Upcoming Events
Unite 2010
11/10 - 11/12 @ Montréal, Canada

GDC China
12/5 - 12/7 @ Shanghai, China

Asia Game Show 2010
12/24 - 12/27  

GDC 2011
2/28 - 3/4 @ San Francisco, CA

More events...
Quick Stats
84 people currently visiting GDNet.
2406 articles in the reference section.

Help us fight cancer!
Join SETI Team GDNet!
Link to us Events 4 Gamers
Intel sponsors gamedev.net search:

Open Source and the Gaming Industry

Wait! Don't skip this article. I know you think this doesn't apply to you, after all you don't program for Linux. But there is a lot more to open source than just the penguin. Many companies are starting to take notice of open source software, much in part to the increasing popularity of Linux. Open source has become a big buzzword, with many people not really understanding what it really is.

In fact, most people are using open source software and don't even realize it. When you are looking at a website or checking your email, chances are the inter-workings (the mail transports and web servers) are open source.

So where so we begin? Lets start with a little history lesson behind open source.

The earliest occurrence of open source was in 1977 when the first Berkeley Software Distribution version of Unix (BSD Unix) is released.

Then in 1984 the movement of freely shared source code began. Actually, it had started years earlier when Richard Stallman was working in the AI department at MIT. He was part of a software-sharing community and developed the philosophy than sharing software "it is as old as computers, just as sharing of recipes is as old as cooking." In 1984 Stallman left MIT and began writing GNU free software. (GNU is pronounced "guh-NEW" and it stands for "GNU's Not Unix")

The Free Software Foundation www.fsf.org defines free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of "`free" as in "free speech," not as in "free beer." Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software.

Next, it is necessary to understand what open source software is and what it is not. Open source in its purist sense is software that has the source code available to anyone who desires it. That individual is free to use the code as he sees fit, however any modifications to the code must be made available for everyone to use and modify, under the same conditions. According to www.opensource.org, "Open source promotes software reliability and quality by supporting independent peer review and rapid evolution of source code."

It's not source code that you download from a website with permission to redistribute and modify, and also to add additional restrictions to it. It's not a free utility like NSIS that's made available to the public for free without the source code. It's not public domain where the rights to the code are forfeited. It is also not source code that's distributed freely with a clause saying it has to be non-profit. It's similar to all of that but much, much more.

Types of Licenses

There are primarily two types of free software licensing. One allows portions of code outside the open source to be made available, but any changes to the open source code must be made available. The other requires all code in a project to be available include the portions not related to the initial source code.

The GPL (General Public License) license states that all source must be made freely available. There is a variant on the GPL; the LGPL (Lesser General Public License) that makes the specific piece of code open source, but other parts of the project can be proprietary source code. Both of these licenses are established by the Free Software Foundation.

There are a number of variations on each of these licenses. If you go to www.opensource.org you can find a number of open source licenses.

How Open Source Helps the Gaming Industry

  How Open Source Helps the Gaming Industry
  Making Money with Open Source

  Printable version
  Discuss this article