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Hackers, Slackers, and Shackles

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the thought-provocation dept.

Programming 347

blacklily8 writes "What is the future of free software development for games? Is it possible? Will the games ever equal or surpass their proprietary competitors? Why should we care? After thoroughly researching the free and open source software model, and interviewing both indie and free software game developers, author Matt Barton decided that the future is indeed very bright. Stallman is quoted here saying that game engines should be free, but approves of the notion that graphics, music, and stories could all be separate and treated differently (i.e., "Non-Free.")"

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depends.. (5, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11304974)

on how you look at it.

nethack has always been superior in quite many aspects when compared to commercial games, partly because no commercial game can take that kind of risks in pissing off the gamer.

'free' games can continue to fill the niche segements pretty well.

and then there's the 'simple arcade rehash' genre - free games fill that tremendously well as clones of classic arcade games has become easier and easier to write as years pass.

Re:depends.. (1)

latroM (652152) | more than 9 years ago | (#11304997)

nethack has always been superior in quite many aspects when compared to commercial games, partly because no commercial game can take that kind of risks in pissing off the gamer.

You confuse non-free and commercial software. Many free software packages accept donations and RMS even sold emacs for a nice profit back in the 80's. Some people are even paid to write free software.

Re:depends.. (2, Interesting)

kers (847541) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305380)

Indeed, but how many people will BUY the game - and not donate money in one form or another for it. RMS could sell emacs because there wasn't possible for everyone to get online and download it during the uber slow links that was set up over the world today. Good or bad, today people can download *everything* for free (gratis, without paying) even if it's not allowed by the copyright owner - things are indeed diffrent.

OT - How do you play Nethack? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11305195)

I've tried to play Nethack, and I liked it, but I just can't learn how to play it effectivly. I always die fairly early on (within the first 10 floors or so). Either I get paralyzed by a floating eye and die, or turned to stone by a cockatrice and die, or encounter a superpowerful enemy and die, or put on some amulet and get choaked and die, or drink a potion and die, or run out of food and don't find anymore and die, or take a chance on eating a corpse and die, or kick down a merchant's door and die. So many ways to die suddenly and unexpectidly.

I've tried playing in exploration mode, where you can't die, but eventually I'll get to a point where the enemies are so much stronger than me that I can't kill them and can't proceed.

The game is so complex I just can't get the hang of it, and I can't seem to find any good information on the net on how to be a good player. I've read the guidebook, but it didn't help that much. I need a guide on how to effectivly use items (tricks like putting on a blindfold so that floating eyes can't paralyze you), and playing strategies, but there doesn't seem to be one.

Nethack seems like such an incredibly deep game, and because of my limited ability, I'm only able to scratch the surface. The amulet of yendor is forever out of my reach.

I think my ideal game would be something like a cross between Azure Dreams and Nethack, where it has depth (which Azure Dreams was sort of lacking), but also doesn't punish you for every action you take (the way Nethack does).

Re:OT - How do you play Nethack? (1)

wheany (460585) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305287)

There are lots of spoilers on the net and hints on game play. Also, reading helps a lot.

When playing the game, you have to descend slowly.

Re:OT - How do you play Nethack? (2, Informative)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305483)

a lot of learning how to play nethack is to learn patience, to play 'fast'(so that it doesn't take ages) while still covering your ass 100% of the time. if you're not prepared then you will insta-die sooner or later.

first you need to get the poison resistance, reflection and such before proceeding. getting excalibur if you're lawful is an easy, cheap helper too. good ac helps too, and don't be fooled, good ac is at least -15. learn to use healing bottles to maximize your healthpoints.

don't leave anything to chance! have stashes of food, don't try every armor you get on, don't eat old bodies, keep an unicorn horn handy...

but this is exactly what i'm talking about, what kind of chances would a game have that was so mean as nethack in the real, for profit, market?

if you want to speed it up, read some spoilers. they help a _lot_, a lot more than you would gain from playing in explorer mode for years on your own.

Looks like he practices what he preaches... (1)

wmspringer (569211) | more than 9 years ago | (#11304975)

The following text (not including illustrations) is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Re:Looks like he practices what he preaches... (1)

holymoo (660095) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305097)

Creative Commons License complies perfectly with gnu and gpl.

RMS? (0, Flamebait)

mordors9 (665662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11304978)

Him and his captitalist pig ideals.

RMS said that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11304987)

Richard Stallman said that graphics, etc. can be Non-Free? Wow...

But I guess it makes sense. If that weren't the case, many excellent games could not exist-Mario and the likes.

RMS can kiss my ass (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11304990)

But only after he has taken a shower

hypocritical of stallman? (4, Insightful)

ralinx (305484) | more than 9 years ago | (#11304991)

stallman wants all code to be free... but he wouldn't mind music and art to be non-free?

in what way does a coder differ from a graphics artist? according to stallman's views, should a graphics artist not be able to freely obtain the art of a game so he could modify it, without having to pay for it? after all, that is what he demands of software. it has to be free so a coder is free to change it without having to pay for it. does he have double standards?

note: i like free software, but i don't feel that every piece of software that i use should be free. i just think it's a little bit odd that stallman is using double standards.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (1)

hahafaha (844574) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305017)

I think he had no real choice. As much as one would want to stick to his principles, if you are making a living of Free Software-you've got to let somethings seep through the cracks. Free non-game software is fine because the FSF [] has the resources to make it-but games... I don't know.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (4, Funny)

amorsen (7485) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305021)

So basically you're blaming Richard Stallman for not being a rigid fundamentalist? That's new.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (1)

ralinx (305484) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305049)

i don't blame him at all... but if you consider how he reacted for instance when Linus started using Bitkeeper for his source control (never mind that there are open source alternatives... if Linus doesn't think they're up to the job it really doesn't matter if there are) you gotta admit that this is somewhat odd for someone who's always been extremely uptight about the whole being Free thing.

i just wonder why he thinks all code should be Free, but art and music don't have to be that way all of the sudden. to me this just seems like a double standard.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11305052)

Makes sense to me...
Code is just a form of instruction, it's not really 'art' in the popular sense of the word.

