[Nolug] article review?

From: Michael <mogmios_at_mlug.missouri.edu>
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2002 10:37:55 -0600 (CST)
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.21.0203141035420.9613-100000@mlug.missouri.edu>

Here's a short article I plan on publishing online. I was just wanting to
see if anyone could give me feedback on this rough draft to help me get it
ready. Feedback of both content and the actual writing is appreciated.

Why Opensource Works for Games

One area opensource lags behind commercial development is in gaming.
Quality opensource games are uncommon. There is a lack of development
tools for designing and altering open-source games. What tools are
available are often not very user-friendly. Those opensource games that
are available often lack the polish of their commercial rivals. There is
even debate as to if game development will ever be a part of the
opensource community.

This argument generally is rooted in the fact that game development
involves teams including not only programmers but also graphic artists, 3D
artists, map designers, musicians, SFX artists, and so on. Even if an
opensource game is well programmed it generally doesn't have the artists
to provide the other needed resources of a quality to make the game really
shine. For card games and small puzzle games this is not a large problem
but for large scale commercial-grade games this is a major hurdle to the
development team.

At the same time there is a strong community of artists that provide
artwork, 3D models, music, sound effects and more free of charge as game
mods for commercial games. Often the lack of source code and low level
access to commercial game engines is frustrating to these artists. Despite
this lack of access mod authors often provide modifications to games that
rival that of commercial game developers. Many game developers were once
mod authors themselves and many others have came to see the boost their
game's sales receive thanks to the community game mods create. Because of
this it is common to see development tools available for commercial game
mods and effort made to support these mod authors.

Among both groups much of their work is released free of charge. Sometimes
this work acts as a means to improve the career of the author but often
the work is released as a way of giving back to the community and
scratching a personal itch. Personal pride plays a large role and the work
is often a labor of love. The two groups were meant for each other and
together they will make opensource games the standard to which commercial
games must follow.

To create this symbiotic relationship opensource programmers must take the
first step. They must create powerful and flexible game engines that are
easy to mod. These engines need to be stable and fast and rival those of
commercial games. They must allow unfettered access to changes without a
deep understanding of programming or the game engine. This requires clean
well documented code and interfaces. The game play logic should be
separate from the game engine itself and implemented as an appropriate
abstraction such as a scripting language.

Tools need to be created that allow both experienced developers and
novices to take these engines and produce quality games. These developers
will largely be artists and not programmers and the tools should be
designed for that type of user. Ease of use is more important than
features as the power-users can add any additional features they may need.
There should be example game components such as maps, tiles, 3D models,
and sound effects to study and work with and a library of finished
components that can be used free of charge.

To complete this relationship artists need to release parts of their own
work under an open license so that those components can be included in the
library. By making their own artwork available they benefit the community
and encouraging others to do likewise. With the opensourced engine and
tools and this library of freely usable game components game development
should be wide open field. Mod artists can push their art to the extreme
with less hassle and gain even wider exposure to their work.

As many genres of game engines, tools, and component artwork become
available the number of quality opensource games will explode. This
explosion is good for all involved. For the user this means a
wide-selection of quality free or low-cost games. For the programmer this
means more time spent tweaking game play and a more stable product. For
artists this means the freedom to create the game they want to create
without market pressure. For companies this means a faster time to market
and lower development cost.

There is no reason that games should not or could not be opensourced.
There is a large community of artists available to help create these games
if only the programmers invite them into the community by providing the
needed building blocks. Over the next couple years I think we'll see a
strong interaction forming between these two communities and some really
great games coming out.

Michael McGlothlin <mogmios@mlug.missouri.edu>

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Received on 03/14/02

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