Classic open-source strategy game Battle for Wesnoth became available on the Steam platform this May. Still going strong after 15 years, Wesnoth offers players turn-based wargaming in a Tolkienesque fantasy environment. Wesnoth requires you to strategically capture enemy territory while defending your own, much like in chess. But unlike chess, and more like Axis & Allies or Dungeons & Dragons, you must build and fund your own army as well as deal with strategic factors such as terrain and time of day, making Wesnoth a multi-dimensional game to challenge even the best players. Wesnoth is completely free, thanks to support and content development from a dedicated open-source community.
Battle for Wesnoth illustrates the exciting potential available for players and developers who want to get involved in open-source gaming. Here are five tips for getting started with your first open-source gaming projects.
Start by Experimenting with Development Platforms on Your Own
Before you jump into the open-source gaming community, you can lay a foundation by familiarizing yourself with some of the open-source development platforms and tools that are available. Platforms such as Gdevelop require no programming skills. Others, such as Godot, require programming knowledge.
Some platforms have cross-platform functionality across all devices, while others are geared toward specific operating systems or devices. The Qualcomm Developer Network provides support for developers who want to create games. The Qualcomm Mobile PC platform allows developers to create immersive gaming experiences without sacrificing battery life.
Find an Experienced Guide for Your First Game Jam
Before joining your first game jam, it’s also a good idea to find a more experienced participant to give you tips and talk you through the session. Some game jams take place at physical locations such as colleges and conference halls, others take place online. A game jam team typically includes a minimum of a programmer and an artist. You can meet other game jam participants by browsing sites such as itch.io or by participating in events such as Global Game Jam.
Search Online Platforms for Interesting Projects
Once you feel ready to start getting serious about open-source gaming development, you’ll need to find an interesting project to work on. You can find projects online by browsing sites such as Indie DB. Look for projects that match your interests and programming skill level. Also study the project scope, requirements and deadlines carefully before making a commitment.
Get in Touch with Other Developers
You can use your game jam sessions as an opportunity to get in touch with other developers. Talking to other developers can help you work out bugs in your game concept or project code. It can also lend you valuable insights into programming, help you network within the gaming industry, and tip you off to new projects. In addition to jam sessions, you can meet developers by participating in online development support discussions, visiting sites that showcase finished games, and participating in gaming and developer events such as the Game Developers Conference.
Test Your Code Before Sharing It
After you’ve developed your project’s code, it’s a best practice to test your code outside the project before migrating it to an open source file. This gives you an opportunity to debug your code before its release, as well as test your gameplay experience. Tools such as Appium are available to help you automate the testing process.
It’s easy to get involved in open-source gaming if you follow a few simple steps to get started. After familiarizing yourself with development platforms, getting in touch with experienced open-source gaming developers will help prepare you for your first game jam. You can then start looking around for projects that interest you. Networking with other developers will open the door to more projects. Testing your code before sharing it will help maintain the quality of your work and build your reputation in the development and gaming community, sending more opportunities your way. Soon you’ll be on your way to becoming a respected and valued contributor to the open-source gaming community.
Do you have what it takes to be an indie game developer? Have you worked with open-source games before? Let us know in the comments section below.