[MUD-Dev] GPL (was:Libs for 3D Client/Servers)

Patrick Dughi dughi at imaxx.net
Mon Jul 9 20:51:14 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


On Thu, 5 Jul 2001, Joackim Birgersson wrote:
> Travis Casey < efindel at earthlink.net > wrote:
>>> From: Brian Hook <bwh at wksoftware.com>
           .....
>>> I think it would have potential, especially if it was not GPL'd
>>> (some other version of the copy-left scheme, that allowed the
>>> operators to collect money and even make a profit would be
>>> fine).

>> The GPL does not prevent either of these things -- if it did, Red
>> Hat and other for-profit Linux companies would not be able to
>> exist.  You may be thinking of the Diku license, which didn't
>> allow running a for-profit mud without permission from the
>> copyright holders.

> You forget the little fact that Redhat sells other peoples work,
> they do very little inhouse themselfs. They have thousands of open
> source programmers that basically works for them (kind of) for
> free. They have a few inhouse that they pay and a couple of
> external projects that they sponsor but for the most part it's a
> matter of free labour.

Yeah. Anyone who's perhaps signed a few of Alan Cox's paychecks
hasn't really devoted any financial interest in open source
software.

(Maybe I'm confused, but if you pay someone to write software,
that's still considered "other people's work", right?)

>From what I understood, redhat doesn't claim to have written these
pieces of software, and merely package it (along with installation,
administration and other software they _have_ written, along with
support and training, and all the other ways that actually makes
them money). In fact, the thousands of open source programmers that
basically work for them work for you too.  Which one of them have
you sponsored?

Taking time out of chewing on the flame bait, their financial model
rests primarily on the fact that they support this open source
product, and are acknowledged as an industry leader which gives them
marketing and sales clout.

Trust you me - you cannot get any tenured manager worth their
position to put their name on a product that doesn't have two
fallbacks:

  1) Everyone else is doing it (standard practice, in court)

  2) It comes with a warranty/tech support/etc

This is at least one reason McDonalds hasn't broken into the web
server market with an unsupported McHttpd server.

Okay, that was primarily for laugh value.

The important thing to note here though, is that RedHat isn't even
trying to make money from the bare code.  It's downloadable for
free.  You pay 50$ in a store for a linux cd and something like a
month of free (limited) tech support.

It's not that you can't make money from an opensource product, just
that you can't make money from the mere existance of an open source
product....welll... easily at least.

>> In fact, the GPL only requires you to release source code you
>> create if you distribute the resulting binaries in some way --
>> if, for example, you took a GPLed server, altered it, and ran it
>> as your server, you would not have to distribute your
>> alterations, as long as you didn't give away binaries of your
>> server.

> That you must release the source code is not the big problem. That
> you must let everyone copy and redistribuate it however they want
> to (including not paying you for doing so) is. Still, the biggest
> problem might be that a big company with a strong trademark can
> rip it off, change the name, and sell it instead. Check out the
> Redhat database if you want to know what I'm talking about. It's
> really the Postgresql database that Redhat ripped and just changed
> the name. Great bridge that makes postgresql got really screwed..

Actually, again, redhat claims their database IS posgres.

*Sigh* ... I have such problems not responding to what appears to be
out-and-out trolling....

In anycase, assuming there are no legal issues such as a company
taking over your product, you have to remember that you are not
selling just the code.

Let's look at commercial, closed-source games out there, Ultima
Online or Everquest.  Say they, in some bout of curious behavior,
release the source code to their game.  Who do you know who'd be
able to compete with them?  They already have the user base, they
already have technicans and in-game-support personel, and a
(probably) toll-free help hotline.  I know that there are both
server and client clones out there for those games.  They're free! 
Why do they only have 20-30 people on, and yet people line up just
for the privelege of paying a company for the right to voice what
seem to be an inexhaustable number of complaints?

Seems like even in the commercial world, you're not going to make a
whole lot of money from just the source code, as novel or unique as
it may be.  Looks more like the services you wrap around it, the
support you give it, the community/userbase you foster, and the
things that differentiate YOUR game from any other game out there
(even if they are NOT the same code base).

At least, as long as we're talking about online multi-player games.

> In the case of a mud-package that you describe I think that if
> such a product shall have any chance of keeping up with new
> technology it must have professional paid people to support it
> continously.

I'm fuzzy on your definition of keeping up, so I can't directly
refute this claim.  Suffice to say, I don't agree.  Instead though,
let me shift the focus to what I believe would hold back a free
mud-package, and it's pretty easy to sum up in my mind: Art.

Free/Open source programmers are around everywhere.  What about
people willing to devote their life to helping to run a game (or
provide areas/content) in exchange for something as simple as free
access? I bet you couldn't throw a rock and not hit one or two.
Grab a couple of people who like RPG's and computer games, or even
computer rpgs, and you've got your drive, backstory, genre, and
number systems all ready to be implemented.

For an up-to-date program though, you need to have some art.  I'm
not talking about any of the current Final-"easily 7/8'ths of this
game is full-motion-video"-Fantasy like games, but you know,
something to have a little bit of glitz.  Creating this just as hard
as programming, and there seems to be a dearth in the 'Open Source
Art' market.

Perhaps it's because programmers traditionally get paid more than CG
artists and so have more leisure time to 'give back' (You know - the
wealthier you are, the more generous you can be).  Maybe I just
haven't been looking in the right places, but I don't see alot of
that out there.

I know I don't have the right numbers here, so I expect someone to
correct me, but I think I heard that UO has something between 2 and
4 man-years of CG work put into it?  How long did it take for that
to happen, and are they already looking a bit more blocky and chunky
than the most recently advertised sexy, new MMPOG's?

Once the code is in, creation of new objects, new skills, new areas,
etc, is intended to be easy; large initial investment of time and
effort, low maintainence thereafter.  Any artistic 'piece' though,
is rarely so well based on previous efforts.  Starting anew is
time-consuming.

Not just art though - mind you - as one of my co-workers reminds me
"<that> level editor is a piece of <crap>", refering to his
experiences as an ex-looking glass employee, as I was first
introduced and gushed about Thief and System Shock.

So, I think the main things holding back an open source game would
be fresh artristy, and a content builder tool that rivals, if not
exceeds, the quality of the actual game software.

In the non-commecrical text-mud world, that cheesy saying 'if you
build it, they will come' is actually refering to the online
creation systems.

PjD

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