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I created a game engine that handles:

  • Rendering levels with 2d textured curved surfaces
  • Collisions with curved surfaces
  • Animationn paths on and navigation in 2d-sapce

I have also made a framework for:

  • Procedural organic level generation with round surfaces
  • Level editing
  • Light weight sprite design

The engine and framework are written in AS3 and I am in the process of translating the code into HaXe to better support other platforms.

I am also interested in adding

  • Animated curved platforms
  • More advanced level editing features

Currently, I have a part time job and any time I spend on this engine is either taken out of my limited free time (I'm a student working to support myself through school) or out my time working at my job.

I really believe this engine can make life much easier for people designing Tower Defence games, Shooters and and Platformers while also possibly improving their results. It could also support RTS, RPGs and racing games very well.

It continains original algorithms that could be used for procedural generation of organic round and smooth levels. The algorithms I used are new and are not available in any other level editor I've seen.

In order to constantly improve the Engine and have it tested thoroughly I think the best route is releasing it to the public.

What are the best ways to benefit myself and others with my new framework?

I want to have some lisence, allowing me to share the framework and still benefit from it.

Any advice would be appreciated. This issue has been on my mind a lot this year. I am hoping to find a solution that will bring me some relief.

I am thinking of designing three sample games, releasing them and starting a kickstarter, any advice and thoughts on the matter would be valuable.

My goal is like Markus von Broady suggested, to get people involved in developing the engine and let people use it for games for either a symbolic fee or for free and charge for support. That or use some form of croud sourcing.

Do I need to hire a lawyer to get some sort of legal document to protect my work?

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There is no obfuscator for AS? –  nathan Oct 2 '12 at 9:09
    
Found this: kindi.com/actionscript-obfuscator.php there are surely plenty of those. –  nathan Oct 2 '12 at 9:10
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The short answer to 'Do I need to hire a lawyer' is almost certainly yes. If your intention is to license this engine, sell this engine, and protect this engine, hire someone whose specific job is understanding how to protect intellectual property. –  Steven Stadnicki Oct 5 '12 at 18:09
    
This question is extremely broad. Additionally, 75% of it reads like an advertisement. –  Justin Skiles Oct 5 '12 at 21:42
    
I think I will port my engine to C++ and see if I can get it working with UDK to expose it to a larger audience. I will probably create some games, make it free to increase publicity and use crowd funding to support it and a game built on it. If the crowd funding fails I will charge a modest fee for commercial use that will add developer support on top of an existing free community forum. I will probably open a chat room to hear suggestions when I am ready to launch. –  Zehelvion Oct 9 '12 at 10:15
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3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted
+50

Licensing

You can try to monetize your game engine & framework from licensing. This most probably means that you will make your software proprietary and closed source to fight piracy (obfuscated AS3 code in your case, maybe you have some external tools that can be protected a bit more), but not necessarily.

There are mostly two types of license that can help in making money from the software itself: commercial and/or freeware/shareware.

Commercial software

Commercial software, or less commonly, payware, is computer software that is produced for sale or that serves commercial purposes.

This is the good ol' paying license, still a very strong proposition and the basis of most of the mainstream video games middleware. You're probably not in a position of offering only that, as you need a very strong and proven product to convince clients to pay directly for it.

Examples: Unreal Engine, Autodesk Scaleform, Havok Physics.

Freeware, Shareware

Freeware is software that is available for use at no cost or for an optional fee, but usually with one or more restricted usage rights.

Shareware is software that is provided to users without payment on a trial basis and is often limited by any combination of functionality, availability (it may be functional for a limited time period only), or convenience.

Here you're basically giving away licenses for free. This can be to gain some attention for a "pro version" with extended features that is released under a commercial license (i.e. costs money). It can also be that the license is granted against a royalty share on commercialized games.

Examples: Unity, UDK, GameMaker.

Other options

Now if you want to try out some alternatives to the software-as-a-product strategy, you have plenty of options. Those might fit more with open source software, but once again, not necessarily.

Freemium, Donationware, Pay what you want

Those are all variants of the traditional fixed price model. Licenses will be free or almost free, and you'll be try to get a variable amount of money from generous donators, or from micro-transactions (e.g. plugins app store?)

This isn't something commonly used in games middleware, but maybe that's a model to try.

Example: Humble Indie Bundle.

Crowd funding

Crowd funding describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their resources, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowd funding is used in support of a wide variety of activities, including (...) free software development.

