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Hot Topic (More than 10 Replies) Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future? (Read 1268 times)
azn
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Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future?
May 2nd, 2019 at 9:21pm
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First of all I would like everyone reading it to go through the whole thing before replying - and just to let you all know - I know I'm not the best person to start this kind of thing - still I will try.

While being rather an unknown part of Unreal community, I have been a gamer for over 23 years I guess; and also - for over 14 years - open source software user. During this time I saw many projects that died for various reasons, but I also saw small projects getting more and more active and maturing while everyone was able to play with the source code. Of course - many open source projects have died – I couldn't even count how many probably. Yet, what I want to say - opening the source code also opens endless possibilities for old games not to be forgotten and to have incredible community.

To those of you who are not familiar with the open source software, I will give you a brief description what it is all about. As all of you have heard about Windows operating systems, I bet there are some of you who didn't hear about open source operating systems. It's not only GNU/Linux, but also FreeBSD, Haiku or ReactOS; and a few others. What's the difference you may ask, well... Closed source software, like operating system can be only modified by the group of people - like company - who owns the source code; and hackers who can do crazy stuff while not having access to the source code itself. On the other hand, an open source software is the software that has the source code available to others, so anyone who can code can change it and help the team developing certain piece of software to make it better, more stable and bug free as much as possible.

While in my first years with GNU/Linux operating system I did not know why should I care about code being open or not I realized it soon enough. If the source code is open - no one will hide any spying software into the code or make your private information leak in any way. Of course I will not look after it myself as I cannot code - but there are many others who can - that's the power of the open source community.

Now, back to gaming. All of us played games like Doom or Quake - while Quake is the most important one here. I am old enough to remember the FPP genre scene arguing about Quake 2 vs. Unreal and Quake 3 Arena vs. Unreal Tournament 99. All of these games are great, and all of them have amazing communities.

Yet, as an Unreal community we are in worse situation, a lot worse if we look into the future. Developers of Doom and Quake - Id Software are rather friendly to open source community and so far they've released the source code of all their major retro products. The game always has two components - the engine and the data. All the levels, models, weapon models, music, movies, scripts etc. - everything that altogether creates the adventure you are taking part in - that's data. The engine is the component you do not see, nor in most cases - care about. The engine runs the game - it puts all the small bits into their place so your favourite game is what you like the most.

Now, what are the benefits of playing the game with open source engine. First of all, as I said before, everyone skilled enough to develop it can do it - so the engine can be improved, optimized, and... ported. Yes, ported - that means you can have native clients for operating systems like Haiku, or Android(which basically means playing on tablet or mobile these days). Some games have several open source engines because different groups of people want to achieve different results - still, their engines are way better than the original ones as it's easier to modify them and adjust to run smoothly on modern hardware.

With Unreal the situation is complicated as the engine's source code has not been released to the community so developing it further is harder and the game is more likely to be forgotten in the future than games like Quake that is available on more devices(even consoles) thanks to having open source engine. Unreal is a great game and everyone joining the community is possible able to create something to expand it's world. Imagine that you have ports of Unreal engine on your mobile or console - so much more people will be able to learn about this great game and maybe join our community.

Too bad EPIC is the company that doesn't like to release the source codes of their engines. And as it is understandable when it comes to their newest engines they are making a lot money on; it's riddle to me why do they struggle with releasing a source code for the engine used by over 20 year old game. No one needs the data - we all have the CD with the game - we do not want the game to be free of charge - we just need its engine to be open source.

Releasing the engine will allow to continue developing it, constantly making it better by the community. The engine is so old, in my opinion EPIC will not lose money by releasing the engine's source code.

Still, what needs to be done is the plan. If we start sending silly e-mails to EPIC representatives saying "Unreal's engine code please!" - they will rather get angry. No wonder why.

In my opinion, major personalities in our community should discuss the the contents of a petition in which we can clearly outline why do we want EPIC to release the source code and why we think that it is no risk of any kind of loss for the company by doing that. When the petition will be completed and presented to the community we should post it online and try to get as many people supporting it as possible. When we reach a decent number it should be presented to EPIC and I think the best next step is to encourage the company to have an online conference with major people from Unreal community who will be able to further discuss the situation and... wait for results.

Personally I tried to liberated 2 games in the past - both attempts failed. It sucks, I know that as in both cases I was speaking for the community. It's very sad when you achieve nothing. Yet, Unreal is the third game I think it's worth trying.

