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Suggestion: Release the Toolset's source code to the community

prwoprwo Member Posts: 59
I have a bold suggestion for Beamdog: Why not release the Aurora Toolset's source code to the community?

Make it public so that we can implement some of the many good suggestions that are posted all over this place ourseves.
I'm just talking about the Toolsethere: the frontend, the user interface, the compiler, etc. All that makes up the modding experience. Most of these things are straight forward and since all the file formats have already been released they bear no secret at all.
I'm not talking about any of the game engine, which is assumedly D&D licensed or something, or the graphics engine. Just the framework parts.
You could release that under some kind of development license that allows you to use any of the community provided extension back in your own bundles whenever you see fit.

Judging from the Trollo board I assume that currently there are like 2-3 devs working on the project. How much time can they spend on Toolset features, that probably will not immediately generate revenue streams for the project?
Think of it like this: If the toolset is better, more modders will produce content. More content means more gamers. And more gamers means more revenue in the long run.


(Again, if that has already been suggested somewhere, please excuse me. I haven't found it yet.)

LaputianBirdCluasCablefish

Comments

  • LaputianBirdLaputianBird Member Posts: 102
    I think it is very unlikely to ever happen, but I completely agree it'd bring great benefits to the community

  • SherincallSherincall Member Posts: 290
    We've been asking BioWare for this, and BD since it was announced, but it still comes down to legal stuff. Any third party stuff BW incorporated came with a specific license that likely doesn't allow open sourcing it. At very least it would require an audit of the entire code, and probably ripping out some pieces and replacing them with custom or open source code.

    Additionally, Beamdog is incorporated in Canada, which is a party to the Geneva Convention, and unleashing this on the populace could be considered a violation. Legal stuff.

    squattingmonkvirusman
  • FinalStandFinalStand Member Posts: 87
    Yea, it sounds like a legal mess releasing source code.

    But they could release a public plugin interface that exposes a lot more that would allow modders to hook into the toolset it's self.

    Instead of using default Area editor (for example), you could swap that plugin out for a community made one.


  • prwoprwo Member Posts: 59
    All legal issues can be solved. The ultimate question at the end of the day will be: how much?
    And before that: how motivated are they to do so?
    And the first one would be: who is they that need to be motivated?

    We've been asking BioWare for this, and BD since it was announced, but it still comes down to legal stuff.

    Who is we and who has replied?
    Is there a thread to this in this forum already?

    Additionally, Beamdog is incorporated in Canada, which is a party to the Geneva Convention, and unleashing this on the populace could be considered a violation. Legal stuff.

    Forgive me, but I fail to see how that has to do with anything.

    Just to clarify: I am not suggesting that they should donate it to public domain, or give it away freely. There are plenty of options to model a contract like this.

    And by the way, BioWare has already been doing so by publishing all the game's content along with all necessary data structure documentation right from the start. Everyone could already build a complete and full featured own toolset just with that knowledge. Only that is a lot of redundant effort since a toolset is already existing.

  • Dark_AnsemDark_Ansem Member Posts: 910

    We've been asking BioWare for this, and BD since it was announced, but it still comes down to legal stuff. Any third party stuff BW incorporated came with a specific license that likely doesn't allow open sourcing it. At very least it would require an audit of the entire code, and probably ripping out some pieces and replacing them with custom or open source code.

    Additionally, Beamdog is incorporated in Canada, which is a party to the Geneva Convention, and unleashing this on the populace could be considered a violation. Legal stuff.

    Hilarious. So the toolset is a torture device now?

    Atrophiederic
  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 584
    Why does the community not just make their own? Is documentation of the file formats not sufficient?

  • LaputianBirdLaputianBird Member Posts: 102

    Why does the community not just make their own? Is documentation of the file formats not sufficient?

    It's doable, but it'll need a renderer.

  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 584
    In 2018 I think you have your pick of open source renderers, it might not be the latest graphics out of the box but you only really need to do basic rendering for a toolset. Google informs me that some already come with their own built in GUI systems unless you want to use a separate thing for that.

    I imagine it is a lot of work especially for one person but as far as source code goes I don't see the benefit in seeing how they made a toolset for this outdated C builder thing that Trent keeps talking about.

  • LaputianBirdLaputianBird Member Posts: 102
    edited March 1
    I'm all for creating an open source, community-developed toolset, and we have far more programmers around than artists, currently. Personally I can't really help in the programming department, because I don't have the skills, or in the GUI department, because I'm already busy with medium and long term tasks, but I would make sure to offer any help I can to those who'd start such a community toolset project.

    It'd have the advantage of taking off some of the load from BeamDog's shoulders, and it could be designed from the start to be multi-platform, unlike the bioware toolset. Also, it'd be easy to implement the new functionalities or new file formats added by BD, and even include the current NWN Explorer features inside this new community toolset

    Any of the coding-savvy people up to the task?

