we need a new lead for freeorion

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The Silent One
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we need a new lead for freeorion

#1 Post by The Silent One »

I've been considering for some time to bring this forward and I'll say it now: the development of freeorion is going very slowly, and that is due to a lack of leadership.

Specifically, the design and project leaders, Aquitaine and Tyreth, abandoned the project a long time ago. While I believe that these two did very well in the past, they now seem to lack the time to participate.

Several months ago I wrote an email to Aquitaine, suggesting that he should step back from his post to let someone else take the wheel. However, he told me he wouldn't think anyone was able to replace him. He also promised to get back to the project soon; this hasn't happend yet. I haven't written to Tyreth, but depending on your opinions, I/we could do that to ask him if he would like to get back on the team or nominate an official successor.

- - To summarize, I believe that freeorion needs a new, active design lead that finally decides how space combat will be handled. The debate on that has been pending for over a year; it's time to move on.

We also need an active project lead that recruits new developers and artists, that keeps an eye on the wiki and the forums and takes care of everything else.
We may also need a new graphics lead some time in the future.

As for the programming and audio lead, they are reasonably active as far as I can tell.

It is no personal campaign of mine against the current project and design leads when I propose to vote new leads; a change is crucial to keep the project running.
By no means I want to offend any of those who have brought freeorion to where it is now. I am thankful for what they have done.
But things need to move on.

Please share your opinions on this matter. Do you support the vote? Who would you nominate? Have you other ideas how to promote freeorion?
Your input is appreciated.

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Geoff the Medio
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Re: we need a new lead for freeorion

#2 Post by Geoff the Medio »

The Silent One wrote:...Tyreth, abandoned the project a long time ago.
[...]
We also need an active project lead that recruits new developers and artists, that keeps an eye on the wiki and the forums and takes care of everything else.
To be fair, Tyreth does keep an eye on the forums (note the frequently-removed spam posts) and deals with the hosting of the freeorion site.

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#3 Post by The Silent One »

Very well; but I find it somewhat disturbing that there hasn't been any reaction to the absence of our design lead or any posts at all.

However, the spam removal brings up another point: we should have new moderators who are forum regulars. A lot of the current moderators haven't been on the forums for years.

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#4 Post by utilae »

Last I heard Aquatine was working on the space combat design doc some more.

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#5 Post by Tyreth »

It would have been good and fine of you to contact me directly over this.

It is certainly high time that the space combat design was under way and active. There has been some going on that you haven't seen, but it is far slower than it should have been.

I'm going to be working on the space combat design with a handful of people instead, and keeping my mind open to possible solutions for getting things back on track.

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#6 Post by The Silent One »

I should've contacted you first and I do apologize I didn't do it. To justify my post, please consider that to a forum regulars it appears that nobody has actually been working on the combat design for some time, since there is no report on progress whatsoever. (And, what is the current status?)

People are leaving because of the inactivity and it's hard to recruit new people for a project that shows only marginal progress. I've been following the project from early on and I'm somewhat attached to it; I want it to stay alive.

- Does anyone have ideas how we could attract new members? How can we accelerate the development process?

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#7 Post by eleazar »

The Silent One wrote:However, the spam removal brings up another point: we should have new moderators who are forum regulars. A lot of the current moderators haven't been on the forums for years.
With any time-consuming volunteer project like this, the amount of time anyone will be able to contribute will vary a great deal. Few contributors will have reached the stable patterns of life that might occur at middle age.

Any organizational plan that relies the same person to be continually involved for a long period of time will probably fall into trouble. Developers will get a first of second job, get married, have children, or simply get burned out.

Over at Wesnoth we distribute responsibility rather broadly. And promising contributors are relatively quickly given responsibility/access. Spam usually lasts a only few minutes. Somebody is usually around the forums or IRC who knows what's going on in any given area. Any developer can be gone for weeks or months without halting or hindering the project. The next generation is being raised up before the previous generation sees the need to step back.
Obviously Wesnoth is a very different type of game at a different point of development, but i believe aspects of it's organization would benefit FO.

There are ways to keep the continuity of leaders while also allowing new people do much of the work.
The Silent One wrote:People are leaving because of the inactivity and it's hard to recruit new people for a project that shows only marginal progress. I've been following the project from early on and I'm somewhat attached to it; I want it to stay alive.

- Does anyone have ideas how we could attract new members? How can we accelerate the development process?
Speaking as someone who was a new member 6 month ago, and who has looked into a dozen or so game projects over the last couple years, FO is not very good at attracting new members. More importantly it's not good at funneling the energy of newcomers into useful channels.

