Rich Geldreich On The Concerns Of Open-Sourcing In The Game Industry

Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Gaming on 30 November 2017 at 08:22 AM EST. 60 Comments
Former Valve developer Rich Geldreich who was responsible for a lot of the Linux/OpenGL work at Valve in the earlier days of Linux gaming and who has also spent time at Unity, Microsoft, and other companies before starting his own consulting firm, has second thoughts about open-sourcing in the game industry.

Geldreich yesterday tweeted, "I gave away crunch, which was a mistake overall. Companies now take it for granted. Think twice before open sourcing your work." That, of course, set off a tweet storm on both sides of the fence.

Crunch, as a reminder, is a high performance texture compression and transcoding library originally conceived by Rich Geldreich years ago and has since been adopted by Unity and other companies after initially facing some doubts and resistance.

Geldreich followed up his tweets by clarifying, "that's the chicken and egg problem. Engineers told me that what I claimed crunch did was impossible and/or valueless. Open sourcing helped massively along the credibility axis, but what I released was overkill...I almost did exactly this actually. I had it ready to go a few months before I went to Valve. Later (at Valve) my goal was to get as many companies to use it as possible, so I changed the license. The early Source 2 team actually tested crunch with Half-Life 2 art assets."

He also made comment of other unnamed game developers reportedly open-sourcing their work and then regretting it, "I say this publicly because we've been talking to several well-known devs who also open sourced their earlier work and now regret it. I'm not the only one."

He also spoke of a Google developer who had early access to Crunch and then was attempting to do a GDC presentation on the title and claiming it like his own idea, which is reportedly what pushed Rich to quickly open-source his work. In retrospect he wishes he would have open-sourced less and perhaps just shipped a binary encoder for demonstration.

There was also tweets by other game developers expressing opposing views, etc. See this tweet thread for a range of quite interesting and valid comments on both sides.
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