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Free software

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Free software, sometimes called libre software or open source software, refers to certain computer programs which give you the freedom to share and modify the software. Most free software is copyrighted, but a license grants freedoms from some of the normal copyright restrictions. The GNU General Public License is a popular free software license.

The Free Software Foundation states that free software must offer all of four freedoms, quoted here:

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

When a computer game is free software, then freedom 1 exposes all of the secrets and any plots and cheats of the game. Freedom 2 undermines the usual profit model of selling copies of the game; because few players donate to support game development, it also makes it difficult to finance the creation of a libre game. Most free software games have crude graphics and little to no sound. Thus most games are not free software. For multiplayer games, freedom 3 is especially hazardous, because it eases the programming of cheatbots.

Despite this, many free games exist. Many of these are arcade clones, board games, card games... but there are also games like NetHack, SuperTux, Battle for Wesnoth, and Nexuiz, that offer many hours of less repetitive gameplay. Most of the free games are for Unix, but some also run on Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh. Free games are more rare on other platforms.

Related concepts

Copyleft is a requirement that improvements to a free program also be free. Not all libre games are copyleft, but many are. For example, because NetHack is under copyleft, if you add many new monsters and items and call it SLASH'EM, then you must provide the same freedoms for others to use your additions, and SLASH'EM must also be free software.

The Gameinfo wiki itself is free documentation; it provides freedoms similar to those for free software.

Examples of libre games

(The plan is to create a tour of eight representative libre games. This will not work until we have wiki pages for all of them.) Start Tour

  1. Text adventure: Dunnet
  2. Arcade: XBoing
  3. Board: XBoard
  4. Third-person shooter: XPilot
  5. Roguelike: NetHack
  6. Platform: SuperTux
  7. Turn-based combat: Battle for Wesnoth
  8. First-person shooter: Nexuiz

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