Why not just create a copyright free source port?

Some time ago I remember someone saying that the reason people haven't started selling their own Doom engine games yet is because even though the original doom engine may now be open source, actual source ports such as zdoom (which are needed to run the game on modern systems) are not and could not be shipped with a paid product.

 

But that makes me think...what is stopping the community from just making a new source port for this very purpose? Like some kind of source port version of freedom? It would not have to be anything super fancy, just good enough that talented modders could create and sell their own games with it. Is there any specific reason this hasn't happened yet?          

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Does this mean that standalone games created in said source ports can't be sold for profit?

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17 minutes ago, Kapanyo said:

Does this mean that standalone games created in said source ports can't be sold for profit?

 

Yes. This is the reason I created this thread in the first place.

Edited by hardcore_gamer

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I'll quote some sections that fraggle linked as a starting reference:

 

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“Free software” means software that respects users' freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”. We sometimes call it “libre software,” borrowing the French or Spanish word for “free” as in freedom, to show we do not mean the software is gratis.

 

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If I use a piece of software that has been obtained under the GNU GPL, am I allowed to modify the original code into a new program, then distribute and sell that new program commercially?

 

You are allowed to sell copies of the modified program commercially, but only under the terms of the GNU GPL. Thus, for instance, you must make the source code available to the users of the program as described in the GPL, and they must be allowed to redistribute and modify it as described in the GPL.

To use an example, let's look at the remastering of Strife, called The Original Strife: Veteran Edition. When you purchase this game, it comes with a copy of the source code for you to compile and run for yourself, or to adjust and make something else, or just to look at and study. Even if you don't buy the game, the source code is freely available on GitHub, and you can find all the DLLs used to run the game online legally as well (I think: I haven't confirmed this with every library but I believe this is something required by the GPL). What you won't be able to obtain or create legally on your own are the following files:

  • strife1.wad (original game's IWAD)
  • SVE.wad (Veteran Edition assets)
  • voices.wad (original game voice file in WAD form)

strife1.wad and voices.wad are from the 1996 Strife game, and Night Dive Studios has the legal right to distribute these files when selling the game. SVE.wad, however, is specific to this release of the game, and there's no other way to get it legally (whereas the other two could be theoretically used if you'd purchased the game back in 1996). Given the GPL, it is effectively these files that are sold, though you're also being sold the convenience of a complete game package that runs as intended.

 

As this example is a case of a source port being sold as a standalone version for profit, I think this answers the question neatly. (In fact, Strife: VE had a more significant legal problem to justify in dealing with reverse-engineered code, which a regular ol' Doom source port doesn't.) If standalone packages like The Adventures of Square and Blade of Agony simply don't distribute or require the IWAD assets then there's no problem. At most, the ability to sell would come down to intellectual property (Square wouldn't have issues AFAIK, but BoA's based on Wolfenstein).

 

Anyway, to be abundantly clear, any GPL-based source port (i.e., most) is a theoretical launch point from which to make a commercial, for-profit game. Depending on the port, you might not even have to touch source port code! Actually making a game from its scaffolding, however, is an entirely different matter. Not only would you have to write music, produce sound effects, design maps, and draw textures, enemies, weapons, items, furniture, and miscellaneous stuff like the HUD and the menu; but ideally create them in such a way that wouldn't interfere with intellectual property issues. That's an enormous effort! And even then, we've seen these efforts in the past, like Action Doom 2 selling a physical CD copy. It's not common because this is a Doom hobbyist's forum and you're talking about professional-tier work that diverges from many of the aesthetic facets found in Doom. I'm sure no one who's worked on Freedoom has ever dreamed of making it a commercial product, and for good reason.

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20 hours ago, Kapanyo said:

Does this mean that standalone games created in said source ports can't be sold for profit?

No. The GNU GPL (the license the Doom source code is released under) actually guarantees your right to sell the code for profit. hardcore_gamer is completely wrong in his response, and I'm slightly surprised since I thought my previous comment was pretty clear.

 

For example, you're perfectly within your rights to take Chocolate Doom (my own work) , burn it onto CDs, package it in boxes and start selling it to people. In the case of Chocolate Doom it would be a strange thing to do, but you're perfectly entitled to do it. Actually, there are people who are doing exactly this - for example, if you buy one of these DVD sets, I'm pretty sure you'll find Chocolate Doom is included on one of the 13 DVDs in the set. There are thousands of other open source projects where the same is true; it's a fundamental part of the definitions of free and open source software.

