Saturday, July 14, 2007

Strategies for Expanding Free Gaming

Free gaming as we know it, have no pure-breed Free software vendors/studio surrounding it. Few Free games are ever commercial. Thus a myth developed about Linux do not have much games, which is not true. The success story of games like Battle for Wesnoth pale in comparison to other big Free software projects like Firefox. There are few projects that are big and ambitious yet still enjoy wide success.

Practically everyone agree that gaming is one of the biggest bump on the road to widespread adoption of the Linux desktop.

Probably many of us want more games, which are Free softwares.

Still not all hope are lost. If our collective goal is to expand Free gaming's popularity so there are more Free games to play, along with more vibrant development of Free games, and we are willing to put in the effort, perhaps we have a chance. It may also further the goal of the Free software movement. It might even accelerate the adoption of the Linux desktop and finally lead to the magical "Year of the Linux Desktop".

Below this sentence are some of my ideas(Some original and some not) on how we can expand Free gaming's popularity.

1. Build website and services catering to game hackers:

There are lot of websites you could build, whether it is yet another place for developers to host their game projects, wiki dedicated to Free game developments, or maybe even a social networking website for fans and developers to connect. These services help the game developers in their quest for spreading the words, knowledge, or a place to call home, and other useful functions. Whatever it may be, it help developers achieve their goal in the development of games and that can only be a good thing. You might even earn a cent or two in the process!

In this area, I imagine a project that combine social networking and like hosting services. It would give the website a more community feel, as well make game hackers the rock stars of the Free software world. Plus it would be nice for game hackers to carry around a universal profile showing what they accomplished, how many fans they have, contact information, and game projects they're working on. As with project hosting, I guess it would develop a special brand of tools(Free softwares of course) to distinguish itself further from other competitors. It is a kind of website that put strong emphasis on social networking yet give tools for developers to develop their games. This is a dream of mine that I hope is going to be worked on by either me or someone else sometime soon in the future.

2. Free the games campaign

I bet there are many games that are gathering dust sitting on the "intellectual property" shelf of proprietary video game companies. Nothing may never ever happen to them. It is immoral that such source code and data files aren't exposed to the world! The fact that they're sitting on an imaginary shelf gathering dust make this injustice further more harmful.

It is your jobs for those with lot of free times to contact the "intellectual property" owners and free the games! Of course, focus on ones you like because you'll probably be more motivated to free them.

The effort of freeing the games won't do much good if they're not being further developed. While the game may be freed and can rise up when somebody wanted to work on them, it does them no good if they're not being played and enjoyed. So it is up to you or another group of developers to start developing the game. Maybe the first release would be a maintenance release intending to iron out bugs and the port the game to new platform. With a little bit of work, you can probably attract a new fanbase to enjoy the fruit of your labor.

Someday, Free software advocates all over the world don't have to feel guilty if they're playing old games, because they become Free softwares.

There are already projects underway that are currently undertaking this challenge, one of them is the Free Gamer's Project Open.

3. Write new exciting Free games

Innovations tend to be rare in this world, especially in the commercial video game industry where they have the tendency to focus on the graphics. You, the small developer, cannot focus your effort on cutting edge graphics. So it is essential that you focus your effort on what matter most, the gameplay. Everything else such as the graphics, musics, and others are beside the point but they do help to enhance the game.

Forget the clones, focus on something different. Focus your time on designing vastly different gameplay style than the norm. Who know, you might even hit the jackpot! Of course, the game must be fun. Despite the Free gaming world being a clone-fest, there are a few relatively innovative game that give you a different feel. Such kind of games includes RTS named Globulation 2.

The more innovative game you can write, the better!

You might want to try to write a killer game after a few good runs, which is a game that everyone must play. It would attract large amount of gamers in very short time.

A little disclaimer: I don't know how to design really innovative games and killer games or have the experience to. You and I going to have to discover how to do just that. If you're a really brilliant game designer and programmer, I encourage you to pump games for the Free software world.

The more new players there are, the more they're introduced to Free gaming and Free softwares.

4. Take up Abandoned Projects

You know, there are a whole lot of Free games that are abandoned right now. If you don't have good ideas on game design but have some programming skills, this one is for you! You can just take up games that are good but are abandoned and just maintain it. Beside, it will do wonder for any existing fans of the games. Plus revitalization of a project just make the whole Free gaming scene look more vibrant as well more exciting. When there are lot of less dead projects, I am sure it will shatter the perception that Free platform such as GNU/Linux generally suck.

In Conclusion

Well, this is all I can think of right now. Just remember, the more Free gaming become popular, it will further the goal of the larger Free software movement as well bring more games to play with that don't attempt to restrict our freedom. Everyone win! (Except the guys who continues to produce proprietary games)

In the future, I might even have more ideas on how one might expand Free gaming to a bigger scale.

In the meantime, happy hacking!


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Keith said...

Another possible strategy: Work on procedural content generation. Commercial studios have large teams dedicated to content creation, and that's hard to compete with. If Open Source code can be created to shoulder much of that workload (eg. code to automate most of the creation of a 3D model or code to extrapolate 3D levels from a simple map), it would allow Free Software to compete on a more even footing.

Lord AGNUcius said...

Freedom isn't free.

Most users already assume they should pay some money for software, including games, because the programmer has to eat after all...

Any software that has a "Free Software" license may be sold as a 'commercial' item
but cannot be made 'proprietary' because the source code must accompany the object code (the executable).

I've been trying to think of some of the ways we might make that user/developer connection including:

* We need a bug-tracker so any user may easily add to monetary bounties for bug fixes or feature requests.

* CD or DVDs or even USB keys that might even be a GNU LiveCD system with a Linux or NetBSD kernel etc.

* I recently learned that you can sell "digital" products on EBAY that are simply downloaded - you never ship anything.

* We also want the receive more user complaints and suggestion - especially when they are interested in paying, so we should add a button to the Frame of every window as defined by the X Window Window Manager.

* Some others I've forgotten right now...

Kiba said...

lord agnucius:

Hello, I know that developers need to feed themselves, why would I run ads in the first place?

There is already an article on my blog suggesting ways to make money but I am too lazy to spell out the URL for you.