Open Source Game 0 A.D. Making Leaps and Bounds


It's been a while since we last checked in with 0 A.D., the open source project which, as I've said before and will say again, could have huge implications for the open source channel. Sadly, the game is not yet complete, but it's made some major leaps in recent months, which the team recently shared with me. Here are the highlights.

The last time we wrote about 0 A.D. was in December 2010, shortly after it had reached its third alpha release. Since then, a lot has changed--and for the better, as the developers have steadily improved the game and increased the momentum of the project, which only a couple years ago was nearing stagnation.

What's New

The team has been steadily pushing out new alpha releases about every three months. The latest, number five and codenamed "Edetania," introduced new features which included but were not limited to improved AI, audio and graphics enhancements and a new "faction," the Iberians.

A recent screencast of the game showcases these advances:

The 0 A.D. team attributed its progress in recent months to the enthusiasm of contributors, both new and old, who have passionately committed themselves and their skills to the project:

All of this is thanks to new contributors who have joined the team, as well as the existing team members who keep providing great contributions. We have a professional composer playing the bouzouki and the Spanish guitar at home for the benefit of the gaming public worldwide, a sound team recording sounds of water splashing and dogs barking, programmers grappling problems from raising framerates to fine-tuning the AI's strategy, and artists drawing maps of Mediterranean landscapes, animating giraffes and texturing fortresses.

The game developers also highlighted an increasingly efficient and positive development environment as key to their successes in recent months:

The leaps and bounds in progress have encouraged us to work in a more organized fashion within the development team. We have begun planning and setting goals longer into the future and coordinating better between different departments. Morale is higher, forum activity has risen and we feel more confident than ever that we can develop 0 A.D. to completion, hopefully sometime in 2012.

The team, however, also remains eager for more contributors from the open source community and encourages interested parties to get involved:

To keep going even stronger, we could use even more contributions from the community. We are looking for programmers proficient in C++ and/or JavaScript, for OpenGL, AI and gameplay. We need people to help record video clips of the game and edit them into promotional and educational videos, like a trailer or a video explaining how some game mechanic works. And we need artists, both 2D and 3D, with a special emphasis on 3D animators.

Still To Come

If the first half of this year was a good one for 0 A.D., the coming months should prove positive as well. In particular, followers of the project can look forward to the following new features in upcoming alpha releases:

  • Unit stances (e.g., the ability to tell units to "attack any enemy unit upon sight" or "only fight back when attacked")
  • Enhanced interface for Atlas, the 0 A.D. scenario editor
  • Yet more factions, including the Carthaginians, Persians and Romans

A stable release of 0 A.D. remains beyond the horizon, but the project has been making clear and measurable progress.  If it succeeds, as I've argued before, it could radically reconfigure the way games are developed.  Stay tuned.

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