Another great hit from this year's SAGE was the indie project Open Surge by brazilian developer @Alexandre Martins creator of the fan favorite project Neo Sonic Universe.
Open Surge is, at the same time, a level editor similar to Mario Maker, a platformer game like Sonic and a powerful open-sourced game engine with it's own scripting language. It's one of this year's most ambitious projects and I was dying to know more, so I quickly reached out to Alexandre to ask him a few questions about his project:
Alexandre: Open Surge is a game and a game creation system. It's like Super Mario Maker for games like Sonic (and other types of games too). Open Surge is truly a unlimited project. It holds tremendous potential for creativity. The SAGE demo is just the tip of an iceberg. Open Surge helps you create whatever you wish to: first you dream your game, then you use Open Surge to turn it into reality.
To create a game, all you need is your creativity, a text editor, a good image editor (recommended) and Open Surge. Open Surge is a fully working game engine that you can use today. Our website has all the materials you need to get started.
P3DR0: Who's involved with the project?
Alexandre: Open Surge is an open-source project with contributors all over the world. Many people have contributed so far, including: brazilian artist João Victor (pyro), concept artist Cody Licorish (svgmovement) from the US, sound effects designer Mateus Reis (KZR) from Portugal, musician Johan Brodd (jobromedia) from Sweden (who unfortunately passed away before the release of the demo - many of the musics you hear are his), musician Di Rodrigues from Brazil, musician Victor Seven from Spain, artists Colin Beard (SilverstepP) and Brian Zablocky (Celdecea) from the US, designer Ruben Caceres from Puerto Rico, and others have contributed to the present version of the game. Finally, I'm Alexandre Martins, the developer and founder of the project. I'm from Brazil.
P3DR0: What are the plans for the future of the project?
Alexandre: Think of the development of Open Surge as an iceberg. The game that you played on SAGE is the tip of that iceberg. Below that there's something huge: a game engine built from scratch in C language. The engine is essentially composed of: a core (it handles animations, sounds, keyboard/gamepad/mouse inputs, translations, file management, configuration files, etc.), a 360° physics system (that's very similar to Sonic's) and scripting language called SurgeScript. SurgeScript is a key feature of Open Surge: it gives users infinite possibilities, unlimited creative potential (similar to what you find in commercial game development software).
SurgeScript is a scripting language created from scratch, designed with the specific needs of games in mind. It brings many innovations. Features like state machines, object hierarchies, composition and tagging are embedded into the language. SurgeScript is integrated into Open Surge. You use it to create items, bosses, gimmicks, gameplay mechanics, special abilities for characters, special effects and animations, and whatever else you can imagine. Creating game elements with this language is simple and fun! All you need to begin using it is a text editor.
SurgeScript is powerful and simple to learn. If you know how to code, you can learn it in no time at all. If you don't, it will take a bit of practice, but there are many examples to learn from. There's also a full documentation available online. You can learn more about SurgeScript at the Open Surge website, or by visiting http://docs.opensurge2d.org directly.
P3DR0: Will there be the possibility of adding custom tilesets and maybe even custom characters?
Alexandre: You can absolutely add your own tilesets today (we call them "bricksets"). To create a brickset, all you need is an image with the bricks ("tiles") and a text file specifying which parts of the image correspond to which bricks (if there are animations, movement, custom solidity, etc. you can specify all that as well). Once you create your tileset, you can then share it with others, so they too can benefit from your assets.
You can also add your own characters today. It's all explained in the project's wiki, linked on our website. Your characters can even have special abilities that you create. For example, one user can make a character that swims, another can make one that shoots, and so on. The sky is the limit.
Creating the engine from scratch took us a few years, and it's now entirely available to you. It has reached a point of maturity in which making retro games became extremely simple. You can become proficient with the basics in just a matter of days. Creating the SAGE demo with the engine was extremely easy, and though the game had been in discussion for some time, most of the work was engine work.
There's no end to creativity, and here's a tool that can help you make your dreams come true.
P3DR0: Where did the idea came from? What were some of your inspirations?
