The Liberated Pixel Cup: proving the potential for free culture and free software game development

Liberated Pixel Cup
Image credits: Liberated Pixel Cup
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What do you get when you mix the Free Software Foundation, Creative Commons, and OpenGameArt? We'll know the answer for sure come August, because these three organizations have joined forces to create the Liberated Pixel Cup. A contest where artists and developers will come together, to create free-as-in-freedom games and art.

Christopher Allan Webber from Creative Commons explains that he approached both Bart Kelsey of OpenGameArt and John Sullivan of the Free Software Foundations to see if they were interested in a collaboration.

OpenGameArt is a site that aims to improve FOSS games by giving them an option other than "programmer art." In the site's FAQ, they explain:

...it's clear that, for an open source game to produce good art, it has to become large and popular enough to attract artists.

Unfortunately, many fun and well-designed games never reach this point and are thus stuck with placeholder art, which ultimately detracts from their appeal and popularity. Furthermore, it's not unheard of for open source projects to rip their placeholder art from commercial games, which is illegal and could conceivably result in a lawsuit.

The purpose of this site is to provide a solid (and hopefully ever-expanding) variety of high quality, freely licensed art, so that free/open source game developers can use it in their games.

"There's presently a lot of good quality artwork on OpenGameArt, but it's hard to actually make a game with it because most of it doesn't "match" stylistically. Inspired by what the Tango style guide did for icons, I thought maybe something similar could be done with game artwork so artists can collaborate together and game authors could have good, consistent sets of artwork to build things out of. That, and I think free and open source gaming is an under-appreciated issue," said Webber, who goes by the nickname "paroneayea" on Freenode IRC.

The contest will be divided into two phases. Phase one will start in June, and the artists will try to come up with as many usable assets as they can, provided they match the style guide that will be published in June and that the content is dual-licensed both GPLv3 and CC-BY-SA 3. Phase two will start in July. The game devs will then have to come up with games that use those assets. The games must be licensed GPLv3, run on at least Linux, and be built using 100% free and open source tools.

"The response has been all-around positive from the free and open source software world," Webber said. "If we've had any criticism so far, it's that getting a bunch of people to collaborate on a style and have things turn out well isn't going to be easy. . . . But we've been making careful decisions about that from the beginning to try to move things in a good direction."

The Liberated Pixel Cup is currently gathering donations to give as prizes to the developers and artists, as well as fund commissioned art that will serve as a base for the artists and games.

"We've already got a really solid base of artwork from the artists we commissioned for the style guide and style definition base-set work," Webber said. "I'd love to see a variety of fun games come out of this, from farming sims, to zombie defense games, to strategy games, to the usual suspects of RPGs and action adventure games. I'd love to be fairly surprised at what people can do with it."

"I also largely hope this is proof that free culture and free software game development can happen."

Stay tuned for updates about the contest, but in the meantime, check out the Liberated Pixel Cup website for more information. They're also working on blog posts to highlight game engines you can use to start creating games come July.

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