Monday, August 27, 2007

Revival of the fittest - sourcing art

Pingus 0.7.0 is available for download. With revival work complete, Pingus now uses SDL and comes with lovel anti-aliased fonts. There's no new levels yet but with development seemingly back on track hopefully the level editor will return and some good levelsets will get contributed. It has a lot of potential as a game because the Lemmings series kinda, well, was more fun when it was 2D. If enough level makers could get together, I'd love to see a release inspired by "Oh no! More Lemmings" which was my favourite of the series and also incredibly challenging.



Another game with a major update is Egoboo Resurrection. There is a new fully working music system and major graphic enchancements - antialasing, shading, dithering and prespective correction all supported. (A long list of buzz words there.) Most importantly the lead developer Zefz is trying to get the game in SVN so others can contribute more easily and, speaking of contributions, somebody is already having a crack at porting it to Linux. At the moment it's only available as a Linux download but "watch this space". Well, not that precise space as that'll only ever say "watch this space". But in a more abstract sense I will hopefully be able to report a Linux port in the near future. ;-)



My post the other day, "Free this free that O_o" (catchy title eh?) sparked a lot of debate about the need for consolidation of Free Software game development efforts. You can read it there so I won't repeat it all, but one comment did make me think and it is something I had thought about in the past as well - there is a tremendous amount of artistic and game design talent poured into making mods for commercial games. Whilst this comes good if the engine subsequently becomes open source (think Tremulous, World of Padman, and other iD game mods) there are many more examples where the game engine remains closed source. Take Air Buccaneers for example. It's a jaw dropping mod for UT2004. What a shame it will only ever be a mod for a commercial game. Could these mods be a source of art if we proactively approach projects asking them to make their efforts Freely available? Maybe it could just work...



One of the productive conversations spawned by the above debate was the notion of a common media project. Take a target genre - Ben (the thread poster) suggested fantasy - and develop a set of decent media for it that games can use as a base before branching out in their own artistic direction. I think it's a great idea.



Also there was a desire for a good quality Free art portal - there are already several efforts but they seem to just fail to capture the niche, to become that place that people say, "Hey, this is a great resource for good Free art!" Is a new one needed? A new idea, a new design? Or maybe just identify the best efforts and back them unequivocably to get the word out there? This is also something Ben touched on... it'll be interesting to see where it goes. There's already a lot of information collecting in the Game Media Creation section of the Free Game Dev forums.



One thing is for sure - the forums at www.freegamedev.net have proved there is a need for a consolidated Free game development community that was not previously being filled and there is a desire to provide a nexus where Free game developers can work together instead of in their disjoint and often isolated worlds that currently populate the open source game universe.

10 comments:

Kaelis Ebonrai said...

With reference to the mods for commercial engines..

What if we were to, in addition to approaching them about opening their art content.. but also showing them advantages of using an open engine? (Such as the "id Software" engines, and their derivatives), which may help in the long run, as well.

Tranberry said...

A great new post, touching many interesting points. If open source were a company I would vote you for president hehe.

The problem with creating an art bundle site will be how to attract artist. And to be really really easy to use, not forcing the artist to use this and that.

Kaelis Ebonrai said...

@tranberry:

With reference to the art bundle site.. Most of the movement for creating it on the forums is actually from artists, so, it should be easy enough to use for artists, if its designed by them ;)

Tyler Olsen said...

I think tranberry hit the nail on the head with "The problem with creating an art bundle site will be how to attract artist.". Its already hard enough to attract artists who will work for free on a game, but attracting artists who will work for free to build up a free art database? Almost seems improbable. I have two suggestions to work around this problem:

1) Find some productive artists on forum communities that already make artwork for free, for their own learning/enjoyment. Ask them if they would be willing to license said art under a free license. So that others may chose to use that art (or a derivative of it) in their own free content games.

You'll also probably need to explain to the artist what a free license is (I'd imagine 90% of them haven't even heard of the GPL before), and give them some reasons for why they would want to make their art available under said free license (explain the benefits to them, more than preach about the benefits for others...artists generally seem to have more self-interest than FOSS programmers).


2) Find open source projects with free content already (Hero of Allacrost, Battle for Wesnoth, FIFE, etc.). Make their artworks available in said free art site, under the license in which they were made (GPL, BSD, whatever). That way it will be much easier for new programmers to come along and borrow existing art.

This is an especially reasonable idea, because it can build up the free artwork database really quickly. In fact, just yesterday an artist from another FOSS project found the website for our game, noticed that we were using a public domain tileset that he had worked with in the past, and shared with us some of his additions to that tileset that he had created previously under the GPL. We thanked him profusely and offered him to use whatever artwork we had in our SVN repository that he would like to make use of.

