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On The Difficulty Of Developing Open Source Games

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the give-it-away-now dept.

Education 87

Thanks to an anonymous reader for pointing to a Competitive Enterprise Institute essay for discussing lessons learned by looking at the history of open-source games (PDF link, text version as posted to Politech list.) The piece suggests that "generally, games have not been a success story for the open source community", arguing that "...the consensus among gamers and developers is that open source games still lag behind proprietary games in originality, sophistication, and artwork; many are clones of earlier proprietary or shareware games." It notes that "...the open source business model seems to have trouble coming up with large initial investments at the cutting edge of innovation, where risks are greatest", and then suggests some larger lessons for governmental public policy on open-source software.

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Laxius Power (2, Interesting)

Gr33nNight (679837) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512847)

Laxius Power is a free SNES-type RPG created by one person in France with RPG Maker.

The website is: http://laxiuspower.fr.st/ and its about 20 megs, and one of the best damn RPGs I have played. If you are a fan of SNES-era rpgs, check this game out. At times it is very difficult, but very fun and rewarding.

Re:Laxius Power (2, Insightful)

Vaevictis666 (680137) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512930)

Looks nice, I'll need to check it out after work.

Unfortunately, it's offtopic a bit, as it's not open source. It's made with a (nice proprietary) RPG creation program called RPGMaker.

Just because it's distributed for free doesn't make it open source. However, if I'm wrong and the download is an editable module for RPGMaker that someone could load up and tweak the hell out of just for kicks, then I'll accept it as being on-topic.

Re:Laxius Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7513931)

Are you kidding me? It's *horrible*. Seriously, the art is bad, the bad plot is filled with the most cliche characters stripped straight from a 16-bit Squaresoft character template.

Sorry, but that game is a hideous abomination.

Re:Laxius Power (1)

Hommerabi (719231) | more than 10 years ago | (#7516377)

Oh please, a game "created by one person in France," I can't believe someone fell for this obvious plug of Gr33nNight's own game.

Re:Laxius Power (1)

Gr33nNight (679837) | more than 10 years ago | (#7517584)

Dude, I did not create this game. I am an American living in Wisconsin. If I did create this game, I would be telling everyone, cause I would own. Download the game and play it, all the dialog is in Engrish, some of it is outright funny because of that. Im a huge fan of old school RPGs and I figured this was a good thread to post about this game.

tennnnder (-1, Offtopic)

j_d (26865) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512872)

sweet first post.

the reason IMO ... (4, Insightful)

Dreadlord (671979) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512883)

... is that the open source mevement lacks good artists, you know, open source apps are usually well-coded but lack a good GUI, in games, good graphics / sounds greatly affect the gaming experience, so developing a good open source game requires programmers (already available) and artists (aren't there yet unfortunately).

Re:the reason IMO ... (1)

calebtucker (691882) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512921)

"Second, a large part of game development involves drawing, not programming; and the open source movement had not evolved to support stables of artists."

Not only in your opinion, but it is also the author's opinion. RTFA :D

Re:the reason IMO ... (1)

Dreadlord (671979) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513018)

hehe, this slashdot, where you have only 2 choices, either RTFA or GAEP (get an early post) ;)

j/k

Re:the reason IMO ... (1)

calebtucker (691882) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513108)

Or if you are a true master of slashdot (read: loser), you can both RPTFA (read part of the f'ing article) and GAEP in order to get modded up.

Only a few have mastered this, but many try.

Re:the reason IMO ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7514547)

Who the hell wants to subscribe to slashdot just to get early informative posts?

Not me, screw that.

Re:the reason IMO ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7515289)

Losers... like me.

Re:the reason IMO ... (3, Interesting)

identity0 (77976) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514405)

I disagree. Everyone here is taking the opinion that all that goes into games is programming and art, forgetting the one thing that makes games great: design. I don't mean the design of the code, I mean the ruleset by which the game operates, and the game mechanics. Programming is about implementing that design, and art is about giving it a coherent look. Unfortunately, I think most open-source games come from a programming pradigm where the coder starts writing stuff, and plugging problems as he goes, with no real 'feel' for the overall design and game mechanics.

For example, I have been playing FreeCiv a lot lately. For those that don't know, FreeCiv is a free/open source game based on Sid Meier's Civilization series. I really like it, but let's face it, it's just a clone. Now, I'm willing to bet that when Sid Meier made the original Civilization, the majority of work went into gameplay & balance, not into coding. It's that kind of vision of how a game should *work* that most free/open game projects seem to lack. I'm not saying that they're all bad or unoriginal - it's just the nature of the free/open source community to be made up mostly of coders honing their skills rather than game designers.

Some other data: Linuz Journal's 2003 user choice awards [linuxjournal.com] picked out Frozen Bubble as their best game - a clone of an old arcade game. Second was Quake 3, and third was Tux Racer. Tux Racer at least seems to have an original concept and design, so at least it shows the community can come up with some original ideas.

Re:the reason IMO ... (3, Interesting)

Saige (53303) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514519)

I think you hit on one of the key points here.

This is why we see so many projects started to clone an existing game - you can get a group of people to, say, copy X-Com UFO Defense, or Civilization, or Dance Dance Revolution, because they know what the final product should turn out to be.

Trying to create a new game results in much more difficulty, as you have people disagreeing over what the design should be, each person gets their own features in and then wants to keep them in regardless of the game balance, and so on.

Open source works wonders when the end goal is understood by the participants. Trying to come up with entirely new features and ideas is a lot tougher, and more prone to disagreement. Creativity is a lot harder to collaborate on.

Re:the reason IMO ... (1)

Gwaredd (725621) | more than 10 years ago | (#7520166)

That's ironic, because I have always thought that the values which seem to be central to the open source community (liberty, self expression, etc) are ones which have also been leitmotif of the more artistically inclined long before computers ever existed.

There may be few artists in the open source community, but I feel generally there are far more 'artists' contributing to the public domain than there are programmers. Skins are a good example of artist contribution to the public commons (for example www.themes.org, www.skinz.org). Maybe there are no 'true' successful open source games, but 'Counter Strike' was a tremediously successful mod for HL.

Looks like the talent is active and out there, just the two communities don't seem to speak to each other ;)

Re:the reason IMO ... (1)

shad0wspawn (713055) | more than 10 years ago | (#7522056)

thats true. i work with an open source splinter of quake2 thats running a quake3 mod's media, with features found in d3. (sorta, i'm not making all of them active cause not everyone has a space shuttle vid card.) having the artwork, the models, the levels helps allot. there's no way that it could've been done without production from the team.