We're blessed with 'free' education, so why shouldn't our computers receive the same benefit?
What we do with that education is up to us, we could be a ditch-digger or a doctor or (god forbid) a lawyer. Medical school and law school, however, are non-free.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (2, Interesting)

Lindsay Lohan (847467) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305164)

Code is just a form of instruction, it's not really 'art' in the popular sense of the word.
There is an aesthetic to really good code. When I see a task or algorithm coded elegantly, simply, and efficiently... to me, it is a work of art.

How can you review a piece of code and identify the team member that contributed it, without a hint otherwise? Because there's a personal and creative aspect to producing it.

Having said that, however, I believe the same could be said of the serious practitioner in virtually any profession.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305171)

Code is just a form of instruction, it's not really 'art' in the popular sense of the word.
Apart from mine, of course.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (2, Interesting)

dingfelder (819778) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305448)

you obviously have not seen examples from the obfuscated C contest. If that is not art, I don't know what is. for instance: ed_c/winners/1995/

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (4, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305057)

music, art, even fiction books are all part of the arts and cannot be compared to non-artforms like software and technical matter. They are completely different animals.

You discover the optimal software algorithm, there is already a right answer before you ever compose it. Nobody discovers art and withholding art does not hinder the progress of mankind like withholding technology does.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305146)

### music, art, even fiction books are all part of the arts and cannot be compared to non-artforms like software and technical matter. They are completely different animals.

Art is different in that it is not functional, you watch it, you waste your time with it, but ultimativly you don't produce anything with it. However that is as far as it goes, that still doesn't mean that the same freedoms for software wouldn't also be usefull for arts. Just watch what is happening out there, people cover songs, thus basically 'forking' them, people do remakes or continuations of movies, people modify computer games, add new vehicles, coop-modes and whatever.

Its true that art is a bit different from software, but by far not different enough to justify the restrictions of freedom on them.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (2, Insightful)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305260)

You can produce, enlightenment, understanding, emotions, inspiration, ideas and more art, with art.

Game software is an art. (3, Informative)

cgenman (325138) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305174)

While one may find the optimal pathfinding route algorithim, most game software is a balancing act between competing resources and is therefore an art. If you look at the Quake 3 engine code, there are a lot of tradeoffs between accuracy (surprisingly innacurate, actually), speed, and memory. And then there are questions like how one will spend their processor cycles... in a complicated rendering engine or raw polys? Character focused or world focused? Do you spend more Ram on Precaching or go for dynamic texture loading?

That having been said, the reason why you can't put game artists, texturers, and musicians in the same class as game programmers is because they generally refuse to work for free. While a programmer may find personal expression through a game, rare is the artist or musician who feels the same way. You can get ones who will work to make a name for themselves, or work because they like the game, but generally you don't find musicians who work on games like they compose their own songs. While working on games is personal for a programmer, it isn't so much for artists / musicians. Why do it then?

And there is no such thing as an optimal software algorithm. There are ones well suited for a task and ones that are not, but there are no software algorithims that are best in all ways.


Re:Game software is an art. (4, Insightful)

nathanh (1214) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305509)

most game software is a balancing act between competing resources and is therefore an art.

Writing software that balances several competing resources is engineering.

I think that some software can be artistic in the sense that it is written creatively but that has nothing to do with it being a "balancing act between competing resources".

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (1)

jarich (733129) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305243)

They are completely different animals.

That's right... they are well understood by the public and the public would understand that the "Free Software" positions and would write off the fundamentalists as kooks.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (5, Insightful)

MutantHamster (816782) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305058)

While, I haven't RTFA yet, that won't stop me from offering my opinion. Which is that art and music are entirely different from code. I think his point about graphics and music and such is so that someone won't steal an entire game and rename some of the characters so they can pretend it's theirs.

It's kind of like, if I made a movie. I wouldn't mind you using all my techniques for special effects, (or CGI as it's called today) and filming, etc. But you'd be a big douchebag if you stole my script and just "expanded" on it to make your own movie.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (2, Informative)

grumbel (592662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305161)

### It's kind of like, if I made a movie. I wouldn't mind you using all my techniques for special effects, (or CGI as it's called today) and filming, etc. But you'd be a big douchebag if you stole my script and just "expanded" on it to make your own movie.

So how exactly is that different of when I take Firefox, name its "Grumbels Personal Browser" add some stuff to it and release? Why should I be allowed to do that with Firefox, or any kind of free software, but not with movies, videogames or whatever?

