The Text is Not the Book: saving PC game development through Open Source

I had just browsed Ars Technica a few hours before (actually a few days ago, see note at the end-red), reading their review of Panther A.K.A. Macintosh OS X version 10.3. Its amazing what the Apple team did to FreeBSD 5. Yes, Mac OS X 10.3 is based on FreeBSD, an open source OS, although the resulting code is copyrighted. And as is the case with the iMac, the original and titanium iBooks, the iCube, the iPod, etc. (you get the idea), the OS X interface is beautiful and functional.

With that in mind I began thinking that open source can save PC gaming. Especially when combined with a Creative Commons license.

My idea is the separation of technology from content. I mean, when people copyright books, they do not primarily copyright the physical-material being of the book, but rather the ideas and images contained in it, including the way that the idea --content-- is presented.

OK, now lets try to systematize that argument (or at least let me systematize my idea into a logically traceable argument). First, FreeBSD is an open-source operating system developed by a group of hackers, called the Berkeley Software Distribution, that went to UC-Berkeley Computer Science departement (or at least most of the original developers did). Its development has been from the beginning -- and for the most continues to be -- developed by hackers for hackers. FreeBSD User interface for the most part is developed only to be just barely usable, and not necessarily aesthetically pleasing.

While Apple computers since the beggining of its Macintosh line in 1984 has continued to focus on style and layman usability. They developed the first graphical user interface -- with the help of Xerox' Palo Alto Labs and (believe it or not) Microsoft. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996 (if Iím not mistaken), he got the company back to the roots that he had originally envisioned for the company, that being the makers of human PCs. And sometime in the year 2000, he made a crucial decision to merge the industrial design skills of Apple with the open-source community's code robustness with the release of Mac OS X 10.0. Although off to a rocky start, the latest release has resulted in a (subjectively) very stable operating system with a very artistic industrial design. Jobs managed to start an artistic project with -- relatively -- free technology, thus focusing on the design while harnessing the help of the BSD community for coding.

And that's where we get into PC gaming. The problem with PC games nowadays is its long development cycle seasoned with a liberal amount of target-missing. And the development woes are resultant of their basing their technolology on proprietary software; a team of only 10 is working on more than 10 million lines of code, where most of the coding consists of recreating the wheel. Game developers continue to reinvent ways of rendering 3D environments, and they have trouble helping each other because of their non-disclosure agreements. And never mind the egoism which refuse to recognise that they can use each others' help, regardless of the development house they work for. They canít share code, technology, and techniques, and the main reason is the preservation of their creative design property. So how can developers from separate companies help each other with technology while protecting the rights to their main selling point -- the fun that people had by playing their unique game ideas?

Thatís where separation of Content from Technology comes in. I see this as very possible, although not inevitable (yet). To get the idea, lets get back to my earlier reference to books. The story and pictures contained in books, and also its layout and design, is the content. The book as a result of desktop-publishing and printing-press machines is the technology. Now think of the gameplay and graphic design as content and the 3D engine, memory management, etc. as the technology. If PC game developers can see that the book does not have to be reinventend everytime they want to make a game, and instead can be developed colaboratively with a big community, then they can start to focus on what they do best: creating fun gameplays, beautiful graphic art, and tantalizing interactive stories.

They should copyright the whole package, but they should license the two sides -- content and technology -- using separate licenses. The technology should be GPLíed while the content uses a creative commons license, so that developers can control how, and under what terms, their content is distributed. Or if they want to be greedy or just simply follow copyright law as it is currently applied in their respective countries, they can copyright their content normaly and license it as they see fit.

This should be obvious if developers observe the trends of 3D FPSíes and the licensing of their engines. Add to that the fact that John Carmack released Quake IIís source code under the GPL a while back [link to idsoftware.com]. And also the troubles caused by Half-Life IIís delay [link to gameindustry.biz].

A caveat emptor, though; I canít code to save my life. The last time I touched C++ was in 3rd grade SMU (equivalent more or less to 9th grade in the US public school system). For all intents and purposes Iíve completely forgotten the language ever since. The last programming I did was a very simplistic WordBasic script to toggle the marking of highlights in Word2000 documents. I havenít wrote a single line of code for six moths before that (when I hacked away at DreamWeaver-created HTML for a friend), and practically six years before that. Iím basically a lamer; a hacker wannabe. So I canít say how complex the separation of design from technology can be applied to PC gaming. But its just a thought, and as far as my limited knowledge can tell me its not only possible but also essential to save the PC gaming industry from the ravages of minimalist popular societyís very limited attention span.

