Help needed: MA on open-source game development

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Jules
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Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by Jules »

Hi there

My name is Julian Schönbächler, I'm a programmer and professional game designer from Switzerland working at Koboldgames, a small Swiss game studio. I am currently doing my Master's degree in Game Design at the University of the Arts in Zurich and I would kindly ask for your help. I hope I am posting this in the right place, as it would be great for me to reach a fair bit of the community.

TL;DR - In my research work for my MA thesis I focus on open-source game development, its structure and hierarchy as well as the motivation of the people involved in the project. I try to explore how game design processes function on games that are developed in the open and how collaboration on a project might serve an educational purpose. If you got 10min on your hands to fill out a survey on this topic, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you! To the survey...

I believe I first came into contact with open-source games in my early secondary school days, when I was searching for free games on the internet to play on our old and slow Mac computer. SuperTuxKart is one of the games that still has a special place in my heart. To this day, it is a free and open-source game that receives a good portion of attention and is in active development. The open-source gaming community was also the place where I took my first steps in my game design career. An environment that provides you with free access to source code and assets, techniques and tutorials. One that actively encourages people to become contributors and joining a community. For me that was the best insight into how game development works and all the aspects it consists of I could ever get. Eventually, even though not really intended, years later I found my way back to the art of design and did my studies in the field of game design.
I am still lurking around in many of the open-source communities I once actively contributed to and maybe I will have time at hand to become more engaged in some of them. But over my whole engineering journey free and open-source software along with its development played a big role in my personal growth.

Now back to topic. Design and development of open-source games looks different compared to how it is generally done in the industry. Note that I would like to differentiate between game design and game development. While game development is often used as an umbrella term for all the specialized fields that the creation of a video game requires, design however is focusing onto the ruleset and mechanics as well as the balancing and the motivation design. The open-source games community as I experienced it is often more driven by the development aspect. Combined with other differences e.g. of having no fixed deadlines or compulsory feature requests, the design process is quite interesting and unique. The feedback loop tends to be more direct, the community as a collective can drive a project and participate in shaping the result.
Besides, actively developing on a game project in the open is a whole different experience. The motivation on working on a project in your spare time can range from fun-seeking to the eager of learning new things. I want to explore this kind of development deeper and maybe shape the future of free and open-source game development a little by giving back some design knowledge I have learned back into the communities (eh, every student dreams big, right?).

So for now, I am in the need of data. Because researching something I only halfway understand will not work here. That is why I prepared a survey with questions about your personal experience with open-source game development, the projects you are involved in and the hierarchical structures under which they are developed. It consists of:

  • Basic demographic questions

  • Questions about your education and background

  • Your open-source engagement

  • Experienced project structures and hierarchies

  • Your personal involvement in open-source game projects

I would be very happy if some of you could take the time (around 10-15 minutes) to fill it out as your experience and knowledge is extremely important. It does not matter if you are one of the projects core developer or a member of the community who mainly contributes to discussions. Consider yourself involved as part of the game project and answer the questions as best as you can, any perspective is relevant. Thank you so much in advance!
You can find the survey here: https://survey.julian-s.ch/limesurvey/index.php/918477

The survey software used is FOSS (LimeSurvey) and self-hosted on my personal webspace. Participation in the survey is completely anonymous, answers are encrypted and no personal data will be permanently stored in the database. At the end of July 2021, all the data will be cleared and analysis and results published under the GPLv3. The survey ends on the 15. October 2020.

That is all from me for now,
Cheers
Julian

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by Livio »

Jules wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 15:43

I am still lurking around in many of the open-source communities I once actively contributed to and maybe I will have time at hand to become more engaged in some of them.

That "maybe" is well placed since when you have a job you will have less time to spare on open-source projects unless you are living without issues about home, health, family and whatsoever comes from adult lifestyle.

Jules wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 15:43

Now back to topic. Design and development of open-source games looks different compared to how it is generally done in the industry.

You bet! Usually open-source is sharing and passion, industry is money and sometimes enslavement too.

Jules wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 15:43

Combined with other differences e.g. of having no fixed deadlines or compulsory feature requests, the design process is quite interesting and unique.

Looks like you discovered the boiled egg. I bet your mom doesn't cook like exploited McDonalds workers.
And I bet that she will not spit in the sandwiches she makes for you.

