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On Xonotic


April 9 2011

Once upon a time, there was a real cool open-source first-person-shooter game called Nexuiz. It was a fun little game that was very similar to Unreal Tournament or Quake III.

After being around for a few years, the lead developer decided he wanted to get paid for his hard work, and made the game commercial. The reaction by the open-source community was very disappointing: They attacked the developer for trying to make money.

I've seen this movie played out before. In the early 2000s, when the Tux Racer developers tried to make money with their open-source game, the same hostility was encountered. Then, and now, the arguments boiled down to the open-source community saying "How dare the developers try to make money from their hard work". [1] [2]

In the aftermath of this, Nexuiz was forked and there is now a project called "Xonotic".

I tried playing the original preview of Xonotic. I didn't like it. On my admittedly underpowered netbook (N455 / GMA 3150), Xonotic is too slow to play at all unless all textures are disabled. Contrast this with Nexuiz 2.3, which has a good FPS (frames per second) with textures enabled.

The issue is that, since Xonotic is completely open-source, there is no way to pay the developers, so there is no way to enforce discipline. Each developer is going to make contributions that work well with whatever computer and graphics card they happen to have; there is no one that can say "This game has to be playable on an Intel N455/GMA 3150" or, if that is too limiting, "This game has to be playable on an AMD E-350/Radeon 6310" or whatever.

Because of this, I am still going to be playing Nexuiz.

Since I am going to be using a low-end N455 netbook for a while, I have made a special netbook remix of Nexuiz. Unlike other netbook remixes of Nexuiz, this remix does not eliminate textures; it has the same experience as the full version of Nexuiz. [3]

I am glad to see that open-source Nexuiz lives on in the form of Xonotic, but the resentment the Xonotic developers have against the core Nexuiz developers (as can be seen in their FAQ) for trying to make money is unproductive.

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[1] This kind of knee-jerk reaction is most prominent with open-source games. I do not recall similar hostility when RedHat stopped giving away their operating system.

[2] The arguments made when Nexuiz went commercial were along the lines that the original core Nexuiz developers ignored the entire Nexuiz community. Never mind that the core developers did the lion's share of the hard work. With Tux Racer, the arguments were along the lines that the game was not good enough to be sold.

[3] It also uses Nexuiz 2.3 instead of a newer version of Nexuiz. The community contributions to Nexuiz made after 2.3 slow down the game too much on low-end hardware.