Open Source gaming kickstarter proposal (tentative)

Fostering development of open-source gaming

Hello, let me first start by introducing myself a bit; my name is Joseph J and I am an open source enthusiast from the United States. I possess no real expertise in the realm of software development (although, little by little I am trying to change that), I am but a humble and grateful end-user of many fine programs, operating systems, and games that have come out of the FOSS scene. I, perhaps narcissisticly, like to think of myself as a “big picture” sort of guy, and I’ve been putting a lot of thought into the state of our movement, where it is headed in the future, and what sort of systemic obstacles we face if we want to expand towards greater mainstream success in the future.

Now, regardless of what some purists may think of things like Ubuntu and Linux Mint, there’s no denying that they were able to successfully eliminate a major bottleneck in the expansion of GNU/Linux’s user-base; accessibility for the casual user. I believe that the next major hurdle to be faced within the movement is to dramatically overhaul the way we, as a community, are able to foster the development of open source, gnu/linux, BSD, etc, based gaming.

I doubt anyone would deny the charge that the status of gaming on Linux and the like is currently rather anemic in comparison to proprietary gaming. This is certainly not the fault of the many dedicated men and women who have exerted great collective effort on the various projects we currently enjoy, but rather a natural consequence of the fact that open source game projects rarely if ever have the resources to employ any full-time employees that are often necessary to achieve the level of graphical/etc polish that modern gamers come to expect.

My proposal is to form a non-profit or otherwise charitable entity governed by a “board of directors” derived from respected members of the open source community with the ultimate goal, achieved through incremental steps, of providing a (perhaps somewhat “steam-like”) platform for the distribution and fostering of development of open-source gaming. Such a platform, once fully realized, could provide an entirely ethical venue for raising revenue to directly fund the improvement of open-source gaming. What steam has done for the proprietary “indie game” market could, heavily tweaked and with a somewhat different monetization model of course, also be done for the world of open-source gaming.

Of course, for such a project to be able to continue to thrive once this hypothetical kickstarter seed money has been spent, we must find an ethical and fair way of raising money. Below I will list some potential sources of revenue that I have come up with, which are by no means written in stone and are offered merely in the name of sparking discussion on the subject:

1) Dev groups from various games could agree to have their games (which of course would be available free of charge elsewhere) “sold” through a market, a form of donation that would, rather than going directly to the developers themselves (who generally don’t sell their games anyway) would go to the foundation to be spent on various investments to help the community as a whole. Game devs would lose nothing and would know that the fruits of their labor were contributing to the furtherance of the whole movement.

2) “Special edition” versions of games could be sold through the store that would come with various extra goodies, such as in-depth downloadable/hardcover strategy guides, posters + concept art, and whatever other creative incentives devs may come up with to provide the player with a reason to “buy” the game other than pure philanthropy.

3) The foundation could use seed money to rent significant server space to provide a dedicated, high-quality and reliable multiplayer gaming portal for a myriad number of games. Said server space could also be used to host a large VOIP server of some sort (my mind goes to TS3 but I don’t think that that software’s licensing is probably compatible with the philosophy of the project, other options could be looked into) to further encourage the open source gaming community to coalesce and become more coherently linked together. This could be paired with a forum or other sort of social-element to give, say, OpenArena players a place to form clans, organize gaming events, or what have you. All of this could be offered as a service with a small fee (possibly in the form of a cheap yearly subscription, or in the form of a one time 5$ minimum donation, etc).

Now, the nature of such a project necessitates a few extra steps that aren’t normally needed in the initiation of a kickstarter project. First, there would have to be extensive discussion about how such a project should be executed. Below I will list some preliminary steps I think that we would need to take before we get to the point of trying to fund such an idea.

1) We would need to establish a base of operations somewhere from which to discuss and plan. If the owner of a Linux-oriented forum were to offer to create a subforum for this project, that would be an excellent step in the right direction. From there, perhaps a blog or some such should be established to provide a place to receive “official” updates on the project.

2) We would need to actively spread the word of this project to every open-source, linux, etc enthusiast group available, in order to drum up support and discussion for the idea.

3) Once a general game plan has been established, and community awareness of the project is sufficient to warrant initiation of a kickstarter-based fund raising drive, we will need to seek legal advice and start to discuss the sort of licensing issues that will come up. There seem to be a decent number of legal professionals that are active in the open source community whose help we may be able to enlist to draw up the appropriate documents to establish charitable/non-profit organization and allow it to run smoothly, transparently, and fairly.

4) With the appropriate community-based framework in place to start putting these plans into action, we would immediately set about creating the more traditional set of funding goals/etc that are used in kickstarter ventures.

This may be a bit long and rambly, and I’m sure there are tons of holes in my logic that the more knowledgeable here will be able to point out (and please do!), but I’d really like to get a discussion going about this sort of thing and see where it leads. I think that the core concept is solid. We need something like this to start getting money flowing into open source projects to raise the bar of what we’re able to accomplish. I think giving budding programmers an opportunity to make money doing what they love while ALSO taking part in something they believe in is a great thing.

Please, feel free to ask any questions, call me a nub, and idiot, or whatever haha, I know that this may seem overly ambitious, but I think it could work. We don’t need to raise 5 million to sprinkle seed money around a million little projects when we can affect much greater systemic change with a great deal less money. All we need to do is provide a framework for game devs to find support, raise money for their projects, and the like.

I’m a bit nervous that this is going to come off as terribly naive, but I’m giving it a shot. Any feedback would be appreciated.

-Joe (aka Joseph J on the Ubuntu Forums)

Reply to this post on the Ubuntu Forums HERE.

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