Jules wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 15:43

The feedback loop tends to be more direct, the community as a collective can drive a project and participate in shaping the result.

Usually in an open project there's no rigid hierarchy so you have no CEOs, envious coworkers, bitchy secretaries and whatever weirdos that's shaped by moneymaking. That's why you can speak directly with almost everyone. Since this is a community you usually find people that share the same interest while in a job environment you probably find as2holes interested only in earning money without any regard for people around them. Passion is what can really shape the result for good but that's not a thing you can buy.

Jules wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 15:43

The motivation on working on a project in your spare time can range from fun-seeking to the eager of learning new things.

I would say: "The motivation on working on a project in your spare time usually is eager fun-seeking of doing new things." Learning things is a collateral effect of that: I've once made a tool to search GM log to stop a scammer and after some months someone here took that tool and improved into something more efficient and useful. Another motivation on those kind of project is to have the satisfaction to be part of something that beautifully improves itself in a name of a community of people.

Jules wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 15:43

I want to explore this kind of development deeper and maybe shape the future of free and open-source game development a little by giving back some design knowledge I have learned back into the communities (eh, every student dreams big, right?).

Sorry pal, the right place for your dreams is the toilet and don't waste time looking at those while you flush it down. If you want to explore "development" go get books and make lots of practice. If you want to shape the future of open-source and their communities make yourself useful at improving things despite collecting data to complete a damn "probably useless in future" thesis just for getting a nice job.
And if you want to "shape" things do you know the right way to do it?
Do you know if your way of shaping is acceptable in a community?
Do you know if your shaped development is something that people can share, improve and maintain?
If you are able to answer those question correctly to yourself, you will be able to live a dream way better than the one is sinking in the toilet.

Jules wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 15:43

I would be very happy if some of you could take the time (around 10-15 minutes) to fill it out as your experience and knowledge is extremely important.

Forget it. A polite community is made of people regardless their age, gender, education, country, race, religion, hairy armpits, smelly feet and whatsoever can be used to discriminate and spark conflicts.
Collecting data about how many times I go take a dump over student's dreams is good only to make useless chatter. People that can't afford a toilet and eat with hands can be better developers than me and you.

Jules wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 15:43

Participation in the survey is completely anonymous, answers are encrypted and no personal data will be permanently stored in the database.

Another important matter in a community is the lack of trust. Your FOSS software runs in a server that I have no access nor I can be sure that is not going to track me in some other way (as this one that hosts this forum). If big corps play nicely asking for data that they "encrypt" that doesn't mean that you have to do that too!
If you want to know about people and community you must join them, work with them and suffer with them.
And remember them to mind their own fricking business.

I hope you can reach excellent results with your studies and be an professional software developer, a honest worker and a valuable addition in any community you like.

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by Jules »

Livio wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 21:17

That "maybe" is well placed since when you have a job you will have less time to spare on open-source projects unless you are living without issues about home, health, family and whatsoever comes from adult lifestyle.

Thanks for clarifying that. I already do have a job and even worked fulltime while doing my studies in parallel. Before my work in the games industry I worked in electrical engineering. Being a student does not mean having no experience of life in any way, keep that in mind.

Livio wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 21:17

You bet! Usually open-source is sharing and passion, industry is money and sometimes enslavement too.

Exactly. The "usually" here is quite on point.

Livio wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 21:17

Usually in an open project there's no rigid hierarchy so you have no CEOs, envious coworkers, bitchy secretaries and whatever weirdos that's shaped by moneymaking. That's why you can speak directly with almost everyone. Since this is a community you usually find people that share the same interest while in a job environment you probably find as2holes interested only in earning money without any regard for people around them. Passion is what can really shape the result for good but that's not a thing you can buy.

