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Closed source vs. open game engines

03-03-2009, 08:14 PM
#1
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 7
Closed source vs. open game engines

There are quite a few projects out there already in both camps but I was wondering what are the pro/cons and business models used with open source game engines. If you work on an engine and just focus on that then you’re not going to be in a good position to make direct revenue from it, vs. marketing a closed source engine (which in its own right is probably near impossible). So it would seem that your only option for an open source engine is to make a product with it and sell that.

From what I can gather the most beneficial thing you get from an open source project is additional manpower. You do get better testing and sometimes you get patches submitted to fix problems. However relying almost exclusively on a community of independent, unpaid developers to bring a product to market sounds kind of crazy, but some have done it.

For example the Blender foundation business model includes selling books, short movies and donations. Seeing that they have not gone under it so would seem that this models works. However they are understaffed and the project is so massive that they do have a hard time keeping up with it.

So it would be nice to get some input on the subject.
03-03-2009, 10:00 PM
#2
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrRage View Post
There are quite a few projects out there already in both camps but I was wondering what are the pro/cons and business models used with open source game engines. If you work on an engine and just focus on that then you’re not going to be in a good position to make direct revenue from it, vs. marketing a closed source engine (which in its own right is probably near impossible). So it would seem that your only option for an open source engine is to make a product with it and sell that.

From what I can gather the most beneficial thing you get from an open source project is additional manpower. You do get better testing and sometimes you get patches submitted to fix problems. However relying almost exclusively on a community of independent, unpaid developers to bring a product to market sounds kind of crazy, but some have done it.

For example the Blender foundation business model includes selling books, short movies and donations. Seeing that they have not gone under it so would seem that this models works. However they are understaffed and the project is so massive that they do have a hard time keeping up with it.

So it would be nice to get some input on the subject.
In my opinion, 90% of the time... you get what you pay for.

A lot of the time the well developed open stuff seems good to start off with (or is good in theory) but ends up unreliable, under developed, and as nobody has the full time motivation (read: "nobody is being paid") to work on it full time, under supported and often then development stops for 6 months/year.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for open source, but a lot of things are done by hobbyists in their spare time... who move onto a new hobby, or lose their spare time.

That's a big generalisation though, and to be fair I've rarely used any free/open game engines. (But I've tried to make use and support a good amount of free libraries, tools etc... for example, is there a good FREE osx SVN client? no. Are there good paid clients? yes.)

The bigger the company behind the engine, the better it tends to be

Again, all my own bitter opinions
03-04-2009, 05:27 AM
#3
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 154
Quote:
Originally Posted by HouseTreeRobot View Post
for example, is there a good FREE osx SVN client? no.
Seeing as how SVN itself is open source, I find that hard to believe. Of course, I don't know what you need in an SVN client (isn't Xcode integration enough?). I also do not have extensive experience with SVN, so I could be totally wrong.

As for open source 3D engines, those do seem to lag behind. That's probably because these are always on the cutting edge of technology and have millions invested in them over many years of design and development. There are some decent ones, though.

As there are also countless open source products of high quality with stable funding and paid developers. So I guess your perception of open source may be somewhat limited.
03-04-2009, 09:13 AM
#4
Joined: Mar 2009
Location: Cologne, Germany
Posts: 26
I think there is a really good svn client for OS X:

$ svn --version
svn, version 1.4.4 (r25188)

Quote:
The bigger the company behind the engine, the better it tends to be
Hows that? In my experience, the bigger the company, the worse the engine and game (but usually the artwork is better, because they can afford more artists and IP). Look at 90% of the games out there PC, Consoles, iPhone. If it's done by a large company, it usually has some wild IP like Harry Potter or Halo, but the game is far from polished and usually not much fun to play.

As for the original posters question:

I believe you really have to evaluate what you want. If you want to make a racing game, there will be engines suited for that. Some will be expensive, some will be free. The free ones might even be better, but they could also be utter crap. The only way to know is sit down and check it out.

The worst thing that can happen is that you acquire an engine, and later realize that it is not suited for your thing. And there is nothing like "the engine", that's perfect for any give scenario/game/setting.

-- Volker
03-04-2009, 11:37 AM
#5
Quote:
Originally Posted by HouseTreeRobot View Post
In my opinion, 90% of the time... you get what you pay for.

...

The bigger the company behind the engine, the better it tends to be

Again, all my own bitter opinions
I totally agree with your first comment, you get what you pay for, and it's doubly true (is that possible?) with software engineering...at least on the low end.

But in terms of "the bigger the company behind the engine, the better it tends to be"...really?

My personal experience is that the best quality programming comes from a small team, not a big one. And a small company, usually. If you consider why open source projects tend to fail, even the reasons you listed, it's not because there are too few people...it's because there are too many. The lack of management, lack of focus, and general splintering of vision is what tends to kill large projects, and open source platforms are a perfect example.

Regardless, I'm actually not here to argue that. The point I'd really like to share, is that I think the open source model could work really, really well for the iPhone...but right now the money is just too good for most developers to work on something that they are not going to be paid for. It is true that most of the developer dreams of striking gold like iShoot and Trism are *very* few and far between, those are stories of 1 in maybe half a million or so, but even so hourly rates are very good, and mildly successful apps can still make decent residual income.

And maybe most importantly, getting your code running on an iPhone is not too difficult, and incredibly satisfying. It's just plain ****ing cool, and we all know that programmers world-over will flock to things they think are cool.

I would love to see open source projects really rock the iPhone world. Hell, I would love to have that kind of support for my own projects...I've been considering open-sourcing parts of different apps, or just starting a few new ones as open-source projects from the start. But it does take a lot of time, and ultimately a fair amount of cash too, to operate a successful open source project...and right now, I just don't have that much of either available. Maybe later, once I make my million.

Thanks
Ryan

Founder and CEO, R.Cloud Software
iPhone Apps: Digit Defenders, iLOLZ, Create-a-Cartoon Face,Create A Valentine
Currently Developing: Spellwars
Game Development Blog: rcloudsoftware.wordpress.com