Monday, March 10, 2008

Wesnoth Battling Onwards

Battle for Wesnoth

Well the big release of the weekend is Battle for Wesnoth 1.4 (changelog). Not too much to say about this game that hasn't been said hundreds of times before. It's simply the best open source game project going. Hundreds of contributors, graphics rivalling contemporary commercial 2D games. Over version 1.2, Battle for Wesnoth 1.4 brings 7 new campaigns, major UI improvements, major multiplayer improvements, many improved graphics (the portraits are stunning) and many bug and balance fixes.

Wesnoth is so popular that the response to this release seems to have overwhelmed parts of their website. The wiki and forums are unable to cope.

I'm wondering where they will draw the line with this project though. The main developer has since moved on to SilverTreeRPG. Obviously they could keep adding campaigns, refining the graphics etc, but surely at some point you want to say "this is it, this is the final v1 of Wesnoth" and look at making v2 which is a significantly different game (be it improved or different storyline or whatever). They surely just can't keep on evolving this version because then, well, it seems to be a bit of a waste of resources that could be used to create a different version. Once a game is complete, development is of diminishing returns. Sure, you can make it a bit shinier, but it's of much less value to the game playing community who [I think] would rather see major strides made on a new game rather than the same game have relatively small improvements.

OpenFracas 0.4 (currently just for Linux and Windows), "a free, open-source game that is similar to Risk." There's more gameplay features than in standard Risk, and it's also well done, so check it out if you like that kind of strategy game.

SuperTuxKart 0.4 is now up for download. No screenshots of 0.4 on the website, although it looks the same as 0.3 for the most part.

Space Exploration v5 - a fun little 2D space exploration and trading game. This version greatly enhances the UI, but I think the Java detractors will love this version because it's very very slow. I suspect the author isn't too experienced on Java graphics programming and as he learns more it will speed up greatly. Anybody who believes Java is slow should try out the rather spiffilicous JCRPG which not only looks beautiful but is very fast too. A bit of perseverance and Java "force" is all that's needed.


Anonymous said...

s/changelog/release notes/

bart9h said...

I think new campaigns is always a good thing for Wesnoth. I, for one, love the game, but after I finish the campaigns, it's gone. New campaigns adds replayability value.

Tyler Olsen said...

I've never been able to get into Wesnoth. I tried, but never had the motivation to finish even one campaign. I think the reason is that Wesnoth has a weak story (IMO). All of these "campaigns" seem to be just random people who come in, think up a new race and new story that is completely tangential to the main thread, and what you get is a cluster of ideas that are loosely tied together. Also the music is rather bland and there isn't more than a few tracks (last time I checked anyway).

I agree that the Wesnoth team needs to say "okay, this game is done", or at least have a concept of what it means for Wesnoth to be done. I personally feel like Wesnoth was "done" a long time ago, and now people are just doing cosmetic improvements and new content for the heck of it.

Drag said...

"I've never been able to get into Wesnoth."

Tyler, considering the above you should not launch in affirmations like " Wesnoth team needs to say okay, this game is done" or "Wesnoth has a weak story" or "what you get is a cluster of ideas that are loosely tied together. " and so on.

I also disagree with Charlie when he says that a new , "significantly different" Wesnoth must be made. I don't see why. Maybe some people consider 2d graphics as not good enough ?

I have to mention that i am not a contributor or a member of Wesnoth community.

Free Gamer said...

My word, just when I wonder why politics is so rotten, a comment that epitomises the very worst in chinese whispering shows up.

Where was it that I suggested 2d graphics as not good enough? Was it when I said Wesnoth has, "graphics rivalling contemporary commercial 2D games"? Or perhaps, "stunning portraits"? Maybe it's my fault for not being explicit in my appreciation of Wesnoth's nice graphics despite having done so on many other occasions?

If you are not going to bother to read the post properly and understand why I said that there should be a line drawn for Wesnoth, then don't quote me. It's offensive to do so.

However, back to the point. The reason is that, for players, the difference between the 1.x versions is not enough. As a player who enjoys a game, I want to play "game v1" then, if it exists, "game v2", etc for "game vn". Now if I play Wesnoth 1.0 through to the end, then get Wesnoth 1.2 I'll be disappointed. Sure, I'll love the graphical enhancements and balancing, I'll like the extra campaign(s), but the main game is still the same as in 1.0 so playing through is duplicating much of my original experience. Then I download 1.4, and the tangible 1.2->1.4 difference is even less than 1.0->1.2. So you have all these versions of the game but they're a massive overlap and that really detracts from the extra playability experience.

If I can add some [made up] arbitrary numbers to this, 2000 hours went into Wesnoth 1.0, and it was ace. Another 3000 went into 1.2 and it's great, but not that much different from 1.0. Another 5000 has gone into 1.4 which now is of amazing quality, but it's still not that different from 1.0 other than being more refined. That's 10,000 hours that has gone into 1 Wesnoth game, when potentially they could have made 3 which each one being a continuation of the story.

Now I know that's an incorrect overview because they keep adding new campaigns, but to be honest I think perfectionism is as much a curse as it is a blessing. People enjoy having different versions of a game and playing through each one. It's like books in a series - you don't want each new book in the series to come with slightly improved modified versions of the older books, meaning you have to reread them if you want get 100% of the accurate experience.

Game versions are important because they are the milestones by which users understand what they are getting, and I really don't approve of the way Wesnoth is continuing if they choose to go 1.5.x and keep up this repetitious perfectionism.

Note: I don't disagree with e.g. distributing a Wesnoth 2 with the ability to [re]play the Wesnoth 1 story, however I really think it should not be the focus and the distinction should be clear.

DragD said...

