Open Source Game 0 A.D. Again Seeking Cash for Programmers

Christopher Tozzi, Contributing Editor

December 28, 2011

Lots of open source projects solicit code contributions, and others ask for money. But 0 A.D., the cross platform RTS game under development at Wildfire Games, is setting a new example by seeking cash to pay programmers. How is this strategy paying off? Read on for details, along with some updates on the project’s progress.

0 A.D., which we’ve covered frequently in the past, has been an ongoing effort for quite some time now. As a venture driven totally by volunteers whose final product will be completely free of charge, the project has also always been on the lookout for contributions of code, art, music, documentation, publicity and anything else users and community members have been able to offer.

Last winter, however, 0 A.D. team leaders experimented with a novel strategy for speeding development by asking for monetary donations via an online “Sponsor a Developer” campaign. The effort was a decided success, raising $3,000 in three months. The game developers used the money to commission Philip Taylor, a previous lead contributor to 0 A.D. and recent graduate from a Ph.D. program in computer science at Cambridge, to work full-time on the project.

Asked how important Taylor’s work proved, Aviv Sharon, a key contributor to the project, had this to say:

How useful did Philip’s Pledgie-related contributions turn out to be for the project? Immensely, but so have his previous, unpaid contributions, so that’s not saying much.

The real question is how Philip’s paid development has promoted the project more than if he were unpaid as before. … Based on his stellar track record, I’m guessing Philip would have made a similar contribution anyway for free, it just would have taken a lot longer, and time is of the essence in our case.

New Fundraising

Inspired by the success of the fundraising effort begun last year, the 0 A.D. team has launched a second round with the aim of extending the period for which it can continue paying Taylor to devote himself full-time to the game. The effort, which has raised almost $2,000 at the time of writing, is ongoing, but Sharon said the developers hope through this venture to accelerate progress on the project even further, with eyes set on releasing a beta version of the finished project by late 2012.

“Boosting the development pace,” Sharon wrote, “encourages developers and fans alike, attracts new developers and gets everyone all optimistic and hardworking. Think of it like acupuncture, a small pertubation can have systemic effects.”

Meanwhile, the team remains eager for contributions of the non-monetary kind. Details on applying are available here.

Alpha 8 Release

And while the game developers don’t anticipate a beta release until 2012, they continue to pump out steady alpha versions of the game, each one debuting impressive new features. The latest alpha, number 8 and codenamed “Haxāmaniš,” appeared Dec. 23, 2011. A video detailing some of the highlights of the release is available on YouTube:

Maybe it’s just the history geek in me, but I can’t wait to see this finished.

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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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