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MindX Article: Open-Sourcing proprietary games

One should think that the commercial game producers and publishers were proud if someone ported their games; instead, most of them refuse to offer the source code, even if it is many years old. This article deals with my own experiences. Fortunately, there are positive impressions among them.

As a game programmer, I am always seeking new frontiers. I am kind of those geeks who try always to start new projects, without finishing the old ones. I like all those little game projects out there - but I don't like proprietary software in any form. It is like a "mission" to convince people to share my opinion about this one, and although I am quite lazy most of the time (coding only my own things), sometimes I try to fulfil this mission. The best way one can do this is contacting the responsible persons:

Command & Conquer (Westwood)
My first trial to catch some sources: I was scanning the Westwood homepage for a contact address (a not too easy task, using the KFM-browser these days), and told them about my plans. My mail and the response of Westwood's Vice President are on the MindX homepage, for the interested people. The result in short: No code release due to their community (who may misinterpret such a step), but the company plans to focus on Linux, though. I wonder whether they change the release policy or not, as there is (currently) no Linux market for commercial games, methinks (compare: The "bestseller" Q3). The FreeCNC Project is definitely worth a look.

Commander Keen (id Software/Apogee)
This was a snapshot idea of mine: The old septology (six and a half, actually) was a lot of fun in the old DOS days, and I thought that (except some assembler parts) porting shouldn't be a huge problem: The UI consists mainly of a simple screen and keyboard input. I typed http://www.commanderkeen.org into my browser (during worktime, listen boss), and found the homepage of John Romero. Unlike expected, he answered immediately, and in a very positive way: Together with John Carmack, he said, they're going over the source code to prepare it for a release. This is now some weeks ago, but it didn't sound like a hoax, thus I am glad about this, and sure to be able to contribute one day. The gimp likes dope fish! :-)

The Settlers (Blue Byte)
In 1996, during a holiday job, I spent my time at my cousin's house. While going to work every day (only interrupted by the Love Parade), the evenings were reserved for playing "Die Siedler" (The Settlers). I became addicted to this game, and its successors, until early 2000 when my Windows system was seen the last time. There was no Settlers for Linux, but I wanted it, and recently contacted Blue Byte. Their answer was short and evil: No sources, but Merry Chrismas. Lovely.

It's winter time, and time even for geeks to play board games, or whatever you can touch. But when the new year starts, there are thousands of games waiting for heroes who free them, who make them open source. Don't hesitate to contact the companies - the luck may be with you!

Josef Spillner, December 2000
The MindX Open Source Project