Monday, January 31, 2011

OpenDarkEngine

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OpenDarkEngine is a FOSS replacement for + improvement on the DarkEngine system used in the Thief game series by LookingGlass Studios as well as SystemShock 2 by LookingGlass and Irrational Games.



They managed to get some things clicking, but the project kind of fell flat a couple of months back. Maybe with all the interest in Arx, someone fans of this (rather similar) game series would like to jump on this project and help out.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dev-corner: Primer to modelling with Wings3D

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Today I would like to start a new regular (?) feature here on FreeGamer: The Dev-corner!

As you should know by now FreeGamer is all about FOSS games, and of course the most important part of the FOSS development model is participation! So, yes that also means you! Yes you... don't think I am not seeing you... and don't switch to that other browser tab to hide from me ;)



So with the new dev-corner we will try give you some easy introductions how to participate in FOSS game development, maybe do some more development focused developer interviews and so on. I also hope to get some guest bloggers to write an introduction into contributing to their projects or something like that... so if you are a developer interested in this contact us :)


So what can I do?



You though about contributing to a project already, but are not much of a programmer guy/gal? Well... there is an artist in all of us (it's in our genes the anthropologists say)!

But getting started with that can be a bit scary... 2D art is of course an option, but the learning slope is steep there, as for a long time everything you draw will look like crap (trust me, I am still in that phase also). But if you are interested in that there are a few pretty good FOSS tools for that (we will do a dev-corner on that some other time).


3D art on the other hand is more accessible, especially if you are not a born artist! You can make some pretty awesome (albeit simple) art in the first few days of learning, and you will certainly not have the feeling of "ahh... this is all crap" like you will have with 2D art. Oh and non-computer people will be amazed by your l337 computa skillz ;)


But who am I kidding here... you probably downloaded Blender (or another non FOSS modeling application) already, and the complexity of the programs made your head spin, right? Yes... those are full modeling suits meant for experienced professionals, and can do much more than you will ever need for FOSS game development. But don't get scared away by this... there are other options and once you got the basics concepts, Blender and the like will suddenly appear much less scary and actually quite easy to use ;)


The maybe easiest 3D modeling application is Google's Sketch-up, but due to it's non-FOSS nature and the severe limitations in what it can do, we will not go into much detail here... but have a look at it if you like to get some simple models done fast.


Primer to Wings3D modeling


There is another really great FOSS modeling application next to the all over shadowing Blender however: Wings3D!
It is not a full 3D suite, however and only focuses on the modeling and texturing part. In those parts it is generally accepted however that it is among the best of all programs out there (FOSS or non-FOSS)! So head over to their new website and get the latest version 1.4 now!

Now, the advantage of limiting the program's feature scope is it's much less cluttered interface and the quite a bit lower learning curve for the beginners. But don't get me wrong... it's not a beginners toy (like Google's sketch-up); Wings3D is capable of everything you will need for even the most professional models!


Have a look at this video to get an first idea what to do (I suggest you to use Blender camera style movement ;) ):



More video tutorials like this you can find on the Wings3D Youtube channel, and other nice tutorials here and a user manual here.

One of the especially helpful features of Wings3D is that all menus are context sensitive, so you will only see the options that make sense to use at that time. Also all features are available through the menus and are not hidden behind obscure keyboard short-cuts like in Blender (but you can fully customize all commands to shortcuts in Wings3D to speed up your work-flow). And last but not least... at the bottom status bar you can always tell what options are available with each tool upon different mouse and button combinations... so it is very easy even for the beginners.


However due to the way model data is set up in Wings3D, it is really geared towards box-modeling, e.g. a standard work-flow approach that works by extruding features from a single original box, instead of shaping the model from individual polygons (like normally preferred in Blender)... but don't get scared by this tech-babble ;) It's the better and easier way anyways, and just think of it as if working with a real-life clay model.


Ok I got the basics, where do I start contributing?



Well you could of course look for a FOSS game directly... and there will be for sure plenty of projects happy to have you helping out. But as a beginner you can also first practice a bit more. A good option for that would be for example to participate in the weekly challenges over at OpenGameArt.org. There you have a simple topic every week and you can also discuss with other 3D artist about techniques and so on. Definitely a great way of practicing.

Oh and one last word of caution: You might realize at some point that making 3D models and contributing to game development is actually more fun than playing games... but don't say I didn't warn you ;)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

MTP Target Back Online!

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MTP Target has had a bit of a turbulent life; the game was designed to be monetized by a pay-for-features/content system and the lead developer closed the server code's source in order to "protect" this model. A couple of years later, the lead developer took down the servers due to conflict with players, effectively killing the game (a cautionary tale for all, I think). Tux-Target tried to implement an updated FOSS server from the 2005 sources but it never reached a workable state


Last October (tardy free gamer) they brought the servers back online; so the game is back! Be sure to check out this foss-y classic and help awaken it from hibernation-stupor

Friday, January 28, 2011

All about the beta!

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Beware traveller. I am here to slay your computer. Unstable fun awaits, betas with bits that may break your bit cruncher. That's what open source is about. Blowing up people's PCs with untested, untried, untrustworthy alpha and beta amateur programmer software! Well, perhaps some of the programmers are not amateurs...