I started talking about it on ISV Unreal clan discord and a few people agreed with me saying basically - "Why not to try?". That's why I started this topic, to encourage the community to give it a go and at least to try liberate one of our favourite games.

I know a few of us have spoken to certain EPIC representatives in the past, yes, but we can only matter enough to make an impact as a community, not as individuals. Maybe that's the way to go?
  

Nothing interesting so far Smiley
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Re: Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future?
Reply #1 - May 3rd, 2019 at 3:27am
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"we dont have the bandwidth to do that" - epic games

we've tried, others have tried, we even tried to get more people on the NDA for 227. smirf didnt even have the source code for upak.dll for unrealgold so it had to be reconstructed lol

my only constructive comment is that we have obtained the source code to a newer version of galaxy, unreal's default sound system. I remember sweeney once posting that they needed to remove the middleware from ue1, to the best of my knowledge the only middleware is galaxy which has already been worked around with fmod, fmodex, and alaudio subsystems. If there is any other middleware its probably in the form of proprietary SSE header or some such, or I am simply unaware.

keep in mind that the source epic can release is only unmodified UE1 source code -- which will not work without extensive reverse engineering for games such as Rune or Deus Ex, but it would work just fine for UT/Unreal and probably many other basic games. Not to mention the fact that you'd ideally get all versions of the source.... but some are lost. supposedly 225f got overwritten by 226f which is a real downer since 226f introduced bugs that werent in 225f but werent yet fixed by 224v.
  
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Re: Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future?
Reply #2 - May 3rd, 2019 at 1:40pm
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Re: Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future?
Reply #3 - May 5th, 2019 at 11:39am
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azn wrote on May 2nd, 2019 at 9:21pm:
While in my first years with GNU/Linux operating system I did not know why should I care about code being open or not I realized it soon enough. If the source code is open - no one will hide any spying software into the code or make your private information leak in any way.

It's possible to obfuscate a source code and make it so complicated and difficult for understanding that other people would need years to figure out how it works. Besides, it would be naive to assume that programmers commonly have nothing to do but verify megabytes of source code written by other people. Most of them have a job and/or their own projects to which they pay attention in the first place.

azn wrote on May 2nd, 2019 at 9:21pm:
Of course I will not look after it myself as I cannot code

That explains why you could believe in those fairy tales about mighty open source community.

azn wrote on May 2nd, 2019 at 9:21pm:
but there are many others who can - that's the power of the open source community.

Verifying the source code of a non-trivial software is not as easy as reading an article in Wikipedia. It needs a lot of time and effort, and therefore people should have considerable reasons to be really motivated in doing such things. And even if someone has enough motivation, this doesn't imply that he can actually find all critical issues in the reviewed code. Maybe after reading the following page you'll take your pink glasses off:
Open source malware is actually a possibility
  
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Re: Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future?
Reply #4 - May 5th, 2019 at 6:02pm
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Masterkent wrote on May 5th, 2019 at 11:39am:
Verifying the source code of a non-trivial software is not as easy as reading an article in Wikipedia. It needs a lot of time and effort, and therefore people should have considerable reasons to be really motivated in doing such things. And even if someone has enough motivation, this doesn't imply that he can actually find all critical issues in the reviewed code. Maybe after reading the following page you'll take your pink glasses off:
Open source malware is actually a possibility


I'd add to this by saying that, generally, if malware/malicious code is found in open source projects, it's usually found by people actively working on the project (for example -> https://lwn.net/Articles/57137/). Of course, this is no different than putting trust into developers not to write exploitable code or to not put backdoors into a codebase.

The only difference in this case is that open source eliminates the need for some kind of financial buy-in just to verify that a piece of code they care about is acting in their best interest. Open source also means that, in the event that some kind of malicious code is found, that discussion of the matter is transparent, meaning that people can form their own opinions on what's really going on rather than placing all of their trust into one group, be it a single person or a small group of people.

So while I'd agree that, yes, it would prevent some kind of scenario where a developer with malicious intent can do whatever they want, completely unchecked, it's not very likely that something like that would happen with a game like Unreal.

Instead, I'd say that the real benefit to open sourcing Unreal Engine 1 lies in being able to have more people potentially work on it. Even this has diminishing returns to begin with, since the community is rather dormant in comparison to Doom, for example. There might not be a whole lot of people that actually have the skillset and the time to contribute anyway. But I don't think anyone would disagree with the idea that adding new features for modders/mappers, or just optimizing the game in general is a bad thing.

