Practically every week, one of the projects that we feature is a game. Some weeks – like this week, we feature more than one game.
And this makes a lot of sense, when you think about it. People are involved in Open Source because it’s fun. Open Source involvement, for most of us, is a hobby. Our specific reasons for participating vary greatly, but in the end we all do it because it’s enjoyable. Projects that aren’t enjoyable either get abandoned, or become commercial so that they can hire developers.
So it’s no surprise that a huge number of the projects at SourceForge are games, ranging from traditional games like chess and Mega Mario, to the more involved games like Zero AD and Planeshift.
SourceForge is also a treasure-trove of game engines. By developing and giving away a game engine, game designers are freed up to focus on their artistry and story-telling. Engines like Spring, Arianne, Game Editor, and Castle gather incredibly talented game designers who have an idea for a game but don’t want to have to muck about with the internals. (More game frameworks here.)
While many of the games are reproductions of existing popular commercial games, many more of them appear to be completely original creations. And the creativity and originality is truly beautiful.
So the next time you’re looking for a new game to play, instead of getting out your wallet, head over to SourceForge and see what you can get for free, from people doing it just because they love it.
Rich: Thanks so much for speaking with me. Could you tell us what your project is?
Matthias: It’s hard to say. It’s not a single project, it consists of many small projects. We have some game developers, we have some engine developers. There’s also some infrastructure, like a download site where game developers or map developers can upload their stuff and the lobby client can automatically download the files. Players can use the lobby to directly connect to the lobby server, and the client can automatically catch these files that the game developer made.
Our project tries to make a really good platform for strategy games.
Rich: This is a framework – an engine for building games on top of. Is that correct?
Matthias: Yeah, that’s correct.
Rich: What games are currently available on this platform?
Matthias: There are about ten well-maintained games. It’s difficult to say, as there are also many modifications of those games. On the biggest download page there are many 50 games, but some of them are unplayable.
Rich: How long have you been working on this project?
Matthias: I joined the project in 2010, and I’m the newest developer. I had contact with the game developers, and I wrote some stuff to the content platform – to Spring files. So I know many of the people who made the games, too. It’s a very nice and big community.
Rich: When someone simply plays a game it’s not obvious to them the complexity of what’s behind that – the game server, the game engine, all of the different parts that go together for that. As someone that just plays the game, it’s amazing to see all the layers of complexity that are behind it. The Spring RTS project itself is the game engine, is that correct? And the games themselves are available elsewhere. Am I understanding that correctly?
Matthias: If you want to be exact, Spring is the engine only. Spring was first a game called T. A. Spring.
Rich: What things are in the future for the project. What are you goals?
Matthias: Our current biggest goal is to make it easier to use. We have some small improvements. The biggest one on Windows, but it’s difficult to make it easy to use on Linux, because the engine has to be exactly the same version if you want to play online. We currently make many updates, and if want to make an update on Ubuntu, for example, first a package has to be built, and this takes time, and it’s hard to make it automatic for each platform.
Rich: If someone were interested in becoming part of your project, what could they do? What sort of skills would they need?
Matthias: It depends on what he wants to do. He can make a game, or he can help with the engine.
Some people wrote an AI for an exam, or for University.
We really need help in the engine currently, I think, but it’s very hard to get close to it. It’s very complex. We have about 300k lines of code. That’s not a few, so it’s not so easy to handle and understand.
Rich: I’ve noticed over the last few months that there are many different game engines on SourceForge. What distinguishes one game engine from another? Is it the type of game?
Matthias: Yes, there are many different engines. Spring is one of the few engines that works in sync. Floating operations are on calculated the same on all platforms. This means that only the commands of players are transferred over the network. This allows us to have many, many units on a game. Many other engines only transfer a few of the game states. There’s a game server and the game server sends position of units directly, and our engine transfers only the commands a player makes. This allows us to have many more units on a map, or on an online game. That’s a big difference. This is why it’s an RTS engine.
Rich: What do you in particular really like about working on this project?
Matthias: I enjoy that when I make something new, I can be sure to get some feedback. Often it’s not positive, but it’s awesome how much feedback you get. Sometimes it’s too much, but it’s really nice.
What I really like about the project is that it’s so easy to try out new things, for game makers. You can grab some already-written script and modify it, and easily make your own game with that. Or modify an existing game. It’s really nice. As we have a full infrastructure for that, game makers can focus on the things they want to make. I think that’s something really special.
In our next podcast, I spoke with Katie Russell from the Arianne project. Arianne is a long-running project which develops a game server and various multiplayer games. they recently released a new version of the popular Stendhal game, and have even more exciting things planned for the future.
Incidentally, the music used in the intro is from the Stendhal game, and was composed by Storyteller.
