Setting up the installation for BfW development branch (1.9.2)

I spent most of yesterday and part of today in installing the development version of BfW (currently 1.9.2) and the new Interface for creating User Made Content (I'll write more about this in future post).

Basically, I decided to learn how to create simple  scenarios (or other kind of user made content) in order to understand what kind of challenges users, who enter this activity, should face, what competences are required for it and what kind of rewardings it provides. However, the BfW development version will introduce substantial changes into the WML code and for this reason the 1.8 content (and earlier) will need some work to be ported into 1.9 (and future releases). Moreover, for the same reason, the Wesnoth UMC IDE does not work with earlier versions than 1.9.

It will take me some time to learn the WML basics and I fear that before I'm able to produce something worthwile to be played by others the development version might become stable. Thus, I opted to have two installations on my computer: the stable one for playing and knowing the MP gaming community; the development one for learning WML and developing some content.

Although I am not completely new to compiling software from source, I have to admit I had few small difficulties to compile and install BfW 1.9.2. I must say that the overall procedure is documented quite extensively (for all major operating systems), nonetheless I faced the following issues:

  • The documentation (it is on a wiki) is edited and updated along with the sotware new versions release. While most of the content alwasy apply to all versions, new features and instructions (like naming conventions) might require specific clarifications that are not compatible for all versions. Sometimes I found it difficult to understand what applied to which version. (Basically I'm referring to the game installation structure, which is better explained here)
  • Most GNU/Linux distribution have centralised package management systems which take care of installing the software, thus it should be avoided that the compiled version enters into conflict (or overwrite) the packaged one. For this reason, to avoid problems, some forum members suggested to only compile (build) the source, and to run it without installing it. This is what I did the int first attempts, but afterwards, I had problems with setting up the evnironment for Wesnoth-UMC.
  • The source can be built and installed using three different procedures (on GNU/Linux distributions): CMake, autotools, scon. While all of them are documented, I found the information to be rather limited. I had to go back and forth through BfW documentation, forum, and scons manpage more than once before understanding how to properly set environment parameters for scons. (By the way, I never used scons before in my life...and yet I did manage to build and install BfW)

At the end, the whole process of setting up a working installation for the (1.9.2) together with the Wesnoth-UMC IDE, took me about 6 hours (splitted in two days). This is an approximate time which goes from the very beginning of looking for the documentation/files/requirements until the actual playing of a test match. Not an impossible endeavour, but I guess that it might be a barrier for some users who do not have the time and skills to solve this problem. Of course it is also reasonable to think that developers and testers do not 'want' to have these kind of users in the process.

Considering that I already had some experiences with compiling software packages for my GNU/Linux distro, I wonder what kind of barrier it represents this procedure for 'less skilled' users; how much of this barrier is desirable for developers and how much it is not; and finally whether this barrier is the same for users of different OS or not.