Duh (2, Interesting)

Apreche (239272) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512932)

The only reason is because of the artwork and graphics. Programming is easy and many programmers have lots of free time and don't mind working on open source stuffs. That's why software is the primary open source product.

Art and graphics and such take a lot of time, effort, work, etc. Nobody who has the ability to do that stuff well is going to do it for free and release the rights to it in a GPL style license. Especially if they design marketable new characters or make new amazing music. The talented folk who do that stuff well all have jobs doing it for a living. So they sure aren't going to want to do it in their spare time.

Look for open source game engines. You'll find a-plenty of high quality ones. But complete games need artists in addition to programmers. And these types aren't into the open source action. Old games work very well for open source because they are all pixely and you don't need to be a great artists to do them, just a decent one. A programmer who can wield the gimp well can make an old school game. But I'd like to see you make a modern fps at the Half-Life2/Doom3 level with just 3 programmers in a basement. Expensive artists are an absolute requirement.

Re:Duh (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513036)

also.. games are usually a project meant to provide one final release.

which doesn't get quite into the open source model where software evolves over time and gains momentum..

but the artwork/leveldesign/scripting/plot are the main issues. there's lots of high quality free games from genres that don't rely on these(puzzless&small action games&etc).

Re:Duh (1)

Professor Bluebird (529952) | more than 10 years ago | (#7518056)

Or so it appears on the surface. Often, game engines are built upon and reused, with new and shiny graphics set applied to make it look more new than it is underneath. This especially applies to sequels. It is a huge money and time saver for developers to reuse code rather than do everything from scratch.

Re:Duh (4, Insightful)

TwistedGreen (80055) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513286)

The talented folk who do [art and graphics design] well all have jobs doing it for a living. So they sure aren't going to want to do it in their spare time. ...as opposed to the programmers who program in their spare time?

I think it's primarily a difference in mentality and subculture. A lot of these design artists don't have an 'open-source community.' Why this is, and why the two communities are different, is left as an exercise to the reader.

Re:Duh (1)

Uma Thurman (623807) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514411)

Being a starving artist won't get you laid, so you don't free work.

Being any kind of programmer won't get you laid, so you may as well work for free if it's fun.

Re:Duh (1)

Patoski (121455) | more than 10 years ago | (#7517004)

I think it's primarily a difference in mentality and subculture. A lot of these design artists don't have an 'open-source community.' Why this is, and why the two communities are different, is left as an exercise to the reader.

I believe it is modern western culture which splits these two camps so starkly. Modern western culture teaches artists that their artwork is a special sacred thing that we dare not tamper with and it is heresy to allow anyone else to modify our works. This is of course a very recent invention of western societies. In Shakespeare's time for example many of his greatest plays were built in *substantial* portions from other people's stories. Musicians are less prone to this type of thinking because they are used to the concept of borrowing bits here and there from one another.

Eh...maybe (2, Insightful)

tigermonkey (670142) | more than 10 years ago | (#7522987)

Maybe...but then again, one could argue that Shakespeare synthesized new plays from material that was available then; from what I've seen from at least some of the sources for some of his plays, there are enough differences between what Shakespeare wrote as a play, and what the sources Shakespeare probably used actually said, that Shakespeare's stuff comes across as mostly original and unique.

Music has a similar problem: yes, musicians can borrow either theme or sample from an existing work (or body of works), but generally their new syntheses of those themes and samples turn out to be different and unique from the original source(s).

I do think it's a difference in mentality between artists and OSS, but I think it's less to do with artists not having their own 'open soucre community' and more to do with them not realizing the benefits of doing things for free. :-)

Advertising, being one of the biggies: I'm sure there are more than a few 'starving' artists who would not be 'starving' if people saw their work...but, if the galleries in the artists' city don't display their work for whatever reason, what are the artists to do?

Alternatively, if those same 'starving' artists did some original artwork for a OSS game or two, their work would be more visible quicker than if they waited for some gallery to display their work. True, the artists might not hit the right audience, but they would be more likely to hit any audience...

(Besides, the artists-in-question might find they like drawing dragons and gun-toting demons more than they like drawing portraits and bowls of fruit. :-) )

Same goes for music. Yes, you aren't going to be monetarily compensated for the work created for OSS (at least, not typically); on the other hand, you get increased visibility and potentially new legions of fans and word of mouth...:-) Fair trade, I think.

And advertising's just one example; there are a lot of things you could do within a trade/barter system. Money is not the only way to pay for things; maybe an OSS game programmer/designer could offer the artist computings services (website design, e-mail account, server space, etc.) in exchange for some original artwork for the programmer's game. That stuff is useful, and doesn't come cheap. Again, I would think that's a fair trade...

OSS needs to do a better job of playing up the values of 'free as in beer'. :-)

My $0.02...

tigermonkey

Re:Duh (5, Insightful)

Frequanaut (135988) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513292)

Wtf? This is modded up?

Yeah, us programmers. Easy work with lots of free time. Why just yesterday I rolled out of bed around 11AM, scooted off to work for an hour or so, then came back home to work on my open source project.
Ahhh, drawing, that's hard work my friend. Manly work. Many is the day I've seen tortured, broken, artists rubbing their nubby, dirty, worn fingers; sore from the back breaking illustration marathons.

In my experience, as a programmer married to an artist, they're not too different.

The fact is *most* open source projects are done by students or the unemployed. There are exceptions to that where there is a business supporting the product (i.e. apache or the linux kernel) but the majority of projects are done by students.

Artists would release their work into the public domain for the same reason people writing GPLd code do. Recognition, enjoyment, chicks, whatever.

However I think the concept of open source, giving something away that could be sold is pretty unique to software development right now. I find it humorous that people just give away all their work myself.

Careful! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7514493)

Careful! Anymore beating on your chest and your going to cave in your calcium deficient ribs! Woe is you! WOE IS YOU!

Re:Duh (1)

chromatic (9471) | more than 10 years ago | (#7515175)

The fact is *most* open source projects are done by students or the unemployed.

Do you have research on this? The Boston Consulting Group's Hacker Survey [bcg.com] (warning, PDF!) had some very different numbers. I'm curious to the real story either way.

Re:Duh (1)

Frequanaut (135988) | more than 10 years ago | (#7515956)

No, I don't. It's my impression after spending much time looking over sourceforge and spending time lurking on the debian mail lists.

