Friday, September 21, 2007

NCSoft: Open the Source code to Auto Assault?

NCSoft is one of my... favorite... developers. They aren't afraid to try new methods of distributing a product and recieving payment for the product. Guild Wars is an astounding success, and has easily proven that Large Scale Fantasy MMO's don't require a $15 month charge. City of Heroes / Villains has proven that games don't have to be fantasy based to pull in new players. Dungeon Runners is well on it's way to proving that older technology put out for free or cheap could turn a profit on extended service charges. There is the upcoming eXteel, a favorite of mine from a previous E3, which is a mech combat game similar to Virtua Ontario... if the final release lives up to the demo, eXteel could draw in shooter fanatics.

Looking over NCSoft's portfolio, there haven't been that many losses...

However, as Nintendo has the Virtual Boy... NCSoft has Auto Assault.

Now, I participated in the Beta for Auto Assault. I liked it... I just didn't like it enough to buy or continue to play the game, especially since I was paying and playing both Planetside and City Of Heroes.

As I understood from people who went on to play the final version of Auto Assault, the game attempted to merge traditional RPG elements into a game where the basic concepts were go fast, shoot stuff, break stuff. Auto Assault went on with a dwindling player base and the servers were finally shut down.

Net Devil is going on to work with a Lego based MMO. Could be fun, they certainly proved they could design an MMO with Auto Assault...

but, it seems kind of a shame that Auto Assault was put out to pasture.

What if though, it didn't have to be like that? What if Net Devil and NCSoft could recoup some of the costs of making the game, win a major Public Relations Coup, and not have to worry about hosting or continuing developing Auto Assault?

What if NCSoft were to take a gamble on a different development model...

Say... release Auto Assault under GPLv2.

The setup is fairly simple. Release the executable server and client code under GPLv2. Assign the Copyrights to NCSoft. Trademark the Auto Assault brand-name and artwork.

So, why GPLv2? Why not a different license? For starters GPLv2 allows for the financial sale of a product. The binary product itself does not have to be given away for free, any charge can be associated with the product. The Source Code itself can be made available only to clients, those who have paid for the product. The GPLv2 also means that any changes to the source code have to be given back to NCSoft.

The result is that NCSoft can still put out a retail box or a binary download for a certain amount of money. The source code is only made available once the product has been purchased.

NCSoft is also protected from somebody else taking the code once it is purchased, forking it, and making another game by the trademark and copyright assignment.

If somebody comes up with a different version of Auto Assault, say one that removes the RPG story elements and just leaves the game at it's core elements of go fast, shoot stuff, and break stuff, that version cannot be sold or distributed as Auto Assault. However, the new version must acknowledge Auto Assault as being the basis for the code, and all of the source code changes have to be given back to NCSoft.

Opening the Source code would also give developers hands on access with a fairly modern MMO, which could help coders gain valuable experience in working on a large scale game.

The final advantage is that NCSoft wouldn't have to be responsible for hosting the game servers. Rather, those who purchase the server clients can host their own servers. All NCSoft would have to do is just set up a community page for server hosters to post their address's.

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Now, I feel sure that there are some disadvantages I'm missing... but as the primary servers have been taken offline, I don't think NCSoft or Net Devil have anything to lose by opening the game up.
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