I would point out the "usually" again. Thanks for the perspective here, you do provide me personal results without even doing the survey, greatly appreciated.
What you do here basically is generalizing the whole industry sector in the classic scheme known from major businesses. While that may be a structure that dominates, it is not the only or even the most relevant one. Talking games; comparing open-source structures to hierarchies of huge AAA studios demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the subject in question. Not everyone working in the industry is Blizzard or Ubisoft, you know. In countries where there is no established industry for games (like Switzerland for example), design-teams of 5-10 people and flat-hierarchies are common. Working at the minimum level of subsistence where the key driving factor is passion for the work you do is often the standard. And if you know your way around the games industry in a more global scope, you will see that this is true for the big pile of creative workers who are shadowed by so-called "industry-leaders". Raging and generalizing company structures and the industry while not being aware of how most of the stuff gets created is probably the stupidest thing you can do in a discussion like this.

Livio wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 21:17

I would say: "The motivation on working on a project in your spare time usually is eager fun-seeking of doing new things." Learning things is a collateral effect of that: I've once made a tool to search GM log to stop a scammer and after some months someone here took that tool and improved into something more efficient and useful. Another motivation on those kind of project is to have the satisfaction to be part of something that beautifully improves itself in a name of a community of people.

Thanks for this answer too.

Livio wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 21:17

Sorry pal, the right place for your dreams is the toilet and don't waste time looking at those while you flush it down. If you want to explore "development" go get books and make lots of practice. If you want to shape the future of open-source and their communities make yourself useful at improving things despite collecting data to complete a damn "probably useless in future" thesis just for getting a nice job.
And if you want to "shape" things do you know the right way to do it?
Do you know if your way of shaping is acceptable in a community?
Do you know if your shaped development is something that people can share, improve and maintain?
If you are able to answer those question correctly to yourself, you will be able to live a dream way better than the one is sinking in the toilet.

Amazing way of describing things. As I previously stated, I already do have a job which is challenging and satisfying. I did not start my studies in the hope to set foot in the industry or get a better job. I do them because I care about the things that shaped me and the passion I have for games, their design and development. So silly that I need to justify myself here to someone that is unable to recognize a slight touch of irony. The questions you list down are incredibly fundamental and therefore quite insulting. I am not here to learn my first steps in an open-source or development environment. I am not here to be lectured by people who hold their own experience, opinions and views as more valuable than the ones from others. I reject your elitist prattle that probably arised because I dropped the trigger-words "student" and "industry".

Livio wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 21:17

A polite community is made of people regardless their age, gender, education, country, race, religion, hairy armpits, smelly feet and whatsoever can be used to discriminate and spark conflicts.

Exactly!

Livio wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 21:17

Collecting data about how many times I go take a dump over student's dreams is good only to make useless chatter.

Ok nice. For other readers to clarify: Gathering data in forms of surveys, interviews or in any other ways directly involving the community or group to investigate, are common scientific methods that have to be done in order to argument and advocate a thesis. A work that is not replicable, not transparent and therefore not accessible to criticism is not and will never be scientifically relevant. The scientific consensus is the base of the decision-making in an enlightened society. If you do not want, reject or are not able to participate in such a method for a proposed work, that's fine!

Livio wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 21:17

Another important matter in a community is the lack of trust. Your FOSS software runs in a server that I have no access nor I can be sure that is not going to track me in some other way (as this one that hosts this forum). If big corps play nicely asking for data that they "encrypt" that doesn't mean that you have to do that too!

Yes, I do think that is obvious.

Livio wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 21:17

If you want to know about people and community you must join them, work with them and suffer with them.

Could not agree more. An advice that is designed to display me as a complete amateur. On another note: experience alone will sometimes not do it.

Livio wrote: 20 Sep 2020, 21:17

I hope you can reach excellent results with your studies and be an professional software developer, a honest worker and a valuable addition in any community you like.

Smooth one, shot taken.

As closing statement: I do appreciate your comments and I do appreciate discussion. I welcome critique as this is a project which can very well be criticized and my view on things is most likely biased. That is one reason why I do this study and try to learn from experiences other than mine, even if they come in form of harsh comments.

Cheers
Julian

Last edited by Jules on 21 Sep 2020, 18:08, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by Livio »

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

Being a student does not mean having no experience of life in any way, keep that in mind.

Being a student means having a limited experience of life usually built around teacher's direction mainly around theories and books that may not be tainted in sweat, blood and life problems. Sometimes studying inside a company may not be enough. Lots of people complains about why schools don't teach them how to use credit cards, how to manage a family and other important basic things.
I had a very limited experience when I was a student and I'm still complaining about this with my electronics teacher despite lots of years have passed. He replied me telling that he is happy that now he has finally retired.

