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Joseph-Gordon Levitt on Concerns of Beyond Good and Evil 2 Partnership

Potential of “spec work” raises concern from artists

Actor and HitRECord director Joseph Gordon-Levitt responded Thursday to criticism of his company for utilizing “spec work” in its partnership with Ubisoft.

“Honestly, this concern was sorta painful to hear,” Gordon-Levitt wrote in a post on Medium. “It’s not at all how I think of our community’s creative process. I do think that part of this disconnect is simple misinformation.”

During Ubisoft’s E3 2018 press conference, Gordon-Levitt announced that HitRECord and Ubisoft are partnering to collaborate on in-game art assets and “pirate radio” music for Beyond Good & Evil 2, the first time HitRECord has contributed to a video game.

Exit Theatre Mode

HitRECord’s business model relies on a community of roughly 80,000 contributors, who submit artistic material for consideration after a project is announced. Depending on the project, the material can be anything like music, art assets, or even voice acting.

HitRECord management selects what material it wants to use, later posting a public document detailing how they intend to break down monetary compensation. Contributors have two to four weeks to discuss how those payments are broken down and make a case for changes, but HitRECord retains the right to make the final decision.

Artists, designers, and other creative media types took to social media not long after, criticizing HitRECord and Ubisoft for utilizing “spec work” to create material for Beyond Good & Evil 2. “Spec work,” short for “speculative work,” is when a client expects to see a draft of or a finished project before agreeing to pay a fee for the work involved. Spec work has been criticized for diminishing the perceived value of artistic work and fostering potential plagiarism.

Gordon-Levitt most specifically took issue with the idea that HitRECord is a “spec work” company, instead countering that it’s a much more collaborative process. “We’re not soliciting complete works,” Gordon-Levitt wrote. “People on our platform work together by contributing bits and pieces, layering remix on top of remix.

Finished projects are usually touched by a great many collaborators. We don’t think of it as a contest.”

Exit Theatre Mode

A public spreadsheet for the first episode of HitRECord’s on TV, the company’s television show, shows that of the hundreds of collaborators on a single episode, the majority receive compensation amounting between £5 to £60. Some payments for smaller background art contributions amount to £0.92, and a much smaller number of contributors or project leaders do reach as much as £1,376.

In a 2018 video, HitRECord stated that it had dispersed £2.6 million to its collaborators “They’re doing it to allow fans who love playing games to get involved in making the game.”

Contributors do retain the rights to work whether it’s used or not, Gordon-Levitt wrote on his Medium post. He also stated that Ubisoft is not using the company to cut corners and that jobs on Ubisoft’s side have been lost as a result of the production strategy. “They’re not doing this to save time and money,” Gordon-Levitt wrote. “They’re doing it to allow fans who love playing games to get involved in making the game.”

Gordon-Levitt also added that while he believes that project contributors should get paid, but that HitRECord does not present itself as a means for professional artists to earn a living.

Exit Theatre Mode

“We don’t pit artists against each other in contests with one winner; everyone is allowed and encouraged to build off of one another,” Gordon-Levitt wrote. “We don’t plagiarize unused submissions; anybody whose work is included or even influences the final product gets credit and compensation.

We’re not a marketplace for freelance gigs; we’re a collaborative community.”

As for the future, Gordon-Levitt stated that the company is increasing pace towards a restructuring that would allow prominent collaborators to act as project leads and agreeing to payment beforehand. “Because of this conversation, I’m now committed to formalizing this system as soon as we can,” Gordon-Levitt wrote. “When we identify project leads, we should agree on a fee before their leadership role commences. And I’ll hold myself accountable to that.”

Beyond Good & Evil 2 is a prequel to the original 2003 game, and it will follow characters like Pey’j, Knox, Shani, Zhou Yuzhu, Li Daiyu, and Dakini. Players will explore the vertical city of Ganesha and outer space via their own spaceship.

As revealed in the E3 2018 trailer, it will feature original Beyond Good & Evil character Jade.

Beyond Good & Evil 2 was announced during the Ubisoft E3 conference in 2017. You can check out our impressions of the 2017 behind-closed-doors demo we attended, PC editor Tom Marks’ thoughts on the HitRECord partnership with Ubisoft, and also watch the E3 2018 trailer breakdown below. Joseph Knoop is a news writer for IGN.

Discuss video games and other things with him on Twitter @JosephKnoop.

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