Modders now have full code access to Space Engineers

Marek Rosa from Keen Software House has announced his company’s plans to “give more freedom to modders and community” – by giving everyone free and complete access to the source code for Space Engineers.

Please do not confuse this with “open source” or “free software”: While we are opening the possibility to read and alter Space Engineers and VRAGE source code, we’re not making Space Engineers or VRAGE free.

Instead, Rosa explains that the decision will give modders the ability to develop the games in exactly the same way Keen does. This means that full conversion mods are now possible, server-side mods are easier, and if you want, you can actually contribute to the game’s core development. (He’s also quick to point out that the developers are not abandoning the project.)

The original plans were to release part of the game’s code, but Rosa says the team soon came to the decision that they might as well just open it all up to anyone who wants to look.

During the last few months we have been removing parts of the obfuscation on the Space Engineers executable and libraries. After that we uploaded the source code of Space Engineers and VRAGE engine on GitHub as a private repository, let selected modders look at it and provide us with feedback, and today we’re making the repository public.

This isn’t an approach commonly taken by game developers – particularly not when the game in question is still in Early Access – but Keen is proud to be the first to try the “experiment”, arguing that it’s worth taking the risk.

    Pros:

  • Total conversions are now possible
  • More and better content created by modders
  • Allowing people to have more fun with our game by letting them modify it while we keep adding core features and updates just like we did for the last 2 years
  • Modders can make server-side mods easily
  • Modders can contribute to Space Engineer’s core development if they want
  • Modders can extend the official ModAPI interface and we will merge their changes with the core game
    Cons:

  • “Competitors” can steal our ideas and algorithms. Our answer: if it is so easy to clone our games and development methods, then we probably aren’t doing anything special. We believe that our competitive advantage is in being leaders, not followers.
  • Hackers will have an easier time cheating in multi-player. Our answer: this is true, but with new multiplayer, the server will have authority and will validate everything sent by clients. If our implementation has flaws, open access to our source code and the visibility of potential flaws will push us to fix these cases faster.
  • We can be accused of going open source and abandoning the development of Space Engineers. Our answer is definitely NO. As we stated above, this is mostly for giving complete freedom to our modders while we continue the game’s development without any changes (through weekly updates and keeping our development plan as described in our previous blog post). Space Engineers is still selling very well and only a crazy person would abandon the game! We just want to give people the chance to modify all aspects of our game and experiment with it while we keep doing what we are doing.

In the worst case scenario, we will revert back to obfuscating the source code and with our frequent update routine the non-obfuscated source code will soon become old and obsolete.

This is kind of technical (but if you’re into modding you’ll know it’s good news) – so if you want to know more about how it works, where to get the source code and how to start messing with it, head to Marek’s official blog, where he explains things quite nicely.

You will, of course, need a copy of Space Engineers if you actually want to play, by the way. It’s available via Steam, either by itself or as a buy-three-get-one-free pack.

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