The only other argument that I can think of against open sourcing something like Unreal is the question of security when it comes to network games. I think that might have been a valid argument at one point, but I hardly ever see more than double digit players in game these days. Even the Doom community with its numerous playerbase has accepted that open source is the way to go, despite the fact that undetectable cheats become much easier to develop in doing so. The only answer to that is community involvement in recognizing cheaters and ousting them entirely. However, if there are hardly any players left anyway, then cheaters would be the least of my worries. Cheaters can't very well ruin a game for everyone if next to nobody is playing in the first place.

Masterkent wrote on May 5th, 2019 at 11:39am:
That explains why you could believe in those fairy tales about mighty open source community.


The only "fairy tale" might be the amount of impact that open sourcing Unreal would have. You wouldn't see the impact that other open source games have had, or the impact that Linux has had. Open source in this case is just a life insurance that game won't ever die permanently as long as their are people interested in keeping it alive. Keeping Unreal closed source only guarantees that the game will die with no possible chance of ever reviving it in the future.

Having a possibility to make some kind impact is better than knowing that, eventually, the game will just die because it cannot run on whatever version of Windows we end up with after some amount of time. Or that the game will end up dead if at some point in the future, x86 dies out and is superceded by something else, however unlikely that may seem now. Or that the game will end up dead because nobody wants to deal with the various bugs and quirks that have remained in the engine for years because only one person really has the power to fix any of it, and it's entirely up to that one person whether they want to fix or change whatever it is that may be a problem. And god forbid that something horrible happens to them because then the game is truly dead, nobody will be able to work on it in that case.

azn wrote on May 2nd, 2019 at 9:21pm:
I know a few of us have spoken to certain EPIC representatives in the past, yes, but we can only matter enough to make an impact as a community, not as individuals. Maybe that's the way to go?


I'm not sure that Epic will be of any help since their concern seems to lie in Fortnite and restricting player choice with regard to where they can purchase and play their favorite games. The fact that nothing in the Unreal series has been made an Epic Store exclusive speaks very clearly to me that they care very little about the series, if they even care at all. Unfortunately, that doesn't really mean that the source can just be uploaded publicly as they still retain the rights to that code.

The only solution I can think of is an open source reconstruction of the engine's functionalities using clean-room reverse-engineering techniques to figure out and document object formats and features that make the engine what it is. That documentation would then be used as a guideline for writing a brand new engine that would eventually fulfill most, if not all of the functionalities of the original engine using completely new code. OpenMW has done this for Morrowind, OpenRA has done this for C&C: Red Alert, OpenRCT2 has done this for the first two RollerCoaster Tycoon games, there is no reason why this can't be done for Unreal Engine as well, outside of the fact that such a project would take years to fully complete.

That is something that I have been working on for over a year now, and the only thing it can do is load entire packages and export their data in the same way that the editor would but with the ability to work with any Unreal Engine 1 game. It's going to take years until I or anyone else that contributes can render maps like the engine can, or until an editor exists that can generate BSP in a way that the original engine can accept, or until an UnrealScript compiler is written and an execution environment is written. All without the original source and without disassembling anything. Unless Epic decides to open source the engine, I don't really see any other way of keeping a game like this from some day dying entirely.
  
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Re: Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future?
Reply #5 - May 6th, 2019 at 9:16pm
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May be relevant.

What about making it freeware? You can already do a lot with public headers, or perhaps some DLL shims. Then the mods or even entire games based on the engine could be shared freely on some indie game websites, without the need of having the original game, which would certainly increase their (potential) popularity.

Quote:
Having a possibility to make some kind impact is better than knowing that, eventually, the game will just die because it cannot run on whatever version of Windows we end up with after some amount of time. Or that the game will end up dead if at some point in the future, x86 dies out and is superceded by something else, however unlikely that may seem now.


Do you have trouble running games from 20-30 years ago? There are emulators of most of platforms. There are virtual machines. There's a way to legally obtain Windows XP for free. There's wine.

There's simply no way the x86/WinAPI with its enormous collection of games and software would become "forgotten", when all you need is wine and a translator from x86 to whatever future CPU you would have.

Are you worried about obtaining the game? Well, if noone cares about it, it will probably end up at abandonware websites (not like it hasn't already).

Tl;dr being able to run Unreal in the future shouldn't be a problem.

Quote:
Or that the game will end up dead because nobody wants to deal with the various bugs and quirks that have remained in the engine for years because only one person really has the power to fix any of it, and it's entirely up to that one person whether they want to fix or change whatever it is that may be a problem.


