The open source channel is known for a lot of things, but breathtaking games isn’t one of them. That may change soon, though, thanks to the people behind the open source game 0 A.D., which in its latest iteration brings gorgeous and elegant gaming to the free software world — and it’s still in alpha. Read on for a look at the amazing things these volunteer programmers have accomplished in recent months, and what they mean for the open source channel as a whole.
0 A.D., the open source RTS game for Windows, Linux and OS X, has been a long time in the making — more than a decade, in fact. But even when I first covered it two years ago, I knew it was something special. As perhaps the only open source game with a truly professional agenda, it stood out in an ecosystem where few development teams have the patience to undertake such a major project with the intent of giving away the final product for free. As a result, the game exhibited a potential to reshape parts of the open source channel by proving top-quality games are not something commercial developers alone are capable of creating.
New Alpha Release
If 0 A.D. was impressive two years ago, it’s now unquestionably stunning in its current form. Alpha 7 of the game, codenamed Geronium, was released the weekend of Sept. 17, 2011, bringing with it a host of enhancements including a new “civilization,” even more incredible artwork and music and sound that could easily hold their own against the work of any commercial game development house.
Here’s a look at the game in action on Ubuntu 11.04:
That screencast comes courtesy of my i3 processor and Sandy Bridge graphics card, which is to say the game runs perfectly smoothly even on budget hardware.
The audio features, which I couldn’t embed into the screencast for want of an audio framework on Ubuntu that actually works, can be sampled here. They’re worth a listen.
Even without sound, however, the game’s maturity and sophistication are clear. This is truly professional quality work, by open source volunteers. It has the potential to become a raving success story of the open source world on the order of Firefox and Open/LibreOffice, the two great poster children of the open source movement.
The Final Stretch
0 A.D. is almost ready for primetime. But its development team has issued a call for contributions to help turn the final corner:
We are seeking contributors in programming, art, sound, web design, taking YouTube videos and more. These roles on the 0 A.D. development team are great if you want to brush up on your skills and update your portfolio, if you’re seeking a project for school with real-life applications, or if you care about the cause of free culture and software and are willing to work pro bono with a group of dedicated volunteers from all over the world.
After a long wait, it looks like 0 A.D. in playable form is just about here. When it finally arrives, I just may have to forgo all of my responsibilities and pretend I’m 14 years old again with nothing stopping me from playing RTS games all day long.