Alexandre: In the free and open-source software world there are games inspired by very well-known series. SuperTux (inspired by Mario) and SuperTuxKart (inspired by Mario Kart) are two popular examples. It turns out that there was no good free and open-source game inspired by Sonic, and thus no such game for Linux. Open Surge fills that gap. Hopefully Open Surge will soon be made available by all the major Linux distributions, and will be ported to other platforms as well!
Some of you know about the "past life" of this project back when it was called Open Sonic. It was a different game, yet it carried the seeds (the intent) to create a fully free and open-source project (free as in freedom) inspired by Sonic. Free and open-source means not only having the source code available - it also means creating our own intellectual property.
When I first started Open Sonic, I started alone. I wrote the program, but I did not had all the skills that a full game demands (creating graphics, music, and so on). So the project started out as a Sonic fangame that had its source code released under the GPL. As time went by and the project became more popular, people from all over the world began to show interest in it. They began to get involved and send contributions. Gradually, artists, musicians and others began to show up and I was no longer working by myself. Then it actually became possible to create a fully free and open-source project with a new IP. Surge was born, and so were the other characters, then we began to work on this new game called Open Surge.
The creativity aspect of Open Surge emerged naturally as the project advanced. Users began creating their own content with the early versions of Open Sonic. They created some simple levels, made some simple modifications of sprites, and so on. There was an interest in modding, and so I began to add more creative capabilities to the project. Basic scripting capabilities emerged, and so did the ability to create new characters, new fonts, hack controls, menus and so on. Then the physics system got better, more refined. Later came SurgeScript which made the engine become extraordinarily powerful. It made the project rise to a completely new level of possibilities. I'm excited to share this, because I see its unlimited potential.
P3DR0: What can you tell us about these characters and this world?
Alexandre: Surge is very charismatic, and he's a free and open-source software mascot, like Tux (the Linux penguin). Surge loves to play video-games. He's a rabbit with cool sneakers that light up. Neon is a squirrel that loves to create things. He has built a jetpack on his own, and he uses it to fly around. Charge is a badger, he has a serious personality, and I think he could teach physics. Gimacian is a dark magician who wants power over things. He wants to become the absolute ruler.
You can know more about all the characters at the project wiki. There is a first story written some time ago that is also available. We plan to revise it and add some of the values that are inherent in Open Surge: the ability to play, to create, to learn and to share in freedom.
Alexandre: We might very well add new game styles and new abilities for the characters, but we started with the basics. I think it's important to get the basics right first.
P3DR0: If the project is open-sourced, how are you guys making money?
Alexandre: Open Surge is accepting donations. The project seeks to bring a lot of fun, learning and unlimited creative potential to its users. Creating Open Surge is time consuming and developing a game engine from scratch in C language is an endeavor of years. We ask users to give back and support the project. You can donate by going to our website, http://opensurge2d.org The project received a few contributions since the SAGE release. If you're a user, consider giving back to the project. To those who have contributed so far: thank you very much! I appreciate it!
P3DR0: You were once the owner of one of the largest and most beloved game making communities around the web, what can you tell us about this time? Why did it closed down?
Alexandre: Yes, I founded a game development website back in the early 2000's. It turned out to be one of the largest websites of the subject matter in Brazil, and the largest one in its own niche of software tools. It has touched the lives of many people, and even inspired some to follow careers such as programming or graphic design. I think it was pretty awesome for its time, and many will agree.
Many years have passed since the website was active, and during this time I was able to get a broader perspective on things. You asked why the website was closed, and to answer your question I need to tell you about purpose:
Purpose is related to intentions and goals, and also carries a deeper meaning: the why you do what you do. The reason for the existence of something. Purpose is the driving force behind motivation: it's what keeps you going. Upon embarking on any enterprise, it's a good idea to understand why you are doing what you're doing.
When I founded the website, I was a 12 years old school boy. This is what crossed my mind at the time: "I want to create the largest game making website in Brazil". I didn't understand why. I simply loved to create games. I wanted to share the knowledge and I also wanted for the website to be popular. So I went head on and plunged into the adventure. A few years later and lots of after-school work and voilà: Gaming was actually the largest game making website in Brazil in its subjects. The website became very popular, and so did one of my fangames at the time, Neo Sonic Universe. It was really well known in Brazil. I remember meeting people in real life that had relatives that played the game, and they loved it.
