Open Source *Game* Programming?

kmself at kmself at
Thu Jan 18 20:01:53 UTC 2001

on Tue, Jan 16, 2001 at 01:37:37PM -0400, Henningsen (peter at wrote:
> I would like some advice on what to do in my situation. I am
> developing artificial intelligence modules for computer games, and
> model games to demonstrate and test them. I would like to do that in
> an open source environment, and would like my code to be used widely
> in other open source games. However, the only chance I have of ever
> seeing my creations in a first class game is if they are picked up by
> a commercial publisher who then will have to pay about a million
> dollars largely for graphics to get the game up to AAA standards. 

> If I publish under the GPL (as I have done) or any of the other open
> source licenses I have seen and understood, a publisher could simply
> take my work, add modifications to my code (to which I would have
> access, since they would have to be open source also), add his
> copyrighted graphics (to which I would >>not<< get access to use in my
> own versions of the game, because graphics that goes with code is not
> covered in open source licenses), and then he could sell it without
> giving me either royalties or proper artistic credit (credit in the
> source files and the Readme file is worthless in a game). I don't
> think this would be fair, and therefore I will not release my work
> under a license that makes this possible.

This is what free software and the OSD are designed to permit.  Your
goals are in conflict with these objectives.

> The type of license I am looking for is one that is basically like the
> GPL for non-commercial users, but that requires commercial users of my
> software to acquire a license from me (which implies that I will be
> paid and get artistic credit). Or else, a license that would force any
> graphics bundled with my code to become freely available, and that
> would ensure that I get proper artistic credit. So my questions are
> simple:

See, for example, L. Peter Deutsch's Aladdin Free Software License,
described here recently.  Deutsch uses a technique I refer to as
"delayed public license" (DPL), releasing older versions of his product
under the GPL (in part due to a personal pledge to RMS to do so).  Under
GPL, Deutsch's software is free software / OSD compliant.  Under AFSL,
it is not, due to the discrimination against commercial use.

> And a more philosophical question: If it is against the spirit of open
> source to require commercial users to buy a license, why is that? 

Read the rationale to definition 6 of the OSD.  Consider that the
definition of "commercial use" may be arbitrary, inconsistant across
multiple licensors, and of wide-ranging impact.  What constitutes
"commercial use"?:

  - Inclusion on a CDROM sold for profit.  Nix most GNU/Linux
    distributions, and online resellers such as LinuxCentral, ThinkGeek,

  - Use within an organization for direct or indirect commercial gain.
    Nix Yahoo, eToys, Wired's website, etc.

  - Incorporation within other products distributed as free software.
    Nix Slash, Scoop, and similar projects based on Perl, MySQL, Apache,

I could continue at length.  The point you fail to grasp is that,
depending on licensing terms, your "commercial coöption" is subject to
competitive pressures from other free implementations of the same
project, if licensing does allow proprietary distribution terms (e.g.:
BSD/MIT), or free appropriation and redistribution in the case of
Copyleft-style licenses (GPL, LGPL, MozPL).

> I think it is perverse to require me to offer my work as a donation to
> Microsoft and other game publishers just so I can use SourceForge.
> Remember, the modifications a publisher might make to my code are
> worth nothing. The graphics is what is valuable. 

SourceForge is offering something to you for free, in return for a
consideration on your part.  If you want an online project hosting site,
accept the terms of service, or supply your own.

If you don't want to share your work, don't.  But don't pretend this is
free software.

Karsten M. Self <kmself at>
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?       There is no K5 cabal
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