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DadeLeviathan

The Open Source Concept when Applied to Games

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So this is a topic that has been running through my head for a while now, and actually sparked a debate with a few friends of mine (most of which are not designers, but a couple which are). Open Source development is a concept that has gotten a lot of traction in the past few years where general software development is concerned. Linux runs almost entirely on open source software (heck, Linux itself is an open source OS), and the open source idea has spread to all the other OS, sometimes resulting in a product which is just as good as its traditionally developed competitor (such as Open Office). We have open source versions for almost every type of software developed this days.

So with that thought in mind... would Open Source game development ever really work? Games [i]are[/i] software, of course, but they are also a different beast. Games are created in a pipeline much more similar to films than other software development. Yes, they share similarities with software development (They are software after all), but in the entire scheme of things their entire development pipeline has always resembled other forms of entertainment rather than traditional software. With AGILE development, this pipeline has now become more of an amalgamation of the two ideas, but it's still a pipeline that very much requires an internal development team, and really cannot function by being spread out between many different people similar to how open source software works.

So what do you guys think? Could Open Source game development work with the various Agile and non agile pipelines in the industry today? If not, what would have to change about the traditional pipeline to make it work? How large would the core development team (if any) have to be in order to create something that others would be able to manipulate?

Additionally, I want to define that I am talking specifically about a game, not middleware or the underlying engine, or any other software used within the game. Needless to say, you can easily create open source software to use in the game, such as graphics engines, game engines, physics engines, etc etc, heck there are a few options out there now (OGRE, for example).

So could an open source game work? Why? Why not? What would need to change within the standard pipeline to allow them to work?

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Open source games already exist in a sense. Its called modding. You can create entire new game genres in mods, Dota for instance. Also some pretty good stuff in the new SC2 modding. A sort of FPS game, a space fleet game and such have already been made that do not really feel like SC2 at all.

I work on a fork of the open source Glest/GAE RTS project. GAE is both an engine and a pre-existing game. There is pretty much some serious freedom. Various mods which are essentially equal to complete games have been made.

What do you mean by games in any case? If you take out graphics and physics and game engines there isn't much room left. Do you mean the art pipeline? The game mechanics?

What part of open source gaming doesn't already exist?

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Consider a open source fiction novel, or an open source painting. Would it work?

I think video games contain a certain creative element similar to novels and paintings that require either the direction of an individual "artist" or a very small team. While it is possible to create open source novels or paintings, they would lose something that single authored works possess. I suspect this is the same for video game.

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[quote name='Legendre' timestamp='1340466897' post='4952028']
Consider a open source fiction novel, or an open source painting. Would it work?

I think video games contain a certain creative element similar to novels and paintings that require either the direction of an individual "artist" or a very small team. While it is possible to create open source novels or paintings, they would lose something that single authored works possess. I suspect this is the same for video game.
[/quote]

Indeed, there are opensource games though but they are run in pretty much the same way as other hobbyist game projects and outside contributions tend to be focused on the technology rather than the game itself. (Application software is easier to contribute to in a meaningful way as any added feature usually adds value to the product) Edited by SimonForsman

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[quote name='Legendre' timestamp='1340466897' post='4952028']
Consider a open source fiction novel, or an open source painting. Would it work?

I think video games contain a certain creative element similar to novels and paintings that require either the direction of an individual "artist" or a very small team. While it is possible to create open source novels or paintings, they would lose something that single authored works possess. I suspect this is the same for video game.
[/quote]

Hmm, I am picturing a canvas (a large canvas, probably) in a public area (not just out on the street, but perhaps in a library, on a college campus, or something) and then probably a sort of guest book asking people to write their name and what they contributed (as with open source s/w, perceived accountability breeds quality) and then whatever sorts of brushes and paints or pastels or whatever. I actually think you [i]might[/i] achieve something quite nice.

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[quote]Linux runs almost entirely on open source software[/quote]
I think you got that backwards, considering Linux is just the kernel :)

[quote]would Open Source game development ever really work?[/quote]
Already does, seeing how many open source games are out there.

[quote]Games are created in a pipeline much more similar to films than other software development.[/quote]
Yes, but what of it? There is no specific model for open source software development. The only difference between developing open source software and closed source software is that anyone can try to contribute to your software or fork it. Anyone can try to contribute to the art in an open source game project or fork the game and use their own art.

[quote]Could Open Source game development work with the various Agile and non agile pipelines in the industry today?[/quote]
Can you clarify what you mean by "work with"? You can't create art for a game in an Agile fashion, can you? Or do you mean just the coding part of a game?

[quote name='Legendre' timestamp='1340466897' post='4952028']
Consider a open source fiction novel, or an open source painting. Would it work?
[/quote]
I assume by "open source" you mean "collaborative" here. There are good examples of both actually(however with paintings it's abstract art).

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[quote name='bimmy' timestamp='1340664078' post='4952820']
[quote name='Legendre' timestamp='1340466897' post='4952028']
Consider a open source fiction novel, or an open source painting. Would it work?

I think video games contain a certain creative element similar to novels and paintings that require either the direction of an individual "artist" or a very small team. While it is possible to create open source novels or paintings, they would lose something that single authored works possess. I suspect this is the same for video game.
[/quote]

Hmm, I am picturing a canvas (a large canvas, probably) in a public area (not just out on the street, but perhaps in a library, on a college campus, or something) and then probably a sort of guest book asking people to write their name and what they contributed (as with open source s/w, perceived accountability breeds quality) and then whatever sorts of brushes and paints or pastels or whatever. I actually think you [i]might[/i] achieve something quite nice.
[/quote]

[left]The result might indeed be interesting in terms of variety, but probably due to people having different artistic views and varying talent, the result might look like a mess. A collection of loosely connected pieces. I think that a game should not be like that, and agree with Legendre, that the game needs to be directed by some individual or a small team. What if some master artist was present near the canvas all the time, giving advice and directing the workflow. Would that kill the fun of it?[/left]

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Most open source games have a team in the lead and then other people can submit requests and/or changes. If someone wants to take the project in another direction they just fork it and become the lead for that fork.

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