I too would be interested in putting some real numbers down. If you'd be interested in collaborating, let me know.

Re:Duh (1)

Kethinov (636034) | more than 10 years ago | (#7515298)

The fact is *most* open source projects are done by students or the unemployed. [snip] However I think the concept of open source, giving something away that could be sold is pretty unique to software development right now. I find it humorous that people just give away all their work myself.
Let's see... I'm a college student, an open source programmer [halo43.com] and an artist [halo43.com] . I seem to fit pretty well into your stereotype except for two things. One, my artwork is just as free as my software, and two, unless something strange happens to me that you failed to predict, when I finish college I intend to continue developing my software and artwork for free.

Assuming that there are more students than unemployed people, I'm going to infer that you're trying to convince us that open source is popular among the younger generation and not the older. If that's true, please die soon so my seemingly more enlightened generation can take over ;)

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7515582)

You're young. You don't know.

One, my artwork is just as free as my software, and two, unless something strange happens to me that you failed to predict, when I finish college I intend to continue developing my software and artwork for free.

That "strange thing" that happens when you leave college is called "work". It's 40 hours a week, plus commute time. It's cooking your own food in the evening, washing your clothes, cleaning the house, spending time with your partner and kids (if you have them), post-work de-stressing, doing your taxes, doing your accounting, paying your bills... It's Real Life. Believe me, no matter how prepared you think you are - when you leave college it's going to be completely different. Certainly people still have time for hobbies, but i can assure you you won't be churning out thousands of lines of open source software alongside all your responsibilities or you're headed for a very messy, very early burn-out.

Re:Duh (1)

Frequanaut (135988) | more than 10 years ago | (#7516086)

"I seem to fit pretty well into your stereotype except for two things."

I'd not categorize it as a stereotype, just an impression. Stereotype is the wrong word as it conveys a negative connotation.

Your artwork is nice, if uninspiring and I'd hardly call HTML work "programming".

Maybe you should spend some more time collaborating with a low level programmer (e.g. not PHP/mySql) to create a video game ;)

But, you actually do fit into my 'stereotype' as you're a college student giving away your code. I'm curious why you do.

Finally, open source and free software *is* more popular among younger people, but that's likely due to lack of money, the interest in software and the willingness and time to work inherent in younger people moreso than older. (Now, *that* may be a stereotype).

It doesn't make oss any less appealing, but I'm not convinced it isn't a fad. Even if it is, it's still possible that it will replace typical software development.

Re:Duh (1)

Theobon (691491) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513388)

Lack of skilled artists with spare time isn't really the problem in my mind. They exist, in masses, just look at fan art and person art pages. But these people are ussually just artists and lack the knowlegde of how to transpose a drawing into a game. What is in low supply is graphic artist with modeling skills. Making a good model still requires expencive software and a lot of time. But as making models gets easier and generic ones start comming avaliable there will be people willing to contribute.

To get to this stage though the OS community needs some things. First a usable OS modeling app, this isn't going to exist for quite a while though. Good modeling programs cost thousands and currently would require the developer to working with a different OS to use it. It would also require graphic artist to make in the first place. Things like Crystal Space [sourceforge.net] are starting to appear though.
But there are other things that are needed to build games and the great thing about the OS community is that everything is build in interchangable peices. Things like the physic engine, ai, media handling could all be seperate projects that will evetually spring into existence.

Games like you can buy on the shelf now will be producable by the OS community in a few years. But we will always be behind CS.

Re:Duh (1)

der_joachim (590045) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513629)

The only reason is because of the artwork and graphics. (...)Art and graphics and such take a lot of time, effort, work, etc. Nobody who has the ability to do that stuff well is going to do it for free and release the rights to it in a GPL style license.

Have you ever seen the Desert Combat [desertcombat.com] and Eve of Destruction [planetbattlefield.com] mods for BF1942 [planetbattlefield.com] ? They look waaaaaayyy better than the BF1942 game itself, and they are free. OK. I know, BF1942 is not GPL-ed. And there is already an existing graphics engine. But many skilled people have worked hard to create an immersive graphic environment.

der Joachim

Re:Duh (1)

Acidic_Diarrhea (641390) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513886)

"Programming is easy"
A 'Hello World' master are you? Good programming is not easy, tough guy.

Motivation of virus writers (1, Offtopic)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512934)

While there are a plethera of worms and viruses directed at Windows because of the political proclivities of hackers...

I'm guessing the main reasons people write worms for Windows in not because of some ideological disagreement with Microsoft but probably because (a) Windows is riddled with security holes, (b) tons of people use Windows, and (c) a worm or virus activated by a common user on a Windows machine can do lots of damage to system files.

GMD

Re:Motivation of virus writers (1)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513170)

Actually, I think it's a lot simpler than that. (a) Most script kiddies own Windows machines, and so most script kiddies write Windows viruses. If most script kiddies owned Macs, most viruses would be written for Macs; on the other hand, since Mac lacks the gaping security holes that Windows has, there probably wouldn't be enough viruses to support an anti-virus software industry.

Re:Motivation of virus writers (1)

TwistedGreen (80055) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513492)

I think it's simpler than even that.

Most people use Windows, and most people are stupid enough to run any unfamiliar program that they get their hands on. A virus is propagated.

Though this is more exclusive to trojans versus worms, which exploit user stupidity (b) versus security holes (a) respectively.

Re:Motivation of virus writers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7515101)

As someone who was involved in the virus community a little bit, it looked like people programmed viruses just for the fun of it. Some of the virus coders would start to play on other platforms (the first linux ELF virus was by someone who coded windows viruses before that), but most people use windows anyway. Lots of coders write proof-of-concept viruses and release them to the antivirus corporations (where they (virus) will be named and added to the databases, woohoo!). I'm not sure why some viruses get released; some people find it amusing to see people get infected. It seems rare that a virus does lots of damage (if caught early. not doing damage is useful for the virus though).

Two minutes of Googling... (4, Insightful)

Damien Neil (11403) | more than 10 years ago | (#7512993)

http://www.capitalresearch.org/search/orgdisplay.a sp?Org=CEI200

The CEI appears to be a pro-business lobbying organization. Their donors list is a who's-who of US automobile and oil companies.

The article referenced can be summed up as: "There aren't very many open source games, therefore governments shouldn't open source code they pay to have written and shouldn't have procurement policies that prefer open source code." No real effort is made at connecting the thesis and conclusion. (Governments don't buy many games--America's Army aside.)

