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How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 18 Jun 2018, 19:23
by Wuzzy
An important part of the free software movement is to convince people to join our cause.
It's not that there are no people capable of making great games, it's just that most people are not part of our movement. ;)

So this topic is about convincing game makers to release an existing game as free software and (ideally) also commit to the free software principles in general. In this thread I generally aim for fully free games, not just partial releases. This of course includes artwork since it is often essential. I am also talking about all games big and large. So big AAA titles or small freeware games, it doesn't matter.
With “game maker” I mean everyone directly involved in the core development of a game, this includes developers, artists, writers, musicians, translators, etc.
To clarify: This is not about development and business models, or cost.

I personally know almost nothing about this “convincing” work, I'm not a social person. So I am asking you. :)

Here are my main questions:

  • Which games have been “liberated” because the game makers have been convinced?
  • Which tactics are effective? (based on experience)
  • Which tactics tend to fail or backfire?
  • What arguments should one use? Which ones should be avoided?
  • Is it possible to convince commercial game makers to go free software (not neccessarily free of charge)? If yes, what are examples for this?
  • For which kind of games / game makers / organizations it is easiest to convince the game makers?
  • When convincing the game makers was unsuccessful, what are common reasons and justifications by game makers to still keep everything or parts of the game proprietary?
  • What other interesting and useful facts can you tell about this?

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 19 Jun 2018, 06:54
by O01eg
I think it's a wrong way. No one can compete tax-funded government-regulated monopolies with "convince". No one monopoly will refuse their comfortable status at own will. The first it need to deregulate information so nothing will support their monopoly.
The second you need to provide them alternative income sources which don't use current informational laws like crowdfunding and donations. It's also important especially if you try to follow "convince" way.

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 19 Jun 2018, 09:32
by Lyberta
If we are going into more involved titles (think 90s and early 00s AAA games), I've noticed that tons of assets are licensed from a few libraries so there is no way to release assets under a free license. I swear, I've heard the exact same door sound in at least 4 different games and 1 movie.

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 20 Jun 2018, 21:25
by Wuzzy
There must be some folks out there who are convince-able. Otherwise, the free software movement would not exist. Not everyone thinks in terms of big money or big corporations.

Overall, I agree. Full freedom can not be achieved as long copyright is too damn strong. But this is a different topic.

Yes, money plays a part in this, too. But it's probably not the only one. Even if money would not be an issue, there are still people who would still insist on their proprietary copyrights, just out of principle. My goal is that some people reconsider.
Even without any copyright at all, we would still need the source code. :)

You basically derailed the topic from the start. :(
Can you try to answer the questions in the first post, please?

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2018, 09:44
by Lyberta
The only way I think to convince people is to actively work for giant megacorporations, giving them all the power and making people's life unsufferable. Once people understand that it's either copyright reform or their death (that's exactly what happened to me), people will join the cause.

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2018, 17:33
by O01eg
I've known a very little projects who went to opensource from prorietary and I can name only 7kaa which was opensourced.

Most of the projects were opensourced because of deprecation, some because they were bought be community like Blender. Not sure if there one where author was convinced even exists.

Lyberta {l Wrote}:The only way I think to convince people is to actively work for giant megacorporations, giving them all the power and making people's life unsufferable. Once people understand that it's either copyright reform or their death (that's exactly what happened to me), people will join the cause.


Not sure if EU bureaucrats accepts laws for giant megacorporations. EU has a few them.

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 21 Jun 2018, 17:58
by SecureUvula
If there's money to 'buy out' projects and make them foss, then i might have to start making mine proprietary to make some cash :D

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 22 Jun 2018, 01:46
by c_xong
O01eg {l Wrote}:I've known a very little projects who went to opensource from prorietary and I can name only 7kaa which was opensourced.

Don't forget id's game engines - Wolf3D, Doom, Quake 1/2/3 - have become open source, some of them quite soon after release. There were licensing issues but that's due to ignorance. There's plenty of other examples. Wolf3D's source code in particular was released just 3 years after the game's release. Caveat being it was quickly obsoleted by games like Doom. Besides the minimal financial cost of open sourcing, id's developers were very sympathetic to modders and giving out the source was one way to cater to that audience.

Video games is a very low-paying, high-effort profession. It's also an entertainment industry that relies on short-term projects that provide spikes of revenue. That's not conducive to industry veterans making open source games on the side - they're already underpaid and overworked as is, and there is no business strategy for multiple studios to band together and build an open source project, unlike what happened in general software with things like compilers (clang), operating systems (Linux).

