So it seems that one of the Exalted 3e playtesters leaked all six of the latest playtest files on 4chan. This sort of thing is always a risk in game development. Witness the “godbook leak” for the New Phyrexia set of Magic: The Gathering, where images of the entire card set were leaked a month before the release date, thoroughly ruining Wizards of the Coast’s plans for the prerelease spoiler season.
The developers are currently investigating the source of the leak. The exact nature of Onyx Path’s response remains to be seen, but simply letting it slide doesn’t seem like an option, insofar as the company needs to ensure that its nondisclosure agreements retain some teeth. I can’t think how we can playtest effectively otherwise. If external playtesters can’t be relied on to adhere to their NDAs, we’ll have to do all playtesting in-house, and without fresh eyes we’ll get substandard results.
As to the effect on the schedule, I doubt there will be any major long-term impact. We’re not going to rewrite things just so they’re different from the leaked material. And while I am not a lawyer, it seems reasonable to say that although any legal action that may result from the leak will soak up money that Onyx Path would otherwise put toward other purposes, it won’t affect the developers directly. On the other hand, I expect that everyone’s productivity on the design team will be shot for the next few days as we spend a chunk of our free time online following the impact of the leak and performing damage control.
Regardless, I’m pleased by the fanbase’s strength of character, insofar as the vast majority of those who’ve had access to the files have refrained from reposting the leaked material. This is to everyone’s benefit. The playtest packets are still raw; the text needs editing, and doubtless there are still mechanical issues that need ironing out. And any ruleset reads better in the context of the completed book, anchored as it is there by setting material, layout, and illustration.