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The Hacking Contest Nobody Tried to Win

Roblimo posted about 15 years ago | from the cooperation-not-competition dept.

Games 229

When Slashdot reader magenta was invited to participate in the Loki Hack Contest attached to Atlanta Linux Showcase, his first thought was, "There must be someone more deserving of this high honor; after all, I'd never even seen Civ:CTP. But after a few exchanged emails and a bit of chatting with various friends who all told me it would be a good idea (thanks, Ross and Joel), I reluctantly decided to accept the invitation, and booked myself a cheap flight to Atlanta." (More below)

The Hacking Contest Nobody Tried to Win

-by magenta

I am very glad that I decided to enter.

First off, nobody there, including myself, cared about the potential for prizes. There was a great feeling of camaraderie, of friendship. Thirty people (including Loki Entertainment's representatives; very few people, as it turns out, actually signed up, probably due to some of the FUD spread on Slashdot regarding Loki's intentions) talked to each other as though they were old friends even though we'd never met each other online, much less in real life. We all exchanged ideas for hacks, bounced ideas off each other, and discussed means of implementation. The attitude was the opensource mentality at its best.

And then we saw the source.

The official Loki Hack '99 t-shirt has a slogan on the back. The slogan is "I saw the source and lived." This slogan is incredibly apt. At the risk of offending Activision (which I certainly don't intend to do), Civ:CTP isn't exactly the best-engineered program around. Imagine the original release of Mozilla, put into a blender on frappé, shoved into a toaster oven and let to sit on medium heat for a few days. And then microwave it. The individual pieces of code weren't too bad (if not inelegant), but the entire package wasn't arranged in any semblance of order. The first hack I wanted to perform was XaoS-like smooth zooming on the map, so that when someone clicked on a zoom button, it would do it smoothly. I couldn't find, nor could the Loki people tell me, where any sort of useful callback would be. After tracing through about 10 levels of indirection, going past hard-coded constants and multiple redundant and nonsensical calls to seemingly-random parts of the source, I gave up and decided to work on other things.

But I saw the source, and I lived.

That is such a cool concept. Namely that I saw the source. The source to a very commercial, very proprietary program, from a very un-opensource company. Activision put a lot of faith and trust into this experiment, and hopefully they will find that it was well worth it. In just 48 hours, a couple dozen programmers who had never seen the source before added in some incredible changes. I rewrote the map generator to generate quasi-fractal terrains with randomly-combined algorithms. The person sitting next to me changed the game logic so that different civilizations would have different abilities (rather than just being different in name, one tribe could run faster but be weaker, while another one could produce technology more quickly but not generate wealth, or whatever), which was no mean feat considering the network-play mechanism. Various people ported SDL (the low-level graphics API written by Loki for the purpose of having DirectDraw-esque functionality in Linux) to varying other APIs, such as Clanlib and GGI. One person, whom I now consider myself friends with thanks to this experience, added in hooks so that during a network game, you could launch an arbitrary program (such as tetris) while waiting for other people to finish their turns, and also added in hooks for publishing the gamestate to an external server, so that people can watch the game from the outside, getting a play-by-play summary for example.

I saw some very cool things. One of the reasons I chose to work on the map generator was that unlike the main program, which took several hours to build fresh and 10 minutes to link (on a quad Xeon-600 with a gigabyte of RAM), the map generator was implemented originally by Activision as a COM object. Sam of Loki decided to take the next logical step when porting this code to Linux by making it a separately-linked set of shared libraries to be linked at runtime. Of course, Linux doesn't have any good COM implementations, certainly none which are readily-available and behave the same way as MSVC's, so what did he do? He basically reimplemented the most important functionality (QueryInterface, AddRef, and DelRef) in about 10 lines of C++, confirming my suspicions that without DCOM, COM is just a C++ refcount garbage collector.

The competition (or lack thereof) was basically the embodiment of open source. Twenty or so talented hackers teamed up to make sweeping improvements on someone else's code, without any real desire for glory or money. Most of the Slashdot naysayers were saying that Loki was obviously trying to take advantage of talented programmers by conning them into giving up quite a bit of labor for free. Well, Loki certainly didn't get it "for free," as they went out of their way to be as helpful and giving to the "competitors" as they could. They provided everything, short of travel; they even rented a hotel room that people could take turns crashing and showering in, and when the hotel-catered meals weren't enough, they happily went and got food for us as needed. And of course, the best thing that Loki did was deciding to do this to begin with. That and coming up with a very flexible NDA which only restricts our usage of the physical code for the next five years, which of course, we weren't allowed to leave with anyway.

I can't properly describe how incredible this competition was to anyone who wasn't there. Particularly I know I can't describe it to people who are driven by money and recognition, rather than the love of simply coding. Again, there was no feeling of competition there. Nor did there need to be. As bad as Activision's code was, it wasn't bad enough to stop people from simply having fun and doing very cool things. It surprised everyone there how productive they could be under the circumstances. It certainly surprised me.

Hopefully this experiment will be a positive lesson to Activision and other companies that opening the source can lead to wonderful consequences.

In any case, I would definitely like to thank the wonderful people at Loki Entertainment for enabling this to happen, especially Sam, who tried his best to help me whenever I was stuck on a piece of code, and Scott, who stroked everyone's ego in nice ways. I would like to thank the people I met there, especially Chris and Ryan, for being so cool to work with and knowing what this contest was really all about. I would definitely like to thank Activision, who made this possible to begin with; I look forward to seeing the results of this experiment, on every scale.

People who don't know any better sometimes think magenta's real name is Joshua Shagam.

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Neverwinter Nights on AOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608489)

While I played GemstoneIII at the time, I've heard tell from people who played NWN that is EXACTLY what happened with that game.

That certainly wasn't an open source game.

Loki What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608500)

What is Loki and who is Activision? Will this "new" hacked game be sold commercially and will the contributors receive royalties. Else, what's the use? I attended JavaOne and they had a games contest there, too--writing java games for programming Palm V. I suppose these code-a-game or modify-a-game contests are in vogue now.

I'm glad I hate playing games.

I have a few quick questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608501)

I guess these are mainly for the guys who were there:
1) who won:)? I noticed someone posting here claiming to be the runner-up, so they must have had a winner. Who was it and what did they implement?
2) Did they mention any similar plans for other games?
3) Did they ever say what qualifications they ended up focusing on from applicants? Was it game experience? General C++ skill? I need to know what to focus on for next time :)


Re:what about *you're* code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608509)

Point taken. I am using capital letters now. Still, you need to go back to some early english classes.

Also, the correct spelling is "capitalization" and not "captilization."

Re:Games and GPL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608510)

You could have servers linked together like an IRC network. There are lots of IRC servers, even though none of them make money. Many ISPs are willing to run servers for their users, if enough people ask for them. The ISP market is very competitive, and servers are a good way to attract customers.

Rules would probably have to be processed on the server side to prevent cheating, although a distributed approach may also work (ie. You could have clients checking for cheaters in their spare CPU cycles - this would be interesting, although harder to set up).

COM in 10 lines? C'mon, get real! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608520)

COM in 10 lines? C'mon, get real. Did you implement cross-thread interface marshaling support? Apartments? Proxies? Generic IDispatch and event firing so your objects can be scripted against? Support for out-of-process servers and interprocess method invokation? Well, if QI, Addref and Release is all you know about COM, good luck...

Re:This just shows how we are being exploited. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608521)

sure, $382 isnt "free", but it would only buy ~3 hours of a contract game programmer's time. Loki may have saved > $100,000 with this little exercise.

And who tested this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608522)

Yeah, right. And the new code has been fully tested, stressed, verified that it did not break any existing functionality, full test pass has been performed on all target OSes and hardware, etc, etc. It was just a hack. No matter what authors of the code say, it is *not* a *code* yet.

open != good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608531)

OK as everyone here knows but ignores, open source is not a magic bullet. It will not make code perfect or better or super-dooper. All it does is open up the slim chance for someone with absolutely nothing else to do with their time to fix your code for you. Some examples of bad open source (so you don't think I'm high or whatever) : perl-which is going to be entirely rewritten, and linux sound card installation (which requires a kernel recompilation for christ's sake!). Good programmers make good code.

Re:Sick of this attitude (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608532)

Now where does this "right to share it" come from, please. I consider "right" here a wee bit strong. If you do not like something do not use it, full stop. We are not talking about things like medical drugs here, something no-one really considers worth to make free for countries in need of, but "just" software.

At the end of the day there is not just right or wrong but quite a lot in between.

Cynnical bastard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608534)

That's me. I get suspicious whenever a company tries to do something "nice". Maybe it's because so many middle managers think they're Gingis Khan. I dunno, just a cynnical observation from a Cynnical Bastard. Probably been spelling cynnical wrong every time too I bet.

Re:echos of the gpl (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608536)

Gratz on proper use of a Subject on your message. Much more aesthetically pleasing than "...".

This just shows how we are being exploited. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608542)

Let's see:
1) Fly (at your own expense) down to Atlanta to help a commercial company make their products better.