 

There are a couple of "gotchas". One is that if it's open source already, you'll probably find it hard to convince people to pay for it. Why pay for a boxed copy of Chocolate Doom when you can just download it from the website for nothing? You might think, "okay then, I'll make my own improved version and others will have to pay for that". But the license requires that if you distribute a modified version, you also have to release the source code under the same terms. So it's "share and share alike" - you can't just take without giving anything back.

 

However, the license only applies to code. In the case of games, you can make your own new game with your own artwork, levels, sounds, music, etc. - and you still own that and can sell it. So there's nothing stopping you from making and selling your own for-profit commercial game using any one of the many open source Doom source ports as the base. 

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6 hours ago, fraggle said:

However, the license only applies to code. In the case of games, you can make your own new game with your own artwork, levels, sounds, music, etc. - and you still own that and can sell it. So there's nothing stopping you from making and selling your own for-profit commercial game using any one of the many open source Doom source ports as the base. 

 If end user/creator decided to do just that, it would seem like any profit that the end user/creator made, at least some percentage should go to the source port developer also though. ~ which seems like the right thing to do.

Or to my understanding is that said new game maker must release the open source, source code with his/hers said new resources, even if the source was unmodified? ~ which seems like the other right thing to do also.

 

 

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This has kind of been bugging me since the original question was asked, even though the topic has steered in an entirely different direction.

 

OP asking if it would be possible to remake the game code and put whatever license we want on it - yes, that is possible, although people have been happy enough with the GPL that there never really was a need to write a new game from scratch. Also, I am not sure what the license technicalities will be if you reverse engineer the code, versus writing your own back-ends and building a game engine entirely from scratch (without quite as much regard to Doom specifications, although it could be written for Doom compatibility) and going that route.

 

GZDoom, for example, has almost no resemblance to the original DSC, due to how much the code has been refactored over the years, but in all that time it was always still based on original Doom code.

 

And one thing - no one wants to put all that work into a new game engine just to release it under the public domain and without restrictions. The GPL is, as previously mentioned, commercially exploitable, and it also actually protects all the users who use it. As many restrictions as there are in the GPL, they're put in place to prevent abuse, which you can definitely bet will happen in one form or another as long as someone stands to gain something from it.

Edited by Rachael
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22 hours ago, Rachael said:

yes, that is possible, although people have been happy enough with the GPL that there never really was a need to write a new game from scratch

It's also quite informative to go back in history to before Doom was covered by the GPL and see what the situation was like. We had:

* Doom Legacy hiding its source code, only giving access to people who begged for it, and then accusing DOS Doom of "stealing ideas" when they implemented the same features on their own

* The source code for GLDoom being lost in a hard drive crash and setting back hardware acceleration in source ports by months at least

* Mistrust between some developers and ZDoom, starting as early as Lee Killough with MBF

 

All these kinds of nasty issues are just totally avoided when everybody's on the same licensing page and has to release their code. It creates a fair playing field for everybody in the community.

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10 hours ago, Quasar said:

It's also quite informative to go back in history to before Doom was covered by the GPL and see what the situation was like.

Right. I remember the bad old days and I think we're in a much better state now, where it's understood that we're all free to reuse each other's code. Back then, there was a lot of finger pointing and accusations of "code stealing". Full disclosure: I was guilty of the same thing back then too.

 

Only one thing: I'm not sure how much of this was a license thing (Doom source license vs. GPL) as opposed to a cultural thing. I'm inclined to think the latter. I feel like there was a lot of "competition" between source ports when the Doom source first came out, and that's mostly evaporated nowadays; source port devs have had time to carve out particular niches. What we have now is more likely to be cooperative as a result.

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I never really liked the idea of source ports competing with each other. Everyone will simply say their favorite one, or the one they are a primary developer on, is the best. I am biased - I am well aware of this and cannot escape this, myself. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate others' work, or the things that GZDoom has incorporated over the years from others.

 

I would agree it was more a cultural thing than anything. As much as it is natural to want to be better than others, none of it was helped by source port debates which wholly discarded the fact that each one has its own goals, ideas, strengths, and weaknesses, which itself means that it's not inherently better than another for any of those reasons.

 

There's also a lot of people who take pride in being the "first" to do something. Sometimes to a destructive level.

Edited by Rachael

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