With closed-source games, there's only so much a developer can do to help modders. The best situation is when enterprising tweakers can get their hands on the actual game code, but that's understandably a hard ask for a studio trying to build a sustainable business. However, Keen Software, the team behind Space Engineers, is willing to be the first to experiment with with an, uh, open-closed approached.
Last week, Keen's Marek Rosa announced that the company would be releasing the code for both Space Engineers and its engine, VRAGE, for modders to look at. And yep, it's all available right now in C# form on GitHub.
That means it's open source, right?
No. As Rosa explains, the studio wanted to find a way to provide modders with the ability to inspect Space Engineers guts and after discussing it, felt this was the best option:
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.
An EULA can be found in the GitHub repository, which details how the whole thing will work. Basically, to use the code you need the assets from the game itself and a copy of the Steam version and anything you make can only be distributed as a mod for Space Engineers. Anyone interested in licensing should contact Keen directly.
It's a risky experiment to be sure, but one that might pay off. Rosa does mention the potential pros and cons of the decision in his post:
- 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
The biggest cons? The stealing of code and hackers will have an "easier time cheating". Whether these turn out to be an issue remains to be seen.