to source files and what can be done with it. You got to take care of stuff like that. Obviously if I was putting in more of my own skin into the project (and worse, other peoples) I'd want to be really careful about stuff like this.
  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    I'm sure it's a mountain of legalese, but I'd bet if you read the NDA's they probably cover all types of situations, including working while away from the studio.

    But what's the big deal with NDAs? I mean, what's the issue to you? On a practical level it just means don't talk about what you are doing, don't share shit, and if you are supposed to use some secure email or something you do that, right? What's the problem?

    Even working on an indie game with only one contractor we cover who gets access to source files and what can be done with it. You got to take care of stuff like that. Obviously if I was putting in more of my own skin into the project (and worse, other peoples) I'd want to be really careful about stuff like this.
    The NDA's do cover work from home arrangements, but I'm not sure how they can enforce them unless they are involved in building a home office setup.

    I just feel that most studios could easily delay their projects and I doubt most gamers would have an issue with it.
    Unless you're a contract employee payed hourly, you would still be paid your salary so a full shutdown wouldn't adversely affect the business unless you're counting on daily revenues to make ends meet.

    You really are only counting on the first few weeks sales on a games release to generate revenue and unless the studio has other investments that require recurring payments, its not like you're selling your assets at the end of the day to make a buck to get through the rest of the week. (which can be the case for freelance work)

    And also the pay is quite low compared to what they make and how much it costs to run, so the contingency fund they have should be more than enough to cover 2 weeks of a general shutdown.


  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor insane polycounter
    I think the NDA is enforced by you agreeing and signing it. Probably for most people not losing their job and being blacklisted is enough of a threat.

    The rest is a different issue, really. But it won't happen. The entire population could starve and die -- nobody is going to share their money even if they have more they can spend in a lifetime.

    Better to work for yourself if you don't like it.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag polycounter
    I'm sorry, but where is these opinion coming from that you can put a project on hold just like that? Or delay it without any issues? Who is going to pay for the several weeks of (hundreds) employee costs where nothing was done for the project? Who is going to do deal with the backlash from stores and other business partners who had storage space reserved for you or campaigns planned? Do you really think all that matter is the players? That they are the only stakeholders in a delay? I can assure you a delay is a huge deal for (major) studios that people just looking at it from the consumer stand point absolutely don't see it fully unfold.

    Second - enforcing it is easy - its in the contract. Its your obiligation as an employee to uphold the rules the company puts you up with for homeoffice. If you have people in your appartment that might see your work or other reasons you can't live up to them, you have to inform your employer and discuss the situation. Either you'll get those people to sign a NDA or if not its up to your employer to decide. If you don't inform them and/or you don't take care of keeping others from seeing your work related stuff or hearing about it during calls, you are infringing your contract and your employer can take legal action. Its quite simple due dilligence and common sense.

    As I said before, if everyone would expect it to last just two weeks there would have been other arrangments. Most likely people would have been sent on forced vacations for the period of time. But it's now a week since most people in Europe are either already sent home or preparing for it or otherwise affected by gclosing stores. I just got an email from a larger store informing consumers that they won't open again for a whole month. Look at China, they are still not through it and they had it 6 weeks longer than us. This isn't a regular situation nor is it a short lasting one. Companies don't make such huge changes with so many risks involved on a whimp.
  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor insane polycounter
    @NikhilR , I'm repeating myself, but I think you got your steps wrong.

    If goal is "improve work/life conditions for people in the industry", then steps need to be:

    1. get in industry (which means toe the line and make friends)
    2. gain influence within the industry (which means make more friends and do good work)
    3. become leader in the industry
    4. set example for how you think things should be done


    The other option, if you have the means, is:

    1. Start your own company
    2. be the boss and the set the example



    Keep in mind just because a lot of stuff can be improved in an organization doesn't mean the entire thing is wrong.



  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    @NikhilR , I'm repeating myself, but I think you got your steps wrong.

    If goal is "improve work/life conditions for people in the industry", then steps need to be:

    1. get in industry (which means toe the line and make friends)
    2. gain influence within the industry (which means make more friends and do good work)
    3. become leader in the industry
    4. set example for how you think things should be done


    The other option, if you have the means, is:

    1. Start your own company
    2. be the boss and the set the example



    Keep in mind just because a lot of stuff can be improved in an organization doesn't mean the entire thing is wrong.



    ? What does this topic have to do with all that? 

    I was just mentioning that there is a lot of cost attached to securing a workspace and with the situation facing everyone working from home, perhaps some of it is an excess?
    Really depends on the business model and the size of the company and how it goes about its finances and investments.

    Also by shutdown I didn't mean layoff, more along the lines of delay a game project sufficiently to accommodate a crisis situation taking into account a companies financial situation and relief packages initiated by the government to support them.
     A shutdown for a while probably is the next step considering the number of problems a lot of employees are facing accommodating to a home office setup so urgently.

    Also the government here in Quebec is putting a plan to support businesses that choose to shut down, that is what I was referring to when I said that maybe it is possible to shutdown for 2 weeks and recoup the cost from the relief package.

    The AAA industry atleast does collect its revenues differently from say a mall or a restaurant, but one does have to account for the source of investments that support the production of a game and how they are affected by this situation.

    Being a publicly funded company does make justifying a shutdown a lot more challenging.