Just as the development of Cascading Style Sheets seek to separate style from content in HTML documents, so should game developers begin to separate design from technology in game development. Iím not saying that developers should make their game design less a part of their game technology development, on the contrary Iím saying that game development should identify which part of their code is aesthetic design and which part is technological innovation, so that each can be treated accordingly; the aesthetic towards the focusing of the gameís message and the technology to expand the horizons of what is possible to render. Thus code becomes bloated and condensed where neccesary, and complexity becomes more controlled and systematized. And PC games can start to look cool again.

Sorry 'bout all the missing links in the brackets; this thing's been sitting in the draft-bin for too long and I decided to publish anyway, missing link and all...

Posted at 7:20:12 am by ferdikom98
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I suddenly had the urge to get back to my programming roots. At least my hacking roots. Here and now, at the edge of my college education.

I guess I don't have the talent to become a programmer. I had been drafted to an international mathematics olympiad team for my when I was in 2nd grade elementary, but as I grow older my weakness emerges: accuracy. But what I still had is a tenacity to tinker with code.

I hacked away many-a-wordbasic code when I was in junior-high all the way to high-school. I learned Pascal in high-school but was turned off by my inability to create pretty things. My middle of the road abandonment left me further and further behind in the technology gap. Now I want to get back.

I can learn a lot from Free Software. I MUST learn a lot from free software. I must rekindle my effort to learn C/C++. I must look at GNU source code. I must learn how OS kernels work. Especially graphical subsystems, X11 and OpenGL in particular. I must learn vector graphics coding. I must make my own personal FreeHand, with its absolute minimal feature a killer pen/bezier tool.

I failed to qualify for IPA because of my overspending time with my 386DX box. That I have felt in the past to be an unfairly illogical situation. Now I gotta get back.


Posted at 7:16:52 am by ferdikom98
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Rainy day poetry upload

On a rainy day I feel mellow. Especially since I'm listening to the cool sounds of Prambors.

I[...], wherever you are, if you're reading this please don't get me wrong. I never wanted to embarras you, much less hurt you (but of course I was too stupid to know better:0). And I can never, ever hate you, because all I feel and have ever felt has always been in my mind and has always been my creation. You have never done anything to make me hate you. Ever.

You must be sick of hearing all my apologies, and with that thought I had always meant the following to be my last one to you. I can never say that I'm over you and be true, I realise and accept that now. And I also accept that, for all my misguided perceptions and obsessions, we can never be.

Whatever; Keep kool, girl!:) dan,... BURUAN LULUS!!!! hehehehe....


Ku berterima kasih padamu
atas cinta yang telah kau ilhami
walau kau tak berbagi dalamnya.

Ku berterima kasih padamu
atas pilu yang tergores dalam hati
berbentu pengalaman indah yang berharga.

Ku meminta maaf padamu
beban rasaku padamu kulempari
walau kau tak pernah menangkapnya.

Ku meminta maaf padamu
kesempatanmu tak pernah kuberi
walau sang waktu banyak adanya.
Engkau benar.
Cinta terindah
kala kau tau
ia juga merasakannya.

Dan cinta terpahit
kala cintamu
tak kau ungkap padanya.

Dan kini.
Ku berterimakasih pada Tuhan.
Pada Alam.
Sahabat, Keadaan, Waktu!
Atas pelajaran
yang belum selesai kuselami
akan Indahnya hidupku ini....


Kamis, 6 Maret 2003
8.57 bbwi
Kembangan, Jakarta Barat

PS.: Ku juga minta maaf padamu
atas rasa sakit yang kurasa kaurasakan,
walau kini kurasa hanya ada dalam
rasaku saja:)

Posted at 2:17:29 pm by ferdikom98
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It's eleven o'clock and I'm in Darmanet. I have stupidly agreed to bail a friend out of a GD job. I have smoked half a pack of JarCok. I am tired. I can't draw anything because there's no FreeHand in Darma. I can't complete the GD job, due tomorrow morning, and I'm stuck in Depok. There's no PC where I can work. The one At Lamkun got drenched in water during the past weeks' rain, so its fried. I want to sleep but I'm wide awake. A friend is translating my outline for me. The bill's run into Rp7000 with me having nothing to show for it. I wanna go home. I wanna do my outline myself, at home, with no rush. I wanna sleep but I'm wide awake. But I already said that. I gotta check out. Smoking has lost its magic. But I can't seem to bring myself to step away from this PC. The music's great. Don't know who's singing but the song's great. I'm in the 3rd floor, smoking section. I just keep typing, and typing, and typing, and typing, and typing, and typing, and typing, and typing, and typing, and typing, and typing, and typing, and typing, and typing, and typing.... I just realise its Blink82, or 24, 186, 32, 134, what's their name again? I'm feelin' it.....

