In today's main Gamasutra feature and the latest edition of the Game Law column, game attorney Tom Buscaglia takes a look a milestone deliverables set by game publishers, specifically suggesting a flexible milestone delivery method for developers as an alternative to often inaccurate static milestones.
In the introduction to his piece, Buscaglia explains:
"As the stories go, in the wild and wooly early days of the video game industry, developers were funded by publishers via the delivery of rather large checks. These funds were dispersed solely on the developer's representation that they could actually make games. Sadly, publishers eventually realized that they needed some form of control over the developer, or there would be no way to assure that the publisher would ever receive a game for their investment. So, milestones were born. Instead of a single check to pay for the entire game, the funds were delivered over time, with the developer being required to show the publisher that progress was being made on the development of the game.
At first, a few milestones with general descriptions were given, such as, 1.) the signing of the contract, 2.) a playable alpha, 3.) fully completed beta, and 4.) delivery of the gold master. Except for the first milestone, each of these deliverables would have to be accepted by the publisher before the correlative advance payment was made to the developer to continue the funding of the development of the game.
As this milestone process evolved, publishers began to add more milestones into their contracts and put more detail into each milestone to better manage the process and reduce their perceived economic risk. Often, the details of the deliverable were derived from the design document supplied by the developer. As deliverables became more and more defined, developers became less and less likely to meet them as required under their agreements. Eventually, “Milestone Deliverables” became a running joke in many studios, because as long as the publisher was satisfied with the actual progress of the game, compliance to the details of what the contract defined “Deliverables” was, in practice, not much of an issue. But it should be."
You can now read the full Gamasutra feature
on the subject, including Buscaglia's full set of suggestions on alternative milestone methods (no registration required, please feel free to link to the article from external websites).