     PixelMasher said:


    TL:DR, treat NDA's with respect if you want to have a long term career in any industry that uses them, which is pretty much every company out there. If you sign something, just follow through with it, it makes life much easier for everyone involved. 
    I wasn't meaning an employee leaking, I meant others the employee has to live with who are not family being in an unsecured area and having an opportunity to leak content which they can easily do since they don't come under an NDA.

    Obviously it is upto the employee to secure their workspace, but many of them say in Toronto can't afford to rent a sizable apartment because of the outrageous rents their salaries don't cover and are having to bunk up.

    Luckily for some of them, they have been given the option not to work or to do something their workspace allows. But it is not entirely clear how long this can go on depending on the quarantine.

    Hence I was wondering about how much of the process of protecting a games IP under an NDA and all the effort it requires can be relaxed when working in studio given that this situation really does provide a good example that this can be possible.

    That and if a studio temporarily shuts down, how much of the cost of an employee working from home can be offset with the support of government  relief packages.

    Biomag said:
    I'm sorry, but where is these opinion coming from that you can put a project on hold just like that? Or delay it without any issues? Who is going to pay for the several weeks of (hundreds) employee costs where nothing was done for the project? Who is going to do deal with the backlash from stores and other business partners who had storage space reserved for you or campaigns planned? Do you really think all that matter is the players? That they are the only stakeholders in a delay? I can assure you a delay is a huge deal for (major) studios that people just looking at it from the consumer stand point absolutely don't see it fully unfold.



    Not an opinion, just an observation.
    Its an interesting situation since everyone is affected collectively. 
    Its important to understand the metrics of how many sales occur from physical stores, how much money is spent on marketing a game closer to release, including several events planned during that time (in the case of Doom for example) that have been cancelled.

    And of course the nature of the contracts surrounding them and the contingency they involve to back out in extreme circumstances.

    For instance working 3rd party QA, we're having to deal with a unique situation where we are in many ways beholden to some of our clients who's employees are working from home but aren't willing to let us work from home because they don't trust us with their ip unless we're working on it in our studio.

    So in that sense, many of us are having to go to work despite the circumstances at considerable risk, and in our companies defence (and I do stand with my company for the sake of all its employees) they are working hard to come to some sort of agreement with the client to allow such a provision.

    If we choose not to work, we forgo pay, since we're contractors and this is the case with tens of  thousands of 3rd party QA on call employees who are putting themselves at considerable risk so our companies don't lose our clients who could easily walk if we shut down in defiance to their conditions.

    Our pay (negotiated with the client) is a fraction of what an artist makes given how the market works and not all of us have the means or savings to stop working given our financial situation. (or for instance alternative work that is possible from home) 

    So In that sense our NDA and protocols are more secure since we're in the studio (when we ought to be home) as opposed to the clients who's NDA is dependent on good faith with their employees working from home.

    In that sense it is indicative of how far we are willing to put ourselves at risk partly because we respect our client and partly because we have no choice.

    Come to think of it we likely all may or may not already have the virus given how slow the response has been, but we have 2 weeks of quarantine to find out owing to its incubation period.



  • Biomag
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    Biomag polycounter
    NikhilR said:

    I was just meaning that there is a lot of cost attached to securing a workspace and with the situation facing everyone working from home, perhaps some of it is an excess?


     

    This is the issue - you don't understand how much of a deal it actually is that companies are even willing to take this risk of having leaks do to home office because you are completely underestimating how big the crisis is and how long it is going to last. If it was just two weeks, we would be half through it. Right now you have a town in Italy were the military is driving corpses to incinerations because the graveyards can't handle it. They have been dealing with it for more than 2 weeks.

    Sending whole studios to home office with the problems for NDAs and leaks is an act of back-to-the-wall-necessity and not just a small inconvenience where we are going to re-think NDAs and remote work.
  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor insane polycounter
    NikhilR said:




    ? What does this topic have to do with all that? 



    That's what I am saying. What is the goal.

  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    NikhilR said:




    ? What does this topic have to do with all that? 



    That's what I am saying. What is the goal.

    Of this topic?
    To observe and understand how NDA's perform in an extreme situation so that we can better prepare in the future to accommodate a more balanced approach to game development, with employees given the choice to work from home or in studio.

    Its an interesting comparison between the very protective and competitive marketing/entertainment model that game companies follow and the client specific model that IT firms (and their consultants) adopt.

    While both follow relatively strict NDA's it is because of how they are perceived in the market that IT has been a lot more flexible prior to this crisis and far better prepared for it.

    The games as a service model is one way to approach a more IT company way of functioning since its more about dedicating resources to a single evolving product that is iterated, rather than the "lets release 5 games, 4 of which are sequels and 1 is a new ip" in one year, which is very similar to how the film industry works (and which has many of the same problems as a result)

    And from a personal standpoint also bring to attention how on call and contract workers are affected by these circumstances because of how companies view the protection of their ip's, since they are usually faceless. 
     
    Biomag said:
    NikhilR said:

    I was just meaning that there is a lot of cost attached to securing a workspace and with the situation facing everyone working from home, perhaps some of it is an excess?


     

    This is the issue - you don't understand how much of a deal it actually is that companies are even willing to take this risk of having leaks do to home office because you are completely underestimating how big the crisis is and how long it is going to last. If it was just two weeks, we would be half through it. Right now you have a town in Italy were the military is driving corpses to incinerations because the graveyards can't handle it. They have been dealing with it for more than 2 weeks.