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

Exactly. The "usually" here is quite on point.

I usually™ try to do my best as I can but are very few the things that are 100% correct in this world.
One day I've found myself living on 100% illusions about almost everything and had to start all over again being dubious about everything. Swapping from an extreme opposite to another is stressful, dangerous and leads me to fail. I've learned that you cannot be sure about anything in this world.
So I abuse the word "usually" and take all the responsibility about it. Usually...

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

In countries where there is no established industry for games (like Switzerland for example), design-teams of 5-10 people and flat-hierarchies are common.
Raging and generalizing company structures and the industry while not being aware of how most of the stuff gets created is probably the stupiest thing you can do in a discussion like this.

I'm from another country and I've worked in many small companies with nothing more than 15 person and sometimes even less workers including anyone from the tech to the CEO.
The society I live is so broken and selfish that even in small reality like those there's the tendency to build a hierarchy stratification at the expenses of who is on the "lower" side of it.
I've lived more than ten years of that crap that's why raging came out. If it's not like that where you live I'm happy for you but keep in mind that the richest one in the group may have the will to crush you down one day or another. Money is the poison where lots of open communities try to be immune from.
But in real life we are forced to feed us on that poison regardless of your will and we have to fight or flee from those who are addicted sooner or later.

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

As I previously stated, I already do have a job which is challenging and satisfying. I did not start my studies in the hope to set foot in the industry or get a better job.

You cannot hope to do that job forever. But if your job keeps satisfying you regardless the changes that society, trends, politics, people and family try to make on your lifestyle and the company you work can keep you and itself afloat I'm happy for you. Where I live seems like to live a dream. Sadly those kind of things are known after many years and usually when you have to retire.
Shortly speaking the best car is known to be the best one after lots of kilometers and few maintenance.
Focusing only on the company I was working while not looking at other ones I could be suitable, were one of my biggest mistake.

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

So silly that I need to justify myself here to someone that is unable to recognize a slight touch of irony.

I'm a loser that wants to watch the world burn hoping to cook rotten meat on it and find it delicious.

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

The questions you list down are incredible fundamental and therefore quite insulting.

And I don't give a damn if you feel insulted, seriously. I respect you and I'm not saying that I'm better than you. If I think too much about to explain myself in a very polite way and deleting words that may offend what will come out is a nice long sentence to read that's is not giving a clear message and it's like that it doesn't come from me.
Sensibility can make you the loveliest person on the earth and the worst one at the same time.
I feel offended a lot of times by a lot of different things and persons but I cannot always unleash disappointment and rage on everything. Instead I try to focus on the reasons that makes me feel offended, why that kind of thing makes me feel bad and what's the message behind the words that offended me.
When I've got most of the the answers (is not guaranteed that I'm able to get those, ofc) I usually take those actions:
- Ask to clarify messages and purposes
- Investigate further on argument and sender's background
And then:
- Backfire and neutralize an hostile action (but not an hostile message) if it may sparks a series of negative events
- Or simply... Ignore it
I appreciate who is going to be direct even with harsh terms, seriously. It will give me something to think of, or something to laugh at it. It depends on what's the purpose (both yours and the one I (mis)understand) behind your message.
Now don't be offended or discriminated by it: appreciate it or ignore it. Is that fricking simple!

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

I am not here to be lectured by people who hold their own experience, opinions and views as more valuable than the ones from others.

You are pointing out another thing that's not valuable to the thread (despite off-topic section).
People here knows me to be rude and direct and I've been kicked and risked ban a few times, I cannot deny it. I will not justify myself nor declare that I'm a valuable addition to the TMW community.
When someone give me hints for free I will not tell them you gave me crap and feel offended by it.
Despite accepting or ignore it you've chosen to complain. That's good only to make drama: nobody cares if you like me, what I say or not. I don't even like myself and I fail to improve. So what?
But who really cares about the reasons why you are here if you will disappear after your thesis is done?

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

I reject your elitist prattle that probably arised because I dropped the trigger-words "student" and "industry".

