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In the past week I've been meeting and speaking with someone who's interested in finding help on developing a game (built using php and mysql, with a little bit of javascript). I agreed to help out, however, now that I've seen the code and file organization, I don't know if it's feasible for anyone (not just myself) but the original writer to even decipher what's going on.

Basically, there isn't any structure either to the files or to their code, it's just sort of strewn about as is. Every php file that didn't come from an external source is in the root and there is a little organization for other files types, but not much. Most of the code isn't indented or readable.

I'm not trying to say it doesn't work, I've seen it work, it's just that I don't think anybody else could try to get a handle on what it does (and I don't want to sound like I'm ragging on the guy who wrote it, he told me that he really doesn't do much coding).

Basically, my question is should I back out, or should I try to press onward? Does anyone have experience with working on a big-old-system that needs to be completely updated? Any thoughts?

Additional Information: No, I don't have a contract yet, I've just looked at it thus far. My own feelings are that if I decide to press onward I'll end up rewriting the entire system (which is 113 php files in the root, plus several others located elsewhere in the system), and I don't know if I really want to continue, it's just that I feel like I said I would try to help out.

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Speaking from some amateur entrepreneurial experience, I would stop. There are 1001 reasons why start-ups fail, even if their idea and the team and the execution is great. So, expect $0 compensation and now ask yourself - do you want to be part of this or not? Btw craigslist computer gigs section is full of wishful thinkers wishing to build the next Facebook. Life is too short; do not confuse business with charity. If you feel like giving, give to St Jude hospital or something like that, not to the incompetent. –  Job Oct 13 '11 at 2:38
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If it was a well written, well structured piece of code he would need your help. You have this opportunity because the code is poor.

You have already assessed the amount and difficulty of the work involved. Now its time to assess the possible rewards.

This mostly depends on how good the game is. Forget about the code and have a good long look at the game. Does it grab you? Is it fun to play? Will it appeal to your cousin? Is it the only game like this? Is there an obvious way to make money out of it?

A good game badly implemented will always trump a bad game implemented well; so forget about the "inner beauty" and focus on whether the game has any chance of taking off.

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Well there in lies the problem: I don't find games fun, I'm not sure what gets people into games or why they like certain games, I find the challenge in building things fun. The concept itself is interesting, but like I said, I'm note sure about if it's fun, I've only really seen a quick demonstration, and haven't really been able to figure out what you can do in the game while playing it. As for making money, the main guy thinks it will, by using a real money to in-game money system, but I don't know... –  dkuntz2 Oct 13 '11 at 2:09
    
Start-ups and large companies hire people whenever there is a lot more work than workers. Just because they are getting busier does not mean that they suck. I advise against working with those who suck at what they do for a living. Life is too short. –  Job Oct 13 '11 at 2:40
    
Great answer: Do you think the business model stacks up - will he make money in the end? It's nothing to do with how well written the game is now, as if he makes money, it can be rewritten (by you for a fee?). If he does not make money, it can be rewritten (by you for free?). What you have to do (quoting a great movie) ".....you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?" . –  mattnz Oct 13 '11 at 3:21
    
@DKuntz -- you need to find a gamer and get an "expert" opinion on gameplay and how it stacks up against the competition. My gut feeling would be that only 1 in a 1000 games are really original, and only about 1 in a hundred have some novel feature that will engage the attention of a serious game player. So the odds are stacked against it. But hey! it might just turn out to be the single most popular on line game released next year! –  James Anderson Oct 14 '11 at 1:48
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