    Sending whole studios to home office with the problems for NDAs and leaks is an act of back-to-the-wall-necessity and not just a small inconvenience where we are going to re-think NDAs and remote work.
    That's actually the problem, there really is no transparency in the matter, but given what we are going through we may be forced to rethink the benefits and relevance of NDA's and the advantages and disadvantages or remote work arrangements for everyone involved with bringing a game to market. 

    Outsource and 3rd party clearly do not seem to have the same privileges in these circumstances because of how AAA games are developed, usually to save on the cost of making them.

    It is an extension of how the world is affected with China being the epicentre, it certainly does help facilitate a restructuring of how we go about doing business going forward. 


  • Biomag
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    Biomag polycounter
    The thing is there is a significant difference between 3rd party employees and people dircetly working for me. As a studio I usually know the people working for me. I meet them on a daily basis, I can get a picture of them. Also I have my studios in countries where I have my legal team and can take action. Add to that that you can check if your IT prepared the wokrkstations' security to work from home. Its a completely different situation than a 3rd party team. Especially if the third party employees earn even significantly less and might be more prone to be just short term employees. All of these add risks.

    Don't get me wrong, I also have friends that are forced to work at the studio because of their client, but ignoring the differences doesn't help when discussing solutions.
  • CrackRockSteady
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    CrackRockSteady Polycount Sponsor
    You are aware that remote work is not a new thing, right?  NDAs cover these sorts of situations, the only thing that's new right now is the scale with which it is happening.  All of the same things that applied to NDAs previously still apply, if you choose to break your NDA then you will deal with the fallout from your decision.  The idea that employers somehow are unable to enforce NDAs because people work remotely is naive.
  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    Biomag said:
    The thing is there is a significant difference between 3rd party employees and people dircetly working for me. As a studio I usually know the people working for me. I meet them on a daily basis, I can get a picture of them. Also I have my studios in countries where I have my legal team and can take action. Add to that that you can check if your IT prepared the wokrkstations' security to work from home. Its a completely different situation than a 3rd party team. Especially if the third party employees earn even significantly less and might be more prone to be just short term employees. All of these add risks.

    Don't get me wrong, I also have friends that are forced to work at the studio because of their client, but ignoring the differences doesn't help when discussing solutions.
    Our arrangement is unique in that the difference is more from a legal standpoint than the work involved since we work closely with the client to determine protocols, though there are many clients so lots of differences in how contracts are approached. 

    Its just that development of that level of trust takes time, but when you look at the risk with leaking content and the arbritary number tacked on to such an event as a liability by the legal team (usually as a deterrent), you wonder if it was all worth it in the end even from a financial standpoint. 

    Its precisely because of these differences and how AAA games are made that such a situation has taken place, so it would be good to make amends to that at some level going forward and follow a more open and transparent development model to accommodate everyone involved.

    One solution is to analyse just how critically a company is affected by a leak of its ip, whether the aspect of it being publicly traded affects this, and if the scale of the operation including the massive costs involved with maintaining employees in hub cities is really worth the lack of preparedness in dealing with an extreme situation such as this.

    You are aware that remote work is not a new thing, right?  NDAs cover these sorts of situations, the only thing that's new right now is the scale with which it is happening.  All of the same things that applied to NDAs previously still apply, if you choose to break your NDA then you will deal with the fallout from your decision.  The idea that employers somehow are unable to enforce NDAs because people work remotely is naive.

    Of course, just not certain if a lot of NDA and ip protection remains relevant given the scale of the situation we're facing. 

    From the legal standpoint it certainly does (since you could lose your job) but is it really critical to the success of a game?
     And how much damage does a leak actually do to a studios credibility depending on its corporate structure and business model and the risk to everyone involved in enforcing it.

    It would be great to see more data about that, for the moment the only information I have is publicly traded game dev companies who are more likely to be butchered by a general stock market crash than by an ip leak.

    An understanding of how expenses are divided between paying employees, maintaining employees, rent and property taxes, marketing, other investments, share holder stock and studio debt does give a better idea how deeply game development is entrenched in the corporate process and if everyone is being treated fairly in the pursuit of it.

    And also the scale of a leak, for instance managing to share a build without being detected vs your roommate walking in while you've left your device unsecured, taking a picture of a cosmetic and uploading to reddit both of which are possible depending on the circumstances.


  • Eric Chadwick
    That leak is on you, as the NDA signer.

    The other party in your NDA will pursue legal options if they learn the source of the leak.

    Not hard to trace leaks, most leakers are not savvy enough to hide all traces.
  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher high dynamic range
    NikhilR said:

    From the legal standpoint it certainly does (since you could lose your job) but is it really critical to the success of a game?
     And how much damage does a leak actually do to a studios credibility depending on its corporate structure and business model and the risk to everyone involved in enforcing it.


    And also the scale of a leak, for instance managing to share a build without being detected vs your roommate walking in while you've left your device unsecured, taking a picture of a cosmetic and uploading to reddit both of which are possible depending on the circumstances.


    Yes, leaks can significantly impact the sales of a game, early leaked screenshots of half finished art can turn a huge chunk of gamers off that dont actually know how games look in early development, and lose interest because "graphix sux/looks bad man". most consumers are not concerned with a studios credibility, they are concerned about the final product. mainstream gamers dont care about the actual game studios behind the  games they play, they just wanna play a good game. look on twitter, most gamer's dont give a shit about the naughty dog crunch stuff, they just want the game. 

