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Gaming Open Source - page 2

Opening Ceremonies

  • October 3, 2005
  • By Dee-Ann LeBlanc

The more technical and business-oriented attendees were aware of open source, though some had misconceptions. For example, one speaker when asked about open source said that no serious game company would use open source components, because they had to be in turn open sourced back to the community. When it was pointed out that it completely depends on the license the code was open source under, the speaker then said that who wants to have to pay lawyers to go over all of the licenses?

These statements point out a need for continuing education for the programming and management public on what open source is and how to use it. As open source becomes more commonly used more legal departments will already have their own trusted internal or external analyses of the various licenses as well, which reduces both the time and expense of having to deal with such issues. On the other side of the coin, it behooves the open source community to look at the long list of licenses and consider how simplification--or at least avoiding spawning a never-ending stream of them--could help with open source adoption.

The Open Source Institute's (OSI�s) Statement on License Proliferation shows that the Open Source Institute, which is responsible for approving official open source licenses, has in fact begun to address these issues. According to Laura Majerus, Legal Affairs officer for the OSI, progress has been made in this vein. For starters, they are encouraging people to use existing licenses instead of creating new ones.

They are also in the process of creating a license wizard program that will help developers choose which license is right for their project. In order to reduce the number of licenses currently in use, they are encouraging license creators to �de-recommend� some of their own licenses to shrink the pool. Intel has done so for its Intel Open Source License, Sun has de-recommended its Sun Industry Standards Source License, Larry Rosen has de-recommended the older OSL and AFL licenses, and Jabber has de-recommended its Jabber Source Software License.

Majerus also points out that license proliferation actually has many different meanings depending on the confusion and difficulties particular people run into. She cites, �Some people focus on the large number of OSI-approved licenses and say that it's too hard for people to choose among them. Others point out the difficulty of doing legal reviews for open source customers if an open source project contains pieces that are each covered by different licenses. Others point to the difficulty of deciding how so many licenses interoperate and whether they can be used with each other.� Hopefully reducing the number of licenses in use and further education efforts from OSI and others will help to ameliorate these problems.

However, there is also a completely different reason that open source code has not typically made it into mainstream games, that has nothing at all to do with licensing, FUD, or anything else. Many speakers at this conference commented that game programmers seem to have this base need to "reinvent the wheel" rather than using existing code and libraries. This includes a resistance to using proprietary products such as existing commercial middleware--engines for handling physics, graphics, character animation, and more, that game developers can purchase rather than building on their own--so in fact this issue doesn't entirely or even mostly hinge on open source per se. There are many in the game industry who would like to see more middleware come into use in order to reduce the time and cost involved in building absolutely everything from scratch when this often isn't really necessary.

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