If you want my support, why don't you give me the code?

I just heard about the upcoming Diablo-contender game Grim Dawn which is still in its early development and has now dipped its feet into the concept of crowdfunding. That is a step in the right direction but I feel not enough to convince. You see, I’m a fan of Action RPG games (or more aptly called Diablo Clones) and I’ve even been playing Titan Quest the last few days as well but I see no reason to put my money on a game coming out 1 year from now just to “show my support.” Where is the mutual aid? Why are people asked to fund a company’s ventures but then expected to not receive any of the benefits any publisher or venture capitalist would get? Ownership.

When a publisher funds a game, they end up owning all the “IP” behind it. The copyrights, the trademarks, everything. The developer doesn’t get to keep anything, which is incidentally when developing companies go under, the actual team behind them cannot keep working on the settings they created. We end up with stuff like games truly deserving of a sequel simply disappearing. As such, it’s very worthwhile to try and get away from such a restrictive contract if possible.

However to jump from that to a concept of crowdfunding where you get to keep all the benefits and take none of the risks just strikes me as very unfair for those actually putting their money on the line. Not only do I give my money one year in advance, without knowing the quality of what I get or even if I get anything at all, but all I get is a license to play the game I funded? Does this seem  like a good deal to any you? Personally, I feel like a sucker.

If you want to crowdsource or crowdfund your ventures, then you’d better be willing to give something back to those who help you. And no, simply a license to play the game is not enough. You’d better give us the code in the form of free software. In short, if you do a public venture, it’s only fair that you create a public content. Not only will you then show that you are willing to meet those helping you half-way, not only will you ensure to those taking the risks (i.e. putting their money on the line) that they will get to keep whatever you started even if you get hit by a bus, but you also create a feeling of goodwill which will go a long way in making people willing to support you.

And not only that, but you will also get free support and development from the community you’ve become a part of.

The downside? If your game becomes insanely successful, you won’t end up swimming in money but with games like Diablo 3 coming out in the same year and you being a small-time developer, do you think that’s a possibility? You will still be able to sell your game just fine but you’ll simply have to find a way to give people a reason to buy. WIll that be dedicated online servers and scarce material goods? More likely. Will you end up losing the revenue from trying to sell a bunch of bytes? Sure, but then again, you got your money beforehand and those who want to support you will do so anyway, as they do with any free software project (of which many survive with substantial donations). Those who wouldn’t pay any money and simply play the gratis version are the sames who would pirate the game anyway.

Think about it. It makes sense to free your code if you go down this path. Think of the goodwill. I know for a fact that if you announced that the game would be licensed under the GPL, I’d already have given you my money and so would many others. Think of the free publicity from all the free software and open source related sites that announced this bold move of yours, from all those free software enthusiasts which now join your ranks of ARPG enthusiasts to spread the word of mouth. Think of freedom and the fact that your game will survive and continue to improve no matter the money.

UPDATE: I posted a link to this post on the official fora and an initial response seems to indicate that opening the source is impossible since the game is built over the proprietary Titan Quest engine. If this is indeed the case, it is very unfortunate as it takes the free software licensing just out of the table altogether. This again points out the problems with building a game on a proprietary engine or base. If the engine of the game was open sourced, it would have been improved and updated by the community and new ARPG built on it relatively cheap, creating a wealth of such games to play. See the Quake3 engine for example.

Also, it’s worth noting that GNU/Linux support is not planned.

EDIT2: Thread was closed, so even if you do want to argue a point, you now can’t. This personally does not fill me with any confidence.

46 thoughts on “If you want my support, why don't you give me the code?

  1. Hmm.. why couldn't they open the source that they wrote? Wouldn't matter if it was built on a proprietary engine if you had the engine libraries. You could still mod their code.

  2. You have a point. I thought about it as well and it should theoretically be possible for them to include the source for the parts they had written but I don't know what their licensing agreement stipulates. It's likely that it has a part forbidding such revealing of engine secrets and so on. I'll ask.