Rich: Hello, and welcome back to the Sourceforge podcast. Thanks for listening. My name is Rich Bowen and I am the Community Growth Hacker for Sourceforge, which means that I try to help Sourceforge projects grow and promote themselves. Today I’m speaking with Katie Russell, who is with the Arianne project on Sourceforge. Thanks for speaking with us today. Could you tell me a little bit about what this project is, and how it got started.
Katie: Hi there. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk. The Arianne project is a bit of an umbrella project. It’s a game framework at its core, for users to create online multiplayer games. As test cases for the game framework, over the years we’ve developed new games to try out new features, and one of the most popular ones of those is Stendhal, which is a RPG.
It started back in 1999. There was a post on a forum asking for “what I’d like to see in an RPG,” and it was in the Linux game forum. The founder saw the posting, and he founded the Arianne project to try to fulfil the needs of this post.
R: How many games have been developed on this platform? Is it just the ones that you’ve done, or are there others?
K: There are other games, by developers who have been looking for a framework to handle some of the internal aspects that they didn’t really want to have to worry about. For example, there’s a wrestling card game that’s been developed using Marauroa. Marauroa is the name of our game server behind Arianne. There’s also been forks of the game Stendhal that we’ve created as well. So I think that over the eleven or so years that the project has been running the Arianne team has created maybe a dozen games or more, and then I know of perhaps a similar number of games that have used the same framework.
It’s always interesting to discover new ones I haven’t come across before.
R: Are the games that you’re aware of listed on the website?
K: The Arianne website is linked to Sourceforge. It just lists the ones we’ve developed. We’re trying to keep it to the projects where we know of all the licensing background. Which is why we haven’t listed them. I think that’s something we could improve on. Also checking all the references to our Stendhal game as well. We try to keep track of all the places on the Internet where you can download the client, which might even be outdated, because people upload really outdated versions. We’re trying to keep track of all these websites that have indexed us, just so that we can keep them up to date as well. It’s an issue for us because we release so often with our games, so quite quickly the development cycle means that older versions can get out of date and obviously we prefer for people to be using the most up to date version.
R: How large is your development team>
K: It grows and shrinks. Perhaps 15 or 20. The core team is perhaps 4 or 5 developers.
R: How do people typically get involved in the project? Is it submitting patches, or they come to you with full games?
K: It’s really varied. Because it’s an umbrella project, and there’s so many different aspects to both the frame work and the various games, there’s a lot of ways people can get involved. So, for example, you may be a user, and you may have been playing Stendhal, the RPG, because you wanted a free game that runs on Linux, as well as Windows. You may not even have realized that it’s Open Source, but when you start to see the regular releases, and read our updates, and you see that you can get involved with what you can do, which may be a piece of art work you want to improve, or add some music to the game, or improve a description even, then they contact the development team from within the game. They find us, and tell us what they want to do. We try to mold those contributions into patches where possible. Or it may be a software developer that wants to use the engine, Marauroa, and he’s got an improvement that he wants to use on his version of the game. He might want, for example, another handling of the zones. And rather than just implement that in his version, he submits that back to us as a patch. There’s also lots of variation of that in between. But mainly the communication goes through our instant relay chat (IRC) channel. We try to take in the patches and analyze them quite promptly, and release often, so that any contributions that are made get seen really quickly by the person that made the contribution, because we’ve found that that helps keep people interested in the project, to see their contributions go in, and on the live version so quickly.
R: What do you have planned for upcoming versions.
K: For the engine, Marauroa … I’ll just explain a little bit about what that is, if that’s ok?
R: Yes, please.
K: The game framework is handling the communication between the game clients, which are running on the user’s own computer, and the game server, which is running on some host. Also, it’s taking care of storing game information to the database, because it’s an online multiplayer game that you want to have running all the time, or closed down, but you expect that when a character returns to the game, he can retrieve his progreess from where he was. So it takes care of client-server communication and database persistence, and defines all of the objects and rules and world in a bland way that you can then extend and make rich for your own game. It doesn’t know about any of the rules. It’s completely agnostic to the game.
At the moment, the clients may be written in Java, and there’s some limited support for Python. A new development is that there will be some support for HTML5 clients.
K: Yeah! It is cool. They’ll actually be able to run on that same game server, and someone using an HTML5 client will be able to interact with someone using a traditional client. The main work for that has already been done, but it hasn’t been released yet, because we do try to keep the game framework really quite stable, so it needs some more testing. But the motivation for that is that we want something that works without a local Java installation and on mobile devices.
