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Old April 23, 2019, 17:01   #1
Gwarl
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angband.live future development

This is something of a blogpost

angband.live development had been slack for a while, owing in part to attending university and it must be admitted in part due to a temporary warcraft 3 addiction. Recently it's had a lot of updates fixing bugs and adding new features, mostly for ease of maintenance as I've had a respite from university work (and finally burned out on wc3). There are a few outstanding bugs that I intend to fix this week, and some work has been contributed by Draghmar in the form of style tweaks and fixing UI issues. The platform is becoming more stable and thanks to kt (TheQuest) providing us with a server should be around for years to come.

The scope of the ambition for the site is much larger, however. Some of the goals for expansion of the use of the site include:
  • A wiki covering monster/item data for all hosted variants with user comments and articles
  • an irc server acting as a mirror for the onsite chat
  • angband ladder integration
  • install multiple versions of major variants to select between
  • ability to play games and spectate from a terminal via ssh

And it doesn't stop there! It would be quite possible to develop an offline universal angband client capable of downloading and playing any of the variants on the site, and then broadcasting the terminal output from offline play, or to play online via the client. Support for basic graphics is another goal, by intelligently transforming terminal output into drawing instructions. Like an angband-specific version of noteye (Necklace of The Eye, a graphical frontend used by ADoM and PWMangband amongst others) written to be compatible with angband.live

Besides this, developing and integrating a datafile editor for supported variants, with the possibility of sharing and playing the modified games by any user is entirely feasible. Angband has effectively been doing this for decades, but we could build it into comprehensive online platform.

Obviously, all of the above requires work, in some cases a lot of it. My time will be taken up studying for exams in the near future, and thereafter writing a dissertation.

Eventually I will graduate and thereafter seek employment. The idea has been proposed, perhaps naively, in the angband live chat that it may be possible in the age of crowdfunding to make a career of working full time on angband.live.

There are many objections to this idea which spring to mind, and I will emphasise a few. Firstly, nobody ever made a cent working on angband, and an enormous amount of work has been freely contributed over the decades. Even angband.live is not entirely my own work, and our current server is provided by someone else. Secondly, I am not sure our community is large enough to support a full time employee. Living is expensive.

I intend to continue working on the site as and when I may, given life's other priorities. But for my part, if the opportunity was there to make a living from working full time on angband.live, I think I would take it.

I made this thread to discuss the idea of employing someone (me) to develop the infrastructure surrounding angband, or for people to express there enthusiasm for one of the features I've mentioned to be worked on first.

Strong disagreement with the idea is welcomed, but please don't crucify me for suggesting it.
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Old April 23, 2019, 19:50   #2
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I think the fact you are even considering this is a testament to the fact you've added value to this game. I've not been on the server much but I do appreciate being able to play variants and dev versions that would otherwise require me to learn how to compile or not even be possible on a Mac.

I don't really know the economics of what you are suggesting, but my uninformed guess is that you'd need to expand beyond just Angband variants and sell this as a small homegrown Steam alternative for lots of different games. Alternatively, maybe partner with a for-profit game developer who wouldn't mind their online server hosting their game as well as the Angband universe. Heck, run ads on the home screen and give premium memberships for people who don't want to see those. My uninformed guess is that there is just not enough of an *active* online player base to justify a full time programmer who is only providing a vehicle for existing Angband games.

I don't know if I'm a average/modal player here, but I'm a pretty casual gamer. I don't have a steam account, I don't have a console, and haven't bought a PC game since Civ 4. I threw a few bucks towards Dwarf Fortress, and to DarkGod when ToME 4 started to take shape.

Part of the allure of Angband for me is that it started as a free thing, and has been maintained by the sweat and love of many volunteers. I'll let my opinion be informed by how they feel about your plan. I'd understand if they are uneasy about someone making money off of their sweat and love, but it's not my place to put words in their mouth.

