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Jan 15, 08 - 8:50 am

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Not all open source software is Serious Business.

A project that caught my attention in the last couple of days is a port of the classic Infogrames / EA title SimCity — released for just about every platform known to man — into an open-source implementation named Micropolis.

Thank programmer Don Hopkins for his hard work.

Since the original SimCity source code has been released under the GPL, he decided to make a version that runs on Linux and port it to the OLPC.

Said port — named “Micropolis” for the same reason that community builds of Firefox are not called Firefox — has been heavily rewritten to run well as a modern application, and is still a bit of an ongoing project.

The whole thing is available either as a source package or a compiled Win32 binary, the latter of which isn’t itself an actual playable version of the game but just a demo — for the time being.

Bill Simser has been writing a series of posts documenting how to create a playable game from this code on Win32, and for anyone interested in programming — and not just game programming — it’s absorbing reading.

I also read with no small amount of fascination the long-term goals for Micropolis — things like multiplayer support and porting to many other languages are all in the works.

I think there’s a lot more than nostalgia at work here. Aside from SimCity being a hugely influential and fun game to begin with, I think game programming is one of the better ways for people to understand open source — either as a programmer or a user.

Once explained in that context, I’d think open source becomes that much easier to understand in other contexts — and concepts like the lvarious licensing schemes and whatnot can be related in a fairly straightforward way.

If there’s one thing about open source that remains something of a mystery to most people, it’s why open source development works the way it does.

You may not persuade people to become programmers, but you can at least make their job a little less mystifying.

On a side note, my longtime favorite open-source game remains NetHack. You’d never think a simple cursor and some ASCII graphics could still be so addictive in this day and age.

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