    1. Is the game engine a library or integrated code? If it's just a library and there are no restrictions then they can open source their project the same as you could if you were writing a GPL project for windows and linking to proprietary windows libraries. If they are integrating the source code itself then yes applying the GPL would be impossible. However linking with non-GPL code and such is a tricky part of Free Software which I don't completely understand. I do know that sometimes you can keep your application proprietary if you like while linking to GPL libraries like libstdc++ because of a "library exception".

  3. Vicar we've had this discussion in the past many times and you eventually gave up. Now you're coming here to troll once more. Poisoning the well at the start "although if you're an open source advocate you won't admit any of them are valid. ", marginalizing those who hold a position you disagree with "nobody in their right mind wants to be associated in any way, no matter how remote, with Richard Stallman" etc. I have no reason to point out the errors you make in your classic by now anti-free software rants.

    1. So, in other words, you're happy to take time away from your busy schedule to reply to the non-substantive parts of my post (including a joke, for crying out loud) but you won't reply to the actual points. You've just used the courtier's reply. Way to go.

      Can I make a prediction, one which is related tangentially to this topic? Within 5 years, there will be an open source OS (or a single distribution of Linux) which will have at least the desktop (not server) market share currently held by all Linux distributions put together, despite the head start held by Linux. This OS will have most if not all of the following characteristics:
      1. No hesitation to bundle proprietary drivers/software with the OS
      2. No way (or no easy way) to decouple the desktop environment from the window manager (and possibly no X11 at all)
      3. No way (or no easy way) to decouple the audio stack from the rest of the OS
      4. No way (or no easy way) to significantly change the appearance of the GUI (i.e. no built-in equivalent to skins)
      5. No significant use of the command line
      6. No wiggly windows (or other equivalents to Compiz)
      7. It will support direct distribution of application binaries, rather than downloading and compiling source.

      In short, I am betting that we will finally see open source applied by people who do good GUI design (instead of treating it as a waste of time) and don't obsess over "free as in speech", and I'm betting furthermore that more people will like the result than like Linux as currently deployed.

      (And as secondary predictions: Linux users will be split between people who will basically never use it and claim that the new OS/distribution is evil and was created by Microsoft/Intel/Google/Apple/someotherbigcompany to kill Linux, and people who dual-boot with it and who will generally like it a lot. Linus Torvalds will fall in the second category. Richard Stallman will fall in the former. The former category will spend a lot of time complaining about how the newcomer was unfairly brought to prominence, while the latter category will — rightly — point out that this is a victory for open source philosophy. It will never make much in the way of inroads into the server market, but — unlike in Linux — this will not be seen as a problem. It will be a lot faster at booting and a lot more responsive to the GUI than standard Linux is on the same hardware, but will be marginally slower at certain tasks which are of lesser importance in a GUI OS, such as program launch times.)

      Right now, I can think of three possible candidates for this, and I suspect I could find more with Google.

      1. Yes Vicar, I don't reply to your trollish rants because they are irrelevant to the topic and because we've had such discussion before and it went nowhere. You simply jump in whenever I mention Free Software and start with the same old tired arguments. Yes, it's not much time to tell you that I won't waste my time with you. It's much less to counter your points one-by-one, especially when I know you will not listen. So I don't bother. Do as many predictions as you wish, in 5 years from now, you won't even remember you made them and if you do, won't admit it. Hell, I can easily imagine you 5 years ago claiming that by now GPL will have been phased out from all major projects or something to that extent.

        1. It would be possible for the GPL to be phased out by force; after all, it is basically a form of copyright that depends on government recognition for its validity. As of now the only successful prosecutions I've heard from the SFLC are from Germany so it's possible, but unlikely, the GPL could be invalidated by the US or other countries at a trade summit.

  4. I can think of lots of reasons why they wouldn't go with open source, although if you're an open source advocate you won't admit any of them are valid.

    1. The open source model doesn't work all that well without serious support from big companies (or rich people willing to play the same role). Even the Linux kernel is now mostly being coded by corporate coders being paid to do the work — 75% of the contributions, by their own numbers. There will be no big companies supporting an open-source game, and in any event a game is hardly going to attract a lot of serious open source coders, which means that input from the community is going to be mostly worthless — a lot of work for nothing.

