CorsixTH/Free Software game engines

ryry - 22 days ago -

Hi all
I found this reworking of the Game engine for the 1990's game Theme Hospital, a game I used to play in my proprietary days. I have checked the licences which all appear to be free software compatible . However it says that it still requires the original data files for "graphics, sound and other data"

So my question is, would, if using the free software game engine instead, would this be compatible with a free system? Ethically Speaking From a software freedom as well as from a security perspective?

I suspect that the fact that there would be non free graphics/artwork/media involved, would render this a no go for anyone wanting to remain libre? But this is not an area I know anything about, so thought best to ask for advice.

Any help, much appreciated as always.


Replies (10)

RE: CorsixTH/Free Software game engines - Time4Tea - 14 days ago -

I don't see why it wouldn't be ok. Currently, Parabola has in its repo scummvm , which is a free software version of the engine for many of the LucasArts point and click adventure games. Most games that people would want to play with that would presumably require copyrighted data files to play.

I'm not going to claim to be an 'expert' on free software ethics myself; however, I think in general there is less concern over use of copyrighted data , versus use of proprietary, closed-source software. Software is executable and is able (in principle) to secretly do nefarious things on your machine, such as spy on you or steal your passwords/data. Data files themselves are more benign, because they are not being executed themselves directly and can't spy on you (at least not without heavy support from the executables running them). Most people are happy to borrow books from the library (which are essentially copyrighted data) and they are not considered a security risk, because they can't spy on you or try to control you.

I am personally a big fan of OpenMW (the free software version of the Elder Scrolls Morrowind engine) and I am heppy to use it on my machine (along with the original Bethesda data files).

I'm sure other people will chime in, if they disagree :-)

RE: CorsixTH/Free Software game engines - ryry - 14 days ago -

Hi. Thanks Time4Tea.

Thanks for the link, I had a look at OpenMW in the repos, and the situation does appear similar, if not near identical, in that you have to use the original game graphics, sound and perhaps most importantly data files, having non-free/libre game graphics, as the fsf suggest that the art/media is a separate issue and being a advocate of Free culture myself, I would be happier if the graphics/data etc of any game was copyleft, however as you say, it doesn't present an issue with the ethics of the software or compromise any of the 4 essential freedoms. I guess my concern was how the data files where considered regarding the how the software runs. As i had heard that sometimes they ran scripts. Thanks again for the info:)


RE: CorsixTH/Free Software game engines - bill-auger - 14 days ago -

if the free software program can not function without utilizing some other software, which is proprietary; then one could easily draw an ethical conflict from that - especially, if the author of that software suggests buying the required proprietary software, and directs users to the vendor - to buy that proprietary software, is to support it's publishers, which encourage them to make more proprietary software, is it not?

scummvm is not in that category - there are several scummvm games that are freely licensed and could be included in parabola - eg:
  • Beneath a Steel Sky
  • Drascula: The Vampire Strikes Back
  • Flight of the Amazon Queen
  • Lure of the Temptress

the general question reads to me like: "if i drink this cough medicine, can i remain sober?" - the situation is not like that - whether you play that game or not, it is not going to alter you in any way; and there are no ethics involved in that decision - it is unnecessarily confusing for people to conflate software freedom with ethics, as if they were synonymous - software freedom is a purely objective and verifiable concept - it is nothing more or less, than the licensing terms, printed in black and white - ethics, on the other hand, is a purely subjective concept, and varies from person to person, and culture to culture, as does the criteria by which it is decided

so there are actually two distinct questions lurking in that:

1. if i play this game, can i have software freedom?

the answer to that is clearly: "no" - the authors can not give you that freedom - they designed that game such that anyone who uses it, can not have the freedom to modify or share some of the essential components of the game

2. if i play this game, can i be an ethical person?

software does not, and can not, have ethics; no more than a hammer can - ethics apply to people - conversely, software can be libre, by the nature of it's licensing; but a person can not "be libre" - no one is in any ethical danger from using proprietary software for their own private purpose; because ethics are not applicable to a person's private life - that concept is only applicable to the way in which people choose to treat other people; such as requiring them, or suggesting to them, to forfeit their freedom, in trade for some entertainment - everyone is free to forfeit their freedom of their own volition - there is no ethical conflict in that decision; but in situations where someone entices or compels another person to do something, that is where ethics can be invoked

RE: CorsixTH/Free Software game engines - ryry - 14 days ago -

Edited, the posts for clarity. :)
ry ry

RE: CorsixTH/Free Software game engines - bill-auger - 14 days ago -

i did intend that to be taken as a dismissal of ethical concerns from the question entirely - i was mostly commenting on this part:

"non free graphics/artwork/media involved, would render this a no go for anyone wanting to remain libre?"

