Open Source Hardware Definition hits 1.0!
The Open Source Hardware Definition hit 1.0 this morning. Awesome! We’ve been behind Open Source Hardware since we started–all our kits are open source hardware. We sponsored the Open Source Hardware Summit in September, and we’re really believers in it.
Piggybacking on the news, however, I’d like to start a discussion.
In September, we launched our Video Game Shield kit. It’s an Arduino shield that allows you to use two Wii peripherals and draw in black and white on a television screen. It uses the open source TVOut library. A little bit later, nootropic designs released their Hackvision. The Hackvision is a handheld board that combines the guts of an Arduino with some RCA jacks. It uses the Arduino IDE for programming along with the TVOut library. It has some buttons built in and an expansion port for wiring in your own controllers.
So, because his system uses Arduino and TVOut libraries, it’s relatively easy to get his games to run on a Video Game Shield. You need to change some pin definitions, and maybe make a few more changes, but they’re extremely minor.
Due to the fact that most Video Game Shield games use both Wii connectors, it isn’t quite as easy to get our games to run on a Hackvision, but for single player Video Game Shield games, it’s just as easy to convert our games to run on the Hackvision.
We’ve talked with the Hackvision folks about putting their games on our site, but this situation raises a lot of questions.
All the Video Game Shield and Hackvision “official” games are open source, and we’re pretty sure we’d be legally ok modifying the Hackvision games and posting them on our website. We *haven’t*, and we don’t really have any plans to, but would it be alright if we did? Should we? If someone else did, should we link to them?
If the blog comments get to be overwhelming, we can move this over to the Wayne and Layne forum.
GO FOR IT D00d
Just porting their code (licence intact) I would think should be fine.
Should you? YES!
If someone did port their games, and they left in the license notice/etc., it should be ok to link to it. The biggest risk I have seen linking to code offsite is “dead links” every once in a while 😉
To me this is a no-brainer: you are, of course, totally in the clear for modifying the games and posting them or related links. In fact, you should!
This ability to freely share information and lower barriers to innovation is the entire point of the Creative Commons. Had the designer of Hackvision any qualms about this, he would certainly have chosen a different license for his designs.
In fact, I think this is a common trait that developers share; ultimately, we want people to use our work. We want others to give feedback and to improve the designs. We want the link-juice for our efforts!
By linking to other similar projects, you’re helping individuals discover each other’s efforts. You’re acknowledging others’ hard work and helping promote it. By tweaking and improving Hackvisions games, you’re adding to the knowledge base and improving on a previous design. These are all Good Things. In my view, by licensing a product under CC, you’re doing so in the hopes that these Good Things will happen. Exploit the opportunity!
The only question that remains is that of marketplace competition – possibly decreasing business from Hackvision because people might choose to buy your kit – which includes his games – rather than his. If there is any concern – and I’m not sure that there is – this would be it.
However, my sense is that everyone involved is more interested in innovation than stifling competition, and the products are different enough and I’m not even sure that you two are competing. But that question – if you think it is significant – is worth asking to him, not us!
Ok, I’ll chime in – someone tipped me off that you were blogging about me. This is Mike from nootropic design, and I make the Hackvision product. This issue really has nothing to do with the open source nature of the software, and anyone that has visited my web site and seen the projects and libraries I produce can see that I’m committed to open source, and all the goodness that it fosters. I’ve been involved in it for 15-20 years.
Our products are very similar and compete directly with one another, and that’s all good. wayneandlayne beat me to market by a few weeks, and also beat me to the major US distributors who will not carry my product because it’s too similar, and again, that’s all fair and good. Business competition is good. I compete by writing good games for my customers and to help sell my product.
A while back, Adam asked me if he could port my games to his product and use them to promote his product. I replied that while the license allows it, I didn’t think it would be right for him to use my (very) hard work to compete directly against me. To me it’s just an issue of good business behavior. If wayneandlayne spent a month writing a great game, I would not port it to Hackvision and use it to compete against them. That would feel really lame.
Open source has been a very positive thing in the software (and now hardware) world, but it doesn’t trump business ethics and good behavior, and I also don’t think anyone should hide behind the claim “but people on the internet said it was ok”. I think it’s right for people to benefit from their hard work, even in the open source world. If we didn’t have competing products in the same market, it would be a completely different situation.
Why don’t you guys write your own games to promote your product? You have twice as many brains as I do (I’m a one-person company)!!! Maybe the algorithms or code structure in my games will be helpful to you.
In the end, you’ll make your own decisions, and I still hope to meet you sometime since we belong to the same hackerspace.
In the interest of good business, and friendly competition, the games should be publicly modded. It seems that the hardware that we the consumer choose to buy and build (which is open source too is it not?) is not even a guarded secret. Why should the games that are not even unique in most cases (retro clones which is the appeal arguably) be guarded? If the pioneers of Arduino don’t have a fit every time someone buys a Chinese or other copy board or make their own on a breadboard, what gives? What if people own both a Hackvision and a VGS? Are they supposed to pretend the two are oil and water? They ARE similar products and both encourage hands on people to think about their surroundings differently. Both companies build either an Arduino shield or Arduino based item. I have been tinkering with this stuff for a little while and don’t get miffed or discouraged when someone else does something similar or beats me to the punch. It is encouraging to see competition. Should we feel obligated to pay royalties to the authors of the original games like a cover band playing Smoke on the Water? If we were not interested in open source games would we copy asteroids or space invaders? I am having fun with computers and building electronics. The fact that nootropic and Wayne and Layne have found a way to help others enjoy themselves with this stuff is awesome. So I say cooperate and give each other a big open source high five. It will only generate more good business and friendly competition.