Those are the reasons why there are very few open source games, and of the few, many are lower quality than their proprietary counterparts - because it's often hobbyists making them. Tangentially, that's also why a lot of open source games are clones, just as many writers started in fanfics, and not totally original works. That's another hot topic though.

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 06 Jul 2018, 14:48
by Wuzzy
Note that money doesn't explain everything.
There are also lots of proprietary freeware games with no commercial background at all.

Maybe the chance to convince game makers to go free software are higher here. The question is just: How?

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 06 Jul 2018, 18:13
by SecureUvula
There has to be some benefit to the author.

1. Help with porting and bugfixes is typical in FOSS, but the author either has to put in work to merge these changes, or accept that someone else will de facto take ownership of their project, which is disheartening.

2. Copyleft is meant to be a carrot to persuade application authors to write FOSS so they can take advantage of copyleft libraries, but there isn't a great body of copyleft libraries that are superior to permissive libraries, and this would only apply to new games or new features of a game.

3. You could offer them some useful complementary service like source code hosting, build servers, playtesters, telemetry (opt-in of course), web advertising, updater services, multiplayer servers, which is only available if the game is FOSS. Of course some of these already exist (Github, Gitlab) or worse, they exist and don't even have the FOSS requirement. (Itch.io) They also have to be funded somehow.

4. You could tell them the Torvalds quote about "real men back up to public FTP", if they want their game to be archived for all eternity by its fans. This might be very convincing, to only a few people.

5. We have already mentioned crowdfunded bounties, but authors might be reluctant to give up imaginary infinite future revenue for a one-time payoff. It's like getting a free lottery ticket or getting a free 25 cent coin - The 25 cents is worth more, but it sucks to realize your ticket isn't even worth 25 cents.

It is hard to think up a benefit that is not already done well by proprietary services or permissive libraries, which respectively force and allow games to be proprietary.

Now that I think about it, nobody has ever looked at the code for my games. If I had been making proprietary indie games the last 5 years, who would have noticed a difference?

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 06 Jul 2018, 19:47
by Magellan
Wuzzy {l Wrote}:Note that money doesn't explain everything.
There are also lots of proprietary freeware games with no commercial background at all.

Maybe the chance to convince game makers to go free software are higher here. The question is just: How?


I think it boils down to educating them on why they should, what the social gain is, and why free software/media is so important. I would be willing to bet that a great many people who develop proprietary-but-without-cost games just simply don't know much about free software/open source, and probably would not be totally against free licensing if the importance of doing so could be communicated to them succinctly. In this scenario it may come down to having a good elevator pitch :D

A note about the free media licensing: Some artists/musicians/others are very protective of the works they produce, and not necessarily out of the desire to profit from them. Many feel that, as the original creators of a work, they should have final say in who can and cannot use the work, and for what purpose, even after sharing it, essentially treating it as private property (you can thank our corporate overlords for raising multiple generations to subscribe wholly to the concept that an idea or its representation can be "property"). To convince an artist to release their works under free licenses is, in my experience, more difficult than convincing a programmer, and requires care so as not to unintentionally offend.

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 06 Jul 2018, 22:56
by Lyberta
Was it mentioned that educating people is the hardest thing to do in life? 99% of people I've met are not willing to educate themselves.

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 10 Jul 2018, 15:51
by charlie
Unless you are committed to making an entire game yourself (think something as complete as Cave Story) then there's no point in keeping it closed source, that's the angle I would take. Being open source allows others into the process, thus increases your chances of realising your goals and making a game that people will play, enjoy, and improve in the future.

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 17 Aug 2018, 02:50
by mdtrooper
For indie developers or "game jam" developers, the tip maybe is "your game would be immortal instead when it is close source, the close source games lost in the time."

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 17 Aug 2018, 06:22
by Magellan
mdtrooper {l Wrote}:For indie developers or "game jam" developers, the tip maybe is "your game would be immortal instead when it is close source, the close source games lost in the time."


This is a good point. It is partway what convinced me to release my games as free software. I suffered a HDD failure a few years ago and lost the source code of a few games I had made and already released. Now those games only exist as binaries floating around on the internet, and the source is gone forever. That experience certainly helped to push me down the open source rabbit hole, so it might do the same for others!

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 23 Aug 2018, 10:11
by Wuzzy
That's a great argument, thanks!

Re: How to convince game makers to go free software?

PostPosted: 06 Dec 2018, 21:23
by Andrettin
O01eg {l Wrote}:I've known a very little projects who went to opensource from prorietary and I can name only 7kaa which was opensourced.


There are a few others, e.g. Dink Smallwood (an RPG with Zelda-like mechanics).