2) You don't get paid.

3) The company does get paid.

Great system!

Don't work for the corporations for free!

Re:Cynnical bastard. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608543)

Yes, you have been. Only one 'n' required. You also spelt Genghis wrong. At least you were man enough to recognize your spelling inadequacies.

Re:Phewst Pewst (0)

Deitheres (98368) | about 15 years ago | (#1608545)

Christ Almighty... where did all these segfault assholes come from? Go back to yer nekkid and petrified

Child: Mommy, where do .sig files go when they die?
Mother: HELL! Straight to hell!
I've never been the same since.

Re:Games and GPL (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608546)

I seem to recall some kind of discussion about this on the alt.eq ng before the release. Or I could just be exeriencing some wierd deja vu. (I'm not sure, the memory is so completely hosed lately it' scary). Anyways, bear with me:

OSS could be applied to a MMRPG in parts. The engine and networking code should at least be finished to a playable state before being released. If the source is released too early, then creeping-featuritis may set in before the game is underway (eg. Mozilla). The game engine needs to be flexible enough to allow these mods and features to be added and easily distributed once the game has gone live, but a clamp-down should really be done to ensure a playable environment.

Once this is done, release the code, so as to take advantage of the benefits of OSS to get rid of as many bugs (with networking and security being the highest priority, call this the UO rule). Ideally, this would take place during the beta period, where new features could be implemented and added to the core. I don't think that the GPL may be the best license for code use in this instance, but another license may do the job.

After that, another code-lockdown would probably need to take place. The code is still available, but under close scrutiny by the main team for any modifications. Consider it functionally equivalent to the linux kernel hackers. It is going to have to get the thumbs up from these folks before any new code is added.

The design team is also going to need a strong vision for the direction for the game. Otherwise, you may see classes degenerate into the "tank-mage" syndrome of UO, or so many things will be added that the whole becomes an unrecognizable mess (I'm thinking things like dieties, classes, and the like). Maintaining the focus on the vision would probably be the hardest thing of all to accomplish.

Just some thoughts.


Re:This just shows how we are being exploited. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608548)

I for one did it because I wanted to see the source code and have fun with fellow hackers. After meeting the Loki people, I can assure you they are not devious villains trying to get free labor. That just wasn't what the event was about.

Re:Cynnical bastard. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608549)

Yes, you have been. Only one 'n' required. You also spelt Genghis wrong. At least you were man enough to recognize your spelling inadequacies.

What is this, attack of Conan the Freakin' Grammarian or something?

Re:If at first you don't succeed... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608550)

We didn't. We just had fun coding and added some cool features (for instance, I added AutoExplore for units, and fixed a very annoying mouse issue). I have a ton of respect for the people who originally coded this game, even though Activision apparently hasn't heard of a thing called "organization". -John R. Hall aka OverCode

Re:echos of the gpl (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608551)

I'll point out that the NDA was extremely relaxed, basically only forbidding a literal reproduction of the source code. It specifically ALLOWED discussion and use of ideas and concepts learned from the event. -John R. Hall

Re:restrictions (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608552)

I'm at a public terminal at the Atlanta Linux Showcase right now, so I can't really look at the actual NDA, but the restrictions are minimal. It's not a typical "tyrant corporation" NDA at all. I'm opposed to NDA's in general, but I didn't have a problem signing this one. -John R. Hall, yet again

An Interesting Quote (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1608553)

Here's something I came across while looking a Loki's account [] of the contest

"As if that weren't enough, Eric Raymond has dropped by! After meeting and greeting the hackers, Eric sat right down and started working on a Libertarian government option for CivCTP. It's an ambitious project, and we're really hoping he can finish in time. Fingers crossed!"

It'll be interesting to see that one.

Have itr Your Way (1)

On Lawn (1073) | about 15 years ago | (#1608567)

I think that the coolest part of the contest is the basic notion I feel is behind Open Source success. The ability to have a program work the way you want it to, and the strange anomolie that happens when you add that value to a product, other people like it too.

This contest featured people making Civ:CTP work more like they want it too. And for the most part the things they added would be things I think would be cool to have also. In this age of industial support and directions on what the fine open source programers have achieved, it is refreshing to remember the grass roots still between our toes.

Linux will always be the sandbox where I can make my dreams of computing happen. That is worth more to me ultimately than anything closed can offer. I'm glad to see that was the spirit of this contest, and that it is the product. Good to see the spirit of the Open Source movement still alive.

Just my two cents.
^~~^~^^~~^~^~^~^^~^^~^~^~~^^^~^^~~^~~~^~~^ ~

Re:Games and GPL (1)

Bryce (1842) | about 15 years ago | (#1608573)

This brings up an interesting chain of thought in my mind : could a game like EverQuest (a Massively Multiplayer Roleplaying Game) be developed by the OpenSource community, without people trying to take advantage of the fact that they could hack the rules of the game?

In fact, I just so happen to be working on exactly this. The WorldForge [] Project is developing a sophisticated client/server gaming system with ambitions to one day overtake games like Ultima Online and EverQuest. All code is GPL'd, all art, music, documentation, and world design is under the Open Content Public License.

If you're looking for a game to hack on, we're it. Come on by our website or pop into our irc channel: / #forge .

So, the next question is : is that a bad thing? I suppose that it is, under many circumstances, but I can imagine a game where part of the fun is to see how far you can hack the rules - within certain limits.

Yup, our intent is to produce not a _game_ but a game "system" - a complete game designed to be easily molded into other kinds of games. Or that you can just hack on to add a few new features.

Re:This is being done, and working code exists.... (1)

Bryce (1842) | about 15 years ago | (#1608574)

It's apparently (not com).

And feel free to come by our irc channel too: / #forge

If you'd like to join in, here's a "HOWTO": about/jointeam []

Re:I'm Still Skepticle (1)

onethumb (4479) | about 15 years ago | (#1608578)

Is there something really so wrong with a business trying to make money? Making money and supporting OSS aren't opposite ends of the spectrum, after all.

I'm just a bit confused as to why you're latching onto the fact that they're a business. Are any of the other business making money off of or through open-source efforts also just as evil?

This sounded like a wonderful event. Loki didn't create and doesn't own Civ:CTP, so a fully open-source situation isn't available to them. They're dealing with Activision (Another money-making company, but without OSS roots), so I'm really impressed by what they were able to accomplish. A decently large group of people had a great time hacking on the code, and you're upset because it was sponsored by a company rather than a non-profit group?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to flame you, I'm just trying to understand. I just don't get it when some /.ers get terribly upset when money is mentioned, as if it's necessarily detrimental to open-source.

I welcome private replies, but during an ISP switch yesterday, my DNS got hosed. No ETA for recovery yet, so here's an alternate address:

Re:I'm glad I read this... (1)

onethumb (4479) | about 15 years ago | (#1608579)

That's really an interesting viewpoint. I can see your reasoning, and it certainly applies in some cases.

However, there are a few examples which spring to mind immediately to which this doesn't apply. Quake is a great example, since much of id's revenue stems from their ability to license the code to developers like Ritual, Valve, ION Storm, etc. If the code was open-source, id loses that revenue stream.

While my game tastes and certainly that of the game-buying public are much more broad than just first-person shooters, I'm going to use it as an easy example. There are reasons why there aren't more high-quality first-person-shooters out there -- the code is certainly a big piece. The best FPS games have great creativity and design as well as good code. Many of the failures had some interesting and innovative ideas, but for one reason or another, couldn't succeed. And as often as not, that was due to the underlying technology not being fast enough or robust enough or whatever.

Also, the code itself obviously enables the developer to be creative. Without a good codebase to work from, developer's creativity is stifled. That's exactly why it's so appealing to license Quake and Unreal's technologies - they're proven, they work, and you can start getting creative immediately without having to create and test and tweak a new codebase. And perhaps more key, and why open-source isn't currently in use in the game industry, they have been proven in the commercial marketplace.

There are a few OSS rendering engines in developement, at least one of which is very full-featured, cross-platform, and seems to be coming along nicely. However, it hasn't been proven in a commercial product, and until it does, it's very hard to justify using it when the company's survival depends on it. The game industry is a very hit-or-miss industry, and a miss can tank a company.

Hence, game companies fall back on licensing a proven commercial engine or writing their own.

I don't think this will necessarily stay the case, but it is the reality now.

I welcome public or private replies, but due to an ISP switchover problem yesterday, my DNS is broken. Here's an alternate email:

Re:I have a few quick questions... (1)

luge (4808) | about 15 years ago | (#1608580)

Cool- Yeah, I guess when I said "won" I should have said "has a really fast new machine." Ok, so then two more questions:
1) How complete is the server-publishing hack? i.e., in how much detail can you study a public game? Can you see into cities? Scan the whole map? I've always wanted to watch computers play each other and this seems like it might be an interesting way to do that.
2) killer cows? Wow... I want to build some of those :)

Re:Attn: Mods (Offtopic) (1)

luge (4808) | about 15 years ago | (#1608581)

Post Anonymously is still right there on my screen... and it is not so anonymous as logging out, unfortunately- I had moderated several posts in this thread, and then thought of some harmless questions. So I posted them anonymously and *Bang* all the moderation goes up in smoke. Oh well...

