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Subject: Presenting a prototype to possible publishers rss

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Nikolaj Wendt
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So, I am going to Essen this year to present a prototype of the game we are working on. The hope is to get a publishing deal. I know it is not easy.

Since publishers very often want to change the artwork for games they publish, I am wondering if they would react negatively to a game where some components are from other games. My focus is on the gameplay and gamemechanics, and 80% of the components are made specifically for the prototype, but it would make it easier if we dont have to do it all.


Now, would publishers care? Assuming that they like the idea of course.


I am obviously interested in feedback from everyone, but if you have been in the position yourself - either as the one pitching or as the publisher - any specific experiences would be awesome. :)
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Andreas Krüger
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This blogpost is somehow related to your question:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/13036/seven-years-and-...


Quote:
Don't spend much money on making a prototype. In particular, don't pay anybody for art, don't pay a lot for high-quality printing or fancy boxes, don't pay an "agent", don't pay an "evaluator". Many prototypes don't even have a box, they are in some kind of pouch or wallet (especially considering that it's pretty hard to reduce a large board to box size, the board is often separate). Really slick prototypes tend to put publishers off because they're afraid the designer has put so much time into the prettiness of the prototype that they've been reluctant to change it!

With modern computer software and printers you can produce a nice-looking prototype quite cheaply. I discuss software and other points about making prototypes in my "Game Design" book if you need more information. Ask you local library to get a copy.
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MAGE Company
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Hi there, i will agree with Andreas. Anyway as publisher i don't believe the graphic outlook of a prototype would prevent me or anyone out there from taking a closer look at it. To the contrary we target on innnovative ideas. I know many people who create simple and effective prototypes. Usually they visit a site where there are plenty of illustrators, borrow some images since they ask the artists first, make some files for their game, maybe they order few wooden tokens and that's it. I just mention what i've noticed so far.

I've tested even prototypes designed on a single piece of papers cause of the game's simplicity, still they had awesome gameplay. I think you should focus more on the rules and the ideas of the game and everything else will come in time.

Alex
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Byron Campbell
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Is that a yay or nay on using copyrighted materials in a game prototype (since it's going to be changed before it's published anyway)?
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MAGE Company
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what you mean copyrighted materials?
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Sen-Foong Lim
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Probably the use of copyrighted art work as a placeholder on cards, etc.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Well, if you are using components from a company that your prospective publisher happens to dislike. Then yes. That can harm your chances in a roundabout way.

If possible its better to present a game with no actual art in use at all. Cards with "Mighty Warrior" "Soldier" etc written in the art box will work just as well. You dont need art at all other than board layout, card layout and even these are subject to change.

Its when you are obviously wasting time on glitzing up a prototype for presentation that publishers start to turn away.
To some it may be a sign that you are more worried about looks than the actual game - wasting time that should have been spent on the rules, etc.
For some it is a factor of having to tell someone whos spent sometimes more than their actual publishing paycheck just on glitzing the proto that... well... They dont need, or want the art you worked so hard on or payed so much for.
Others may simply view the art as a distraction or obstacle in seeing the skeleton of the game which is the only important thing. And thats actually my viewpoint.

Round and round it goes.
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I get it. I didn't mean that way. I know some designers who use images for cards for their prototypes, but not copyrighted images. There are artists who may have created 100 images and have used only 30. The others are not sold anywhere.
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Scott Westgard
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An artist might get a little upset if you use their art in your prototype. However it is not technically illegal to do so, as long as the art is not directly being sold, or used for profit. (There is a little grey area here since you are using the prototype to try and get published for a profit.) As long as the prototypes were not sold, or made in large quantities, I don't think the copyright holder would be able to do much as far as claiming damages, unless the work was directly aimed at slandering or stealing the artist's design.

It would be best to contact artists, which would naturally be interested in getting some$ if you chose to hire them, or buy the rights to some art.

Just be sure to tell the publisher that the art is not yours, and exists as an "example." Some people even print the word "EXAMPLE ARTWORK ONLY" in red across stolen art on cards or box tops just to make that point clear.

I made my own custom Spellfire cards using photos and bizarre stuff from the web that I am sure was copyrighted, BUT, I was only using those cards for my own fun, and as a joke in the game...that was not illegal.
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Ben Pinchback
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We pilfer wooden and plastic components all the time from our game collections when prototyping. The proto of Fleet we sent Gryphon used a blue Agricola disc for the starting player marker. Lots of our other games have had little wooden cubes borrowed for other projects.
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John "Omega" Williams
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Cubes and discs and meeples are pretty easy to come by in any given crafts store and no publisher is likely to really care, or even know, if you scaveneged from some existing game.

Art they might care. But its fairly unlikely. Worst case scenario is someone will ask. "Why bother?" or "why did he waste effort copping art for this?"

Really varios from company to company. As pretty much everything in the gaming biz.
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Steve Baldwin

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NoodleArtist wrote:
An artist might get a little upset if you use their art in your prototype. However it is not technically illegal to do so, as long as the art is not directly being sold, or used for profit.


Actually Scott, it IS illegal. The common perception is that it's OK to use another person's art for something that's not for profit or for resale. (like posting on your web page, or on a prototype for example.)

