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Working only with free open source in 2021... possible?

A topic by Gustavo created Nov 09, 2020 Views: 537 Replies: 17
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Well I am already thinking about next year, even late but not so considering 2020 was nontypical year right?

I have a MacBook Pro working with Unity and an Adobe monthly payed package. I have also tried some free tools. This year I decided to keep my MacBook updated, and I had a bad experience with the last macOS system so called Catalina. Adobe didn't have made my working day easy either. I had to come back to Mojave, at list I still can run 32 bit apps again and listen to my musics when coding. I am disappointed with payed software, is not cheap and is not so much better than free as expected. But how it is to work with the free stuff only?

I have made some experiments my own. I worked with Debian 10 32 bits in an old MacMini. Sadly, 32 bits is abandoned and the 64 bit installation is for skilled hackers - this is the other side of Linux. It's free, so don't complain! But I must say that Linux is very close to macOS in quality considering some popular distributions as Debian, Ubuntu and others. Even knowing there will be some hard work writing in a pure text terminal, Linux is fast, stable and don't disturb me when working. MacOS sucks, and I can't understand how people still work in Windows! Considering only the OS, I can work with Linux, no problem. But that's just the beginning...

Once turning into Linux, Adobe is not an option anymore. Not sure if I will miss it, but some tools as Illustrator are difficult to replicate. I am now testing InkScape, it does not convert well the AI files - first issue. Will be possible to design for games with InkScape?

An example: I dropped WS Office and installed Libre Office. The last version is really impressive, but for a scientific article it has some bugs really deep. I had a bad time making workaround so I could at list publish a decent PDF file. Libre Office will only work for an amateur job. Is InkScape like this?

Talking about Unity, I know there will be the Linux version in 2021, don't know how it is (any beta tester around?), but no Unity version or port works good anyway, so I expect will be pretty much the same...

Other apps I have tested, and liked, is Gimp and Atom. Both are a bit strange to me, but I can work with, no problem. I was using Spriter, but I might consider the free DragonBones. Anyway, is a vast world of apps that we need to make a game right... What do you have in mind? Is there enough good options to make a good game with free tools? How could be a middle-way solution?

Please share your thoughts!


Excuse me? 32-bit editions are not abandoned. If a distribution is still providing them, and many do, that means it's supported. Try a version with a graphical installer, newer ones like Calamares are as friendly as anything I've seen from any other operating system. Where are you getting this idea that you have to work in a terminal, in text mode? As for Inkscape, try it! I made excellent art with it, for several games and other purposes. And for other kinds of art there are alternatives. E.g. GIMP isn't going to cut it for painting or pixel art, but there's always Krita and Aseprite. That's not even going into game engines: Godot is even included in the Debian 10 repos!

Dunno if you'll get along with free software and migrate to it entirely. That's personal. It's not for everyone. But a lot of people are doing a great job that way.

Thought I expressed myself badly. Debian 32 bit is supported, there is a library for it etc. But companies are not building 32 bit apps anymore, starting by browser - only Firefox keeps updated as far I know. Steam dropped support - I complained about it in the forum but nobody agree with me there, they told me 32 bit is dead. Apple has dropped 32 bit support with Catalina, most of my games won't run.

That kind of behaviour is unfortunately human nature. I keep beginning to think that at times automatically, and need the occasional reminder every now and then.


Oh, right. Yeah, that's a problem. I ran into it myself. Ended up having to upgrade. And to be honest, now it's somewhat inconvenient for me to make 32-bit builds for my own games. But I can, and I'll keep doing it.


Yes, it is. I work with SDL2, and OpenGL if more complicated graphics are required. SoLoud as my audio engine. All are open source.

For asset creation: Gimp, Blender, LMMS. All open source.


I use almost an identical set of tools, so yes it is possible to make games with only open-source software.

A tool is just an extension of the developer. It can do a lot or very little, depending on who’s wielding it. Don’t let the tools wield you.

SDL2 uses Rush right? I bought a Rush class, looking for a good game engine for it.


I have not heard of Rush. Did you misspell Rust? SDL2 is built solely on C, but many wrappers are available for it, including for Rust.


Yes, Rust! First thing I have to learn is the correct name of the language... SDL2 is listed as an option to develop in Rust, but in fact is a library. I still don't know how this things works, I came from scripts to C# and now wish to go a bit deeper. Thought will be necessary for Rust...


The question is not can you make a game using only open source. That is a definite yes. What you really want is to be as productive as you are now. You probably won't be. It will take some time to master the new tools. I think the new tools can be as effective but that will take time. If you have problems with a tool like LibreOffice, file a bug. Open source developers may not know about the problem you have. I use LibreOffice for work all the time. My colleagues do not but they can read my files without any problem.

