Welcome creators! I want to say it right up front: this round-up is not usually going to be overwhelmingly focused on the Godot engine. Since I brought it up last weekend, however, the Little Open Source Engine Who Could (Maybe) surprised us all by jumping into the mainstream news. We’ll get into just what happened and what it might indicate for the near future. Also: developing for streamers, classic arcade talk, and more!
A version of this article went out as Issue 11 of my free game development newsletter at Revue! Check it out if you want game industry news and development resources from around the web in your inbox once per week!
Godot Goes Pro
Sonic Colors: Ultimate is, well, partially out, and reactions have been all over the place. If you didn’t know about the original game (like me), Sonic Colors was a 3D Sonic platformer from 2010 that involved defeating good ol’ Doctor Eggman with a set of special skills that help Sonic navigate unique outer space terrain. A remaster of the Wii version technically won’t release until September 7, but digital deluxe pre-orders unlocked the game earlier this week.
On the very date of the pre-release, a self-described programmer and reverse engineer called “Skyth” published a Tweet thread describing the results of his team’s datamining exploration of the game’s files. What was the lead item for discussion? That Sonic Colors: Ultimate uses Godot.
Skyth clarifies that Sonic Colors: Ultimate is not a real “Godot game” in the sense you might expect, but that it seems to use Godot as a “graphical backend.” The game relies on the original C++ code as well as resources from the Hedgehog Engine — a separate, proprietary graphics engine developed by Sonic Team and first used for Sonic Unleashed. The game’s assets were included using Godot’s .pck files, though new game features were directly added in the C++ code (apparently) and did not rely on Godot.
Finally, Skyth reveals a .xlsx spreadsheet his team extracted that shows the game’s end credits. This raises an interesting question: shouldn’t Blind Squirrel Games have mentioned Godot in said credits? This, as it turns out, was a Whole Big Thing.
While Godot is Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS), the MIT license under which it’s distributed does require its license statement and copyright notice to be included in a project’s licensing information which games at the level of Sonic Colors are almost never without. While this doesn’t necessarily stipulate inclusion in the credits, the whole notice does have to be somewhere, even in a derivative work.
This escaped the Godot team for all of about five hours.
Blind Squirrel apologized shortly thereafter in a tweet and said this was “somehow missed” before committing to correcting the issue in an upcoming patch. Twitter users pointed to prominent “Blind Squirrel Engine” screens and cried foul.
While it’s unlikely that BSE thought they could hide Godot’s inclusion in the project, it doesn’t seem impossible that they thought the open-source distribution of the engine was license to do or not do as they pleased with impunity.
Godot engine creator and technical lead, Juan Linietsky, later put together a more positive thread speculating on why the studio may have chosen to go the Godot route, and revealed at least one other major port has gone this direction as well.
Linietsky points out that the Wii/Gamecube pipeline is fixed and complicated, posing an immediate problem to creating a more modern, resolution-independent port. Naturally, Godot contains visual tools for working with shaders, materials, and the game’s UI. He mentions that Godot was also used to port Deponia, a Visionaire Studio game, to PS4 and mobile.
So it turns out the Godot team is aware of — and even excited about — this use case for the Godot engine. It makes good sense that having the software at the disposal of big studios and publishers could eventually lead to quality contributions, funding, and more. Hopefully studios will respect Godot’s licensing and give due credit to help publicize the project. It would be great for Godot to establish better name recognition in the console world and push further toward that much-needed console support.
Speaking of Godot: Check out the end of a Godot game jam hosted by legendary developer Terry Cavanagh
Terry Cavanagh, developer of such hits as VVVVVV, Super Hexagon, and Dicey Dungeons, took to Itch to encourage other developers to join his journey to learn the Godot engine during a weekend game jam ending tomorrow.
“I just don’t think it’s good when the tools that we use are controlled by private companies,” Cavanagh says on the jam’s page. “I think there are a lot of bad outcomes when that happens.”
That sounds a lot like sentiments someone shared in the last issue of the newsletter.
While you technically have a day left if you wanted to make something for the jam yourself, this is more of a heads up that there are already 56 entries to show what Godot can do in a short time. Also, check out Terry’s games if you haven’t. He’s a nice guy and a fantastic creator.
Reminder of the Week: Streamer Mode!
While there isn’t always a tip of the week around here, there is this time, and it comes with a shoutout to Jeff “PsychicParrot” Murray.
Jeff’s small studio Tea Monster Games is working on RC Rush, a virtual reality RC racing game that I’m very eager to play. Jeff routinely tweets about progress on the game, and a recent note about music got us talking.
Licensed music is indeed a welcome staple of racing games for a long way back. Who didn’t get a thrill from racing their taxi through Generic San Francisco with Bad Religion behind them?
Unfortunately, the times have become more complicated. Licensed music still thrives in games, but just because you secured rights to use a track no longer means no one will get into trouble over it. You absolutely want the cooperation of streamers and content creators when your game comes out, but airing the wrong licensed track on their channel, even by accident, threatens the viability of their video or broadcast, and in some cases, could present a total platform ban risk.
The answer? Streamer mode! If you’ve never seen this in a game, streamer mode is a simple switch in the game’s options that either changes licensed tracks to something royalty free or silences those tracks completely. Depending on what other content and information is present in your game, you may choose to make this switch control other in-game elements including certain personal information, friends lists, UI elements, etc. Don’t make these critical partners try to guess how to configure your game to stay safe on their channel. Help them out!
For this week’s episode of GameDev Breakdown, I spoke with Brian Riggsbee, a project manager at Slack who wrote a full-length history book on Tecmo’s Rygar.
As I quickly admit in the interview, I had not played Rygar for even a moment before Brian contacted me, but I love these definitive retro history projects and I try to make time for them any time they come up. Brian did a fantastic job capturing the story from its arcade roots, through its widely varied ports, up through it’s peculiar recent end.
Check out our audio chat or take a look at the video show on YouTube to get ready for his upcoming expanded 2nd edition!
Next week I have an awesome chat for you with Australian comedian and content creator Steven Morgan, and I’m doing my absolute best to dig back into some legitimate development work. Reach out if you’re enjoying the newsletter or have a scoop for me. Talk soon!
Todd Mitchell is a US Midwest-based comedy writer and game developer with bylines at Weekly Humorist, Fanbyte, Slackjaw, End of the Bench Sports, and more. He’s the author of Inside Video Game Creation, the founder of CodeWritePlay, and host of several podcasts including GameDev Breakdown and Fully Remote with Todd Mitchell. Follow him on Twitter @Mechatodzilla.