This is just not true. Technically, an artist or copyright owner can go after you for using their artwork/copyrighted images without their permission. End of story. Now, most folks don't because they either don't know you're doing it, or they decide it's not worth it. But that doesn't mean it's legal.

Quote:
(There is a little grey area here since you are using the prototype to try and get published for a profit.) As long as the prototypes were not sold, or made in large quantities, I don't think the copyright holder would be able to do much as far as claiming damages, unless the work was directly aimed at slandering or stealing the artist's design.


Again, this is the common perception, but it's NOT true. The game, the Thing, is a great example. Even though the designer isn't selling it, Universal Pictures has every right to sue this guy for whatever damages they think they can get. They own all of those images. If that designer didn't pay them to use those images, even though his project is just a free thing, (I think you actually have to pay to get the cards made, so someone is making money on it) legally they have the right to sue him, and they would win. Now, this guy has no money, and it would cost Universal more to pay their lawyers than what they would get in a settlement. So, most likely they would send him a "cease and desist" letter and then pursue legal action if he doesn't comply.

Quote:
I made my own custom Spellfire cards using photos and bizarre stuff from the web that I am sure was copyrighted, BUT, I was only using those cards for my own fun, and as a joke in the game...that was not illegal.


Again, technically it is. If you don't own any of the images you got from the internet, and didn't get permission from the artist, then you're using them illegally. It doesn't matter if you just did it for yourself and you never show it to anyone. It's a violation of copyright law. Now, everybody does it. Heck, I do it. But that doesn't mean it's legal.

So, should you use images you don't own or have paid for on your prototype? That's up to you. 99% of the time you will get away with it. But that doesn't make it legal.

I work with actors, musicians, artists and designers a lot. This is a HUGE deal to them. Their art is how they make their living, and when other people use that art without paying for it or even asking for permission (even for a non-selling prototype) it affects them.



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Scott Westgard
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Thanks Steve!
I was not sure using the work was permitted even as examples, but it is done alot with private groups of gamers. I can see it should NOT be done just as fair play in game design, or any other art form...like "Sampling" in music. Thanks for clarifying all that. It's amazing what people get away with then. Even on Facebook, "Sharing" an image is then illegal....yeesh.

There are even more grey areas when ALTERING existing artwork to use in your own designs. For example, so many people have stuck their own faces on the painting "American Gothic" by Grant Wood...At what point does the Wood family have the right to claim damages?
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Byron Campbell
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Technically, copyright law is "illegal" when weighed against the spirit of the constitution and the founding fathers' vision. (Obviously, I'm just talking about American law--no clue about other countries.) The root of all copyright laws is in a time when mass production and dissemination of products was not the every-day possibility it is today. Simply put, copyright laws don't know how to deal with digital media, and tend to be interpreted overly in the favor of large corporations and publishers because that's where the money is (rarely do the actual artists have anything to gain from copyright suits, and artists can even be sued for re-using their own because it is often "owned" by the company that hired them). Of course, debating the ethical situation doesn't do anything to protect you legally, so I suggest following Steve Baldwin's advice until such time as we can invent a better practice that actually supports rather than stifles working artists.

Also, [geekurl=http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html]fair use[/geekurl].
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Gregorio Morales
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puslemus wrote:
So, I am going to Essen this year to present a prototype of the game we are working on. The hope is to get a publishing deal. I know it is not easy.

Since publishers very often want to change the artwork for games they publish, I am wondering if they would react negatively to a game where some components are from other games. My focus is on the gameplay and gamemechanics, and 80% of the components are made specifically for the prototype, but it would make it easier if we dont have to do it all.


Now, would publishers care? Assuming that they like the idea of course.


I am obviously interested in feedback from everyone, but if you have been in the position yourself - either as the one pitching or as the publisher - any specific experiences would be awesome.


The prototype we presented for our third published game had borrowed things from at least three games (lots of wooden things, and even the board!). It didn't prevent the publisher to give us a licensing agreement
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Nate K
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gmoralesor wrote:
puslemus wrote:
So, I am going to Essen this year to present a prototype of the game we are working on. The hope is to get a publishing deal. I know it is not easy.

Since publishers very often want to change the artwork for games they publish, I am wondering if they would react negatively to a game where some components are from other games. My focus is on the gameplay and gamemechanics, and 80% of the components are made specifically for the prototype, but it would make it easier if we dont have to do it all.


Now, would publishers care? Assuming that they like the idea of course.


I am obviously interested in feedback from everyone, but if you have been in the position yourself - either as the one pitching or as the publisher - any specific experiences would be awesome.


The prototype we presented for our third published game had borrowed things from at least three games (lots of wooden things, and even the board!). It didn't prevent the publisher to give us a licensing agreement


Congratulations!
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James Mathe
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Nikolaj, don't worry about it... It's not a big deal to use other peoples stuff to create your prototype and I nor most publishers would ever care. And yes you shouldn't waste a lot of time making your prototype look awesome, but certainly I can say a good looking prototype WILL catch the eye of a publisher more then a simple black and white stick man version.

A good game or idea is a good game or idea... but making it look nice helps get people to play it for playtesting and makes one a bit more egar to try it when reviewing it.

James
Minion Games
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