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Does the open source community hurts game developers?

Discussion in 'General Linux Discussion' started by allenskd, Feb 28, 2014.

  1. allenskd

    allenskd Active Member

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    Alright. I was going to write a blog post about this, but decided against it for the sake of other people to jump in and comment.

    There are certain people who think that source code should be provided and licensed with a open source license (MIT/GPL/LGPL/etc). The idea of seeing users having the guts to ask game developers (or normal developers) to open their code makes me feel like we are back in 2000-2003, where people kept flooding Sun Microsystems forums to make Java open source.

    I love open source communities, they are helpful and polite most of the time, but one of the things I would never do is ask a fellow developer to open source the project, unless she/he wants to. I think that some people in the OSS community needs to stop making such demand. Games are being ported, more indie developers are porting their games to linux. So,when you ask them that, it's kinda impossible for the developer, who spent hundreds of hour creating his game, with the hopes of getting some dough for him, or to maintain his/her family; to open that game's source.

    Me? I'm always willing to pay for things that I will play or use. This is my way of supporting developers creating software on linux (or any platform). Monetizing in open source projects is hard, I've tried to do so in the past several times, best bet is that you end up giving premium support or waiting for a soul to donate 10 bucks which doesn't cover hosting expenses. Don't sell me that line where "oh, open source makes everything better, people could contribute fixes", it's such an old line and doesn't guarantee anything.

    What are your thoughts? Willing to support the developers or should they release the source code and pray people donate?
  2. Daerandin

    Daerandin Active Member

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    It certainly is a dilemma. I think, and have always thought that people who wish to make games, and hopefully make a living off it, should never be asked to open source their games. I always purchase games I want.

    It has been my belief that open source is good for the larger community as the project can grow from a large number of contributions if it is a widely used project. However, a developer wanting to make a living off a project should probably not go open source as it tend to make it very difficult to earn money from it.

    Personally, I don't think there is anything wrong with a developer who creates closed source software for selling, and frankly I believe that the GNU project tend to be a bit too zealous in their fight against closed source. I agree that I want to transparent, open source operating software. I like knowing that there are no hidden processes running on my system. And if I shut down all software that send network traffic, then I can safely know there are no other hidden processes suddenly sending network traffic.

    If it is software that does not require running as root, then I don't have a big problem with closed source software. All my games I play is closed source, Steam is closed source. The problem comes with closed source that does more than advertised. For instance games that have draconian DRM, or other sorts of software that sends hidden network traffic to the developer for either validation or building up user stastics. There is nothing wrong with creating user statistics, but it should always be voluntary and visible users of the software.

    Games seem to be a lot easier to earn money on from Linux users, as people seem willing to pay for it. Other types of software would most likely have to provide a very useful service that no open source project has been able to do.
  3. booman

    booman Grand High Exalted Mystic Emperor of Linux Gaming Staff Member

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    Sounds like the problem starts with Linux gamers who want to develop games.
    I've never understood the point-of-view where everything HAS to be open-source and free just because Linux is.

    Even at this point I love Linux so much I would actually pay for it.
    I totally agree with Daerandin because people who have creative talent should be able to make a living off of it.
    So we should pay them for it. This is why I love Kickstarter because developers who don't have the money up-front can ask the community to donate.

    Free games are great and some companies have a genius business model where advertising pays for the game instead of the players.

    Open source is great as well because people like us can learn how to develop games by looking at the actual code from successful games. There is no common sense to keep asking a developer to release the code if they don't want to. Specially if there is no benefit to the developer.

    I definitely see the benefits of open-source code to the communities. If "Joe" knows how to program and can create a mod/patch/custom content for the game then the players get some benefits from it. But not the developer.

    Sometimes I wish some older games code would be released so "mr enthusiast" can patch up the game or even port it to Linux. That would be kinda cool. Specially games that publishers are no longer making money from.
    I think that is the idea GOG.com had and are reviving many old games.
  4. Gizmo

    Gizmo Chief Site Administrator Staff Member

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    Not an easy question, and I have experience as a developer (though not in games). I spent 15 years in the medical industry writing enterprise-class server software (big iron stuff).

    First, we have to realize that there are different markets with different requirements. I'm not thinking here so much in the sense of 'Business' vs. 'Consumer' but more along the lines of applications that require maintenance contracts and applications that don't.

    If an application requires me to spend x every year for a support agreement in order to continue using the app (essentially an ongoing license fee) then I think I should have the source code. I'm paying for support, so YOU should have to earn my business by the quality of support you provide, NOT because you have me locked into a contract on a proprietary system with no documentation using a data format that no-one else can read, or that at the very least will require me to spend exorbitant amounts of money to reverse engineer so that I can move away from your system. That's just evil.

    Note that doesn't necessarily mean open source, but it DOES mean that I should have an agreement that says I get a copy of the source code, to use and modify as I see fit, so long as I don't distribute it (at the very least).

