My name is Antoine and I’ve been a devotee of this site and the Linux Game Tome for years. Now I have the priviledge to contribute back an article. Thank you qubodup for helping me out with this article. I love open source games, but I have a particular soft spot for those that allow creativity and collaboration from their users. Imagine if there existed an open source, and therefore completely editable, game engine with as much content as Morrowind’s fans have created available for it? As many of you are aware, there are currently fan projects working to extend the life, reach, and functionality of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind far beyond what’s possible using Bethesda’s Construction Set modding tools.
Can you guess which screen is rendered by what engine? :)
About Morrowind: Morrowind is an enormous proprietary game loved by fans for its atmospheric and immersive world filled with bizarre giant mushrooms, homes built into giant vines, and barren wastelands. However, it was plagued by software bugs, had many elements that were half-baked in their execution, and its game engine took poor advantage of GPUs. Some of these problems fans were able to address with unofficial patches and mods, but others could not be solved without changing the actual game engine.
When I found an open source reimplentation of the Morrowind engine I had to become involved. I’m very new to the group, but I’m helping out the PR team. However, just days after finding OpenMW, I discovered two more such projects existed, with rumors of a fourth. Mark Siewert of The Crystal Scrolls (and soon OpenMW), said the multitude of projects are a testament to the interest people still have in this game’s strange world. Indeed, look at the massive undertakings of fan projects like Tamriel Rebuilt, MGE XE, MGSO, or type in on YouTube “Morrowind 2011” or “Morrwind 2012” and you’ll get a sense for the countless hours fans continue dedicating to improve Morrowind a decade after its release.
I spoke with the developers of the different engines about their projects to get an idea of what their development status is, what their goals are, and how they’re accomplishing them. A quick disclaimer; you need a legal copy of Morrowind to use any of these engines for playing Morrowind. You can get one from steam (it goes on sale every couple of months) or by purchasing one on ebay.
OpenMW began in 2008 by Nicolay Korslund, it uses ogre3d, bullet physics, OpenAL, OIS, NifLib, and MYGUI. Nicolay stepped down as project lead last year and was replaced by the developer Marc “Zini” Zinnschlag and is joined by many great developers.
Project Aedra, was started by Tom Lopes in 2009. It employs NifLib, Bullet Collision, Quake 3 Arena for "pmove" character controller code, and the FastLZ library.
The Crystal scrolls was started by Mark Siewert in 2007 and it employs the Crystal Space 3d engine.
So what do these projects have in common? Well, they are licensed under some form of the GNU GPL license, written in C++, and aim to have all the features of original Morrowind, including compatibility with all official and unofficial expansions and plug-ins (and those based on external programs such as the Script Extender). Their individual goals are listed below.
The Crystal Scrolls
|OpenMW||Project Aedra||The Crystal Scrolls|
|Mac OS X||Done||-||-|
|Graphical Replacer Support||Done||Done||-|
|Multithread Stream Loading||-||Partial||-|
|Hardware Animations (Shaders)||Planning||Partial||Nearly|
|Render Particle Effects||-||Planning||-|
|Read Scrolls and Books||-||Done||-|
|Nearly** = Code is in the repository, but not in the latest release.|
|Partial* = Code is in repository, but likely to not be activated in a release for quite some time.|
|- = No code or planning done yet, or possibly not intending to include.|
When is your next release?
How big is your team?
How can people contribute?
There you have it folks; three projects sharing a lot of common ground, but with some different goals and feature sets. Which is the best? That depends on who is asking. I suggest trying out all three every six months or to see how their changing and defining their own style. No doubt they will influence each others development with ideas and solutions. It is very exciting that Mark Siewert is joining the OpenMW team. Here’s to open source, games that facilitate creativity, and the preservation and improvement of games for posterity!