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Hackers, Slackers, and Shackles 347

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

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  • Planeshift (Score:5, Informative)

    by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:24PM (#11305041) Homepage Journal
    Planeshift [] is a free 3D MMORPG following the idea "Free engine, proprietary (though gratis) art." AFAIK it's the only free 3D MMORPG out there.
    The system recently reached another milestone, though it will probably remain in development for quite some time... Maybe some Slashdot hackers will help? :)
  • by thegoofeedude ( 771803 ) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:25PM (#11305050) Homepage
    While I don't think it's Open Source, I do think that America's Army [] is good example of what a free game can be. Many of my friends prefer it to their store-bought games. (And there's a Linux version [].)
  • by DrLZRDMN ( 728996 ) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:31PM (#11305085)
    I saw this article
    ( tent&pa=showpage&pid=18)
    And it seems that there is a great base available that oculd lead to wonderfull things. Crystal space ( is a free engine that appears to be competitive in quality to modern commercial engines. Go to the games made using crystal, it can be used. I should also mention cube engine ( and stepmania ( as well as the abundance of free MMO's and VR projects.
  • 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.

  • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <> on Sunday January 09, 2005 @03:45PM (#11305161) Homepage
    ### It's kind of like, if I made a movie. I wouldn't mind you using all my techniques for special effects, (or CGI as it's called today) and filming, etc. But you'd be a big douchebag if you stole my script and just "expanded" on it to make your own movie.

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

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

  • Re:Disagree (Score:4, Informative)

    by grumbel ( 592662 ) <> 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:
    c) sunspirestudios seem to have disapread, probally didn't sell to well in the end

    ### Same goes for tuxkart.

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

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

    For most part we really just need more people.
  • by TrancePhreak ( 576593 ) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @04:28PM (#11305401)
    Considering they are just now adding polybump, I'd say they are 2 years behind commercial engines. They are hardly competitive to commercial engines. Also, I have a feeling they wont scale as well, or deliver a solid framerate as a commercial product (Considering the examples they show and their respective framerates).
  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @04:40PM (#11305483) Homepage Journal
    a lot of learning how to play nethack is to learn patience, to play 'fast'(so that it doesn't take ages) while still covering your ass 100% of the time. if you're not prepared then you will insta-die sooner or later.

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

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

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

    if you want to speed it up, read some spoilers. they help a _lot_, a lot more than you would gain from playing in explorer mode for years on your own.
  • by pmjordan ( 745016 ) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @04:46PM (#11305526)
    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 obscure substances. Video Games on software. Yes, there is overlap. Choosing the right tools or media (lens, camera, film vs. hardware, software) is part of creating that art.

    The problem with 'liberating' art like software is being liberated by the Free Software movement is that it would ultimately dilute the experience. Software, in general, serves a specific purpose, it solves a specific problem, but the purposes vary across the spectrum. Morphing software into other software to solve similar problems is considered a good thing, and is hard to argue against.

    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. This is why parody is so hard to do.

  • Re:No calls barred. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nasarius ( 593729 ) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @04:48PM (#11305535)
    Stallman's (commie-style ;) freedom includes "no revenue"

    Wrong. []

  • Eternal Lands (Score:3, Informative)

    by ReKleSS ( 749007 ) <> on Sunday January 09, 2005 @05:11PM (#11305645)
    Another free MMORPG - I played it for a while, but the economy is a bit screwy, because cactus is extremely valuable yet easy to harvest. It's fun, though - []. Oh, and don't forget about runescape... urgh.
  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @05:52PM (#11305874) Homepage Journal
    ..ten years ea, nor any other game company, was really 'big'.

  • 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 [], 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.
  • by Nurgled ( 63197 ) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @07:30PM (#11306348)

    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.

  • Are you for real? (Score:3, Informative)

