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Classic Games, Open Sourced: SimCity

Not all open source software is Serious Business.  A project that caught my attention in the last couple of days is a port of the classic Infogrames / EA title SimCity -- released for just about every platform known to man -- into an open source implementation named Micropolis.

Not all open source software is Serious Business.  A project that caught my attention in the last couple of days is a port of the classic Infogrames / EA title SimCity -- released for just about every platform known to man -- into an open source implementation named Micropolis.

Thank programmer Don Hopkins for his hard work.  Since the original SimCity source code has been released under the GPL, he decided to make a version that runs on Linux and port it to the OLPC.  Said port -- named "Micropolis" for the same reason that community builds of Firefox are not called Firefox -- has been heavily rewritten to run well as a modern application, and is still a bit of an ongoing project.

The whole thing is available either as a source package or a compiled Win32 binary, the latter of which isn't itself an actual playable version of the game but just a demo -- for the time being.  Bill Simser has been writing a series of posts documenting how to create a playable game from this code on Win32, and for anyone interested in programming -- and not just game programming -- it's absorbing reading.  I also read with no small amount of fascination the long-term goals for Micropolis -- things like multiplayer support and porting to many other languages are all in the works. 

I think there's a lot more than nostalgia at work here.  Aside from SimCity being a hugely influential and fun game to begin with, I think game programming is one of the better ways for people to understand open source -- either as a programmer or a user.  Once explained in that context, I'd think open source becomes that much easier to understand in other contexts -- and concepts like the various licensing schemes and whatnot can be related in a fairly straightforward way.  If there's one thing about open source that remains something of a mystery to most people, it's why open source development works the way it does.  You may not persuade people to become programmers (a fate I wouldn't wish on most people, to be honest), but you can at least make their job a little less mystifying.

On a side note, my longtime favorite open-source game remains (and probably always will be) NetHack.  You'd never think a simple cursor and some ASCII graphics could still be so addictive in this day and age.