Interview with OpenRA-Developer

Discussion about the game and its default mods.
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Interview with OpenRA-Developer

Post by JOo »

interview with sleipnir for a german rts - website : ... von-openra

Hi Paul Chote, thank you for the possibility to get an interview with you. You are the lead developer of OpenRA since about 2013. Can you describe OpenRA in a few sentences?

OpenRA is a free and open source remake of the early Command & Conquer games (currently C&C/Tiberian Dawn, Red Alert, Dune 2000), combining the classic RTS gameplay with new features and balance changes that make them much more enjoyable to play by modern standards.

OpenRA uses the assets (art and sound files) from the original games, but is not a binary-compatible engine replacement. Instead, we wanted to build a game engine that could leverage the capabilities of modern computers and software languages to make it efficient and fun for people to build their own tile-based RTS games. The official OpenRA “mods†sit on top of this engine, recreating the original C&C games with a focus on multiplayer gameplay, e-sports, and custom community content.

The community is an important part of OpenRA – we have an active and passionate online player base who continue to debate balance and gameplay issues on our community forum and GitHub; this feedback is used to refine and tweak each new release to be better than the last. Community-run tournaments and competitions are usually streamed online, generating a lot of fun content for the casual viewer as well as for the people who are directly involved.

How did you get involved in the development process of OpenRA? And what is your motivation to work «for free» on OpenRA?

OpenRA was originally started by some of my friends and university classmates in Wellington, New Zealand. We had all grown up with the original C&C games, and wanted a “better†RA1 to play at our LAN parties. They built a prototype in 2007, but it sat mostly idle until late 2009 when they restarted development and moved the project to GitHub. I joined shortly afterwards, and development proceeded rapidly, typically through weekend hackathons powered by pizza and energy drinks.

Over the next couple of years OpenRA evolved from a windows-only toy RA1 clone to a cross-platform RTS game engine with “mods†that remade both RA1 and the original C&C. Further refinements have been made over time as new people became involved and contributed their own ideas and skills.

I left the project for a couple of years to focus on my post-graduate studies, but returned in 2013 as OpenRA was a welcome distraction during the final year of my PhD research. The other original developers had mostly moved on by then, so I naturally fell into a project leadership role where I have remained to this day.

I work on OpenRA for free because I find it to be a challenging and rewarding hobby. I have seen people compare open-source game development to a model railroad society – a group of like-minded individuals working on a project in their free time, and then sharing it with the world to enjoy. We have the advantage of digital distribution, which lets us share our work easily with tens of thousands of people around the world.

It is obvious that OpenRA is an open source clone of Command & Conquer: Red Alert. Had the game in the beginning any legal problems with Electronic Arts as trademark owner of the game series?

EA has been very supportive of the C&C modding community over the years, especially with regards to community remakes. A recent example is the Renegade X project, which rebuilds (with explicit permission from EA) C&C Renegade as a standalone and free game built using Unreal Engine.

EA were aware of OpenRA relatively early on – they used to employ a dedicated community manager, who would occasionally comment about OpenRA – but we were never able to find the right person to talk to about receiving explicit permission for the project. This wasn’t considered a serious problem early on when OpenRA was a small toy project, but has become a bit awkward in recent years as our popularity has exploded.

EA’s history with the C&C community, the freeware status of the original games, and the continued availability of community redistributions (like CnCNet and GruntMods D2K) give us some confidence that they are fine with the status quo and will not (at least in the foreseeable future) ask us to stop using their C&C related trademarks.

It would be a great shame to shut down our C&C mods if EA legal ever did have a problem, but the wider project (the game engine and community) would continue. Many people first try OpenRA for nostalgia, but then stay because it is really fun to play; in the worst-case scenario, we would shift our efforts towards developing a new game universe where we could keep our great gameplay, but have our own iconic units and storylines instead of Tesla Coils and Tiberium.

Currently OpenRA is open source and a 100% free playable game. Do you have any plans for purchasable content or other ways to earn some money with OpenRA?

No. OpenRA is developed as a hobby, with no expectation of income. In this situation money causes friction, and would be a very good way to earn a cease-and-desist order from EA.

Community donations run our server infrastructure, and in the past people have used bug bounties to encourage new game engine features, but we will never charge players for anything related to the C&C-based mods that most people consider as “OpenRA†today.

If we did want to monetize OpenRA in the future, this would be by developing a new RTS game separate to the C&C-based mods, either for sale or using crowdfunding.

What will be the coming features in OpenRA? Do you have any plans for a graphical update (e.g. better resolutions)? Or are you only maintaining the game?

OpenRA is still being actively developed, and we have both regular developers and first-time contributors committing bug fixes, balance tweaks, and feature improvements nearly every day. We have several long-term projects that we hope to eventually complete, including finishing single player campaigns, adding save game support, new AI capabilities, multiplayer accounts, and more. Because OpenRA is developed as a hobby we depend on people contributing their own time and technical abilities towards these tasks, so can’t predict when these may be completed. New developers who would like to help with these features are always welcome! (See the Community page on our website for more details).

The next big thing to watch out for will be the first public release of our Tiberian Sun mod. Our current releases include the first-generation C&C games, but we have been slowly overhauling our game engine to support the 2.5D/isometric perspective used by the second-generation games (Tiberian Sun, Red Alert 2, and the many community mods that were built for these games). Our initial focus is on Tiberian Sun, which was the last C&C game to be released as freeware (so has easily available assets for players to install), and we’re hoping to complete this enough for a public alpha by the end of this year.

There are also some great community mods under development, and some of these have impressive graphical and gameplay enhancements. Keep an eye out for these on our ModDB page and community forum!

Last but not least, did you want to say something to the readers?

OpenRA will reach its 10th anniversary in June this year, and it feels like we are only just starting to reach our potential. The project has got where it is today thanks to hundreds of people who have each contributed what they can: from a few minutes filing bug reports or making small documentation fixes, a few hours making maps or debating balance changes, to many months building out core gameplay features. Every little bit counts, and everyone who has helped can be proud of what we have achieved.

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Post by Irnub »

Cool :)

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Post by noobmapmaker »

Nice to read a bit about the history and vision of the developers :)
Playlist with ALL games of the Dark Tournament
Consider supporting OpenRA by setting a bounty or by donating for a server

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Post by Fortnight »

That was a good read! I'd be really disappointed in EA if they all of a sudden changed their mind about OpenRA. I'd actually even be a bit surprised, with all the negative press EA gets they at least harvest a bunch of goodwill from making the classic Command & Conquer games free. I hope they don't do it just to keep the franchise alive with intention of pulling the plug when they decide it's time to try to reboot it commercially.

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Post by eskimo »

Nice read, thanks for the post. I had wondered about the original concept as it's been a while. Followed other mods before and the amount of hobby hours various people put in is truly dedicated and cool.

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Post by zinc »

Interesting. Thank you.

I'm guessing that the rights to Dune could be more complicated than the other games, because presumably they are also owned on some level by a movie studio?

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Post by anjew »

zinc wrote: Interesting. Thank you.

I'm guessing that the rights to Dune could be more complicated than the other games, because presumably they are also owned on some level by a movie studio?
Pretty sure all rights go through Frank Herbert's estate.

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Post by zinc »

I wouldn't know.

Did the game take influence from art and designs in the movie?

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