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Games Entertainment

Brave New World of Open-Source Game Design 105

Greg Chudecke writes "The New York Times recently ran an article on game companies that get design input from gamers. The article is branded as 'The Brave New World of Open-source Game Design.' The title may be a little misleading as it isn't exactly like the game design is open source for editing, however it is interesting that gamers are getting an opportunity to shape the games they play."
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Brave New World of Open-Source Game Design

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  • Bad title (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:23PM (#26829815)

    The title may be a little misleading as it isn't exactly like the game design is open source for editing

    Indeed. The correct title is, Finding Syngergies with Valued Customers Through Web 2.0 Social Methodologies.


    The scary part is that title actually makes sense. 0_o

    • Re:Bad title (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vivaoporto ( 1064484 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:29PM (#26829907)
      As well summarized by mengwong [livejournal.com]

      Web 2.0: We make the apps. You make the content. We keep the money.

      Web 2.1: You make the content. You make the apps. We keep the money.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Indeed. The correct title is, Finding Syngergies with Valued Customers Through Web 2.0 Social Methodologies.


      I refuse to take anyone or anything seriously that the word, or any form of the word "Synergy"

      • by nifboy ( 659817 )
        Also on my list of words whose use has been corrupted of all meaning, "Paradigm".
      • by adisakp ( 705706 )

        I refuse to take anyone or anything seriously that the word, or any form of the word "Synergy"

        Silly names are common in the game industry. The PS3 calls it's internal coprocessors Synergistic Processor Units (SPU's for short which is annoying because it's the same acronym as the PS2's audio processor). Then again, they called the PS2 CPU the "Emotion Engine".

      • You really need to learn to think outside the box. Only true synergy comes during the process of paradigm shifts.
      • Do not buy the Palm Pre, I watch the tech demo and the guy must of said "Synergy" twenty times.



      • by shish ( 588640 )
        This synergy [sourceforge.net] is actually fairly useful...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dwarg ( 1352059 )

      Damn! Where can I invest?

      Also, I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    • This isn't open source... this is 'crowd sourcing'. Two entirely different things.
      • This has nothing to do with Open Source. It sounds more like a publicity spin on an Open Beta or Public Beta, something not uncommon in the gaming world. It is particularly common on games that rely on an online community. Game manufacturers know that to release a game that relies on an online community and not have that game tried by a portion of that community prior to launch day can be suicide. Even highly anticipated games must have public trials even if they are limited by number of sign-ups. Feedba

        • This has nothing to do with Open Source

          Thats what I just said... pay attention. It's crowd sourcing NOT open source.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:29PM (#26829919)


  • This is new how? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cortesoft ( 1150075 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:32PM (#26829955)

    So the 'input design input' is basically beta-testing. It is in NO way open-source, by any of the definitions people use. A game company asks people to play the game before it is released and then uses their input to adjust the game? Shocking!

    • It is in NO way open-source, by any of the definitions people use.

      Shocking! That people would spew buzzwords in a way that totally deviates from definition. Such misuse of language is something you might expect from simpletons, but certainly not from marketers and journalists.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      So the 'input design input' is basically beta-testing.

      No, it's not. The first couple of paragraphs are misleading, yes, but if you actually read the entire article you'll find that what they've done is get players involved involved with the basic conceptual design before ever writing a line of code, as well as things like voice-acting and localization. That is new.

      It's still not open-source, but it's pretty cool.

      • Re:This is new how? (Score:5, Informative)

        by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman.gmail@com> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @01:25PM (#26830761) Homepage Journal

        That is new.

        Really? I seem to remember a game written back in '96 called "Subspace". The players of the game were the ones driving its design and development based on their feedback. The bad news is that the game effectively tanked in the market. The good news is that it's still around thanks to all the players who poured their efforts into the game not wanting to see it die.

        • The day the 'PC game' died

          I really miss the days of quality PC centric titles like Subspace, and all the sim & RTS games from around that time. Wish it were cheaper to make a good PC game :\

      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:24PM (#26831683) Homepage

        No, it's not. The first couple of paragraphs are misleading, yes, but if you actually read the entire article you'll find that what they've done is get players involved involved with the basic conceptual design before ever writing a line of code, as well as things like voice-acting and localization. That is new.