    by xenocide2 ( 231786 ) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @07:47PM (#11306410) Homepage
    >>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) decided that mozilla was too damn huge, and getting huger. So he decided to remove all the thunderbird extensions, the irc extensions, the huge preferences menus, etc and just bring the size down in any way possible. Eventually it was called phoenix, and given to people, without the explicit support of the Mozilla foundation. It was only after it was clear that phoenix was not only not going away, but was pulling developers away from the Mozilla effort that the foundation decided on the firefox directives. You can find similar examples, even within the GNU foundation; gcc 3.0 comes to mind as a fork that became official.
  • Re:RMS? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 09, 2005 @08:49PM (#11306702)
    Man the moderator on this must be a fucking idiot. Obviously this was a joke since RMS does not have any capitalist pig ideals. Where do the moderators come from? The retard factory.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 10, 2005 @12:54AM (#11307815)
    To me the beauty of Nethack is that it's utterly brutal. However, I'll see if I can point you in the right direction:
    1. Don't try to identify rings or amulets by wearing them without at least finding out if they are cursed or not. The same goes for trying on random bits of armor you find on the ground, although this isn't nearly as risky as wearing rings or amulets, so it's up to you really. Your deity (or maybe even someone else's deity) may be able to let you know which items are cursed. Certain items are almost always cursed when you find them, so if you know that an item is cursed you may be able to make a guess about what its effect is.
    2. For scrolls and potions, you can take most of the trouble out of IDing them by inspecting the prices in shops. The prices are modified by a scaling factor based on your charisma (most of the time this is 3/2 or 4/3) and some of a shops items are modified by another 4/3 on top of that. Items sell for half of the unscaled price, although sometimes the shopkeeper will offer you less than that so try dropping it and declining to sell several times to make sure you have the right price. Your main goal should be to find and ID an identify scroll, an enchant armor scroll, an enchant weapon scroll, a remove curse scroll, a charging scroll, a potion of gain level, a potion of gain ability, and a potion of enlightenment. HINT: None of these scrolls have an unscaled price of 100, 150, or 200 and you should look for potions with unscaled prices of 300, but bless them first and drink them somewhere safe.
    3. I can't remember the key combination to do it, but you can give new names to item types. You can use this to keep up with information that will be useful for identifying the items. If you find an amulet, pair of gloves, pair of boots, or helmet that's cursed, then rename its item type so you know that there is a pretty good chance that other items of the same type will be cursed. Rename potions and scrolls with the unscaled price and if you want to get really sophisticated, keep a count of how many of each of them you've found so that you can try to identify them based on the frequency with which they appear relative to other items
    4. Certain items have quirks that need to be learned. For example, scare monster scrolls crumble to dust if you drop them then pick them back up (hmmm, maybe you should see if dropping a scare monster scroll on the floor and leaving it there does anything special). Some potions can be mixed to make more valuable ones, and if you have spare rings of a certain type, you may want to look for a way to try to eat them.
    5. You can find some interesting things at the bottom of the Gnomish Mines. You need to gain some levels before you explore the mines, but I suggest you spend some time exploring and leveling in the mines before going any deeper than the Oracle's level. On the bottom floor you can find a stone that is particularly useful when blessed, though it is easily mistaken for flint, a stone of use for archeologists, or a type of very heavy, cursed stone. Try to come up with a way to distinguish between the really heavy stones from the others without picking them up.
    6. Your deity can make you a large supply of holy water at one time. Collect stacks of potions that you don't plan on using and change them into water bottles.
    7. Over the longterm, Valkyries are pretty much easier to keep alive than any other class. There's a certain powerful artifact that only they can obtain, and unlike any other class, under certain circumstances they can use it as a ranged weapon as well.
    8. Do whatever it takes to escape monsters more powerful than you. If you're cornered, take drastic measures. Zap some wands at the monster and just hope that you can find one that will either kill it or give you a chance to escape. There are also all sorts of crazy ways to weasel out of these situations. If you see a mind flayer, run like hell. Kill him from range when you can, but under no circumstances should you allow him to get clo
  • by Ideaphile ( 678292 ) on Monday January 10, 2005 @02:13AM (#11308137)
    In the article, Stallman said "A game scenario can be considered art/fiction rather than software. So it is okay to split the game into engine and scenario, then treat the engine as software and the scenario as art/fiction."

    This does NOT mean he believes the scenario can be legally protected. RMS does NOT believe art or fiction are entitled to copyright protection except under limited circumstances.

    I had the chance to discuss the issue of copyright protection for art with RMS over Labor Day weekend 2004 at the World Science Fiction Convention in Boston. Also present during the discussion was Keith F. Lynch, a long-time friend of mine.

    I asked RMS under what circumstances a person who creates a work of fiction is entitled to restrict its further redistribution, according to his personal beliefs. Initially, he said there were no such circumstances. I described a hypothetical situation in which a person has written down a private sexual fantasy, perhaps for therapeutic reasons, and the document has come into the possession of another person. I asked RMS if the author was entitled to limit the distribution of the document-- basically, if the person had a unique right to control copying it, the essence of copyright law.

    Reluctantly, RMS agreed that such a document must be covered by a special exception to his beliefs. After considerable further discussion, he set out the terms of the exception: it applies only to creative works that are highly personal in nature and which have no value to the general public.

    This position leaves no room for copyright protection for other kinds of creative works, especially including commercial fiction, video game storylines, or the images and sounds associated with video games.

    In his article, Matt Barton clearly failed to comprehend Stallman's position on this issue, and has misled his readers.

    . png

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"