Forest Hale interview about Nexuiz and open-source

Posted on March 23rd, 2010 by TimeDoctor

Photo Credit: IllFonic

There is a lot of controversy and confusion about the upcoming commercial Nexuiz release for consoles, the re-licensing of the Nexuiz codebase, and what this means for the Nexuiz GPL PC release. I’ve spoken with Forest Hale (no relation to Saxton Hale), the lead developer behind DarkPlaces (the engine behind Nexuiz) about these issues:

Zachary Slater: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with regard to DarkPlaces, GPL Nexuiz, and the new commercial version of Nexuiz?

Forest Hale: I’m a 30 year old self-taught game developer known as Forest ‘LordHavoc’ Hale living in the woods in Oregon, doing freelance game programming, with a passion for game design and technology programming.

I started the DarkPlaces engine for my Quake mod also named DarkPlaces back in early 2000, it has steadily evolved since then, being expanded with features in various directions at different times (influenced by Tenebrae, Doom3, and others).

Starting in 2002 or so I was brought onto a little indie project called Nexuiz being designed by Lee Vermeulen, which aimed to be a very simple free-for-all deathmatch game with unusual weapons and contributed art, and in 2005 it came out on Windows and Linux (x86 and x86_64) with a modest feature set, using many maps from a variety of level designers, gamecode written by me, and a menu system written by Andreas ‘Black’ Kirsch (who also contributed a great deal to the QuakeC scripting capabilities of the engine, adding Menu QC and other features) and several artists, this original team is collectively known as Alientrap.

At the time of release, Nexuiz 1.0 was licensed for a commercial release, but the license was changed to GPL to bring more attention to Lee Vermeulen’s group Alientrap in hopes of attracting more professional developers to join his organization to make future games, however it attracted many more Free Software fans than conventional game modders and Alientrap as a group mostly dissolved.

IllFonic contacted Lee Vermeulen and I about licensing their favorite game Nexuiz to bring it to a new audience on consoles, once all the paperwork was sorted out, development started on a prototype to show at GDC, during this entire time nothing could be revealed to the GPL team until all the deals were signed (stock speculators and other hazards exist in the business world, rumors can end companies), which has lead to much upset among a portion of the developer community that Nexuiz’s GPL release had gathered.

A lot has changed on the engine side since Nexuiz started, but some of the art never advanced in the GPL Nexuiz (for example the player models are still the original ones from 2005!), it’s good to see professional artists making better use of the technology in the console Nexuiz.


Zachary Slater:
There are some issues involved with the GPL release of Nexuiz being re-licensed for commercial use. Could you tell us how this offer came about and what your role was with it?

Forest Hale: Pretty much it comes down to the fact that the IllFonic guys like Nexuiz a lot and thought that the innovative fast paced gameplay should be introduced to a new audience on consoles, which are currently dominated by slow paced bullet-oriented shooters, and in the process they would boost awareness of the GPL game as well.

My role is that of an engine technology licensor, providing ongoing support in the form of technical assistance and additional features that I retain ownership on, for this reason the majority of features I implement will be immediately public and available to the community.

My role also includes being co-designer and lead programmer of the original non-GPL Nexuiz gamecode based on Quake sources.


Zachary Slater:
Can a GPL game engine be used on consoles like the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3?

Forest Hale: Not directly, however copyright holders have the right to provide other licenses on a case by case basis, in this case, id Software has a technology licensing program with reasonable prices, I am providing IllFonic with a license to my modifications and the modifications of many contributors (with whom I had to individually arrange licensing for this purpose over the years, and contributions I can not re-license I will have to remove or replace).

All my cards are on the table, as the DarkPlaces engine is developed in the open.

So IllFonic has a license from id Software for Quake engine on Sony Playstation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, and a license from me, which collectively allows them to use the DarkPlaces engine.


Zachary Slater:
Have the contributors to the GPL version of Nexuiz been contacted and consented to have their code included in this commercial release?

Forest Hale: The original plan was to contact every developer and relicense the Nexuiz 2.5.2 GPL gamecode sources for this title, to ensure authentic gameplay and return some important features to the community for the benefit of everyone.

However this gamecode relicensing attempt did not go well, with the former developers making claims of violations there was no choice but to reimplement the gamecode from scratch on non-GPL sources, as a result there will be no ongoing code contributions back to the community, and the gameplay may differ more than originally planned, this is a very unfortunate outcome but has no significant impact on development.

To make this perfectly clear – the game is being reimplemented from scratch, all they share is a name.


Zachary Slater:
Is there anything else you would like to address about the GPL versions of Nexuiz, Darkplaces, and the new commercial Nexuiz?

Forest Hale: This deal was made with good intentions, funding Alientrap to allow them to foster open development, funding DarkPlaces development, promoting the GPL versions of Nexuiz, and bringing a new kind of game to an untapped slice of the console gamer market.

Console games are a very closed market where GPL games can not go, publishers won’t touch them, and this was the only way to bring the Nexuiz experience to consoles.

Alientrap and IllFonic continue their best efforts to assist the community.

It is unfortunate that this well-intentioned product license has caused a fork of the GPL game, but new developers always fill the vacuum so I am looking forward to the next version of GPL Nexuiz, the release of Xonotic, and the release of the console Nexuiz.

The demoing of console Nexuiz at GDC went very well and I am enjoying the development process and player reactions, this game is turning out great.


Zachary Slater:
Thanks for your time!

Forest Hale: Thanks for the opportunity to clear a few things up.

Long live Quake and open development!

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13 Responses to “Forest Hale interview about Nexuiz and open-source”

  1. Freedom isn't free says:

    You would have never gotten here without Free Software and now you stab it in the back.

