0 A.D. Music Shows There's More to Open Source Than Code

The contributions of musical composer Omri Lahav to the open source real-time strategy game 0 A.D. are a reminder that open source is about more than code.

Christopher Tozzi, Contributing Editor

March 5, 2013

4 Min Read
0 A.D. Music Shows There's More to Open Source Than Code

The open source ecosystem is mostly about code. After all, sharing code is at the core of the open source ethos. But for many Free Software projects, there's more at stake than code itself, as the development team behind the open source game 0 A.D. made clear recently when it highlighted the contributions of musical composer Omri Lahav–whose work is an important reminder that software success, in many cases, is about more than ones and zeroes.

Lahav is a composer based in Israel with an impressive list of professional accomplishments. These include producing scores for a slew of games, plays, shows and other productions. 0 A.D., meanwhile, is an open source project aiming to create a real-time strategy game that can rival the products of closed source, commercial game developers in every respect. 0 A.D. has been in development for what can seem like an eternally long time, but the team does roll out updates quite regularly. We've covered a number of the big ones in the past.

Lahav recently explained some of the considerations behind his musical contributions to 0 A.D. on a blog post on the project's website. Since first becoming involved two years ago, he has written a range of tracks to accompany various aspects of the game, with a focus on tailoring each track to the particular sounds of the "civilization" with which it is associated in 0 A.D. The music is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license, which essentially does for media what the GNU GPL does for code.

Open Source, Beyond the Code

Personally, my musical background is limited mostly to some lackluster piano and viola performances during high school and, more recently, playing around with an old East German harmonica I bought at a flea market in Barcelona a several years ago–mostly when I am waiting on my computer to do something. I certainly can't purport to have the authority to comment on the musical effectiveness of Lahav's contributions to 0 A.D.

But what is worth observing, from the perspective of the open source ecosystem broadly, is how Lahav's work exemplifies the type of contributions that are vital to the success of many open source projects, yet which don't involve working with code at all. No matter how brilliant the programming behind a game such as 0 A.D. might be, it can hardly stand up against well-funded, proprietary competitors.

That can be easy to forget in a niche where, without code, open source would have no obvious meaning, at least for most people. But it's important to remember, particularly because many open source projects lack the commercial backing they would need to hire professional talent to produce the music, artwork and other media that is often a necessary accompaniment to open source software.

For the channel, the lesson is that it's important to think of open source in terms that involve more than programming and marketing. Open source projects can be a bridge between developers and creators of other types of original content who are willing to share their work and allow third parties to modify it, as the Creative Commons license makes possible with the 0 A.D. code.

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About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Contributing Editor

Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.

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