my point was just that a person can not "remain libre", nor lose their "libre-ness"; because that is not a property that a person can posses, or a state that a person can be in, like" soberiety - libre is a property of the software itself - software does not do anything to_people, nor change their person in any way - the concern is: what the license of that software allows people to do with_it

so, if you do not want to modify or share the artwork for that game, then you do in fact, have the permission to do everything that you want to do with that program - everyone involved is content with that situation; so one really can not draw any ethical conclusions from it - however, if you decide that you would like to do more with it, such as sharing it with someone else, then there is cause to refer to ethics

RE: CorsixTH/Free Software game engines - ryry - 14 days ago -

Thanks bill-auger,
:) I have never been good at writing what I meant to say, so it needed to be changed, alas I see your point, but I understand that no person can posses "libreness", it was perhaps a poor choice of words on my part and I was at fault there. What, I was really asking, was does the using the artwork/graphics/data files, constitute the use of non free software, given that the clarification is not clear amongst the free software movement.
My reference to "ethical software" was more along the lines to
"Nonfree game programs (like other non-free programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users" from ,
however I feel my usage was a little sloppy and hence It appeared confused. I realise it is perhaps only relevant to the data files, but only if they are considered software?
As the graphics/media/artworks in which they deny a person the right to share or alter them etc, pose another issue, but not a software freedom issue and dependent (as you also said) on your own ethical values and the way you intend to use it .

Many Thanks
Ry ry

RE: CorsixTH/Free Software game engines - freemor - 14 days ago -

My first question WRT the non-free bits would be, "What is this engine chewing on?". I doubt there is an engine that make a game out of data that is strictly limited to Graphic/Audio files.

Once you go beyond that into any sort of scripting (for plot, MPC behaviour, puzzles, etc.) then you are right back to running non-free software, Just what in a blob given to an Engine (interpreter).

Python is Libre. One can think of it as an engine to run games in. A non-free game running in the Libre python "engine" does not some how magically sanitize the game. And, yes I know every one here probably know this much. The thing that is getting lost is that there has to be interpreted parts (whether script or some sort of p-code) that the engine "runs" to make it able to do different games.

So As bill-auger alluded to unless there are libre games for such an engine, then the only reason the engine exists is to run non-free software disguised as data.

RE: CorsixTH/Free Software game engines - Time4Tea - 11 days ago -

I think the point about scripting is a good one. I checked for Morrowind and the scripts seem to be bundled into binary data files, so it is still non-free.

However, I still like the openMW project and I want to support it. Right now, there don't seem to be many high-quality free-software 3D games available that can compete with mainstream franchises like Elder Scrolls. Having a functional free-software 3D engine seems to me to be a good step towards enabling free-software games in the future (even if, right now, the only games available for it are non-free). With OpenMW, it is possible to use it as a base to develop a 100% free game, and I believe there are some people working on doing that.

freemor wrote:

So As bill-auger alluded to unless there are libre games for such an engine, then the only reason the engine exists is to run non-free software disguised as data.

Tbh, I think is overly black or white. As I mentioned above, a free software engine can, in principle, be used as a base to create a free software game, even if no free games currently exist for it. There is something of a chicken-and-egg situation - you can't have a free software game without a free engine to run it on. The OpenMW team is also working on a free builder package.

RE: CorsixTH/Free Software game engines - bill-auger - 11 days ago -

the question of "software disguised as data" is a tricky one indeed - i only know of those scummvm games because they are in debian main; and i was reluctant to mention them, because of the dubious wording of the debian licensing - it says that the authors released the games under a free license, and that the games consist of data files, which, like the FSF, debian does not held to the same standards as software - but, then it goes on to say like: "... unfortunately, all original sources were lost ... even the authors do not have the preferred form anymore ... so all we have is the blobs from the floppies" - thats kinda a dubious statement because, if it is "just data", then what would be preferable about "the lost sources" anyways

the scummvm games are very regular though - i dont think it is possible to add any novel interactions, such as puzzles - i can imagine how it could use declarative data to create click maps, character movement paths, and dialog interactions, and guard progress (locked doors) per named dependencies, and so on - i suppose someone would need to be familiar with scummvm to know for sure; but that is a very old game engine - probably no one is going to make new games for it; so its not relevant to Time4Tea's concern: the future of libre gaming - newer game engines probably all allow scripting

regarding Time4Tea's post - a new game engine is not going to encourage new games - there are already many freely licensed 3D game engines already - several of them are very mature and full-featured - to name a few well-known ones:
  • blender
  • godot
  • ogre
  • panda3d

IMHO, if the goal is to encourage new games, it would be much more fruitful to NOT make any more game engines; but to focus on keeping one of the existing ones more comparable in features to the proprietary game engines

RE: CorsixTH/Free Software game engines - Time4Tea - 11 days ago -

bill-auger I agree with a lot of the points you make about scummvm. However, I wouldn't exactly call OpenMW a 'new' engine. It's been around since 2008 - 6 years prior to godot. But yes, I see what you mean: there are lots of free engines, but apparently not very many actual free games to run on them (which I find surprising).