Beside from that people are doing that all the time with movies, movies get remaked, songs covered and pictures reused in collages.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (1)

sowdog81 (739008) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305321)

What about if you wrote a text editor and I took that code and just "expanded" on it to make my own text editor.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (2, Insightful)

0xC0FFEE (763100) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305092)

The thing with code is that, over time, you come to rely on it. You want tools to remain available to you to perform your daily tasks.

For example, you want to continue using compiler X 2.95 say for however long you want witout having to pay for a subscription or without being vulnerable to deficiencies. Same thing with other programs like email readers, browser and more fundamentally an OS.

So there is a need to take measures to keep the code free and available, unencumbered by legal or economical conditions. Conditions that would/could, ultimately, be a loss to its users. In fact, the thing with free software in general is that reliance on free software is safe because it cannot be taken away.

No such need or dependency with music...

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (2, Insightful)

hahafaha (844574) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305094)

I quite agree. Music is a finished product and it can't have new "features". Software can.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11305340)

I just finished adding 16 measures to a song I originally wrote months ago. You fail it.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (1)

Rick and Roll (672077) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305167)

No such need or dependency with music...

After listening to beautiful music for a while, I come to depend on it. It gives me inspiration.

However, if it's on CD and I'm allowed to back it up, that's safe. But if it's DRM'ed, I can't do it without breaking the laws, which is something I refuse to do (of course there is a point when I might decide civil disobedience is the way to go, for now it's just boycotting). For that reason, I'm not going to listen to music if it's DRM'ed, and I think any true artist should understand that.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (3, Informative)

gallir (171727) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305148)

FSF differentiates clearly among:

1. Practical use: software, manuals. They are needed to run your computer, to allow you to write your documentation, to generate your data. You can qualify them objectively: it's OK, it's better, it's wrong. Software is indeed special: is matematical model, but executable. See FSF and OSI for licenses.

2. Non-practical use, or art: they don't have practical use, they are not needed to run you computer, they just can be enjoined "as is" and perhaps modified to create derivative art. Is American folk better than Celtic music? You cannot tell it objectively. See CreativeCommons for licenses.

Read RMS or FSF articles, there is no cinism, no contradiction, just your ignorance.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (1)

Hanji (626246) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305407)

1. Practical use: software, manuals. ... You can qualify them objectively

So I guess emacs and vim aren't in that category.
And neither are, say, perl and python...

Code versus Art (3, Interesting)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305191)

in what way does a coder differ from a graphics artist?

I don't know Stallman's view on the matter.

But if I had to guess, I'd say:
Code runs on an operating system;

Art runs in your mind.
That's purely hypothetical, mind you -- I have no idea where RMS stands on the matter.

In any case, code is art, in my opinion -- code, painting, music, architecture, literature -- it's all art, art, art.


Re:hypocritical of stallman? (1)

iabervon (1971) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305244)

Code is primarily a work of functionality. Regardless of the fundamental beauty of the design, if it doesn't solve your problem, it is useless to you. Music, art, level designs, and so forth are works of content. They do not solve problems but more frequently pose problems for the user to solve, and offer entertainment through the challenge of working them out; or they simply contribute to the user's enjoyment of the experience.

You're also making the usual mistake of thinking that RMS ever has anything to say about the exchange of money. He talks almost exclusively about the granted ability to do things, not the cost of doing them. This is a common mistake because of the term "Free Software" for what is intended to be liberating (not liberated) software, which suggests no-cost as the only thing it could mean literally.

In any case, asking for the right to modify works of content is, in general, foolish. It doesn't make sense to say that, for instance, the Aeneid is unsuitable for you to read due to Aeneas founding Rome at the end and demanding the right to modify it such that he ends up defying fate and getting back together with Dido. Certainly you could write such a work if you wanted to, but you would no longer be simply a reader of the book you're reading and you wouldn't be reading the Aeneid (and, were you then to write a paper about your version as if it were the original, it would not be well received).

For that matter, there are other possibilities than works of functionality and works of content, and they are licensed suitably for their intended purposes. For example, RFCs, generally considered the most "Free" standardization documents, do not permit modification by anyone and translation only with permission. It would be completely useless to write a modified version of RFC822, license it to permit further modification, produce a MTA which uses your changes, and claim compliance. Even the original authors do not modify RFCs; instead they write new RFCs which reference and obsolete the earlier ones.

Clearly the terms under which a work, even a "Free" work, is licensed must take into account the way the user is to interact with the work. Software is different from the content of games, and therefore can meaningfully be licensed differently.

On the other hand, I think that there are areas in which content shades into functionality. For example, a browser will probably come with a set of icons designed for utility (which doesn't preclude art, but which does have a metric of success for the user). For a game, perhaps, it should be permitted to replace the text of menu items with different text while keeping the background the same, since the functionality of the game may be impaired by the menus being in the wrong language or misleading.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11305273)

you have missed an important point: it's about free as in free here, not about free as in beer!

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11305290)

Stallman's apathy regarding music and art accurately reflects how regular people (incl. traditional artists) feel about software.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (1)

antoy (665494) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305342)

The difference, in this case, lies in the way the materials are used.

Game engines enable people to create their own games. They make it easier to be creative without building a game engine from scratch.

The game is what the end-user sees,plays and (theoretically) enjoys. It's creative work and should be treated as such. Whether or not the treatment should be similar to the game engine (Creative Commons Licenses) or commercial is a matter that should be left to the creator, and is beyond Stallman's scope.