Good news, settlers of the new world! (Or those who feel like settling new worlds but were born in the wrong period of history.) FreeCol 0.10-alpha has been released. Get it from the unstable version download area of their website (the current stable version is 0.9.5).



Speaking of Free* games, did the latest FreeCiv beta get a mention? FreeCiv 2.3.0-beta1 supports gigantic maps and over a hundred simultaneous players.



Development of VDrift is, as ever, ongoing. You can test out build 3030 put together on the 25th Jan. After a period of suffering regressions, some changes have been sidelined to bring the main development branch back to a more stable, playable state. It plays well, although - after the being seeing the deforming crashes on Rigs of Rods - I'd like to see the cars sustain damage. I know, I know, lots of work, little gameplay gain. I'm fickle.



OpenTTD is ramping up to another major release with 1.1.0 beta4. OpenTTD 1.1.0 seems to be really focusing on a combination of network play enhancements and compatibility with the Transport Tycoon Deluxe modding community. Free free to correct me if I am wrong.



MegaGlest continues to enjoy rapid development with 3.4.0 beta2. They embody the, "Release early, release often!" philosophy that I like to parrot.



Cool websites for projects? MegaGlest has one coming. UFO2000 has a sweet homepage. Peragro Tempus too. What are your favourites?



P.S. no screenshots or videos today, sorry!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Developer Interview: Lips of Suna: What do you get when you mix Rogue with a dash of Minecraft, Steampunk, Cooperative gameplay, and a generous helping of tongue-in-cheek humour?

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According to FOSS game developer and Lips of Suna project lead Ari Mustonen (aka Nekotaku, amuzen) the answer is the perfect, intelligent, witty, dungeon crawler. As luck would have it he, along with the Lips of Suna dev team and supporters, have set about the monumental task of realising this vision, reaching a major milestone yesterday with their 0.2.0 release.



For players, Lips of Suna, or LoS as it's known, is a cooperative online, persistent dungeon crawler/RPG, with deformable terrain, procedurally generated dungeons,seamless gameworld, actual player skills instead of leveling, and witty storyline giving the the player and any friends online the opportunity to do battle along side the world's five races as they descend into the depth of the dungeons of Suna to save their world. Unlike a lot of other RPGs/FPS of various flavours success will really depend on knowledge, cooperation, strategy as well as skill.












The Freegamer team caught up with Nekotaku yesterday:





FG: The obvious question, of course, is why FOSS?

Because it's fun and convenient. The FOSS game development circle is somewhat small and fragmented but that and people generally being friendly and open-minded makes it easy to get into it. You only need to play by the few simple rules and you're a respected member of the community. You can host your project for free on a number of open source development sites, you can borrow useful code from incredibly many projects, you sometimes get free coverage on some popular sites, you can get lots of new users with next to no extra effort by getting packaged by Linux distributions, and so on. All that just because you're FOSS. It's a great choice for a hobby project even if you're not into the ideology itself, I think.

FG: LoS has gone through a lot of changes and re-iterations over the years, what is your overall vision for LoS; what would you like to achieve and how has this changed from the original vision

The grand vision when we started the project was to develop a manga style cooperative multiplayer RPG that had no experience levels or other character progression mechanisms. We wanted to have fun time making a game that one can pick up at any time and play with one's pals or some random people without having to worry about being rejected due to not being in the same level with others.

I think that the core concepts still stand strong but the details were horribly blurry for the longest time. The grand vision itself is easy to set in stone but guessing how things will fit the big picture and work together in the more detailed level is challenging. Quite a few smaller ideas have been amended on paper as it has become evident that they won't work as is. There have also been several occasions when an idea already being implemented, despite sounding good on paper, turned out to be so infeasible that it required major changes or had to be ditched entirely.

FG: You have implemented a lot of rather cutting-edge technologies in the LoS engine; how has surfing the cutting edge treated you so far and what new tech would you like to see gain traction?

I'm not sure if any of it is really that bleeding edge. The graphics code is probably the closest to it, though since the graphics hardware I target is already one generation behind the capabilities of the graphics card I have, it hardly feels like that. Most of the things in other areas have been done before too by other games.

Lots of things I did were new to me, though, and I had lots of fun researching and testing them. Especially in graphics programming, the newer things tend to be very easy to use, to the point that I actually regret not going for OpenGL 3 earlier. For example, implementing hardware accelerated skeletal animations only took one day to get working. There's a number of nice features that help you speed up the graphics code while actually making it simpler.

I don't know if other projects should bother much with the fancy new technology. On the other hand, when you have modern graphics card, it would be nice to have games with pretty graphics but on the other I'd rather like to see games focus on the basic gameplay and the content rather than some engine features. However, if you're interested in the new tech, I think it's not a bad idea to dip into it a bit, learn something new in the process, and implement a couple of things that your game can use.

FG: What is your vision of the future of FOSS gaming? Where would you like to see it go, and where do you think it will actually end up?

