So I want to do a research study on helping students to read using a role playing video game. The idea is to find a game engaging enough that the students want to play, but hard enough that they will need to refer to a text-based walkthrough to finish a lot of the tasks. The problem with this study, is that I don't have any money to do it. I know, imagine that, a PhD student without extra cash.
I would absolutely *LOVE* to use an open source game. I am familiar with open source games, and I can compile just about anything given enough time. I thought, "There has to be at least ONE decent RPG in the FOSS world I can use." Apparently I was completely wrong. Which got me thinking. Why are there no really good RPG's in the FOSS community? Are RPG games that complex that people cannot write one without massive corporate support?
I don't think this is the reason. I think that open source itself is part of the problem in developing a good RPG. When you start playing an RPG, the modern view is that you play the levels in order to learn the interface and mechanics well enough to go online. Some RPG's are purely online, allowing you to develop your character and learn the interface in an online environment. This is where the problem arises.
If you are developing a game for the open source community, you are probably concerned with a few things. First, you want the game to have a good plot. Second, you want the game to have a good interface and learning curve. Third, you want the game to have some kind of decent graphics. Finally, you want your game online.
Unfortunately, this last part is the issue. If you want your game online, you build a server, then you let the client-side programs connect to that server and voila! Blizzard Entertainment will tell you a different story. They have been working on their Battle.net system for as long as they have allowed online games to exist. Battle.net is a sophisticated server that validates the client program to ensure that no hacks or mods have been applied. Granted, they have gotten a little over zealous in the past (banning all wine-based play for World of Warcraft, for example).
If you don't think this is a problem, log into BZFlag for a few hours and you will come across a tank that is completely indestructible. I love this game, but I have found it to be unplayable on many occasions because it seems that captain unbeatable gets really annoying really fast.
Now, back to the developers. If I am developing a game that will most likely end up having an online component, I want to figure out how to ensure that players will have a fair and enjoyable experience. Since the developers will logically be focused on the local gameplay, the online gameplay will become an issue once the server structure has been developed.
Here is my call to arms for FOSS game developers. Get together a group and develop a bit of code that can be used to meaningfully validate the client software.
I don't know how to do this. I would imagine that Blizzard Entertainment can rely on knowing exactly under which conditions their software was compiled. This allows them, at the most basic level, to rely of MD5 hash codes or the like. But I also believe that there are more sophisticated methodologies that allow for checking of a modified source code. I obviously have no idea what that would look like.
So here is my call, please GNU community, develop a client verification engine that developers can use to verify their code. I know you can do it, and I'm reasonably certain that game developers in the FOSS community have enough to worry about with the player-side interactions.