Re:I have a few quick questions... (1)

luge (4808) | about 15 years ago | (#1608582)

Cool. Thanks for all the answers all over the place. BTW, I've always thought your sig was one of the coolest in all of /. Good luck with coding and your other endeavours...

Obviously fake. (1)

Mr Z (6791) | about 15 years ago | (#1608583)

Rather than Kool-Aid, they would've used cyanide-laced Penguin Mints and Jolt.


Shouldn't begrudge id their income (1)

SurfsUp (11523) | about 15 years ago | (#1608585)

I agree that id's main source of income is licensing the engines. I don't really agree with that as being a valid source of income. Really, when I buy a Quake-engine game I want to buy it for the game, not for the engine behind it. I bought Quake for the game, not the technology.

With Quake, the technology makes the game - there isn't the slightest doubt about it. As all Quake players know, it's all about frame rate, twitch response, and stunning graphics. Of course, the art in Quake, and all the games id ever did (cmdr keen anyone?) is stunning. But, as all quake players also know, game play is merely ok, sounds are of variable quality, music is slightly above average, story lines suck absolutely - in other words, most of the value is in the engine. Sounds like you'd like to take that away, and turn ID into just a level design company.

Perhaps I speak for many players when I say I buy id games for the engine, and everything else is secondary.

On the other hand, I agree completely with the idea that outside developers could really help with the quality of games, and why shouldn't there always be a phase of game development where outside developers are invited to participate?

better product quality

unexpected technology improvements

better relations with developer community

best chance in the world to recruit good developers

best chance in the world for aspiring game programmers to get in with the company they want


some code and algorithms might escape prematurely

competitors might find out too much about your new project

programmers already employed might suffer from bruised egos

Personally, I think the advantages are strong and the disadvantages are weak. Lets see who realizes it first.

Ok, I rambled

Hopefully... (1)

MaineCoon (12585) | about 15 years ago | (#1608587)

Hopefully we'll see more of this in the future... sounds like it was fun! I work solo with commercial projects on the level Magenta talks about, and wish I had nearly as much fun as it sounds like they did!

- Maine Coon

Corrected link: (1)

D3TH (15279) | about 15 years ago | (#1608589)

Better yet, you can go here [] . I promise to check my links next time!

I'm Still Skepticle (1)

Chip Stillmore (16985) | about 15 years ago | (#1608591)

Who knows? The story never mentioned anything about any testing (regression or functionality) being done. Since it takes hours to compile and link, I'd imagine that Loki/Activision will most likely have their own testers going over it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I too think this is great, but we have to exercise a little self-control here before we get too excited.

I'm sure Loki/Activision has several reasons for doing this. One reason that comes to my mind is that so they can take a look at some talent for future jobs (who knows?) Another is so they can take the ideas from the coders, and their code, and use them in future projects (without compensating the coders for their efforts.) Catered food, 1 hotel room to share, feeding egos?!? That's peanuts to them when they have the potential to make much, much more money (in the long term) from what these guys did.

What it all boils down to is this ... sure Loki has gained the respect of Linux users by porting games, but they are only doing it to make money ... that's the bottom line. They are a business, and like all business, they exist to earn profits. Sure they have statements on their website about supporting O.S.S., but to me that's just propoganda. Now, I'm not saying they are like Microsoft, but when you get right down to it, all companies act like Microsoft to some degree. You think they're going to tell the whole truth in their press releases, and their advertisements? No freaking way. They tell the public what they think they want to hear ... it's called Public Relations.

*sigh* I'm sorry, but the cynical side of me just keeps screaming, "If it's too good to be true, then it probably is!"

Re:Cynnical bastard. (1)

Praxxus (19048) | about 15 years ago | (#1608593)

Yup. You sure have! One too many n's.


Chicken Soup for the Hacker's Soul (1)

kmj9907 (20499) | about 15 years ago | (#1608599)

Thanks for the write-up! Most of those stupid Chicken Soup stories annoy me. This, though, I find to be quite heart-warming.

The only reason I keep my ms-dos partition is so I can mount it like the b*tch it is.

How neat! (1)

rmull (26174) | about 15 years ago | (#1608600)

I haven't heard anybody say this yet. From the article, this looks to be completely different that what I expected. It's like a lanparty... but for programming! I'm definately signing up for the next one, if it's at least a little closer. Jeez, can you think of anything cooler?

what about *you're* code? (1)

delmoi (26744) | about 15 years ago | (#1608601)

Are there any restrictions on the portions of the game that you wrote you'reself?
"Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"

Re:what about *you're* code? (1)

delmoi (26744) | about 15 years ago | (#1608602)

How about you get a life?
Next time try captilization.
"Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"

Hack the Game (1)

lightPhoenix (28084) | about 15 years ago | (#1608603)

This is so cool. But it tears me. On one half, I hear of a game, thats had things done with it that are totally badass. And could be more badass. But... On one half, its not GPL, not even that sun crap, its source code that very well may never be released. That sucks. I mean, he said that someone put hooks in there for playing tetris while another person takes thier turn. Damn, about fricking time. I've been waiting on that for years. But I'm thinking it could be better. I'd love to see *ICQ or GAIM hooks in there so I could take messages in game. BUT we won't see the source! The coolness of this project is being hled back by its license. C'mon Loki/Activision, can ya do better? ///jeff

Re:This is being done, and working code exists.... (1)

Mentat21 (36271) | about 15 years ago | (#1608607)

It's apparently [] (not com).

Re:Games and GPL (1)

Dreamweaver (36364) | about 15 years ago | (#1608608)

It might be able to work.. but i've got my doubts. While alot of people would probably add to the game in good ways, there are probably 10 times as many people who know enough to cheat and would.
Look at all the tons of people who wrote/used diablo trainers.. and that was without the source. The only working example of this sort of thing i can think of is a MUD.. if you know how to code and the people running the game think you're trustworthy you get a copy of the source to work with.. if you show yourself to be untrustworthy and cheat, you get banned etc. That wouldnt work with something like Everquest because there'd be way too many players wanting to code and too few people in charge.. not to mention that there'd be no real way to keep a person who has the source from continuing to cheat.


Re:what about *you're* code? (1)

paulm (37073) | about 15 years ago | (#1608609)

Just in case you don't know... an ' means a contraction. "You're" is a contraction of "You are". The word you want is "your".

But COME ON MAN! You'reself? That really should have clued you in.

restrictions (1)

RoLlEr_CoAsTeR (39353) | about 15 years ago | (#1608610)

I"m probably asking a redundant/silly question, but

what exactly are the restrictions that these coders face dealing with the code? And the next five years? and if it's just that they can't talk about it for the next five years, why only five years? Is that the amount of time they think it will take for Civ:CTP to have risen and fallen as a "hit" game?

On the overall level, I think this is great. I only wish I had the knowledge, experience, and good fortune to be able to participate in something like that as well!

Twilight Zone (1)

Symbiosis (39537) | about 15 years ago | (#1608611)

MS commissions a small band of hackers to attack Win2K code...

Clean, stable release of released, US productivity rises 200%...

Microsoft homepage and ordering sites Slashdotted...

A small cult in easter Wyoming, known only as Penguin's Cult, commits mass suicide. 400 geeks found floating in giant bowls of cyanide-laced kool-aid. The suicide reportedly coincides with the 2000th day of uptime for their massive Linux cluster which spans the compound...

Baroque: when you are out of Monet and don't have DeGauss to make the Van Gogh

Re:Games and GPL (1)

kaphka (50736) | about 15 years ago | (#1608613)

This brings up an interesting chain of thought in my mind : could a game like EverQuest (a Massively Multiplayer Roleplaying Game) be developed by the OpenSource community, without people trying to take advantage of the fact that they could hack the rules of the game?
On the face of it, I don't see why you couldn't just define the interface between your client and server in such a way as to prevent any deviation from the rules. If there is no me.make_invincible() message in the interface, then no amount of hacking the client can make it happen.

In practice, this doesn't seem to be the way that it works... EverQuest in particular seems to do a lot of rule-processing on the client side, to reduce lag, although most of it is double-checked by the server once the network catches up.

However, there's a bigger reason why massively multiplayer games won't be open source: Who pays for the servers? Sure, you could set up a company and charge subscription fees to access your server, even though the software is open. But so could I, and so could everyone else. Competition is nice, but it kind of defeats the purpose of a MMO game if it's hosted on 1000 different servers, each with ten people online at a time.

If at first you don't succeed... (1)

cdlu (65838) | about 15 years ago | (#1608620)

...get a better hacker. :)

I'm curious - how come a score of oss hackers can make massive improvements to extensive code in 48 hours where their own coders couldn't?

Haw haw ha, spew coffee, hack cough... (1)

BlackHat (67036) | about 15 years ago | (#1608624)

so what did he do? He basically reimplemented the most important functionality (QueryInterface, AddRef, and DelRef) in about 10 lines of C++, confirming my suspicions that without DCOM, COM is just a C++ refcount garbage collector.

Shhhhh now every one will know the truth [/:-)

Re:An Interesting Quote (1)

dbrutus (71639) | about 15 years ago | (#1608629)

Actually, a more realistic libertarian modification would be for all the science/economic stats of the Fascist/Communist to be quickly drained and transferred over to the libertarian society. Those wonderful open borders, you know.

If that doesn't cause immediate declarations of war, I don't know what will.


coopertion isn't much of anything (1)

LocalYokel (85558) | about 15 years ago | (#1608630)

" from the coopertion-not-competition dept "
Coopertion sure isn't competition, but it ain't cooperation , either...

from the tyop-not-typo dept...

Re:This just shows how we are being exploited. (1)

Col. Panic (90528) | about 15 years ago | (#1608636)

So you both are right - it wasn't working for free and Activision got a hell of a bargain - pretty smart on Acti's part, eh?

The point is that all gained from the experience and the programmers had a helluva lota fun, which was compensation enough for them -- this time.

This was done a while back (1)

mcrandello (90837) | about 15 years ago | (#1608637)

While not the most bleeding edge form of entertainment out there,they still thrive online due to CS students everywhere. The premise is about the same here, only I'm not certain exactly what license it falls under (there is a lot of gaurded, horded code due to the competition between muds.) Of course there is a fair share of people who will take advantage of any openness of the code, however as you say, it's all part of the fun.
rschaar{at} if it's important.

Re:I'm glad I read this... (1)

RattFink (93631) | about 15 years ago | (#1608638)

The really strange thing is I find with games in general and paticularly 3D action type games, is the virtual invisablilty of the code. Most of the game is art (3D models, maps, movies, textures, etc.) and really what users rate the game on. it is what the user interacts with and interacts with the users. Replaceing all the art in a game such as quake could easily make it look like a totally different game. I am not saying that developers are not important in games, but rather open-sourceing of a game code (no need to open source the art) does not in any way mean that you lose a competitive edge in a gameing market. OSS in gameing is an advantage to developers, not only does the licence help improve the game over time, but also improves the open line of thought between companies. Which is benificial to all (and what you seem to agree with me on).

Re:If at first you don't succeed... (1)

ParadoXIII (94293) | about 15 years ago | (#1608639)

Because you need a new perspective to do stuff like that. I'm sure that if the hackers wrote the code, the coders could improve it too (assuming equal skills, but I'm not sure about that). Maybe the hackers are just better at what they do.

Re:Interesting query.. (1)

Crixus (97721) | about 15 years ago | (#1608643)

"and since games are only for play, it's not quite the same as pushing along "the corporate machine". Now, if a bunch of hackers were invited to Redmond to get all the wrinkles out of Windows 2000 and were offered a neat new computer to the one who did the best work (and lots of notable individuals actually accepted!) then you'd have much more cause for that bad taste in your mouth."

I haven't thought about this for more than a moment, but I don't necessarily buy that argument.

Loki IS a corporation and they are in the business of making money, just like any corporation, regardless of size. I might even argue that helping the Redmond folks iron wrinkles out of the Windows 2000 code would be a good thing. At least that would be helping IT professionals at companies all around the world have more secure networks and more reliability in the OS that they run on most of their machines (even though at the same time that might hurt linux).

All you're doing by helping Loki improve their code is improving a GAME, and in my opinions games offer little value other than as diversions. (although they have offered interesting challenges to programmers and have accelerated [no pun] additions like MMX and 3DNow extensions in CPU's coming to markets).

That does not mean however that I would actually be in favor of helping the Redmond folks fix bugs in W2K for free. Because I would not.

Any multi-million (or billion) dollar corporation can afford to pay programmers what they're worth, and should. (They should also pay their fair share of taxes, but that's another matter entirely).

Am I in favor of Loki getting lots of (virtually) free help on their code? Probably not. They stand to make a lot of money with this game, and can certainly afford to pay more for the help they received than buying a few lunches and one hotel room for 30 people. These things are trivial.

But at the same time these hackers live in a relatively free society and are free to do with their programming skills what they want. As long as they don't feel cheated and had a good time I am content.

Just don't expect to get any free consulting out of me unless you genuinaly can't afford it! :-)

I am completely in favor of donating (my) services and help to people less fortunate than me, and would encourage anyone to do so.

Re:Attn: Mods (Offtopic) (1)

magicpaul (98982) | about 15 years ago | (#1608644)

There should be an extra off-topic/lamer point system. Every moderator should have unlimited o-points to apply to posts such as the above. But the o-point counts as only 1/10th of a regular -1 point. Thus when ten moderators have said, this particular post is decisively bad, then that post will be moderated to -1 without wasting regular moderation points.

Just a thought.

(ps-it appears that post-anonymously has been discontinued)

A new way to beta test? (1)

Hendersa (103381) | about 15 years ago | (#1608649)

Loki Hack has made an example of the improvements that can be found by releasing code as open-source. Large software shops aren't just going to turn over their code bases to the masses, so what's a good middle-ground?


A software company has their typical beta testing list of folks who use a piece of software over and over to try to ferret out any defects in the program's logic and functionality. Perhaps by picking a small subset of the beta-test group and supplying them with the code, you'll result in a nice hybrid between open-source and locked-down-source.

The "beta-coders" could evaluate software for bugs, then offer suggestions to fix those problems by examining the code and attaching the beta program to a debugger. Also, extra features could be suggested (as well as suggestions on how to implement those features).

Perhaps Loki just hinted at the future of the beta-testing environment: 20 game players with good coding and troubleshooting skills go on the rampage for 48 hours to produce a better project.

Beats the hell out of filling out beta-test reports and mailing them in ;>

Re:Games and GPL (2)

Patrik Nordebo (170) | about 15 years ago | (#1608651)

It is quite simple to keep people from cheating. Well, to a limited degree, anyway. Do it the MUD way - all processing is done on the server, the client only sends commands and displays the information it receives. It would be quite easy to see to it that this is mostly free from possibilities for abuse. This puts quite a heavy strain on the server, though, especially if you want to use 3D graphics (the server must do much of the calculations needed to determine who can see what, for instance, or seeing through walls becomes easy), and it might also increase latency.

Re:Sick of this attitude (2)

Sinner (3398) | about 15 years ago | (#1608655)

A programmer who, by the sweat of his or her brow, produces a piece of software, owns that fruits of that labor. It belongs to them. End of story.

You're missing the point here. Does being the author of a program give you a right to restrict other people's right to share it? Conventional copyright law says yes. RMS says no. You need to distance yourself somewhat from the current legal framework to see the strength of RMS' arguments. A read through the GNU website [] is always worthwhile. Note the emphasis on the rights of the user, not the programmer. This is what Stallman cares about. You may not agree, but you can at least take the time to understand.

Re:An Interesting Quote (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608659)

(Note: at the risk of now having my three different identities tacked together, I'll state that I'm the one who wrote the article, though I had asked Roblimo to use my real name throughout the post...)

ESR was unable and unprepared to do any of that hack. It wasn't due to his level of skill, but due to the fact that he spent probably a total of 4 hours in the hack room. :) Instead, he ended up just fine-tuning the existing civilizations, specifically fixing various inaccuracies in the real civs' city names. There was a nice while where we were having an impromptu capitol city quiz while he was trying to get as many real cities in the database as possible. :)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:I'm glad I read this... (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608660)

(at the risk of having my various identities all exposed in tandem, I'm the person who wrote the article.)

This is exactly what I was thinking after the contest, and exactly what I was chatting about most with Scott and other various Loki folks... basically, a game's sourcecode should be free, while the content can be commercial. I have no problem with paying for the package of the binaries and the game data, but if I could fix the problems in Quake 2, for example, I would. Someone who pays $50 for a RedHat or Debian box pays mostly for the manual and tech support, not for the media it comes on. Similarly, I think a game's content is the part which is really the creative aspect which requires protection; these days, most games would be so much better if they could just build on other peoples' engines, rather than having to reinvent the wheel constantly. That is, of course, the whole ideal behind opensource software. If the source is open, everyone benefits, but if it's closed, very few people do.

Maybe I'm just a pinko leftwing communist hippie at heart, but I believe that opensource is the way to go in almost every situation. (Granted, there are many cases where the ideal breaks down, such as the case of console gaming where the hardware is sold well below cost and the manufacturer makes up for it in licensing the development kits and publication.)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:Obviously fake. (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608661)

Oh, were you at the contest too? ;)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

About my code (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608662)

Well, since we weren't allowed to take any of the code out of the room, we'd have to recode it anyway, making it a moot point. As far as the algorithms/concepts/ideas used in building that code, no, Activision doesn't own any of that either. Technically, Loki and the various hackers own the modifications to the code, but since the code is mostly derived from Activision's code, we're not allowed to release any of that. (One of the programs which I hacked up was for converting PPMs to CTP's proprietary internal image format so that I could add in my civ's diplomat image, and that was completely Loki's code, but it does no good outside of the proprietary context.)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:My underwear is showing (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608663)

(Pascal Q. Porcupine == Magenta Hari Nezumi == Joshua Shagam, as I've pointed out in each of my various posts so far. I'll point it out again. :)

Yeah, it was mostly header parsing and linking which took the long bits of time. The whole contest, people were whining about gcc's lack of incremental linking or compiled headers. :) It's the one point everyone could agree on where MSVC was actually better than gcc/egcs.

So, I take it you're one of the original Activision programmers? :)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:I have a few quick questions... (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608664)

1. I don't know, I never actually saw the hack in action. From what I understand, basically it just writes stuff out to a file as it happens, so you'd need to write some CGI frontend to parse it or whatever. I believe that the hack only publishes turns as they're made, which means that yeah, all that information would be exposed. I think Ryan was assuming that it'd be up to monitoring servers to filter out all the juicy bits. Though granted, even publishing moves at all does expose quite a bit of what's going on, and this just gets back to the honor system. Unfortunately, there's seldom honor among thieves these days, as it were. :/

2. Who doesn't? :)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:I'm glad I read this... (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608665)

I agree that id's main source of income is licensing the engines. I don't really agree with that as being a valid source of income. Really, when I buy a Quake-engine game I want to buy it for the game, not for the engine behind it. I bought Quake for the game, not the technology. I haven't bought Quake2 because I don't like the game. Quake3 I might buy because deathmatch is fun, but Unreal Tournament looks like it's going to handle it better. If id didn't have the code-licensing revenue stream, they'd have to actually make a compelling game again, like they did back in the Commander Keen and Wolf3D days.

I imagine you're referring to Crystal Space regarding the full-featured rendering engine. I have some issues with that particular engine, but it can't prove itself in a commercial setting until it's had a commercial setting to be proven in, and there's a few games which are being written using it but, of course, haven't hit the shelves yet. Notice how lots of people are already waiting to pay their $50 for Quake3 and it's not even done yet? It's further along than any CrystalSpace-based game is.

Writing a decent rendering engine really isn't that hard. Portal engines can be downright easy, especially when done in OpenGL by a competent programmer. (Hint: render the camera-containing room and the objects in it, use the feedback mode to render the portal surfaces, and then recursively render the visible portal surfaces. Not That Hard.) The only real purpose I can see for licensing someone else's engine is for a software renderer, and in that case, you can use something like, say, Project Spandex [] as your rendering backend and use the exact same engine that you use with OpenGL. Again, Not That Hard.

Having the code for a licensed engine available does enable the developer to be creative. Having the code for an opensource engine available also enables the developer to be creative, except then the developer doesn't have to shell out millions of bucks in licensing fees and so they can be creative with even more higher-quality artists which they can now afford to hire.

"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:How neat! (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608666)

Yeah, that's basically how you could describe it. A coding lanparty. It was nothing but a lot of fun and cooperation. I probably spent more time helping other people than working on my own stuff.
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:Loki What? (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608667)

Aside from your obvious sarcasm, I'll still respond anyway.

The hacked version of the game will be available as various unsupported patches downloadable from Loki's site. Some of the hacks might be incorporated into the main game (and I know that my replacement splashscreen most likely will be). Loki will also try to assemble what Scott likes to call (in his somewhat Californian speak) a "Mondo Hack," which is as many thrown together in a single binary as possible. Hopefully most of them should work together, if not in interesting ways. :) Future plans for the hacks are unsure. Future plans for some of the presently-unemployed hackers (such as myself) should be very interesting. :)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:ESR (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608674)

Eh? What profile? Regardless... in person, he's a neat guy. I wish he'd drop this whole infantile vendetta against Bruce Perens, but aside from being outspoken and sticking to his convictions, he's not a bad person. Certainly not twit-ish at all. He didn't act or care to act as an important celebrity-type person. He even went out of his way to let me use his notebook when I desparately needed to access my email for some important information which I'd accidentally left at home. I'd hardly call that behavior that of 'a twit.'
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:Umm...err...uhh... (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608675)

We showed them that they could put their trust into us. We showed them that opensource development can work, even on incredibly broken source. Maybe it helps that Civ:CTP is fun to hack on. But it also will hopefully show them that their closed-source methodologies only work when their programmers don't hate what they're doing. (One of the hidden veiled comments in the source basically boiled down to the game designer stating that he didn't like strategy games. Doesn't exactly sound like a good match, that.)

Just the potential for opensourcing from Activision isn't the whole of what made it fun, though. Did you try reading the article? It was fun to get together with 20 other people and hack, for the sheer joy of hacking. It's the embodiment of opensource in that. We weren't doing it for prizes or for money or for glory but for the sheer sake of having fun and hacking. We weren't out to destroy anyone or pretend to be uberleet or any of the things that motivate wannabes. We weren't trying to be different, or better. We were simply having fun doing something that we found to be fun.

What I did was sit down with a number of people and did some incredibly cool hacks to a non-free, closed-source program.

Isn't that exciting on its own merit?
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:Chicken Soup for the Hacker's Soul (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608676)

Well, then, I'm glad Roblimo convinced me to write it. Heh. :) (Yeah, these kinds of articles normally annoy me too. I was afraid of writing Yet Another Fluff Piece. Glad it didn't seem to come out that way.)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:Dangers of closed source (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608677)

Well, I wasn't hoping to convey that we got better code, just more of it, and that it was cooler. :) Many of the hacks which happened were quite befitting of the state of the original code, and looked like, well, the original release of Mozilla, put into a blender on frappé, shoved into a toaster oven and let to sit on medium heat for a few days, and then microwaved. Nobody did anything like even attempt to poke at restructuring any of the existing code to make it better. Most of the code was tacked onto the original code; even my hack (the quasi-multifractal landscape generator) was horribly hacked in. There were lots of things I would have liked to have done better with it, but I didn't have the time or energy (hey, YOU try being altruistic when you're operating on 2 hours of sleep for the last 3 days - no, I didn't get any sleep on Sunday night before the contest). I wouldn't want to even imply that getting better code is a primary reason for open source. Just more fun code. :) Of course, for a longer time period, it could easily become better/cleaner/etc. code.
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:I was invited as well... (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608678)

Yeah, that was an issue for me as well, but fortunately I live close enough to Atlanta that I got a round-trip ticket for $188.50, and also reserved a hotel room which was within walking distance of the convention center for $70/night (and I managed to end up splitting that with someone else at the last minute anyway), and I only needed the room for 3 days (I just took advantage of Loki's generous rental of a room for the one time that I just *had* to crash on a bed and take a shower). Most of my food was provided for me by Loki and/or various ALS folks. So, my total trip cost was something on the order of $300. Not bad, all in all. Though yeah, missing class would really suck.

Scott openly expressed regret at being so last-minute with everything, and he will definitely try to make any future such competitions much better in that regard.
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:This just shows how we are being exploited. (2)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608679)

Speaking of which, Scott was very relieved to hear that you made it home safely. He was quite worried that the penguin mints wouldn't be enough to keep you awake for the whole drive.
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

So there are plans for future competitions? (2)

luge (4808) | about 15 years ago | (#1608683)

That would be cool- I'd love to see Civ:CTP continue to evolve into the game it could have been, or see what people will think of for MythII. More power to Loki for trying hard to be creative within the bounds of their Activision contracts.

This is being done, and working code exists...... (2)

D3TH (15279) | about 15 years ago | (#1608687)

This project was originally titled Altima, for alternative-to-Ultima. I have been following the mailing lists for most of a year since it started, and it is amazing the level of work that is being accomplished. They have not only code, but artwork, music, and other media that are all being licensed either under the GPL (the code) or related licenses (for the other media). Any of you who have interest in this type of thing can go see them at Worldforge [] . You will be impressed.

Re:echos of the gpl (2)

D3TH (15279) | about 15 years ago | (#1608688)

If I read this article correctly, the only restriction given was the actual _use of code_. There was no restriction mentioned regarding disclosure or discussion that I could see. All in all, it seems to be a great oppourtunity for open source, (as a potent example of the power that can be brought to bear, even under restricted circumstances, by opening the source)and I think it would be foolish to codemn in any way this type of activity by a company (Loki) that has a solid track record of releasing the source to things they develop themselves. (such as the motion JPEG library and installer)If nothing else, it seems like they are just trying to help others see the value in of open source.

Wow! (2)

drdestructo (44777) | about 15 years ago | (#1608690)

Somehow I missed this being announced on Slashdot. It amazes me that this would even happen. It is such a good idea. It is very utopian. I can see this as the way of developing code in the future. I can see inviting 20 people to polish off some code over the weekend. Of corse, I can also see springing for the airfare and giving each hacker a check too. That is, if it was a comercial release. I love the idea. Anyone up for hanging out in San Diego Holloween weekend?

loki could have been more generous (2)

stewart.hector (87816) | about 15 years ago | (#1608692)

OK, Loki may have paid for food, but food is a minor expense. What are loki getting from the people involved in the contest? How much money are they going to make from this - improved game now? Lots.