Sharing is caring =)

Anonymous said...

tyler

cataloging and collecting as much free content as possible would be one (important) aspect of creating this kind of site. However i think that it is very important, and possible, to find artists willing to spend time on creating new packages of media. there certainly are a shortage of artists around the open source development scene, however there are a lot of projects that have one or two artists working at developing the SAME content as another small project. SO getting artists to work TOGETHER is one way of gathering such a team. Also as you mentioned, approaching artists on any number of forums who are currently creating models or portraits or whatever, just for PRACTICE. Also partnering with projects (such as the "low poly coop") that are already doing this same thing, to make sure we arent creating redundant content, and maybe recruiting for their already established efforts. Also doing some "real life" recruiting around college campus art buildings. many of these students are plenty good, but just have no idea that they CAN be a art developer for a computer game/arent aware of the open source game scene.

As i mentioned in the original thread, as an artist working on a project like this, I would find it MUCH more rewarding than working for a single game, because It would be as if i was simultaneously developing for ANY/EVERY open source game of that genre.

original thread HERE
http://freegamer.schattenkind.net/index.php?t=msg&th=126&start=0&S=d2e10d52d679a922b55c43e3336acdad

-ben

Irrevenant said...

A central repository of art would be beneficial, but a particular game usually calls for artwork specifically designed for that game.

IMO, it's important to connect artists - not just art - to game development teams.

Perhaps we're thinking too much in terms of resources rather than individual people? One of the primary motivators of Open Source is that it 'scratches the programmer's itch'. Has anyone considered the ARTIST's itch?

We can't consider volunteer artists as employees automatically willing to do whatever job is necessary. But neither is whatever the artist feels like doing necessarily useful. Perhaps a better model is artist and programmer as co-creators. ie. Get the artist(s) into the GameDev team from the conceptual stage where their vision can influence the project from its foundations. A similar model is used in a lot of webcomics that are made by a writer & artist team.

Kaelis Ebonrai said...

@irrevenant:


"Perhaps we're thinking too much in terms of resources rather than individual people? One of the primary motivators of Open Source is that it 'scratches the programmer's itch'. Has anyone considered the ARTIST's itch?"

You might be surprised, but, the driving forces behind this resource site.. Are /artists/. Ben, he's an artist, I'm an artist, I can't so much as speak for everyone in the topic, but, I think most at least have some art background.

As for the artist's itch.. I have a project that I need a coder for, and well, that's been sitting on offer for some time.

As for artists being more self-serving, in general, while this is sometimes true, its insulting to lump all artists together in such a way.

Often coders will work for their own personal projects, and not offer help for an artist that may need some help with their personal project. While the few artists that do, indeed, offer help on a regular basis, are doing things for everyone else's projects.

There's two sides to every single coin.

I don't go calling coders selfish, because, they're not, they're doing it in their own free time, and, they can do whatever they like with their time. I *choose* to offer help in the form of art, and, I hope, eventually someone will *choose* (and, I may've found one such person in a friend who has done similar things in the past with me, although this is far from certain) to offer help for my project in the form of code.

Its all about choice. A little bit of "marketing" helps, of course. As an Artist, I find the possibilities of producing media/art packs, to help multiple projects more rewarding than producing things for single individual projects, which might not get to projects that might find use for them, by the developer(s) not knowing of the original project it was done for.

But hey, that's just me.

Irrevenant said...

@kaelis: I think you've read things into my comment that I didn't intend.

I didn't call artists selfish. I just pointed out that, like coders, they're volunteers not employees and they need motivation to join the team. (Note: NEVER did I say that artists were more ANYTHING than coders.)

When I said "has anyone thought about the artists itch" I was referring to game development teams in general, not to people involved in this discussion. I was saying that more artists would help develop Open Source Games if the teams treated the artist as a co-developer rather than a resource. Few people will volunteer to be a resource. IMO projects would attract more artists if they were set up as a PARTNERSHIP with artists that gives them the opportunity to 'scratch their own itches' - experiment with the graphical style, develop a showcase of their own skills, etc.

"As an Artist, I find the possibilities of producing media/art packs, to help multiple projects more rewarding than producing things for single individual projects, which might not get to projects that might find use for them, by the developer(s) not knowing of the original project it was done for."

Why not do both? Create the art for a project AND include it in an art pack? That's the beauty of Open Source - things can be reused for multiple purposes...

Irrevenant said...

P.S. I missed an opportunity there: Kaelis, Ben: as artists, what would a project have to do to make you interested in creating art for it?

Kaelis Ebonrai said...

@irrevenant: I was referring to Tyler Olsen's post when i mentioned the selfish comment. ;)

"(explain the benefits to them, more than preach about the benefits for others...artists generally seem to have more self-interest than FOSS programmers)"

Sorry for the confusion there. =)

As for the opportunity to use my own graphical style, etc, I'd love to do that. Those are the projects I find more enjoyable to work with.

As for what a project would need... Well, for me, I'd need to be interested in what it is going to do.. But, more importantly for /me/, it needs to be sufficently "open". As in, none of this art using non-free licenses stuff that some projects seem to do. I'd love it to be "dfsg-free", too, if possible.

If it interests me, and, well, if it seems like it could use some help, I'll see what I can do to contribute. It'd be nice if the developers are friendly, though. (and easy enough to contact to get their opinions on how things are going.)

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