No. The game will be dead because there's a constant supply of new games and content that everyone talks about, perhaps even ones that target a similar niche to this one. People simply won't know that this game exists, or will have wrong expectations because it's an "FPS".

Quote:
That is something that I have been working on for over a year now, and the only thing it can do is load entire packages and export their data in the same way that the editor would


That's interesting because I've worked on similar stuff in last years, including a barely functional game engine. But that's probably for another thread.

Quote:
It's going to take years until I or anyone else that contributes can render maps like the engine can


It isn't that hard. There'a already a .unr viewer somewhere. Now add some triangle-cylinder collision and you have a bare game engine.
  

Quality content | mail me instead of PMing: ampoyrex(a)wp(.)pl
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Re: Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future?
Reply #6 - May 8th, 2019 at 6:38pm
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@Masterkent

Masterkent wrote on May 5th, 2019 at 11:39am:
azn wrote on May 2nd, 2019 at 9:21pm:
While in my first years with GNU/Linux operating system I did not know why should I care about code being open or not I realized it soon enough. If the source code is open - no one will hide any spying software into the code or make your private information leak in any way.

It's possible to obfuscate a source code and make it so complicated and difficult for understanding that other people would need years to figure out how it works. Besides, it would be naive to assume that programmers commonly have nothing to do but verify megabytes of source code written by other people. Most of them have a job and/or their own projects to which they pay attention in the first place.

azn wrote on May 2nd, 2019 at 9:21pm:
Of course I will not look after it myself as I cannot code

That explains why you could believe in those fairy tales about mighty open source community.

azn wrote on May 2nd, 2019 at 9:21pm:
but there are many others who can - that's the power of the open source community.

Verifying the source code of a non-trivial software is not as easy as reading an article in Wikipedia. It needs a lot of time and effort, and therefore people should have considerable reasons to be really motivated in doing such things. And even if someone has enough motivation, this doesn't imply that he can actually find all critical issues in the reviewed code. Maybe after reading the following page you'll take your pink glasses off:
Open source malware is actually a possibility

First of all - this topic mainly focuses on how we can preserve the future of Unreal. My explanation about the open source software was just to introduce to people who have no idea what that is at all. Probably you are somehow right, and probably I am as well.


@Xaleros

Xaleros wrote on May 5th, 2019 at 6:02pm:
Open source also means that, in the event that some kind of malicious code is found, that discussion of the matter is transparent, meaning that people can form their own opinions on what's really going on rather than placing all of their trust into one group, be it a single person or a small group of people.

Yes I think that is what makes the big difference here.

Xaleros wrote on May 5th, 2019 at 6:02pm:
So while I'd agree that, yes, it would prevent some kind of scenario where a developer with malicious intent can do whatever they want, completely unchecked, it's not very likely that something like that would happen with a game like Unreal.

Instead, I'd say that the real benefit to open sourcing Unreal Engine 1 lies in being able to have more people potentially work on it. Even this has diminishing returns to begin with, since the community is rather dormant in comparison to Doom, for example. There might not be a whole lot of people that actually have the skillset and the time to contribute anyway. But I don't think anyone would disagree with the idea that adding new features for modders/mappers, or just optimizing the game in general is a bad thing.

Agree as well, and I know that any kind of spying piece of software will likely not end in Unreal as that's the game and not an operating system. As I said, just wanted to briefly explain what open source is to people unfamiliar with the whole thing.

Xaleros wrote on May 5th, 2019 at 6:02pm:
The only other argument that I can think of against open sourcing something like Unreal is the question of security when it comes to network games. I think that might have been a valid argument at one point, but I hardly ever see more than double digit players in game these days. Even the Doom community with its numerous playerbase has accepted that open source is the way to go, despite the fact that undetectable cheats become much easier to develop in doing so. The only answer to that is community involvement in recognizing cheaters and ousting them entirely. However, if there are hardly any players left anyway, then cheaters would be the least of my worries. Cheaters can't very well ruin a game for everyone if next to nobody is playing in the first place.

Of course that may be the case, still I think that any possibility to bring more players and mainly developers to Unreal is worth taking that kind of risk. There are communication methods between admins so they can share details of cheating players and just ban them.

Xaleros wrote on May 5th, 2019 at 6:02pm:
I'm not sure that Epic will be of any help since their concern seems to lie in Fortnite and restricting player choice with regard to where they can purchase and play their favorite games. The fact that nothing in the Unreal series has been made an Epic Store exclusive speaks very clearly to me that they care very little about the series, if they even care at all. Unfortunately, that doesn't really mean that the source can just be uploaded publicly as they still retain the rights to that code.

