What is for you the most important feature in an opensource/free software game?

Tags: Games, Linux, Open Source

The Linux Game Tome (Wayback Machine) is holding the following poll:

What is for you the most important feature in an opensource/free software game?

  • graphics
  • gameplay
  • music
  • originality
  • multiplayer
  • licence
  • little details

Unfortunately, it is not possible to select more than one answer.

I think there is no one most important feature. All of them (or most of them) are equally important. A good game is not made only of good graphics. A very good gameplay is wasted without other elements.

One answer not listed is customizability. By this neologism I mean the ability to customize the game. Many open-source games allow users/players to easily add more levels, or change themes (graphics and/or sounds), or expand the game in some way. This feature is less likely to be found in closed-source games.

Let’s look at some examples:


Happypenguin page for Njam (Wayback Machine)

Njam is a pacman clone with multiplayer support. At most 2 players can play at same time on same computer, and at most 4 players using multiplayer feature (2 players per computer).

Njam is nicely done, the gameplay is good, the idea is more or less original (the styles “coop” and “duel” are original, although pacman-style is far from original). There are good music tracks and even good sounds. However, the graphics are really bad. Some of the graphics look like “hand-drawn-using-mouse-inside-Windows-Paint”. The other graphics aren’t pretty, and really don’t fit with the rest of game.

There are also some details that I really miss from Njam, and, if present, would enhance a lot the overall quality of the game:

  • no joystick support
  • no keyboard configuration (remap keys)
  • no mouse support in level editor
  • no central server for multiplayer (it would let players find other players much easier)
  • the game can be played in fullscreen or windowed mode, but cannot change this after game was started

In overall, a good game, but still needs work until can be called an excellent game.


Happypenguin page for SuperTux (Wayback Machine)

SuperTux is a super mario clone. Like most platform games (and most, if not all, super mario clones), it features no multiplayer.

Being a single-player-only game, it does have “save slots”, a “world map” to select levels, and even “bonus worlds” (called bonus islands) with extra levels. These extra levels were done by SuperTux players.

Gameplay is excellent. Remembers a lot Super Mario. Both graphics, sounds and music are very good, and they all contribute to game ambience.

There is a built-in level editor (not perfect, not full-featured, but is a good editor). There is also an external level editor called Flexlay (happypenguin page for Flexlay Wayback Machine) that is more featured and can make levels for SuperTux.

SuperTux has also some details that make it a better game:

  • Support for SDL-only or OpenGL graphics (improves a lot the game speed if you have 3D acceleration)
  • Has support for keyboard and joystick (with configurable keyboard keys)

In overall, one excellent game. I think one of the best open-source platform games.


Happypenguin page for LBreakout2 (Wayback Machine)

Lbreakout2 is a breakout/arkanoid clone. And I must say: one of the best clones.

Lbreakout2 features mouse or keyboard control (I don’t know if it supports joystick), excellent graphics and sounds, no music, built-in level editor…

There are extra levels and graphics themes available for download (and you can make one using some image editor, like Gimp). The level editor, although not very intuitive, is complete, and you don’t need any external tools to finish or finetune your level (like you need in SuperTux).

Talking about levels, LBreakout2 allows you to play “levelsets”, or play in “FREAKOUT” mode, where you play all levels available, in random order.

The LBreakout2 options menus allows you to modify various aspects of the game. There is also a quick built-in help (What does each item do? What are the key shortcuts?). There is also a multiplayer (network) support, but I can’t say anything about it, because I never played it this way.

At end, it looks like the developer(s) took care of every detail in LBreakout2, which results in a really high-quality game.

Battle for Wesnoth

Happypenguin page for Battle for Wesnoth (Wayback Machine)

Battle for Wesnoth is a fantasy turn-based strategy games. It features elves, trolls, dwarves, griffons, humans…

Although I prefer realtime strategy games, I must admit Battle for Wesnoth is one excellent game. The graphics, sounds and music are excellent, even though characters aren’t really “animated” (looks like there is only one frame for each “state” of the character).

In Battle for Wesnoth, each unit is unique. Each unit has a name, a slightly different graphic and specific “traits” (like strong, intelligent, quick). After each level in a campaign, all remaining units can be “recalled” in the next level.

The gameplay and the interface are very good. There are also customizable keyboard keys for each “action” in game. The game has also been translated to many languages (even though some translations are not completed yet).

To have sucess when playing it, the player must think a lot in strategy. Each unit has advantages and disadvantages depending on terrain, on opponent, on attack type, and also on time of the day (yes, Battle for Wesnoth features day and night). Units can also heal themselves when they are in “villages”, or when they are “resting” (i.e., they don’t move or attack or get attacked in a turn), or when they are next to a healer unit. Units can also advance a level and become stronger, so unlike most realtime strategy games, it is recommended to not let (many) units die, since they will be stronger if they can survive.

Old Battle for Wesnoth versions had awful graphics, compared with latest versions. This also shows that open-source games can evolve with time (if there are developers working on them).

Battle for Wesnoth features a simple level editor, but will require an external program (like a text editor or a more featured editor) to make campaigns or maps with “special features”. There are also lots of user-made levels and campaigns available for download, some of them only in forums, while others can be downloaded from inside the game menu.

Multiplayer lobby shows map preview (like a thumbnail) for each game in server. This helps the player to take a look at map before joining someone’s game. The level is automatically transferred for all players in a multiplayer game (this causes no overhead, since level files are very small). Spectation of a game is also supported, as well as transfering the “command” to another player.

Battle for Wesnoth is another good example of what open-source games can be.