Why open sourcing Spiral Knights wouldn’t help

Monday, April 11, 2016 by spiralspy

Ok, there’s a bit of speculation about where Grey Havens is going to take the game. Some people have suggested, open sourcing Spiral Knights and turning it into a community project to cut down on cost. As much as I like open source, I don’t really think that that’s a road we should go down.

First of all, promoting players to community game masters is a tremendously bad idea. There will inevitably be conflict of interest between the player’s own goals and the duties as a GM. There will also be other players who will have a very keen eye on those community GMs (read: stalking them). Either out of jealousy or mistrust (by experience: both). Beyond that, it is not an honor to serve as a GM. It is a job and jobs should be paid for. Believe me, I know what the ticket queue in an MMORPG can look like. Most of it deals with /complain s, where the insulted party actively provoked the insult (hoping to trick the insulting party into committing an offense). Total waste of time and only fun if you really enjoy face palming yourself.

Next stop: community level designers. Sounds like a great idea till you realize that a community designer could only ever do clockwork tunnel (candlestick, compound,…) sections. That’s neither interesting nor appealing. You simply can’t introduce new game play elements without coding and you also can’t just introduce levels that add to the lore (I’m pretty sure we don’t want fanfic – well I’m certain, I don’t want fanfic). While every game has capable modders, the vast majority of  user contributions tends to be uninspired, boring and poorly balanced junk (but tell that to someone who thinks his first attempts at walking are masterpieces). The biggest problem with user contributions, however, is licensing. Imagine rebuilding the clockworks with player made levels. Then suddenly GH sells to SEGA again. How would you feel as a level designer about that?

Last but not least: bugfixes! Yep, would be totally nice if those of us who know how to code were able to provide patches (there’s this one bug that has been peskering me for years and which I’d love to iron out myself). That’s a pipe dream, though. Most players are borderline digital illiterates who don’t even know where the gamefiles are stored on their computers. The few people who are able compile source code are typically not very competent either and might only be able to fix trivial bugs (without causing new ones). I do maintain a couple open source projects myself and by my experience, most of the incoming patches are flat out rejects. Biggest problem however is that someone who is component might deliberately introduce backdoors into the system.