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This is more of a legal question than for example a coding question, but I hope that it's allowed as well. I recently started working as a freelance VFX Artist and do a lot of work with shaders and particle systems. Now, I am currently working on some dynamic shader, which creates cartoon-ish flames. I signed a contract with one of my clients, which states that I do not re-sell the work I did for them. But, I wonder what I should do when my next client gives me the exact same task and wants a dynamic cartoon fire shader, which is something almost every (cartoon) project needs at some point.

Would it be enough to just use a couple different nodes in Shader Graph, which would still basically do the same? Even then, let's say I get 5 more clients, who want the same from me. There are only so many variations I can do to the shader when the task was to make it dynamic. With particle systems I could just paint a different material and it would be a piece of art asset, but how does that translate to shader work?

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When a client tells you they don't want you to resell the asset you made for them, then what they really want is to not see a game which obviously uses the exact same asset.

So if you get a very similar request from another customer, then what really matters is that you create an asset which isn't recognizable. They won't care if it uses the same technical base. Just that it doesn't look the same.

You could of course just randomly tweak a couple parameters in your shader graph. But if you want to create the best work possible for the client, then it might be worth looking at the unique aesthetic of their game. "Cartoon style" is a very general description. Different artists interpret it very differently. So ask them for some of the artwork they already have and create something that harmonizes with it as best as possible.

Another approach could be to create one generic cartoon fire shader from scratch. And then when the next customer wants one, you tell them: "Listen, you could pay me $much for $many hour to create an unique effect just for you. But what you want is very generic. I could just sell you this effect I made a while ago non-exclusively for $cheap. Yes, it's in a bunch of other games, but no player will notice".

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    \$\begingroup\$ Would talking with a lawyer also be a good idea? \$\endgroup\$ – bob Mar 5 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. If nothing else, they can put the details of the suggestions above (exclusive license or non-exclusive license) into proper form for a written contract record. \$\endgroup\$ – Nij Mar 6 at 3:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ The $cheaper with some modifications will probably be enough to do just fine for plenty of people. Money talks, and if something 100% specialized is more expensive than something more generic that's personalized for the client, I bet they would pick the generic option. Also, O.P. can do it faster as well. This, comparing to starting from scratch every single time. \$\endgroup\$ – Ismael Miguel Mar 6 at 9:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @bob When you are a freelancer, then having a good lawyer is cost of doing business. But this particular question is not so much a legal question as it is a business question. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Mar 6 at 12:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Philipp My takeaway from that talk is that having a good (or even decent) lawyer is not really a cost. They pay for themselves, and then some, through all the hassle and trouble they save you from, giving you more time and energy to pour into your work. \$\endgroup\$ – Arthur Mar 7 at 16:52

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