That's all great and good, but here's the key:- creating the largest website, company or whatever is something that you accomplish. It's an event in time. With my current level of understanding, I argue that an event in time does not make a really good driving force. One way of seeing this is accomplishing it. It does not make you happy. A really great purpose is an ongoing expression of truth.
The website featured many homebrew games that you could play and many game making resources that you could learn from. Even though the project was successful, I remember coming home from school, many many times, asking myself: why am I doing this? This was a recurring question. I did not know. I did not have a clear answer, an answer that was true on a deeper level. Why accomplish all that? Accomplishing things, by itself, doesn't make you happy. Nonetheless, I continued to work on the website since I enjoyed creating games, after all.
As the project grew larger and more successful, the difficulties got amplified as well. Unfortunately there were people that did not act with the best intent at all. People get jealous. We got more obstacles. It turns out that the purpose behind it all was unclear, which slowly but surely hindered the motivation to go on. Another reason for closing the website at that time was that I was getting into university and I saw no one that could really take care of it with the best intent.
I think that is what happens with people who reach the top of their professions, like some moviestars or executives. They find that the top is empty. Then they face disillusionment, a crisis of meaning. Then they go to the Buddhist monasteries :)
This is my current level of understanding. I'm not saying you shouldn't be excellent in your work and accomplish things. Be excellent absolutely, but do it with an excellent purpose as well. Be motivated from within, and then accomplish whatever you want. It's like being the tree that gives beautiful fruit because that's what it does. It's expressing itself. It doesn't have to be different than what it is. An apple tree doesn't have neurotic notions that it should produce bananas.
You could say that creating the largest this or that is a desire that comes fromthe surface personality, whereas the desire to express truth comes from a deeper layer of being. The origin of the desire makes a world of difference. In the first case, you're seeking something that promises to make you happy. In the second case, you're motivated from within. The work itself is a reward.
What about Open Surge? It offers lots of value to the people and holds immense potential for creativity. Whatever its reception will be, I know something incredible has already been accomplished: it has given form to joy and creativity. It is released as free software (free as in freedom), benefiting the community. As the engine was being developed, few people knew much about it. Some doubted. Yet we could persevere with its development, day in and day out, for years, because the driving force was there. There was a hiatus in the development of the project, but that's a different subject altogether.
My 12 year old version who created the website did not have this depth of understanding. Nonetheless, it was great to have a successful website that brought positive impact to many people, even if the purpose was unclear for me. At the time I didn't really think much about these deeper subjects. I just did what occurred for me to do.
I would like to thank you all who remember the website.
P3DR0: It's been a while since we last seen you, what have you been doing in the meantime?
Alexandre: At the university, I loved to study computer science! I also took time for myself and meditated. I worked with computer programming too.
P3DR0: Being both brazilians, how do you feel about Brazil's strong presence in the game development scene?
Alexandre: It's great that brazilians are making games. I feel that the interest in gamedev has risen quite a lot. The internet and the availability of tools have played an important role on this expansion. Also, it's great that thanks to the internet, multiple people around the world can work together and contribute to a single project, combining many of their talents to make a single whole. That's the case of Open Surge and of many other open-source projects around the web.
Since you have mentioned Brazil, let me say that the second level of Open Surge, Waterworks Zone, is inspired by the Itaipu Dam. Itaipu is a massive dam located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. It's a very beautiful place to visit! Its home is the brazilian city Foz do Iguaçu. Itaipu is near the Iguaçu Falls, another incredible beauty to visit.
P3DR0: Thank you so much for giving us an interview and an entire game engine too! I hope to see much more of Open Surge in the future! Is there anyone you'd like to thank or any piece of mind you want to share with our readers?
Alexandre: I give thanks to my family who has always supported me. I also give thanks to SAGE and SFGHQ for making the project more well known.
You can play and start creating with Open Surge right here on SFGHQ's Showcase: