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Hackers, Slackers, and Shackles 347

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

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  • depends.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gl4ss (559668) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:14PM (#11304974) Homepage Journal
    on how you look at it.

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

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

    and then there's the 'simple arcade rehash' genre - free games fill that tremendously well as clones of classic arcade games has become easier and easier to write as years pass.
    • nethack has always been superior in quite many aspects when compared to commercial games, partly because no commercial game can take that kind of risks in pissing off the gamer.

      You confuse non-free and commercial software. Many free software packages accept donations and RMS even sold emacs for a nice profit back in the 80's. Some people are even paid to write free software.
      • Re:depends.. (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kers (847541)
        Indeed, but how many people will BUY the game - and not donate money in one form or another for it. RMS could sell emacs because there wasn't possible for everyone to get online and download it during the uber slow links that was set up over the world today. Good or bad, today people can download *everything* for free (gratis, without paying) even if it's not allowed by the copyright owner - things are indeed diffrent.
  • by ralinx (305484) <ralinx@gmail.com> on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:17PM (#11304991)
    stallman wants all code to be free... but he wouldn't mind music and art to be non-free?

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

    note: i like free software, but i don't feel that every piece of software that i use should be free. i just think it's a little bit odd that stallman is using double standards.
    • by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:21PM (#11305021)
      So basically you're blaming Richard Stallman for not being a rigid fundamentalist? That's new.
      • No I am blaming Richard Stallman FOR being a ridge fundamentalist. He knows that there is no way for his version of Free Software to replace the current commerical game studios. So instead of telling everyone of his followers that they should suck it up and just play nethack and bzflag he gives then a huge loophole.
        So playing Doom3 is.... Okay.
    • by shaitand (626655) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:26PM (#11305057) Journal
      music, art, even fiction books are all part of the arts and cannot be compared to non-artforms like software and technical matter. They are completely different animals.

      You discover the optimal software algorithm, there is already a right answer before you ever compose it. Nobody discovers art and withholding art does not hinder the progress of mankind like withholding technology does.
      • ### music, art, even fiction books are all part of the arts and cannot be compared to non-artforms like software and technical matter. They are completely different animals.

        Art is different in that it is not functional, you watch it, you waste your time with it, but ultimativly you don't produce anything with it. However that is as far as it goes, that still doesn't mean that the same freedoms for software wouldn't also be usefull for arts. Just watch what is happening out there, people cover songs, thus b
        • You can produce, enlightenment, understanding, emotions, inspiration, ideas and more art, with art.
          • Art is a lie which makes us realize the truth. -- Picasso
            That art is merely a distraction from reality.
            You can produce, enlightenment, understanding, emotions, inspiration, ideas and more art, with art.
            ANYTHING can produce those things. The clouds in the sky, taking a deep breath, dropping a book on your foot, can produce the same inspiration, emotions, and enlightenment as an orange dot on a white canvas.
      • by cgenman (325138) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:49PM (#11305174) Homepage
        While one may find the optimal pathfinding route algorithim, most game software is a balancing act between competing resources and is therefore an art. If you look at the Quake 3 engine code, there are a lot of tradeoffs between accuracy (surprisingly innacurate, actually), speed, and memory. And then there are questions like how one will spend their processor cycles... in a complicated rendering engine or raw polys? Character focused or world focused? Do you spend more Ram on Precaching or go for dynamic texture loading?

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

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

        TFA is DOA, BTW.

        • by nathanh (1214) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @04:43PM (#11305509) Homepage
          most game software is a balancing act between competing resources and is therefore an art.

          Writing software that balances several competing resources is engineering.

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

      • They are completely different animals.

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

      • Hogwash.
        There are only like 8 stories everything else is based on one of those.
        • by gclef (96311) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @06:38PM (#11306106)
          Okay...what are they? I can think of a couple:

          1) Boy meets girl, boy acts like an idiot & almost loses girl, boy comes to his senses & wins girl

          2) Evil dude hurts hero, hero trains for long time, reaches near-enlightened state, kicks evil dude's ass

          3) road trip!

          4) Boy meets girl, then everyone dies (most tragedy fits in here).

          But I'm missing the other 4. Any hints?
          • Certainly.... (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Seraphim_72 (622457)

            1) Much Ado About Nothing.

            2) The Tempest

            3) Comedy of Errors

            4) Romeo and Juliet

            I was taught that there were only a few basic stories and tha Shakespeare had done them all - every thing else is just a variation on a theme, if you want to see the other four, get reading.

            Sera

            P.S. Or at least rent the video of Much Ado About Nothing with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, IMHO it is some of the best film ever made.

    • by MutantHamster (816782) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:26PM (#11305058) Homepage
      While, I haven't RTFA yet, that won't stop me from offering my opinion. Which is that art and music are entirely different from code. I think his point about graphics and music and such is so that someone won't steal an entire game and rename some of the characters so they can pretend it's theirs.

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

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

        Bes
        • You're not allowed to do that with Firefox, or any Free Software; doing so would be misappropriation.

          The difference between art and software is that Software is a process, a medium. Software does stuff on, and to your computer, so you want to know exactly what it does. Who knows, it might wipe your data, or other evil things. Art isn't going to do that, as it is in itself complete. Of course, art must still be presented on a medium. Films on reels, DVDs, or VHSes. Paintings on canvas or paper, or more obsc
          • Actually, under a lot of free licenses, that would be perfectly acceptible. In most cases, the original copyright statements would have to stay intact. In some cases, there would be limitations on what the new project could be licensed under. However, I'm not aware of any free license that prevents you from making your own version with its own name-- that is a big part of what free software is about. After all, taking the source and starting a new project with different features and a different name happens
          • ### Art provokes thought and gives entertainment. It's hard or impossible to morph it into something else, as it will lose its vital distinction, and hence be diluted.

            Its easy to morph art into some other art, its done all the time, as said movies get remaked, songs covered and pictures reused in collages. The larger the work of art the less of an issue is this. With movies or videogames you get all kinds of work done that can easily be reused in other works. You don't need to redesign each and every requi
          • Are you for real? (Score:3, Informative)

            by xenocide2 (231786)
            >>So how exactly is that different of when I take Firefox, name its "Grumbels Personal Browser" add some stuff to it and release? Why should I be allowed to do that with Firefox, or any kind of free software, but not with movies, videogames or whatever?

            >You're not allowed to do that with Firefox, or any Free Software; doing so would be misappropriation.


            Are you for real? Firefox was a stunning example of how someone did exactly what was decribed above. Someone (I don't think it was grumbel) deci
    • The thing with code is that, over time, you come to rely on it. You want tools to remain available to you to perform your daily tasks.

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

      So there is a need to take measures to keep the code free and available, unencumbered by legal or economical condit

      • I quite agree. Music is a finished product and it can't have new "features". Software can.
      • No such need or dependency with music...

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

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

    • by gallir (171727) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:43PM (#11305148) Homepage
      FSF differentiates clearly among:

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

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

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

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

        So I guess emacs and vim aren't in that category.
        And neither are, say, perl and python...
      • And the practical use of computer games (when compared to art and music) is?

        I don't see any difference between music, art, software. All three are creative expressions, just the canvas is different.
        • The practical use of computer games -- or rather, the practical reason why their code needs to be Free -- is that they do stuff! They have the same issues as regular software: you need the code to fix bugs, port to other platforms, etc. Even if you do stuff like that, it's the same program.

          On the other hand, the artwork and story of the game is complete within itself, and doesn't need to be tweaked to work correctly (aside from maybe doing things like making higher-resolution or higher-polygon-count vers
        • The game as a whole is art. The code which implements the game is just code. Its practical use is to hold together all of the artistic elements of the game.

    • Code versus Art (Score:4, Interesting)

      by handy_vandal (606174) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:51PM (#11305191) Homepage Journal
      in what way does a coder differ from a graphics artist?

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

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

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

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

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

      You're also making the usual mistake of thinking that RMS ever has anything to
    • The summary claims:

      Stallman is quoted here saying that game engines should be free, but approves of the notion that graphics, music, and stories could all be separate and treated differently (i.e., "Non-Free.")

      We have to ask ourselves what Stallman actually said before we swallow the summary. The summary does fly in the face of the underlying ethos of Stallman articles such as The Right to Read [gnu.org]. It contradicts what others, like Lessing have to say. It even contradicts what the article itself seems to s

    • He's not "using double standards". He recognizes that not every kind of work requires the same freedoms. We currently have a copyright regime where different kinds of works have different levels of copyright power.

      RMS once proposed a system of reduced copyright powers that would work better for readers/viewers/listeners/etc. (since American copyright is ultimately aimed at benefitting readers, not publishers or authors [gnu.org]). He framed his system on the kind of work something is--what function does it perfor

    • I think it comes down to control over your own life and your own computer. The program code itself tells your computer what to do; if it isn't free then your computer may be programmed to do nasty things and you have no legal way to fix it and probably no way to find out for sure what's happening behind your back.

      Art and music isn't like that. It's quite possible to argue that scientific knowledge should be unrestricted for the good of society, while restrictions on purely artistic works are allowed. Wh
  • Hard To Do (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nurgled (63197) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:19PM (#11305011)

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

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

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

    • "right now every commercial offering has copy protection"

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

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

        It didn't have copy protection.
        • Trust me, it would have been the same if the game would've had protection.
          Can anyone name a single game where the pirates failed to break the protection?
          That's right, there is none.

          Most new copy protection schemes were broken within days in the past.
          • However, copy protection stops the average person who might just want to make copies for friends.

            I remember lots of folks who would copy games for friends just because it was possible - one person would buy the game, and then give copies to friends who saw it and liked it, if the game wasn't copy protected.

            These weren't pirates, or people who would have tried to circumvent copy protection if it was present. Just the average home-computer user in the late 80s/early 90s. They didn't realize it was piracy.
    • Re: Hard To Do (Score:2, Insightful)

      I think the only way that this is going to start is if developers put together good graphics engines, up to the standard of the latest offerings from Id and the Unreal guys, (..)

      The tools, engines (and operating systems to run them on) are already there, see for example this database of 3D engines [3dengines.net], many of which are free/open source.

      But for a succesful game project you need not just good coder(s), but graphics artists / musicians as well. I don't really see the difference between code and artwork here,

  • What?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by MutantHamster (816782) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:21PM (#11305024) Homepage
    Free games? Where can I buy them?!
  • Disagree (Score:2, Interesting)

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

    Modern games aren't easy. We could compete in the "graphics engine" field, but that's just 1/4 of a game - the rest is the "art": graphics, music, sounds, maps..."open source" works for code, not for "art". Also, today's games are a modern thing, you can get lot of geeks that can write a SCSI driver or a compiler, but how many geeks can you find that know how to
    • Re:Disagree (Score:4, Informative)

      by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Sunday January 09, 2005 @04:08PM (#11305267) Homepage
      ### Just look at tuxracer. Since the company that was developing it turned it closed source nobody has continued developing it.

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

      ### Same goes for tuxkart.

      See http://supertuxkart.berlios.de/, however the original tuxkart has never gone closed source.

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

      http://creativecommons.org/

      For most part we really just need more people.
    • ``We need some kind of "open art" license or something, and people working for it.''

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

      Perhaps my intuition is wrong, though. There are several other plausible reasons for open art not taking off.
    • Re:Disagree (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Riddlefox (798679)
      Hmm, it seems to me that if you look at the game modding community (such as Half Life modders, UT modders, and so on), there are lots of people who can generate pretty good looking models of weapons and players, generate new maps, and so on. It seems like coding is the difficult thing to do.
  • Planeshift (Score:5, Informative)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:24PM (#11305041) Homepage Journal
    Planeshift [planeshift.it] is a free 3D MMORPG following the idea "Free engine, proprietary (though gratis) art." AFAIK it's the only free 3D MMORPG out there.
    The system recently reached another milestone, though it will probably remain in development for quite some time... Maybe some Slashdot hackers will help? :)
  • In general (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Solr_Flare (844465) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:24PM (#11305043)
    Independant games tend to have the potential of having far more innovative gameplay and/or unique storylines because they have the freedom to take a chance with a concept while gaming houses are generally more restricted because development costs money and publishers like to stick with safe bets.

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

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

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

    Independant game designers are on the rise again, and you can see proof in the concern the publishing companies are having as they slowly fall away, consolidate, and/or have paniced knee jerk reactions out of concern for their future(Valve vs. Vivendi, EA's buyout frenzy, etc).
  • by Daxx_61 (828017) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:27PM (#11305061) Homepage
    Won't simple economics dictate that one person will not spend a good portion of his life working on games, when he could be working on games for money? That will ensure that people have to pay for good(more complicated) games, and compensate these people for the staggering amount of effort that must surely go into designing a good game.
    • Won't simple economics dictate that one person would not spend a good portion of life working on an operating system/a novel, when he could be working on an operating system or a novel for money? That would ensure that people have to pay for good(more complicated) operating systems and novels, and compensate these people for the staggering amount of effort that must surely go into designing a good operating system/novel.

      Or, perhaps you are forgetting that sometimes people do things for personal enjoyment?
  • by DrLZRDMN (728996) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:31PM (#11305085)
    I saw this article
    (http://www.selectparks.net/modules.php?name=Con tent&pa=showpage&pid=18)
    And it seems that there is a great base available that oculd lead to wonderfull things. Crystal space (crystal.sf.net) is a free engine that appears to be competitive in quality to modern commercial engines. Go to the games made using crystal, it can be used. I should also mention cube engine (cubeengine.com) and stepmania (stepmania.com) as well as the abundance of free MMO's and VR projects.
    • Considering they are just now adding polybump, I'd say they are 2 years behind commercial engines. They are hardly competitive to commercial engines. Also, I have a feeling they wont scale as well, or deliver a solid framerate as a commercial product (Considering the examples they show and their respective framerates).
  • Freeing the engines will probably not happen as the engines are complex and are licensed becuase they aren't easy to reproduce. Look at software like AbiWord and KOffice. They are fairly complex. Look at the time it took for them to mature.

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

    • What if they work for free? Or better yet, if the hardware company pays them- if the new NVIDIA card came with Crystal Core it would be an incentive to get an NVIDIA card and it would be good for Crystal Core. yes, you could download it for free, but to truly enjoy the game you need a new video card, which comes with the game.
      • 40 hours a week, 5 days a week, let's skip over time. What will these people do for money?

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

        Then they would give away the engine for free for anyone to develop games, including their competitor? A game company is more likely to

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

    Even with idealized tools, there's just so many decsions, so many interactions that need t
    • The act of creating a whole world from art, sounds, abstract personalities, key events, etc, and all the interactions involved is NOT yet an act people will just do on their own, even for a large group working together. ...

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


      Honestly, I prefer simple puzzle and arcade games. The other type takes far too much time and work for a *game*. If I want a story I'll go read a book.

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

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

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

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

    It boils down to a proof by assertion.

    He nearly exhausts the good games currently existing. I've poked through the Gentoo game categorization which is pretty good, and if there's
  • Independent Games (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lutskot (658962) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:38PM (#11305124) Homepage
    The gaming industry is in many ways very similar to that the film industry sans the overpaid actors.

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

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

    As for licenses, I agree with Stallman in that the game engine, which is more cases can be thought of at generalized software should be free, while the artistic part of the projects need to be considered as custom work and could remain non-free.
    • by Solr_Flare (844465)
      Agreed, that is the most likely scenario because, in many ways, it is already like that to a lesser extent. Games, like movies, tv, music, and books, are just another form of entertainment(albeit a more interactive form). As such, the general rules and trends of the entertainment industry will likely apply to a certain extent.
  • Free software can succeed, if the developers do not the same mistakes like the Closed source developers.

    But sometimes they do: Have a look at this article [slashdot.org]
  • by CaptKilljoy (687808) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:44PM (#11305156)
    Plot driven games, like movies, are something the player tends to go through once and then shelve. That doesn't seem likely to be compatible with the OSS model of incremental releases by which a package gets polished into an acceptable state. Non-plot driven games (e.g. the multiplayer modes of FPSes and other games) have better longevity but still tend to be relatively short lived.

    It seems more likely that OSS devlopment model would succeed with game development libraries and engines.
  • How naive. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by r (13067) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:57PM (#11305213)
    From the article: "In short, "open sourcing" projects like Half-Life 2 would likely lead to much better games, which would result in much better sales and happier end-users."

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

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

    To ignore the economic constraints of development is breathtakingly naive.
    • Re:How naive. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nathanh (1214)

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

      • Re:How naive. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by grumbel (592662)
        The difference here is that Linus basically started with nothing, he didn't had a huge business depending on selling Linuxs to the masses and didn't invested millions to build it, nope, he just had a few thousand lines of code floating around on his disk, wouldn't he have published it, it would have most likly stayed like that.

        Valve on the other side does have invested millions into producing the game, so how exactly would OpenSourcing help them? In the best case you would see some forks and games making u
      • The economic constraits of development? Linus and his merry band of programmers did put untold millions of hours into Linux development, for "free", because they wanted to, not because someone else said they to.

        id, Epic, Valve, et al make a tidy sum licensing their game engines to other companies, so they must have some value otherwise no one would pay for them, much like car manufacturers license engine designs to each other.

        If a group of developers want to get together and put the time into making a gam
    • Re:How naive. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by iroll (717924) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @05:19PM (#11305704) Homepage
      No, I think that what they're saying is that instead of spending 'untold millions' developing the HL2 engine, Valve (perhaps in association with their competitors) should have spent 'untold thousands' kickstarting, shepherding, and cheerleading an open source engine project. A few engineers to do some of the heavy lifting (it being their job and only commitment) and to act as managers, farming out grunt-work to the excited masses. A few low-end marketing grunts to astroturf... erm, I mean "market" for them and build mindshare and other 'buzz' for the new engine (and by extension, the new games).

      Then they could spend 'untold millions' developing great games ON TOP of the engine. On miles of original art, grammy-winnnig scores, and original new stories. It seems as if once you've got a solid, continuously improving engine (with major releases every 18mos or so), you could devote more resources to producing more art (games) which would lead to more revenue streams than you would get with the current system (one blockbuster released every couple years). Once the engine is a commodity, the competition would be over the artistic aspects of the game, and we might see some more innovation in storytelling. When you have more resources to invest in the story/art aspect of the game, you can take more chances on new stories than companies seem willing to do these days--perhaps with a commodity game engine, we'd see fewer sequals of sequals of games from 1994, and more original games that make a mark as "innovative."

      The "open-sourcing" suggestion isn't a one-off suggestion about specific games, its a critique about industry and process, and suggests an entirely different approach, not a simple solution like "this game should be open sourced!"
    • Re:How naive. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by waveclaw (43274)
      Engine blueprints are not like software and tt is not always in the best financial interest of a company to charge for traditional products.

      You mentioned:
      This is like saying GM should open-source the blueprints for all their car engines. It's ridiculous. Valve put untold millions into HL2 development, and there's absolutely no incentive for them to just open the source, and there's a strong disincentive...

      But then you turned around and said:

      To ignore the economic constraints of development is breathta
    • Re:How naive. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BlueWonder (130989)

      This is like saying GM should open-source the blueprints for all their car engines.

      Car engines already are "open source". Once you have bought a car, it is legal for you to take the engine apart, modify it, use parts of it in another machine you build, study how the engine works, even use the thusly gained knowledge to build you own engine. If the enginge breaks, you can try to fix it yourself or have it fixed, and neither action will cause you to be called a pirate.

      "Open source" or free software tries to

  • by Glowing Fish (155236) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @04:08PM (#11305268) Homepage
    The problem with most games is that they aren't actually games in the true sense. They are more a form of entertainment. Most people play them for the bright graphics and sound, and the immersion of the game world. Which many people, including myself, love. However, as a Wesnoth developer said "Great graphics make a movie. Great sound makes an album. Great gameplay makes a game."

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

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

  • by Henrik S. Hansen (775975) <hsh@member.fsf.org> on Sunday January 09, 2005 @04:12PM (#11305297) Homepage
    Stallman believes that music, etc. ("art") may be treated differently than software, as in not being under the GPL or the GFDL. None of his essays are under the GPL, for instance.

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

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

    (I personally agree with him.)

    • I have no problem with the world according to Richard Stallman (and you, Henrik) as long as compliance is voluntary. As a software creator I am free to choose to release the software for free and I am free to demand payment for my software. On the other side of the coin, consumers are free to accept my terms or not.

      Don't we already live in that world. So what is your beef with people making decisions for themselves?
  • Not to say that programming can't be viewed as an art; It can. But it is also engineering, which imposes more limits on what qualifies as 'good' programming. (In the same way, architecture is more limited than sculpture, because architecture is about creating buildings, which by definition need to have an inside and an outside and a door, at the very least. Whereas a sculpture has no such constraints.)

    So what does this matter for open source? Well, in open source development, anybody can (try to) contribut
  • by thumperward (553422) <thumperward@hotmail.com> on Sunday January 09, 2005 @04:19PM (#11305346) Homepage
    Aside from making out that Defender was written in BASIC, or assuming that the crowd he was writing for didn't know what BASIC was anyway, was it really necessary to embarrass himself with that whole "Big game companies never innovate" thing and then mention Electronic Arts in the same sentence? Until ten years ago EA were the best thing that had ever happened to games.

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

    The kind of games we can expect from community efforts are simple g
    • Re:Don't Think So (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DeepHurtn! (773713)
      I think the point is that games wouldn't be *completely* free -- only the engines would. This might -- might! -- be workable. As many people have pointed out here, developing a game engine from scratch -- or licensing one -- is very, very expensive, and adds a helluva lotta time to the development cycle. Let's say a few companies get together to develop a libre engine that they will share, and it catches on, building a community of developers. They could conceivably get a solid engine for much less than
  • No calls barred. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @04:24PM (#11305377) Homepage Journal
    Stallman's (commie-style ;) freedom includes "no revenue", so I'm not too crazy about it, as a developer who converts code to food and rent. But opening these game engines to plugins would make them much more popular, even offering a life beyond the publisher's product lifecycle. Much like Doom-style games got new life from opening the "level editors". As more games are networked, the game server can become the gateway for revenue, especially if Web Service APIs are signed, and require authentication, but are also open. Killer apps create demand for services, but are a development/management cost that subtracts from the profit at the server. I'd love to import my Halo2 team into Madden NFL 2005, if a programmer could write the import plugin. Open the APIs!
  • Older games (Score:2, Interesting)

    by saur2004 (801688)
    I just wish companies that have determined that they are not going to bother making any money on older games, would at least consider open sourcing them so that the fan base can have it, and move the game they like forward.

    I know that there are actually a great deal of fans of Descent 3 [planetdescent.com] who happen to be coders, who would be overjoyed if Volition [volition.net] would open source the code.

  • The article says:

    I challenge anyone else who defends the status quo to show me some innovative new titles from the major developers.

    Reading this reminded me of some comments I've seen in discussions about free software. Often, the discussion is framed from the perspective of the open source movement and the values that movement promotes, which are not the same as those of the free software movement. As a result, people frame the debate as if we can have either innovative software or free software,

  • The author assumes that people need freedom to redistribute/modify programs, but not music or graphics. But it's a rare case I have time to modify other people's programs. On the other hand, if a song becomes popular, I may very well want to make a video of myself singing it or dancing to it and post it on my website without restricting who downloads it. Likewise, how do you run a fan site without copying some graphics and video clips?

    For some software like games, it's really not that important for people
  • Is this "story" on some type of auto rotation?
  • by Musenik (789539) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @06:46PM (#11306133) Homepage
    As an independent game developer who just released a new kind of adventure game [thewitchsyarn.com], I disagree that art and code are always distinct. Our game introduces an incredibly accessible user interface for controlling adventure games. I personally believe that user interfaces are an art form, yet UI is ultimately expressed in code. Consider that one example of code as art.

"The pyramid is opening!" "Which one?" "The one with the ever-widening hole in it!" -- The Firesign Theatre

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