I'd like to see FOSS games explore difficult and controversial subjects more instead of obsessing over moral and political correctness. I think one of the great things about games is that you can experience harmful and disgusting things without real harm. However, FOSS games offer nothing to people who crave for such experiences since it's all but impossible to even find a character who says "fuck" or to hear a dry mention of sex, much less to see the real deal.

I think FOSS projects generally have a great sense of professionalism and want to look very organized and serious. The ideas tend to be traditional and tame most of the time as well. Even though I'd like to see fresh and radical ideas for a change, I doubt it's ever going to be commonplace. People make the kind of games they like themselves and organize their projects to benefit their own needs. Career motivations and maintaining a neat public image of oneself are big factors so it takes a lot of courage and nerve to radically defy the status quo.

FG: LoS has a rather... unique... sense of art direction. Are there any specific inspirations design wise in that regard, and how do you think it has affected the development process?

The project was founded by two regulars of a tiny anime and manga community so the choice of art direction was pretty obvious back then. We never concerned ourselves about whether the mainstream would like the style and what they'd say if they didn't. It's just me now but I still don't let the external pressure limit the artistic freedom.

Actually, there's no external pressure to speak of. Everyone in the FOSS circle is so timid that you can go for years without anyone being able to find the words to bluntly say that nudity and panties offend or intrigue them. As long as you have thick enough skin to ignore the regular trolls, you could easily be even more blatant without any meaningful consequences.

Over time, the art direction has been affected a bit by a couple of other games, such as Oblivion and its mods. It's eye-opening to witness someone make the skimpiest armor and others not only not complaining but rather endorsing it hundreds of times and downloading tens of thousands of times. I think people with a more adult taste are a legitimate target audience for a FOSS game, and an easy one even since there's no competition at all.

FG: LoS has it's own custom written 3d and game engine, whereas there are loads of open source engines of all shapes and forms already in existance. Why did you choose to go this route, and would you do so again if you where to begin a new game project?

Learning new things as I develop is a big factor to me and graphics programming has always intrigued me. I think the biggest reason why I chose this route was the educational aspect. Researching all the new techniques and learning the ins and outs of different rendering techniques has indeed been a lot of fun. Studying and testing all the different things took quite a lot of time but the 3D engine code itself is only a bit over 9000 lines of C code currently. Writing that with the knowledge I have acquired wouldn't take very long so I think it'd depend on circumstances whether I'd write my own engine for any future project or if I'd use an existing engine.

Using an existing engine isn't always so easy either. If you have a very specific list of requirements and some of them are less common ones such as dynamically changing terrain, heavy use of paged geometry, and modifying meshes on the fly, it's hard to tell if any given engine will fit your needs and if it doesn't, how easy it'll be to add the required features. Other factors such as uncertain requirements, ease of integration, quality of documentation, complexity of the code base, and so on can also significantly impact how well the engine will work for you.

I use quite a few libraries already, though. ENet for networking, SQLite for saving and loading data, and Bullet for physics, for example. The smaller libraries are easy enough to use but Bullet is giving me a lot of trouble and I'm afraid that doing things such as collisions responses for the terrain properly would require doing something unsupported such as implementing your own collision shapes. It's quite a pain and terrain physics are quite broken as the result.

I don't think there's one right way to sort out the engine. If you think that you'll have more fun if you write the engine code yourself and you'd like to take the time to write an engine that solves the problem well, write it yourself. If you don't have interest in engine development and don't mind some rough corners getting on the way of development of the actual gameplay and content of the game, use an existing engine or glue several libraries together to make one. Whichever route you take, it'll still take several years to complete an ambitious project, I think.

FG: Terrain deformation, has become fashionable, through Minecraft's arrival (1 million units sold and all that).. We understand that LoS will feature deformable terrain, but work was done far prior to the Minecraft craze. What were your inspirations and in what areas in the game is terrain deformation used?

I think Nethack was the original source of inspiration. The idea was to support mining in a similar fashion, but in 3 dimensions, to allow players to move more freely and gather resources in interesting ways. Since then, Dwarf Fortress has done good job at utilizing the third dimensions and, judging by gameplay videos, Minecraft seems to have a lot of interesting ideas too.

I think 0.2.0 is the first time LoS has had any real success with voxel terrain. The previous iterations had serious scalability and usability issues but it's finally getting to the point that you can have a full-sized map without the game crawling to halt, and you can do something useful with it. Getting it to work has been quite an exercise of trial and error and finding compromises and it still isn't quite there yet.

FG: You and other projects such as 0ad have chosen to get playability and enjoyability in sooner rather than later. What are the advantages and do you reccomend adjusting development cycles for all FOSS projects? 

This may be an accurate statement in the grand intergalactic scope but from my point of view it took a long time until the actual playable bits started to emerge. I feel that LoS is actually the opposite since it wasn't much more than an engine technology demo until late last year, which is when I decided that the internals were good enough to be able to support the game. I think it'd be more accurate to say that LoS has simply chosen to get playable.

However, I do think that you should aim for playability as soon as possible, especially if you want to have contributors or have existing team members and you want to keep them around. If you're already working alone and don't have a lot of faith in your recruitment skills, it might be the same to get the most disruptive internal changes out of the way now when no one's around to get affected by them.