I'm not certain why a very minor article from a propaganda organization would be considered newsworthy.

Re:Two minutes of Googling... (1)

Mike Hawk (687615) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513054)

Care to attack any of the specific points? Or just the source...

Didnt think so.

Re:Two minutes of Googling... (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513747)

Actually, despite his appearance of attacking the source, he does make a good point, in that the article tries to take game development, which is a very specific field that has very specific requirements that hinder open source development, and then applies it to more general development.

In fact, government-funded development is done under whatever license the government chooses in it's terms for the funding. This can be a point of negotiation in many contracts, but since contracts are often open-bid, there aren't a lot of cases where a particular company can dictate another license over that specified in the contract and actually win the bid.

At the same time, the paper seems to side-step a point right when it's most ripe to be made:
There is room in the market for a long
continuum of types of intellectual property license. The English language
is public domain, as are many common story lines and much creative
imagerybut few good novels are


In this section it misses the point that many great novels are public domain purely because of their age. The only reason there aren't more great novels in the public domain is because novels really only came into their own as a respected type of literature relatively recently, and copyright protection has been extended a great deal.

It then goes on to address licensing of software and specifically the suggestion that government-funded software should be open source:
The implication that open source "belongs" to the public is a peculiar one,
since open source is not public domain. The open source license entails
considerable obligations, the legal implications of which are sometimes
unclear. For example, the GPL rather complicates the question of fair use
and derivative works.


Open source may not be public domain, but software with public domain source is definitely open source. The GPL is only one example among many, and derivative works are not complicated much (if at all) with most BSD licenses. The government or the person(s) developing the software could determine the best license for their purpose, or the government could require the original source to be in the public domain. Once that source is available under the public domain it can be used for any purpose without restriction, which should be the intent of government-funded software research (unless, of course, there are specific reasons to keep the software itself out of the public eye, such as software with uses specifically tied to national security).

Re:Two minutes of Googling... (1)

Mike Hawk (687615) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514900)

He just attacks the source. You took the knowledge you have presented here and read into his attack on the source what you wanted to read. His post said none of what yours did.

I actually agree with most everything you state except the last part.

Once that source is available under the public domain it can be used for any purpose without restriction, which should be the intent of government-funded software research (unless, of course, there are specific reasons to keep the software itself out of the public eye, such as software with uses specifically tied to national security).

I am of the humble opinion that if the government develops (or funds developement of) anything (software included) they should turn around and try to profit from that venture. There is no reason to spend a great deal of taxpayer money on anything just to give it away free to the world. Ideally, the work should be sold to other governments with a similar need for a reasonable cost, thereby easing the tax burden on what was probably an unconstitutional expenditure in the first place.

Not Suprising (3, Informative)

Prien715 (251944) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513039)

Most people can't afford to develop games full time without getting paid. The software industry has become more mature in figuring out ways to make people buy games. People who do want to develop games as a hobby tend to use ready made editors. The Warcraft 3 editor is extremely powerful and can make games well beyond the RTS genre. These "new games" are open source by default but can be protected if you really want to (most people don't). Many people downright encourage manipulation of source (check out wardraft [wardraft.org] for example).

Re:Not Suprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7515180)

Yeah, there may not be many open source games (aside from the remakes), but there are lots of mods for closed source games.

Additional reasons (2, Insightful)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513047)

In addition to the extreme cost of producing media for games such as artwork and sound, there's also the problem of legal threats. A lot of game companies try to bully small and open source game producers into shutting down their projects. Hasbro has done this dozens of times, taking their small competitors to court, losing because ideas aren't protected by copyright, and appealing until the defendant gives up or go bankrupt.

An example of an open source game being bullied to death is FreeCraft, a great WarCraft II clone developed by fans primarily because WarCraft II doesn't run on Linux or Windows, and Blizzard showed no intention to port it. Despite the fact that it encourages you to buy a copy of the game to rip the tilesets from, Blizzard shut them down earlier this year by threatening to sue. Since most non-business oriented open source projects aren't backed by money, the developers had no choice but to give up on the well matured project, despite having a a good chance of winning if they had gone to court.

Unless you're inventing an entirely new genre, you'd be taking a big risk developing an open source game these days.

Re:Additional reasons (1)

CaptMonkeyDLuffy (623905) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513495)

Er... Isn't the last statement there a little broad considering the example you gave...

From the FreeCraft/WarCraft II fiasco, I would think the lesson would be that companies are willing to go after open source projects that try to be direct clones of existing games. There's a big difference between creating a game in the same genre, and creating a game that is supposed to be a clone(down to importing art files) from an existing game.

While the attitude of the companies is rather short sighted, I'm not entirely certain it is a bad thing in some respects... Work on new games, rather than simply cloning classics, seems like a more productive venture to me... Though, I admit, there are a few old classics I'd like to see recreated that are unlikely to be revisited by the original creators...

Re:Additional reasons (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514120)

It will probally take a decade to get rid of people claiming that FreeCraft got shutdown by Blizzard, it is simply not right. FreeCraft did not get shutdown by Blizzard.

Yes, Blizzard sent a letter to the FreeCraft developers asking them for a name change and a few other things, which seem to be mostly a result of Blizzard lawyers not understanding what FreeCraft really is and never ever looking at it. Thats it, the next day the FreeCraft developers deleted the project from sourceforge.net without any further communications with Blizzard or any try to rename the project and move it. Blizzard did not request such drastic measures. It was the lone decission from the two active FreeCraft maintainers at that point, nothing more. Since both of the developers started a new project a few weeks after this, my guess would be that it was mostly the lack of interest in FreeCraft to keep the project alive, since they havn't even tried it. Anyway, in the meantime some former contributors picked up the remains of FreeCraft, organised a CVS-repo tarball and renamed the project. It is now well alive again under the name Stratagus [nongnu.org] and there are even some projects making use of the engine, without simply trying to clone Warcraft2.

Re:Additional reasons (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 10 years ago | (#7521662)

Thanks for the tip. The old freecraft page didn't say much about the project being alive under another name.

insightful? (1)

xluserpetex (666816) | more than 10 years ago | (#7518324)

there's a big difference between creating a new game and trying to exactly clone an existing one.

More pro-Microsoft crap (2, Interesting)

GuyMannDude (574364) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513053)

This "report" is filled with all sorts of wonderful crap, isn't it?

Furthermore, some of the political support for building preferences for open source into the process comes from anti-Microsoft sentiment...

Perhaps it's more a matter of the government being wary of being completely and utterly dependent on a company who makes products riddled with security holes and has already been found guilty of illegal market practices.

GMD

Re:More pro-Microsoft crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7513137)

Perhaps it's more a matter of the government being wary of being completely and utterly dependent on a company who makes products riddled with security holes and has already been found guilty of illegal market practices.
So in other words it's anti-Microsoft sentiment. Like the article said.

It isn't just programming (1)

pmz (462998) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513104)


Games go beyond the "scratch an itch" model, because they require a artistic vision that is probably very hard to motivate other people towards unless you pay them. Imagine the mailing list flamewars over what philosophical or political undertones to put into a game or, even worse, what the cup size of the heroine should be.

Re:It isn't just programming (1)

AllUsernamesAreGone (688381) | more than 10 years ago | (#7518587)

Hmm.. Actually, I've found that philosophy and politics are the least of the problems. The most serious problem I've run into is related to the fact that any significant game involves work on more than just the game itself - you need the tools to make the data for the game. While you can use some existing libraries for some things, they may not (read "almost never") provide all the features you need, so a lot of the actual work initially doesn't go into the game at all: it goes into the editors behind it. And even if you can get coders interested in the game, getting anyone to help out with the editors tends to be somewhere between difficult and impossible. This is especially true of 3D work where models have to include a lot of data in addition to the geometry - even if you sidestep the issue of how to actually make the models in the first place, you still need tools to add all that extra information.

Well said (1)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 10 years ago | (#7526553)

I've been working over a year on the editor for a rpg I plan to write. One of the worst parts of that is keeping in contact with people interested in working with you. I've already lost a couple people whose circumstances have changed in the large time it's taken to get it somewhat functional. I still maintain the importance of a good editor though. It might take a long time to get ready, but once done you can get a lot of help in the development from non-programmers. The artists can test their sprites, musicians test how the music will sound with the plot events, etc.

good games cost too much to exist in OS (1)

Theobon (691491) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513250)

The opensource model does not lend itself to the massive untertaking of making a game.
The great part of OS is that it allows everyone to add to a project, changing it to fit there needs or desires, and give their opinion. This doesn't work for making games though. You really need a group of people that are lead by a single idea.
Developing a game for free is not a viable idea. It takes too long and requires too many skills. If you were to do it following the OS model the game would be out of date by the time it hit alpha. An OS project that would be far more likely to succeed would by developing a physics engine or other core element, leaving the actual game design alone.
Games really require a monitary modivation to be developed properly. Games currently still rely on the box price for their income thus OS will not work. But as multiplay support gains viablity, like in MMORPG, the value of the game will come from providing servers. Hopefully this will create a licencing fee for online services and allow for free product and an OS model.

Creative differences, not talent (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7513259)

The amount of creative conflict present in a team increases exponentially with the number of people on the team; thus, without a clear leader who can hire and fire, large "open source" teams will never be able to resolve their creative differences.

Image 25 people trying to paint a painting. Without a single vision, such an effort is doomed to fail, which is why knockoffs are common among open source and freeware games; they're easy to agree on, and have a functioning prototype sitting right there. Game mods succeed for the same reason; it's easy to agree on how to take something and vary it, much harder to agree on what to build from the ground up.

It's creative differences, not talent or tech needs, that keep open source teams from succeeding.

Re:Creative differences, not talent (1)

DeltaSigma (583342) | more than 10 years ago | (#7521251)

Total Conversions give us hope though...

I'm doing this. (1)

ReciprocityProject (668218) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513271)

Writing a game in my spare time, which I intend to (one day) release open source. I keep notes in my journal. My business model is that I have almost no life.

Probably it will take me several more years to finish.

There is no "open source business model"! (2, Interesting)

etymxris (121288) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513447)

People comparing how "open source" or "free software" has failed compared proprietary software are performing a non sequitor. It's like saying Susan B. Anthony failed to live up to the standards of attractiveness compared to women in her day. Of course! That's the whole point--feminism wasn't about bettering oneself in the eyes of common feminine mores, it was about rejecting those mores. Correspondingly, free software is about rejection of the proprietary model, it isn't just another business model.

People can and do make money by centering their business on free software, but the success or failure of these companies is not the metric by which free software should be judged. Rather, it is entirely incidental.

The real question is, "Have we formed an alternative to proprietary software?" And I think the answer is Yes, we have. Now, I'll be the first to admit that most free games lack the sophistication of their proprietary brethren, but this is not very important for two reasons. First, these are games. It's not like forcing me to use proprietary products to submit a resume or file my tax return. Secondly, and this is related to the first point, most games lack "network" effects. You pick up the game, play it, and buy a better one a few months down the road. There is no vendor lock-in. Each game is a new creature.

How about cheaters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7513482)

Competition and achievment is an important part of some games. An open source game may not be a fair playing field since it is so easily tweaked/hacked. Granted in some games you're only cheating yourself, and it would be fine, but what about multi-player games.

Furthermore for an RPG, secrets could be revealed, cheapening the experience.

Re:How about cheaters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7513675)

Do a search for comments about "security by obscurity".

There are two rules to quash cheating through game design:
1) Don't give the client any more information then it needs
2) Don't request or allow the client to make calculations that affect gameplay.

These can cause performance problems with servers in computationally expensive games, like FPSes, but it works.

Why not sell an OS Game with Copyrighted Art? (1)

SaXisT4LiF (120908) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513705)

This is an idea I've been thinking about for a while...
Why not just Open Source the game code but keep the artwork/music/levels/etc. copyrighted? The project would gain all the advantages of the open source development process, but the final product could still be packaged and sold. People would have to buy the game to experience it in full, as the designers intended, but the packaged game would include source code so that modders can hack it to their hearts content. It could also turn a game of partial information into a game of perfect information (all the players know all the rules).

While I'm on the subject, would sourcing such a project be possible under the GPL? Or would a more specific license be necessary?

Re:Why not sell an OS Game with Copyrighted Art? (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513959)

Maybe you should look at the Planeshift MMORPG (www.planeshift.it). The game code is opensource (GPL, IIRC), but the art and maps are a simple copyright. This lets anyone make their own MMORPG, but prevents people from putting up their own Planeshift servers.

Of course, the problem with Planeshift is the slow development speed. I've been watching the project since 2001, and I don't expect a more-or-less final version of the engine until late 2004 or early 2005, with the maps taking even longer.

