People who spend their time modifying and updating old games are among the most generous developers. Thus, when the drama breaks out, it is not only irritating and demanding emails, but also the feeling of a betrayed or exploited community. A recent conflict around work on the classic Skyrim, which has been constantly renovated, may seem minimal, but for the people involved, he is extremely upset.
I do not want to do more of this niche problem than it is; I feel that it is sometimes important to change things not because they are very important in themselves, but because they represent a class of small injustices or conflicts that plague the modern Web. .
The example today comes from the Skyrim modification community, which creates all kinds of improvements for the classic fantasy adventure, from new elements and better maps. for full revisions. This is one of the most active because Bethesda is not only very tolerant of moderators, but also tends to send games, if we are honest, in a rather mediocre state. The modders have begun to fill the gaps left by Bethesda and make the original game much better than the way it was delivered.
One of the most useful of these mods, for the developers but indirectly for the players, is the Skyrim Script Extender, or SKSE. This basically allows more complex behaviors for objects, locations, and NPCs. How can a character be protected from the rain if there is no time-related behavior in his original AI? This kind of thing (although it is an invented example). SKSE goes far back in time and creators provide much of the code that others can use under free license, while denying the donations themselves.
Skyrim Together (ST) is another project, a small team that has been working since 2013 (among others) on adding multiplayer features to the game. On the other hand, their Patreon account is worth more than $ 30,000 a month. The lead developer would have independently distributed a modified version of SKSE several years ago, in accordance with the terms of the license, and it was now expressly forbidden to use the SKSE code in the future.
Guess what SKSE advance in a little code inspection the other day?
Yes, unfortunately, it seems that the SKSE code is in the ST application, not only in violation of the license not to give credit, but also because of the fact that the developer himself was prevented from using it, and further that – well that there is a debate here – the ST team is charging access to a "closed beta". Some say it's just a gift that they ask for, but requiring a gift is really impossible to distinguish from charging something.
A developer response minimized the problem; they say it's just a bit of old junk in the code:
Some remnants of code might have been forgotten when we removed it. It is not as simple as deleting a file, mainly our fault, because we have sent some parts of the code. Whatever it is, we will make sure to remove what might have gone through the cracks for the next patch.
According to one developer, instead of SKSE, they substituted another code, for example from the libSkyrim project. But as others have quickly pointed out, libSkyrim is based on SKSE and it is not possible for them to ignore this fact. Thus, the claim that they did not use the forbidden code does not really hold water. Not only that, but ST does not even credit libSkyrim, a common practice when you reuse code.
It would not really be a big deal if ST did not just scrape his project with donations, but asked for donations to access the code. This probably makes it a commercial project, placing it even further from the limits of code reuse.
Now, taking the hard work of open source and semi-open source developers and using it in other projects is encouraged – in fact, it's a bit of a goal. But it's a collaboration, and the rules are there for the credit to be worth it.
I do not think the people of ST are bad guys; they are working on something that a lot of players are interested in using – and paying, if the Patreon is an indication. It's great, and that's what the mod community is. But as in any group of developers, a respectful and mutual recognition is expected and valued.
Honesty is important because it is not always possible to check the code of someone else. And honesty is also important because users want to be able to trust developers for a variety of reasons, including donating for a project in good faith. This confidence has been shaken here.
As I said at the beginning, I do not want to make it a huge deal. Nobody gets rich (although even divided in 10 ways, $ 33,000 a month, it's nothing to sniff), and nobody gets hurt. But I imagine that there is hardly any open-source project that does not have to control the use of its code by third parties or to fear that someone is taking advantage of something for which it has made gift of his time for years.
We hope that this storm in a teapot will be solved with happiness; but do not forget, there are many more teapots from where this one comes from.