    There is a reason why games are not announced until there is a clearly set launch window, usually within a year of the announcement the game will be released, albiet some massive games like last of us 2 it isn't critical, but for any smaller IP or franchise, having that shorter window to focus on building hype and marketing all the attention in 6-12 months is critical for a huge launch. if a bunch of stuff gets leaked for a game and there is info out about it for years before it comes out, people lose interest and it impacts sales because it is old news. I would bet in the coming years the announcement to release window will get down to 6 months or less, due to peoples increasingly short attention spans. 

    surprise launches like apex and COD warzone have shown it's a great way to generate a huge wave of media coverage and a FOMO (fear of missing out) launch cycle. I expect companies will start doing the same thing , announce their console game, and at the end of a hugely hyped presentation be like "oh and it launches right now online, tomorrow in stores etc". blindsiding consumers with something awesome and creating FOMO is starting to be the new norm. 

    marketing companies are paid millions of dollars because they are experts at staggering key information and when/why it's released to the public. It's easy to think you know better and that it doesn't really matter, but advertising is a multibillion dollar industry and it has pretty much been studied to death by the experts in that field with more data than ever. So leaks and breaking an NDA can compromise a 50-200 million dollar advertising plan that is already locked in contractually. So yes, NDA's are more relevant than ever. 


    on the second point....if your roommate is taking pics of your screen to post it on reddit, they are a huge asshole and it will be extremely obvious who it was, and more importantly, if you even suspect they would be the type of person to ever actually do that, why are they your roommate in the first place? 

    in terms of the current situation, there wasn't really a lack of preparedness, it was more of an unwillingness to allow it. most of the studios here in montreal made the transition to work from home in about a day or 2. almost every studio in town already use slack heavily, so it was just a matter of people bringing home their PC, and signing onto the studio vpn. there isn't really a wave of panic on the studios part, the IT departments were most likely busy for a few days helping people get setup, but at the end of the day, most peoples work day consists of 5-7 hours of sitting there with headphones on working on their tasks. so not much has changed in getting stuff done. 

    the largest thing to get light shined on it is now more so asking if a 30 person meeting is really necessary, when a quick slack call between 5 key people can cover it. In studio meetings are generally bloated, go on far too long and include way too many people that are not actually needed. 
  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    NikhilR said:

    From the legal standpoint it certainly does (since you could lose your job) but is it really critical to the success of a game?
     And how much damage does a leak actually do to a studios credibility depending on its corporate structure and business model and the risk to everyone involved in enforcing it.


    And also the scale of a leak, for instance managing to share a build without being detected vs your roommate walking in while you've left your device unsecured, taking a picture of a cosmetic and uploading to reddit both of which are possible depending on the circumstances.


    Yes, leaks can significantly impact the sales of a game, early leaked screenshots of half finished art can turn a huge chunk of gamers off that dont actually know how games look in early development, and lose interest because "graphix sux/looks bad man". most consumers are not concerned with a studios credibility, they are concerned about the final product. mainstream gamers dont care about the actual game studios behind the  games they play, they just wanna play a good game. look on twitter, most gamer's dont give a shit about the naughty dog crunch stuff, they just want the game. 

    There is a reason why games are not announced until there is a clearly set launch window, usually within a year of the announcement the game will be released, albiet some massive games like last of us 2 it isn't critical, but for any smaller IP or franchise, having that shorter window to focus on building hype and marketing all the attention in 6-12 months is critical for a huge launch. if a bunch of stuff gets leaked for a game and there is info out about it for years before it comes out, people lose interest and it impacts sales because it is old news. I would bet in the coming years the announcement to release window will get down to 6 months or less, due to peoples increasingly short attention spans. 

    surprise launches like apex and COD warzone have shown it's a great way to generate a huge wave of media coverage and a FOMO (fear of missing out) launch cycle. I expect companies will start doing the same thing , announce their console game, and at the end of a hugely hyped presentation be like "oh and it launches right now online, tomorrow in stores etc". blindsiding consumers with something awesome and creating FOMO is starting to be the new norm. 

    marketing companies are paid millions of dollars because they are experts at staggering key information and when/why it's released to the public. It's easy to think you know better and that it doesn't really matter, but advertising is a multibillion dollar industry and it has pretty much been studied to death by the experts in that field with more data than ever. So leaks and breaking an NDA can compromise a 50-200 million dollar advertising plan that is already locked in contractually. So yes, NDA's are more relevant than ever. 


    on the second point....if your roommate is taking pics of your screen to post it on reddit, they are a huge asshole and it will be extremely obvious who it was, and more importantly, if you even suspect they would be the type of person to ever actually do that, why are they your roommate in the first place? 

    in terms of the current situation, there wasn't really a lack of preparedness, it was more of an unwillingness to allow it. most of the studios here in montreal made the transition to work from home in about a day or 2. almost every studio in town already use slack heavily, so it was just a matter of people bringing home their PC, and signing onto the studio vpn. there isn't really a wave of panic on the studios part, the IT departments were most likely busy for a few days helping people get setup, but at the end of the day, most peoples work day consists of 5-7 hours of sitting there with headphones on working on their tasks. so not much has changed in getting stuff done. 

    the largest thing to get light shined on it is now more so asking if a 30 person meeting is really necessary, when a quick slack call between 5 key people can cover it. In studio meetings are generally bloated, go on far too long and include way too many people that are not actually needed. 
    Depending on how things work out, may need to change the way games are marketed to consumers and the type of consumers.
    MMO's for instance report that their main revenue source comes from people with serious mental health problems that have little control on how they spend and are maxing credit cards like mad at great cost to themselves and others.
    In that sense the companies likely don't care, but this model is unregulated capitalism, which is also one of the key reasons why we're having this mess now in the markets because of how globalisation works.

