So Let's Talk About This Ubisoft/HitRecord Stuff


#21

The more I think about this, the more I’m starting to realize what an incredibly slippery slope community work like this can get.

Essentially you’re creating a competition within your community which leads to devaluing the work of your actually employed workers. I still don’t know where the line is, as in is a community artwork competition to get your face put into game also ethically questionably because you are effectively outsourcing your art without proper compensation, but the line definitely exists and this is definitely on the wrong side.

Thanks to Mello and Lilly for explaining this, this has been very enlightening.


#22

The chief difference between a competition where one or a few artists would get chosen for a prize and this is that this seems to be designed from the ground up to get Ubi a bunch of in-game assets for extremely cheap so they won’t have to hire people to make them or slot out time to make them, whereas a contest winner usually just gets some novelty appearance in a project.

BTW, I think this was a really good question @Lassemomme and it did take me a second to figure out how to express the difference and respond!


#23

The other distinction I would make between a comp and spec work, is that in my head a competition entry would be based on a cool idea, or maybe something that already exists in some form. The assumption is that the creative team is going to take that initial idea and put the leg work in themselves to make it into the end product. So in that instance a cool reward is (in my eyes still shitty) sometimes acceptable.

Spec work, only things of a professional standard will be accepted so the onus is on the submitter to do all the leg work for potentially no reward, whilst the company gets to cherry pick what they take, and then pay a pittance for it.


#24

To play devil’s advocate for a hot second…where do we draw the line between something like this and someone creating a level in Mario Maker without compensation?


#25

I honestly don’t see how they’re even remotely the same thing. Nintendo spent a bunch of development money to make a game whose specific purpose is to allow their fans to create levels and play them among themselves. I suppose you could argue that those levels brought some more attention to Nintendo, that maybe use of their servers got them the numbers to perhaps get more advertisers, maybe. But that’s all stretching it.

Ubisoft is soliciting professional work from people who are to create art assets from the ground up to add to a game that is currently in development. Ubi will pay what I assume is a pittance to those creators, but then turn around and sell a product with hundreds of those assets in them for what could amount to millions in profit.


#26

I’ll grant you that one game is still in development and the other is shipped, but if, for instance mario maker didn’t let you play anyone else’s levels is there not a sense in which it would be an incomplete game in the same way that a game missing art assets would be?

Is level design a discipline that is somehow less important than creating art or music?


#27

It’s not a question if one is more important than the other, the comparison you’re making here is apples and oranges. Nintendo didn’t say, “For the next Mario Game we want all of you to submit level designs to us and we’ll choose the best, possibly throw a couple bucks your way then turn around and sell this game with your levels in it for 60 bucks a pop.”


#28

Here’s the thing; Mario Maker has creation as a design pillar of the gameplay. It is advertised as such, and players know from the outset that they have a choice to engage in the “labor” of level creation should they choose to do so. They can also share if they choose , and there is no expectation for compensation.

With BGE2, the creation of art and music is not a part of the game play. Presumably, Ubisoft will not provide players tools to create and import art assets into the game post release. There is also an expectation that some, but not all, contributors will be compensated for their labor. Furthermore, it is almost certainly taking money and jobs away from full-time artists, some of whom will forced to engage in stupid stuff like Hitrecord because they can’t find full-time work. It is nothing short of a scam.


#29

Mario Maker is Nintendo selling a tool-set. It’s them saying, you love Mario games, so here are the tools to make your own Mario level and share it with others! The entire conceit of the product is make things for fun.

On the other hand Ubisoft isn’t even selling a product, they are inviting folks to work on their product for the prospect of POTENTIAL payment.

To make a metaphor of it, one is selling you a hammer to build a house, another is asking you to build a house for them, and if they like it enough they’ll buy it. These two aren’t even in the same ballpark.


#30

Mario Maker is designed to be a game where players fill in the blank with their own creativity. That’s the whole point.

Beyond Good & Evil 2 is a game developed with blank space for people to create detail assets the company wants to outsource for cheap. They are not providing you with the tools to make these things; those will come at your own great cost.


#31

Games like Mario Maker and LittleBigPlanet have content creation as a cornerstone of their gameplay. Even games like Halo have map creation tools like Forge that let the community share content. The difference between those games and BG&E2 is that all three have those features woven into the actual design of the game - when you pay for those games, you pay for those content creation tools. Ubisoft isn’t baking this content creation into the game itself; they’re crowdsourcing actual development work on the game for woefully low/no pay.


#32

I’m fully on-board with “don’t work for spec”. But there’s something that’s been bothering me a bit about the whole reaction to this thing.

I can’t help but think that the discourse would be very different in response to “Nintendo collaborates with Pokemon community to write dialogue for NPC Pokemon trainers” or “SEGA opens submissions for Sonic OCs to be included in new Sonic game” or “Square Enix and Disney work with fans to design new costumes for Sora and his friends”.

Hell, Megaman Legends 3 did almost this exact thing just a few years ago. Where were all the hot takes?

TF2, CS:GO, DOTA 2, and Warframe have been doing literally this exact same thing for years, (arguably even worse). They’re not just asking for concepts or amateur poster art, they want full professional-grade 3D models, textured, normal mapped, and everything. You submit “on spec”, and if you get accepted you get a minute cut of the sales. Why isn’t anyone covering this ongoing “gig economy” labor issue?

And that’s not even mentioning all the other types of free community labor in the games industry. How many game companies pay their forum moderators? Is anyone paying wiki editors, walkthrough writers,

The more cynical part of me thinks that the real problem is that Ubisoft simply messed up the pitch. They shouldn’t have had a rich celebrity give a 5-min pitch for his hot startup. They shouldn’t have had any money involved at all. If they had found the right way to pitch this as “we want to put your fanart in the game!” instead of “we will pay you pennies to make our game”, then this thread probably wouldn’t exist.

