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The developer of One Hour One Life [Official Site] and The Castle Doctrine [Official Site] has made two interesting posts lately, one about not launching a game on Steam and one about keeping your game code and assets open to anyone.

Firstly, yes, I am being careful with my wording here. The code and assets are open, but they're not open source. As far as I can see, they don't have actual licenses and the developer just says they're public domain. It's really great to see, but not technically open source. I have to say this, or else people (rightly so) bug me about it. Now, with that out of the way…

Firstly, there's been a large number of developers concerned about the growth on Steam. How they released their games in the past on days where nothing or only a few others were releasing. Today things are rather different, today alone there's around 20 games being released on Steam (across all operating systems).

The developer in question, Jason Rohrer, is well aware of this. He's decided so far not to release One Hour One Life on Steam. Writing in this news post, it's really quite encouraging how well he's actually done. Going by one of the charts he showed off, he's gained over $67K and the game has only been out since late February and you can only purchase it directly from his site.

One thing he also said, is that he thinks game press is essentially gone. I wouldn't say I agree with that, the fact that we're here and we do generate a lot of sales for developers (thanks to same stats I can see) shows that gaming press still has a long life left in it (we're still quite small too). However, what he's saying is partly true, a lot of "press" has shifted over to places like YouTube and Twitch (we're there too, see the links), which is also a good way for people to experience a game through videos of people genuinely trying to play it so they can see if they want to buy it, it's a very different world to the written word.

Screenshot taken today in the Linux build of One Hour One Life

He says he designed One Hour One Life specifically to fit in with how things are now, something people will keep coming back to, he calls it a "a unique-situation-generator". He's not wrong either, One Hour One Life is certainly unique as a survival game, one that can create many funny stories. It's also a very strange game, one full of terrible parenting and a civilization currently no further along than what I imagine from Neanderthals. It’s a very experimental game, one that tells you quite literally nothing from the moment you’re born into it.

Rohrer also recently took to reddit, to post about "How I made $670K over the past 8 years with 100% Open Source games" (again, see my note above though). In this post, Rohrer talked about how you can sell games, even when they are open for anyone to get in some form. What he's saying for the most part is exactly right too, people will 99% of the time pay for the convenience of just downloading a ready working build. I know I will pay for that convenience, I'm also much more likely to do so if the code is open source too.

All encouring and interesting to read, I do like his views on DRM and how you really can't stop people doing what they want, it's such a waste of time and effort in the end. What are your thoughts?

15 Likes, Who?
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Eike 17 March 2018 at 8:32 am UTC

Last edited by Eike at 17 March 2018 at 9:07 am UTC. Edited 2 times.
tuubi 17 March 2018 at 11:28 am UTC
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Excellent point.
Eike 17 March 2018 at 12:04 pm UTC
Excellent point.

I know points, I have the best points!
nitroflow 17 March 2018 at 1:41 pm UTC

That point is on point.
dos 17 March 2018 at 1:44 pm UTC
mirvSo the game allows you to view the source code, build the game yourself, after purchase. It's not public domain, form a license perspective. Without seeing the code or what has been placed in there for actual licensing, I would guess it's that you can't make and sell your own game based off the source code. Even if you could, the assets are probably covered by something anyway.

Not a bad way to distribute a game I think.

It is explicitly put into public domain, your guess is wrong. Assets are in the PD as well. The problem is only that the author's intent might not be recognized properly under some jurisdictions, which is what CC0 is for.

ripperPublic domain is open source:
Did you even read what you linked? It specifically mentioned a license that was accepted. In this case, the developer is not using that license, they're rolling their own "do what you want" text, which still is not open source. Public domain in their eyes, not in wider legal eyes.

It is problematic, sure. However, seeing that aside of "This work is not copyrighted.", which in some countries does not hold any legal merit, there's also "Do whatever you want with it, absolutely no restrictions, and no permission necessary." text, which is pretty much an equivalent of WTFPL, which is recognized by FSF as free software license, it's probably not a big issue after all.

Sure, putting stuff into Public Domain is unnecessarily hard, and the author refusing to use any well-designed license that helps to do it (because of his believes about copyright being a nonsense) doesn't make it any easier, but One Hour One Life definitely is by all means open source and free software and there's no point to state otherwise. It might just not be true public domain with all its legal after-effects in some countries.
buenaventura 17 March 2018 at 8:17 pm UTC
I will just stay out of this discussion I guess Sorry.
HadBabits 17 March 2018 at 10:34 pm UTC
(This is an on-topic comment for those searching )

What I think is interesting here is that people are criticizing the dev for not putting their game on steam, F.Ultra going so far as to say they can't be bothered to buy a game not on steam (And I relate!). This dev took a gamble, but then the odds weren't as they were; Inside a Star Filled Sky, their first game, launched alone on a Saturday on Steam, Castle Doctrine launched with 83 games alongside it. And I think his success vindicates his thoughts on the matter pretty well.

I actually think this is important, we've known for years that the PC market, supposedly the bastion of freedom, has been more and more dominated by Steam. We bitch that Steam let's any trifle in these days, but only now do I see that it may not just be negligence. As they broaden the scope their also moving in on more tiers of gaming. The stuff that was once free on sites like newgrounds, then maybe a few bucks on sites like, can now be sold right alongside the top tier stuff on Steam.

So even though it may impact whether I even buy the game, I do totally respect the dev for doing it. I don't know how we solve the Steam problem, but stuff like this gives me hope that there is still time to solve it
grumpytoad 18 March 2018 at 2:18 am UTC
On a different note, I wouldn't describe this site as gaming press, or at least I don't read the articles for the reviews as much as a summary of the latest Linux gaming news|bugs|shame. I prefer to describe the content as platform advocacy, and useful sometimes if you're running into some common issues.
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