Re:hypocritical of stallman? (1)

Kihaji (612640) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305476)

It is a double standard, mostly because I think RMS is out of touch with reality. Anyone can create MS Word, all the algorithms, techniques, and languages that MS used to create Word are free, open, and available to anyone to use at will. What is not free, and what should not *have* to be free, is the creativity and work of the coders/designers who used those basic tools in a specific way to create MS Word. Much like art is nothing more than the creativity and expression of an artist through the use of basic, open, and free techniques, an application is nothing more than the creativity and expression of a programmer through the use of basic, open, and free techniques.

Hard To Do (4, Insightful)

Nurgled (63197) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305011)

It's hard to have a Free game which matches the quality and depth of today's main commercial offerings due to the need for artists and other such people who (for whatever reason) are less keen to do hobbyish projects.

I think the only way that this is going to start is if developers put together good graphics engines, up to the standard of the latest offerings from Id and the Unreal guys, and have commercial developers work from these as a base rather than licencing from the commercial vendors. With the GPL-licenced Quake engines we are already some way there, but of course they are (as they come out of Id) already a generation or two behind and need some work to get them up there.

There's also the problem of convincing the commercial development houses that having their game code source available (which would be necessary for GPL compliance) won't hurt because the art and other content will be the product. The main show-stopper here is that you can't really do copy protection in an open-source product, and right now every commercial offering has copy protection.

Re:Hard To Do (1)

hahafaha (844574) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305038)

I quite agree. The FSF [] is not focused on games as it is and I think that is their weak point (don't get me wrong; I love them! Their games are just not quite ready to compete. I use Debian [] .)

Re:Hard To Do (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305072)

"right now every commercial offering has copy protection"

Perhaps. That is an excellent arguement for getting rid of copy protection. History has shown copy protection on games to be a very expensive excercise in futility anyway.

Re:Hard To Do (1)

MaineCoon (12585) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305098)

Heres an argument FOR copy protection:

MULE, a well known and popular old school game, was a commercial failure. Almost everyone had played it and many 'owned' a copy, but almost no-one had bought it.

It didn't have copy protection.

Re:Hard To Do (1)

SuperIceBoy (787273) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305186)

Kind of like the original Quake?

Re:Hard To Do (1)

gomiam (587421) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305468)

Here's an argument against copy protection:

Sacred cost me €20. It certainly is not as cheap as it could be, but, at that price, I would still have bought it even if it had no copy protection (hell, I could have asked any of my friends for a hacked copy). Even more, now they are offering me FREE updates and extensions. The only thing I dislike is its needing the install CD in the CD drive to boot (well, and it locks up much too often, though that doesn't happen in most of my friends' computers, so I won't blame Arcaron on that).

Do a good enough product at a good enough price, and people enough will buy it. End of story. Or, perhaps, Red Hat, SuSE and other distribution makers are still losing money (not those two, and Mandrakesoft's troubles aren't directly related to their distro, IMO).

What?! (5, Funny)

MutantHamster (816782) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305024)

Free games? Where can I buy them?!

Re:What?! (1)

hahafaha (844574) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305064)

If you are joking-that is stupid. Thus I will asume you are not.

Free Software [] has nothing to do with price but freedom. The people that make this software, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) [] has a slogan: Free as in Freedom. Thus the Free Games refer's to their understanding of 'Free Software' click on the hyperlink...

Re:What?! (1)

Lindsay Lohan (847467) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305178)

You can pay good money for this [] and get some free games with it.

Disagree (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11305031)

Just look at tuxracer. Since the company that was developing it turned it closed source nobody has continued developing it. Same goes for tuxkart.

Modern games aren't easy. We could compete in the "graphics engine" field, but that's just 1/4 of a game - the rest is the "art": graphics, music, sounds, maps..."open source" works for code, not for "art". Also, today's games are a modern thing, you can get lot of geeks that can write a SCSI driver or a compiler, but how many geeks can you find that know how to write a 3d driver or a graphics engine or maps for a 3d game? There're a few, but they're not enought. We've can write msql/ISS/oracle/icc, even mac os x alternatives, but where're those unreal/need for speed/doom 3 alternatives?

We need some kind of "open art" license or something, and people working for it.

Re:Disagree (3, Informative)

grumbel (592662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305267)

### Just look at tuxracer. Since the company that was developing it turned it closed source nobody has continued developing it.

a) hardly anybody developed it while it was OpenSource, some bugfixes asside it what basically a one-man thing
b) after some years of no development on the OpenSource Tuxracer, there is now some life in it again, see PPRacer:
c) sunspirestudios seem to have disapread, probally didn't sell to well in the end

### Same goes for tuxkart.

See, however the original tuxkart has never gone closed source.

### We need some kind of "open art" license or something, and people working for it.

For most part we really just need more people.

Re:Disagree (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305396)

``We need some kind of "open art" license or something, and people working for it.''

This exists. However, I don't think it will work very well. My intuition is that art cannot be incrementally developed by different people like software can.

Perhaps my intuition is wrong, though. There are several other plausible reasons for open art not taking off.

Re:Disagree (1)

gomiam (587421) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305505)

I think art can be incrementally developed. That's why there are things as variations on classical music works. This may require a nucleus to grow from (just like rain).

