# Is there the possibility of Open Source Games?

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Hi was wondering if there is the possibility for open source gaming; in the face of more expensive games we settle on a few games in each genre that are open source and built by the gamers for gamers. Does this idea make any sense?

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Moving this to Business. Chukk, can you please respond with a restatement of your question? What is the "idea" that you're asking about exactly? Open source games probably exist (Steve Russell's "Spacewar" became an open source game after its release). Are you asking if open source games make sense? Or is there something else you're asking about open source games? Edited by Tom Sloper

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There are thousands of high quality open source games out there right now today. Just download one of the games-centric Linux builds, or pull down any of the thousands of maintained packages that include such games.

And that's not all. There are many additional open source games targeting other platforms and even more that have a general target of the web, not just games for us hippie communist Linux users. :-)

Or old school, if you prefer to go that way, you can look back at games like NetHack that were open source Usenet projects before open source was even a thing. It may be text based and some people don't like that, but it is also consistently ranked among the best video games of all time. It is a game that literally includes the kitchen sink, allows you do just about anything you want including alchemy or attempting to eat weapons and armor, if you are so inclined. You can tame monsters (it is fun to have a few pet dragons). You can anger the gods enough for them to not just strike you with lightning but have them send demons or angels against you or attempt to disintegrate you outright. If you go to a level with trees you can chop them down if you have an axe. Kicking down a door or kicking a sink you encounter might upset those around you, squeezing a monster to death is possible, as is chatting with demons. (The developers even allow a "mail demon" to come into your game and tell you that you have email, you can ask the mail demon to read it to you.) Nethack is an amazing open source game that is still in slow but active development.

So, YES, not only is there a possibility, there is the reality. Go download Tux Kart or Frozen Bubbles or FreeCiv or FreeDoom or a very long list of others.

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On the topic of "by players, for players", this often isn't as great an idea as it initially seems.

A lot of time and effort often goes into designing, testing and balancing the most popular games, and that level of precise detail isn't something a lot of players properly understand when they have their own ideas. As one specific example, after a lot of work and testing the developers of Halo found that by adjusting the reload time of the sniper rifle by less than one second the game was significantly better balanced and players had a lot more fun; that sort of precise tweaking just isn't something that's likely to happen in a "by the players, for the players" type of system, nor are they likely to properly and thoroughly think through the huge impact a single new feature can have on an existing game.

On a side note, if you check our "coding horrors" forum right now you'll find a little experiment where members are gradually adding to a small game with no real guidelines or overall design in place - the results so far are pretty interesting, but aren't really a great (or even particularly good) game.  There's also a second one that hasn't taken off as well.

As the others have said above though, open source games (in the traditional sense of the term open source) have been around for years, and some of them are very popular.

(Posted from mobile.)

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I’m sorry, the question that i am trying to pose is whether it is feasible in any way to make a series of video games in various genres for different proprietary and non proprietary which are supported and improved over time by dedicated base of developers. For example if someone(I) liked a genre but disliked the current commercial choices then what is the probability of someone starting ones own series of virtual hockey simulation that can be improve upon over time by a community. I sort of imagine, because I don’t know, that GIMP is the Photoshop alternative to a “frustrated” demographic of artists.

So I guess what I’m asking is if a hockey game, or other genre, can become a viable quality competitive choice for users compared to the commercial titles like NHL2K11 or NHL by EA Sports. Is this just a matter of dedication towards creating a polished piece of free art or are there forces at work that have prevented this from happening? I see people that complain about NHL by EA but I’ve never seen a competitor rise yet? Is the user base too small? Where can one find open source alternatives to commercial titles? I can consider if the cos to build these games is enormous but I think development practices have become more democratized so where are the games?

Please correct where my thought process is going wrong.

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On the topic of "by players, for players", this often isn't as great an idea as it initially seems.