Therefore, there was no reason why loki should not have paid for more expenses such as hotel bills. Providing a single room, thats a bit tight fisted. Paying for travel, would have been really generous.

The total costs of expenses would be minimal compared to the amount they are going to make out of this game.

Re:This just shows how we are being exploited. (2)

Hendersa (103381) | about 15 years ago | (#1608695)

Hmmm... let me add this up:

1. Drove from Daytona Beach, FL to Atlanta and back: Three tanks of gas @ $15.00 per tank.

2. Used the single hotel room reserved by Loki: Free.

3. Ate meals provided by Loki: seven meals @ about $6.00 per meal (certainly more than that, being from a hotel).

4. All the snacks and soda you could pack down: $15 (being VERY conservative).

5. Two free T-shirts: $25.

6. Three day pass for ALS: $300.

Total money spent: $45.00
Total value gained: $382.00

Not even counting the free software and prizes given to the contestants, I would hardly say we were working for "free". Besides, most of the practical knowledge gained from the event goes a bit towards increasing your earnings potential, now doesn't it?

Andrew Henderson
Runner-Up, Loki Hack '99

Re:An Interesting Quote (3)

On Lawn (1073) | about 15 years ago | (#1608696)

Actually in my opinion this was the biggest waist. It could have been a good idea, but instead I think it just shows some of ESR's misguided beliefs. From this Loki [] source the libertarian government he envisioned was...

Libertarian goverrnments will not be able to move military units outside of their home territory, but will receive large science and production bonuses. Once a libertarian government is chosen, all fascist and communist civilizations will immediately declare war on it.

What kind of cinderella notion of Libertarianism does that represent? I'm a libertarian, and it seems to me that the main cost of libertarianism is more civil unrest, and less population growth, and much less production and wealth. Unless the populace is very educated. Think of all the drug addicts, and other things this society would have since it didn't consider anything as evil if it only harmed the person doing it (as proliferated in the current Libertarian platform).

If anything the Ecotarian "back to the earth" society is already a pretty much a good embodyment of Libertarianism of that order(IMHO). But it could be extended...

If one wanted to grant the benifits ESR suggested they should be more costly. It should require the same happiness level as a democracy (if not more), but require even more education to maintain a productive society. Potential rebellion would be greater also.

And definately, I don't think that communist and fascist governments really care about a libertarian order next door. It would be much easier to conquer a country where no one had to join the military anyway. In fact they tend to come in and fill a vacuum left by the lack of leadership from a week government. Remember the Articles if Confederation?

(Btw, not to sound like I'm haranging my party. I am Libertarian because I believe a government is a collaberation inside a society built to preserve the liberties of those in that society. And that less is more when it comes to government on average. Not becuase of unrealistic beliefs that if the government removes its laws and consequences then we can truely be free and without law.)

And kudos to those who did enter, on the most part I really liked hearing about the cool things they did with the code.

Loki's own staff would die before they did this (3)

heroine (1220) | about 15 years ago | (#1608697)

Well no programmer of Loki's ever wrote 100,000 lines of code that they couldn't leave the showroom with and got hired by Loki. Maybe the learning experience is enough for the first 2 years of a hacker's life but eventually you want to expand your goals to not just learning but producing something you can use after you're done coding it.

You have to start looking at costs and benefits of doing these things more and more and coding just for the experience less and less. Loki's programmers all have degrees in CS and very high grades, and whatever open source projects they did in the past were a tiny blip when they got hired. So as your student loans default one by one you're going to need to think more and more about where you put your volunteering.

Re:echos of the gpl (3)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608699)

That is correct. (I'm the author of the article. Roblimo mismatched the pronouns and name for the context. Oh well.) We're only restricted to using/distributing the physical code for the next five years. Since we weren't allowed to make any printouts or otherwise get any code out of the room in the first place, this is a moot point. The NDA specifically allowed for usage of what we remembered. The NDA was basically a giant loophole which was only in place to keep Activision's lawyers happy. Loki flaunted this fact. :)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:I have a few quick questions... (3)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608700)

Basically, everyone won. The judges could only decide the five best in order (I was number five). After that they declared a formal tie. The only one with any designation (that is, getting a neat dual-processor workstation rather than some piece of hardware of the winner's choice) was Christopher Yeau (not sure about the spelling), who found and reactivated a lot of features which Activision took out for some reason, including being able to spy (in detail) on a city, various units (including killer cows), and a lot of other stuff. It didn't involve much code, but the point to the contest was to improve gameplay as much as possible, and I don't think anyone else was willing to touch Activision's disabled code with a 10-foot pole. (There must be a reason they took it out to begin with, right? :)

As far as other places, the only other one I can remember is Ryan Gordon who came in second for doing the aforementioned server-publishing hack.

BTW, I wrote this article a couple hours before winners were announced. (Roblimo put me on a pretty tight schedule. :) My attitude was unchanged after the award ceremony, except that I was disappointed that I didn't win the machine. :)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

Re:Umm, I have another one for you guys :-) (3)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608701)

We joked about that quite a bit during the contest. :)

I can't speak for everyone, but I'm still recovering from that first 48. :)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

The NDA that we're under (3)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608702)

Went through my email, and found this 'beta' version of the NDA. It's virtually unchanged since then. (Note that by code they mean physical code, not concepts and algorithms.)


This Nondisclosure Agreement ("Agreement") confirms an agreement between
Loki Entertainment Software (the "Company") and _________________________
(the "Receiving Party"). In consideration of the Receiving Partys
participation in the Loki Hack 99 programming contest (the "Contest")
and any access of the Receiving Party to Proprietary Information of the
Company and its licensors, the Receiving Party hereby agrees as follows:

1. The "Receiving Party" understands that the Company has disclosed or
may disclose information relating to the game Civilization: Call to Power
(including, without limitation, drawings, designs, specifications, data,
manuals, know-how, formulas, computer software, source code, algorithms,
data structures, scripts, application programming interfaces, protocols,
processes, ideas, inventions (whether patentable or not), schematics and
other technical information), which to the extent previously, presently,
or subsequently disclosed to the Receiving Party is hereinafter referred
to as "Proprietary Information."

2. The Receiving Party agrees (i) to hold Proprietary Information in
strict confidence and to take all reasonable precautions to protect such
Proprietary Information (including, without limitation, all precautions
the Receiving Party employs with respect to its most confidential
materials), (ii) not to divulge any such Proprietary Informa-tion or any
information derived therefrom to any third party who is not a registered
participant in the Contest, (iii) not to make any use whatsoever at any
time of such Proprietary Information except as necessary to participate
in the Contest and (v) not to copy or remove from the Contest location
any such Proprietary Information. Without granting any right or license,
the Company agrees that the foregoing shall not apply with respect to any
information five (5) years following the disclosure thereof or any
information that the Receiving Party can document (i) is or becomes
(through no improper action or inaction of the Receiving Party) generally
known by the public, or (ii) was in its possession or known by it without
restriction prior to receipt from the Company or (iii) was rightfully
disclosed to it by a third party without restriction, or (iv) was
independently developed without use of or reference to any Proprietary
Information. Without granting any license to any copyright or patent
rights, nothing in this Agreement shall restrict the Receiving Partys
use or disclosure of such Proprietary Information may be retained in
intangible form in the Receiving Partys mind after the conclusion of the

3. Immediately upon the conclusion of the Contest at 3:00 p.m. E.S.T on
October 13, 1999, the Receiving Party will turn over to the Company all
manifestations of Proprietary Information of the Company and all
documents or media containing any such Proprietary Information and any
and all copies or extracts thereof. The Receiving Party acknowledges and
agrees that it may not remove at any time any Proprietary Information
from the controlled facility where the Contest takes place.

4. The Receiving Party acknowledges that its participation in the Contest
is solely for the purpose of creating a modification, addition or other
alteration to the game Civilization: Call to Power (the "Hack") and
agrees to assign and hereby does assign to the Company all of the
Receiving Partys right, title and interest in and to the Hack and all
trade secrets, copyrights, patent rights, trademark rights and other
intellectual and proprietary rights therein. The Company agrees to
release the Hack in binary form for free download on the Internet;
provided, however that nothing herein shall require the Company to
release any (i) defamatory, libelous or obscene material, (ii) materials
which compromise the anti-cheating facilities of the game Civilization:
Call to Power, (iii) material which infringes any trade secrets,
copyrights, patent rights, trademark rights or other intellectual and
proprietary rights, or (iv) any Proprietary Information.