I waste my being away.
I waste my BEING away.
I waste my being AWAY.
I WASTE my being away.

Outta here.

Posted at 11:14:04 pm by ferdikom98
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absolut web

Has any of you encountered any Flash-driven Absolut ads while surfing on the web? I encountered my first one applying for a free day-pass to Salon a few weeks ago. My class of '98 has a certain obession with them as I recall (especially you-know-who-you-are:), and as any advertising major should know their creative uses of print media had always rocked. I personally feel that their use of the web is just as creative. Just visit their site.

And I still feel society should be fearfull of marketing:)

Posted at 10:10:28 am by ferdikom98
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You have a dysfunctional family; I have a dysfunctional nation.

A friend of mine was asking in her blog why someone would find it terrible for her to be apathetic about our situation in Indonesia. I was trying to find some reference to answer that question -- mostly for me -- when I found this paper, entitled "Social Fragmentation in Indonesia, A Crisis from Suharto's New Order" written by Vivienne Wee of the Southeas Asia Research Centre (SEARC), City University of Hong Kong. People interested in Indonesia's continued, and continuing, social dysfunction might very well be interested in this paper.


An interesting argument made in the paper is that the primary mode of governance in Indonesia was, and (this is the interesting point) still is, a system called State Capture (see the paper, page 3).

Of course the paper is a explanative interpretive one; by its very nature it only begin to try answering questions and barely marks any paths of action. But at least it sheds some light...

Posted at 8:37:07 am by ferdikom98
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Graduating by Linux Advocacy, part 2

Here's an early draft for my undergraduate final work outline; please feel free to comment...

In case my friends are wondering, yes I originally wrote this in English; I didn't waste any precious time translating this from Indonesian. And I'm also wondering if I can save some effort by not translating; outline kita bisa nggak sih dimasukkin ke jurusan dalam Bahasa Inggris? Bisa aja sih gue terjemahin tapi kayaknya pegel deh...

Remember that this text is copyrighted by me and licensed under a Creative Commons License:)

Social Marketing for Free Software

an undergraduate final work outline

by Ferdinand F. Zebua
Communications Sciences Department
Regular Undergraduate Program
majoring in Advertising
Faculty of Social and Political Sciences
Universitas Indonesia

1. Introduction
GNU/Linux[FFZ1], and free software in general (more commonly known as open-source software), can be legally had by anyone living in Indonesia, without paying the exhorbitantly high prices of non-free software, which in a lot of cases cost as much as, or even more than, an annual salary for a lot of people in Indonesia. For example current local prices for MS Windows plus MS Office - the bare minimal for a complete, usable operating system - in total is over US$1,000, or approximately Rp 8.500.000. In a nation where average yearly GNP is Rp 4.250.000[FFZ2].

A lot of people say that the rule of law is nonexistant in our nation. At the very least it must be accepted as truth that a lot of crimes go unpunished here. Take for example a common traffic violation such as running a red light. Nor the graft which often take place right after, where the violator pays the arresting officer as much as Rp 100.000, sometimes a lot more, for a 'peaceful settlement.'

One example of these kinds of lawlessness also common throughout the nation is the piracy of copyrighted software.

We must make it so that Indonesian society understands, appreciates, and apply the rule of law in their daily lives and in society. These ideals may have been observed in the past history of our society, but the face of law enforcement and the courts has been so thouroughly smeared during these past years that lawlessnes has more and more become the norm-de-plume of our society. This is not a fault of the current administration nor the one before it. But rather it is the fault of the Soeharto administration which has emphasised crony capitalism, in effect lawlessness. The Indonesian reform simply uncovered it and democratized it insofar as to make everyone know how to get into the crony capitalism system of wealth gain. This in turn has also intensified .

Law obedience must be cultivated; that is it must be made part of Indonesian culture. It must be made so that it is more convenient and more profitable for Indonesia as a society in general - and primarily to the 'under-educated' masses - to live in accordance to the rule of law. One good place to start is the observation of software copyright. It is feasible due to the fact that free software is not just free as in freedom, but that it is also free as in free beer.

Freedom in an information society must be explored and discussed, at least academically if not in public discourse. The speed at which technology develops has made it imperative for us to congregate all the information around us and understand it. It is crucial for society at large to understand the freedoms that are theirs lest they loose it. And it has already begun.

Copyright is not a fundamental human right, it is a social contract[FFZ3]. The concept of copyright was first communicated in the pages of the US constitution. When the founding fathers of the USA agreed to copyright law, they agreed to it under the condition that copyright be a means to stimulate the development of sciences and arts[FFZ4].