    2. Open source projects overwhelmingly tend to be ripoffs of existing proprietary programs. (I was able to come up with an example of a completely original FOSS project a while ago, but I have forgotten what it was, and in any event it was something pretty minor.) There is little evidence that open source can innovate in any meaningful way. There's even evidence that FOSS projects stifle innovation just as much as proprietary ones — look at the way Torvalds refused Kolivas' contributions to the kernel, despite the fact that they would have made the Linux desktop a lot more compelling. And that's on the Linux kernel, which is The Big Deal of the open source world. Not a good omen if you want your game to stand out in an overcrowded genre.

    3. Open source still sucks at QA. Throwing together a Bugzilla doesn't guarantee that bugs will be caught and fixed. (Particularly if, as is the case in the overwhelming majority of open source projects, you let fatal bugs sit for years at a time because you're fascinated by adding new features, or close tickets with "this feature works for me so there's no bug". I'm presuming that a company wouldn't do that with a product they wanted to ship — but equally pernicious is the tendency for Bugzillas to fill up with bug reports with no useful diagnostic information.) Then there's the fact that either there will be basically no bug reports at all or someone will have to do triage on the bugs. Linux — which is the crown jewel of the open source movement — still can't get reliably working audio. Some of that has to do with the whole "oh, hey, it's been a whole six months, so let's reinvent the wheel again" mindset which open source coders seem to like so much, but not all of it.

    3a. If the game is open source, then you'd better be sure to set the bar pretty low on fixing bugs anyway; otherwise, someone else might grab the code and release the game (thus destroying your profits) while you're still fixing bugs. (Which is, of course, part of the perverse incentive which open source offers to write bad software. But I digress.)

    4. There's a lot of work to be done on a game which opening the code won't help. Graphic design, packaging and marketing, technical support, play testing — and of course the QA testing mentioned above. Again: why spend a lot of time opening up the code for nothing?

    5. Switching to or supporting open source is potentially a way to get a lot of bad PR — or even a lawsuit — from the FOSS community itself, no matter how good your intentions or wonderful your product. Look at Foxconn (nearly boycotted over something which wasn't their fault, and it's still easier to find the complaints than the corrections on Google), or NVIDIA (has the best video drivers for Linux, but being boycotted because they won't release a bunch of proprietary data), or Apple (took huge amounts of flack over both Darwin and WebKit, despite the former being a monumental turnaround of their philosophy and the latter eventually basically supplanting plain KHTML), or Best Buy (as though anyone in the real world wants to download BusyBox from Best Buy, or cares whether there's a copy of the GPL in the box)… Contrary to what FOSS people will tell you, implementing a project to conform with the GPL is not trivial, and involves careful vetting by a lawyer — which takes money! — if you don't want to be set up for a lawsuit from the SFLC.

    I'm pretty sure I could come up with more points if I had to. (Heck, "nobody in their right mind wants to be associated in any way, no matter how remote, with Richard Stallman" is a point and a half all by itself.)

    1. "Even the Linux kernel is now mostly being coded by corporate coders being paid to do the work — 75% of the contributions, by their own numbers."

      All the more reason to hurry the fuck up with the HURD already, so all those users can finally be rid of that damned kernel and all the damned arrogant sycophants to its namesake. Then it can be called simply "GNU" — which is what it is, and has always been — without having to placate all those damned arrogant little shits (nay, worse! having to plead with them to include the name of the OS along with the name of the kernel!).

      Fuck Linux. Let it go 100% corporate… and let it be trampled by the HURD.

  5. I agree with what you're saying, but the title makes me want to think "If you want to buy my labor, why not include me as a full citizen with democratic voting rights in your business?"

  6. Hmmm, I would say it is more of "If you want me to add my labour to your community, you'd better let me own my means of production" 😉

  7. Just asking. Is it still relevant to open source it if the crown-contributed only cover around 3% of the total development cost?

    1. crown-contributed? I'm guessing you meant crowd-contributed.

      In that case, yes, it's still relevant. That's the beauty of free software, that it does not matter how the developers are making a living while coding as long as the source code is free.

