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Coming up with an appropriate one-liner question was so hard I wrote the body before the header...

So we're a team of 4 developers; two designers, two coders to put it simply (naturally we don't tie ourselves up with labels). We've come up with a great game design together, and we're prepared to spend a great bulk of our time making a prototype.

Problem is, there's a major difference of opinion when it comes to sharing potential revenue made by the game.

Investment = Share

Two of us would like to have everyone keep a rough log of hours spent. Converting that to a previously agreed upon per-hour salary, we could add it up with real money invested, and from that determine each developer's 'stake' in the game, i.e. their share.

Equal Share

The other two do not agree with that, among other reasons because they think some pieces of work are worth more than others, like a really great idea for a feature. Because of such immeasurables, they think an equal share for all would be the easiest.

Another argument said: (paraphrasing) "logging hours would take away the fun. I'm serious about this project, but I want to work with it on hobbyist terms, not like a second job."


We need to formalize an agreement before development has gone too far, but how can we get past these core differences of opinion? Is this a common problem among first-time startups?

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This is a great question for area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/6243/startup-business, if it ever gets out of beta. It's not really a game-specific question, however. –  Cyclops Aug 11 '10 at 1:03
    
you can also take a look at this site to get answers: answers.onstartups.com –  Chris Aug 11 '10 at 8:55
    
Thanks for the pointers. I committed to startup-business and I might also pop into answers.onstartups.com. In the meantime, especially considering the answers I have received, I figure this is at least relevant enough to GameDev that several people have experienced similar scenarios and have something to say on the matter :) –  Erlend Aug 11 '10 at 15:01
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Sorry, but it's still way off-topic. For instance, if many programmers have problems with spilled Coke in their keyboard, that doesn't make it game-dev related. As this Question says (meta.stackexchange.com/questions/14470/…): "The fundamental rule is you can't just stick 'for programmers' on a question to make it programming related." Your question is, "How can a startup company of professionals with different talents, divide up the equity?" The fact that those professionals are programmers, is irrelevant. –  Cyclops Aug 11 '10 at 15:50
    
Point taken. I'd be okay with this moved elsewhere / into community wiki (still don't 100% get how that works). –  Erlend Aug 12 '10 at 18:26
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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I prefer equality, because if it's time based then someone who works twice as efficient or is madly talented will be punished for doing twice the work per hour.
On the other hand, people might argue that someone talented puts in as much sweat as the less talented so the hours are of equal value.
I do know that not being based on equality might demotivate people, whereas you'd hope that everyone will be as motivated as can be.
You don't want the wrong sentiments to influence a process that is hard enough to pull off as is.
Besides, the coders can't draw, and the designers likely can't program so you're equally indispensable. As between the coders and the designers, if people feel the others don't work hard enough you have the wrong team. Being a company is hard, especially if you're friends. I've done it for 5 years (same setup) and we were on equal shares. Sometimes the designers had to work harder, sometimes the coders. Generally we all put in 80 hour weeks anyhow.

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"As between the coders and the designers, if people feel the others don't work hard enough you have the wrong team." That is, in essence, what I already knew but needed spelled out for me. Thanks. I think we're basically down to equal shares, or 'each our separate ways'. –  Erlend Aug 11 '10 at 15:39
    
I guess what helped is that we actually quit our jobs and started a company. That way you can be relatively ensured people will put in all their effort as it's a) their dream, and b) do or die. Of course this is a risk and luxury one often can't afford to take. –  Kaj Aug 11 '10 at 17:28
    
Another problem with basing it on "hours" is that you're actually handing out significant monetary bonuses for working slowly and inefficiently. This isn't the sort of behavior you want to reward. –  ZorbaTHut Aug 13 '10 at 2:46
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I would say it is a very interesting problem to have.

If all of you are already in the project, then I guess doing Equal Share would be the best thing to do. You cannot quantify productivity in hours and I know sometimes i spend a couple of hours thinking and then implement something complex in just a few hours(which is imposible without the thinking part, which seems imposible to measure).

That being said, if someone is putting money in or out, then its a different thing. If someone is investing, they probably want more shares, if someone is planning on charging money early on(which is fine, I mean maybe he wants to quit hes day job?) then he would get way less equity.

The most important thing would be to agree that you are all the team making the game, and that you will put everything you can into the project, if you all agree with that, why not go to the equal share option?

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In our gamedev-studio we have a system of ten grades, you earn them for like working on the concept or spending time to code etc.

In our conferences everyone gives his self-assessment about his work done and then those will be discussed.

For just being active and doing some little concept stuff is a grade of 2 and coding the whole month is like an 8, so together they add up to a 10.(Just an example)

The money now is shared very simple: All points of all members are added up so they are 100% and therefore everyone of the team gets the money he worked for. Fair and simple.

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This rewards someone to browser reddit all month while implementing some code that could have been a couple of DAYS with proper motivation. –  DFectuoso Aug 11 '10 at 0:54
    
Not really, because you then earn less points than coding that days, so those all are weighted. And browser in reddit won't give you any grades. –  Seshiro Aug 11 '10 at 14:17
    
@Seshiro I am interested in your system of grades and perhaps some guidance on how to decide them. Thank you. –  Discipol Jul 6 at 0:03
    
This was a long time ago. Nothing ever came of that project, sadly. And we realized that some people tried manipulating us to give them a bigger share, but as I said nothing came of it. I was 15 when I wrote that text and the "studio" was more of a collective of young adults trying to make a game with way too many ideas and not enough guidance. The idea is already elaborated in the text. Everyone gets their share of time they invested into the project. But that would require lots of reflection. I think a time tracking system would be more efficient combined with some self assessment of quality –  Seshiro Jul 7 at 7:32
    
But if I'm honest these systems will cause concurrency in the workforce and cause more trouble than discussing a fixed share at the beginning of the project and reevaluating at milestones. Sorry to disappoint you, that was just hubris of a 15y/o feeling self important –  Seshiro Jul 7 at 7:33
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