The timing can vary but you need to decide at some point that you're making a game rather than an engine, a technology demo, a portfolio or something else. Some genres are more forgiving about it than others but I think that at least content heavy game types and games with complex game mechanisms will never get done if you don't consciously start focusing on content and gameplay. RPGs are particularly nasty in that respect since with the engine alone you just have a fancy walking simulation and the interesting stuff is all content and intricate game mechanisms put together.

FG: 3 years of development is a long time, and you were involved from conception through the hard initial periods of coding without much in the way of tangibles to demonstarate and gather contributions with, through to to geting to the stage where the project is taking off. You would undoubtedly have garnered some insights on avoiding the slings and arrows of FOSS development. Any tips for FOSSers at the beggining of that journey?

This is probably the most useless tip ever but projects die when they're killed. I'd say the biggest factor determining how successful your project will be is how much and for how long you work on it. An hour or two of useful work per day with no end keeps the project healthy and eventually leads to success, whereas affairs with the opposite sex and other real world phenomena increase the chance of failure.
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Now, following from that, I think that you as the developer are the primary audience of your own game. If you design the project so that you will love to work it for years to come, it's more likely to be a success than a project that's designed to appeal to the largest possible audience but the developer isn't ecstatic about it. This is because the former will probably finish whereas the latter will likely die when the developer loses interest.

FG: Who would you like to thank?

#freegamer for wasting so much of my time with all the interesting discussions and for allowing me to waste your time with random status updates and pointless rants





The LoS development comminity is a very accesible place with no formal obligations or requirements where people can come and contribute with feedback, 2d/3d art, music, scripts or code in whatever areas of the game they feel like. So head over to their forums, and visit their wiki.

Arx Fatalis Linux Port Progress

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The Arx Fatalis porting effort has been going full steam ahead; a lot of developments on that project. They recieved a Wiki sponsored by the PARPG guys, made subreddit to post updates to and have quite a few repositories where the different team members are working on the seperate goals of the project.

Development wise, they recently achieved ingame rendering on linux using Winelibs. This is not the ideal solution for the project, but they want to get something workable ASAP so it is the quickest.


As you can surely see, there's a lot that still needs doing; but it's tremendous progress in the short amount of time that they've been working on it so far.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oh my God-it's full of stars!: Free and Open Source procedural space sim round up (a la Infinity or Elite)

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"The thing's hollow..it goes on forever..-and--Oh my God--it's full of stars!"
Bowman's memorable utterance in 2001 A Space Odyssey encapsulates perfectly the way the space and its' exploration resonates with the imagination and nothing encapsulates the experience of stepping out and living amongst the stars as well as David Braben's immense procedural opus, the Frontier Elite/Elite series of games.

The Elite and Frontier Elite series left a long shadow, inspiring academic work in procedural generation (see vterrain.org) but towering over countless emulation attempts, for both the depicted universe (space and surfaces of all objects on a scale of light years, to meters) procedural gameplay (location/assets/mission/incidental event combination, with a full range of mission types), interaction (action based reputation, politics etc.). Although a lot of academic work was done, like with a lot of areas of game development, not much in the way of actual realisation was ever done (a genre of space sims emulated a fraction of the scope of the game, often using large FPS style rooms with space/planet wall paper). There were a few foss/indie projects (Oolite, FFEd3d, Ad astra, Evochron series) that attempted to follow.

Recently with the advent of very powerful hardware ( just begging for realistic procedural simulation) the I-Novae engines indie creator decided to implement a procedural universe, with stunning results (see here and here for motivation), and the proof of concept has further stirred opensource attempts. I-Novae people are mainly focussed on an MMO, which largely gets around interaction/social simulation in a by replacing it with standard MMO player-player interaction mechanics.

Which leaves a large empty space for commercial, indie, or most importantly FOSS singleplayer games, as well as, and much more interestingly, a chance for FOSS to produce the standout significant modern game in a genre first.

The procedural space sim bug has resulted in quite a few FOSS projects, often the result of a single founder's inspiration, occurring independently and in isolation, and subsequently attracting some attention from the community:


Pioneer:

(Download, more recent v7.5/Source/Forum/Screenshots)
Most developed procedural planets (along with Spaceway). New sim, released online by Tomm Morton (creator of glFrontier), and associates, and whose development has avalanched a bit. OpenGL 2.0, lua/c++, all bodies spin/orbit around each other, scriptable procedural models, economy/life/missions implemented but require fleshing out, procedural cities/ground vehicles etc. mean FPS/RPG/air/ground stories/gameplay of sci-fi tv franchises like Star Wars/Star Trek/Doctor Who/BSG/Babylon 5 (and game worlds from books) etc. can be potentially recreated therefore also of interest to franchise modders.

There is a weight/substance to planets when viewed from a distance which is not even present in Infinity (as far as youtube vids show). Probably a combination of not looking plastic-y due to phong-like lighting model/strong specularity and planets having a realistic radius allowing you to be reasonably distant and still see the planet stretch away despite turning a lot.




Note: all screenshots are from earlier versions of Pioneer, and the graphics have improved even more since then.