    Its just that games being a digital product, a company can be insulated from a lot of problems that come with sales, marketing and service industry, at least the physical aspect of it, unless we continue with the way things are by investing heavily into physical marketing of digital products.

     It would be interesting to see how Doom sales were impacted when several launch events were cancelled, how many people ordered online etc.
    Not fun to read about bunch of people lining up outside a physical store to buy animal crossing during a situation like this.
    Like you could say that its the resellers fault for keeping the store open, but if the sales of a game weren't influenced by hype, we wouldn't have such a thing happen in the first place.

    Its more a process of mitigating risk and seeing if its still possible to generate enough revenue to keep a studio running. 
    Instead of running a games development like a marketing circus, make a deeper connection with your market by involving them fully instead of relying on hype to sell your game at the cost of crunch.

    About leaking unfinished content, sure there are gamers that would scoff at it and have that attitude, but I wonder sometimes if the process of building it was more transparent and involving it may actually be a positive for marketing, keeping gamers engaged in the pipeline and increasing a studios credibility.

    Of course it depends on the delivery, for instance the For Honor move (playing hard) steered nice and clear of the situation that contract workers and QA were facing, focusing mainly on the key people involved, so that might not be something a studio wants to show.

    But of what we test, its bloody hilarious, it would be great to share this with others, and of course we don't. 
    Its why I mentioned the scale of a leak and also the matter of negative publicity being a net positive. Lot of numbers we just don't know about.

    About roommates taking pictures, the problem isn't the roommate, its the fact that the pay isn't enough to cover rent so many developers are having to room into coop housing to make ends meet.

    It is difficult to choose who you're roomed with in a situation such as this, and so long as companies are aware, they have accounted for the risk but the preparation is wholly inadequate in many cases.
    For instance many do not have good internet since they can't afford it so their VPN access is very erratic.

    I was also looking more into the security protocols studios with regards to keycards, usbs and how paranoid so many studios can become about leaks, when we now have a situation where it is actually quite easy to leak something if you really want to.

    And the main fallout was on call contract workers having to bear the brunt of the fallout given that they still have to go to work since the clients for the third parties aren't willing to be flexible on work at home arrangements being extended to them, atleast not yet.

    Its a problem caused because of the way games are built, when you try as a business person to reduce the cost to yourself despite making huge revenues of their backs.
    Of course you could say that becoming better at your game and moving into another skill set may allow you to move into a better place, but many people just don't have a choice, and it is for this reason that maybe some balance is necessary going forward which allows for a more inclusive approach.

    Another thing to consider is whether the loss of revenue owing to a delay or more relaxed approach to development can be offset by the billions in revenue gained from sales.etc come launch day.
    Right now the disparity between the cost and profit is pretty wide and with dedicated consumers and the way production costs are distributed it is only going to get wider.

    Like a deadline is a deadline, but sometimes you do stop and think what the heck is the rush to bring a game to market especially given games are a non essential entertainment and there are other things that matter more in a crisis situation.

    Given the way things are its likely just a matter of time I think.


  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    That leak is on you, as the NDA signer.

    The other party in your NDA will pursue legal options if they learn the source of the leak.

    Not hard to trace leaks, most leakers are not savvy enough to hide all traces.
    Hopefully, I mean its really not that difficult to take a quick picture edit it and repost it. 
    Much less severe than downloading a build onto a usb, but according to one instance the former was according to lawyers worth $85000 for loss of revenue as opposed to the unnamed amount of the countersuit which implied that there was a net gain because of bad publicity.

    Of course there are no metrics to support either amount. Its like me saying my company is 10 billion dollars because I value it that much. 
    On the aspect of an NDA you sign, you certainly have to abide by it, but sometimes I feel a lot of protocol is lost in corporate speak and with this incident it may be possible to reevaluate a lot of it, as well as having a balance between working from home and having a studio arrangement for what is ultimately a digital product. 

    I'm also aware of the revenue game companies make from the sale of events to sellers including physical copies.
    It just seems to me that the creativity of a game is sometimes lost in the pursuit of revenue. I mean it is a corporate business where several people are heavily invested so quite understandable that they work in this manner.


  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    marks said:
    How in the world is this thread so long, with so many lengthy replies?!

    "Hey I'm working from home, do I still need to care about NDA?"

    Yes, you absolutely need to still care about NDA, and so does everyone else. End of discussion.
    The post wasn't about "do I still need to care about NDA if I work from home"

    It was more about understanding if a lot that is written in a NDA which is specific to a studio working environment is still relevant in a work from home setup given the risks and that it is one of the primary reasons why many 3rd party contractors are out of work today with their projects cancelled because since the client isn't allowing it.