    2. Ain't like unfair to the developer?

      What if you yourself make an investion around $50,000 to make a software. Then you giving it for free because some of your friend donate $100 for it. Would you still open the source?

      1. Why is it unfair to the developer? Your example is too vague and rigged to really be used. How do you “invest 50k”? What is your business plan?

        1. OK let's take Crate as an example.

          The company invest their own money for $1 million dolar.
          They got a TQ engine licensing from Ironlore owner to use but not distribute but let's ignore this.
          Assuming that the engine is their own.
          They start development and making Grim Dawn for one and half year without any salary, working 100+ hours a week.
          They open pre-order with the extra two option (legendary and epic) for those who want donate.
          Total pre-order right now is about 3% of the total development cost. 3% is not all donation but including the pre-order.

          After they complete it, how do you suggest from your view, to distribute this product? Is it release for purchase and giving the code at the same time?

          1. Look, seriously, your examples are rigged for emotional impact. "They start development and making Grim Dawn for one and half year without any salary, working 100+ hours a week. ".

            Well boo-hoo-fucking-hoo. There's a lot of people in the world that work in similar or even worse conditions and I don't see the national states rushing to shower them with personal monopolies (copyrights) in order to allow them to cash in.

            Ignoring that, I'd say that your examples and arguments completely miss the point of crowdsourcing and therefore are arguing against something completely different. In crowdsourcing, the whole point is that the development costs are supposed to be covered by the crowd doing donations rather than "buying" a license to run bytes. The whole point is that since you're going to get your development money, i.e. since you're going to be paid for the time you've worked, there's no need to enforce a monopoly on the code in order to make even more money.

            If their business plan was never to crowdsource, as they've clarified since, then of course all the criticism I've made of normal proprietary software applies instead (FYI, I'm radically anti-IP)

          2. Heh I already can see where this discussion going.

            I make reasoning based on fact and it is not rigged for your emotional impact at all. No need to be rude here.

            They start working with no salary. That is no exaggerate here. All they got is enough for them to fill their stomach. I'm not lying. If the one is lying it would be them.
            One and half year. That is the estimation of the project. It expect to reach alpha early next year and final several month later.
            100+ hours a week of working. That's is what they said in the forum.

            "The whole point is that since you're going to get your development money, i.e. since you're going to be paid for the time you've worked, there's no need to enforce a monopoly on the code in order to make even more money. "
            Since they going to get their development money you say. That is the initial investment they make, you mean right?
            In this case, the money coming straight from their pocket, how is that mean they got money? They don't get the money, they give it for the project.
            "Since you're going to be paid for the time you've worked, there's no need to enforce a monopoly on the code in order to make more money"
            And it's paid from your own pocket.

            Yes, their business plan was never crowdsources, it is crowd-contributed. They made it available because many of us request to make a method for donation to the project. I am included.

            Normal propriety software criticism. Since they still not making money at all, why this applies then?

            And I also want to know from your point of view, how they should carry out this project toward open sourcing their engine. No need to run by dragging the discussion somewhere else since everyone can see you're always doing that.

          3. Yes, their business plan was never crowdsources, it is crowd-contributed. They made it available because many of us request to make a method for donation to the project. I am included.

            Yes, and as I said there was a confusion here from the way this was reported elsewhere. I thought it was crowdsourced.

            I'm glad they have a few people with a lot of disposable income to just throw away on them, but if they want anyone other than those rich or obsessed to contribute, they'd better give something more than a license to play.

          4. Those people who gladly pre-order for extra bucks did not throw their money, not their income is disposable. I'm sure if you want to support open-source project that you really like, like the atheist community you said, you also willing to donate a few buck for the cause. And it is not because the product outcome at all. I know from OSS, you will have access to their code but for this case, the TQ and GD fans is simply love to support the developer who fall on the ground before. They just don't want the same thing occurs again. [oh I might stretch it bit.]

            [but if they want anyone other than those rich or obsessed to contribute, they'd better give something more than a license to play.]
            This part is not true. It's not them who want anyone to contribute, but the contributor himself that want to contribute [apologize for the confusing word]. They just made available for their fans pleading for a way to donate to them because many of them asked for it.