Exactly: those words literally triggered me. There are "elite" students and industries that may crush who is not "elite" enough. This can be me, you or both. Do your best, cross your fingers and hope to survive "elitists". Nobody cares about other people's rejection, especially in times where individualism is taking over almost anything. I hate those kind of things too but saying that wont change a bit of this world nor makes me a better developer.

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

Ok nice. For other readers to clarify: Gathering data in forms of surveys, interviews or in any other ways directly involving the community or group to investigate, are common scientific methods that have to be done in order to argument and advocate a thesis.

Science is not 100% ethically correct. That's one of the few things that I'm really sure about it.
Doing things by science methods doesn't mean that is right for the benefit of a individuals.
But if people feels that the risk/benefit balance is good feel free to fill the survey.

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

An advice that is designed to display me as a complete amateur.

I don't give a damn about "designing" someone unknown and I don't give a damn about who you are and how much experience you have until you prove yourself to be valuable by taking action and not by chattering. The more I become experienced the more I feel myself "amateur" since I've learned that it's impossible to master everything in this life and I have to do the best and be humble enough as I can to be ready to learn more everyday even from someone that knows less than me.
Even if it means to listen things that I already know. Can be a nice chance of experience strengthening sometimes.

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

On another note: experience alone will sometimes not do it.

Sure. But only when you did something useless that you realize that was useless. There's nothing certain that getting into doing certain things will improve everything else. We can only try, try, try, try and keep trying while struggling to survive the burdens of our (and sometimes other's) failures.

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

Smooth one, shot taken.

Huh? I'm not shooting you and I don't see the reason why I have to do it.
I only hope that you will be another part of this world that can improve overall things. We are a network and we are a part of it. If you will fall you can drag us down. if you will rise you can push us up.
I only wish you to be another reason to make this life worth living. For everyone.

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 14:03

As closing statement: I do appreciate your comments and I do appreciate discussion. I welcome critique as this is a project which can very well be criticized and my view on things is most likely biased. That is one reason why I do this study and try to learn from experiences other than mine, even if they come in form of harsh comments.

Eh, It's hard to everyone to be unbiased... But seriously ignore harsh comments if you feel that a conversation is valuable: don't complain and don't get offended if you got your hands dirt when you are digging for potatoes. And don't bother to complain if the season gave you only a few small ones. You tried and maybe you have failed. That's life, harsh life more than my comments. And if you are doing it for a living you aren't allowed to swear in front of your boss while you are holding tiny potatoes on your dirty hands. You can only take a deep breath, reflect on it calmly and try again, and again until things works better sometimes even when you are forced to ask for a hand or a hint no matter how rude can it be if it proves to be useful. I have the feeling that modern times destroyed the humble way of living that our ancient fathers told us but that's another story...

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by Jules »

Livio wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 16:57

Despite accepting or ignore it you've chosen to complain. That's good only to make drama: nobody cares if you like me, what I say or not.

Not to complain, but to defend my work and my research which is important to me. It may be insignificant to others, that is not really my problem. I do not really bother about you personally, in fact as already pointed out the answers you wrote are valuable to my research too. I do not only pick the stuff I like and serves my thesis. And I am not picking on you for hurting my feelings, get real.

Livio wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 16:57

Science is not 100% ethically correct. That's one of the few things that I'm really sure about it.
Doing things by science methods doesn't mean that is right for the benefit of a individuals.

Sure. That should not be an argument but context to the frame in which the research is done. This is a university in the end, I have to follow rules. While they absolutely are criticizable, debating them is not really the point of this thread.

Livio wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 16:57

I only wish you to be another reason to make this life worth living. For everyone.

Cheers
Julian

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by jesusalva »

Hello there!

I came here because you mentioned 'drama'. WildX gave me the brilliant idea to set notifications and highlights whenever "drama" is used, so, there's that. Already opened a cookie jar to eat while reading drama (figuratively speaking).

Oh well, but not much drama I can partake on, so I'll limit myself to watching it unveil. My only contribution will be that I would like to point out this is a Master's Degree thesis. So yep, Jules is pretty much forced to adhere to a lot of strict scientific methodology *insert cute word here* which includes having to set up a survey just because if he tries to invoke "personal experience" in a scientific paper... It'll most likely not get published at best.

Maybe after he finishes his MA and begins doctorate he can claim something on his own behalf but until then, he got rules to follow.

