Thursday, May 20, 2010

Freedom of Speech

Today I'll be posting about something other than FOSS game development, something far more important (yes, such a thing exists!). Today's topic is Freedom of Speech and how we never must take that for granted.

I live in Sweden where the last couple of years there has been a couple of incidents where islamic fascists have tried through violence and threats of violence to impose their world view on other people. Central to that world view is an active aggression against the principle of Freedom of Speech which underpins our whole democratic and parliamentary system. The most prominent examples are the threats and active murder attempts on the Danish cartoonists who drew pictures of Muhammed, or the threats made against South Park. In Sweden the artist Lars Vilks has been both physically assaulted and subjected to arson as a result of his drawing of Muhammed in 2007.

It's easy to take the Freedom of Speech for granted and to think that those people that want to bring it down only operate in chaotic countries such as Pakistan or Somalia. That is unfortunately not the case, as shown in this video of Lars Vilks presenting a lecture on the topic of "Art and Freedom of Speech". Vilks suffered some bruises and a broken pair of glasses. The day after someone tried to kill him by setting his home on fire.

Do not be tempted to draw the conclusion from this video that Sweden, or any other European country is under any threat of "being overrun by Islam" or similar. That is absolutely not the case; it is in fact the opposite. When faced with a stable society and a high standard of living most people tend to distance themselves from religion and totalitarian ideologies, even if it might take a generation or two.
But it does show that Freedom of Speech is something we never can take for granted, and not something we can barter with. It is the firmament on which our whole society is built on, and we cannot let fascist or totalitarian ideologies or groups make us infringe on it one iota. As long as people feel threatened by violence for expressing their opinions there is no real Freedom of Speech. For every Lars Vilks who has the guts to criticize Islam and as a consequence gets assaulted and beaten, there are thousands of other people who hold their tongue. Some of them in Western countries such as Sweden, but most of them in countries where Freedom of Speech already is curtailed, such as Iran or Pakistan.

Therefore I'm today celebrating the annual Draw Muhammed Day by presenting my own drawing of Muhammed, the founder of Islam. By providing my own drawing of Muhammed I'm showing my support and solidarity with the artists currently under death threats. Note that the drawing is pretty tame (and badly drawn); I know this blog is syndicated so I'm putting a little restraint on myself. To more properly show my complete and total outrage of having islamic fascists trying to impose their warped totalitarian world view on me it would be more proper to show Muhammed being raped by a pack of dogs. But I'll wait with that picture for another day (not that the Internet is lacking in such depictions).

Muhammed, shown here during one of his schizophrenic episodes trying to come up with another verse for the Qur'an.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ember 0.5.8 released

I've just released Ember 0.5.8. The official release announcement can be found on the main Worldforge site.

The main new feature is the multi threading framework which I've written about before on this blog. It's a pretty Big Thing, as it we're so utterly dependent on having dynamic data.
Another thing which went into this release, but which won't be apparent for any user, is a large restructuring of the media repository. It's mainly Jayr's work, but I've also helped out. Basically it amounts to defining common naming and structuring standards for the media repository so that it becomes easier to both contribute and use the assets therein. I've updated some of the media guidelines to reflect this.
And for the first time in a couple of years we now provide win32 binaries. Getting Ember to build on win32 (through msys) was a real chore, but the plan is to keep the code base compatible enough so that each subsequent release of Ember will have win32 binaries.

There's been some other developments in the FOSS game world too.
Ryzom recently released all of their source code under the GPL and all of their media under the CC-BY-SA license. This is a huge boost for FOSS gaming, as there's now a boatload of new media assets available. A quick comparison of the Ryzom media contra the Worldforge media:
* Ryzom has a much more assets.
* Ryzom textures are smaller (between 256 and 512 pixels whereas most of Worldforge's are 1024 - 2048 pixels).
* Ryzom textures are only available as png whereas Worldforge provides source assets for all textures (usually .psd).
* Ryzom only provides diffuse textures whereas Worldforge usually provides specular and normal/heightmap versions too.
* Ryzom assets are made in a particular art style, whereas Worldforge has opted for a natural style. This is however just for the Mason world. I would love to see a world using Ember and Cyphesis with the Ryzom assets.

Some have noted that the source meshes in Ryzom only are available in .max format. That's no big deal though as they can be converted to .blend (a process which is always underway). As long as the source is available it's always possible to convert it; it's harder when the only available asset is an exported format. (Worldforge provides .blend files for most of the meshes, though we have some .max versions too.)

Another big thing is the Indie Humble Bundle, which is a collection of six excellent indie games, available for a user set price. It's truly an excellent deal, especially since part of the money paid is donated to charities. And not only that, since they so far received more than 1 million USD they've now opened up the source code for four of the games as FOSS. It's really a remarkable thing.