Releasing source: any experiences?

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by Fost, Aug 31, 2006.

  1. Fost

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    I'm intrigued if anyone has released the source code to a game they sell (not freeware), and what their experiences of doing so have been?
     
  2. jankoM

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    am am not sure, but didn't princec do this?
     
  3. mot

    mot
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    I think Cas offered the source code for Ultratron at some time at the javagaming.org forums, but unfortunately I didn't catch that. His SPGL toolkit is on SourceForge.
     
  4. Jesse Aldridge

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    Yeah Cas uploaded the Ultratron source at some point. I downloaded it and studied it a bit when I was first getting into java. Pretty indecipherable stuff... (no offence Cas :) ).

    Somewhere he mentioned that releasing the source caused him no issues. Oh, and there were some key things missing (like resource files and other stuff that I can't remember).

    I guess it depends on how easy your code is to understand...

    I think it's worth experimenting.

    That is, I think it's worth you experimenting :)
     
  5. Fost

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    Ha! Well, that's why I'm looking for someone else's experiences first. Cas' java source release was perhaps for slightly different reasons than I'm considering. Wasn't that more to do with helping teach Java to people? We're getting requests from people who want to make mods.
     
  6. zoombapup

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    Why not "license" it? cheap thingy, but makes it worthwhile and gives you some legal control.
     
  7. sillytuna

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    Nick,

    Releasing source to something you still sell needs careful thought. Once a game is free it's no problem. I guess it depends what your reasons are and if you think the benefits (kudos, improvements) outweigh the potential costs (support - even if you don't officially do it, copycat risks, competitor usage).

    If the source comes without assets then that's safer, but how much use is it to others?

    Sorry if that doesn't sound too indie, but when it's your way of making a living you need to think carefully.

    Edit: Zoomba may have a point. You could license it maybe? Again, depends who would use it and for what purpose. At least there is some semblance of control.
     
  8. mahlzeit

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    Releasing source *is* to license it. :)

    I've never done it with a commercial product, but every time I've made source code available, *most* people don't seem to care about it.
     
  9. Fost

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    Well duh! :)

    I'm not really asking for opinions on whether it should be done or not. I realise we could have an emormous debate about that but it would just be an endless list of unsupported opinion (not that I'm having a go, I'm as guilty of that as anyone ;) ), but there are some people who have actually done this, and I'm interested to know what their actual experiences are.

    No, for a start, it's not a generic system, and for an end - you'd have to be slightly mad to choose it over one of the many free and open source engines out there that are quite amazing. This really stems from some people being genuinely interested in modding our game, and them having a lot of programming experience. My gut reaction is no, but I'm sure someone here has taken that angle, and so I'd obviously be very interested to hear their first hand experiences.
     
  10. lapskaus

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    Well, ask John Carmack :p

    You run the risk of your game becoming entirely freeware. I've seen projects for doom and quake that aims to remake all the art assets the games need, so people can play them for free with one of the many modified GPL'ed engines that has been made using the released source for the games. The artwork, sound and music for the game is NOT GPL'ed, so you need to buy the game to get those and use with the engine, but that's easily solved when someone remakes all that stuff. I don't know if those projects for doom and quake are complete yet though..

    So i would definitly go with ID softwares approach. Release the code for older games that aren't selling well any more. OR seperate the game code and engine code so that you can release only the game code and allow people to make mods while the game is still fresh.
     
  11. Fost

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    ...but... he's NOT an indie developer. This idea that he is in someway connected to the industry because of Id's shreware roots, I just find preposterous. ID release the source, in order to license it to commercial mainstream developers, at that point they aren't going to make money any other way out of it.

    Sorry - perhaps I should have been clearer - I'm not after opinion on whether to do it or how to do it, I'm looking for people who have actual real experience of doing it. My gut reaction is that it's not a good idea, but I never make a decision when there's potentially someone out there who already knows what might happen. Perhaps another thread entitled 'Releasing source: Any opinions?' might be needed here :) as it's definitely something I'm sure people want to talk about...
     
  12. princec

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    I released the source to Ultratron a while back, isn't there now but it certainly escaped into the wild. Didn't affect me in the slightest really. Hope somebody learned something from it though it was a bit hacky.