    The reason I brought it up is because the way they are written and the legal aspect makes it challenging for 3rd parties contractors who are having to put their lives at risk as opposed to employees working from home since there are differences in their NDA's on paper including a lot of legalese that does not afford them the same advantages. (which is ironic considering they are drafted with the clients input but there is so much in the background that we don't know about that is putting people at risk)

    If you consider the NDA on paper, then yes as long as you sign it you work in good faith, but there seems to be a disparity between how 3rd party is treated as opposed to first party employee because of the legalese behind the NDA that none of us were aware of and which is now upfront because of this crisis.

    It was meant to propose a rethink of how they are formulated allowing for contingencies should such extraneous circumstances arise again. 
    As employees we do what we are assigned, most often without question, but its important to stop and think of how this system affects the more vulnerable involved in the game development process.

    Much of third party (and this includes outsourcing) is put into place to make game development cheaper, it is unfortunate to see that this does not account for crisis situations like this despite making billions in revenue year after year.
    And that said there a complex web of deciding factors between client and 3rd party, from poorly negotiated contracts to low wages, hourly nature of the work, agreements with vendors for hardware etc. 

    See this forum thread for more info,
    https://polycount.com/discussion/218444/im-thinking-3rd-party-ought-to-be-treated-better-an-article-worth-reading-in-troubling-times#latest


  • Eric Chadwick
    You need to learn how to read an NDA. Your questions are because you don't understand what's written in your contract. This is why it's helpful to hire a lawyer yourself, help you walk through these documents and gain an understanding. It's really worth the expense, their time is worth the cost you pay.
  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    You need to learn how to read an NDA. Your questions are because you don't understand what's written in your contract. This is why it's helpful to hire a lawyer yourself, help you walk through these documents and gain an understanding. It's really worth the expense, their time is worth the cost you pay.
    I do know know how to read an NDA, well atleast what is available to me and the ones I formulate myself for freelance work.
    I'm not sure how many of the QA demographic (fresh graduates from highschool) can afford the services of a lawyer to get into the nitty gritties of client negotiated 3rd party contracts. 
    That is if there is a contract, what many of them have is an NDA that extends into a sort of contract, while not being a permanent work contract. Likely the best the company can do at the time. And I have no idea about how much a 3rd party company makes, or what its margins are but the logic is usually try to make it as less expensive as possible to a company for the benefit of the client.

    Similar to VFX companies low balling to get film contracts.

    My point is that there is a stark difference between the NDA's for 3rd party which seem to be quite inflexible because of the legal aspect of the arrangement and the ones in studio which are more accommodating.

    And while this is the nature of how game development works today, what I'm trying to illustrate here given that a lot of people I know may be falling ill within the week, is that it isn't a good arrangement that provides for these sorts of contingencies.

    I do understand unskilled work and hourly workers can be treated poorly in such a situation, though the government protections are better than where I'm from

    We have a similar industry in India, they're textile sweatshops that work 3rd party for many clothing brands here. 

    https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/luxury-brands-quietly-sourcing-indian-embroiderers-for-their-goods-120031301568_1.html
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/11/style/dior-saint-laurent-indian-labor-exploitation.html

    I mean its not as horrible (atleast for workers in North America)  , but I do think the game industry can certainly do better given the medium.

  • Eric Chadwick
    Well, ignorance is no defense for the noobs. They can complain all they like, but the facts remain. It's business, pure and simple. Get cookin' or get outta the kitchen.

    Legalese exists for a reason, primarily for clarity. Legal language is written precisely to remove ambiguity. But it is another language. Be illiterate at your peril.

    I've been advocating this book for a long time. It's still the single best resource for artists to learn how the art contracting business works.

    Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines
  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    Well, ignorance is no defense for the noobs. They can complain all they like, but the facts remain. It's business, pure and simple. Get cookin' or get outta the kitchen.

    Legalese exists for a reason, primarily for clarity. Legal language is written precisely to remove ambiguity. But it is another language. Be illiterate at your peril.

    I've been advocating this book for a long time. It's still the single best resource for artists to learn how the art contracting business works.

    Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines
    They'll have to grow up quickly and they do have a lot of time for reading. 
    Thanks for sharing the book! 
    For my part I have been advocating to as many people as I can to explore alternate career and revenue streams where they have more control and it has made many question policies.

    One aspect about 3rd party is everyone has very different priorities about why they do the work. Though they are united in supporting each other through it and that is something I deeply respect. 
    None of them are "freelance" contractors, majority are on-call contract employees so its quite the revolving door.
    In a way given how monotonous QA can be this has its benefits.

    Though if everyone was freelance, game development would be more co-operative in its approach than corporate. And can be possible as we're seeing now.

    Until there is a legislative or unionized protection of some sort, they can certainly use this time to better educate themselves about the business.
    It is by far the most complicated set up I've seen, and the clients endorsement of better protections will certainly decide how long this manner of business will continue, should the company try to change it.

  • Eric Chadwick
    How would it be more cooperative?
  • pior
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    pior high dynamic range
    This is probably the worst title ever given to a thread :D Either that, or a case of meaning being seriously lost in translation around the term "matter".

    Or maybe you just mean that ... when employees/freelancers are working from home, especially suddenly like these days,  then the security and confidentiality aspects of a contract are harder to enforce ? Then of course ... huh ... yes ? But going from that to the question "do NDAs still matter ?" makes absolutely zero sense.