A lot of time and effort often goes into designing, testing and balancing the most popular games, and that level of precise detail isn't something a lot of players properly understand when they have their own ideas. As one specific example, after a lot of work and testing the developers of Halo found that by adjusting the reload time of the sniper rifle by less than one second the game was significantly better balanced and players had a lot more fun; that sort of precise tweaking just isn't something that's likely to happen in a "by the players, for the players" type of system, nor are they likely to properly and thoroughly think through the huge impact a single new feature can have on an existing game.

[...]

So the problem is too many cooks would be in the kitchen? Is this because game design is an art? Is it possible to make game design more of a fool proof science like how they gather tens of producers in hollywood to work on one american idol and manage to get that unknown persons songs stuck into our head? Isn't it good to blend art with science like how they say Steve Jobs did with his career? What about that Linus's Law: "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow"?

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It's too many cooks to a certain extent, but also a lack of proper training and experience.

All of the people working together to get an American Idol's latest song stuck in your head are professionals with years of experience; they have access to data and focus groups on what makes new songs popular, they have experience working with other artists, and established well-tested methods to minimize the chances of failure.

Similarly, AAA games are made by very large teams of experienced developers with huge budgets and established systems for minimizing risk and maximizing the potential of their games selling at least well enough to make back the initial investment.  Indie games are typically made by smaller teams, but are either teams of skilled and experienced (often ex-industry) developers, or are made by less experienced developers with a much more hit-and-miss process and a lot of learning and mistakes along the way; very few indie teams are actually all that successful, and only a tiny minority make a lot of money.

Coming back to the "too many cooks" analogy, good restaurants do actually have a lot of cooks; they are all professionally trained however, and are lead by an experienced and well-trained head-chef.  Everyone has well defined responsibilities, and there are established procedures in place for minimizing the risk of a bad dish and ensuring the customers receive good meals in a timely fashion.

Does that make sense?

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So I guess what I’m asking is if a hockey game, or other genre, can become a viable quality competitive choice for users compared to the commercial titles like NHL2K11 or NHL by EA Sports. Is this just a matter of dedication towards creating a polished piece of free art or are there forces at work that have prevented this from happening? I see people that complain about NHL by EA but I’ve never seen a competitor rise yet? Is the user base too small? Where can one find open source alternatives to commercial titles? I can consider if the cos to build these games is enormous but I think development practices have become more democratized so where are the games?

The difference is one of resources.

Look through the game credits on those games. You might see fifty different people in various development capacities from producers and designers through programmers, modelers, animators, and audio. Then you might see one hundred to two hundred people listed in testing, and another fifty or so in non-development roles.

That may be the equivalent of $3M or$5M or much more.   For JUST ONE YEAR of the franchise.  Each year they add on to it. The NHL2K series had 11 installments over multiple platforms. Based on the game credits I'd estimate a \$10M development budget most years. So the 2014 version of a long-running annual franchise like Madden or Tiger Woods may have a quarter billion dollars in lifetime development investment.

These aren't hobby developers, they are professionals doing work for their day job. There are a lot of them, and they are good at it. It is a huge investment in resources in a well-established system.

There a few open source games that have that kind of love from the development teams, but not many.

It is unlikely that you as a single developer can realistically compete against such a game just because creating all of those assets and all of that code takes far more time than a single individual can produce in a short time.

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@jbadams So an open source series can be achieved with leadership, organization and skill?

But what isn't this easier now to accomplish because isn't game development democratized and old enough to a point where most dedicated groups or individuals can apply the principles to create a decent product while requiring little resources?

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So I guess what I’m asking is if a hockey game, or other genre, can become a viable quality competitive choice for users compared to the commercial titles like NHL2K11 or NHL by EA Sports. Is this just a matter of dedication towards creating a polished piece of free art or are there forces at work that have prevented this from happening? I see people that complain about NHL by EA but I’ve never seen a competitor rise yet?

An important force you're overlooking is brand recognition. There may be complainers about EA's game, but there are a lot of players who want the NHL teams and the stats of the real NHL players and such. An open-source hockey game can't use the NHL brand or the real NHL players or team names. That might not seem important to some, but it has tremendous value to the hockey fans.
(To address the NHL example you gave.)

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