5. This Agreement applies only to disclosures made during the course of
the Contest. The Receiving Party acknowledges and agrees that due to the
unique nature of the Proprietary Information, there can be no adequate
remedy at law for any breach of its obligations hereunder, which breach
may result in irreparable harm to the Company, and therefore, that upon
any such breach or any threat thereof, the Company shall be entitled to
appropriate equitable relief including, without limitation, injunctive
relief (without the requirement of posting any bond) in addition to
whatever remedies it might have at law. The Receiving Party shall not
export, re-export or remove from the U.S. any Proprietary Information or
direct product thereof in violation of any U.S. or foreign law,
regulation or other order; this obligation shall survive termination of
this Agreement. In the event that any of the provisions of this Agreement
shall be held by a court or other tribunal of competent jurisdiction to
be illegal, invalid or unenforceable, such provisions shall be limited or
eliminated to the minimum extent necessary so that this Agreement shall
otherwise remain in full force and effect. This Agreement shall be
governed by the law of the State of California without regard to the
conflicts of law provisions thereof. Notices hereunder will be effective
only if in writing and upon receipt or three (3) days after deposit in
the U.S. mail, first-class postage prepaid. The prevailing party in any
action to enforce this Agreement shall be entitled to costs and
attorneys' fees. No waiver or modification of this Agreement will be
binding upon either party unless made in writing and signed by a duly
authorized representative of such party and no failure or delay in
enforcing any right will be deemed a waiver. This Agreement supersedes
all prior discussions and writings and constitutes the entire agreement
between the parties with respect to the subject matter hereof.

"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

echos of the gpl (3)

Signal 11 (7608) | about 15 years ago | (#1608703)

I have mixed feelings about this review. On one hand any chance to meet talented fellow hackers is a Good Thing.. even if you can't talk about what you did for 5 years. And even if the code they sat down to write that fine afternoon is never used.. the experience and contact(s) gained may likely spill over into a joint-effort between the two at some future date. Maybe even a free software release. But on the other I keep hearing echos of the gpl in my ear telling me that it's a moral imperative to not support proprietary software.. and a waste of one's effort to do so anyway.

I guess my unanswered question is - should you have fun even if the people you associate with would disapprove of it? For me, the answer would normally be yes. But the moral dilemma found with the free software / open source philosophies leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.


Umm, I have another one for you guys :-) (3)

robinjo (15698) | about 15 years ago | (#1608705)

Wow, you guys really did some cool work in only 48 hours. Could I ask for another 48 hours with the source code [] of Freeciv [] ?

I'm drooling when I'm thinking what such a talented bunch of coders could do to my favourite game. :-)

Dangers of closed source (3)

rde (17364) | about 15 years ago | (#1608706)

This elegant essay may well ended up being cited widely as one of the primary reasons for open source code; you get better code. This is a fact everyone reading this is aware of, but there's a much, much wider audience out there that equates open source with free beer. What's needed to convice these people is, well, this.
There've probably been a whole bunch of projects that benefitted significantly from opening their source, but this is an excellent real-world example that should be enshrined in history.
Here's hoping, though, that no Activision PHBs look at this as evidence that opening the source -- even temporarily -- invites pillory as well as improvement.

Re:echos of the gpl (3)

rde (17364) | about 15 years ago | (#1608707)

it's a moral imperative to not support proprietary software.. and a waste of one's effort to do so anyway
Whatever about your feelings about proprietary software -- and in general I agree -- the claim that sitting down with the source for a game like CTP for a day is fallacious in the extreme. Hac gratia hactis is the rationale for many; but this is far from the only reason.
Activision may have gone into this for the publicity, but if they see how a game can be improved so dramatically in one day by a [collective term for] open sourcers, then they may reconsider their position, however slightly.
If you're going to win the hearts and minds of proprietary software CFOs, you've got to do it by example, not by pious posturing. And however much you point at software like Apache, the message won't be driven home until they see a demonstrable effect on their own products. That's what they saw here.

It is a shame you missed the point (3)

Hendersa (103381) | about 15 years ago | (#1608708)

When I signed up for Loki Hack, I figured I had no chance in hell of being selected to go. Something like this, it seems, would be seen as just an opportunity for programmers to gain visibility, allow Loki and Activision some free advertising, and give CivCTP a boost in sales ("Free mods done by real open source programmers!"). I found out that this was quite far from the truth when I was selected to go.

The first few hours of the competition were spent scanning the 500,000+ lines of C++ of CivCTP, with little said between the contestants. Then we all began talking to each other to see if someone had seen some object or another anywhere during their travels through the code base. Before you knew it, it wasn't a competition any more. It was a big knowledge swap meet.

Why did we all sign up? I don't know. My personal reasons were a chance to check out the structure of a commercial game and also to get a chance to meet the other folks who had more experience than me. I only really wanted to learn more about game programming. After all, I think just about every coder has the deep-down desire to create games, right?

Perhaps Loki gained some free advertising from the event. I can tell you from being there that extra press was a necessary side-effect. The Loki staff were more interested in talking to the contestants. Was this for the screening of potential Loki coders? Perhaps. Was it for learning more about different areas of code development we weren't that familiar with. Most certainly. If you even made mention of some topic of programming or of a particular library that others weren't familiar with, you suddently found that you had an audience of 5-10 people, hanging-off your every word and wanting to learn more.

Just about everyone there was an expert in some area. Just a quick glance showed people that were very high in the food chain in many open source projects: Clanlib, GGI, GCC, and many others. Were they there to get more their names plastered all over press releases? They didn't need it. They were already well-known within the Linux community.

I had the opportunity to talk to several other of the programmers there, as well as with Loki's staff. It wasn't the lure of job offers or being mentioned on Slashdot ( ;> ) that drives these folks. Its the idea that more than one viewpoint produces a better final result. Which, last I checked, was one of the big reasons for open source in the first place.

While it was true that testing of our hacked code wasn't very robust, it wasn't meant to be. Loki and Activision aren't going to just scoop up our code, merge it together, and then repackage it to sell another million copies. Some features that we developed may be taken under consideration by Activision for a later Civ release, but it would be the concepts that we created, not our code.

I'm afraid that people have gotten the notion in their heads that this whole event was a chance for Loki to grab the spotlight, Activision to make some money, and a few hackers to be abused by some corporate machine. Far from the truth. It was a chance for Loki to use their leverage to let the open source movement to gain some steam and for some talented folks to show Activision that open source works. The result was a resounding success.

... and I think I learned more about "real-life" coding in 48 hours than I did in four years of college ;>

Andrew Henderson
Runner-Up, Loki Hack '99

The dream NDA (3)

Hendersa (103381) | about 15 years ago | (#1608709)

Loki was very sly when they dealt with Activision on this one. The NDA was an amazing piece of work. It basically broke down to:

1. No showing of the code to anyone for five years (no printouts).

2. ALL code seen during the competition may be discussed with anyone. So, if you want to know what is inside CivCTP, just ask someone who went.

3. ANY knowledge gained by a programmer by looking at Activision/Loki's code may be used for that programmer's IMMEDIATE monetary gain if desired.

Hardly a standard corporate NDA, hmmmm? ;>

Andrew Henderson
Runner-Up, Loki Hack '99

My underwear is showing (4)

Joe Rumsey (2194) | about 15 years ago | (#1608710)

It's not every day one's own code gets reviewed on slashdot! I really like what Loki did, but I saw the particular reaction to the code presented here coming a mile away. I don't want to sound too defensive. I'm more amused than anything else, in fact. I'm not offended. I agree with magenta's assessment. Trying to make the map zoom smoothly would have been a particularly awful thing to try to trace through, that was an unfortunate choice. I'm glad you found something else interesting to do.

Without DCOM, COM is for reference counting. That's absolutely correct. The windows version isn't really any different in how the code for the map generator plugin works. The only reason I used COM as an interface is that I happen to be familiar with it from a previous job (which also included plugins on Unix systems using COM, there really isn't anything to it)

Anyway, thanks for the review. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, eh? I'm glad the experience on the whole was a positive one.

On a tangent, I hate to ruffle anyone's feathers , but the compile times on windows are quite a bit faster than Linux. A complete build from scratch on a P2/450 takes less than an hour, and linking just a minute or two at most (much less for non-full builds). I'm guessing the major factor is precompiled headers. EGCS doesn't have them. If we turn them off on windows, it takes hours there too. Incremental linking also helps. With the linux version, the whole program has to be linked from scratch every time. VC however just relinks the object files that have changed, when possible. I'd really like to be able to write games using emacs and GCC again, but the compile times for large projects really need to come down.

