LDG and Open Source

Thursday, October 29, 2009

LDG is performing a rather intricate dance where open source is concerned. On one hand, we like it a lot. We like giving things away for free, we like the freedoms it gives, and we really like the way it improves over time. On the other hand, we have some compelling reasons to avoid it in the short run, mostly revolving around money.

As I said last time, money is just as important for a non-profit as for a normal business. Money is power. With it, we can do a lot. Without it, we've got problems.

The core issue is one of risk. We've already put a lot of work into the games we're working on, and they're not finished yet. If we don't get the funding we need from them, it will be that much harder to start over with a new concept. Yes, it's possible to make money, even commercially, in open source. But once we go down that road, there's no turning back. If we try it and it doesn't work for us, we're stuck with it. If our games are still closed-source, we have a lot more flexibility to try other strategies.

In the long run, however, we strongly favor open source. Once we've gotten what money we can out of our work, we'll be happy to release it for everyone to enjoy, examine, and adapt as they see fit. Even while they are closed-source, our games are our gift to the community, and what better way to express that than to give the community control of them.

That "short run"/"long run" distinction is our way of compromising between the ideals of open source and the economics of LDG. We wrote it into our bylaws, because that was the strongest way we could see to state our commitment to open source.

If, at some point, we can afford to risk going open source immediately, we'll be happy to do it. We'll probably still develop in secret, though. It's more interesting if we can surprise you.

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