Re:Why not sell an OS Game with Copyrighted Art? (1)

jester42 (623276) | more than 10 years ago | (#7516823)

Well some companies sort of do this. Id Software [idsoftware.com] usually releases their sourcecodes a little while after the games hit the shops so developers can look at the code and also use it to build own mods and things.

Still, the game is not distributed, so you still have to buy the box if you want to play the original game. Plus you need a key if you want to play online.

Artists have many "scratch an itch" outlets (2, Informative)

Paolomania (160098) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513770)

... they draw in sketchbooks [piselli.com] , paint [piselli.com] , sculpt, design web pages [piselli.com] , or any other of a variety of personal artistic projects.

now the question then becomes: "well what of the CG artists who have an itch to scratch?" well, many of them opt to create their own highly detailed renderings, or digital paintings [piselli.com] , or even make their own animated shorts. there is far more artistry at your fingertips when you are not constrained by the limitations of a realtime graphics engine.

"ok, ok, but what about the miniscule subset of artists who both work on computers and have some odd fixation on creating graphics for games, and have an itch to scratch because they aren't working in the games industry?" Well, they have their outlets, such as making add-on [polycount.com] artwork [piselli.com] for professional quality games [quake3world.com] , or perhaps contributing artwork to one of the many many mod projects out there.

"ok, ok, but what about the hypothetical subset of artists who work on computers, have some odd fixation on creating graphics for games, have an itch to scratch because they aren't working, don't mind subjecting their creativity to my ideas while working on my pet OSS game project, and share in the ethos of open source software?"

So is this starting to make sense to you guys yet?

Discalimer: I am a computer scientist and a former professional video game artist, so I might know what I'm talking about.

Strange article (1)

SeanAhern (25764) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513772)

This article is rather weird. Here it is, summarized:
Back in 1999, Shawn Hargreaves wrote a really neat paper on the dearth of open source games. That paper is still true today.


Open source software doesn't seem to be able to handle the initial risk that corporations take on when they fund an innovation that may fail. Games are on one side (high risk) of the spectrum in software development and OSes are on the other (low risk).

Um... and governments shouldn't be forced to use open source software any more than they should be forced to use proprietary software. [Not quite sure how this follows from the previous points.]
And that's about it. I really didn't find any more substance in the article than that.

If there's more there that escaped me, please point it out.

Re:Strange article (digression on e-voting) (1)

retrovirus (93562) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514812)

Yeah, that was my first thought when I read the article. While it's clear that open-source games haven't made much of an impact, it's quite a leap to try to relate that to government procurement. Aside from the likes of America's Army, how many games do governments actually commission? I suspect that the creation of most government software doesn't require many artists, musicians, or writers.

Take the current hot topic of e-voting machines--in this case, the user interface/experience is very important (and admittedly, open-source projects have lagged in that department), but the most basic need is for the software to perform its calculations correctly. Only open source would allow any interested citizen to examine the inner workings of the software and ensure that the processes were trustworthy.

Which begs the question--where are the open-source voting machine projects? If the open-source world doesn't offer alternatives, local politicians will have no choice but to buy the existing commercial systems of (unverifiably) dubious quality.

Originality (2, Informative)

Beolach (518512) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513807)

"...the consensus among gamers and developers is that open source games still lag behind proprietary games in
originality, sophistication, and artwork"

I disagree with OS games not being original. Liquid Wars [ufoot.org] won Happy Penguin's [happypenguin.org] "Most Original Linux Game 2002", and is IMO on of the most original games I've ever played.

Just my 2 cents

Re:Originality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7513945)

That's one example.

Unfortunately the rest of the free (which are mainly OS) games in the Happy Penguin winners state otherwise:

Frozen Bubble, a rip-off of Puzzle Bobble
Freeciv, a clone of Civ
BZFlag, a re-implementation of BattleZone

In fact, I found a list of all the games [happypenguin.org] that were up for that award, one of which was a Dance Dance Revolution clone... I only hope someone was joking when they nominated it.

Movies are a better comparison (2, Interesting)

Chilltowner (647305) | more than 10 years ago | (#7513911)

First off, it is true that open-source games lack a lot of the glitz and spectacle of closed-source games. But that's actually not relevant. Look at a great open-source game like armagetron [sf.net] . My non-geek friends love this thing. Everyone I've introduced it to gets hooked on it. But it's really nothing more than "Worms" done right with great gameplay.

Armagetron, in my opinion, is like "The Blair Witch Project". They are both the work of talented amateurs. Armagetron will never be Doom 3, but Blair Witch will never be Waterworld. The great thing about open-source games is the same as ultra-low-budget moviemaking: the barriers for entry are so low that anyone can cross over. No one will make Doom 3 or Waterworld that way. But I for one liked Blair Witch better than Waterworld. And while I'm not prepared to say I'll like Doom 3 less than Armagetron, I do think there is a strong niche for light, cheap, well-made games. I mean, honestly, if it were all about the frills, who would still bother playing chess?

+1 KickAss Game (nt) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7514436)

nothing to see here......

Can a single-player open source game make money? (3, Insightful)

Who Man (671061) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514222)

This could be its own Ask Slashdot post, but it seems relevant enough here. It's clear why Linux makes people money. Because it's not trivial to put together a distribution, people will pay for one. People will also pay for support. And Linus gets paid to do speeches. It's clear why things like Zope or JBoss make money. Because it's not trivial to build a website, people will pay someone else to do it or they'll pay for training. It's clear how a multiplayer game could make money. Sell subscriptions to access the servers hosting the game. But a single-player game seems the most contradictory to an open source model. People buy the game and essentially throw it away (as a couple other posters have mentioned). If others can just redistribute the game for free and undercut the cost of the original developer, then the developer has no incentive to produce the game in the first place. And the better the game is, the less money you would make, because the game would spread that much faster. I'm trying to get into game development, and I can see only three reasons for making open source software: I think I can make a game that's so great that other people want to advertise on my site. I think I can make a game that's so great people will want to buy t-shirts and hats. Or I think I can make a game that's good enough that a company will hire me--to help make a proprietarty game! Can someone dispute this?

Re:Can a single-player open source game make money (1)

Trurl (3494) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514401)

Huh. So you can't think of ONE MORE reason eh?

Making a game for the enjoyment of making a game is not a reason? You're a programmer, so I assume you enjoy programming. I assume you'd enjoy seeing people deriving pleasure from your software. I assume you'd appreciate comments and praise and the increase in credibility you would gain from putting out a quality piece of software.