Spaceway:


(Download/Screenshots) Virtually identical specs to pioneer, has procedural spaceships half implemented, no life/cities yet. Created by FOSS Orbiter's oglaclient author Artlav and shares some code with it. Intended to be a procedural replacement for orbiter he is looking at a game as well. Sourceforge says GPL license. Code not released yet as apparently he is waiting until it is cleaned. Good atmospheric scattering. Many galaxies simulated.






Titaniumart's Planetary space:


(Ogre thread/Screenshots) More speculative, long presence in Ogre forums, where they have mentioned it will be opensource, and a procedural 'snap-in' will be released, potentially allowing FPS/RPG devs to incorporate procedural terrain easily. Due for a tech demo soon.




Vegastrike:


(Download/Source/Forum/Screenshots) Have recently started looking into procedural planets. Mostly included here for completeness.Features a large procedurally generation universe, with economy/empires/wars simulated. Multiplayer/modding community. Released version is years behind, and graphically of a previous era, looking for a coder to port to Ogre.


Project Simerge:


(Code) Windows/Linux support. Inactive, but code may be of some use (Sourceforge shows 5 week old commits, thanks Charlieg). A partly completed procedural sim, the developer released code under GPL3 and is considering a seperate closed source game. Working prototype.Building interior support.



FOSS tech demos/source:

Sponeil.net: Windows/Linux.
Various tech demos, including planet/volumetric cloud generation.

Galaxy Engine: (Download/Source/Ogre thread) Procedural planet tech demo.

OgrePlanet: (Source) Another recently started attempt..

Foss clones of Elite series exist (not modern, as they are the same game essentially, but..) e.g. Oolite: Elite remake as for a long time gameplay just was not available elsewhere. Planets etc. nowhere near upto pioneer/spaceway standards.





It strikes me that development of so much software so identical in spirit, scope and vision, is precisely the type of duplication an open and social philosophy like FOSS seeks to prevent. It should be possible for projects to list their particular requirements to see if a framework for a space sim engine cannot be created that allows overlapping areas to be developed in a way that avoids duplication (especially considering the drought of programmers in FOSS space sim communities like Vegastrike, Freespace open etc.).

If there is software, stats, or facts that would be relevant please feel free to note in comments.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sintel The Game

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Link


Ever since the announcement of Project Durian, with its press release stating the aim of making a dark fantasy film aimed at young adults, I've been dreaming of the game they'll make using the assets and setting. The more the project developed, the more I drooled over the potential; it had all the necessary prerequisites for a fantasy action game/rpg: an epic quest, awesome fighting scenes, dragons...

Screen from the Sintel Open Movie


But time passed and nothing showed up; the Blender Foundation showed no plans for another official Blender Game Engine project... Until a bunch of unaffiliated Blender artists decided to have a crack at making the project themselves without the official sponsorship of the Foundation, and started the Sintel The Game project (yay Free Culture).



Free Gamer has been a bit tardy in these developments though, the Sintel the Game project started just before July last year and have gotten pretty far in that time (a bit further than the Apricot/YoFrankie project? /snark).
One thing that I find worrying about the project is their closed development process and uncoordinated web presence. There isn't an open  repository where people can view the progress of code development, a forum where a community can grow and contribute, an IRC channel where developers can chat (disclaimer: I might be wrong on these; but their site doesn't indicate that any of these rather essential open development services exist; which is a rather big communication failure).

Seriously ^

On top of this game has been a bit sparse on news updates; they have a Facebook Group that is a bit more active than their blog; but both are updated far from daily. Rather worrying indeed.

They seem to be following the YoFrankie development model, the two sites are almost identical in the information which they provide; and we all know how that turned out...




Nevertheless; the game still looks incredibly promising. It succeeding, however, wouldn't be a victory for open game development; only for open games.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

AncientBeast and FreezingMoon

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Now, on the opposite side of the adver-spectrum, I present AncientBeast, a Norse-mythology inspired multiplayer strategy game with roleplaying elements that has been in development for quite a while.


It has a huge web presence, with a Facebook group, Twitter  account (hiss use identi.ca), Miro video group (nice!), DeviantArt group with tonnes of awesome art... We'll have to see what license they fall under in the end, the team are still pondering how they'll make an open game that can sponsor a couple of beers for the devs.

See those circles? They show progress of the individual
aspects of unit development

Their development methodology is rather interesting as well, from the use of a shared Dropbox account to collaborate and share art, to the rather excellent Bestiary system they've developed to introduce players to the different units in the game, their stats and abilities, and show the development progress of the indicated unit. That's some AAA level stuff there guys.

One of many timelapses and tutorials

Another remarkable thing about their development process is how well documented their art production is... They have loads of timelapses and tutorials of the team's artists creating concepts and models, I can almost confidently state that it's the biggest repository of its kind in open gaming.



One thing to keep in mind though is that coding wise they've only broken the ice. They've started implementing the game using the Blender Game Engine, but in the 2 years since the original designs were written up the most awesome art has been produced and the programming side of things have stayed relatively silent until recently; something not many other FOSS games can attest to. So if you know Python/BGE, this would be a very good time to jump in and help out.



