Recipe For An Open Source Arcade Script

3 06 2008

Paradigm Shift Image

This post is a rewrite of a forum response that I made on the Talk Arcades gamers forums. You can read the original thread here. In the thread, someone by the pseudonym of ‘Twistedduck’ announced the development of a new arcade script that aims to “be better than all the others”. He/she asked forum members to outline what their ideal script would consist of. The thread received a fairly enthusiastic response and people generally accepted the idea that this is yet another business venture aiming to corner the arcade market.

One of my own suggestions was to make the script open source. In response to this, Twistedduck said: “I think going OSS is not something we would really consider – after all this is a business venture, but thanks for the idea anyway.” The reaction is fairly straight forward and is based on the common belief that open source software (OSS) equates to free software and is therefore not profitable. I disagree. Some of the most successful business ventures have begun with open source applications at their core. To palm it off as an impossible business venture signals on the one hand a lack of understanding of OSS and its capabilities, and on the other hand an implicit need to conform with the current market structure.

In the following few paragraphs I’ve layed out a brief action plan for the development of an open source arcade script. Given that Twistedduck and his/her associate are highly unlikely to take this plan into consideration – they are far too bamboozled by the 4 figure sum that a small proprietary arcade script will bring them – I offer the model to any brave soul who is looking to make a serious impact on the arcade and multimedia script market.

In its current form the market is spread among a handful of individuals who all place financial return before quality of product. This has lead to poorly coded scripts, laxed script support and a culture of mediocrity among arcade webmasters. So the conditions for a paradigm shift in this niche market are almost perfect.

In considering the possibility of an open source script we must first let the idea of the simple economic exchange of goods drop for a moment and consider another way of creating wealth.

Let’s assume that you and your associate are expert developers and that you’re able to build a semantically coded platform for the distribution of multimedia content that responds to current webmaster needs, that addresses the ills of existing scripts and that meets your own aspirations.

Let’s also assume that your platform is both ‘themeable’ and modular; in other words it can be extended and built on using 3rd party add-ons. Let’s keep rolling with these assumptions and say that you release this software under a GPL2 or near-equivalent license, thus allowing others to modify the code base, to contribute to it, enhance it, but not to pass it off or resell it as their own.

Now providing that your software is a) properly coded b) user friendly and c) aesthetically coherent, then what you have just done is to create the de facto framework that will power new game arcades and other multimedia sites for years to come.

The consequences of this are where things start to get interesting. First of all by making this platform open source you will have contributed to a lineage of work that champions ethical practices in coding and accessibility – enabling others to learn from your work and to partake in it with you. In short you will have earned yourselves a solid reputation and this will inevitably open doors to other prospects of work and collaboration and other primary sources of benefit.

Secondly, your platform will have broken the entire arcade script market and you will have absorbed the competition. Within a matter of months, rival script owners/developers will ditch their individual Machiavellian schemes and begin searching for ways of generating income from your platform. Many will start developing add ons for your platform, some free, some paid, but all finding a way back to the source i.e. you.

Thirdly, users of your platform will become its strongest medium of publicity. Your software will spread virally and accrue thousands, possibly tens of thousands of genuine links back to your site. Users will do this of their own accord. For once they will not be coerced into doing so by the petty stipulations of some desperately restrictive commercial license, but simply because they want to give genuine recognition to your achievement. They’ll be proud to use your software.

By this time you and your friend will have established ‘Company X’ – the company that is credited for the entire operation and as a result you will receive a high influx of job demands; you will now have the luxury of choice. You will also begin to employ other members of staff and operate as a professional and scalable set up.

Finally, after a good year to two years of sustained growth, your platform will have considerably evolved and will offer a wide range of options for webmasters. On the whole, not only will you have gained indirect financial benefit and professional renown from the project, but you will have helped lift the flash arcade industry out of its current state of drudgery, instilling higher standards, wider choice ranges and a better gaming experience for all.

The economic exchange of goods is not the only means of creating wealth.