        It's almost indistinguishable from free work ;) The trouble is, you have no obligation being a volunteer... so you have one of them do voice-acting, then somewhere down the road near release you decide "Hey, we need to change these couple scenes" and the guy goes "Sorry, I'm busy with exams right now" or "Oh yeah that, I'm in a WoW guild now and don't have time." At any rate, I've heard many great games on paper, not many survived into becoming actually good games. Fans with various pet features could be good, or just a distraction from making the basic gameplay fun and interesting. Somehow, I think I'll see a little more actual results before I decide if this is good or not. Btw one of several reasons many open source games just don't make it, games aren't supposed to be all-flexible tools like a word processor - they're supposed to be one coherent vision with one really well done interface and gameplay.

        • So... You're saying e need a kick-ass FLOSS game-development platform. Well, open source was always good with libraries and programming tools. I wonder if someone can whip up something with Python for general purpose shit, with Pyrex on LLVM bytecode for the processing intensive shit, and Java bindings for all the APIs.

      • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:25PM (#26831711) Journal

        It's still not that radically new a concept IMHO. Most games are involve one or more of the following:

        1. are made by gamers in the first place. The reason why so many people want to work in the game industry, even at ridiculously low wages, is that they are gamers in the first place. So not only you have one or more gamers involved before even writing the first line of code, you'll have actual gamers actually writing those lines of code, scripting the NPCs, drawing the cut scenes and textures, designing the levels, and writing the dialogue.

        Sometimes it's even people who love the thing that the game is themed around. E.g., the way I hear it, Statesman (of City Of Heroes fame) is actually a genuine die-hard comic fan. And he plays video games.(E.g., supposedly he got the much maligned ED idea while playing a platformer on his GBA.) And he made a video game about comic-book superheroes. I'd say he was very qualified to give input in the conceptual design phase there.

        (Though true enough, you often can tell when a company just gets into a genre none of them played or liked, by their building an awful game based on awfully wrong assumptions.)

        2. involve some focus groups, other forms of dialogue with gamers, etc.

        Heck, Sony for example seems to be pushing really hard to please female gamers and pulls stunts like having a player play Queen Antonia Bayle of Qeynos for the various events. (Sorta like Lord British's character in UO, but this time it's not the character of a dev, but of an actual girl who plays EQ2.) Plus, gives a lot of attention to female gamer guilds and the like. I'd be genuinely surprised if they don't get at least some occasions to voice their concerns and such.

        3. involve experience, including player input, from previous games.

        E.g., Statesman's new project is Champions Online, another superhero-themed MMO. I should think he took with him a lot of the experience of what worked and what didn't work for the players in COH, and a lot of player input received along the way.

        E.g., Raph Koster IIRC worked on a MUD before joining UO, and then took his experience with both over to SWG. (Ok, ok, so I guess sometimes experience doesn't precluse fucking up;)

        4. indiscriminate player input can actually be bad, if not verified by other means.

        E.g., Blizzard makes the servers generate a _lot_ of statistics, so they can know exactly which class killed which other class too often, what spec did more damage to a given boss, etc. So they can actually use hard data to check if some class's complaints or wishes for more power are justified, or just whining. That long period of fine-tuning and tweaking they gave all their games after release, was essentially very much based on player input... just not (only) the post-on-a-board type. They looked at what those players actually do in the game.

    • This is why I don't get tech news from the Times. It's like asking for sushi from McDonald's.
    • No Cost -> Free Software -> Open Source

      The author mixes "free-to-play" with "open design". RMS was right; we should have just explained that it's Free as in Freedom, not cost.

      • That's one of the problems with English. Some words are to vague. For instance, in Bulgarian, we have "svoboda" for free as in freedom, so it's "svoboden software" for free software, and "bezplaten" for free as in beer, becoming "bezplaten" in "bezplaten software" for freeware (closed source). Sorry for the OT post, just observing.

    • This is more trying to make a buzzword. I'm sad to hear it, but it looks like OSS might go the way of the valliant letters that preceeded it: E, i, HD, WEB, and the numbers 2000 and 2.0.
    • Re:This is new how? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by illumin8 ( 148082 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @03:56PM (#26833387) Journal

      A game company asks people to play the game before it is released and then uses their input to adjust the game?

      It's not new and it's definitely not open source at all.

      This is a closed source game copy, Acclaim, that finds grindy, asian-themed MMOs made by small studios. They buy the US rights to the game, and use the beta testing community to do their translation for them, because they can't even be bothered to spend the money to localize their own content...