          5. I'm sure if you want to support open-source project that you really like, like the atheist community you said, you also willing to donate a few buck for the cause.

            Only because Free Software developers haven't figured out a working business model yet (and thus their labour goes unpaid) and because their licenses retain my freedom. Rest assured, I have not donated any money to Torvalds.

            And it is not because the product outcome at all.

            Yes. Yes it is

          6. [Rest assured, I have not donated any money to Torvalds.]
            Thanks for another one example.

            So when you get the code, you never donate at all I guess? As in this case, if they release the engine because of the donation, then where the code you expect to go? Didn't everyone will have access to the source? Including the one who never donate.

          7. So when you get the code, you never donate at all I guess?

            It depends on how much the project interests me. In this case I would, in order to keep them doing this in the future.

            Didn't everyone will have access to the source? Including the one who never donate.

            Yes. But then again, releasing to free and praying is not a good business model. There's other options out there.

          8. I know from OSS, you will have access to their code but for this case, the TQ and GD fans is simply love to support the developer who fall on the ground before. They just don't want the same thing occurs again. [oh I might stretch it bit.]

            As I said. I'm glad you have enough money to throw around, but I'm more prudent with mine. Again, if the developer wishes me to help them, they'd better be willing to meet me half-way.

            They just made available for their fans pleading for a way to donate to them because many of them asked for it.

            Doesn't change the argument I just made. regardless of what gave them the idea to "crowd-contribute" their project, they only cater to those rich or obsessed.

          9. [Again, if the developer wishes me to help them, they'd better be willing to meet me half-way. ]

            As I said, again, it's not the developer that wishes for help, but it was our own conscience. If you don't want to pre-order (or support) you can just opt to wait for release normally.

          10. As I said again, whatever the people who gave the idea to the developer do is irrelevant. You didn't force them to do it, they did it on their own accord and therefore I judge their tactics on their own merits and explain why people should donate.

            The fact that those with money to throw around will do anyway or why does not interest me in the slightest.

          11. They start working with no salary. That is no exaggerate here. All they got is enough for them to fill their stomach. I'm not lying. If the one is lying it would be them.

            A lot of people do various kinds of work and many of them are not rewarded appropriately or at all. From interns, to students, to low-wage slaves to stay-at-home women. I don't see why any specific group deserves a state granted monopoly to be able to capitalize on their labour. And while I'm all for people being rewarded for the labour they extend as much as anyone else, I wish to see this available to all, not to the lucky few who have the privilege of being able to work for 1.5 year without income first.

          12. Since they going to get their development money you say. That is the initial investment they make, you mean right?

            In this case, the money coming straight from their pocket, how is that mean they got money? They don't get the money, they give it for the project.

            The "project" is nothing more than them working for the time it takes to finish the project. The "project" does not exist as an independent living entity requiring constant money to survive like a kind of human baby. It's just their "crystalized labour" of those 100+ hours weeks As such, if the money they received for making this game covered their costs of this 1.5 year + any costs related to maintaining the project, then they have effectively been rewarded for the hours of labour they did in that time. I don't see why they deserve extra money coming from state-monopolies on top of this income when nobody else in the world has any such advantage. I receive loyalties in the future for the work I did today as I sysadmin. I only get paid for the hours I've worked now. A textile worker in Taiwan does not receive money from those "projects" she worked years ago. Only for the hours she worked building them.

            I don't see why artistic/intellectual work should be any kind of exception to the rule.

          13. I see. What you're saying make sense. But that is for individual labor point of view. What about their company? Their labor time and hard work sure have been rewarded with the money, but after 1.5 years what they going to do then? They already use up all their sources to make the game and after that whose going to fund their next project? Sure they don't have anymore money from their pocket?

            A textile worker in Taiwan does receive money from their labor time only. But what about the product, the company who hire and pays them? Are they just going to offer their textile for free?

          14. bq

            What about their company?

            What about it? A company is nothing but a collection of people. Once those people's labour-hours have been compensated there's no need to talk about any company.

            They already use up all their sources to make the game and after that whose going to fund their next project? Sure they don't have anymore money from their pocket?

