Say it ain't so Mr. Carmack!

With all the good news coming out of QuakeCon this weekend (Enemy Territory, Rage, Q3 in a browser!), there was one point of disappointing news for me as a fan if id Software: id has partnered with Valve to deploy their titles on Steam.

Valve has already publicly stated it has no plans for Steam on Linux. Being former Microsoft developers, who is surprised? But id has always been a cross-platform development company and it’s disappointing to see them partner with Valve on this. But I can’t really blame them, as they deserve kudos for monetizing their catalog titles, and the price point is amazing – $70 for all id titles up to and including Doom3 and it’s expansion. That’s amazing – play all their games from Commander Keen to Quake to Doom3. (Yes, I know I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth.)

Now the bad news – it appears that Valve is using DOSBox to make id’s older games playable, which is GPL, without including specific files, such as COPYING.TXT which makes this violate the GPL.

I saw the original story on Slashdot, and it’s an interesting tale of two communities. The forums quickly degenerate into mudslinging, especially on pages 4-7, with one user going so far as to, well, read for yourself:

****ing ridiculous. I don’t know how some of you can brush this off as a mere ‘molehill’ or misunderstanding. You Valve and ID apologists sicken me.

The GPL is essentially the word of God, look at it as the 13th commandment: Thou Shalt Distribute The Source And Any Chamges Made Unto It To All Those Who Ask. When God created Adam and Eve he made it such that when they procreate, each of them combine to make the new item and the source modification is passed on down the generations. It is no co-incidence that Richard Stallman appears as we envisage God to appear for he is a true prophet of our time, a visionary who is putting Gods voice into the digital age.

The fact that these heathens dared ignore Gods word and packaged the games without copying.txt is absolutely unforgivable. They will surely rot for eternity in hell as no doubt you who support them will too.

…Which is an interesting take on the GPL that I haven’t necessary seen before. I’ve heard of GNU zealots, but this might take the cake.

The DOSBox forums are a contrast in civility and logic. Instead of Valve bashing and zealotry, DOSBox developers call out the exceptions, and update the thread when Valve does something good, such as adding back the COPYING.TXT file via Steam. The developers seem understanding of the situation so far, and while major questions remain around distributing the source of Valve’s changes, the DOSBox team seem to be taking a wait an see approach.

John Carmack, id’s lead developer and co-owner, has always been a friend of the GPL – he has led the open sourcing of most prior games once the licensees are done using them, resulting in successes such as ioquake3. I’m hopeful this will all be resolved in a good way. And I still wish Valve would put a Steam client on Linux (and OSX) too.

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