Every one of your reasons is economic. Does no one write software for the sake of writing software anymore?

Re:Can a single-player open source game make money (1)

Who Man (671061) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514557)

Of course, that's an excellent reason to do something--it's the reason I do most things outside of my job, including game programming. I guess the question should have been:

How can making single-player open source games get me out of my day job?

There are shareware game developers that make money (and thus get out of day jobs), because they enforce registration. How can someone make money with an open source game?

Re:Can a single-player open source game make money (1)

Trurl (3494) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514623)

I guess I see that as putting the cart before the horse. I don't write an open source game so that I can get out of my day job, I work a day job so that I can write an open source game.

Even Linus worked at Transmeta all those years, yeah they gave him lattitude to spend time on Linux, but they didn't hire him to do it.

uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7514775)

Linus was a hood ornament at transmeta...

this is (2, Interesting)

theMerovingian (722983) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514744)

the most insightful post in the thread.

The best way to make money is to create a commercial game, and build an edit module so that the user community can build their own rooms and levels. Not unlike Neverwinter Nights, Morrowind, and others.

Thus, your game is not "disposable" when finished - the commercial game serves as an education for amateur developers, who then make new content (for free).

Next, develop a moderating system for the user-created content (to weed out the crappy stuff), and see what floats to the top.

Once people stop buying the commercial game, open source the engine. This would be ideal, as you would have:

1) achieved profitability
2) a large user base
3) alot of pre-developed content and artwork
4) an enhanced reputation among the gaming community (everybody loves Bioware after NwN and KOTOR. Just imagine how cool they would be if they open-sourced these games in a couple of years!!)
5) "ideas" from open source developers to use in your next commercial engine (or even hire the best developers outright)

Sell T-shirts and hats to cover your bandwidth costs after giving away the farm, and you are money.

half the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7514795)

What is mentioned above is half the problem.

the big investment part of of making a game can survive in open source if it is broken up. I have trawled of source forge's games list quite a few times. THe projects that suceed fall into two catogories.
1) as mentioned in the article, near clones of existing games.
2) game idea's require little or simple creative input (tux-racer... only a handful of textures + maps, and the community has shown it is quite willing to churn out and give maps away if quake is any indication).

What does that say to me? That more games could be made in open source if the focus was on making game tools rather than complete epics. The sad part is all the "I want to make a space/rpg/fps epic" projects that start from scratch. There are already a lot of good platforms to build on in open source. Just needs to link up with the modding community :)

Look at the dessert storm mod for battlefield (or the star-wars mod). thats a lot of creative effort that didn't come from salaried workers. And I think it comes down to that the underlying engine was so good.

Open Source Game Development HOW-TO (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7514931)

1. Introduction

As everyone knows, Open Source software is the wave of the future. With the market share of GNU/Linux and *BSD increasing every day, interest in Open Source Software is at an all time high.

Developing software within the Open Source model benefits everyone. People can take your code, improve it and then release it back to the community. This cycle continues and leads to the creation of far more stable software than the 'Closed Source' shops can ever hope to create.

So you're itching to create that Doom 3 killer but don't know where to start? Read on!

2. First Steps

The most important thing that any Open Source project needs is a Sourceforge page. There are tens of thousands of successful Open Source projects on Sourceforge; the support you receive here will be invaluable.

OK, so you've registered your Sourceforge project and set the status to '0: Pre-Thinking About It', what's next?

3. Don't Waste Time!

Now you need to set up your SourceForge homepage. Keep it plain and simple - don't use too many HTML tags, just knock something up in VI. Website editors like FrontPage and DreamWeaver just create bloated eye-candy - you need to get your message to the masses!

4. Ask For Help

Since you probably can't program at all you'll need to try and find some people who think they can. If your project is a game you'll probably need an artist too. Ask for help on your new Sourceforge pages. Here is an example to get you started:

"Hi there! Welcom to my SorceForge page!
I am planing to create a Fisrt Person Shooter game for Linux that is going to kick Doom 3's ass!
I have loads of awesome ideas, like giant robotic spiders!
I need some help thouh as I cant program or draw.
If you can program or draw the tekstures please get in touch! K thx bye!"

Thousands of talented programmers and artists hang out at Sourceforge ready to devote their time to projects so you should get a team together in no time!

5. The A-Team

So now you have your team together you are ready to change your projects status to '1: Pre-Bickering'. You will need to discuss your ideas with your team mates and see what value they can add to the project. You could use an Instant Messaging program like MSN for this, but since you run Linux you'll have to stick to e-mail.

Don't forget that YOU are in charge! If your team doesn't like the idea of giant robotic spiders just delete them from the project and move on. Someone else can fill their place and this is the beauty of Open Source development. The code might end up a bit messy and the graphics inconsistant - but it's still 'Free as in Speech'!

6. Getting Down To It

Now that you've found a team of right thinking people you're ready to start development. Be prepared for some delays though. Programming is a craft and can take years to learn. Your programmer may be a bit rusty but will probably be writing hello world programs after school in no time.

Closed Source games like Doom 3 use the graphics card to do all the hard stuff anyhow, so your programmer will just have to get the NVidia 'API' and it will be plain sailing! Giant robot spiders, here we come!

7. The Outcome

So it's been a few years, you still have no files released or in CVS. Your programmer can't get enough time on the PC because his mother won't let him use it after 8pm. Your artist has run off with a Thai She-Male. Your project is still at '1: Pre-Bickering'...

Congratulations! You now have a successful Open Source project on Sourceforge! Pat yourself on the back, think up another idea and do it all again! See how simple it is?

Easy answer (not trolling!) (2, Insightful)

billcopc (196330) | more than 10 years ago | (#7514940)

The reason why open source games can't compete with big-budget titles is because corporate game houses have a small army of best-of-breed artists, designers and coders (and marketing sheep). The OSS collective has a handful of genius kernel hackers and network engineers, and a bazillion lazy perl/php monkeys. Let's face it, we're better than the unwashed masses but we suck as a whole when it comes to coordinated effort. Look at the biggest most successful OSS projects: most were made by a single person slaving for weeks/months, the rest of us just provide feedback, occasional patches etc. And then there's a hundred clones that never seem to get finished.

