- Had contact with Jon Mavor from Uber.
- Uber Entertainment will not open source the PA engine.
- The to be developed PA engine will be more advanced than SupCom's "moho" engine which had about the same design as the Spring engine.
- So, now what?
- Had some discussion with Tobi, Licho, Kloot, zerver, jK, hoijui & abma.
Uber Entertainment is doing a successful kickstarter to develop a new TA type game.
They essentially plan to take TA interplanetary. Awesome idea. We need to be there. Make this a reality. The only problem, Spring is an open source project and with reason. We know what happens to commercial games (and third-party content) after the developer moves on.
So I wanted to try and convince Uber to open source the engine while in development. We (Spring) would jumpstart and supercharge the community around PA. Together we could really make a stand against EA and Blizzard. And our (Springs) advantage would be a sort of Spring 2.0 engine, without having to actually do all the heavy lifting.
After talking this trough with a few Spring engine developers and getting support for the idea..
I got myself into contact with Jon Mavor and pitched the idea, I tried, I presented a lot of good realistic arguments for this (we know Linux, we know TA, open source attracts smart people, ...), a deal that would be worth looking into.
But after a few mails he decided not to play ball. According to him this would be an "incredible risky change in direction".
And without going into detailed pro/cons, to a degree I do think he has a point, there are -real- risks attached. With few benefits in the sort term (before the release of PA). Still.. doing a 1+ million dollar game, drm-free, with Linux support and crowd funded. Would have been incredibly risky 2-3 years back. And I also think that the arguments against using an open source development method for the engine can be realistically tackled if they choice to do so. Open source is just not the topic they want to push at this time. Ultimately I do expect developers to move to open source game engines as the game industry is getting more and more commoditized.
I want them (people like Jon Mavor and Chris Taylor) to embrace open source because it provides a superior development model. I just don't see them move until we prove that it's viable - that you can still earn money. The challenge here is that open source is near perfect commoditization.
So, that's what happened last week. And although I have this grand vision of open source gaming, the reality is that we are currently going to have to asses our relevance with the TA type gameplay post PA.
Mavor is going interplanetary and can essentially take planet-wars in game. It's not like with SupCom's engine that had more or less the same capability’s.
So what to do?
Can we extend the Spring engine to allow for the same type of interplanetary gameplay?
Should we ignore PA and just let them take TA to a new level without us?
Drop our insistence on this "open source" thing and become a PA modding community?
Take our focus off the TA type gameplay and grow our relevance with more edgy games like for example Kernel Panic?
All of the above?
Personally I insist on the "open source" thingy, we're real men, we build our own games. Modding is fun and all but seeing the TA engine slowly but surely being dragged into the pit of irrelevance.. if I invest in something I want it to have a future.
So to me 'open source' is not some "feature" that may or may not be present. Others can do what they want to do. And sometimes you need to compromise.
Ignoring PA is dangerous, its design is more advanced, allowing for new and exciting gameplay. If properly executed and supported "our" playerbase could be playing PA for years. That would really hurt us.
SupCom's engine design was the same as Spring's design, we could recreate the gameplay and build on it. SupCom remained relatively static with no effective mod support. Our Linux support was quite edgy and the open source development model allowed creative game development. We stayed relevant.
And now Mavor is going to drop PA right at the spot where we have Zero-K and BA. Best case scenario here would be that Uber fails to deliver a finished game. That they deliver a beautiful tech demo. Something "fun" to play, but after crashing a planet or two you would go play a "real" game. This is a realistic scenario, the 1.5 million they hope to collect is enough to create the engine but not a triple-A game. But Uber is capable, small focused games can provide great innovative gameplay. A tech demo would create the perfect development target for Spring without hurting us to much.
Which brings me to the topic of extending the Spring engine.. to be brutally honest. We currently lack the development power. Adding support for the sphere planets would take massive code changes in major sub-systems, the renderer, path finding, physics. It all needs to be abstracted, changed and extended.
It will take many hours to figure out how it should be done (design it) but it will take many hundreds of hours to actually code and debug. To big a project for a hobbyist developer to tackle in his free time. That is unless someone capable pops up that is willing to dedicate 6+ months full-time to code all the major parts. After that other developers can (in there spare time) flesh out and extend the code to make it do more over time.
Six months fte is going to put a dent in it but won't be enough to get ahead. I suspect that the PA engine will be more capable for several years anyhow.
So if we can't get ahead (win) and can't get the PA engine open source (join) should we be in the same place as PA? Is there a niche were we have a real relevance? Maybe we can move in another direction? Support the Oculus Rift? And the university touch interface stuff? Develop the 1st person view into a mechwarrior type game?
Would such a direction be better? Easier to do? Do we have enough people that care? And would work together to go after a "fuzzy" goal? Chasing PA's tail-lights should be more clear. But not that exciting.
After Mavor told me to find something else to do. I decided to write a PM to Tobi, Licho, Kloot, zerver, jK, hoijui & abma more or less the current engine development team. I'm really sorry if I did not include you in this, I looked at the more recent commits @ github and the developer meetings minutes. I can publicly post this PM here if anyone likes me to. I just wanted to get a bit of opinion from them. We had some discussion about the reasons Mavor decided not to open source his engine, the possible design of his engine and fact that it would take "some" work to recreate in Spring.
Last paragraph.. I consider myself to be someone that concerns himself with the long term stuff. How to evade risks like irrelevance and act on an opportunity like a new engine. Mostly I just sit on the spring domains, provide continuation. This community managed to mostly overcome the previous biggest threat, namely the copyrighted content. We're quite capable. I think that if people would just keep this post in the back of their minds and make the right decisions.. We still have a year or more before PA will be released and it will change things, creating risks and opportunities.
Planetary Annihilation can still be backed on kickstarter for a full 8 days (as of writing).