And Jules, the off-topic section is a loose moderation forum. We're pretty lax on off-topic. No need to be overly polite (just following the rules is enough). I'm referring here to the formalism "I reject" you employed in your post.
Which is why if you take offense, you might fare better by ignoring. Most staff will only do like I said on the preamble (eat a cookie; aka. do nothing) unless things get serious.

You're by no means forced to reply, and I do wish you success on your survey. \o/

Oh noes! Jesusalva ran out of cookies! He leaves the discussion to get a new cookie jar.


EDIT: I see you're not offended, good! :alt-9:

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by Livio »

Jules wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 17:46

Not to complain, but to defend my work and my research which is important to me.

Who is going to attack it?

However, Julian why don't you tell us what kind of air you breathe at work?
Here we got lots of developments part being interrupted, concerns about getting new players, concerns about server security, concerns about keeping player in, we use methods of communications (even proprietary ones) not hosted on game server and usually we are involved into manually help new players since game has quite an user-unfriendly interface.
Probably you may tell us that we lack some sort of development "discipline" since we may get things done individually without following strictly posted practices while probably you are following a well established and tested way of development we may not be aware of.

Agile, XP? Or you are simply involved into graphics and animations only?

Oh, by the way I'm not officially a TMW developer. I believe that TMW Team thinks of me as some sort of random contributor: I've made a bot and I've helped fixed wiki contents but I have almost no knowledge about game server itself.

jesusalva wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 17:47

I came here because you mentioned 'drama'. WildX gave me the brilliant idea to set notifications and highlights whenever "drama" is used, so, there's that. Already opened a cookie jar to eat while reading drama (figuratively speaking).

Admin, are you figuratively getting fat for forum's sake? I bet you got lots of cookies and your keyboard is full of crumbs. Aren't you get tired of cookies that comes from every site that you must accept it to peek into?
Psst: by the way most sites fail with lynx and on many sites you can read their articles without accepting cookies at all!

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

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Livio wrote: 21 Sep 2020, 18:47

Admin, are you figuratively getting fat for forum's sake? I bet you got lots of cookies and your keyboard is full of crumbs. Aren't you get tired of cookies that comes from every site that you must accept it to peek into?

Oh don't worry, sometimes I eat chips as well. I have a very balanced (albeit unhealthy) diet! :D

(Intel Chips, ofc. AMD ones are not so tasty.)

(Unrelated: I've heard Google is adding a new thing called Client Hints. I don't know what that is so I hope it is edible. And tasty.)

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by Reid »

Hello Jules,

That's a nice thesis you have here, I filled up the instruction but if you have any questions about floss or professional game development I (and I'm sure some others from the team) would be pleased to answer your questions!

Do not hesitate to send me a private message or just to reply here.

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by WildX »

Not sure why you're getting such a hard time. I filled in your survey. I believe Livio gave you a pretty good picture of the benefits of open source, so for the sake of presenting a balanced argument let me just tell you how much time and resources were wasted because of it. Now, there's some pretty radical open sourcers around here and I don't mean to set them off with this. I'm not against open source, I simply recognise its weaknesses. Also, nothing I will say is meant as criticism of any individuals. Not even groups. The only criticism intended is towards the system in which we all operate.

TMW was founded in 2004. It was (and still is) based on an engine based off of Ragnarok Online's eAthena and its own client called Mana. For many years devs worked towards developing TMW's own server and client but eventually ran out of resources as many in the original group gradually lost interest or had less time to devote to the project. This is weakness number one: no one is particularly incentivised to stick around, and they probably won't as soon as the immediate enjoyment stops.

Thanks to the power of open source, the client side was picked up by 4144 with the Manaplus client which brought new features and has allowed us all to enjoy the game as the official client since at least 2014 (it was already more popular than Mana before that). However, server development was also suffering from weakness number one of open source as old devs left and new ones became rarer. The tmwAthena server was difficult to maintain and a migration to a better engine was needed, but resources were scarce. Too many people had conflicting ideas. This takes us to weakness number two: lack of consistency. As a project open to anything and ready to be copy-pasted around it's hard to keep things on track. As soon as somebody disagrees with the direction things are going they either leave or make their own copy with their own rules. This is both a strength and a weakness really. Sometimes it allows for progress beyond the restrictions of the main project, other times it splits an already resource-starved project slowly killing off both the source and its forks.

