The Case Study

The case chosen for this research is the turn-based strategy game Battle for Wesnoth (BfW). The choice to use this FOSS project as main case rest on several reasons related to the objectives of the research. The interest on the role of users (and usage) in FOSS development called for a case study on an active project which allows for heterogenous ways of contributing and which also integrates on user made content. It's true that most FOSS projects (in a way or another) present these charateristics, but BfW stood out from my selection process as the best candidate.

I selected about 40 projects from the two biggest FOSS collaborative platforms (Sourceforge and Freshmeat) filtering the selection on the project's activity level. In roughly one month, I discarded most of these projects and remained with less than ten projects. Amongst these (4 videogames, 2 audio/video editors and one small managerial software), BfW highlighted the most intereesting characteristics for the current research. The preliminary selection has been done by looking at the projects' Contribute pages, main websites, forums and roadmaps. This are the key characteristiics that favoured BfW over the other projects:

  • Active project. Started in 2003, BfW reached version 1.0 in 2005 and it is still in active development. The current version is 1.8.1. Each year the project releases at least one new stable release (Roadmap). The credit file lists more than 150 contributors, the forum has (as of June '10) 14185 registered members.
  • Cross-platform. BfW is available for all major operating systems: GNU/Linux, MacOSX and Windows. Moreover, it is also being ported on the Apple iPhone. This wide availability puts the videogame under the scrutinity of an heterogenous group of users and, considering the port onto a mible device, under an heterogenous contexts of use.
  • 'Community-based'. The BfW project is not an hybrid-project, as it is often the case with successful FOSS projects. It does not use dual licensing, it only uses on licence (GNU GPLv2) for everything that is created. Moreover, there is no software company trying to integrate with (and influence) the development process.
  • Single- and multi-player modes. BfW can be played both in single and multi player mode. In the single player mode, players engage in campaigns (each made up of several scenarios) where specific storylines and specific goals drive the gaming. in the multi player mode, one map is used as ground for challenges against other players (1vs1, 2vs2, free for all). The two game modes introduces very different usage and users' experiences as well as they imply different developmental needs.
  • User-made content. In the econmy of the game development the user-made-content has a key role. In BfW, artworks, races, factions, scenarios, campagins are constantly improved, extended and added. The mechanism for new content testing (done on the forum) and development (done on a dedicated platform) introduces very interesting dynamics in relation to use and development within a FOSS project.

The Battle for WesnothThe Battle for Wesnoth logo. Copyleft info

The Battle for Wesnoth, or simply Wesnoth, is a turn-based strategy game with a fantasy setting, designed by David White and first released in June 2003. In Wesnoth, the player attempts to build a powerful army by controlling villages and defeating enemies for experience. White based Wesnoth loosely on the Sega Genesis games Master of Monsters and Warsong.He wanted to create a freely-available, open source strategy game with very simple rules, but one that had strong artificial intelligence and that was challenging and fun. (ref. Wikipedia)