Newcomers need to know "what's going on?" and "how can i help?". That information has been rather lacking over the past year. The general impression one gets is, "Please come back after 0.4 is planned out." However, there are many pre-v.4 aspects of the game code & design which could be worked on (such as a simple AI or implementing planetary specials) but progress has not been solicited, nor is apparently desired.

The needs of this project are not clearly advertised.


I'd like to hear a lot more from the leads along the lines of:
  • • "these are our goals for 'X'."
    • "these are problems we need to avoid."
    • "here's a conflict we haven't figured out how to resolve."
Or perhaps specific delegation: "Person X, please moderate a topic to address this aspect of gameplay, to meet these criterion. Then compile 2 or 3 of the best solutions and present them to me."


FO has a remarkable foundation in design and code. I really want to see it progress.
Last edited by eleazar on Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#8 Post by Geoff the Medio »

eleazar wrote:Newcomers need to know "what's going on?" and "how can i help?". That information has been rather lacking over the past year.
Do you have any thoughts on general ways to distribute this information? What formats and mediums should be used?

I've just rewritten the Graphics and Requirements (Design) pages on the wiki. Would a general "How to Help?" page, linked off the Main Page be better? Is the wiki in general a good or bad system to provide the info?

Or are the issues more procedural? Tradiationally, most design has been done with forum threads, though there's been reluctance to doing this for v0.4 design issues, for reasons I don't entirely understand. I suspect this is largely the cause of the lack of progress, due to limiting public involvement, and creating bottlenecks when one or two contributors is too busy for extended periods of time, but won't defer authority.

I've recently started the Ship Design thread, in the hope of getting more public involvement. Is this good, and how can it be helped or improved?

For programming, there's a more practical problem, which is that FO tends to crash quite a bit due to segmentation faults on linux, due to an apparent bug in boost signals. I suspect this significantly limits the potential pool of contributors, and is not easy to fix...

I've tried to encourage anyone new who shows up who might be interested in programming, but there hasn't been much response. A few people will respond repeatedly on a specific issue, which has been helpful, but I'm not sure how better to get people to start making significantly larger contributions. There is a Programming Work wiki page that I've tried to make more helpful, but it hasn't seemed to do much. I could link it more prominently from the Main Page, or on the proposed "How to Help?" page, if that might help. Suggestions are welcome...

In general though, some public advertizing on other forums or websites might help. It's how I found FO to start with.
..there are many pre-v.4 aspects of the game code & design which could be worked on (such as a simple AI or implementing planetary specials) but progress has not been solicited, nor is apparently desired.
The problem with planetary specials is that, like techs, there doesn't really seem to be that much interest in making game content. Doing this requires people to learn how to use the FO content scripting system, which is a barrier of entry that's apparently too steep. Back when techs were being initially designed, it ended up being me doing essentially all the work, because everyone who contributed refused to learn how to write their techs in the then-used XML format. One can argue chicken vs. egg of public interest vs. return on soliciting contributions, but at the time when techs were started, there was already interest. Tutorials on content creation were written, but didn't help much.

I suppose there not much specific solicitation of game content in the wiki. I could add some, if it's thought it would be useful.

If anyone wants to discuss specials that exist now, there is a thread to post in. Contributions of actual written specials, with accompanying stringtable text are also welcome. There's also a separate forum for techs discussion. Any structural, thematic, factual, effects-related or other issues may be discussed. New tech proposals, particularly Applications to put after higher-level theories are requiested... hopefully properly formatted, though thematic ideas are also useful.
Or perhaps specific delegation: "Person X, please moderate a topic to address this aspect of gameplay, to meet these criterion. Then compile 2 or 3 of the best solutions and present them to me."
As above, I'm trying to move back towards a more public design process. Is it necessary to specifically ask someone to moderate a topic, rather than just posting threads about them? In past, it's generally happened that good contributors were self-motivated and then recognized. The one case that comes to mind, tech tree design, when the reverse happened, it was fairly ineffective. Obviously self-motivation and recognition is difficult without a good public design process going on, though... so if we get back to that, hopefully thing will happen on their own, to a degree.

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#9 Post by utilae »

We could attract people from the gamedev forums, since people there would be into programming anyway.

Also, I think it would be useful if we could gage the progress on programming and design, so that we can see whether the slow design process is holding the programmers back or anything like that.

For design, we should create public design threads to get the ideas/suggestions/opinions, and have time limit. Eg in exactly one week, that design session is summarised and a decision is made. Move on, etc.