Speaking of ice, the AncientBeast's development team, FreezingMoon has a bunch of Blender 2.5 and other FOSS asset creation tool tutorials on their site, and are looking for more submissions. It would be awesome if they could collaborate with OGA on that, in my uneducated opinion :)

If this post has interested you, be sure to drop in on their IRC channel, they have both a webchat page and a tutorial to get a desktop IRC client running

Saturday, January 22, 2011

FOSS party games

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*%&§$! Get of my lawn, err blog you crazy machine-gun style bloggers ;) You are making my "one post a month" style look very bad! And I can't even find a day to fit my blog-posts in...

Ok anyways... today I have a more sensitive topic... yes FOSS gamers have lives too. Hard to believe I know, but out there (yes, outside of your parents basement... the place where yo go for geo-caching) people have real parties (without the LAN- suffix) and they use FOSS games during those occasions! At least some do ;)



Some of these strange species can be seen in the following promotional video for Performous (beware SFW underage nerd chick action):



Performous is a all-in-one party game, meaning you will have the choice to embarrass yourself in front of your best friends (or clueless cannon fodder as we FPS hardcore gamers say ;) ) either by singing, dancing, drumming or strumming (e.g. guitar playing) (embarrassment level in the same order). But of course... Karaoke is only fun super drunk anyways... so you just have to fear the You-tube videos of your performance the next day ;)

Speaking of Karaoke: There are two other FOSS applications for that. Canta and Ultrastar Deluxe neither of which I have tried, but they probably do the job fine. And for dancing (well if you can call it this way... call me old fashioned but for me dancing normally includes a woman, preferably very close ;) ) there is the granddaddy of all FOSS party-games: Stepmania. But yeah, you will need to have one of those dancing mat controllers you can pick up cheaply on Ebay.



My personal favorite however is FoFix, a fork of the pretty well known crazy keyboard destroying FretsOnFire.



FoFix adds most notably multi-player and full band support to the guitar only experience of FoF. Oh and yes...it does support more pretty (albeit non-FOSS) themes from its commercial counterparts if you fear your non FOSS-gamer friends will be shocked by common programmer's art ;)

Weaver Updates

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Everyone's favourite (read: only) open-source spell-slinging fps, Weaver, has been crunching away with art and code over the past few months. We've given them a shout out a couple of times, mainly when XReal is mentioned; in case you've forgotten: Weaver aims to be a competitive shooter with an elemental spell casting system.


They've taken a rather minimalistic approach to publicity: they don't have a introductory website, feed or any real way to keep up to date with their development other than their ticket tracker and rather quiet forums which are really not a good indication of the amount of work being done via their ethereal IRC channel (#weaver on freenode).



Loading Screen WIP

Some of the main developments of late has been work on the Menu and HUD UI's, a bunch of concept drawings by new artists who've discovered the project through some form of divination, and work on the maps/levels.

Warning: OLD
Video doesn't reflect current UI


In this day and age of people making 10 blog posts for every line of code commited, it is a rather refreshing change in FOSS game development, but maybe a bit too much so? Well, as long as we get the high quality, beautiful and innovative FPS that Weaver is shaping up to be, they can use gopher for all I care ;)

New Player Model

And just to re-drop your jaw, have a peak at their art-in-progress thread. It might look like they have a lot of art; but they need quite a bit more before they release, so if any artists are interested in joining; sign up for the forums and join their irc channel and help out!



Friday, January 21, 2011

FaceTrackNoIR and FreeTrack: FOSS head-tracking (like TrackIR) - use any webcam to link to freelook /movement in games

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FaceTrackNoIR (download) enables a user to use any webcam,by moving their head very slightly, to control the free-look/xyz movement of any game, through joystick emulation via PPjoy for Windows or directly when the game developer has included support.
Very popular with space/flight simulation community, this technology can be used with FPSs/3rd person RPGs as well. FaceTrackNoir uses the protocol developed for FreeTrack, among others, including FlightGear's own.

Webcams known to work well with FaceTrackNoIR.

Normally this type of control through head movement was very expensive, and required specialised IR cameras/lights/markers to acquire raw data which was processed through closed source software and sent to games via protocols like TrackIR, being aimed at the high end simulation users. The FreeTrack opensource project used cheap but specialised equipment, wrote their own processing software and sent the data to games via reverse engineered TrackIR protocol/FreeTrack protocol. FaceTrackNoIR takes raw data from any webcam, processes it, and sends to games via FreeTrack or other protocols or through emulating a joystick.


Orbiter with FaceTrackNoIR.

Even used in a non-foss pinball game.

Devs note: the quick head movements accentuate depth perception a lot, and shows off the 3d art.

(The last two videos were non-FOSS games, but only a few youtube vids as it is new software, and demonstrates different uses)

This is a new project, started in May 2010, built from FreeTrack source code and using faceAPI to help with imageprocessing. Unfortunately it is not available on Linux as faceAPI is windows only at the moment, and would require substituting with one of the opensource face tracking techs. A simple face-mouse cursor example here called eViacam, 8.9mb.Apparently working well as shown being used in GIMP here.