    What is your actual question ? (how to deal with security when working from home ? Who is responsible in case of a unintentional breach/leak in these special times ?)

    Also : NDAs, not NDA's ;)
  • sacboi
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    sacboi ngon master

    Man! this is gold, thanks Eric for linking it. Wish I'd known a few years ago when the sh*t hit the fan.
  • Eric Chadwick
    It's found in most libraries, so it's basically free. 

    Even if you get one a couple years old, it's still packed with solid info bout all dem NDAs's ;)
  • Eric Chadwick
  • Meloncov
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    Meloncov greentooth
    My studio has it as an explicit expectation; if you're working from home (which is pretty much everyone right now) you need to have a place to work that's out of view of anyone besides your immediate family. If that's not possible due to your living arrangements, meet with management to work out a plan (I don't know anyone who had to do that, but I imagine the default way of handling that is borrowing a laptop you can take somewhere private to work).
  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    pior said:
    This is probably the worst title ever given to a thread :D Either that, or a case of meaning being seriously lost in translation around the term "matter".

    Or maybe you just mean that ... when employees/freelancers are working from home, especially suddenly like these days,  then the security and confidentiality aspects of a contract are harder to enforce ? Then of course ... huh ... yes ? But going from that to the question "do NDAs still matter ?" makes absolutely zero sense.

    What is your actual question ? (how to deal with security when working from home ? Who is responsible in case of a unintentional breach/leak in these special times ?)

    Also : NDAs, not NDA's ;)
    Its more with regards to the present situation, not in general where there is more time to organise a proper work from home arrangement.
    I think the title did come across a bit click baity, though that really wasn't the intention.

    My question was that since such a situation has allowed for considerable flexibility in the NDA given how quickly work from home arrangements needed to be organised, maybe the security that goes into maintaining them at a studio is overkill and a more open ended approach to development without all the secrecy and reliance on hype to sell a game is possible?

    This question also came to mind, since this arrangement doesn't extend to 3rd party contractors who are having to risk getting Covid-19 since their secure studio environment is considered necessary to maintain their NDA (which is the same as the NDA for employees of the client)

    I understand it comes down to a matter of trust and liabilities because 3rd party arrangements are complex, but they do seem designed to make the game development process more economical sadly at the expense of employee protections. 

    How would it be more cooperative?

    One possibility is to make the development process of a game involve its audience from the beginning, like early access.
    So its not just the game thats sold, but the journey that went into building it with a focus on all developers involved.
    Ideally this would also reduce the massive cost that goes into marketing since you won't need hype to sell your game.

    Its a novel approach, many artists here on polycount do this when they start a thread and show progress. It builds trust gradually overtime, makes the audience aware of the challenges people go through.
     
    The way things are set up now with all the secrecy, competitiveness and the sheer scale of these games, makes it difficult to try something like this. Also the money comes from shareholders who are heavily invested in other industries and are focused on profiting from a video game business. To them a 3rd party QA tester dying of COVID-19 likely isn't very relevant so long as deadlines are met.

    Its similar to the Jerry McGuire business model and would greatly improve working conditions in 3rd party.
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomalexander/2018/11/26/the-jerry-mcguire-business-model-why-i-am-choosing-fewer-clients-in-2019/#5301e6442f0a


  • Eric Chadwick
    No. NDA has the same weight, no matter what the conditions. 

    It's a contract, period. If you don't agree with it, don't sign it.

    If you're signing it regardless, and willing to break the contract, then you must accept the consequences.

    Whatever, I'm repeating myself. Deaf ears.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag polycounter
    If maintaining secrecy is a problem for individuals or 3rd party contractors the solution isn't / won't be changing the way games are being made based on years of experience and marketing studies, but instead those being the root of the issue getting dumped and sued.

    Once again remote work, secrecy, marketing, NDAs, none of these things are novelties or are in need of a proof of concept. Those are long term developments grounded in real life experience. There is no need to completely change how games are marketed if your issue are NDA-concerns. You simply use the NDA for what is for, take legal action and avoid other parties that might be a risk to your project. That's the whole point of NDAs.
  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor insane polycounter
    Yes I think @NikhilR you are mixing too many issues together. Despite the lengthy text I still don't understand what the issue with NDA's is. If you are part of the company you are part of the team, and you agreed to the NDA so you do your best to adhere to it's rules. If not you bring it up with your boss so they can help you. What is the encroachment on your health/happiness/dignity there?


  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    Yes I think @NikhilR you are mixing too many issues together. Despite the lengthy text I still don't understand what the issue with NDA's is. If you are part of the company you are part of the team, and you agreed to the NDA so you do your best to adhere to it's rules. If not you bring it up with your boss so they can help you. What is the encroachment on your health/happiness/dignity there?


    I think all it comes down to is reviewing NDA agreements to accommodate for extreme circumstances so there is enough time to prepare. 
    The way these agreements are set up currently makes 3rd party seem like a dispensable liability in the face of a crisis, and simply annihilating them through a project cancellation is considered lesser risk and more economical than a project leak through a business partner.

    In the case of 3rd party the interest of a client is being put ahead of the well being of employees, but this is a business model that 1st party companies sign on to willingly, so the negative outcome we are facing currently isn't really that surprising.

    I am researching for examples where the breach of a NDA has crippled a studio or damaged its stock significantly, so if anyone has any examples or first hand experience would be great to share.