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11 responses

3 06 2008
New Arcade Script - input wanted - Page 2 - Talk Arcades

[…] wanted to add that I have followed this up with a blog post on my FingerMonkey blog. __________________ FingerMonkey | Little Loki | Craverz.com | Arcade […]

3 06 2008
Sunil Patel

(I’m twistedduck, by the way)
You have mentioned both here and on Talk Arcades that, “Some of the most successful business ventures have begun with open source applications at their core.” yet in both cases you fail to name one such example. I would be interested to hear some as the only ones I can think of are non-profitable.

Your argugment is also extremely biased. You said that a commercial license is “desperately restrictive” – what leads you to this conclusion? Of all the people I know who have purchased an arcade script, not one has complained about the limitations of the license – but many have done so about the actual script itself, and that is what we aim to focus on.

I’m glad that you’ve given us lots to think about, and indeed you may well convince us that we are infact wrong (I just want you to know they we have not set our plans in stone).

-Sunil (Twistedduck)

3 06 2008
fingermonkey

Sunil,

Glad to finally put a name to the whole thing.

It’s hard not to reduce this debate to a series of binary choices. So let me make it clear once more. This is about stepping away from the status quo, questioning the state of the market and attempting something different for the benefit of all.

You ask for examples. Well there’s one right here powering this blog. Think of the numerous works by the Mozilla Foundation, think of Flock, Camino, Umbraco, Koha, Greenstone, Compiere, Sugar CRM, Open X etc etc

As for commerical licenses, of course they’re restrictive, their main objective is to protect their products from replication. It’s like building a wall around your house, it functions to delineate territory and to protect the house from potential intruders. Whether intruders existed before the building of walls is another matter. But it also leads to rivalry or in market terms competition. Competition in the arcade market would be a healthy growth factor were it not for the fact that the current market is driven by profit over product at the detriment of the end user.

What I mean by ‘desperately restrictive’ relates to the specific scenario whereby you purchase a script or a template or a module and the license obliges you to maintain a link back to the author’s site or pay a premium fee to remove it.

Ask yourself why the arcade script business is in the state that it’s in. One answer that I’ve already suggested is that developers are looking to reap maximum financial gain from a minimum amount of effort. This culture is also mirrored by arcade webmasters.

Now I’m not suggesting that we come up with a solution to human greed. Unfortunately that is one of the impermeable negative traits of our species, amplified in modern times by the rise of global capitalsim. However, what I am suggesting is that whoever has the courage to take a stand against this arcade culture, to stop promoting and partaking in it by offering a viable alternative, could bring about some real change.

The question is, where do your intentions lie? Are you out for a fast buck or do you actually care about what you’re getting into? I mean really care. You may come up with a successful script, and indeed I hope you do, but without conviction and vision your project will ultimately be contributing to the status quo.

3 06 2008
zeggy

“Secondly, your platform will have broken the entire arcade script market and you will have absorbed the competition.”

I don’t see how that happens. An example would be forum software. vB and IPB, both paid products, are still the most popular board softwares around. Webmasters seem to prefer those products rather than free ones such as SMF or MyBB.

Another example would be arcade scripts themselves. There are plenty of free arcade scripts around (eg. AVArcade), yet they haven’t ‘absorbed the competition’. I didn’t notice any license in AVArcade, but their list of restrictions sounds pretty similar to a GPL license. I didn’t read anything about modifying the script, so I’m assuming you’re free to do so.

Maybe I’m taking your statement too literally, because I’m sure you’ll gain a nice piece of the market share, but what you said does sound a bit incredible.

“they want to give genuine recognition to your achievement”

Most OS products still require the user to maintain a reference to the creator, usually a link to a site.

“gained indirect financial benefit”
From where?

I doubt that the quality and success of a product depends on whether it is open source or not.

I think a point you forgot to mention is that ‘open source’ does not necessarily mean free (unless you go by the opensource.org definition). A GPL product does not always have to be gratis [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratis_versus_Libre]. PHP scripts are harder to classify since when you buy a script, you also get the source (unless it’s encoded), so by definition, they are all literally ‘open source’.