There is no mouse or keyboard emulation for games that don't support a tracking protocol yet, but it should not be hard to port from FreeTrack.It should be possible to use a mouse/keyboard emulator that accepts joystick inputs if the game does not support joystick look.

With the advent of Kinect and PC hacks for it, movement tracking based control will become more sought after. Given the additional (upto 6) degrees of freedom easily input by the user, perhaps some quite creative uses can be thought of as webcams are very commonplace.

Games with direct support
Note: anything stated as working with FreeTrack will also work.

Any of the free games running under the Freespace 2 open engine.
Flight gear
Combat Simulator Project, when released
Orbiter

Games that (should) benefit through emulation
(If any game benefits particularly well, be sure to post in comments, if any game would benefit if better joystick support was added to certain control elements, be sure to let devs know). Free look can be catered for by assigning axis displacement to angles, very simply.

 Any Spacesim

Pioneer
Vega Strike
Hardwar, when released

Any flightsim

Palmino
A lot of combat sims mentioned in this blog post

3rd person 3d RTS

Political space war
Far colony
A lot of the 3d Spring RTS games

Quite a lot of 3rd person RPG/RTS games have automated and often wonky cameras that would benefit from being made freelook, mouse controlled views could be utilised by linking to tracking and emulated in engines like Open Morrowind.




FreeTrack

FreeTrack is similar to FaceTrackNoIR, but requires markers,usually very cheap IR leds attached to headphones, which must be tracked. Mouse/joystick/keyboard emulation for games that don't support tracking protocols available. Linux is not supported although from the forums one or two people might be working on linux projects.

What it involves, without buying TrackIR/mocap specific equipment
  • Webcam
  • Photo negatives from an old reel to only let IR light through (if your cam doesn't have an IR mode)
  • A hat, headphones or similar to stick markers to
  • Cheap IR leds to use as markers, probably work less acurately with IR reflective tape/stickers..the idea is it stands out from the rest of the picture, and IR is an easy way to do that
  • Costs less than 10 euro according to their website, more info here.


Used to drive a mouse cursor.

All videos courtesy of various Youtube people.


Gamers can download and try it immediately, game developers can add direct FreeTrack support, or add joystick/mouse support in a way that better accepts emulation. If you have an interest in interface tech, source code for both are available.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How to Advertise your FOSS game

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Have a nice new FOSS game that no one knows about? Make it known through these (rather obvious) tried and tested ( not really ;) ) methods:

Forums


A Delicate Balance
Make a nice generic post with a couple (not too many!) screenshots, relevant links etc. Also, remember to stick around and answer questions and generally contribute to the forums you are posting to, you don't want to be a spam bot ;)

Post on the FreeGameDev forums! Fastest way to get an article on the blog, and a bunch of helpful people willing to give you a hand with development ('' previous parenthesis ;).

Linux Distro Forums: Always a safe bet (links go to relevant gaming sections)



Propaganda


0A.D. video posted in 2007 that still attracts players

Make Video for Advertising goodness! Videos > Pictures > Words when it comes to marketing.
Upload to Youtube/Vimeo/Vidsiteofchoice and attach it to the posts you make on the sites mentioned below


Post everywhere! The more places you have presence, the more eyeballs fall onto your work, the more players you attract. There are lots of places to post to, so give this task to some of those pesky FOSS hangers-on who don't code or make art (Like me! :D)

General game databases:

  • ModDB / IndieDB : ModDB recently split into two, IndieDB is where you want to post if you have a standalone game. Also, these sites are huge so it will be harder to get noticed
  • GameBoom : The site sponsoring OpenGameArt, Gameboom wants to host communities for (preferably FOSS) games
  • IndieGameMag : Haven't had success with this one, but it allows for user submissions so...
  • The Indie Gaming Source : Another database for indie games, nice categorization and more indie than IndieDB ;)
  • GameJolt : For freeware games only! Gives you hosting space for files as well, kinda like sourceforge like site for games - the development tools :P Has a special section for open source games



Linux Only

If the game runs on Linux, here are a couple of Linux gaming sites where you can post to:

  • Linux Game Database  : Nice database for all kinds of Linux games
  • Gaming on Linux : A community like news site for Linux games
  • Linux Games : Another blog (hiss :P) that allows for user-submitted articles
  • Penguspy : Another database like site but with strict quality moderation 
  • HappyPenguin / LinuxGameTome : Most well known Linux game database, it has been down/sickish of late though... It's served the community well though, so lets not talk bad of it 


Web Aggregators:


Kind of hit-or-miss because they require people to vote for you... Getting your audience right is key, reddit's subreddits are good for this

  • Slashdot : The g.old standard for geek/open source news aggregation, a tad difficult to get published though 
  • Reddit : /r/linuxgaming , /r/gamedev , /r/indiegaming , are good subreddits to submit too, not all of them at once though, that'd be spammy ;)
  • FSDaily  : A free software specialized news aggregator
  • Flattr and YouTipIt : Aggregators with cash backing (but more on those later ;)
  • Wikipedia : If you're lucky, Wikipedia can point a lot of people at your game. However, it isn't really a place to market your game/service, so you have to have some kind of proof that your game is noteworthy