The potential is totally there (2, Interesting)

aendeuryu (844048) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305037)

The limiting factor is organization of talent. You'd think it'd be the artwork, but right now that's not the case so much as getting the artists to work with the core programmers. Happy Penguin's [] game of the month project (now called the Help Wanted project [] , for instance, has led to some significant turnarounds for Linux games (especially with regards to graphics). Right now they're working on Lincity, and amazingly enough, people aren't worried about getting good 3d graphics for it, as much as they are about coding them in.

Re:The potential is totally there (1)

aendeuryu (844048) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305131)

Had trouble finding them before, but here are some screenshots showing the progress...

Tuxkart (before [] , after [] )

Pingus (screenshots [] , improvement not as drastic as supertuxcart, but still)

Supertux (screenshots [] , you can see the progress just by scrolling down).

Alright, so these are all variations on a theme (linux motifs combined with older popular titles: Mariokart, Lemmings, Super Mario Bros) but if the artwork is any indication, it's pretty impressive what they've come up with so far.

Planeshift (4, Informative)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305041)

Planeshift [] is a free 3D MMORPG following the idea "Free engine, proprietary (though gratis) art." AFAIK it's the only free 3D MMORPG out there.
The system recently reached another milestone, though it will probably remain in development for quite some time... Maybe some Slashdot hackers will help? :)

Re:Planeshift (1)

endx7 (706884) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305252)

Good thing this article came up. I was just looking for this earlier today, and it's nearly impossible to google for and find if you don't know the name.

In general (4, Interesting)

Solr_Flare (844465) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305043)

Independant games tend to have the potential of having far more innovative gameplay and/or unique storylines because they have the freedom to take a chance with a concept while gaming houses are generally more restricted because development costs money and publishers like to stick with safe bets.

On the flip side, dependant games(ie games developed at cost by a gaming house) will generally have superior graphics and sound because those two areas require a lot of man hours to "get right". Thus, gaming houses are better suited to coordinate efforts to supply a superior graphic experience quickly enough before the graphics become dated by hardware advances.

That said, as we slowly begin to approach the photo-realism barrier, and as the tools to assemble graphics improve, we are once again begining to turn back towards the days when gameplay and innovation were what set a game apart from its peers.

In this, independant game designers will have the upper hand, as evidenced by the current generation of "big names in the industry" all having been independant designers back during the last time graphics were less involved(80s and early 90s).

Independant game designers are on the rise again, and you can see proof in the concern the publishing companies are having as they slowly fall away, consolidate, and/or have paniced knee jerk reactions out of concern for their future(Valve vs. Vivendi, EA's buyout frenzy, etc).

I think free games are great. (2, Informative)

thegoofeedude (771803) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305050)

While I don't think it's Open Source, I do think that America's Army [] is good example of what a free game can be. Many of my friends prefer it to their store-bought games. (And there's a Linux version [] .)

Re:I think free games are great. (1)

WoBIX (819410) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305255)

But in that case it was free to download/use, not free to develop. Articles on the game have mentioned the development cost was around $7 million.

It wasn't created out of the goodness of someone's heart, it was a well funded, and extremely well executed marketing campaign.

you` FAIL& it!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11305053)

Come on baby...4nd something that you resulted in the that has lost Are there? Let's

What about people's time and effort? (3, Insightful)

Daxx_61 (828017) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305061)

Won't simple economics dictate that one person will not spend a good portion of his life working on games, when he could be working on games for money? That will ensure that people have to pay for good(more complicated) games, and compensate these people for the staggering amount of effort that must surely go into designing a good game.

Innovation in HL2 and Doom3 (1)

DingerX (847589) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305082)

Heh. Well, yeah, that pretty much sums up my youth, but:
it's a bit of a red herring to hold up HL2 and Doom3 as models of innovation. They're certainly examples of how the hardware industry is driving games, though. Heck, I've got somewhere around here a card for a free copy of HL2. Does that mean that, if code is free, hardware should be free too?
What about all those people who saw the HL2 source code? Did it help them become better hackers? What kind of educational value did that have?
The number of good games that come through modifications of other's code is fairly small. After a few "training wheel" examples, most folks I know are more comfortable writing their stuff from scratch. It makes debugging a hell of a lot more fun.
The patronage business model is great, only we need a helluva lot more patrons.

Re:Innovation in HL2 and Doom3 (1)

DrLZRDMN (728996) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305127)

Actualy, I thought it was the game industry that was driving the hardware industry. These new games are THE killer app for a $500 video card. The video cards coming with games benefits them both. The game companies do it so the games wont get pirated, kind of like how most pcs come with windows. And your copy of lambda squared wan't free- the card company paid for it.

Free games looking good (3, Informative)

DrLZRDMN (728996) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305085)

I saw this article
( tent&pa=showpage&pid=18)
And it seems that there is a great base available that oculd lead to wonderfull things. Crystal space ( is a free engine that appears to be competitive in quality to modern commercial engines. Go to the games made using crystal, it can be used. I should also mention cube engine ( and stepmania ( as well as the abundance of free MMO's and VR projects.

Re:Free games looking good (2, Informative)

TrancePhreak (576593) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305401)

Considering they are just now adding polybump, I'd say they are 2 years behind commercial engines. They are hardly competitive to commercial engines. Also, I have a feeling they wont scale as well, or deliver a solid framerate as a commercial product (Considering the examples they show and their respective framerates).

no and no (1)

sporty (27564) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305101)

Freeing the engines will probably not happen as the engines are complex and are licensed becuase they aren't easy to reproduce. Look at software like AbiWord and KOffice. They are fairly complex. Look at the time it took for them to mature.