The way in which I propose to do this is on the message that it is better to use free software. How am I going to convince people to do that? Firstly I am going to demonstrate how simple Windows programs not requiring DirectX (which include almost all commercial software available in the WindowsX platform except for video games) can mostly run on GNU/Linux systems, and sometimes run faster and more stable. This is achieved throught Wine (Wine Is Not an Emulator), a Win32 API layer for Unix-like systems. Hopefully this will get people to run business applications in GNU/Linux systems.

Afterwards I shall go into the legas aspects of free software. Again focusing on the price difference between free and non-free software.

Finally I must go to the philosophical aspects of free software. Because without an understanding of the freedom that free software entails, software in Indonesia might not remain free for long.

The vehicles I would like to employ in the dissemination of these ideas are the computer rentals and Internet kiosks common throughout our nation. Specifically I plan to go to the ones around Margonda.

One point that I must stress is that the Free Software movement is not against copyright; in fact it relies on copyright to enforce their philosophies on freedom of information. The GNU General Public License, the most common - if not the primary - licensing scheme the community uses relies primarily on copyright law to stress that the use and modification of their respective software must be made public and must be developed for the good of society in general.

Another is the unpopularity of desktop GNU/Linux systems. This is mostly due to the fact that the most profitable application of free software is in high-end information systems and web/internet businesses. This has created a situation in which most of the effort put into free software development is put into development of these mission-critical systems and ivory tower ideals. This is also intensified by Linus Trovalds' position that open source software should be promoted primarily on its technical merits [FFZ5]- that it is more secure, more easily developed, faster-executing in real-life implementations. He does not care for the philosophy; at least he does not put much effort in diseminating them. Thus desktop-GNU/Linux is lethargically developed, if you can't say not being developed at all.

2. Objectives
- to promote desktop GNU/Linux for everyday desktop uses
- to cultivate awareness of copyright law and how it applies to software.
- to promote free software in general

3. SWOT analysis
3.1. Strengths
- Free Software is Free as in Freedom
- Free Software is free as in Free Beer
- Free Software is as capable as - if not more capable than - non-free, proprietary software
- Free Software is more adaptable to individual needs.
3.2. Weaknesses
- Free Software has a perceived complexity attached to it
- Free Software is not as commonly used in domestic situations as
3.3. Opportunities
- Computer rentals and internet kiosks are abundant in Indonesia, and they have the power to dictate what software their customers use, so long as they work in concert.
3.4. Threats
- Producers of propietary software see Free Software as a threat to their monopolies, and even to its currently established business model.

4. Significance
4.1. Academic significance
- To explore strategies in grass-roots social promotion
- To explore the intricacies of copyright law, specifically software copyright and the separation of content and tools.
4.2. Practical significance
- To encourage observation of copyright law
- To lessen Indonesia's dependence on transnational companies, specifically monopoly-based software behemoths like Microsoft.

5. Closing
I have chosen this topic as my undergraduate thesis because I fell issues to be discussed in this undertaking is dear to my heart. I have loved personal computers since my first introduction to them in 3rd grade elementary school, when I was introduced to Apple II computers and learned to type on them.

I also feel somewhat peeved by opinions very common among my peers that legal reform is a utopian dream because of the ingrained culture that permeates in our society, a culture which pays little attention to the rule of law, if not to say that we as a society ignores it completely.

I also personally want to demonstrate that you can learn a lot of useful facts from the Internet, if you know where to look.

And lastly I want to demonstrate to my peers that we Indonesians can use personal computers legally and practically, both at the same time.

6. References
- The Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org)
- The Open Source Initiative (www.opensource.org)
- The Linux Documentation Project (www.tldp.org),
and various documents developed throughh these movements.

[FFZ1]Formerly: Knoppix, or more specifically GNU/Linux
[FFZ2]VERIFY these figures!!!
[FFZ3]QUOTE a source!!!
[FFZ4]Find a quoted source with the same meaning; preferably from US constitutional sources.
[FFZ5]Quote, quote, quote!!! Preferably from Trovalds himself...

Posted at 1:36:11 am by ferdikom98
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Graduating by Linux Advocacy

How about promoting linux? I mean, I just woke up, and there's this thought that just suddenly popped into my head. I need a 'thesis' topic which I can appreciate and for the past few days I'd just been practically drowning myself in lots and lots of information on free software (free as in free people not free beer), and I'm majoring in advertising.

