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Protecting your IP...

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Punishing1
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I didn't see where anyone had covered this already, so excuse me if I missed it, but I am really concerned about protecting my intellectual property during the whole playtesting process. I am eager to share and get feedback outside of my comfort zone but, at the same time, I don't want to compromise the project. How do you address the need to protect your IP during any kind of open testing or sharing? I don't mean to sound paranoid but I would hate to see all my hard work stolen. Any feedback would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Evil ColSanders
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One person I know of is

One person I know of is developing a Wargame. He's having anyone who playtests it sign a Non-disclosure agreement. Other than that, there is no way to protect your IP. Your rules and design are all concepts, and do not fall under any protective services. The written rules you write can be copywritten. If someone REALLY wants your idea, they can just change the name of things like Magic: The Gathering's "Tap", you can call, "Activating".

There is little to no change that someone will want, much less steal your work. This is a very small niche. If someone where to steal something, I'm sure the person who was stolen from would cry out and that game designer would lose all credibility.

truekid games
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it's also important to note

it's also important to note that virtually all designs that get ripped off, get ripped off AFTER they're made into a commercial product and the success of the product is shown. unfinished designs are a dime a dozen (actually, they're some fraction of a penny per thousand, but i digress), the effort to make a finished design and put it on a shelf is the hard part. people don't steal the fertilizer when what they really want is the flower.

on top of that, protecting a game is virtually impossible anyway, before or after publication. so get those games out to those playtesters, and make the best game you can.

larienna
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the only situation where I

the only situation where I am thinking of making people sign NDA is for asking people online to play test my game. In that case, they get access to all the electronic documents they need to assemble and test the game. That could mean that somebody could take the files and bring them directly to a publisher.

In that case, I might want to sign NDA. But when I bring my game to play with people, I never sign NDA. Even if I have a very good idea, it rarely matters that I publish the game before him. Game design takes so much time and work that either my game will be finished before his, or either he will abandon in the middle of the process.

The first situation where NDA could be useful could be when creating something really new. For example, magic the gathering was the first trading card game. If another game was released before magic, it would have lost all credits and might be less popular than it was. But who knew that magic would have had a huge success before releasing it.

The second situation could be if you have a wonderful simple game for a mass market audience. In that case, very good games can make a lot of money so losing it is a great deal. But there is less than 1 submission out of a 1000 that gets accepted. So unless you find yourself an agent and he says that you have a very good game that has good chances to hit the market, now I would ask for NDA.

So in general it's don't worry about it. All designers borrow ideas from other games. Published or unpublished. It still makes very different games all the time. For example, the rules for "Eclipse" gt released recently. It game me many ideas for one of my designed that was locked. I contacted the designer and thanked him for his game as a source of inspiration.

Dralius
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Never Seen One Used

I have developed many games some of which are published and some that are coming out soon or in the next year. I have never asked for anyone to sign an NDA. Also I run the game designers conference Protospiel which focuses on playtesting. Over the years we have had more than 50, maybe closer to 100 different designers present and none have used one.

The only time I would sign an NDA is when im doing business and have something to gain. Playtesting your game for free is a favor to you and no benefit to me unless you’re willing to test my game in return.

Scott_Boor
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Good comments

I'm a total newbie to game design. In the last year I've thrown myself at it and it seems to be sticking. I have a ton of what I think are great ideas and, so far, I'm getting a lot of positive feedback. I too am concerned about the protection of IP. I really appreciate the feedback here as it helps to both fuel and calm my anxieties.
I also recently sat in on a seminar with James Ernest (Cheapass Games) who said pretty much the same thing. His basic message was, "There's really no money in it, so people don't bother stealing."

After reading these responses, I'm probably still going to have playtesters sign at least a document saying they did playtest the game so I have some manageable record. I'll probably gussy it up asking for contact info if they're interested in playtesting other games and/or interested in joining a mailing list for updates on the games' progress.
If nothing else, showing there is already present interest in the game might help sell it to publishers.
Part NDA, part clever marketing scheme.

plunderpants
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Fearful and....just sitting here.

I'm pretty much in the same boat, Mr. Boor. Got a lot of stuff brewing...some nice prototypes...now I've got to get it out there and get testing. I'm going to worry less about copyrights, as well, for all the reasons this thread acknowledged. I am particularly nervous about it because my current game is unique enough that the concept, if not the specifics, may be tempting to others more prepared to attack the market than myself.

Anyway, I'd like to start networking a bit and plugging into the community here a bit better.

Best of luck to you!

Dralius
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Fear keeps you from moving ahead.

The board game industry is very network centric and unusually friendly between businesses. For example I work on the demo crew for Mayfair games but they don’t publish any of my games. Minion games has published my card game Nitro Dice and has licensed Tahiti for future release. We are wrapping up testing on Tahiti. I am going to Gencon to work for Mayfair next week and it may be the next opportunity I have to get it tested with feedback from professionals, i.e. playing it with Mayfair employees. The owner of minion games is cool with it because he knows they wouldn’t think of stealing anything and they will be happy to help me out.

jeffinberlin
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Is it really so original?

One thing that fuels a new designer's fears about IP-theft is the myth that what he's done is so original that it will be too tempting for someone with better market connections. Oftentimes, I find out that the designer really doesn't have much experience with the larger market outside the boardgame section of Wal-Mart or his local wargame/CCG shop. When my group playtests a "new" game from a designer, there may be some small elements or mechanics that we've not seen before, but usually there are plenty of comparisons made with existing games. Most likely, if it's as great an idea as you think it is, someone probably did something similar already.

Not to be a fatalist--you can still develop your game to make it stand out and improve upon similar games. The best way to do this is to be informed. You don't necessarily have to play every game out there these days. Boardgame Geek and other websites are great resources to research the larger worldwide boardgame market. There are detailed reviews and comments--often even a link to the game's rules.

My advice: research the market even before playtesting your game! Then find ways to make your game stand out from the crowd of similar games.

Yamahako
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Dralius wrote:The board game

Dralius wrote:
The board game industry is very network centric and unusually friendly between businesses. For example I work on the demo crew for Mayfair games but they don’t publish any of my games. Minion games has published my card game Nitro Dice and has licensed Tahiti for future release. We are wrapping up testing on Tahiti. I am going to Gencon to work for Mayfair next week and it may be the next opportunity I have to get it tested with feedback from professionals, i.e. playing it with Mayfair employees. The owner of minion games is cool with it because he knows they wouldn’t think of stealing anything and they will be happy to help me out.

I've had really good experiences with the guys from Mayfair as well. They are good people :-)

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