Sunday, December 17, 2006

Free games (as in beer)

The free multiplayer game scene is really lacking: Sporadic, disunified, and stagnant. With no accounting incentive in the market, the incentives for developing such programs are too implicit for programming teams to find worthwhile.

Everybody wants stuff for free. Admit it, if someone gave you everything on a platter, no strings attached, I guarantee you'd take advantage of it. People love free stuff. (Some proponents of the free programs movement also believe that code should be free.) There are tons of games that have been developed to meet this demand, ranging from Runescape, to GunZ, to War Rock, and beyond. Some of the people behind these games are in it for the money; others, the achievement; others, the community. Whatever the motivation is for writing these games, there seems to be a fair amount of people willing to satisfy the demand for free stuff.

Of course, simple economics become a significant problem simply at the mention of free stuff. Programming a fully 3D, immersive, interactive world is by far an exceedingly complicated task. Programmers work for high salaries because programming is not for everyone. And there it is: What do the developers of free games get in return? Some only work on games in their spare time; others, who would like to participate, can't. The reality of the situation is that performing a difficult task for little compensation isn't feasible. Not only is it hard to support a project with donations, but resources become more scarce when there are competing projects. There are hundreds of free games! Obviously some people have to be excluded from the donation collecting process.

Therein lies a further problem, one that (not coincidentally) plagues the open source scene, as well (but to a much lesser extent): Disunity. There are so many games that it's a challenge to find talent that can do significant work. Programming in a team is like forming a band: If you don't know what to do, it's not like you're going to be able to do a lot after a few weeks of practicing. Learning how to program takes months, and programming promotes a never-ending process of learning. That is the premium that corporations like Apple and Microsoft pay for. How are you going to convince people on the Internet who you don't know to do it for free?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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