Re:Games and GPL (4)

Pascal Q. Porcupine (4467) | about 15 years ago | (#1608711)

I've been working on such a system in my spare time. Things have interestingly turned out in such a way that I might be getting paid to do it eventually. :) (I'm the author of this article. I don't want to say too much, but one of the other consequences of this contest is that I have some interesting job leads now.) In any case, my idea for the system is very MUCK-like; open system, all server-side actions (it's not for realtime gaming, but for action-oriented such as in, well, a MUCK). Some people have the ability to write scripts (which will be C or something C-like compiled on the server), the scripts can have certain permission levels, and really the client will be a glorified text parser which ends up rendering a 3D representation of the current visible state. (I'm oversimplifying, of course.) I plan on making it entirely opensource. Such a project could be funded through a variety of means:

  1. Content - for the base content to properly connect to a server (prefabs, standard character models, etc.), the server owners sell a CD for, say, $5 which is the price of admission.
  2. Caching - one of the potential features of my architecture will be distributed storage, but there will still need, for practicality purposes, to be a server-side repository of cached player information. $1/MB/month for such a cache seems reasonable; you can play without it, but it'll annoy other users when they keep seeing placeholder graphics instead of your custom avatar and environments while it takes forever to download your real data. (Of course, if you use only prefabs, rental of a cache will be completely unnecessary. Also, it'd be very possible to specify a different source for the data, so if you already have a high-bandwidth webserver, the cache would also be unneeded.)
  3. Subscriptions - maybe a player just needs to pay $5/month to be allowed to use the service, or otherwise just use a guest account with a maximum number of guest connections at any given time. Of course, other people could run services out of the kindness of their hearts (look at vs. It'll all be open, and people can run servers however they see fit.
So yes, I think something much, much grander than EverQuest could easily be both opensource and a commercial success. Hopefully I'll be able to actually get started on writing up initial specifications soon. :)
"'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

I'm glad I read this... (4)

onethumb (4479) | about 15 years ago | (#1608712)

I'm a games developer myself, and am in the process of starting a new games technology company (which, of course, will make incredibly fun games as well as technology :) and it's really heartening to hear that a games-related OSS event went off so smoothly with such positive results.

I know that many game companies consider their code to be very proprietary and treat it like their only chest of gold. Which, of course, is common to many software companies today, and isn't necessarily an invalid reaction, but I really love what I've been seeing over the last few years in Open Source.

There are some game programmers in our field that, while not being exactly open-source, do share their views and opinions with each other, especially among the Dallas developers. I've always throught it was really great how John Carmack (id) would chat with Mark Dochtermann, Jim Dose, Jack Mathews (all three at Ritual), Gary McTaggart, Charlie Brown (both at Valve), Billy Zelsnack (late of Rebel Boat Rockers) and Corrine Yu (3DRealms) about what they were all doing. While not a totally free-flow of ideas, and certainly not source hacking together, it was nice to see things get loosened up a bit.

The idea that's popping around in my head is to do something like id does with their test versions (QTest, Q3Test, etc), but somehow combine it with a similar OSS event to the one described above. Maybe a month or so after releasing the test, host an event over a weekend where qualified folks can come and hack on the source to make any modifications they think would be cool after playing the test version for a month.

Any thoughts on this? Any other ideas? I know for a fact that going purely open-source with our new technology won't fly past my other partners, and I'd even have to stop and think really deeply about it myself even if I were alone in this venture, but I really do believe that the open source model provides some wonderful benefits that I'd love to foster.

I'd love to receive email replies, but during an ISP change yesterday, I lost DNS and have no idea when it will be back up. Here's an alternate if you're interested in discussing this privately:

I was invited as well... (4)

Jerenk (10262) | about 15 years ago | (#1608713)

Well, I received my invitation to go to the Loki Hack, and I was quite shocked. My initial reaction was, "Huh? Me? Why?" I then shifted moods to, "Wow! I should go!"

But, then I came to a dilemma. Loki only notified us on October 1st (the contest began Monday, the 11th). My biggest problem was a) finding a cheap ticket on such short notice and b) I'd have to miss a week of classes here at UC Irvine. I could live with missing classes (it wasn't the best of times though, but I could have done it), but I thought it was unfair that we had such short notice to plan our trip. I searched around the web and ended up at I could find a flight that kind of got me there for around $300. However, if you've dealt with CheapTickets, they want to send your ticket via snail-mail and it MIGHT have been there by that Friday (I was supposed to leave Sat. morning - cheapest flight out was then!). However, after emailing Kat from Loki about my dilemma, she suggested that I could pick up the tickets from CheapTickets's office in Fullerton (about 30-40 min away by car). Only problem is that I don't have a car. So much for that. I was not going to spend $300 and have even the slightest possibility that I was not going to get my ticket. I don't believe that that was fair. I'm not even going to broach the hotel rates ($69/night for the cheapest room). Again, Kat suggested that I might be able to find someone who was willing to open up their room for me (or I could sleep in the Hack room). Neither possibility excited me greatly. ;-)

Then, I stopped and thought about it for a while. I have been flown to interviews before on 2-day notice (as evil as everyone thinks Microsoft is, they did that for me...) and they paid all expenses. Now, you have to be silly to think that Loki will not try to hire some of these people that they liked from the Hack (they even admit as much on their Hack FAQ). My thought was, "Why should I pay $500 to give somebody some good PR?" ($500 includes all misc. expenses and is a conservative number). The answer of course is that I got to play around with some cool Linux game source code. But, is $500 worth this honor? In the end, I decided that it wasn't.

As some people suggested to me, if I had already been going to ALS, then this would have been a no-brainer and I would gladly have done it. But, that was not the case. In perusing Loki's pages about the Hack, it is quite interesting to note that there are a substantial amount of students were from the Atlanta area (Ga. Tech, etc.). The "older" people appeared to be employee of companies (who get a salary and can probably afford $500 more than a starving college student).

It would have been a great experience, but I passed it up. I have a feeling there will be more opportunities. In fact, Loki has mentioned that since I live in their neck of the woods (in Orange County), that they may look to hire me for some open positions. Cool. I would not have a problem working for them. The difference is that I'd be getting paid. That's the difference. I'll hack all you want if you pay me. If I am doing it out of my own free will, then I guess that I have certain restrictions that I place upon myself.


Sick of this attitude (4)

SideshowBob (82333) | about 15 years ago | (#1608714)

I'm so sick of this "if its not free its evil" b.s.

A programmer who, by the sweat of his or her brow, produces a piece of software, owns that fruits of that labor. It belongs to them. End of story.

If, he or she, out of pure nobleness of heart, decides to share the work with the rest of the world by releasing the source under one of the free licenses, we should applaud loudly.

But if a programmer chooses to release it under a non-free license, we should support their right to do so. That, to me, is what freedom is all about. The ability to decide for yourself how your work is disemminated to the rest of the world.

Anyone who claims that open source is free like speech should recognize the parallels to speech here. If you are a supporter of free speech you have to support an environment where people feel safe to express ideas and opinions that not everyone else agrees with. If you start denigrating some forms of expression, then the environment as a whole is no longer free.

Stop this "moral imperative" nonsense. Its noones moral imperative to try to dictate licensing conditions for someone elses work.

(sorry for the rant)

Games and GPL (4)

Viking Coder (102287) | about 15 years ago | (#1608715)

This brings up an interesting chain of thought in my mind : could a game like EverQuest [] (a Massively Multiplayer Roleplaying Game) be developed by the OpenSource community, without people trying to take advantage of the fact that they could hack the rules of the game?

Undoubtedly, some people would bend or break the rules of the game, either just for the joy of hacking, or in an attempt to gain skills or items in the game that are beyond their current means.

So, the next question is : is that a bad thing? I suppose that it is, under many circumstances, but I can imagine a game where part of the fun is to see how far you can hack the rules - within certain limits.

Interesting query.. (5)

Kitsune Sushi (87987) | about 15 years ago | (#1608717)

But on the other I keep hearing echos of the gpl in my ear telling me that it's a moral imperative to not support proprietary software.. and a waste of one's effort to do so anyway.

While I'm not precisely a big fan of proprietary software (about the only non-GPL stuff I ever bother to use are PICO and PINE.. which I see no real benefit to GPLing in the first place =P), I've never been all that concerned about non-free game software. Most of the software that I prefer be free are general purpose or otherwise a means to an end (and most especially device drivers ). I don't really care about the newest Quake being free software the moment it comes out any more than I am drooling all over myself to see the PlayStation 2 get "open sourced" (as someone complained that it wasn't.. the argument against closed consoles was quickly follow by retorts of "is something worthless because you can't program it? just because your toaster isn't open source you're not going to use it?" or something like that..).

I guess my unanswered question is - should you have fun even if the people you associate with would disapprove of it? For me, the answer would normally be yes. But the moral dilemma found with the free software / open source philosophies leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.

When it's just a game (especially since most games have a short life expectancy), I really don't see a problem with it. I don't really think generating proprietary software in general is "evil" per se, but I certainly wouldn't waste much time on such things (aside from games.. ;). While it might be nice to see id release the code for their games a while after they come out, I don't see it as any sort of pressing issue that they be free software to begin with, or at all. Stuff you sort of have to rely on, like your operating system or other damn useful tools, I see a problem with helping along proprietary systems that simply don't work like they should (and yet get marketed as the best thing to happen to the world since.. um.. sex..? ..certain religious orders apt to disagree.. ;).

Ok, now that I've beaten my point to death and just about bored myself senseless.. Loki really isn't that bad of a company (haven't they been releasing libraries and other tools they used to create games as free software?), and since games are only for play, it's not quite the same as pushing along "the corporate machine". Now, if a bunch of hackers were invited to Redmond to get all the wrinkles out of Windows 2000 and were offered a neat new computer to the one who did the best work (and lots of notable individuals actually accepted!) then you'd have much more cause for that bad taste in your mouth.

Until then, focus on what's more important. ;)

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