One of our development philosopies is to break big projects down into small steps, partly because we want to be able to release often, but also because big projects can get easily abandoned, especially when it’s a project that you’re working on in your spare time. But if you do break it down into small chunks, then I think it becomes a lot more manageable. Perhaps the big vision is, wow, wouldn’t it be great to be able to run our Stendhal game in a browser, with social integration to other websites like Facebook and so on. The first step of that was to be able to log into Marauroa games like Stendhal using OpenID, so you could use your Google account. We’ve integrated Tweeting from Stendhal and it’s based on events, so we’re connecting to their API. Those were the first steps, but the bigger step is getting all those clients working and interacting on the same server.
R: That’s really cool.
K: I hope so. I’d love to grow the user base for our games and make the game framework more attractive for other people to start using as well, and I think making the game able to run on more devices like mobile devices would be a really good step in that direction.
The holidays can be incredibly stressful – cooking, shopping, decorating and, well, family.
Add to it the pets underfoot and your children complaining that they want to play on the Wii when grandpa wants to watch the Law and Order marathon on USA, and you have potential for a grumpy household.
So we decided to take a look at the projects here on Sourceforge that could help keep your children occupied over the holidays.
Whether you’re on Windows, Mac or Linux, there are many options. Something here is bound to be attractive to your kids and keep them interested for a while.
Teach Your Children Well
As the mother of a kindergartner, I loved Tux of Math Command. It’s a form of one of my childhood favorites, Missile Command, where you answer math problems to prevent them from melting the igloos of penguins on the ground. I called my 5-year-old over to check it out and he got very excited, trying to add the numbers together as fast as his brain would allow, to save the penguins’ homes.
Scrabble is always a good one to broaden your vocabulary. Scrabble3D allows you to play against your computer or against others on the game server. It’s only Windows and Linux at the moment, but has an experimental Mac OSX version. The board is configurable and it’s available in several languages, including Irish Gaelic and Swedish.
Another old standby, Yahtzee, is still popular in its original and all the iterations out there, free, paid, social and open source. Open Yahtzee can be used to calculate odds, work on addition and even simple number recognition for the youngest ones.
My boys love mazes. They enjoy figuring out where to go and how to get there. FunLabyrinthe gives them mazes to navigate and also enables them to create their own mazes. It’s Windows only, though.
Race into Space can help give your children a healthy interest in history, politics and science. Granted, though the original this version was based on was said to be suitable for children as young as 10, it’s been criticized as being far too difficult. But if you tell your teens that maybe they shouldn’t play it because it’s too hard for them, I’d wager they’d figure it out pretty quickly.
FlightGear is a very cool flight simulator, available in multiple platforms, including a separate Mac OSX version. There are a couple dozen related projects on Sourceforge, including GUIs for launchers and flight planners. Airplane options include seaplanes, warplanes and small craft. You can “fly around the world from the comfort of your computer,” the project suggests. Good for those who are afraid of heights, perhaps.
SimuTrans is a SimCity-type transportation game. You can build networks of railroads, monorails, roadways and airports and move cargo and passengers around the world. A variety of packs help you create different settings and styles.
Rigs of Rods evoked Minecraft a bit, albeit an already constructed world with no creepers. It’s a bit complicated to get started on, but once you figure it out, you can drive trucks and cars, sail boats and fly airplanes, among other vehicles. Figuring it out is half the fun.
â€¢ VDrift is your requisite racing simulator. The 40 tracks are based on real tracks from around the world, as are the 40 cars. You can plug in a wheel or joystick and the physics of driving in real life apply in the game. Vroom.
Arianne RPG could be a great challenge for your older children. If they like playing RPGs, let them take that one step further and actually create their own. Arianne is the engine that drives Stendhal and can be used to create any MORPG. Why just play when you can create? That should be good for a few hours of quiet time.
Java Settlers of Catan and Pioneers are both computer-based versions of Settlers of Catan. Both allow over-the-internet play and emulate the board game in its look and feel. If your children are Catan fans at all, download these puppies and youâ€™ll have some very happy kids in your house.
Let’s Go to the Arcade
Battle Tanks is your typical side-scrolling arcade game. It has multiplayer/split-screen modes and lets you shoot ‘em up. In a tank.
Super Tux Kart is a great replacement for Mario Kart games. And if you have younger children, the option to drive a penguin around instead of Mario or Luigi might be even more fun. I’ll be setting this one up for my boys, believe you me.
If fighting games like Streets of Rage are more your kid’s cup of tea, then Paintown could be a good option. And after your in-laws leave, you can hop on the computer and exorcise your frustrations by beating the crap out of someone made out of pixels rather than flesh and blood.
And finally, what arcade would be complete without a shoot-em-up game – in space? Galaxy Forces V2 is a 2D space shooter. There are single- and multi-player options and you can complete missions or just dogfight. Its simplicity reminds me a bit of Asteroids (no, it’s not THAT simple) and it has downloads for Windows and Linux.
There are many other games for all ages on SourceForge, and if none of these float your boat, you can start your search in the Games index. One of these just may be your sanity-saver over this holiday season.
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