Video games and office suites are not the same by any means, but it is the same reason you don't see 100 different full featured word processors or game engines. Unless enough is made to recoup the loss of many programmers time to make the engine in sales and what not.. it ain't gonna happen.

Re:no and no (1)

DrLZRDMN (728996) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305145)

What if they work for free? Or better yet, if the hardware company pays them- if the new NVIDIA card came with Crystal Core it would be an incentive to get an NVIDIA card and it would be good for Crystal Core. yes, you could download it for free, but to truly enjoy the game you need a new video card, which comes with the game.

Re:no and no (1)

sporty (27564) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305330)

40 hours a week, 5 days a week, let's skip over time. What will these people do for money?

Let's assume you do pay them. What do you need, 5 people to develop it? You can't assume throwing a lot of people will make it go faster indefinitely; Read mythical man month if you do. 5 * what, $50k a year minimum, that's about $250k a year skipping office costs and what not.

Then they would give away the engine for free for anyone to develop games, including their competitor? A game company is more likely to keep the engine, tweak it during its lifetime, release new games based on the engine, license it out and more easily make back in what they spent.

Engines that do specific things are hard to build. Operating systems, file systems, graphical systems.. they take time and/or money. Apple comes close by co-developing darwin and osx. But even then, they had a jump start by using FreeBSD and Mach. General engines are even harder as you have more people to please.

Creating whole worlds isn't yet very natural. (1)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305107)

The act of creating a whole world from art, sounds, abstract personalities, key events, etc, and all the interactions involved is NOT yet an act people will just do on their own, even for a large group working together. It's such a large undertaking in most cases, that money, enough money to pay people to stay in one place with promises of more money, is required in almost all cases to make a truly captivating world.

Even with idealized tools, there's just so many decsions, so many interactions that need to at least be looked into, that by sheer force of choices, the visions of the designers get lost along the way - any only the most simple of stories get told by those who can't devote most of their waking lives to it.

Can more, better open source games be created? Yes. But it's going to take amazing people, people who can establish ever-improving processes, and people who can stay true to their visions on the very long road to making a captivating little world.

Otherwise, we'll get a lot more abstract puzzle games, but the real power of developer imagination may be lost to complexity.

Ryan Fenton

Might be a good idea... (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305117)

... I notice that Bioware have started selling Premium Modules online - additional adventures for Neverwinter Nights. If they had a lot of those available, at some point it's going to be in their interests to make sure that as many people as possible have the game engine, to maximise the market for extra adventures.

So: give away the engine for free. Sell the adventures.

Re:Might be a good idea... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305217)

So: give away the engine for free. Sell the adventures.
But a free engine isn't free (as in speech) without an open 'API' - which leaves the risk that a third party will produce cheaper/better adventures for it.

I like the idea in principle, though.

Re:Might be a good idea... (1)

DarkTempes (822722) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305464)

that's actually an awesome idea they could give away NWN for free, even do it through bittorrent to keep server costs low, and just very cheap ($5) for actual mailed CDs have it come with one basic adventure to get them hooked... and then bam, sell the modules or 'books' =D

The future is very bright... uhh...because...uh... (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305121)

The future is very bright... uhh... because... uhh... umm... I say so!

The fundamental problem with the arguments in this essay is that they all apply now, and so far free games has conspicuously failed to take over. Why will they do so in the future if they haven't now, unless you're going to remove a problem or add an incentive?

It boils down to a proof by assertion.

He nearly exhausts the good games currently existing. I've poked through the Gentoo game categorization which is pretty good, and if there's one open source commercial-level game per section it's a miracle. A lot of stuff in there, even some good stuff, but if they were commercial products they'd be from 1990 or so, often even earlier if you strip the graphics from them and look at gameplay. My wife has been playing Dungeon Keeper again lately, which was released in 1997, and I'm still yet to find anything open that compares to that. (Caveat: I can't get 3D in Linux so VegaStrike may match that level of quality, but I doubt much else does. 3D is even harder that 2D to get right.) So, even when I say "commercial level", I even mean from a while ago.

So far, if anything is going to make open source gaming happen, it's going to take more than the mere power of Open Source. We've had that for a while and there just hasn't been much movement. It takes a concerted attempt to close one's eyes to the obvious to think otherwise; you've got isolated anecdotes in favor of the argument but overwhelming evidence against.

I think the cause of Stallman's rigid... (0, Troll)

andalay (710978) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305123)

...fundamentalism is the fact that he hasn't been laid since he named a module after his ex-girlfriend.

Independent Games (5, Insightful)

lutskot (658962) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305124)

The gaming industry is in many ways very similar to that the film industry sans the overpaid actors.

This leads me to think that we'll have a similar trend in games in the future as we do in films today. The industry will be splitt between high-budgett, spectacular games such and Halo 2 and Doom 3, while a smaller market of independent films will emerge created by people who feel that games can be an art form, and not just entertainment.

I know there are small independent game conferences allready, but we still do not have anything like the independent film festivals which help get the films out to their audience.

As for licenses, I agree with Stallman in that the game engine, which is more cases can be thought of at generalized software should be free, while the artistic part of the projects need to be considered as custom work and could remain non-free.