If being employed at Angband.live full time is not in the cards, you might see whether you could propose a more modest budget that would be enough to keep you engaged for a few hours/week while you deal with school and real life. This is not a game for people without patience, and I think that applies to development as well as gameplay. We have been trained not to be in a rush, and waiting while contributors work around their RL is not a big deal.

Regarding your goals, I think ladder integration would be most exciting to me. I feel like the wiki could/should be a community project and I'm not really sure how your salary would fit in.

Good luck on your exams!
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Old April 23, 2019, 20:18   #3
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Have you considered a Patreon?
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Old April 23, 2019, 21:02   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
Have you considered a Patreon?
In a roundabout way this is about testing the waters of the idea. Whether by Patreon or by other means, the concept of collecting an income for work *around* angband is the same. I will consider whatever comes of this thread as to whether there will be a choice to make and if so, what to decide.

I consider it unlikely that such a thing could come to fruition, but I'm not entirely confident that it would be impossible either. So I invite discussion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bio_hazard
Part of the allure of Angband for me is that it started as a free thing, and has been maintained by the sweat and love of many volunteers. I'll let my opinion be informed by how they feel about your plan. I'd understand if they are uneasy about someone making money off of their sweat and love, but it's not my place to put words in their mouth.
Not to disgregard this objection; I would certainly abandon the idea if expressly forbidden by a current or former maintainer, but angband would remain free. I would not serve ads or sell premium accounts (besides an optional username decoration for those who donate). I did not mention my own variant in the OP since any work I do directly on that must also remain free, but rather I would be seeking an income for developing a platform to facilitate the continued existence and diversity of the angband family. But perhaps this is a pedantic distinction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bio_hazard
I feel like the wiki could/should be a community project and I'm not really sure how your salary would fit in.
As above; designing and maintaining the wiki and parsing data files for automatically generated pages would hypothetically be my job. The content would come from the users, as do the games themselves.
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Old April 23, 2019, 21:38   #5
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I would not forbid it. I've wondered if this approach could work for Angband in the past. There are some pieces of gnarly work on Angband that I wanted to do but which I struggled to make time for around paid work - mostly around frontends and graphics support. If I could have taken a month or two off other work then I might have done it.
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Old April 23, 2019, 22:02   #6
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I think it would be great for the community in every respect, but I don't think you would make a living from it. While there certainly have been members of the Angband community who are now wealthy, I doubt if there would be sufficient juice in it currently to support an adequate wage.

Feel free to ignore my advice and go ahead, though
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Old April 23, 2019, 22:12   #7
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We're almost talking about an online Angband museum. Maybe thinking about it that way would lead to other types of funding streams.
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Old April 24, 2019, 08:34   #8
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I don't think there is anything about the open source model that prevents you making money here. If anything I recall many of us being glad in the 90s to see Red Hat proving an open source company could be profitable and even the GPL itself states:
"You may charge any price or no price for each copy that you convey, and you may offer support or warranty protection for a fee."

There is a long history of people making money from supporting and packaging open source, in other words, and speaking for myself I am quite happy to see you pocket any profit you can muster from supporting my little variant.

However, I suspect this is an endeavour more likely to provide beer money than living expenses. Games are likely the least efficient way to convert coding ability into money, and ASCII roguelikes are a good deal less profitable still. Looking at it with cold career-focused eyes I would say the chief way I would expect Angband.live to prove profitable to you is as a portfolio piece, if you want to work in software. It demonstrates significant practical abilities and in some contexts could be worth as much or more in getting you a job as a degree.

Last edited by Quirk; April 24, 2019 at 16:36.
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Old April 25, 2019, 06:08   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gwarl View Post
I would not serve ads
I don't really see why not? If you keep it reasonable it's not intrusive.
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Old April 26, 2019, 14:42   #10
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I don't really see why not? If you keep it reasonable it's not intrusive.
It would annoy me and we'd need an option to turn them off, which would invariably lead to some kind of premium account and I have no intention of going down that road.

Thinking on what's been said so far, I will try setting up a patreon account after I graduate and seeing what comes of it.
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