    Cas :)
     
  13. ErikH2000

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    The source code for DROD has been released for years in various forms. I think you have to decide if you are going to really try to develop a community around the game. If you just dump the source out there, it's unlikely anything will come of it. But if you do a million other little supporting things that encourage people to use the source in various ways, then releasing source can be quite helpful. I.e. DROD got Mac, Linux, and other ports for basically free. And I met my current business partner as a result of releasing the source code, which conservatively speaking, has been worth tens of thousands of dollars to me.

    I wouldn't release source code for some intangible "promote goodwill" reason. There's enough code laying around out there that nobody really cares. I would release code to encourage modding and add-on value from a player community. I'd release code to meet other people that might end up helping you on your projects. The downside for me has been that a certain amount of time is wasted giving help to people that don't follow through on their projects, and that it creates confusion with certain well-intended people that equate "open source" with "completely free for any use".

    If you're the type of developer that prefers to quietly get crap done without the community hullaballoo, don't go the open source route. Or if you're the type of developer that gets dangerously distracted from real work by a little human attention, then don't go the open source route. Expect e-mails like this in your inbox:

    "I've compiled a list of several hundred changes I would make throughout your project which will generally increase your frame rate by 30%. You could either give me access to your repository or I could just send you the diffs."

    "escuse me my english not so good, but how is it that makefile not produce compilation for line 572, EvilEye.cpp WCHAR (52) "ambiguous refererence" i have spent many many hours work on this and please if you can help i very much appreciate"

    "Can I post graphics from your game on DeviantArt for this thing I'm making? Its all open source right?"

    "Dude I think I am ready to port this sucka to PSP. Me and my friends are gonna get hardcore on it this weekend. Just tell me like how do we work it out so we can sell the game?"

    So it's a Pandora's Box that you're opening. The people that end up talking to you are by and large pretty cool, and you have complete control over the communication nozzle. The more time you spend talking to people, the more capacity for rewards coming out of it. But also you end up losing a lot of time you could have spent writing the next game. It's tricky.

    -Erik
     
  14. Fost

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    Thanks Eric, that's exactly the sort of feedback I was after. Essentially - what happens if you release source in an attempt to engage modders. We are actually pro-modding, but we have always said - If you can't do something right, then don't do it at all. Starscape was written in a way that completely throws the idea of data-driven gaming out of the window, so we didn't even want to consider letting people mod it, because, quite frankly, there's nothing they'd be able to do without editing the source code. Most people just don't get that, because they're used to modding data driven games.

    However, we get so many requests asking for modding options, or just the ability to use the source, that it's had us thinking seriously about it. So I was interested what might happen.
     
  15. ErikH2000

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    Ah, speaking of modding, I forgot about one kind of important negative aspect of releasing your source. If people distribute modded executables or even worse, partial patches to executables, you can generate some really nasty support headaches. I decided a while back to outlaw distributing binary mods on our forum, even though there were a number of cool things people were doing. I'd prefer someone make a clearly separated distribution, i.e. "FostDROD" than just throw a patch out there that adds God Mode to the game and as a side effect causes the game to crash randomly.
    So all those sectors you explore are generated procedurally? Cool. Another route that might interest you is doing something like Dustin Sacks did with Lux: put enemy AI and level generation in a scriptable language. (Actually, Dustin uses Java, which is extra-elite) The Sillysoft crowd really latched onto this.
    Well, you guys got the lively forum and dedicated fanbase thing going. And it seems you don't mind talking to your players a lot. Seems to me it would be a good move overall.

    -Erik
     
  16. Fost

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    Eeek! we actually have a similar problem with people making trainers for Starscape. Oddly enough, they never seem to work, and always crash the game at some point. We once spent about 2 weeks to-ing and fro-ing with a customer, only to find out they were running a trainer...

    I think we are in the realms of completey re-writing the game from the ground up though to do that. We've constantly made updates to Starscape, and they require a lot of effort to get very little done. A sequel which is purely data driven, and so can be infinitely extended is somehting we've thought about a lot. However, you're probably talking about 2 years work minimum :)

    Yeah, thanks, you've given me a lot to think about anyway!
     

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