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A lot of people want to see SuperTuxKart going on steam. Here is a summary of the discussions about problems, opportunities and technical details.
What is steam and how does STK get there?
Steam is a platform that allows people to easily download, try and buy games. If a game without a big publisher wants to be listed on steam, it has to apply through steam greenlight. Once game has reached enough support, it will be greenlit and can be published on steam just as any other game.
The main requirement to apply for greenlight is an entrance fee of $100. The details can be found in the official FAQ.
Pros and cons
- Steam has one of the biggest gaming communities, so it would bring more visibility to SuperTuxKart.
- We can improve the game while on steam (since it's submitted as an early access).
- How is this an advantage? We can also improve the game when we are not on steam.
- Steam allows us to notify users of new releases and makes the update process easier.
- We might attract mode developers if we are on steam.
- Since STK already has a great community and supporters, there is greater chance for success. Steam, being the largest digital PC game distributor in the world gives us a bigger audience to work with. Going on Steam will potentially increase the game's popularity and budget to make better tracks and content overall.
- It allows distrubuting or selling DLCs and mods
- STK downloads don't depend on sourceforge anymore and downloads are much more convinient
- We have already a community that provides more feedback and requests than we can already handle. Why do we need feedback at this stage - we know exactly what is needed: networking, scripting, better tracks. What we need is more developers and more time, and we lose time by going on steam now. I am not sure that steam attracts an audience of game developers from which we might get more developers, there are probably better platforms where we might try to attract developers from (though that's open for discussion ;) ).
- SuperTuxKart will have more visibility :) We will get many more bug reports, which I am not sure we can handle at this stage (esp. with no established graphical developer). We already have too many bug reports, and in quite a few cases we actually don't even know how to fix the bugs. Not reacting to bug reports (which might be necessary because of timing constraints) gives us a bad reputation.
- There are legal issues with the Steam API (see below for details).
- We would be probably compared to other games. However it's not necessarily a bad thing we can gather feedback + there is a lot of indies games on steam, we can't be compared to AAA studios.
- I see this as a potential bad (to very bad) thing. Atm we always get the bonus of being open source. If we are being compared with some other kart games (not even AAA), the (quite objective) outcome will be that the our graphics are mostly (not all) pretty bad. This might strengthen the perception that open source games have bad graphics (random google results: http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MTExODg , http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1251459). The potential negative votes and perception of STK might damage STK's reputation, and long term prevent a successful steam campaign. Yes, it's early build, but I doubt that esp. some of the very old tracks will find mercy. \Perhaps we should release only new tracks?
Steam and the GPL
Generally, there is no problem with having GPL licensed games on steam, and there already several games on steam e.g. Warsow.
One of the main issues is that it is not possible to directly use the steam API, because the GPL forbids linking to non-free libraries (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#FSWithNFLibs). The steam API provides for instance access to the steam achievement system.
One approach to this would be creating a seperate binary that commucates with STK over the network. Ths would legally work if the distribution with the second binary doesn't count as modified version. See http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.en.html#MereAggregation for details.
SuperTuxKart would be submitted as an early build and the games section. The submission will propably happen at the same time as a minor release. Due to the work involved into this, we should probably avoid to do it at the same time as a major release.