TMW had many forks, most notably Evol Online, TMW-BR and the currently active Moubootaur Legends. I followed Evol since its inception, and while I fully supported it and the direction it wanted to take I always pointed out (Reid can attest to this) that there was a lot of wasted potential in having two separate dev teams both struggling to find new devs. This dawned on everyone else around 2016 when Evol and TMW decided to join forces and work on a single game together using Evol's better server engine. It was one of the best things that could have happened in my opinion, despite the sacrifices both games had to make to accomodate one another. We finally were able to follow one direction towards a clear and attainable goal. In open source terms that means we might eventually slowly move towards actually developing something if everyone has the time.

Moving to the present day, I'm seeing more struggles related to the open source nature of TMW. Over time since 2016 people came and went, clear and attainable goals became less clear and less attainable. Communication breaks down as the people you had implicit understandings with are replaced with people who not not only need you to explain everything again in detail, but often disagree with your explanation. This is no one's fault in particular as everyone has the right to do as much as they want whenever they want. No one is paid or in any way incentivised to stay patient or push through the hurdles. I've seen this perfect storm happen several times over the past decade and I've seen several possible outcomes for the project in question: die, fork or be creative. The first is self explanatory; the second once again means split the group along with its resources. The third is things like the TMW-Evol merger or even the Platyna server coup (trust me you don't need an explanation of this one). Rescue as much as you can and find a way for as many people as possible to keep working together. That has become my golden rule. It's something that needs to be reapplied regularly too, either for fundamental disagreements or just when deciding to focus on X rather than Y during development.

How do you keep a ship afloat when every sailor wants it to go a different direction and has no reason to even stay on the ship? Welcome to the world of small open source game development. Hit us up on IRC or Discord (links in the homepage) for more riveting tales.

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by jesusalva »

Just would like to make a couple remarks on WildX's post.

1. WildX, do not mistake Open Source with Free Software, unless, ofc, if you want drama. Wait, you probably want drama don't you? I think you love drama :3

2. The custom server was eventually finished (ManaServ), and is being employed currently by Source of Tales only. Several reasons prevented TMW from adopting it, but simply put: ManaServ development took too long and by the time it was "eventually finished" the staff (and playerbase) no longer had any interest in migrating.


PERSONAL OPINION (May contain drama and offtopic)

More precisely, nearly the whole staff changed since 2016, with only a few exceptions (eg. Freeyorp, you, Chicka Maria, Prsm). The problem is not staff rotation, but time taken.

TMW leads average survival is at most 4 (four) whole years (usually being 1-2 years from what I've collected), welp, even devs survive a similar amount of time. GMs might as well survive for less than DEVs, but we have an outliner exception (Prsm). From historical perspective, "nearly the whole staff changed since 2016" is consistent with our average team member survival timeframe.

As staff rotates, the more and more meaningless old plans become. At some point #3 will be taken, but not because old plan made room for new plan - But because virtually no one cares anymore with the old plans, or the ones whom still care are reduced to minority and enforcing [the plan] becomes unsustainable.

In fact, if the old plans do not adapt themselves for the new plans out of their own volition, they'll face a grim fate, although most likely there won't be a total scrapping of them. Would be fun to compare with Händel's dialectic. As I said, #3 is inevitable.

Which is why I strongly advocate that rEvolt release is overdue. You should not have a release timespan outstretching the average lifespan of contributors.

Statistically speaking (and statistically only), the latest rEvolt could get released with its original plans in mind was 2018. We're on 2020, though.
And I'm not disagreeing with you. But I'm stating that:

WildX wrote:

clear and attainable goals became less clear and less attainable. Communication breaks down as the people you had implicit understandings with are replaced with people who not not only need you to explain everything again in detail,

is not a variable, but it is the rule. (Entropy is a rule, anyway)

And yes, I have not perceived this happening on most other projects apart TMW. So weakness are not #1 and #2, but more precisely "lack of clear, concise, useful and easy to find documentation; lack of communication; lack of adequate team integration both at entry as at production". (Entry = New Devs. Production = Existing Devs).
I also do not think the later could be resolved without a full staff reset, which is why I said that was not a variable but a rule in our case.

