There are a few games in the opensource / freeware arena that are really exceptional. Complete, polished, documented, and durnit, fun to play. FreeCiv, available for Linux, Mac, and Windows, is one of them.
FreeCiv continues the concepts laid down by Sid Meier in the “Civilization” games, originally published by Microprose in the early 90’s. There were many commercial versions of this game, Civ, Civ 2, CivNet, Civ 3, and Alpha Centauri. Each had the same similar approach to the game.
The basic gist is you are administering a budding nation through history. Starting out with the simplest of tribes, you build up technology, economy, trade, and military to guide your nation to success via a number of possibly victories. You can win economically by driving all other nations into poverty. You can win militarily in the obvious manner, or you can win by advancing your sciences faster. In the original Civ games, the goal was to reach the point of launching your starship to colonize Alpha Centauri before any other nation (note, the game starts at approximately 4000BC, so you really have a long way to go before you’re launching starships :). As a sideline, my friend Scott managed to launch his colonization ship in 1818. Impressive 🙂
Anyway, the folks on the FreeCiv project have faithfully duplicated Civ 2 in an opensource, sanctioned project. This weekend we fired up the terminals I use for conventions and played for a couple hours.
The game is complete, easy to play, networked, and just plain works. I understand that the Freeciv folks are now working on FreeCiv 2.0 (and the webpage shows betas being released), where they have added functions beyond the original Civ system (which really has been duplicated perfectly). Things like hexagonal tilesets are going to make the game even more interesting.
Why can’t other opensource projects get to this level of documentation, support, and cleanliness without either shutting down, or getting focused on “the next shiny thing?”
Now if we could also get a decent realtime strategy game without the corporate lawyers shutting us down, life would be so much better.