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Cameron muffin99 @ninjamuffin99

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BC Canada

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Posted by ninjamuffin99 - March 19th, 2019

Pretty much every single game I've ever programmed is open source. Every single released game, and almost every prototype. They are hosted online on Github.com, a website where you can check out the full code, as well as the full development history. Everything from the first line of code ever written, to the final touches I added right before I release (or abandon) a project. There are a bunch of reasons why I do this. And why I appreciate other open source projects.

When I really got started making games was when I learned about HaxeFlixel in mid-2016. It's a fully free and open source framework, which is based off of Adam Atomic's 'Flixel' framework, which was used for many popular and famous flash games (Canabalt, Dino Run, probably way more lol). My first game I posted to NG pretty much ripped code straight from one of the HaxeFlixel demos (the code was open source, I didn't have to reverse engineer or anything), which showcased tweens. I liked the movement of one of the tweens so I nabbed that shit and added some other animation code. So instead of starting completely from scratch, I was able to work off an already existing demo, which was made in a pre-existing framework, which was an extension of an ALREADY existing framework. It all nicely builds on top of each other to make game development more accessible. There's an argument to be had about whether or not I'm actually learning, but I believe this is a better first step for programmers than starting completely from scratch. Let's also use game modding as an example. There's a lot of people in the game's industry, as well as game dev hobbyests, who started out making mods for games. Maybe it was a Half-Life 2 mod, where you made your own fan interpretation of what HL3 could be. In that process you likely learned a lot about level design, scripting, and story telling that you wouldn't otherwise learn if you had to start completely from scratch. Everything relies on what's already established and known. I believe you can sorta work your way backwards in a sense. If you had to start from scratch, you'd have to maybe learn C++ to build your own game engine, then you'd have to figure out good engine design, and then likely your homemade engine is very barebones, and the game you create might not even be as fun or interesting as some shitty game mod you made. If you start out at the top level, learning about level design, scripting, etc., you can work your way backwards, or should I say, downwards, in the stack or whatever. Maybe after learning about level design, you can learn about how the level editor is made, and then you can learn some C++ to see how that works, and then you have some knowledge of C++ so you can then learn some stuff about the engine in general and programming patterns associated with it. That is, if the engine is open source. If you build that familiarity with the engine at a high level, you can work your way downwards and associate functions and whatnot with how you know it works in a real scenario. I feel like open source is empowering in that sense.

To go beyond just video games, in the early days of the internet, stuff like HTML was brand new. No one was writing tutorials, guides, books, or anything about how to use it. However, some kid could do "View Source" or "Inspect Element" and see the full source code to the site and learn from it. Although I imagine back then it was much more primitive, since stuff like Javascript wasn't as advanced or adopted in websites as it is today. Most of it was just static sites. But also it may as well have been a foreign language anyways, if you've never seen or written a line of code in your life. But the cool thing was that you could also change shit live. If you deleted a line, you could see where the paragraph was located on the page, and see how it all related to each other. Which HTML tag does what, and how they mesh. It gets a liiittle messy nowadays, but the sentiment is still there, where you can just press F12 or something and you see all this markup gibberish.

I sorta open source my stuff to pay back the universe or whatever. If these people kept their code secret, if Adam's Flixel wasn't open source, if HaxeFlixel wasn't open source, and if the HaxeFlixel demos weren't open source, then maybe I wouldn't even be making games. Or at least I'd be much more behind in terms of what I know. I was able to look right into the code and see exactly how shit works, what other programmers did, and learn from it all. Maybe I saw a demo that showed some cool visual effect. Even if the code went over my head, I could maybe get one little code trick from it. And then I could iterate and modify it myself and shit evolves. I never went to a university for programming, no one taught me really. I went through that 'flixel-tutorial' by Schulles on this site, and then looked at other peoples code from there. I get to see the inside look at shit. Before I officially know any programming patterns, I already have a slight understanding of a few of them, just through sorta absorption and seeing the diverse ways in which different people code different projects.

