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I'm new in Game development. I have researched many open source games. But I have not met any open source game which has high quality graphics, comparable to these found in commercial games.

What is the reason for this? Are open source game engines not advanced enough to support such graphics or is there just a lack of assets, textures and models?

I know that this question is very general, I would like to hear some points of view.

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Since there are likely to be much more in-depth answers to this one, I think it is fair to say that programmers are not always artists, so you get games with a great deal of 'Programmer Art' in the open source area vs games made by paid professional artists in the commercial environment :) Oh, and most Open Source projects are Programmer driven (hence open source :)) –  James Apr 7 '11 at 23:46

7 Answers 7

The look of a game is rarely down to the code quality, but down to the art quality. Art doesn't really come under the 'open source' concept so getting a coherent set of good art assets for a game for free is very difficult.

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My gf is a professional illustrator so I asked her to help me out on my latest game as I wanted more commercial level graphics.

I now know why the credits at the end of the game go on for so long.

In a 2d game each character sprite is drawn 30 to 40 times depending on the depth and that takes a lot of time.

3D textures take even more time when you think of characters, terrain can be faked but character that include complex movement require a huge amount of graphical resources.

The fact that you are asking such a question leads me to believe you have no idea just how much is required for a commercial quality game. Yes the programming plays a big part but the graphics take as long if not longer and you haven't even considered sound or plot.

Bottom line time.

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Open source games are usually people who work during their free time, when they want to. They don't have any obligation to work.

For a commercial game, the people working on the game get monetary compensation for their work, and if their work is no good, they get fired. Basically they have more motivation. Another factor is the number of people.

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Yeah it's all about time and also, and creators of open source games are probably doing it for fun. The last 10% of polish gets into more grunt work/less fun territory. –  Nicolas K. Apr 7 '11 at 22:44
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Enthuatism(fun) is better motivation than money.. At least for me. –  Toktik Apr 8 '11 at 15:40
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@Toktik Then use you enthusiasm to put a few thousand hours into an open source game, like a paid artist would for a commercial game. –  eBusiness Nov 12 '11 at 13:57
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An average person with a decent amount of experience likely has children, debts and mortgage to pay off. Motivation by enthusiasm is usually not an option for some people. –  5ound Nov 12 '11 at 17:36

Bad code is far easier to gloss over than bad art or bad design.

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From what I have seen It is my firm opinion that what is plaguing open source games is actually gameplay and engines.

It actually stands to reason as uninteresting or "alpha" gameplay will not interest anyone,and if the engine is limited it might deter artist since they can't reach an acceptable level of quality or style.

Most games with solid interesting gameplay and a solid engine I have not seen to have bad art.

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This. Too often they forget that a game is, well, a game, and it should be fun to play. Most open source games badly need good game design, and they usually don't even realise that! –  Lohoris Apr 9 '11 at 12:38

The issue comes down to art. Many of the open source programmers either want to moon light as a gamer developer or are game developers by trade and want to help FOSS games get to the next level. Some open source commercial games are rather old, but are a good starting point for some. Let us not forget that you can create a complete modern game using the Unreal Development Kit of even Unity3D. On the other side of the equation you have the Irrlicht Engine and Ogre3d.

In every project, it always comes down to the art assets. Doesn't matter how poor or modern the code is. Textures are fairly easy to find, but an artist who is willing to spend weeks or months to create models for a game for free... thats a much more difficult challenge. Another issue is modeling packages. Not many people have $3,000 or more to buy 3ds Max, Lightwave3d, Maya, SoftImage, etc. That leaves what... MilkShape3d, Blender, trueSpace 7 (released as freeware), and ???

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Open source and commercial are not mutually exclusive! Do you know anything about free software? There's a difference between free as in software and free as in beer.

For instance, Quake 3 was a hugely popular, very technical, 3D, high performance, commercial game engine. It sold as its own game, and then Id sold it out to other developers to make lots of games. They didn't do it immediately, but the quake 3 engine is now open source under the GNU public licence v2. Lots of indie / open-source games are being built upon the open sourced Quake 3 engine.

There's tons of other modern games that are open source as well, just look around. Myst URU Online just announced that they are going to be releasing the source code to both the client, the tools, and a server. Thats a modern, totally 3D game. There are tons of others.

"What is the main problem? Engine(Programmable part) or just textures/models?"

I'm not sure you even know what it is you're asking. Are you talking about open source, or are you talking about indie games? There's a HUGE difference.

Also, have you heard of mods?

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One of the reason open source games often suck is that the people working on them vehemently believe things like Quake 3 (1999) or Uru Online (2003) are modern technology. (-1) –  user744 Apr 8 '11 at 8:19
    
"Open source and commercial are not mutually exclusive!" - They aren't, but you can assume that the question asker means non-commercial games. –  Bart van Heukelom Apr 8 '11 at 8:39
    
By open source I mean games which are developed by community and licensed under GPL or similar license. For example 0ad, Flightgear... Good example is FlightGear, which cannot be compared with Flight Simulator from Microsoft. Flightgear is developed over than 15 years... But.. Huge difference. –  Toktik Apr 8 '11 at 15:38
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Definite +1 to Joe's comment. I'm working on an Open Source game at the moment, and I had an incredibly difficut time convincing the rest of the team that making something as fundamental as multitexture a requirement was a good move! I likely won't ever get involved in such a project again as it's too much pain. –  Jimmy Shelter Nov 14 '11 at 1:42

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