    I've only seen one situation where a graphical leak led to a lawsuit and an arbitrary sum for damages tacked on to the filing.
    No idea how the clients lawyers arrived at the number, though last I heard there was a counter suit by the defence filing for damages with the understanding that negative publicity led to more profit.
     Bizarre really when you think about it. Like I get the significance of the breach speaking strictly from the NDA you sign, but I don't understand how they calculate its market cost, let alone prove it in a court of law.


    pior said:
    ... "such a situation has allowed for considerable flexibility in the NDA"

    This is precisely where the whole confusion comes from. You are conflating the data that is not supposed to be disclosed (the object of the NDA), with the security/privacy protocols used to guarantee that hopfully nothing leaks. These are two completely different things.

    Of course open game development is great when appropriate ; but Covid19 is not going to make the producer/director of a confidential project go "Oh what the hell, YOLO guys ! Now that everybody is working from home let's make everything less confidential ! It doesn't matter now !".

    Put differently : a given project being confidential is not some sort of evil scheme attempting to control and crush the life of employees/contractors. It's just confidential because ... the people owning the project decided as such. And that's it ! As the person on the other side of the NDA, you either agree with that and sign it ; or disagree and ask for a change in the terms of the contract ; or disagree and walk away.

    Just to clarify, having been in the industry for a while I do follow NDAs myself and understand their significance. 
    Its just that the present situation made me wonder just how flexible they can be,

    The NDA 3rd party receives through consultation with the client certainly doesn't seem to account for extreme situations like this.

     I'm not sure if the NDA for the clients employee's is different, but considering what I am seeing in the next room (since I share my apartment with an employee of a client serviced by the 3rd party company I work for), I think the producer/director did say YOLO to what an NDA stands for being fully aware of the risk.

    I mean there is nothing stopping anyone from leaking anything, except for good faith which apparently I can't be trusted with since I'm 3rd party  So either they've accounted for it, or leaks probably don't have that merciless an impact on a companies bottom line as we're made to believe.

    pior said:

    ... "but the journey that went into building it with a focus on all developers involved"

    Ironically enough ... this kind of approach/positioning while undoubtedly coming from a nice place, would be a big red flag as far as I am concerned when interviewing for a given studio to potentially work for. Being an employee is not some sort of fancy journey of self-growth - it's just a deal in which you agree to sell some of your life hours and skills  in exchange for money, because someone (= the person hiring you) is unable to do such tasks or doesn't have the time to do them themselves. Nothing else. Hoping for it being a "journey" revolving around fuzzy "values" is a recipe for disappointment imho. Instead it's much better to simply check if the person in charge (project director, leads, and so on ) is *actually* passionate about their role/job and the product they're working on.

    As a matter of fact I would personally consider that tacking too much so-called social stuff on top of a job (too many team building workshops, too much time wasted going over mostly meaningless "workplace values", and so on) is the sign of an immature workplace, as that stuff simply doesn't respect the valuable time of the employees.

    I guessing that really comes down to the dynamic of a studio space and how corporate its become. And of course the interviewer and the scale and rigidity of the operation. 
    The industry can be pretty volatile when it comes to hiring practices.

    For instance in 3rd party you deal with very high turnover, no job security and a high number of client projects some of which may have longevity.
    Its basically a revolving door sweatshop business model that is very economical for 1st party which is why it exists.

    If you consider their balance sheet, obviously they are very resistant to change so my concept likely can't be implemented in such a rigid setting where the bottom line and deadline is more important.
    Many 1st party developers would also not welcome this.

    But too much reliance on 3rd party to keep costs down isn't good for the long term growth of the industry as is pretty obvious from the situation we're faced with now.

    Being an employee can be a journey of self growth if this is valued by the company.

     One company that does provide for this is Google and their approach led to the development of many great applications we use today.
    Their focus is on innovation, and since they operate on a service model, this can work very well in the long term.

    But I agree that this would be difficult to implement given the way many AAA companies operate where you are simply exchanging your life hours and skill for money. That and the limited employee protections as well as the adage of "industry is small, everyone knows everyone so that can affect your employment" model places challenges against an employees willingness to speak out. 

    And the general speculative nature of the business, there really is no clarity on what the reality of situations are from NDA's to hiring practices.

    I just feel that as far as being an artist goes, there ought to be a balance between using art for production and art for innovation.
    And of course have good marketing and player research to budget for it.

    But as you said, it is always possible for someone who doesn't fit in to the mold to make his own design and follow it, so I'm glad there is that option.


  • Alex Javor
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    Alex Javor insane polycounter
    I still don't get the point.

    Yes, the employee or contractor is disposable commodity. That's an issue with capitalism, culture, and probably the very fundamental notion of what money is and how it works. Nothing to do with NDA's from what I can tell. 

    I think the real issue is that you want 3d artist job to be what you imagined it to be. But it's not. It is closer to assembly line work than probably what most people imagine when they think "artist."

    And that is fine. It is that way because that's how the market has shaped it to be. It makes sense and it works.

    People being mistreated, overworked, underpaid, etc., is entirely different issue. And it's a real issue, not just a case of naive newcomer not understanding what they were getting into.


  • Taylor Brown
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    Taylor Brown sublime tool
    I wonder if this thread will keep going long enough for everyone to go back to work
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