      I played one of these terrible, terrible games called 9 Dragons for a couple days. It's an asian-themed martial arts based MMO, which sounds like it could be very cool, but when you realize it's like World of Warcraft but with 10x the grind and half of the dialog is in Korean, it makes you want to scrape your eyeballs off with a cheese grater just to stop the pain.

      Acclaim releases free to play shovelware, asian grind themed MMO games for dirt cheap in the US, and basically admits that they don't want to spend money to do localization and voice acting, so they just let the community do their work for them for free.

      Why is this news?

  • Does that mean the gamers tell the studio how they would want the design input to be handled??

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:36PM (#26830021)

    I don't know how this is considered "new". It's been going on for at least 6 or 7 years. I know because I've been involved from the community side of things since then with EA on their Need for Speed titles. In fact EA flys community webmasters out to thier studios quite regularly and puts them under NDA's to talk about what's coming up and what they think, especially on thier bigger franchises. As webmaster of Racerplanet I've had lots of interaction with the developers, mostly EA but other Publishers have stopped by the forums at least over the years.

    • by cstec ( 521534 )

      I don't know how this is considered "new". It's been going on for at least 6 or 7 years.

      6 or 7? Try 30+ years. Original Adventure and Trek 73 were modded with player feedback too.

      It's really sad seeing what punks think is new, and then label with whatever today's buzzword is.

      • It's really sad seeing what punks think is new, and then label with whatever today's buzzword is.

        Welcome to the world of software patents.

  • What could possible go wrong ?
  • This has nothing to do with Open Source, why mis-use the term?
  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:43PM (#26830147) Journal

    Full frontal nudity.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by internerdj ( 1319281 )
      of game designers or open source enthusiasts? You must have a different group of those in your area...
  • by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:48PM (#26830215) Homepage Journal
    ... and I recall that I once upon a time did a market(ing) research job for EA at the end of last century.

    Though it was just focus groups, it shows that the idea is not particularly new.

    • ...the idea is not particularly new.

      No kidding, it's almost as old as the internet. Older still if you count pre-tech endeavors. The only difference is that today it is completely visible; which incidentally is why attempts are currently underway to "normalize" this behavior.

  • Take a deep breath (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AdmiralXyz ( 1378985 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @01:03PM (#26830437)

    Before we all start hyperventilating and berating the NY Times for their faulty definition of "open source", let's remember who their audience is. Using "open-source" to refer to a development process where the customers get much more ability to view and modify the content "en route" is not technically a correct definition, but it's a succinct phrase that people understand; it gets the point across.

    Think of it like the difference between "hacking" and "cracking". Yes, mass media uses hacking "incorrectly" 99.9% of the time, but they are using the definition that people can understand: to insist they do otherwise is linguistic snobbery.

    So no, there is no willful ignorance (or Microsoft plot to water down the definition of open source) at work here, they're just making things plain for their readers.

    • by sesshomaru ( 173381 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @01:18PM (#26830633) Journal

      It's not linguistic snobbery. For example, in the case of hacking versus cracking, the fact that hacking now equals malevolent programming means that people who want to refer to the old definition of hacking have to come up with yet another word, or qualifier to refer to it.

      The other problem is that it makes other documents that refer to hacking in the archaic context seem confusing to the modern reader. Example, someone reads "RMS was a Unix Hacker," goes to a pointy-haired boss meeting and says, "Look, another reason why we shouldn't use Linux is that it encourages criminal behaviour, I just read an old story that said that one of the main programmers of Linux was a hacker!"

      This is more of a problem with Open Source because the meaning creep is relatively recent. It would be very confusing for a company to tout a product as "Open Source," if what they mean is that it includes the ability for user created content.

      • by sowth ( 748135 )

        At least it would be a positive meaning instead of "nasty pirates who steal software and put spyware and trojans on it," which many of the media and the MCSEs who run IT shop call it. Plus, calling user generated content "open source" is a little in the spirit of true Open Source. Anyone can look at it, use it and modify it. Though it would be important to teach people the difference between proprietary and locked down vs. open and accessible. Having the ability to create their own content may show them the

    • by ndogg ( 158021 )

      Which is exactly why we need to be upset. Allowing this kind of misuse will dilute the meaning, and eventually make the phrase meaningless.

  • So, ignoring the use of 'open-source' in a way that isn't remotely applicable, what this article is saying is that some developers have given up on having their own ideas and are now taking random ideas from users instead.

