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Re: Loki...

On Thu, Jan 24, 2002 at 08:48:46AM -0600, Steve Baker wrote:
> Without games, we'll have a very hard time in the desktop market.
> That's why we *needed* Loki - and I'm sad to see them go. (I have every
> game they ever produced - so I did my part to try to keep them afloat).

Agreed, I own a fair share as well, shame to see them go indeed.

>   1) With most OpenSource packages, the developers write it because they
>      want to *use* it.  Nobody wants to play the game they just wrote
>      because they already know all it's little secrets and are heartily
>      sick of the sight of it by the time they are done.

Not completely true for "classic" games that withstand the jaws of time. I
want to play Monopoly under Linux with my friends and that's why I'm working
hard on Atlantik (http://capsi.com/atlantik/) and I will still want to play
it in two years.

>   2) A package like Python or Apache has dozens - if not hundreds of
>      contributors.  Most games have to be written by a crew of between
>      one and three people with maybe a couple of occasional contributors.

That is true for most open source projects, though. There are also
countless utilities that have a single maintainer. And some games (FreeCiv
for example) have built a decent developer base.

>   3) Artwork is by far the biggest job in producing a modern game.  It has
>      proven almost impossible to attract artists to the concept of doing
>      work for nothing.  There have been *long* dicussions about this all
>      over the place - the conclusions are always the same - there are
>      almost no OpenSource artists out there.  Music and sound effects
>      present similar problems.  Programmers *rarely* make good artists. 
>      The artwork my son and I did for my Tux games is just pathetic
>      compared to even the worst commercial work.

True. Tuxracer looks nice though.. but indeed nothing like commercial games.

>   4) Games are short-lived phenomena.  People play a game for a few weeks
>      or months at most - and then move on.  It's rather depressing to
>      spend two years of your free time writing a big OpenSource game -
>      only to find that your fame lasts for a month and then nobody
>      downloads it anymore.  Better by far to write a simple KDE utility in
>      just a few weeks an see your work appreciated, used and extended for
>      years to come.

That's also why most "hardcore" Linux guru's can do without games, I
suppose. I don't need a new Quake-alike game every 3 months. The classics

>   5) Only one in 35 commercial games makes a profit.  OpenSource games
>      don't have to be profitable - but to be worth writing at all, you DO
>      want them to have a reasonable "happy-audience-to-effort"
>      ratio...which is kinda the same thing.  It's tough to go into an
>      OpenSource development that's going to suck up all your free time for
>      a year or more knowing that there is only a 3% chance that it will be
>      loved.

On the other hand, there is still a lot of uncharted territory. There are
plenty of game types I would like to see that are simply not present and
that would be popular albeit only for being unique.

I still plan to revive my football manager game sometime. Why? It's still an
itch and there still isn't anything even close to it for Linux. It *will* be
popular because it is not yet another Tetris clone but something that will
please all fans of the specific genre.

>   6) With non-games, you can release a version that's only partially
>      complete and people will join the project - offer patches, etc until
>      it's finished. If you release a game that's not "playable" - nobody
>      will download it.

Not exactly true either, Atlantik 0.1.1 is not truly playable yet. It lacks
support for trades and auctions, for example. Nonetheless it had over 4000
downloads in 6 weeks. But it gives the right look and feel, you can play
~more or less~ and you see the general direction of the program.

I market it a lot, on #kde, on Freshmeat and the likes, good meta keywords
on the website, etc etc. That seems to help more than most people think.

> There *are* some things we can do to improve this situation (I have attempted
> most of them) - but it's still pretty grim.  It's hard to point to a single
> OpenSource-developed game that would sell for $29.99.  Almost everything
> that's been written falls into the "100 Games on one CD for $5!" catagory.

Yah, that is true, I'm afraid.

> The best OpenSource games would look good back in the days of the Amiga
> and the Atari-ST - but they are hopelessly outdated by 21st century standards.
> My efforts (Tux - A Quest for Herring, TuxKart and now "The Chronicles of
> the Evil Overlord") have tried to circumvent these problems.
>   * I'd hoped that by making a game where it was relatively easy to add
>     levels of your own (TuxKart), I'd get lots of people contributing game
>     levels - which would make the game bigger with little effort on my part
>     - and also make the game more interesting for me to play.  I never got
>     a single level contributed.

Weird. As soon as the gameboard designer entered Atlantik I've seen a severe
loss of productivity since all #kde developers where busy making gameboards.

Didn't even write the designer myself, someone else did.

>   * I put most of the code into a library that could be used (and therefore
>     contributed to) by other Linux games writers.  Hence, TuxKart contains
>     only 5,400 lines of code and the PLIB library has grown to almost 63,000
>     lines.  That is the only thing that has enabled me to write three games
>     in about 3 years...it would have been impossible otherwise.

Yes, libraries are important. I'm doing the same with Atlantik now,
seperating between a core library with the data objects, a client library
for the network API and a GUI library which helps visualising the objects.
It should be easy for someone to write a OpenGL GUI reusing the core and
network code.

>   * I try to come up with game concepts that don't need much artwork.  That's
>     proved to be almost impossible.  Games that don't have much artwork seem
>     to always look crap - that's not really a suprise I guess.

I had some tricks to circumvent that. Of course my game looks like a KDE
app, but the gameboard is pretty custom. However, I copied some of the GUI
effects from kwin decoration themes which really looks nice.

>   * I try to build games that are somewhat like successful commercial titles,
>     without directly cloning them.  This gives the game a better chance of
>     being liked.

Likewise. Atlantik plays Monopoly-like games and the server includes the
actual Monopoly game. I guess developing a proven concept (a "classic")
makes most sense.

> But for all that, I don't feel that the process has been terribly fulfilling.

Are you really sure that the game you are developing is your biggest itch?
That's the key, it really is.

> It's very depressing - but we *NEED* commercial games for Linux.

Well, we need commercial-quality games. Unfortunately at the moment that
means actual commercial games. Hopefully the open source development
movement continues to grow and start attracting artists in the future. We
lack the resources now, but in theory we could do it - under the right

Rob Kaper     | "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little
cap@capsi.com | temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
www.capsi.com | - Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759