Maybe I’m just wondering “Why now?” It’s been more than 8 years since Valve launched the TF2 community workshop.


#33

Some of us HAVE been complaining about this for a while. And I don’t understand how “I didn’t read about people angry about Y so it’s invalid that people are angry at X” actually is saying anything about this specific instance. Previous reactions to things don’t make this particular case any more ethical.


#34

that’s a big difference though. Ubisoft seems to be offering pittance lump sums, whereas these other f2p games tend to actually give a cut of the sales of the cosmetic items. like yeah its still pretty crappy spec work but there’s a difference between “you know our game that is out and that many people play? make an item for it that we like and we’ll give you a cut!” and Ubisoft touting this as a feature in a game without a release date yet.

(and thats not even touching on the rich history of those particular games you mentioned having robust modding communities, and how that changes the context of the work. like a lot of people making skins that got put into TF2 were already making them for funsies and for free, for years.)


#35

I wanna be super clear that those are NOT the points I’m trying to make. I’m not saying that the response is invalid. I’m not saying that nobody was speaking up then. I’m not trying to stop people from speaking up now.

I’m just trying to figure out why this game is the one that blows up on twitter and sparks long discussions on the podcast. For every 1 person painting a BG&E mural in photoshop right now, I’ll bet that there are 100 people modeling DOTA 2 skins in Maya or sculpting Warframe helmets in Zbrush. Why aren’t those games part of the “spec work” conversation? Why don’t these issues get mentioned every time someone talks about Warframe on the podcast?


#36

Well, for one these conversations have absolutely been happening in and out of the industry for a while and not just games-- video production, writing, photography, etc. I can’t speak for waypoint specifically but people have been trying to feel out the edges of this thing for a while now and more and more companies have made exploitation of freelancers and “fans” part of their business plans.

As for why the response is growing louder or more angry? Look at what has happened with the “gig culture” and “do it for exposure” over just, say, the last 8 years even. It’s gotten worse and worse and more and more people have had to deal with it. A lot of times this sort of thing takes a while to get a lot of people angry because it comes on slowly. More and more people now understand what a scam this kind of shit it is, and more and more people are raising their voices about it.


#37

I’m not sure how I 100% feel about the entire thing yet. I have friends who have gotten their content in games like TF2, CSGO, and Killing Floor 2 through these types of methods and while they obviously did not make out great when it came down to % cuts it was also a case of it just being an extension of something they were already doing in their free time and they were already doing it for free so why not do it and get paid. Let me tell ya as much as people screamed about how modders/skinners should just ask for donations during the entire paid mods melt down no one sure as hell was ever looking to donate outside of garbage skins and you can’t exactly pay for gas with steam wallet cash.


#38

There are no hot takes. All the takes I’ve seen are the one take, which is that spec work is bad, and this is spec work, and it is the correct take.

This is getting so much worse now, and approaching a new level of concern at a time when tensions are high among game industry workers. Now spec workers are picking up a huge company’s slack and making planned assets, not extra skins or whatever, for a huge game, from a movement that was announced on an E3 stage, where they know the people seeing it will be the fans they want to take advantage of.

Ubisoft is slotting out the paltry sum of $50k for all these assets that will ever be created, whereas the stuff for the free-to-play games sounds more like a t-shirt design site deal of “hey, we’ve got these templates, if you make something that sells you can make some money”. Ubisoft is saying "hey we’re just gonna leave this world blank and pay one worker’s salary to have fans fill it all in with art.

I don’t know what the point of wondering why this is the first game to spark the wider discussion is, it’s just good that we’re having the discussion now, and hopefully this will bring more scrutiny to those other practices. I’m mad as hell that anyone in the game industry or outside of it is getting paid nothing or paid too little for their work.


#39

Looks like Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote an article defending HitRecord and saying it’s not really spec work. It’s a lot of frustrating talking around the issue but still worth the read. There’s a little bit of good news (“Contributors retain rights to their work, whether it’s used or not.”), a bunch of nice sounding platitudes, and unanswered questions. There’s two things in particular that stuck out to me:

1)Bragging that they’ve paid out $2,776,728.50 to 650,000 contributors. If you do the math that turns out to be ~$4.27 per person. Even if the quickest pieces only took an hour to make that’s still grossly underpaid.

2)At several points JGL explains how paying a living wage is both impossible and not the point.

Some people suggested that everyone who contributes to a project should be paid, regardless of whether the contribution is included in the final production. I appreciate the sentiment here, but this idea would be untenable.

If paying people for their time is untenable than the entire project is untenable and maybe shouldn’t get off the ground.

However, we never present HITRECORD as a means for professional artists to earn their living.

Even amateur’s/hobbyist’s time has value.

Other people suggested that artists should be chosen to do a certain job and guaranteed an agreed-upon payment before doing the work. We can’t do this for everything, but for the leadership roles of more ambitious projects, this makes sense to me.

Again, if you can’t afford to properly pay for all of your artists then, unfortunately, the project doesn’t happen.


#40

“i personally did not see this discussion happening” is not the same as “this discussion did not happen” like multiple people are here telling you “i have personally been having these discussions”

people have been talking about for example the value added to games thru modding (and how this goes uncompensated) since, like, at least the days of Morrowind? probably further back than that? i was like 12. i was cognisant of these arguments. i do not know exactly what to say to you to convince you that this is not a new subject.

i dont really understand what your goal is with this line of argument like at all