Friday, 25 January 2008

To GPL or not to GPL

To GPL or not to GPL, that is the question that has been posed on the Linux Games Tome comments page for RetroRoids.

The request started off with a single comment posted a couple of hours after the game was first listed:

It’s proprietary — guess that’s why there are no comments.

Well, I decided to respond with a brief explanation of why I hadn't released the code.

If by proprietary you mean there isn't any source code released with it then yes. Mainly because it has been written with Blitz Max (which makes it easy for me to support Windows and MacOS as well as Linux), so most people couldn't recompile it anyway, at least not without buying a copy of the language first. If there is a call for it then I'm more than happy to release the source under the GPL - I'm just not sure that there would be much benefit to anyone. Hopefully you won't let this put you off trying the game.

That, I thought, would probably be the last I would hear on the subject, but one week later. . . . .

You know, if as you say there are no objections to releasing the code under the GPL, I think it would help your project a lot. The publicity alone would be much higher. But, I wouldn't be surprised if some people would actually help out with patches. Besides, that would allow your game to be included by default in many distros that wouldn't touch it otherwise.

Well, now that is food for thought. So here is what I think.

The patches don't really interest me much, since games programming as a hobby (in my case anyway) is a solo event. The challenge of writing the code (and playing the finished game) is the where the fun is.

As for publicity - well thankfully that's not entirely what I'm here for. Yes, in any sort of games programming (freeware or otherwise) there is an element of look what I can do, aren't I clever about it, and I get as much of that as I need. Generally speaking there are only a couple of places that I release the news of any games that I release.

Retro Remakes is the first place that gets the news, usually on the message board. This site is the center of the remakes world and the feedback here is usually very good (constructive criticism can be a very good thing). All my games also have work logs on there.

If it is a remake of a game that was released on the Spectrum then get's a heads up.

I've also got a mailing list going for people who are interested in what I release (there are a couple these days) so things get mentioned on there too.

Last (but not least) The Linux Games Tome gets a post too. This is because at home I use Linux, my games are developed on Linux for Linux users. The Windows and MacOS versions are the ports.

I've also started posting the news on the BlitzMax home page. RetroRoids is the first game I've done this for.

RetroRoids has actually been a fairly quiet release compared to RetroVaders, but even this has had over 500 downloads over the last five days. Having had a couple of news items written about RetroRoids (items that I didn't submit I might add) and generally positive comments from people who have downloaded the game has given my ego all the polishing it needs at the moment.

However this isn't to say that I'm against releasing the code. Like I said before, I'm just not sure what benefit the BlitzMax source for the game would be to most people.

So here is the deal. If enough people want my games to be released under the GPL then yes, I will do that.

If ANY of the Linux distros want to include my games and can't because of the current FREEWARE license then get in touch and I will release my games as GPL.

I will only do this if there is a call for it. So if you want the code (remembering that you will need a copy of BlitzMax to be able to compile it) then make your voices heard here, or by emailing me directly at dans(dot)remakes(at)googlemail(dot)com.


Not long after posting this I realised that I'd forgotten to mention something important, the real reason that I'm doing this. It isn't for money or publicity (believe me, if it was for money then I'd have given up games programming back in 2002).

The reason I do this, and why I release my games for free, is that I enjoy writing games. I hope you enjoy playing them.

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