Good point, productivity. In the case of game develop, as I learn so far, without good productivity, is simply not possible, that's why I used this word. It's different from editing text with Libre Office, is possible as long I spent hours in communities discussing workarounds (I had to use a xml editor to manually edit the file). The bugs I saw are already listed, and I had contact with people involved, so I hope the next versions will come fixed - it's my office now. We must think about tools that if not perfect (is there such thing?), is stable, nice to work and have a good community to deal with bugs, though.

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I'm a newbie game developer, but I've been a fan of open source and a linux user since the 90s.

It's definitely possible to make a game using only open source - I think the limitations are your skill level and the amount of work you want to put in, and of course a learning curve which should be expected whenever trying any new tools.

All of the projects on my itch page are made using 100% open source tools. I'm still very new and inexperienced; I don't have any training or education in any tech field: I'm just a hobbyist, but you can see what progress I've made since July of this year.


As both an experienced Windows and Linux Mint user, I have to be honest. The free alternatives are good, don't take me wrong. But I have recently switched back from Linux Mint to Windows on my desktop (still have a Linux laptop though) and it really felt like a relief. I really missed the user-friendlyness of most tools running on Windows. Including Paint.NET.

I do not like GIMP, it is overly complex and things like rendering rectangles is a breeze with Paint.NET but a hell of a task with GIMP. And what other alternatives are there? A lot, and I tried near all of them but none really fit my needs. Either they were buggy, complex like GIMP or just lacking features. And with Paint.NET you don't get those issues, it just works plain and easy.

However, I would be lying if I say that I am still using Paint.NET for my day to day tasks as I stumbled on another amazing pixelart editor here on Itch called Pixelorama. I have used it to draw sprites on Linux Mint and I even use it now to draw sprites on Windows.  I only use Paint.NET when I need some more advanced editing for images but other than that, no. I don't use it.

You see, thing is.. While I absolutely support open-source, as I have some open-source projects of my own, it is also its greatest disadvantage. Everyone can take the source, adjust it to their needs, compile another version of it and publish it. And as a result you will get like 100 versions of the same software. And at a certain point finding the right software becomes a needle in a haystack.  So yes, there are good open-source alternatives out there but I agree with dulsi here, you probably won't be as productive. And it is for that reason why I switched back to Windows.


Actually I didn't say you wouldn't be as productive using open source. I said you initially wouldn't be as productive but that as you learned the tools you could be. If Windows works better for you that is fine. I needed to build something with multiple layers so I could easily make variations of the artwork. Gimp works great for that. I haven't used recently but I doubt it would have worked well.

Thanks for your detailed report. Thought there is two different things, the working platform and the set of tools. As long Windows is not open source and not for free, today is actually in the middle way, right? I personally like Windows 10, but the feedback I have from customers is that will work right for some time and than will have some critical issue needing reinstallation, and it is capable to self destruction when you have special hardware and Windows don't know well, it will auto reconfigure and mess with your fine tune - that's a usual complain. On the top (on the bottom really) of all, you have a really old system, insecure etc.. Windows is no good for working, but sometimes is what we got. About the tools, Gimp is not friendly, I know, as most of free open source tools. But I have to say I had more troubles than expected with Adobe apps. The Illustrator environment keep changing and even if for better will take my time to learn how to use it again. The 3D tools are still poor, but Photoshop is still top of the line, specially the capability of working with large files.

At the end of the day, I think worth the try with free tools if the tasks are not too complex or too heavy, I will try.

And if I was you, will work with Linux and a Windows emulated on it, it's easy to backup daily and recover when it crashes.

Finally, I never found a decent backup tool, I still pay for it. Is no good when backup fails! People swear about some free tool working right, it never does to me. Will still paying for backup tools - now working with Carbon Copy.


I can't argue with that as you are entirely right. I have seen the software industry evolve big time over the past decade and I have seen Linux desktop changing from the bugged OS with barely any good software to a quite stable OS with much good software. I mean, we are entering an era where almost all software is becoming available for all platforms. It is not even justified anymore to publish to one OS because if you don't someone else will. That is the issue with software from Adobe too. There are many great alternatives and people are done waiting for a port to Linux or Mac. They'd pick other software that suits their needs. And I am very happy that I can use the same tools on my Linux machine as on my Windows now (except for Paint.NET) I could not do that last decade. And none of them are closed-source with an exception to Paint.NET that is.

Anyways, what I am trying to say is that you should pick the OS you wish to work on and than look for tools that suits your needs. You won't find the ones matching perfectly but still good ones. Open-source or closed-source makes no difference as it does not define quality anymore. There was a time when open-source meant buggy and unprofessional and closed-source meant quality software but that has changed drastically.

As for backups, I don't bother making them anymore on my Windows. From time to time I copy my documents to an external hdd but other than that the files are saved in OneDrive. Everything I work on is stored as git repo on GitHub so should my system crash, I would not lose anything at all.

Still recommend a daily backup of the system or at list a return point so you don't have to reconfigure and reinstall everything again (after a snake bite, the dog fears even sausage).