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by WildX »

I think we pretty much said similar things just using different words there, or at least most of what you said fits within what I believe are the weaknesses of open source. Teams struggle to stay together and work cohesively towards one goal. This isn't new to TMW, just look at the linux distribution timeline.

I want to be clear that this isn't "reasons why open source is a failure". It's just problems that are important to recognise. We've seen solutions in the past. I've found solutions myself. It's not impossible.

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by Livio »

jesusalva wrote: 22 Sep 2020, 14:28

So weakness are not #1 and #2, but more precisely "lack of clear, concise, useful and easy to find documentation; lack of communication; lack of adequate team integration both at entry as at production". (Entry = New Devs. Production = Existing Devs).
I also do not think the later could be resolved without a full staff reset, which is why I said that was not a variable but a rule in our case.

That's another reason that kept me at the "right" (at least for me) distance from TMW developers without asking them to be accepted as one of them. As I've stated before I have no valuable knowledge about game server nor in remote team working but as a technician I tend to inspect and hack things that aren't perfectly functioning or that can be improved. I've stopped to tell people around about bugs too much since I've become aware to be useless and bothering by acting like that. Another important thing is that I cannot promise to keep development at constant pace. So what to do?
One day on IRC I told Jesusalva:
"Sorry but I don't have enough RAM to open that TMW2 wiki so I've turned all those markdown files into html pages."
"Really? :3"
"Yeah, I've used a script. Here is the code."
Long story short I was able to make something without any TMW developer guidance nor request that has been a nice addition for the TMW2 project. And I'm not the only one that makes those kind of random/unrequested contribution but since most of the work was made by contributor itself, official developers usually have to spend little time to check contribution, adapt it and release it as original TMW content.
Sadly is hard to provoke "self-guidance" by stimulating players to make small pieces to build a huge project and sometimes contributions will be rejected since is hard to know what TMW really needs.
Is like saying: "Go try build the bricks. We may use them to build a house!"
When a contributor made a "odd shaped" brick, developer usually reply apologizing for not implement that thing for some sort of reason and not all the people learn that contributions have to follow some rules as well. Others even makes drama (mod notification triggered!!!) because aren't able to accept a "no, sorry" as an answer.
To make a worst case example on me let's say Jesusalva refused to use html to make wiki rejecting my contribution totally.
That's quite disappointing but I cannot go to someone else's home and tell them: "I'm offended because you didn't put a big picture of me in your bedroom!".
I have only the chance to put my work on gitlab and hoping it to be useful to someone else while learning better to understand the needs of a community of developers if I really want to contribute.
We come from different backgrounds and cultures to easily mix up together so is hard even to overcome discontinuous development duties.
For something like TMW I prefer that the developers group stay small, trusted and known as possible.

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by jesusalva »

rises from ashes I HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED!! \o/

*hides*

Oh well, not much to comment, but I can give you a few links:

← Before
After →

And best yet, both are up-to-date and in sync :alt-3:
Next challenge, both for ML and TMW, is do something about quests.
TMW have them manually on wiki, and ML generates wiki files from quests.xml....
...And both methods are horribly maintained and not really viable.

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Re: Help needed: MA on open-source game development

Post by Livio »

jesusalva wrote: 22 Sep 2020, 16:44

rises from ashes I HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED!! \o/

*hides*

You are not a Phoenix and probably you weren't carbonized. Yet.

jesusalva wrote: 22 Sep 2020, 16:44

And best yet, both are up-to-date and in sync :alt-3:

Reply-To: GitLab <updates@gitlab.com>
Subject: [IMPORTANT] Upcoming changes to CI/CD minute limits for your free GitLab.com account
I hope that gitlab is not cutting down too much on TMW like this.

jesusalva wrote: 22 Sep 2020, 16:44

Next challenge, both for ML and TMW, is do something about quests.
TMW have them manually on wiki, and ML generates wiki files from quests.xml....
...And both methods are horribly maintained and not really viable.

Quests are always been the most difficult thing to introduce and maintain for what I know about it.
Their scripts really makes me have an headache. However Jesusalva, if I remember correcty, you should have written some tools (in Java maybe?) to overcome quest development. Was some sort of "NPC script compiler"?

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