Re:Independent Games (2, Insightful)

Solr_Flare (844465) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305147)

Agreed, that is the most likely scenario because, in many ways, it is already like that to a lesser extent. Games, like movies, tv, music, and books, are just another form of entertainment(albeit a more interactive form). As such, the general rules and trends of the entertainment industry will likely apply to a certain extent.

Re:Independent Games (1)

andalay (710978) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305160)

Mod this guy insightful!

Re:Independent Games (1)

Thats_Pipe (837838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305365)

As for licenses, I agree with Stallman in that the game engine, which is more cases can be thought of at generalized software should be free, while the artistic part of the projects need to be considered as custom work and could remain non-free There is a problem with making only part of a computer product open. The person who first writes the engine will feel like an artist who just created a story that uses that engine. It is a product created by an individual so there shouldn't even be a distinction between the engine and art/media/story. Both result from a creative process (although some people would argue how much creativity is really put into an engine) and should be on equal footing when it comes to dissemination of the product.

Not the same faults (1)

tmk (712144) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305134)

Free software can succeed, if the developers do not the same mistakes like the Closed source developers.

But sometimes they do: Have a look at this article []

Re:Not the same faults (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305192)

Yes because helping to create a multi billion dollar industry with high quality games was just the dumbest thing in the world for Closed Source developers to do.

Re:Not the same faults (0)

tmk (712144) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305279)

Especially when you read about the working conditions at EA.

Re:Not the same faults (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11305289)

He is just trying to karma whore with a clever statement without really backing it up with something solid.

Games don't have enough longevity for OSS process? (2, Interesting)

CaptKilljoy (687808) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305156)

Plot driven games, like movies, are something the player tends to go through once and then shelve. That doesn't seem likely to be compatible with the OSS model of incremental releases by which a package gets polished into an acceptable state. Non-plot driven games (e.g. the multiplayer modes of FPSes and other games) have better longevity but still tend to be relatively short lived.

It seems more likely that OSS devlopment model would succeed with game development libraries and engines.

tirsf tosp, version 2 (improved layout) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11305198)

This comment will make you throw away valuble mod-points for modding it down :)
You will most probably also be meta-moderated positively for modding this down -> adds to karma.
Happy modding.

How naive. (4, Insightful)

r (13067) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305213)

From the article: "In short, "open sourcing" projects like Half-Life 2 would likely lead to much better games, which would result in much better sales and happier end-users."

This is like saying GM should open-source the blueprints for all their car engines. It's ridiculous. Valve put untold millions into HL2 development, and there's absolutely no incentive for them to just open the source, and there's a strong disincentive: if they were to open it, everyone could just build a highly competitive game on top of it without paying a cent. And what's gonna pay for the programmers? The original game's sales? Will they be high enough given the man-hours that went into the engine, especially since the new competing games would likely cannibalize the sales of the original game?

The HL SDK already opens up most of the engine (sans some of the graphics and networking, I believe), and budding game programmers can cut their teeth on that (that's how Counter-Strike came about). But since it's still copyrighted, and the new game requires licensing with Valve, which helps them recoup the costs of developing it in the first place, and fund the development of the new engine.

To ignore the economic constraints of development is breathtakingly naive.

The problem is, most "games" aren't games (3, Interesting)

Glowing Fish (155236) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305268)

The problem with most games is that they aren't actually games in the true sense. They are more a form of entertainment. Most people play them for the bright graphics and sound, and the immersion of the game world. Which many people, including myself, love. However, as a Wesnoth developer said "Great graphics make a movie. Great sound makes an album. Great gameplay makes a game."

As much as I love the Final Fantasy series, for example, I don't consider them "games" in the truest sense. They are wonderfully immersive stories, but that doesn't make them a game. The problem is, people are starting to really expect that out of their games. And even though Free Software developers could program a game with a much better engine, meaning it has a more challenging basic set of rules, then a Final Fantasy game; I don't think we can realistically expect free software developers to program the video and sound that people have come to expect. If you take the single opening movie from Final Fantasy VII, (a game that, at 8 years old, is ancient), I don't know how it could be put together without a lot of money.

So I think the basic place for Free Games right now is games for people who love gaming. My favorite game right now, of any type, is Wesnoth [] , a turn based strategy game released under the GPL. The graphics and the sound are fair, but the game play is truly engaging.

is this right Rich? (0, Troll)

jago25_98 (566531) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305278)

Why not all IP treated the same?

I'm suprised Stallman takes a halfway house!

going too far (1)

Neotrantor (597070) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305284)

This is ridiculous, how does he expect games to get produced? most high profile games are not like writting a fucking text editor, this is a big production that takes talent and money. does he also say that actors or painters should work for free? we're not talking about operating systems and basic system components here (which should be free. Saying games should be free does not (in my opinion) have anything to do with GNU, just because it is computer code, it's not the same sort of computer code that should be free.

This is just stupid. (1)

ILuvUAmiga (578974) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305288)

Look, this is just getting ridiculous now. Why should a game engine be free but the graphics and sounds etc shouldnt? What is it about programmers that everything they write should be free, but everybody else on the planet is okay and free from Stallman's bullshit? Living costs money. If people aren't willing to pay for software then programming as a career will become pointless. Sure its great if you happen to be a millionaire or a student, but for everyone else its really handy to get paid. What are we supposed to do to keep this dreamer happy? Work in a factory and knock up a Quake engine on a evening so we can give it away for free?! I know...its all clear to me now. What I should do is build a go-kart, give it away for free and then hassle Ferrari about it...just give me that Enzo for free you bastards!