There's also the issue of survival: game developers get paid to work 80+ hours a week exclusively on their title. We have day jobs and do this stuff as a hobby. A true indie game programmer has to be either a 16 year old that doesn't go to school and lives with his parents (no job), or someone in-between jobs that has enough savings to live for a few months. Even then, just one person can't create Quake 4. It takes years of man-hours to get it done, and it happens to be quite difficult to get a bunch of unemployed talented game developers and artists together at any one time.

Nethack anyone? (1)

cswingle (24562) | more than 10 years ago | (#7516029)

Open source, multi-platform, intelligent, funny. Plus it's got *awesome* graphics, at least on my console.

Time (1)

Tyreth (523822) | more than 10 years ago | (#7516054)

I think all open source games need is time. Take for example Quake 3 - this engine didn't just give us Quake 3, but also a whole slew of other fully featured first person shooters like American McGee's Alice and Jedi Knight iirc. And don't forget the enormous number of community made modifications for these commercial engines.

Games are built on top of an engine. What we need is some really good quality open source engines. We only need one or two, and from that we can build a number of excellent games without reinventing the wheel. All it needs is the game development tools to be built up in steps. Crystal space [sourceforge.net] seems to be moving along very well, and may fill this gap for us. Once we see a 1.0 release for that, perhaps open source games will become a lot more common.

At any rate, all I think it needs is time to build up the code assets necessary to make a game. Once those are in place, creating new games on top shouldn't be much more difficult than making new games from the Quake 3 or other engines.

I dont understand the articles conclusions (1)

mvpll (542255) | more than 10 years ago | (#7516500)

There are mountains of original open source games, each is probably considered "successful" by its authors as they have actually been released to the public...

And what is with drawing in all the FUD about governments software policies?? The real issue for governments (and many others) is open formats, not source. Vendor lock-in and the inability to review old data stored in an unsupported format is a great concern (for _all_ software users). This is something the author completely ignores.

Governments are not game players, they are willing to pay for ongoing software support/development. Governments do not require "large initial investments in cutting edge innovation", they require reliable data processing (and storage).

Just to confuse things futher a comment is laid in about government-funded research. The author seems to suggest that private companies paid by their government (ie the general public) to do software research should not be forced to open source their results because the company is taking a risk in doing the research in the first place and deserves a reward if successful. WHAT F'ING RISK??? They are not undertaking this research on their own, they are being PAID to do so. These I guess are the same companies that claim ownership on anything the people they pay create, strange how they chaff at the bit when they get treated the same way.

Overall I rate the article as a near complete waste of time in reading and it blew the needle off my FUD meter.

Anti-big business? (1)

MMaestro (585010) | more than 10 years ago | (#7516983)

The report blaims a lot on companies for not willing to take risks and governments for forcing open source work on people. This leads to only one answer. These people don't know economics.

1. There is no safety net when it comes to open source. With closed source products, you can sue someone for cold hard cash if they try to steal your work in any way shape or form.
2. Comparies are in the business to make money, not to be "different" and program only for Linux since its not an open source OS.
3. (Some) Governments are in place to help stimulate economic growth. If open source products become more widespread, it'll be cheaper for the consumer and it will help lower the costs for the courts since they're already fighting a neverending war from spam to P2P to Microsoft's monopolistic empire.

Another important factor. (2, Insightful)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 10 years ago | (#7517963)

Games aren't like any other piece of software, in that, as a class of software, they exhibit two qualities that most other software doesn't:

  • Most people who play games on their computers (or consoles or whatever) want/have significantly more than one game. Constrast this with operating systems, office suites, or web browsers, where a typical user will have one, maybe two. But they might have 20 - 30 games (or more).
  • Game as software typically have a much shorter lifespan than any other type of software. An office suite or a web browser might go through dozens of revisions over the span of a decade, being reworked to improve upon its deficiencies, and improve it for new eras in computing. But games typically get tired after a year or two -- you might have a few minor patches, and maybe one or two "add-on packs", but after that you pretty much have to bring out something new, designed more or less from the ground up.

Writing big games as Open Source typically doesn't work out for the above two reasons. Developers want to sink their time into software development projects that are going to be somewhat lasting -- something they can contribute to over long periods of time, and continually refine.

But you can only refine a game so much. I'm sure there are all sorts of optimizations you can add to Pac Man, but no matter how much you debug it and modify its routines, in the end it's still the same game, and won't ever hold the same popularity it did in the early 80's. Pac Man with cutting edge graphics is still Pac Man. Gamers want something new to play -- constantly and consistently.

Most Open Source developers, in my experience, want to work on more important software -- stuff that will be useful to people for years to come, to which they can add new features and continually improve upon. Games simply don't fit will into this sort of development model.

(Plus, of course, I completely agree with all the previous posters who pointed out that artists and musicians/audio engineers are typically exceedingly difficult to find for Open Source development. Heck, for my project I once asked a graphic artist I knew who owed me a favour to put together four 40x40 icon graphics -- and they refused because I wasn't going to pay them (nevermind the fact that the week before I starred in their art film for nothing...grumble grumble grumble...)).

Yaz.

too many cooks... (1)

metalmario (717434) | more than 10 years ago | (#7518064)

one reason (yes, didn't read the article, in a hurry) why open source games don't work is that there are too many people with too many ideas working on a same project.

A Bazaar (1)

Gwaredd (725621) | more than 10 years ago | (#7520652)


I disagree that the open source model can't produce a good game. Actually I think the games would benefit from the bazaar approach, and stop the endless flow of lacklustre 'me too' games which are currently available. I would like to see people experiment and play around with new artistic and game play ideas. There are certainly people out there who are interested in pushing the boundaries of gameplay (ludology.org, experimental-gameplay.org) but in this very risk adverse industry the progress is shockingly slow and defensive. And that is precisely where I feel open source can and should lead the way.

The problem, as Shawn Hargreaves alluded to in his article, is there is no decent environment or support to try out new ideas in the OS community (actually there is very little homogenity in the idustry as well ;) However, there certainly have been some very successful mods of commercial games (Counter Strike for example), which shows what can be done by talented enthusiasts given the right tools.

One of the things I would like to see to assist the OS gaming effort is some kind of repositry for OS gaming assets (sound effects, models, textures, etc). A sourceforge for non-code related things. There is the 'Gamasutra Exchange' program, however this is aimed at commercial projects, and of course the 'creative commons' project which is a step in the right direction.

However to be useful the data would have to be available in some kind of portable format so it could be imported into the game engine format easily, and so engine independent tools could be developed.

I think we won't see many decent open source games until we can cut the programmers out of the loop ;) Hey wait, that's my job ... doh!

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