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Arrakeen

Writing Open Source games for life

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I recently started games programming and have loved it so far, and originally I decided to aim for a full-time career as a games programmer. But now I have my doubts. This is definitely *not* because I am turned off by games programming itself, nor any of the other common aspects that turn many people off -- long hours, jumping from company to company, etc. It's because I'd love to be able to write good, Open Source games in my 'spare time', and I'm starting to think that I just won't be able to do that as a professional games programmer. As a professional games programmer, you'll be working on a large project over a long period of time. You have to put a lot of energy into that project and often work long hours for a considerable length of time. Is anyone really going to have the energy to come home from that each night and put in a lot of effort to an Open Source game project of their own? It doesn't seem likely to me. I think what did it for me was reading about David White, the guy behind The Battle for Wesnoth ( http://www.wesnoth.org/home ). He's not a professional games programmer, but he nevertheless produced a really neat, stable OS game, and has plans to continue making more, improving them as he goes along. I'd love to be able to do that too. So I was wondering if you had any advice for me, given my situation. I'm currently a first year student on a maths degree. I don't really want to change to Computer Science starting from next year since I'll then have to pay top up fees (I live in the UK), which would be hell. Ideally, I'd like a career that's still interesting, challenging, but that would give me enough time to work on OS games in my own time. Something involving Linux would be good too. How much money I get from it doesn't matter too much, as long as I'm not struggling to make a living. On the other hand, maybe I'm wrong. Do you think it *is* possible to write OS games *and* be a professional games programmer? What's your opinion? And if I decide not to go into games programming professionally, can I still just continue writing games at the moment? Or should I start programming for things more directly applicable to my career choice? Thanks for any advice.

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This all depends on how easy you burn out, your level of dedication, and your personal life. If your staring at a monitor for 10 hours a day as a day job, you might not want to come home and stare at one for another 3. But thats not to say its not possiable. Many, if not MOST, very successfull inde game developers also work in the pro industry. Skillsets carry over, and it gives you alot of leveredge and room to work with things that you may not be able to work with on your given professional project.

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It is up to you perhaps? I would like to make 100 projects at the same time, but I found out I preffer to spend my time on one project -> focus on that project, well but it is not so impossible to be in 2 projects if one pays.

Granted you don't seem convinced to go ahead on game development as a career path but just a hobby, I would say do what you find more fun.

I love programming but currently am planning to only do open source software I don't really believe in things like selling games.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
There are various issues to be considered if your going to write OpenSource games in your free time and work for a games development company as a job.

Conflict of interest:
If your OpenSource games are in competition with the games your making at work, thats a serious problem (eg if your making a free WW2 mod for HL2 (perhaps better) and you work at valve on DoD:S (Which is sold) Your boss wont take to this well :) you could be causing the company to lose sales because there playing your free games.

Legal:
Who owns what code ? Generally whatever algorithm/code you develop on work time becomes the property of the company (you may sign a contract that states this). If you figure out some new neat technique/shader at work which is used in there game, and you go home and use this same stuff in your OpenSource work, you'll be in legal trouble for sure.

So basically you have the problem of having to do different code on your work games and OpenSource games, and i would think this would be a PAIN in the ass.

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If your main job is game programmer, you will really have no time to make your own game. I mean, making your own game takes a lot of effort and time, and leading a whole team takes even more effort and time.

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Hmm, okay. Well, what kind of programming areas could I go into as a career, considering I'm not doing a computer science degree? (I personally don't see that as a drawback, but my employers might...) Should I start by writing a few things for rentacoder/similar sites?

EDIT: In retrospect I might still decide to go for games programming professionally and just do general non-games hacking in my spare time. I do think I'd enjoy doing games programming like that, even if I am turning out proprietary games. And there are plenty of areas to work on in the open source community. There's a lot to think about... I still need to think about it.

[Edited by - Arrakeen on December 3, 2005 4:43:30 AM]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by Vexorian
It is up to you perhaps? I would like to make 100 projects at the same time, but I found out I preffer to spend my time on one project -> focus on that project, well but it is not so impossible to be in 2 projects if one pays.

Granted you don't seem convinced to go ahead on game development as a career path but just a hobby, I would say do what you find more fun.

I love programming but currently am planning to only do open source software I don't really believe in things like selling games.


I don't find it hard to work on dozens of projects at a time. I use an evolutionary approach to my software needs.

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I'll be honest, after a long day of game programming at work, that's the last thing I want to do when I get home. That said, I occasionally find time to work on my own projects on weekends when I don't want to go out and kill brain cells instead. Also, the projects I work on at home are relatively small, there's no way I'd have the time or energy to work on something ambitious. It might just be that my job is satisfying enough. :) Everyone is different though.
Daniel

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Heh. Thanks for the replies, they were all interesting. I'm still thinking a lot about this. I don't think I'd have any trouble working on projects after a days coding, even perhaps as a games programmer. (Having no social life helps...) But it seems there are probably too many conflicts with proprietary games programming to assume I could do both professsional and recreational games programming. And I love games programming.

I'll have to think about this one.

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