 Micro/blogging

 Use Identi.ca / Twitter to get news to your readers fast. Identi.ca has nice groups, such as !fossgaming and !linuxgaming that you can join and post news to. Having timely updates show users (ones that don't know about commit logs) that the project is active, and all that social media stuff :P

Blogging in general is good as well, keep people updated = keep people excited and interested = get people playing (for example proprietary/open source game developers Wolfire)

Development Centric Advertisement

Knowing who you want to market to is an essential ingredient to a successful campaign; while you might pick up developers on more general sites, specialized, development centric sites have a far higher ratio of developers/users


  • Freshmeat : A database of open source software, with lots of game projects on it
  • Sourceforge : The biggest open source project hosting site (not researched, ain't Goat an exemplary journalist), it does have the best project discovery features as well. You don't necessarily have to host your code here; it's still a good place to have a presence on
  • Engine forums: If you use Ogre, post on the ogre forums, if you use blender, BlenderArtists is a good place etc. Not a very difficult concept ;)
  • Engine Databases: If your game is codeveloped as an engine (which is horrifyingly prevalent) DevMaster is an example of a place to post your engine on. Rather successful in my experience with Syntensity
  • Gamedev.net : A pretty active game development community


Release Early, Release Often!


And repeat all steps above on every release. Golden rule and all that

More!

The internet is big, Goat's memory is bad! Comment below if I missed anything and I'll update the post.. Or maybe move it to a wiki page...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

OpenMW reaches next milestone, reboots, recruits

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OpenMW has released 0.9.0!

For those that don't know, OpenMW is a project to write an entire 3d rpg engine from scratch, made compatible with Morrowind data formats (other formats can be added later) with the noble intention of setting the first target at being feature complete with Bethesda's Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
And after that's achieved?

"Ideas include multiplayer, improved graphics and animation, improved scripting and more flexible modding, a new editor, or moving on to Oblivion and other games" 
 sayeth their roadmap making them one of the most potential brimming opensource projects around.



Basically at 1.0:

  • All Morrowind mods will be compatible

  • Total conversions that do not use Bethesda art or recreate them, will be totally FOSS, (0$ for people who've never brought Morrowind). Non-total conversions need the retail copy.

  • Modder rage inducing technical restrictions/bugs removed, improved modability/interface (of the type that caused Tolkien based AME project on Oblivion to give up after a heightmap issue)


1.0+:

Continuing development(see here), driven by a community, and not made casually obsolete once every 5 years when the next utterly incompatible game gets released



Why is it promising, and liable to deliver rapidly once a strong core is established?

These factors:

  • Lots, and lots and lots of lots of total conversions for morrowind, and post v1.0, oblivion.

  • Unlike other projects the modderbase, recognition and interest is there and widespread

  • Morrowind rebirth project, Nehrim at fate's edge (moddb 2010 winner) for oblivion, Enormous Tolkien based MERP mod for oblivion, or the stunning Betrayal of Jarvall all are proof of the dedicated community required to energise and drive a project, even with engines more than half a decade old.

  • Total conversions are often recreations of literary/television franchises. Suited for ongoing/iterative development..rather than reaching a completion point, or becoming completely boring conveniently in time for a new engine and different art

  • Modders tired with 10s of thousands of modder-hours being gradually faded away by game obsolescense post-release dev halting

  • Free->lower investment risk->wider audience

  • After Morrowind/Oblivion waypoints, large community means attracting contributors, leading to real development a marquee status of OpenMW and opensource RPGs:)

Download from the OpenMW website.

How much left to do, you ask? 6-7 months, calculated when team was a handful of coders, apparently.

Latest:

The project has been rebooted, after the lead dev went MIA for a while.

They are conducting an extensive recruiting campaign after the reboot, so Ogre/Bullet/general c++ coders, python scripters, PR people, ideas people and moral support welcome:)

One option for them to disseminate the scale of what has been achieved (3d RPG engine from scratch) might be to retitle the project as OpenRPG and:
  • Release a Morrowind compatible branch, Morrowind
  • Maintain a branch that ports new compatibility breaking features, Morrowind+
  • Release a Oblivion compatible branch, Oblivion
  • Maintain a branch that ports new compatibility breaking features, Oblivion+
  • Do the same for other games, but I suspect they will have enough of a following to just work on OpenRPG branch by then.
  • Create a small test bed game using available foss art work, so everyone can try it
  • Associate themselves with a few open ended total conversion projects, like Morrowind Rebirth (small team, but right spirit), and start working with an Oblivion total conversion team towards a free for public release by the time the mod is finished. The Tolkien based MERP Mod (large team/mod) would be released in about 3 years  which is ideal and given the Tolkien fan forums (not to mention game forums) with 50-100 thousand+ users a public FOSS release would be welcomed. (What ever project the Nehrim's sureAI team would want to work on next is an option, too)
  • +s: Administrative and PR manpower that has been largely lacking, buzz, actual project requirements and practically tested feedback needed to drive design. Modders will benefit from not having to persuade users to buy an old/obsolete engine just for their mod.

Anouncements thread, twitter,moddb, online PR appear to be up:)