Kickstarter and similar are all the hype at the moment, as you stated yourself you could try taking advantage of that, but be aware that this isn't an easy path to follow.

Examples: OUYA, Occulus Rift (not middleware, but game-related).

Charge for support

This might be a good option. Release your engine & framework as freeware or even free software, and charge for advice or troubleshooting.

Example: Torus Knot Software for the Ogre project.


Conclusion

Pick the option (or a mix of options) you feel will work for you, this really is a bet and the final choice is entirely up to you. The "right" choice depends on your expectations in terms of audience, revenue, personal tastes...

Do I need to hire a lawyer to get some sort of legal document to protect my work?

If you're really serious about all this, yes, this is probably a good idea to seek for proper legal advice. IANAL, as they say.

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I have no experience, but I imagine there's only one good solution in your case:

  1. Obfuscate, in my experience Kindi's Protect SWF works best (actually obfuscates, I'm able to obfuscate most complex of my projects without errors)
  2. Don't aim in crowds. Even if you obfuscate or compile your framework, the more unreliable clients you have, the bigger probability it will get pirated. If it get pirated, it gets popular, if it gets popular, serious clients won't be interested - they want their game to be rare, with fresh mechanism.
  3. Aim in "whales". If you can advertise your product as professional, deluxe, then maybe you can get some serious clients. This should lower the risk of pirating your framework, both because the clients are serious and have face to lose, and because they're not many. Also the prices get really high, there are companies like Warner Bros advertising their new movies with games, or banks that like to spend a lot of money for a low quality ad (at least from my friends experience in working with banks). You can even get a regular income for technical support (especially if you don't giveaway your sources).
  4. Change your code slightly for every client, and put high fees for product leaking in your contracts. I have no idea if companies will agree on such terms, though.
  5. When "whales" are no longer interested in your framework, make it free, paid only for commercial use. Developers may start to create amateur games, but when (if) they start to profit, you can push them and they will rather pay you, than create a new game from scratch. Unless you would want a monthly profit share from them, that could be quite demotivating.

Edit: In description of your bounty you said you want to earn money in similar way that FlashDevelop does. Flashdevelop is an opensource project under MIT license. Simply giveaway everything you have, not obfuscated; if people like it, they will donate, both to thank you and support the framework they use. I would be glad to both use and contribute to your project.

But maybe you want something more similar to Greensock license instead.

Edit2: Also, to fight piracy, I suggest registering some keywords on Google Alerts, as well as searching manually on some warez sites yourself (because as far as I know, currently Google's bots don't visit thepiratebay.org)

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That Greenshock license looks good. How do I setup a license like that? Do I need to hire a lawyer? –  Zehelvion Oct 5 '12 at 10:09
    
In my experience I'm teaching lawyers, not they me... A good starting point would be to read Greensock's license agreement and either copy it (it would probably be nice to ask it's author for a permission), or base yours on it, go to a lawyer and only ask him to check if it's legally valid. –  Markus von Broady Oct 5 '12 at 10:17
    
Sounds great, what about patents? –  Zehelvion Oct 5 '12 at 12:41
    
@ArthurWulfWhite I don't know much about patents, fortunately in Poland we're not obliged to patent things. –  Markus von Broady Oct 5 '12 at 13:48
    
@MarkusvonBroady I don't think that engine is something that "whales" will buy. Nowdays most "whales" already have games and engines in Flash. Student with limited time can't make engine for "whales". Most likely that engine is a bit lit limited and requires improvements. –  Max Oct 5 '12 at 15:15
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Engine without support is nothing. You should sell license for your engine with support. You should expect that you will help people to make game with your engine.

There are many open source, free, etc engines and code samples. It is hard to select one.

You should build community around your engine. It is not simple even if engine is free.

If people will make great games with your engine and they will make money then they would be ready to share profits.

Or you should show how easy and fast they can build something.

There is no sense to obfuscate. It is very easy to decompile flash. Even top facebook games are decompilable.

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I wouldn't say it's easy. I had problems in past decompiling some projects successfully (to recompile them; for hacking purposes). That is, a Flash developer shouldn't have problems seeing the source code, but recompiling it quickly for hacking, or reading the source with obfuscated variable names is for sure harder with obfuscation, so it is some protection! BTW, you always minus other answers than yours? ;) –  Markus von Broady Oct 5 '12 at 15:17
    
+1 for "Engine without support is nothing." –  Markus von Broady Oct 5 '12 at 15:44
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