Yeah, I've spoken to Smirftsch on Discord the other day and that is rather compllicated - yet we agree that it's good to write the petition, still the petition must be well thought through and we need to know what we are willing EPIC to do about the case. Anyway, you will see details when we have the plan.

@yrex

yrex wrote on May 6th, 2019 at 9:16pm:
What about making it freeware? You can already do a lot with public headers, or perhaps some DLL shims. Then the mods or even entire games based on the engine could be shared freely on some indie game websites, without the need of having the original game, which would certainly increase their (potential) popularity.

In my humble opinion making it freeware will stop EPIC from making any money on it. And EPIC is EPIC - they made this game free of charge for it's 20th anniversary not so long ago and that's only proves to me that they look at how it sells these days.

Opening sources or allowing more people work on the code in any other way will keep the game alive and they can still sell the data - original game content.

So to me writing the whole petition just to get the game for free it totally not worth it - first of all - it will not happen; and secondly - it will change nothing for the community. So that's a waste of time and effort.
  

Nothing interesting so far Smiley
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Re: Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future?
Reply #7 - May 9th, 2019 at 6:50am
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Xaleros wrote on May 5th, 2019 at 6:02pm:
But I don't think anyone would disagree with the idea that adding new features for modders/mappers, or just optimizing the game in general is a bad thing.

That depends on the quality of such changes which in turn would depend on how good the devs would be. In the worst case, you could notice that you dislike over 90% of "improvements" made by a team of alternatively gifted devs. So, it's a matter of luck.

Xaleros wrote on May 5th, 2019 at 6:02pm:
Even the Doom community with its numerous playerbase has accepted that open source is the way to go, despite the fact that undetectable cheats become much easier to develop in doing so. The only answer to that is community involvement in recognizing cheaters and ousting them entirely.

How exactly would you suggest to recognize cheaters and oust them? Opening the source code of anticheating/banning systems would be a big favour towards the people who'd wish to bypass such things.

Xaleros wrote on May 5th, 2019 at 6:02pm:
Cheaters can't very well ruin a game for everyone if next to nobody is playing in the first place.

I should remind that cheating is just a particular form of abusive behavior in online games (which is relevant mostly to PvP game modes).

azn wrote on May 8th, 2019 at 6:38pm:
There are communication methods between admins so they can share details of cheating players and just ban them.

Bans can be bypassed, it's only a matter of time and effort. The more bad players know about how the banning system works, the less time and effort they need to bypass the protection. Besides, the most malicious players could do something worse than just bypassing bans.
  
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Re: Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future?
Reply #8 - May 12th, 2019 at 4:26pm
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My biggest concern is that sth. like that would happen under GPL. Which would just totally screw work for all other games as GPL would make it legally impossible to use it for them.

So one can either choose to violate licenses or not use it and be in a large disadvantage.
  

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Re: Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future?
Reply #9 - May 20th, 2019 at 7:00pm
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han wrote on May 12th, 2019 at 4:26pm:
My biggest concern is that sth. like that would happen under GPL. Which would just totally screw work for all other games as GPL would make it legally impossible to use it for them.

So one can either choose to violate licenses or not use it and be in a large disadvantage.


Hmm I don't get your point..., Unreal engine source code under GPL will rather never happen, sadly. Yet, GPL is the "situation" when you can use the engine for whatever you want, so I think you're totally wrong.

Anyway, if there is any progress with the petition you all will be informed in this topic.
  

Nothing interesting so far Smiley
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Re: Petition to open Unreal engine source code - a chance for a brighter future?
Reply #10 - May 21st, 2019 at 10:29pm
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azn wrote on May 20th, 2019 at 7:00pm:
Yet, GPL is the "situation" when you can use the engine for whatever you want, so I think you're totally wrong.

No, you are not allowed to. GPL imposes very strict limitations upon you. If you would start using it for Deus Ex, where you also at the same time need the code found in the Deus Ex SDK, it would count as a derivate work. If you release the binaries for that, you would also have to make the code you used to make them available under the GPL. However you can't relicense the code found in the Deus Ex SDK under the GPL. So you either have to violate GPL or Deus Ex SDK licensing terms (which are sadly vague on their own).

A BSD or MIT style license would avoid this issue, but also would allow you to do almost everything with it, which may violate commercial interessts.
  

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