So to go off that last point, I also like to think that maybe one day my code can be of some sort of educational use. Now I don't mean that people will be studying it in school. More maybe some kid who wants to get into programming sees one of my games, then they could see exactly how I went about to do certain things. They don't need to go to some big university or school and pay some dumb amount just to learn. They just need to access the internet, and they could learn how games are made. If they say, want to make an infinite runner, maybe they can take a peak at how Monster Mashing does things. If they want to make a topdown shooter, they can see the wacky trigonometry stuff I did in Pico Rising. If they want to see how ANYTHING in my games is done code wise, they could. Everything from the full game, to some throwaway effect. One other thing is that there are far more games with closed source code, than open source code. Especially 'commercial' games. So most of the open source stuff is highly polished, well commented code. I feel like this might give somewhat of an unrealistic expectation of programming, since often you don't find the most elegant solution to a problem. Often you have a mess of variables or some dumbass poorly written functions, but it all works. And that sort of code has a personality of sorts. It's rough around the edges, but it gets the job done. However most of the time, you just see this perfectly sterilized code. All commented, no workarounds, just straightforward. And that's helpful too, especially to beginners who may have never seen a line of code in their life. I just think there's value in seeing the process, and that pretty much everyone just bullshits their code. Everyone from some schmoe who's working on their first game ever, to some dev who's been coding for years and years. Noel Berry, 1/2 of the programmers who worked on Celeste, open sourced the player class of Celeste. It was filled with all these little quirks and odditys, but it all worked. You could see the exact values of how gravity affects Celeste, how it affects her jump, or double jump. You could see the workarounds, the shortcuts, and know that all of that, it went into one of the most successful indie games of 2018. I think stuff like this wakes people up in a sense.

I also like to feel like I'm contributing to the normalization of releasing source code. The open source 'movement' or whatever is huge, but in terms of game source code, it's not to normal. There are 2 examples that come to mind, and have inspired me to consistently share my source code, even when I do a 'commercial game'. The first is Quadrilateral Cowboy, by Blendo Games. QC released on Steam in 2016, for like 20$ or something like that. However the full game's source code is still available online for free under the GPL license. The other example is more close to the Newgrounds community, because it's NG's own Nicky Case (@nutcasenightmare). EVERY recent project by Nicky has their source code released under the CC0 (zero rights reserved aka public domain) license. You don't need to attribute, you don't need permission, you can use it for ANYTHING with no restrictions. These project's have gone on to get IGF Award nominations (Coming Out Sim by Nicky got a Narrative nomination in 2014, Quadrilateral Cowboy won the Seamus McNally GRAND PRIZE in 2017). One of Nicky's games is one of the highest rated submissions on the site, and their projects also got Nicky into Forbes' famed "30 Under 30" list. So shoutout to Nicky, and shoutout to Brendon Chung of Blendo Games. Technically if you release your source code, you're basically giving your game out for free. Some people who open source their game feel safe in doing so because they made an online game, where you can't connect to the servers if you build your own version. However I look at it similarly the way I look at piracy. If people play your game for free, and you made a good ass game, it's likely they want to support you and give you money. The people who won't give you money are either people who didn't like your game and wouldn't have given you money anyways, OR they just couldn't. Maybe it's some poor kid who runs your game at 18FPS on his shitty laptop, or maybe it's someone who has Steam blocked in their country or someshit. IDK all the wild and wacky scenarios in which people pirate, but people will pirate your game whether or not you have DRM, if it's open source, or if it's online only. It's not people who would've bought your game but people who can't or won't buy it. Buy maybe I'm just a dumbass and a bad business person.

