Any game that is assembled from open-source software and allows the public to download its source code is considered an open-source game. To put it another way, an open-source game can be downloaded and changed by programmers, game developers, or anyone interested. It seems simple enough, however, as games become more complex open-source game creation is becoming increasingly difficult. As a result, many believe that open-source gaming might become a thing of the past.
Currently, there are large communities centered around coding and developing open-sourced games. They are drawn to these games because they are usually free and anyone can become a part of the game’s development by giving feedback and providing fixes and improvements. Some popular examples include Freedoom, an open-source version of the classic Doom, Minetest, a free version of Minecraft, and 0 A.D. a strategy game based in the year 0. and that’s just scratching the surface. Wikipedia List has a long list of notable open-source games and there are hundreds more available to the public if you know where to look.
The problem is that creating and maintaining these games requires a lot of work. Most require teams of skilled programmers that are able to work together in their free time. This can lead to people getting distracted or leave a project behind in favor of something new. If a project does get completed it is usually because of a small number of people that picked up the slack. The result is that a lot of projects get abandoned.
There is a popular quote from a Wired article that states “Studies suggest that about 9.5 percent of all open-source code is abandoned, and a quarter is probably close to being so”. That can make things sound rather grim, however, there is reason to hope for the future.
According to Github’s State of the Octo Verse report, open-source development is still going strong. There is a lot of activity in the community as the number of users is up as well as the number of pull requests. The idea that a lot of code is abandoned could very well be the case but it’s hard to confirm.
Here are a few highlights from Github’s Report
In addition to the efforts of GitHub, Merico, another company with an interest in the space has created a free platform for open-source developers. Looking to address the often thankless nature of OSS contribution, Merico gives developers insights to evolve their skills and celebrate their contributions, pulling interesting data directly from their code.
Maxim Wheatley, Head of Americas at Merico explains the platform “We built a product that is uniquely capable of surfacing and celebrating developer achievements in their open-source contribution, directly from the codebase. By recognizing and celebrating developers for the work they do (that is often hidden or invisible) we encourage them to continue making contributions, to continue self-improvement, and we make it easy for them to translate those contributions into something they can articulate and share for career development, job applications, and learning.”
These types of insights can be very useful when directing a team toward a finished project as well as keeping a team motivated. This could be the answer to projects that just aren’t getting finished. Wheatley goes on to say “We built our product specifically to encourage a more healthy and sustainable open source community, so this is an area we have a lot of knowledge and experience in! “
Will Merico’s platform solve all of the problems that open-source developers face? Probably not, but I think it’s going to help shape the future of these games.