3 06 2008
fingermonkey

Hi Zeggy thanks for dropping by.

I don’t see how that happens. An example would be forum software. vB and IPB, both paid products, are still the most popular board softwares around. Webmasters seem to prefer those products rather than free ones such as SMF or MyBB.

A lot of good forum software out there. Tight market. Hard to tackle the competition. A lot of substandard arcade scripts. No real competition. Easier for a high quality script to gain control.

Another example would be arcade scripts themselves. There are plenty of free arcade scripts around (eg. AVArcade), yet they haven’t ‘absorbed the competition’. I didn’t notice any license in AVArcade, but their list of restrictions sounds pretty similar to a GPL license. I didn’t read anything about modifying the script, so I’m assuming you’re free to do so.

The free arcade scripts are pathetic.

Maybe I’m taking your statement too literally

Yes, you are.

“they want to give genuine recognition to your achievement”

Most OS products still require the user to maintain a reference to the creator, usually a link to a site.

I must have been lucky then.

“gained indirect financial benefit”
From where?

Read it again then think about it.

I doubt that the quality and success of a product depends on whether it is open source or not.

That’s your extrapolation. I doubt it too. We doubt it together.

I think a point you forgot to mention is that ‘open source’ does not necessarily mean free (unless you go by the opensource.org definition). A GPL product does not always have to be gratis [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratis_versus_Libre]. PHP scripts are harder to classify since when you buy a script, you also get the source (unless it’s encoded), so by definition, they are all literally ‘open source’.

Actually I did mention it, but thanks for reiterating, it’s all too often overlooked.

Cheers.

3 06 2008
ThatJoshGuy

Other successful Open Source projects:

Joomla
Moodle
Drupal
Wordpress
Linux
PHP
Apache
FireFox
etc… I could go on for hours. You would have to be insane not to think that there’s no money in Open Source. Joomla alone has mutliple commercial add-ons from large software orporations, and is one of the most popular CMS’s out there.

And to say that not a single build of Linux has turned a profit?

3 06 2008
Sunil Patel

“And to say that not a single build of Linux has turned a profit?”
I’m not denying that, what I’m saying is that (in this context) Windows makes considerably more, and is still much more widely known.

5 06 2008
ESO

AndrewE aka Fingermonkey, I do enjoy your posts at talkarcades and your blog here. I’ve read pretty much all of them, and I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an idealist.

You state that capitalism is one of our most negative traits. I happen to think that idealism tends to cause far more problems within our species.

I’m reminded of a quote from the late-great William F. Buckley:
“Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive.”

Your “grow some balls” comment at TA was inappropriate. The licensing of a script is not based on testosterone. It is based on one’s priorities and consumers base their choices on what is offered. If any given script appeals to their needs, they purchase/download it.

It is not any of the script creators that have created the trend in poorly-designed, mass-produced, arcades. It is the game domain owners that have done so. PHP is open source. Other codes are learned knowledge. The only thing prohibiting these arcade owners from the such improvements that you are looking for; is themselves. Honestly, any premade script no matter the price or availability actually offers some education to the arcade owner if they are willing to read it.

I too support open source scripts. I’m not familiar with this GPL2 license. I know with the original GPL, it was legal for anybody to basically resell the code. Things like that and those people that even rip off the paid scripts are often what prevent programmers from going the OS route.

In this day and age of inflation, it’s non unusual for me to buy a cheap($20) script to learn from and not even use it. If that script were free, the creator gains nothing whatsoever from my use of it. My newfound knowledge was most likely not on the coder’s mind while he spent countless hours working on the product.

The Arcade Market and it’s trends are attributable to arcade owners only. This market is totally saturated and “survival of the fittest” will ensue. An arcade script is a packaged product with a list of features. That is what the internet was founded on; profit. Go pay your bills and try to tell me differently.

5 06 2008
fingermonkey

Evil Furby, thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment on this blog (same goes to everyone). Let me try and respond to some of these points.

I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an idealist.

I don’t really mind what you call me, I’m just grateful that this has got you thinking.

