FOSDEM '08 is a free and non-commercial event organised by the community, for the community. Its goal is to provide Free and Open Source developers a place to meet.


Interview: David White

David White will present the game Battle for Wesnoth at FOSDEM 2008.


What are your personals goals for your FOSDEM presence?

I hope to share with others the technical possibilities in making an Open Source game. It'd be nice if the talk accomplished making others interested in contributing to existing Open Source games, or starting their own game project. :-)

What did you admire in the games "Master of Monsters" and "Warsong" that inspired Wesnoth?

Most of all, I think I saw that these games were relatively simple, and yet were very fun to play. I had many game ideas that involved very complex feature sets, but I realized that these games were both fundamentally very simple, and yet very enjoyable.

Battle for Wesnoth runs on a surprising broad range of platforms. What are the implications of that in terms of hardware demands?

Interestingly, I never intended for Wesnoth to run on a particularly large range of platforms. I wanted it to work on Linux, and on Windows. So, I coded it in fairly standard C++, using minimal dependencies. This has meant that it can run on most platforms that have a decent amount of memory and have a good C++ compiler.

Unfortunately, the design never attempted to constrain memory usage, and so Wesnoth doesn't run on many embedded devices. This is a shame in many ways, but I'd like to think it's still been a net benefit.

What does version 1.3 bring compared to v1.2?

The nice thing about Wesnoth is that every release since about 0.8 has always brought lots and lots of tiny little features and improvements that by themselves don't seem like much, but together add a much more polished feel.

1.3 adds much more flexibility using WML (Wesnoth Markup Language). There are also many new graphics, and tweaks to existing artwork. Our playtesting team has worked tirelessly to refine the balance of the game. We have also squashed many, many bugs. The number and severity of bugs in Wesnoth is probably at its lowest level ever. I think that when 1.3 is stabilized into 1.4, it will be the best stable release of Wesnoth ever.

Gamers traditionally tend abandon a game once it's completed. How does the Wesnoth project try to 'pull in' new contributors, and keep them active?

Well, I think whether gamers abandon a game or not depends heavily on the kind of game, and whether the game has dynamics and rules which can remain interesting and challenging over a long period of time.

Originally, Wesnoth had just one mode of play: a single campaign. In this state, most players would indeed abandon it after completing it. However, now there are many features which keep a player engaged.

Wesnoth allows contributors to create new content -- campaigns, scenarios, and so forth -- for Wesnoth fairly easily. This means that there is a wide range of campaigns available for Wesnoth. Even after completing the standard game, there are hundreds of hours worth of campaigns to play, should a player remain engaged for that long.

Additionally, many players who have completed a campaign or two become interested in creating their own campaign. Wesnoth has developed a flexible language, WML, which allows people to make their own content.
Importantly, WML is well-documented, thanks to the tireless effort of many contributors, and there is a great community which supports WML development.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, there is a vibrant multiplayer community for Wesnoth. Many players spend countless hours perfecting their skills playing against other players. The multiplayer developers have done an excellent job of creating maps which are well-balanced and fun for all five of the standard factions. There are also many interesting user-contributed multiplayer scenarios.

All-in-all, the amount of content available for Wesnoth is quite amazing.

Which other parts of the game are you most proud of?

I think what I'm most proud of is the community that has developed around the game. It is an intelligent, fun, vibrant, creative community.

I think I'm also very proud of how many developers have learned something from Wesnoth, rather than it being a mindless time sink. We have developers who have improved their art skills, developers who have improved their coding skills, and developers who have simply learned more about how teams produce software.

In terms of what's actually in the game, I think I'm most proud of how extensible Wesnoth is, and the amount and variety of content that can be created for the engine.

Do you still find time to write code yourself?

Sometimes, though not that often. Since I began working on Wesnoth, I've relocated twice (from Australia to Texas, and then from Texas to California), gotten married, and had a son. I've also gotten involved with other projects, and work is always busy.

All these things eat into one's time. Of course, the biggest thing is that after some amount of time one feels that newer contributors have the freshest ideas, and it's simply best to help Wesnoth in a 'consultant' type role.

What's your favourite character in the game?

Well, I think I would have to say Li'sar is, since I named her after my wife. :-)