Charlie , I don't share the same perspective on things. I think that present Wesnoth has lot of room for improvements and they're doing this. It's not about perfectionism.
And yes i want different progressive versions.

about the 2d graphic issue - i was not referring to you or Tyler . It was more of a rhetorical question. I admit it was not placed properly . I apologize for this.

Free Gamer said...

All is forgiven, sorry for being a bit harsh but misquoting people is a Really Evil Thing (tm) - an art perfected by Hillary Clinton's campaign no less.

Anonymous said...

I don't see a reason to give up wesnoth 1.x and start again from the beginning. Wesnoth will gain new players over the time and it's cool, that they can start directly with the improved system and better campaigns. Adding new features and campaigns is a main point to keep a userbase, but 7 new campaigns speak their own language about that.
It would be nice, though, to add highlevel storylines and sort several campaigns into a context. An unlocking mechanism could come in handy, but would implement, that one would have to keep old gamestates over the time.

About supertuxkart screenshots:
This screenshots I've added some time ago are 100 % 0.4 screenshots:
I didn't add a 0.4 screenshot section yet, since I didn't want to do so before the actual release and at the moment I'm very busy with my diploma thesis.
I guess, I'll find some time for it tomorrow.

Greetings, Constantin

Petrell said...

So that you know, the author of Space Exploration ( plans to eventually publish the game as a shareware/"episodic" content game so it won't always be free. (well the core game may be but additional episodes/content will cost money).

Anonymous said...

While Wesnoth may be the "best" open source game project, I need to point out that getting the Linux version from their site is a pain (click on a link, read, click on a link, read the same thing, read again, copy/paste a line into the package manager...

... and then figure out how to actually install the thing. Go dig in Synaptic)

It's much easier to get it off even. If they don't care to package it even, they should at least make it easier for others by pointing straight to the download ink.

And yeah, I even found SilverTreeRPG more fun than Wesnoth. Didn't really far in Wesnoth, lost interest.

If there something online about it, like a world, then I think it would be better suited. Right now, it's kinda boring.

Hamza said...

hmm , nice article , though an interesting discussion as well .

about the Java Matter , i believe you are right , the people blame the language more than the coder .

though more experience could produce a great work

David said...

Thanks for your kind words concerning the Wesnoth 1.4 release.

As the lead developer of Wesnoth, I feel compelled to comment.

Wesnoth is far from done. We have as large a community as ever, and a very mature, competent, and skilled development community. We will continue to make future releases and they will contain improvements; many great improvements.

I think it is a mistake to try to see too many analogies between commercial gaming and FLOSS gaming. They are completely different models.

If Wesnoth was a commercial game, we would have had Heir to the Throne in version 1. Then we'd have made version 2 -- a prequel -- which contained The Rise of Wesnoth, and didn't contain Heir to the Throne; if you wanted to play Heir to the Throne you'd have had to buy Wesnoth 1, and play it; with inferior graphics, sounds, interface, etc.

Then we'd have made version 3, Under the Burning Suns, and so forth.

With our development model, we give you much more! Each version contains more and more campaign content, and we maintain the existing content too, updating it with all the new improvements!

You don't think that 1.2 represents enough of an improvement over 1.0, or 1.4 doesn't have enough improvements over 1.2? Look at commercial gaming. How much improvement did Knights of the Old Republic 2 have over Knights of the Old Republic 1? Almost nothing! It was a different storyline and plot, but the engine only had tiny improvements.

The same with numerous other commercial games. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn vs Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. Or any of the sports series EA brings out.

Wesnoth has numerous improvements with each release. We add more and more features to allow campaign designers to do more and more innovative things. It would be easy; all to easy for Wesnoth to depart from its premise, to jump the shark and try to add a lot of new features, just 'for fun'. But our developer community is fortunately very mature and wise. We stick to our premise, making improvement after improvement.

And people enjoy the improvements. After each major release, the number of downloads we get goes up and stays up. Apparently the newer versions contain enough improvements for more people to recommend the game to their friends, so more people end up downloading it. We are doing something right.

It is also a mistake to think that somehow by keeping Wesnoth going, we are missing an opportunity in developing a new game. Wesnoth has a great community, because people are excited about Wesnoth. One cannot simply say "let's start a new game guys" and expect to simply start a new game, and have a community form around it. No, if we could somehow pack up Wesnoth development, most Wesnoth developers would simply cease to have something exciting to contribute to. Some might look into other game projects, but this would be relatively minimal. People would go back to spending their free time in some other way, instead of contributing to a great FLOSS project.

What would be nice, however, is if someone re-used some of Wesnoth's resources in a new game. We have a great set of artwork, and a great engine. It wouldn't be so hard to re-use Wesnoth's art in a 'civ-like' game, or a different kind of 'tactics' game, or perhaps an RPG. If someone did that, that would be a great way to kick-start a new game project. But stopping Wesnoth development would not help this; in fact it'd be counter productive.

In short, Wesnoth is far from ceasing development. There is no end in sight. We are still growing. We will continue to grow. We will continue to add new features. We will continue to add new styles of gameplay by extending our engine. The best is still to come.


Free Gamer said...

Quite hard to follow that. Great comment.

I would say, in my defense, that it's not that I said there's not great improvement between 1.0 and 1.2 and 1.4, just that they're not different games despite the massive updates.

Saying that, you just knocked that one on the head saying they are in fact different games (new campaigns) just you get the bonus of having up to date versions of original campaigns too.

Anonymous said...

I'm not real impressed with some of the new campaigns. I don't diss open source but I will say that at least one of the campaigns hasn't been tested enough to warrant inclusion in main source. Otherwise though technically 1.4 is very sound.

Provide feedback:

Due to SPAM issues we have disabled public commenting here.

But feel free to join our forums or easily chat via IRC with us.