[MUD-Dev] Open Source Online Gaming

Bruce bruce at cubik.org
Tue Mar 14 17:48:49 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000


I feel that this is probably getting well offtopic, but I think that some of
it is a valid point.  I'd rather not continue this discussion on-list
(unless JC feels otherwise) unless it veers back to being mud related.

Bryce Harrington wrote:
> On Mon, 13 Mar 2000, Aaron Mitchell wrote:
> > First of all, has anyone heard of or built a successful business model
> > in the online gaming industry centered around an open source project?
> > I like the idea of open source products, especially the community
> > development aspects, but still would like to develop a commercially
> > viable product.
>
> No, not yet.  This may merely be an artifact from the lack of completed
> open source online games, however.  The commercial aspects have been
> found to sometimes get tangled up with the community aspects; working
> for free to help someone else earn money is sometimes seen as unfair.

This seems to be a personal bias.

At a minimum, there are a few reasons why one might work on an open source
project.
 * Genuine love and/or interest in the field of endeavor.
 * A desire to be employed in that field in the future.
 * Being paid to do the work.
 * A need for the software, so you write your own. (Scratching the itch.)

Personally, I think that this mental attitude that a corporate concern is
being unfair to people by placing their intellectual property into open
source is dangerous.  That this is often then followed by deciding to start
a new project to avoid being cheated is also dangerous.  If open source is
to truly take hold (as it appears to be doing), many commercial groups will
be opening their code (as they are).  If people feel that it is unfair for
someone to take that code and make money off of it and decide to start
decidedly anti-commercial projects, that doesn't really help anyone as each
side loses the cooperation and benefits from that cooperation.

Do people stop contributing to Linux because companies sell it and profit?
I hope that isn't the attitude that most people have.

> I agree with you that availability of free servers hinders the potential
> of commercial pay servers, however it is important to recognize that
> valuable commodity in online gaming is not the use of the software (or
> access to proprietary graphics or sound), but access to the community
> and to the world's plot.  So, I wouldn't rule out the potential of
> building a business around otherwise completely free game software.

There are a number of places where a commercially focused entity can provide
a solid product that would be difficult for a non-commercial entity to
provide.  Content, bandwidth, hardware, marketing, licensing of intellectual
property (like a tie-in to Star Wars) ... those are just the start.

> I suspect though, that the openness makes it very hard to resist
> competitors making inroads.  Having funded (to some degree or another)
> initial development of the software, is there any way to avoid another
> company from sailing in and undercuting your margins by not having to
> pay off the development investment?

Yes.

> > Does anyone know of any companies with plans similar to this? I'd also
> > be very interested in hearing if any companies have thought about this
> > but already ruled it out for whatever reasons.  Most importatnly, any
> > feedback on the potential problems or obstacles a project like this
> > might face would be very much appreciated.  Thanks,
>
> Check out Loki, they do some amazingly cool open source work while still
> maintaining a (profitable, I think?) game development company.  I
> do not know if they have any online game projects under way but to date
> most of their projects have been ports of existing games to Linux.

The main thing that they are known for (SDL), is not a product of Loki's but
of one of their main programmers.  Loki just happens to use it and provide
some support for it  (newsgroup, development resources).

That's much like the Mozilla project which has many fulltime engineers
working on it from Sun, Intel, Redhat, and AOL.  (To name the larger
companies participating).  None of those companies own Mozilla though and
most contributors to Mozilla that I know don't feel that their being treated
unfairly because a commercial entity is using their code.  They do feel that
they're treated unfairly for other reasons, but that's another discussion
for another time (and not on this mailing list).

 - Bruce





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