For years, enterprises have been learning that open-source projects can solve the mundane issues that plague all businesses. It just pushes the innovation up the stack to a level where your company can get something done, instead of requiring everyone to reinvent the wheel at every roadblock.
But the world of video games has long lagged behind in its adoption and affection for open source. Games are generally valuable assets with a general mass-market appeal, so the tendency of businesses has been to protect those software development tools as jealously as a trade secret.
But today, two companies synonymous with video games both opened new GitHub repositories to the public. Sony is now offering its Authoring Tools Framework for public consumption. This project includes the building blocks for constructing tools on the PlayStation platform.
Just as in enterprise computing, game developers must first build their tools before they can build their games, and over the years I’ve seen some incredible in-house tools. The public rarely gets to see these finely honed knives, hammers and lathes. There are a few you can take a gander at, though: Unreal Engine is a model of in-engine tools for building all manner of complex interactions and story events.
Elsewhere, the StarCraft II and Warcraft III map editing system is still the easiest to use in the entire gaming world. These tools have yielded entirely new genres of gameplay, such as the MOBA genre (best exemplified by Dota and League of Legends) and the Tower Defense genre.
That being said, Sony’s decision to open-source its tool platform for the PlayStation world should bring them a great many unforeseen benefits down the road. It is, however, remarkable and somewhat ironic to think that this Windows development kit using C# is entirely based in Microsoft’s world. But that’s just a passing oddity.
The second major game company to drop an open-source bomb on us was Valve Software. Valve is, essentially, the Xerox PARC of the video-game world: a flat-structured company with no “managers,” only teams making exactly what they want to make with no one standing outside the door to complain the margins are slipping or the ship date wasn’t met.
Therefore, it’s not nearly as surprising to see them release this particular suite of software: ToGL. ToGL provides a path to move software from Direct3D to OpenGL.
This is all part of Valve’s larger plan to dominate the home gaming market with it’s net-top-style Steam boxes. Steam, in case you missed it, is the Internet’s most popular video game store. It’s a place where Grand Theft Auto 5 can be purchased with the same two-clicks-to-install ease as even the most esoteric game.
In recent years, Steam has also started to sell development tools, particularly graphics tools and game development environments like GameMaker: Studio. It’s also added Greenlight, a Kickstarter-like space where users vote on the games they want added to Steam.
Valve is also preparing the SteamOS, a Linux-based console operating system which is currently popular with super geeks willing to build a PC and plug it into their television. By the end of 2014, however, there should be dedicated consoles or Steam Boxes available.
Now, you can easily understand why Valve would want people to be able to port their games from Windows’ 3D environment to the more open OpenGL. So, despite the fact that Valve is a super hippy-style company, structure-wise, they’re every bit as savvy business-wise as any enterprise out there.