So why not promote linux? I'm thinking I'm gonna start aiming at SES A- to C+ audience, and I'm also thinking that a lot of my nation's law problems stem from the 'fact' that a lot of Indonesians its more comfortable to live in our current pseudo-lawlessness rather than to seek ways in which to live conveniently and at the same time create a stable order of ....

Posted at 1:23:22 am by ferdikom98
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Brain freeze

I need out of this house; this house is not condusive to thinking. Too many problems and too many people to concern with them. I need to graduate, but my graduation depends on creative inspiration; a very fickle element, often fleeting by when I can least grasp them.

I just got a call from Jono. He and some of my friends have a plan to mother me into complete submission, or at least to the point where I can actually graduate. They have an agreement among them, somewhat known to me, to harras me, for my own good, into actually moving towards a future still hazy in my eyes.

And yet.

I really want a new PC. My mom can't afford one. Or at least won't afford one. I keep getting offers to make money. Its really frustrating when I know I can make the money quick if I put my mind to it, but....

Its been such a long time since my last entry. I've been online often, though, browsing through free software sites (free as in free people, not free beer). I'm considering getting Knoppix, when I should be considering writing my graduation paper outline....

A poem.

I Killed an ant.

I accidentaly crippled it badly while sweeping.

I think I was sweeping it for quite a few meters before I noticed it.

When nearing the trash can I looked at it and remembered:

"When his friends find him, they will kill him..."

Because he can no longer survive.

I crushed it with the tip of my broom.

I thought I felt tears welling up, but I must have been imagining it.

Then I remember me.

I am at a physical age where I should be independent,

yet I still can't carry my own weight.

Probably never will.

I am crippled.

Kembangan, West Jakarta, December 16 2003

Posted at 11:26:14 pm by ferdikom98
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A night at the Opera

Did anyone see Michael Bolton on TV7 tonight? He was singing the opera in a 1998 tv production called My Secret Passion. I din't really plan on watching it, I was watching Survivor Combat Mission and I was channel-zipping. I didn't have much expectation for Bolton's attempt, which I think was one reason I was -- at least slightly -- captivated by his voice.

He may be weak in the base range, and his voice often waivers due to his Pop instincts, but you gotta admit dude he's got a great opera voice, I would dare say. And you know what's so great about watching, no, listening to Opera? Its the feeling afterward, kinda like the feeling you get after watching a great movie, but always consistently wonderful because the Masters of the Past would never consider publishing anything that at least they themselves would consider stellar. It feels the way one might feel after watching... you know, I don't think I've ever felt this way after watching a film, only after listening to concerts.

Bjork unplugged, I'd imagine, would be a relevant example. Nirvana, to a slightly -- only slightly -- lesser extent. The Corrs, Elton John, Sheryl Crow, Bryan Adams, other Unpluggeds. Maybe its the sound of natural music, perhaps. Non-electronic.

Not that I don't like electronica, mind you. I appreciate the work of electronica in general, at least the 'original' ones (but consider that no new music can be created nowadays; everything's been done before). I think the Chemical Brothers are wonderful creative artists. Along with Fat Boy Slim. And Moloko.

But getting back to the Opera, one of the show's highligts was Nessun Dorma from the Opera Turandot written by Giacomo Puccini and written around 1924-1926 (for a great page on opera, check out OperaResource. I guess I never thought of this before, but its written around the same time that Fransisco Tarrega wrote his Four Pieces for the guitar -- Adelita, Marietta, Sueno and Pavana. And lotsa other classical guitar has been written by others way before that, and arranged originally for the guitar, not just adapted to it like Asturias. If Turandot is classical then so is classical guitar. This is an uplifting thought for me 'cause its often said that the guitar is the youngest of the classical instruments and so the least developed; sometimes people would say its not even a classical but rather a folk instrument. I guess the date thing kinda reassured me in my mind that the stuffs I've been playing in private for these past years IS classical and that at least in MY mind I am a classical artist enjoying playing classical music.

But Michael Bolton wasn't a classical artist. As great a voice as he had he started his career in pop and would never have sung the opera like tonight if it wasn't for his money and connections. He's an original pop artist. Or is he? I think that might be an interesting web search.

Posted at 2:46:42 am by ferdikom98
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Next Page

I don't write intellectually. I write expressively. I don't claim to be accurate, fair or thorough. I don't wanna get stuck on certain topics. Though I sometimes do. But not that often. I'd like to expand. I wanna write more poems. But I'll only upload them if they're good. I only rant about my life's hardships if it will rescue just a little bit of my sanity. I'm saner than I make myself out to be, though.

If I am an OS kernel, and I just had a kernel dump, I'd imagine that the text in this blog is what it would more or less look like.

There. Do you get it?


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