  • prwoprwo Member Posts: 59

    Why does the community not just make their own? Is documentation of the file formats not sufficient?

    Because making a whole new toolset is a lot of work, whereas wiping out the biggest flaws of the existing one is relatively simple. I quess most of the Toolset related suggestions in the toolset thread could be done within a few weeks if one had the source code.

  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 584
    Maybe it will take you a few weeks if you are an expert on maintaining and developing code projects using no longer supported frameworks and tools from the 90s. It has been 4 months since the announcement and I believe about a year before that, in which time Beamdog says they've been unable to make much progress due to the old junk.

  • HimmelweissHimmelweiss Member Posts: 56
    Pretty sure it would take you several month to code a new toolset.
    And a year or more to get it somewhat to an stable state.

    I mean you probably even could pull it off with just using Unity, but it would still take you a lot longer than just a few weeks.

  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 584
    Which if true would probably still be better than toiling around in ancient code with tools from the DOS era.

    Regardless of how great you all are at decades old coding you're not getting the source code and there's no information in the source code that you don't already have access to.

  • AstroBryGuyAstroBryGuy Member Posts: 3,361
    prwo said:

    All legal issues can be solved. The ultimate question at the end of the day will be: how much?
    And before that: how motivated are they to do so?
    And the first one would be: who is they that need to be motivated?

    We've been asking BioWare for this, and BD since it was announced, but it still comes down to legal stuff.

    Who is we and who has replied?
    Is there a thread to this in this forum already?
    Trent Oster replied in a previous thread about the NWN source code.

    https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/924150/#Comment_924150

    We have a limited use license for the Aurora source code, as such we cannot open source it or release it.

  • thirdmousethirdmouse Member Posts: 67

    It has been 4 months since the announcement and I believe about a year before that, in which time Beamdog says they've been unable to make much progress due to the old junk.

    In fairness, I didn't take comments of that nature to mean, "we've been hacking away at it for all this time but just can't make any headway!" so much as, "that toolset thing has been looming over us while we try not to make eye contact, but at some point we're going to have to tackle it - send food, send beer, send experienced C++ developers, and wish us luck", you know? So more a priorities thing, where anything to do with the toolset is a pain and they try to poke it as little as possible compared to all the things they could be doing first. Plus, they are hiring in some areas that seem like they overlap with our toolset... :P

    I could be wrong, but thought it worth mentioning, since the first reading changes the scene quite a bit to something that may never happen since it hasn't yet.

  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 584
    I dunno they've been pretty consistent every week explaining the issues with updating the toolset. Even on the last stream they expressed "there's a reason the other studios remade the toolset in something else."

    Let's stop discussing the finer points of what [u]can't be changed[/u] by the community. If the community really wanted to do something open source with the toolset then it seems they already have everything they need to make their own. If it was good Beamdog could use it as a replacement for the original, and help develop it further since it would be open source.

    Otherwise I think it's fair to assume that most open source requests are mostly made out of curiosity rather than serious intent on modernizing and maintaining the toolset.

    virusman
  • TarotRedhandTarotRedhand Member Posts: 561
    I suspect that due to what they made the toolset with, very few people would even be able to open it let alone understand it. I also suspect that most people don't have the tools needed to work with that code.

    TR

  • prwoprwo Member Posts: 59

    Regardless of how great you all are at decades old coding you're not getting the source code and there's no information in the source code that you don't already have access to.

    Let me summarize the state of affairs and my train of thoughts about all of this so far:
    1. Most people, who are interesting in making their own content, especially newcomers, will use the Toolset and most modules will require nothing more than the Toolset to be released.
    2. Apparently there are plenty of suggestions in the Toolset thread here in this forum and elsewhere for improving the Toolset. So there is a need for improvement.
    3. Beamdog is not likely to spend time on these improvements, because other things are more prior to them than that.
    4. Without the source code of a program it is almost impossible to change anything with feasible time and energy. Therefor it suffice to say that having the source code is a mandatory precondition for any party doing the improvements mentined in 2.
    5. Making a new toolset from the scratch is much more effort than changing a few aspects of the existing one. If it was so easy or if it was so necessary, "making a new one" would have been done already.
    Given 3 and 5, the biggest chance of getting the Toolset improvements done (2) lies within the community. And given 4, in order for the community or anyone to do so, they have to have the sorce code.

    I suspect that due to what they made the toolset with, very few people would even be able to open it let alone understand it. I also suspect that most people don't have the tools needed to work with that code.

    The interesting question is: Are there enough people in the NWN community to do so?

