Ron Gilbert can’t find any support for his new game project. Who’s to blame? Well, Gilbert cites unimaginative publishers who are too short-sighted to appreciate his concept. Perhaps it’s time that Gilbert considered the alternative to proprietary game development. Perhaps it’s time we offered him this alternative.
Ron Gilbert is easily one of the world’s best game designers. His classic Monkey Island series defined the “Lucas Arts-style” graphical adventure game, with its intuitive interface, witty humor, memorable characters, and clever puzzles. Gilbert is also known for the earlier Lucas Arts game Maniac Mansion, which has attained a significant enough cult following to warrant an excellent fan-made remake. (Don’t look for it now, though—Lucas Fan, the development company, succumbed to legal threats from LucasArts and disinherited their wonderful series of remakes).
Considering he calls himself Grumpy Gamer, you’d imagine Gilbert to be less-than-content with the industry that brought him fame. After all, anyone wanting to play his games today is likely using SCUMMVM, a virtual machine licensed under the GPL (I’m surprised LucasArts hasn’t shut them down as well). Terry mentioned SCUMMVM in his great game post and even confessed that it was his favorite genre!
Would Gilbert’s new game be an opportunity for FOSS? I’m not sure what Gilbert’s standard arrangement is with publishers, but I assume he gets an advance and royalties. My guess is that he’d be fine with the GPL licensing as long as he felt he was properly compensated for his efforts. Perhaps the equivalent of this for FOSS development would be an upfront sum and some kind of donations structure. Perhaps one of the larger FOSS companies could step forward here and scoop up this gold nugget. At any rate, though, I’m sure that a Ron Gilbert original running exclusively on GNU/Linux could be a defining moment for the platform. There are droves of people I know personally who would install the free operating system if it were the only way they could play Gilbert’s new game.
If nothing else, a Gilbert exclusive would be a “trophy” for FOSS and a chance to do something really fun for GNU and the community. Plus, if the project were a success, it might lead other “disenfranchised” designers like Gilbert to the movement. Here’s a thought: Let’s act on this.