    Christ, if that works... I'm starting my own company. I can rip off ideas from random internet junkies all day long.

  • by Biff Stu ( 654099 ) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @01:17PM (#26830629)

    Eamon was framework for a text-based adventure game on the Apple II long before the New York Times was writing articles about open source software (and getting the definition wrong.)

  • that get input design input from gamers.

    This message brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department.

  • CitiesXL (Score:2, Informative)

    by Gman14msu ( 993012 )
    I`ve posted about this game before, but CitiesXL [citiesxl.com] is a great example of game producers getting input from the community during development. The game is basically going to be a city managing simulation ala Sim City. So far, it looks like a pretty incredible offering, with some neat elements involving online play. Release date so far is vague, but I`d guess Fall 09.
  • by mackil ( 668039 ) <movie@moviesou[ ]lips.net ['ndc' in gap]> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @01:23PM (#26830723) Homepage Journal
    This has been going on for a long long time. It's called focus testing. If you play through Half Life 2 or any other Valve game that features commentary, you'll often hear how they changed things based on user suggestions/feedback (amongst other things).
    • Another obvious example would be most MMOs. The massive community has a heavy say in the direction the game takes.
      Most of Wow now-standard UI now includes functionalities first implemented in user-created addons, for instance. Even more new standard UI features have also just been announced that were available in mods for the last couple of years.

  • Interesting.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OldSpiceAP ( 888386 )
    User suggestions are great and its good they are doing this. That said one thing I would prefer is if there were more good open source games available. Better yet I would love to know why something like an Open Source Online RPG game has a hard time finding developers but other projects with less global appeal seem to have larger developer bases. Its interesting. (Disclaimer: I'm a core developer for an online RPG called Peragro Tempus ( www.peragro.org ) and have always pondered why gaining developers is
  • Truisms of Game Design:

    1) Not only is the customer NOT always right, the customer is often dead wrong. (If you think they're always right, sales is just down the hall)
    2) Fun is HARD. Much harder than you think.
    3) Staring at anything 10+ hours a day for months on end will cause blind-spots in your overall understanding of it - this is why you do focus testing.

  • So, they are checking with the customer what they want in a product/game, calling that open-source input for some marketing reason AND saying that is something new. Am I missing something?
  • "the long-standing barrier between the game maker and game player that was set up to protect the profitability of projects is crumbling."
    This article is wrong in so many ways. The long standing barrier? There's no barrier between game designers an gamers, in most cases the game designers are gamers themselves, in addition there are in house testers (dedicated gamers) to play the game at different stages and give feedback. And then there are the open source games, and indy games made by gamers for gamers.
    • New York Times is out of touch with reality when it comes to computer games.

      Now why would they be any different with computer games than with anything else?

    • ... New York Times is out of touch with reality when it comes to computer games.

      The New York Times is out of touch with reality.

      Fixed that for you.

  • Since I haven't seen it mentioned yet, and it seems to fit the topic:
    (though I haven't RTFA, where do you think we are...?) Overgrowth [wolfire.com]
    I've been following the blog for a while, because of the developer videos they used to do, and they seem to be a very open development team. The articles they do almost daily are detailed and informative, especially to those like me that have an interest in game development, and I'm gonna stop now because I've realised I'm gushing :P
  • Since Darkfall is an utter and complete disappointment from the beta videos I've seen and from friends that are IN beta... Mortal Online is the next best thing.

    The developers are posting the methodology of their ideas and having people comment on it. It's nice to see them having a back and forth about ideas in the game that players are helping to shape. The 10,000 foot overview is still the developer's but the nitty gritty details players are helping to iron out, or so it seems. Release will tell us more on

  • Every time a game developer gets it right, I smile, because it's such a rare occurrence.

    City of Heroes/Villains is offering a mission editor with their next major content patch, which is a nice step in the right direction. It's just about the only thing that could pull subscribers away from wow.

    It's not about having the most powerful tools to do what you want, it's about being able to do what you want with minimal fuss.
  • I am usually a supporter of the Times, but this time they are really being irresponsible. It's difficult enough to educate the public as to the true meaning of "open source" and "Free software", let alone when we're hampered by these dumbed-down, technically ignorant reports. This article only spreads confusion, and certainly doesn't highlight the great work being done by the many great, true open source game developers in the community.

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (6) Them bats is smart; they use radar.