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The original PlaneShift idea was started by Luca Pancallo in 1992 as a graphical 2D MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) with four people on the team. They are Luca Pancallo (project founder and programmer), Mauro Zanetti (settings writer), Stefano Oggeri (3D artist) and Danilo Moretti (2D concept artist). That was over 15 years ago, as of July 2007.
Make no mistake about it; this was a commercial project from the get-go, funded by the real investments from a real commercial company, and promoted as such on major computer expo shows (SMAU '96). The original team never intended to work for free or for the project itself to be free. This was not some "goodness of heart" or "hobby" endeavor.
In 1998, the PlaneShift project has failed after the company making the investments had a major change in its management. The new management was not interested in providing further funding for the game's development. This was a rejection that the team could not handle, so they left the project completely. No one was motivated to look for other funding opportunities or to even continue working on the project for free. Lack of commercial support and funding have killed the game at this point.
Only in 2000, after the commercial failure, PlaneShift was restarted by Luca Pancallo as a new and free 3D project, with a new development team made of volunteers. This time Luca was not a programmer and has not written a single line of code for the 3D version. Keep in mind that despite a complete failure commercially, Luca Pancallo states that PlaneShift 2D MUD was "a lot better in comparison" to other existing graphical 2D MUDs at the time (year 2000) and that other graphical 2D MUDs at the time were "not very exciting". Here, you are expected to believe that this was solely the new management's and not the project's fault. That was over 7 years ago, as of July 2007.
All of this, including the cited statements can be confirmed at this web site:
* web archive backup link for the source above *
The first major exposure for PlaneShift 3D happened in 2001, when PCGamer UK (October issue) has published a brief review of the game, stating that "it doesn't look at all innovative":
* web archive backup link for the source above *
The following is from "QuantumG", an ex-PlaneShift developer's blog:
"Early on a few warning bells sounded in my head in regards to the leader of the Planeshift project. When he talked about Open Source (he never seemed to use the words Free Software) he always seemed to apply requirements to other people and not to himself.
Also in that early time there was some talk of "changing the license" and in particular about changing the license in the event that the GPL is ever "found illegal in court."
On the 2nd of January 2005 I contacted the FSF in regards to a copyright violation on my contributions to the Planeshift project. The leader of the project had made a win32 binary release and placed the entire thing (art, binaries and third party libraries) under the restrictive license. I assumed this was just a mistake but I was not sure what rights if any I had being that I had written so little of the code that was being infringed.
The FSF responded two days later and informed me I had the same rights as every other contributor to the project, regardless of how much they had contributed. They instructed me to confront the creator of the distribution and inform him that he is in violation of my copyright, then point him at the documentation supplied by the FSF for bringing your distribution into accordance with a GPL license.
When I confronted the leader of Planeshift I was informed that there was no mistake. He had simply decided that the binary release of the game needed to be all under one license, and of course that license was the restrictive Planeshift license. Obviously I told him that he couldn't distribute my work in that manner. I was then horrified to discover that he believed I did not own the copyright on my own work.
As for the licenses of the third party libraries we were using (Crystal Space, Cel, and Cal3d) he was quite willing to violate those licenses until such time as the authors of those projects told him otherwise. If you have half a clue about copyright law you know that the only way to assign copyright is with a written legal document signed by all parties. You can't do it implicitly, and you can't do it accidently.
So when the leader of Planeshift told me I have to assign my copyright to the Planeshift team or I can't be a member of the Planeshift team, I obviously told him where to stick it.
I sent an email to the other members of the Planeshift team informing them of my ejection. As far as I know no-one else has assigned their copyright to the Planeshift team at the time of this writing, but this is probably because the leaders have yet to put the effort into printing out copyright assignment forms and mailing them to the members.
And it didn't end there. After much discussion the leaders decided they wanted to remove my changes from any future distributions - just in case they need to change the license in 5 years time and couldn't find me. My offer to assign my copyright to the FSF (who will no doubt be around and are easy to find) just struck fear into their hearts, I guess, cause they were even more adamant about removing my changes. So they asked me to supply a list of everything I had contributed and was claiming copyright on.
Happy that I had washed my hands of the situation I decided to get back to working on decompilers. Not five minutes ago I received an email from the leader of the Planeshift project exclaiming that I can't claim copyright on the formating changes I had made to the code! Let this be a lesson to all, when you join a project where the leader has no concept of copyright and no respect for the philosphy of Free Software then expect to get into situations that are just Plain Shifty."
The rest of PlaneShift development history is a winding down path of failure, filled with slow updates, numerous bugs, unprofessionally designed content (quests, levels, missing character models etc), with quite a few developers, contributors and community figures leaving the project. The proof is in the game credits, forum history and the game (or shall I say "Beta") itself.
The project leader claims inflated figures of over 400,000 registered accounts in game now. However, ask him how many of those are active and inactive, how many have been registered but never used, how many have been abandoned after a single use and how many are unique and didn't come from the same IP. Ask him if the PlaneShift account page offers an option for each user to delete their account (the answer is "No"). The real picture is much less misleading. There are only barely ~100 people active at any given time.
This all leads to a strong point made in "The Myth of Open-Source" article on BusinessWeek.com:
"O.K., so I go in [and start to do my] total business presentation. This guy in the front row says "You've got to stop banging on people whose motivation is something other than money." There's always a Hari Krishna in the audience: "It's illegal to make money at this. We're all garage bands, and you sold your soul to the devil for a handful of dollars." So I go, "Have you contributed anything?" and usually they say no and I stop it there.
Turns out the guy is the founder of a pretty significant chunk of Linux, so Point A goes out the door. So I say, "You are what I call amateur open-source or hobbyist open source, which is you have a job and then you do this because that's your passion." And then somebody in the audience yells "You mean amateur open source as opposed to a**hole open source?"
So there's always that. It's normal. There are always a bunch of amateurs because they've never made money at it, and it kind of pisses them off that there was a way to do it.
Think for a second, who works for free? I think it gets perpetrated because it's such a nice myth -- you would get love and peace, the old hippie dream you know?
If you get free, you want a lot of it. If you give free, you're going to give until you're tired of giving, and that's exactly what happens in the open-source community."
This project is no longer "only a tech demo", it is officially called a "Beta", and if anyone tells you otherwise, point them to this presentation where the project's leader states that it is a "Beta":
Draw your own conclusions.
* Sometimes the original source links disappear for various reasons such as change of a domain name address, restructure of a web site, move to a different server, downtime and so on. Web Archive backup links posted above allow you to see the original sources and their content as they appeared at or relatively near the time of this post. You can manually check the links yourself by going to www.waybackmachine.org and copying them into a search box.