On the grander scale, I appreciate large open source projects because they're majorly collaborative. Site's like Wikipedia are FULLY powered by the community. They don't have advertisers nor investors to pay bills. They have a huge community of people chipping in very small amounts to contribute and donate. ALL of the content on Wikipedia is curated and written by THE PEOPLE. Anyone from some homeless man who's visiting the local library, to a big famous celebrity could edit a page. Wikipedia has a few hundred employee's I believe and I think it's pretty impressive that they're essentially a crowd funded site. I find it very inspiring to see such a large community of people work towards something like that on a large scale. Companies like Amazon, Google, or Intel, sure they can all make ridiculous donations to Wikipedia, but they get absolutely nothing in return that you already don't get. They don't get exclusive edit access, they don't get ad space (asides from a placement on their wall of rich people lol), and they don't get secret wiki's or anything. They get the same thing that the person donating 5$ gets, or the person donating 500$ gets, or the person donating absolutely nothing ever gets. They get what is essentially the sum of all human knowledge, for free.

You can check out Wikimedia's Github page here: https://github.com/wikimedia

Aside from Wikipedia, there are cool examples of people working together on open source projects for pretty much nothing in return.

A cool case I like to think back on is OpenToonz. Back when it was released, I feel like no one knew how to even use it. It wasn't intuitive whatsoever. You had to change all these settings, and there was all this dumbshit you had to do just to get a simple test animation going. And also maybe it wasn't that stable. However over the few years since it's initial release as open source software, it has improved at a great pace. And a good chunk of that is because of the community around it. I saw this first hand back when I kept a closer eye on the project back in 2016. If someone had a bug report, they could post it to the Github issue tracker, and if someone felt up to it, ANY random developer could fix it. Meanwhile, there are Flash/Animate bugs that have probably persisted for years before they get addressed and fixed (if they get fixed at all!). On OpenToonz, people talk about what's being fixed, why something can't get fixed, and how something could potentially be fixed. Any schmoe could ask a question directly to developers. Other than tweeting at Adobe or directly contacting support, you don't get any communication with them. On OpenToonz, maybe you have a cool idea for a feature. You could post it to the issue tracker, and again, a random developer could implment that feature during a lunch break if they wanted. Or they could tell you exactly why that wouldn't work, and you could learn something.

You can peep OpenToonz Github here: https://github.com/opentoonz/opentoonz

I feel like people don't give enough credit to open source shit. Maybe they think it's inferior to proprietary software. Like free shit =/= quality shit. However open source software is used everywhere, but you almost don't even know it. That's because it's the bigger companies like Twitter, Google, Facebook, all use open source software themselves in their products. While their main sites aren't open source or anything, it's not like they're completely ignoring the value of open sourcing certain aspects of their code. Many big companies have somewhat of an open source presence. One that comes to mind immediately is Microsoft. First of all, in 2018 they bought Github for 7.5 BILLION dollars, the biggest website for hosting and exploring software source code. MS also have a very popular code editor, Visual Studio Code, which is free and open source. And VS Code isn't just some random code editor, this is an editor that a large majority of programmers use on a daily basis. I believe they also open sourced MS-DOS sometime recently. I do believe Microsoft is working towards being a company that's cool and hip, but in an actual cool and hip way. A lot of the gripes people have had with Microsoft was when their old CEO was in. I think in 2014 or something they got a new guy, and that felt like a sorta turning point. I mean one of the first big acquisitions after the new CEO rolled in was when they bought Minecraft/Mojang for 2.5$ billion. And you can say what you want about what they've done with MC, but I feel like they're trying to move in the right direction for stuff like the Minecraft education editions, where they know the unique engagement that players have with Minecraft, and utilizing it in a way that benefits their knowledge and education outside of the game. In a similar sense, I feel like they understand the power that open source has as well. In 2016 they became a Linux Foundation Platinum Member, while one of their old CEO straight up said, "Linux is a cancer". I look forward to the future of Microsoft's (and other giant tech companies') open source endeavors.

