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.