OK, back to game design. I just had to get the other stuff out of my system. *stretch* Ah, that’s better.
This is an interesting little article about taking MMOs into the open source playground. Specifically, old, dead MMOs whose publishers have pulled the plug. Tabula Rasa, for a recent example, but the article cites others:
After reading Brian “Psychochild” Green’s comment on Meridian 59, I’m a bit torn. On the one hand, as a mook in the game industry, I’m all for wanting to make money off of my hard work, and going open source kind of kills that. On the other hand, as a gamer, I’d rather keep games alive even after the publishers wash their hands, and it’s even better if they are free. On the other hand, as a designer, I think that the game industry has a severe need to maintain historical archival access to games so that we may learn from the work of our predecessors. On the other hand, open source games may well suffer from code hackers diluting or radically altering the original’s vision. A living document such as an open sourced game would be just doesn’t maintain historic integrity with all the little monkeys trying to write Shakespeare in the database.
Alpha Hex is being developed open source, despite my wish to do it all by my widdle self so that I could profit madly from it. I’ve rationalized that decision by reminding myself that I don’t know how to do the engineering for it, and that learning how to do so would have taken a lot of time. I want the game out there, being played by myself and others. I can also admit that I’m going to dig into that code and see what I can learn from a little creative dissection.
The open source movement is great for cheap gamers, fans and students, not so good for those making a living at these things. No surprise there, to be sure, but what think you? If your favorite MMO were to die (as they all must, at some time), what then? Hang up the scabbard, ride into the sunset and find a new love, or cry desperately for life support? Would a zombie MMO be as satisfying as when it was in the prime of its life?
Or, taking another tack, would developing an MMO open source be viable? Could a bunch of us armchair designers democratize the process and create something beautiful and interesting without succumbing to the Second Life succubus? Certainly, open source design isn’t the only way to collaborate in this day and age, but it certainly lowers the bar for entry and can be the diffference between actually getting something done and just dreaming about it. Could a purely voluntary collaborative brain trust come up with anything other than a patchwork Frankenstein of a game the size and scope of an MMO? Maybe we’ll find out if Wiqd and I get things rolling, or if MetaPlace actually works like Raph wishes.