In some cases, open source and free version of a software is somewhat of the standard, and I feel like it couldn't have gotten in that position without being free and open source. Take OBS (Open Broadcasting Software) for example. OBS is basically used to record and/or livestream from your PC. You could record and stream in any quality, to any service, for as long as you want, without any watermarks. This sounds like simple shit, but that's because gone are the times of UNREGISTERED HYPERCAM, dealing with Bandicam, or paying for X-Split. Before OBS, there wasn't really a good free option. Part of it could also be attributed to the way technology just changes through the years, obviously in 2009 you couldn't be recording 1080p 60FPS footage off a Pentium 4 processor with integrated graphics, but like I said there were very little good free options then. It took the collaborative work from dozens and dozens of programmers and contributors to get OBS to where it's at today, which is the software that pretty much every single Twitch streamer uses on a daily basis.

Peep OBS source code here: https://github.com/obsproject/obs-studio

Technically, Newgrounds itself has an open source project, Swivel. @Mike open sourced it in late 2017 (maybe early 2018), but the software itself was available fully for free since 2013 or so. Although the development isn't very active (I'm pretty sure Mike works at The Behemoth full time) it's still nice to know that if you're a proficient enough developer, you can contribute to something that many animators use and rely on. It's written in Haxe, which is a nice language that I also use, so if you happen to know it you should dig around the Swivel source. That also sorta became a standard of sorts for SWF to MP4 conversion for Flash animators.

One other piece of open source software I really like is Blender. I haven't used any of the alternatives (Maya or 3DS Max or whatever), but I'm preeeetty sure it stands comfortably alongside them. And as far as I know, it's the only free software to do so. Blender is stupidly powerful with what it can do. In 2018, the Netflix Original movie "Next Gen" came out, and that movie was pretty much entirely made within Blender. I believe they used other software like Photoshop for texture painting, Houdini for particle effects, but all the modelling, rigging, animation, shaders, were done in Blender. I'm likely leaving out a bunch of details, so here's a link to a talk about how Blender was used for that movie. Also check out Next Gen, it's really good.

This post sorta devolved into me talking about different open source projects, and there are way more that I love and appreciate. Here's a quick list

Shit maybe this was a bad newspost but if you're reading this u cute

If I got stuff wrong or worded stuff badly please tell me so I can fix it and not look like a dumbass. There's a whole lot more I can talk about in terms of open source so drop a comment and I'll reply because I like the attention.


PEEP MY GITHUB: https://github.com/ninjamuffin99


Comments (7)

Dammit cam so long...
I completely agree, game design is learned from these open source projects and modding and leads to NEEDING to learn the backend that support these endeavors. A lot of people could get stuck on just getting a game to run and give up entirely. Haven't read the full post yet but I wanted to add my two cents

I got so much more to say about open source I cut it off here because i got lazy lmao
Its about 1/2 the total character limit and 3000+ words

@BrandyBuizel @ninjamuffin99 who doesn't? Wen podcast

When i stop being lazy and get a job so i can pay for internet at my house

I loved every bit of this post, I never knew a lot about open source or coding for that matter but I feel like you touched on some great topics and the importance of open source people miss. I have tried to use opentoonz at the time of launch but only due to hype and I wanted to see what it was like for peeps at studio ghibli to animate inside of it but gave up due to the fact like you said that you have to customize a lot of the settings within it.

I tried to absorb everything in this post but I’ll have to read it again! Awesome post cam!

Ay thanks for readin, definitely give opentoonz another shot, its very good and constantly improving

I had no idea Celeste open sourced their player class, thanks for sharing that! As for:

" It gets a liiittle messy nowadays, but the sentiment is still there, where you can just press F12 or something and you see all this markup gibberish."

I think you might enjoy the work going on at Glitch:


It was essentially spurred by this loss of being able to see the source and learn from it, like how the web was supposed to always be. Any project on Glitch can be "remixed" (essentially creating a fork) to make the web a lot more accessible again.

Ayy i think i stumbled across this a while back. Ill give it another shot

Very good! Clap clap clap! More ninja more!

*laff track laff track*

I approve of this AWSOMNESS

I approve of this AWSOMNESS