    Of what I have assembled from the various posts around here and elsewhere, the Toolset (and probably NWN as well) was made using Borland C++, which is, to my knowledge, freely available now and can also be ported to newer systems.
    Of what I can see in the user Interface it uses basic Win32 API (maybe OWL).
    That's not exactly rocket science.

    So looking at what has been done already in the community's Tooling department (NWNx, NWNexplorer, ... not to mention my own tools), I am convinced there is enough development power to handle this task.

    Most changes I've read about (that concern the Toolset only and not part of the game mechanics), and most issues I've had with the Toolset myself are in the user interface.
    I think, having the source code and time to work on it, they are simple to implement. Without having the source code it's practically impossible (or at least not feasible) to do so.

  • prwoprwo Member Posts: 59

    Trent Oster replied in a previous thread about the NWN source code.

    https://forums.beamdog.com/discussion/comment/924150/#Comment_924150

    We have a limited use license for the Aurora source code, as such we cannot open source it or release it.

    Thank you very much. This brings us one step closer to the "who is they that need to be motivated?".
    I'll try to follow up on it.

  • PlasmaJohnPlasmaJohn Member Posts: 26
    If I'm remembering right the Toolset was written in Borland Delphi which strongly suggests their Object Pascal. If that's the case then that certainly falls under many definitions of torture.

  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 584
    I think you're grossly underestimating how much work it would be to make old code with old libraries have modern functionality.

    In many cases yes you would be better off starting from scratch.

  • Dark_AnsemDark_Ansem Member Posts: 910

    We have a limited use license for the Aurora source code, as such we cannot open source it or release it.

    That's fine. But they still have the open source code, so theoretically then can still do quite a lot.

  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 584
    Open source refers to Beamdog putting the source code in a publicly accessible place so that other ppl can take that code and make their own modifications to it. The fact that Beamdog has the code was already a given, the suggestion in this thread was that they share it which they can't.

  • prwoprwo Member Posts: 59

    I think you're grossly underestimating how much work it would be to make old code with old libraries have modern functionality.

    That depends on how you go for it. My approach would be: Break it into smaller, exchangeable parts and then replace one by one. Remember, the Aurora Toolset is nothing but a collection of editors (some special purpose, some generic) that all operate on well-defined structures in the file system. That's it.
    The script editor, script compile and dialog editor would be my first target for replacement - and replacements already exist. But to be honest, the area and placeable editors are quite alright, so I see little reason to fiddle with them.

  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 584
    I mean, I think that really illustrates a lot of problems with the idea and the kind of assumptions being made.

    Regardless almost three weeks have passed since the first post without any progress made.

  • prwoprwo Member Posts: 59
    edited March 16
    There are some very simple assumptions that should be easy to understand:
    • To my knowledge no one has remade the toolset "from the scratch" in the last 15 years, so I think it is safe to assume that it won't happen any time soon.
    • Without the source code of the toolset, modifications to the existing one are nearly impossible.
    • So, consequently, with the source code at least there is a chance.
    I've remastered code of the 90s before and in my experience it is no rocket sience at all, but only a matter of development time spent on the topic. And that time could be multiplied by releasing the toolset to the community.


    Nevertheless, @TrentOster, reconfirmed that Beamdog is legally restricted from releasing any source code and that their contract is not open for negotiation. So, Beamdog's hands are tied in this matter.

    The actual authority to realease the Toolset source code to anyone would therefor lie with the original owner BioWare or EA Games.

  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 584
    A conclusion that seemed pretty obvious from the start.

    Whether someone makes a toolset or not isn't an indicator of it being possible or not, nor of the complexity involved versus potentially doing minutia work under a pile of spaghetti, and assuming you can replace things modularly, and that it's compatible with modern gui functionality...

    Though now at least you realize as others in the thread did that you can't get access to the source code.

  • prwoprwo Member Posts: 59

    Whether someone makes a toolset or not isn't an indicator of it being possible or not, nor of the complexity involved...

    This is exactly the point where our opinions apparently diverge. If it is impossible to make, then, per definition, no one can/will make it. If the effort of making is too high, no one will do it either. This is especially true for a community of freelancers with limited ressources.

    But maybe I was too impatient with my original assumption - namely that Beamdog won't be able to spend too much time on improving the Toolset. Yesterdays Patch 8164 lists some very interesting and long needed improvements in the new Toolset, which I am keen to explore.

    Though now at least you realize as others in the thread did that you can't get access to the source code.

    The message of the statement was that Beamdog is not at liberty to release the Toolset's source code. So the original question was addressed to the wrong people.
    But I agree, that it is unlikely that BioWare will react to it.

  • prwoprwo Member Posts: 59
    I wrote an email to [email protected] (a division of EA Games) if they were interested in creating a Developer Program for NWN and got an automatic reply that they have a strict policy of not accepting or considering unsolicited (game) ideas.

    pscythe
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