OSS for games is a different business entirely (1)

jfonseca (203760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305293)

An Enterprise OSS project that goes well will give the author plenty of business in consulting, book authoring, etc.

But what is the reward for an OSS game maker? Just fame and being hired by a non-OSS game co.?

Think about it. Games are different from enterprise software.

I'm a diehard OSS fan and developer and have been since the day I heard of it in the first place. That's why I run Brasilia Perl Mongers [] , that's why I've developed everything I have within the OSS paradigm. I'm just saying this to fundament my point, I'm a big fan of OSS.

Games are an optional, recreative, part of software development.

Linux himself on his book "Just For Fun" made the point clear : he loved the profit, the financial reward is important, you gotta have the financial reward.

If you build the game equivalent of Linux would you get the equivalent recognition of Linux? My point being : I don't think so.

Re:OSS for games is a different business entirely (1)

jfonseca (203760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305317)

Sorry to reply to my own article but I meant Linus:

HERE :"Linux himself on his book"

AND HERE: " equivalent recognition of Linux"

Sorry about that.

Clarifying Stallman's opinions (2, Interesting)

Henrik S. Hansen (775975) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305297)

Stallman believes that music, etc. ("art") may be treated differently than software, as in not being under the GPL or the GFDL. None of his essays are under the GPL, for instance.

He argues that software is useful to modify, making it different than most art and creative writings, which usually are quite personal. He does believe, however, that these non-software works should be freely distributable.

He mentions these opinions many places, for example in this interview [] .

(I personally agree with him.)

Mods are Free (1)

9mm Censor (705379) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305316)

Want a almost "free game"? Look into games that have active mod communities. Such as BF1942 and UT games.

Buy one game, and have the ability to play many other games for free.

Games are art. (1)

k98sven (324383) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305322)

Not to say that programming can't be viewed as an art; It can. But it is also engineering, which imposes more limits on what qualifies as 'good' programming. (In the same way, architecture is more limited than sculpture, because architecture is about creating buildings, which by definition need to have an inside and an outside and a door, at the very least. Whereas a sculpture has no such constraints.)

So what does this matter for open source? Well, in open source development, anybody can (try to) contribute anything. So obviously you need some kind of 'artistic vision' in order to figure out what parts go in and what parts don't. The thing here is that programmers have a far more akin 'vision' on what constitutes 'good art' (or rather a 'good program') than the rest. Does the code run faster? Have less bugs? Is it easier to read, understand and maintain? And such criteria.

With art (music, images, etc) this isn't as easy. Which makes collaboration very difficult.
(Imagine ten people creating a collage, each with a slightly different idea of what the completed collage should represent. It wouldn't work.)

So, this means that to get good art, you have to break up the total task into rather large pieces. (Say, 3d-models, interface graphics, intro/cutscene graphics, etc.) Because it simply wouldn't work if 100 people created the 1000 required 3d-models for a game, since the differences in style and form would make the whole so inconsistent in its 'feel' that it'd bring down the impression.

So, you have these rather large, daunting tasks which more-or-less require being done by one or two people ('auteurs' I guess you could say).

And for a game of any size on the scale of today's commercial games, it's a lot of work for so few people, unless they're working full-time. And that of course requires resources and money.

So what I'm saying is basically that the OSS development model doesn't quite work, because the investment money isn't there to have artists working full-time, and you can't really get the thing started by having a large group of part-timers.

That's my take on it, anyway.

How old is Matt Barton, exactly? (2, Interesting)

thumperward (553422) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305346)

Aside from making out that Defender was written in BASIC, or assuming that the crowd he was writing for didn't know what BASIC was anyway, was it really necessary to embarrass himself with that whole "Big game companies never innovate" thing and then mention Electronic Arts in the same sentence? Until ten years ago EA were the best thing that had ever happened to games.

- Chris

Don't Think So (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305358)

Some exceptions aside, I don't think Free games are going to come even close to typical commercial games. The reason for that is that making such a game costs massive amounts of man hours from various disciplines. This doesn't fit the open-source model where there may be a few core developers, but there usually isn't a clear plan for the final version, most contributors just submit small patches, and usability comes second to functionality.

The kind of games we can expect from community efforts are simple games, which can be basically finished by a few friends in little time. Once the game is playable, others may chime in and extend it, e.g. by contributing levels or making improvements to the engine.

No calls barred. (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11305377)

Stallman's (commie-style ;) freedom includes "no revenue", so I'm not too crazy about it, as a developer who converts code to food and rent. But opening these game engines to plugins would make them much more popular, even offering a life beyond the publisher's product lifecycle. Much like Doom-style games got new life from opening the "level editors". As more games are networked, the game server can become the gateway for revenue, especially if Web Service APIs are signed, and require authentication, but are also open. Killer apps create demand for services, but are a development/management cost that subtracts from the profit at the server. I'd love to import my Halo2 team into Madden NFL 2005, if a programmer could write the import plugin. Open the APIs!

Yikes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11305421)

The only future I see for these "freedom games" is engine reimplementation. However, that leads to a situation where people are pirating the original software to obtain the game data.
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