    For anything else, I paid my money, I got a product that did what it said on the tin, then I'm happy.

    There are corner cases, like the games we deal with here, where "Gee it'd be nice if this game ran on the OS that I use". Unfortunately, those things will always exist, and the only way around that is to open-source everything so that it can be ported if someone wants to. In principle that's great, but in practice we come back to the whole "Living costs money". People need to know that they can expect to feed themselves and their dependents if they invest significant labor in something.

    In the end, though, the final decision to open source or not is up to the developer. The decision to pay money or not is ours as the consumer. In most cases, there's no real right or wrong in either of those choices, and the open-source zealots who try to paint it that way are IMO doing a disservice to the Open Source Movement.
  5. Aedan

    Aedan Administrator Staff Member

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    Slightly different example, but the recent news of the 9 year old gaping hole in GNUTLS highlights that open source doesn't necessarily make things better, and can actually make things much worse. I can also understand that things like copyright licensing can make opensource a complete nightmare to navigate - if someone releases the source code for a game as open source but none of the resources (gfx, sound etc) are provided, how useful is that? Perhaps that's one way a developer could release a game as open source but still be able to make some money? I suspect that there'd be a cry about abusing open source though. For someone trying to understand how code works, it might be still helpful. However, in my experience, it takes a fair bit of work to get familiar with a code base, so it's still not an easy thing to do.

    That's not a reason for or against open source.
  6. allenskd

    allenskd Active Member

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    Yes, recently read that today. I'm amazed how old the mailing list post was when I saw the issue at first sight and it was ignored for so long... I do agree that open source doesn't equal to quality. Sometimes people contribute code to get better at it, others would contribute with remarks or code or documentation, etc.

    As for providing the source but not the assets, Frogatto team did that if I'm not mistaken. I'm not sure how the community took it though, I didn't stay for long (this was years back).
  7. Gizmo

    Gizmo Chief Site Administrator Staff Member

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    But the point is, at least it WAS found, and once found it was fixed. How many security holes are there in closed source applications? More crucially, how many of those can we find and fix ourselves?

    You're right that open source doesn't guarantee quality, any more than closed source does. What open source DOES guarantee is that I at least have access to the code so I can check things for myself.
  8. Aedan

    Aedan Administrator Staff Member

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    I do wonder if there was a hole that size in a closed source library (like schannel) how quickly would it be found? People seem to like attacking closed source, especially from certain vendors. That doesn't mean open source or closed source has less or more issues.

    And did you check the code? If you had checked the code, would you have noted that
    Code:
        result = _gnutls_x509_get_signed_data (cert->cert, "tbsCertificate",
                                        &cert_signed_data);
        if (result < 0)
            {
            gnutls_assert ();
            goto cleanup;
            }
        result = 0;
    cleanup:
        // cleanup type stuff
        return result;
    
    wasn't actually correct and was returning a value of 0 if the CA wasn't valid to a function that was expecting a negative to indicate an error.

    From my perspective if the answers to those questions is "no", then having access to the code hasn't really helped you. Although GnuTLS is "only" 138KLoc, cert handling and crypto tends towards code that's harder to understand.
  9. allenskd

    allenskd Active Member

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    May I add that we are getting a bit off-topic regarding the GNUTLS issue? I don't want to be that guy but... how code is patched, covered and how teams respond to each security/bug are highly subjective on each project, be it closed source or open source. If there's a lack of organization or no direction whatsoever then it will definitely suffer.

    Personally, I won't be taking sides. I think some closed source projects such as the people from PyCharm creators (JetBrain) have done an insanely good job, same with Sublime Text and TextMate. That's just on my field, of course each of you have different tools to work with.

    I'm hoping to revisit this same question in 3-4 years once SteamOS and GNU/Linux gaming matures.
  10. booman

    booman Grand High Exalted Mystic Emperor of Linux Gaming Staff Member

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    I won't be taking sides either since I'm just an end-user. i'm at the mercy of the development teams and publishers.
    Instead I will support both...
    When there is open source and communities thrive from it, I'll encourage others to use it (Linux hint, hint)
    When there is closed source and it runs great, I'll support it by purchasing their programs.

    That way everyone is happy
  11. Gizmo

    Gizmo Chief Site Administrator Staff Member

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    Agreed, stipulated, accepted, stapled. We've already covered this.


    Did I check the code? No. Was it therefore of practical benefit to me that I had access to the code? In this instance, no.

    But that's the point: IN THIS INSTANCE.

    The whole premise of open source is that if I choose to do so, I CAN look at the source. You seem to be arguing that since I didn't look at it open source has no value, which entirely misses the point.

    I'll quite happily agree with you all day long that open source doesn't guarantee better code quality, better security, or better product. That's not the point; that's a side issue.

    The one thing, the ONLY thing that open source guarantees is that, WHEN I NEED to look at the source code, I CAN.

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