You state that capitalism is one of our most negative traits. I happen to think that idealism tends to cause far more problems within our species.

No, I said that in my view the phenomenon of human greed has been amplified by modern global capitalism – an elite minority of private individuals and coporations control the majority of the planet’s wealth.

I’m reminded of a quote from the late-great William F. Buckley:
“Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive.”

Good quote. What’s the source? Title, publisher, page please?

Your “grow some balls” comment at TA was inappropriate. The licensing of a script is not based on testosterone. It is based on one’s priorities and consumers base their choices on what is offered. If any given script appeals to their needs, they purchase/download it.

Sorry if you found the testicular analogy offensive. It was intended mostly as an attention grabber. It seems to have worked.

Consumers used to base their choices on what was offered, but this economic imperative is increasingly challenged on the Web. We’re seeing the rise of consumer agency – people want more. It is no longer sufficient to cater to mere consumption alone. Part of content consumption now involves creating and sharing and this is a good thing. We’re finally beginning to wake up. The Open Source model facilitates this, particularly when it comes to add ons (templates and modules). The current individually owned arcade script market belongs to the old garde. It’s passé. That’s why I’m suggesting that there’s a gaping void in the market right now, ready for someone to lead the industry into the new era.

It is not any of the script creators that have created the trend in poorly-designed, mass-produced, arcades. It is the game domain owners that have done so. PHP is open source. Other codes are learned knowledge. The only thing prohibiting these arcade owners from the such improvements that you are looking for; is themselves. Honestly, any premade script no matter the price or availability actually offers some education to the arcade owner if they are willing to read it.

I certainly agree that people are responsible for their own acts. However, without the scripts there would be no arcade industry at all. The fact that arcades have proliferated is due to the combination of ‘developers’ providing cheap scripts, webmasters buying them and kids playing on them. Script developers saw a clear opportunity for revenue in the arcade ‘bubble’, but they seldom saw beyond that. What we are left with now are the crumbling remains of cheap workmanship. Webmasters embraced the myth that an aracde is somehow an easy source of revenue. This was perhaps true a few years back, at the beginning of the bubble, but today’s market conditions are of course completely different. So the consquence, right now, is that the entire system is a chain of exploitation in which at the final count, only a minority benefit from.

I too support open source scripts. I’m not familiar with this GPL2 license. I know with the original GPL, it was legal for anybody to basically resell the code. Things like that and those people that even rip off the paid scripts are often what prevent programmers from going the OS route.

There will always be a degree of abuse of any system, public or private, we accept this as another irrevocable human trait. However, I still believe that the ope source model offers less opportunity for abuse given that it is open and (often) free by nature. The monetization of the script usually centres around add ons and templates etc. In any case, I don’t think we can say that the majority of webmasters are out to rip people off.

In this day and age of inflation, it’s non unusual for me to buy a cheap($20) script to learn from and not even use it. If that script were free, the creator gains nothing whatsoever from my use of it. My newfound knowledge was most likely not on the coder’s mind while he spent countless hours working on the product.

I suspect this is due to the fact that cheap scripts offer little by way of instruction, except information on what not to do when coding a script. Were you presented with a platform that had been conceived as a canvas for others to work from, one that had been peer reviewed and semantically coded, then I suspect your experience would have been more positive.

The Arcade Market and it’s trends are attributable to arcade owners only. This market is totally saturated and “survival of the fittest” will ensue.

The arcade market and it’s trends are attributable to all those who partake in it. If we break the monopoly of small time script owners with the introduction of an open and extendable platform that offers clear development opportunities and provides webmasters with high quality viable alternatives then there’s a good chance that the market will be healthier as a whole.

An arcade script is a packaged product with a list of features. That is what the internet was founded on; profit. Go pay your bills and try to tell me differently.

The keyword in your blinkered summation is “was”.

If it’s not changing then it might as well be dead.

27 09 2008
GrAveTzT

There is more than enough room for several competitors in the arcade script world, not just one, though.

13 10 2008
Free Arcade Script

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