    Have a spine and say no to proprietary platforms.

  2. Sadface says:

    On the contrary they should never have gotten in bed with the commies in the first place and saved themselves the mess. Since Nexiuz is GPL it will remain free for those who likes what exists today and the forking people have their fork. I don’t see how they can be stabbed in the back? I’m mostly sad for those developers that now actually has a chance to make it big (most money is in console games) but have to spend alot of time re-implementing stuff because their codebase got tainted by the GPL virus.

  3. Oli says:

    Virus? I realise the GPL (proper) does tend to enforce its freedoms on other parts of a project but it’s not evil. You just have to understand what it is and what it means.

    The reason they have had to rewrite is because they could not negotiate the relicensing of *OTHER PEOPLE’S* code. I think that’s important to remember before you slag off the license.

    And if you want to argue that people should have licensed their work for commercial work, what do you think their offered cut was? I hear it was 0. Just a “okay you gave us this, it’s ours now” statement before discussions began…. Not a good way to win people over.

    And if you don’t think they should be paid for their work, why should Lee or Forest?

    While they’re doing nothing wrong, it’s hard to imagine how this can’t feel like a backstabbing to the people that have put the initial time into the project just to have their work rewritten to evade licensing issues. The fair thing would have been to bring all the major contributors in on the deal (if they wanted it) with a code-weighted percent cut.

  4. cortez says:

    @Sadface: Lordhavoc and especially Vermeulen didnt do much during the last years it was a community driven project. Vermeulen went inactive about 4 years ago he didnt do something since 1.1, he just was left as lead designer as a matter of respect. Comming back after such a long time and sign a contract, which has a drastic influnce on nexuiz, is like a betrayle on the people who cared and improved nexuiz. Another reason which mostly leads to the seperation is that he registerd nexuiz as a trademark on his name and since he signed a contract with illfoinc and recives money from them he will act in thier intrests. Why do you care about people who are paid to do this? there are about 50 people who spend a lot of FREETIME on this project and developed it over the years. They didnt recived any money, they did it because they enjoyed it. The few donations which where recived (about 200$ in the last year) where put back into the game. The title was compareable to some commercial title because people loved what they done and now many of them asked thierself was it worth to work all the years and then see some develpoment team just leak of ideas so they have to take over an indie game and make it commercial (because they apperantly lack of creativy: thier other project is called gettho golf)
    http://dev.alientrap.org/projects/nexuiz/repository/graph?graph=commits_per_author when you see the commits to the code per author, you will notice that vermeulen and lordhavoc arent in the position to claim money for it. Another point was illfonic said they talk to people about the free pc version to and the result are crappy bot matches on old maps with low quality textures and articles like this http://gdc.gamespot.com/story/6253669/nexuiz-impressions-first-look ‘ formerly freeware PC shooter built on the Quake 1 engine that has been revitalized’ with passages like this they claim that there will be no free nexuiz and that its dead, which never was the case.
    When vermeulen announced that nexuiz is a trademark, xonotic was announced and every single developer exccept lordhavoc left the nexuiz development.

    @oli
    the reason why most people disagreed is that they werent informed about the deal. They only noticed when everyone else noticed it. on the first march, when the console nexuiz was revealed.
    the main problem is that illfonic calimed to want a disscussion but they didnt disscussed the important topics like ” what effect will it have on the pc version?” “will there any profit for nexuiz?” “will there be any contributions to nexuiz from illfonic?” They mostly ingnored them and if they answered they said yes or now but didnt gone into detail. they mostly try to convince the people from thier game and that its a good choice. http://alientrap.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=6043

  5. someone says:

    This was going to happen anyway: Lord Havok has a narrower vision of what GPL-Nexuiz should be then other developers of the game and cracks were forming because of this (weapons were removed from nexuiz, developers felt their hard work was thrown away).

  6. Whatever says:

    There are much better free fps games than this anyway, Warsow, Alien Arena, etc..

  7. PCLizard says:

    @Whatever

    That’s your opinion. If I remember correctly, the gameplay in Alien Arena was horrible, and warsow had some decent gameplay. There are some flaws in gpl nexuiz / soon to be xonotic, but I’m sure they can and will be fixed. And by the way, Quake Live dominates Warsow and Alien Arena, how could you forget that? Oh wait…..

  8. [...] the recent turmoil over Nexuiz, Microsoft has tipped their hat and purchased Tremulous for the XBOX. As is to be [...]

  9. Nico says:

    April fools…

  10. [...] everyone for the support and this game is going to rock (on the topic of licensing please see the interview, this means I have even more reason to actively maintain DarkPlaces engine and will continue adding [...]

  11. Xenos says:

    @pclizard

    How long ago was it that you looked at Alien Arena? crx (the Alien Arena engine) has seen changes too numerous to list here over just the last six months and has been constantly developed since 2003. One thing which sets Alien Arena apart from others is the particularly humble dev team of 3.

  12. Shane Bowman says:

    Alien Arena is amazing, and the gameplay is much deeper than that of Nexuiz. Nexuiz gets boring quickly, It turns out to be a boring deathmatch spree with poor players. Alien Arena has amazing bots, outstanding graphics, not your run-of-the-mill game modes, over 60 maps (yes, over 60 single player levels), and it keeps you coming back for more. Hell, it even features ships that you can ride and shoot with, and alien sheep that shoot at you. Depth of gameplay is what keeps players coming back for more, and Alien Arena wins in that field hands-down.

  13. diat.amadeus says:

    He should know that we wanted an open gaming community based on open license. Not just a famous game that runs on our beloved open licensed operating system

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