            What about the money that they just received from the current project? If I'm not mistaken we have already agreed that it's only fair that they're compensated for the 1.5 years at 100+ HpW which would make quite a hefty amount of money. Certainly that can be used to fund the next project.

          15. You're quite extreme at pointing out your reasoning if I say. And before you talk about me giving out example to induce emotional impact.

            They work for 1.5 years at 100+ HpW which make quite hefty amount of money? If I understand correctly, they only got the money enough for their meal. And after the money gone to meal, you expect what to fund their project? The money that turn into food in their stomach?

          16. What? Ok, I think you're being confused here. Let me give you a simple example.

            I have 5000$ in the bank and I want to program a new game. It's a small game and I'm a fast worker so these 5000$ are enough for me to feed, clothe and shelter myself while I work full-time on this project for the next 3 months. Alright until now? The cost of the project can be said to be the 5000 that I just used to built it. The 5000 that sustained me while I extended the labour required.

            Then I exploit the state-granted monopolies and sell my game to people online. I manage to earn those 5000 within 1 week. Now I'm back where I started. I have 5000 in my pocket which can fund the next such project.

            In short, the money "going into the project" does not fall into a magic machine and become code. It is simply the money that the developers consume during the time they are coding. So yes, it is in fact the meals that will fund their projects.

          17. A textile worker in Taiwan does receive money from their labor time only. But what about the product, the company who hire and pays them? Are they just going to offer their textile for free?

            By "company" you mean the managers who sit around doing nothing except bossing people around? If so, I don't see why this should be rewarded. If you're takling about the raw materials for the clothes, then certainly that's included in the costs (and thus price markup) of the items they sell.

            If there is any necessary managerial work, at best I can acknowledge that they would deserve an equal share of the profits as all the workers.

          18. Another one of your extreme definition. "company is the manager" and "manager is who sit around doing nothing except bossing". And they shouldn't be rewarded? Maybe we should have management course in the university as bossing course (taking your extreme example).

            [If there is any necessary managerial work, at best I can acknowledge that they would deserve an equal share of the profits as all the workers.]
            I could half agree. World today really capitalize the company of citizen money by paying their higher manager with ridiculous amount of money. But to say to deserve an equal share of profits as all the workers might be overkill. If the company consist of group of people who works closely as a team, then I could tolerate it.

          19. And they shouldn't be rewarded? Maybe we should have management course in the university as bossing course

            As I said before, they should be rewarded as much per hour as anyone else. As for those management courses, I couldn't agree more. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it's better to dismantle them altogether.

            But to say to deserve an equal share of profits as all the workers might be overkill.

            Not at all. A manager without workers can't produce anything. Workers are the ones doing the work and making stuff. Workers without managers can work just fine. It's obvious who's the parasite here. To expect such a parasite to get even more money than everyone else is the overkill.

            I suggest you reconsider you pre-conceptions on what is "natural" wage differences and why they are so.

          20. And it's paid from your own pocket.

            Everyone is paying "out of their own pocket" by definition. From those building software, to those building wooden tables. The point is whether they get the money back into the pocket by the business model you use to get a return of your investment. Whether that is just labour as in the case of game design, or labour and raw materials as in the case of the carpenter.

          21. >Normal propriety software criticism. Since they still not making money at all, why this applies then?

            Proprietary software criticism has nothing to do with whether the developers are making money but with the freedoms the software license grants to the end user. Freedoms to study, modify and distribute are important.

          22. Too bad that TQ engine is licensed by the owner. It really would be great if he generous enough to release it as OS.

          23. And I also want to know from your point of view, how they should carry out this project toward open sourcing their engine. No need to run by dragging the discussion somewhere else since everyone can see you're always doing that.

            I'm glad you're not poisoning the well at all. :rolleyes:

            Anyway, I'm not the one who should discover a business model for them.I have some ideas but nowhere near a fool-proof plan. I can only speak for myself on what I consider acceptable before I give them even more of my disposable income.

          24. When you end with "No need to run by dragging the discussion somewhere else since everyone can see you're always doing that. " you're trying to paint me as dishonest to the audience. This is called a "Poisoning the Well Fallacy"

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