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#10 Post by eleazar »

Geoff the Medio wrote:
eleazar wrote:Newcomers need to know "what's going on?" and "how can i help?". That information has been rather lacking over the past year.
Do you have any thoughts on general ways to distribute this information? What formats and mediums should be used?

I've just rewritten the Graphics and Requirements (Design) pages on the wiki. Would a general "How to Help?" page, linked off the Main Page be better? Is the wiki in general a good or bad system to provide the info?
Those two rewritten wiki pages are a good start. I was also going to recommend one to start coders from, but you've done that too. I've started a how to help page. Though on reflection some of this conflicts or overlaps with the content on the main page under "project overview and contributing". However i do think further improvements to the wiki should be pursued, but i don't want to sidetrack this topic too much with that. In general i'd recommend that each of the major sections headings of the main page link to it's own page, with most of the same links, but each link would have a sentence or two of explanation.


more later...

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#11 Post by Aquitaine »

There are two things at work here.

The first is that this project is going to take years. It's simply so large and so ambitious that we are, on the whole, better served by a 10-year commitment with peaks and valleys than we are by a brilliant coder/designer/whatever who goes nuts for six months and then departs.

The second is that, as has already been pointed out, this is an all volunteer project. There is certainly a trick (and an obligation) to balance the needs of the project with the needs of the members. Replacing the people at the top will have an enormous long-term impact on the project, even if those people aren't doing much right this second. Obviously, if they're not doing anything at all, it doesn't really matter who they are.

As for me, I have been caught up in RL for the last year or so. Geoff and tzlaine and Tyreth have all stepped up to fill the void, and I drop in when I can to follow their progress. I'd like it if that were more often than it is, and hopefully it will be.

There reaches a point, though, where there is just not a lot for newcomers to do until we pass the next hurdle. New people and most contributers to a project like this are excellent responders to something we can present them, but someone who hasn't been with the project for a long time is going to have more difficulty looking at things with the perspective we need to actually design from scratch, because they haven't been around to see which work methods and work products we embrace and which we reject.

And until we can get the first draft of space out the door, there's not a lot to respond to.
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#12 Post by eleazar »

Aquitaine wrote:There are two things at work here.

The first is that this project is going to take years. It's simply so large and so ambitious that we are, on the whole, better served by a 10-year commitment with peaks and valleys than we are by a brilliant coder/designer/whatever who goes nuts for six months and then departs.

The second is that, as has already been pointed out, this is an all volunteer project. There is certainly a trick (and an obligation) to balance the needs of the project with the needs of the members. Replacing the people at the top will have an enormous long-term impact on the project, even if those people aren't doing much right this second. Obviously, if they're not doing anything at all, it doesn't really matter who they are.

As for me, I have been caught up in RL for the last year or so. ... and I drop in when I can to follow their progress. I'd like it if that were more often than it is, and hopefully it will be.
Real life will interpose. It unrealistic to expect people to be heavily involved consistently over a long run. It's equally unrealistic to have the bulk of the leadership to essentially leave for a year, and expect the project to do well, without making any provision for the absences. I don't think Aquitaine and Tyreth should be "fired", but i do think they should put the what little time they have for FO into informing and enabling others to advancing the project in some way while they are busy.
Aquitaine wrote:Geoff and tzlaine and Tyreth have all stepped up to fill the void.
Perhaps they have tried, but the void remains conspicuously unfilled.
• Geoff is admirably industrious, and is probably mostly responsible for the fact that this project doesn't appear entirely dead. However, IMHO his design goals are not entirely in line with what's been done, and he often does not know the intention behind past decisions, which is important when trying to continue in the same spirit.
• Tyreth as been as absent as Aquitaine if not more so.
• tzlaine make occasional comments about stuff directly relating to his work on the code, which is his job, but doesn't make up for the lack off a design lead.

My point is not that these are bad people, but that something needs to be done if the project is to flourish.
Aquitaine wrote:There reaches a point, though, where there is just not a lot for newcomers to do until we pass the next hurdle. New people and most contributers to a project like this are excellent responders to something we can present them, but someone who hasn't been with the project for a long time is going to have more difficulty looking at things with the perspective we need to actually design from scratch, because they haven't been around to see which work methods and work products we embrace and which we reject.

And until we can get the first draft of space out the door, there's not a lot to respond to.
I disagree. I believe the doldrums are more the result of lead absence, the lack of (nearly) any decisions being made in the past year, rather than the natural and unavoidable result of the unfinished state of v.4.
There is plenty that needs attention that falls within the DD prior to v.4.

The major problem IMHO is that the leads seem to have no interest in anything other than v.4, and very little interest in that. Sure we have 3 threads currently for comment on v.4, but do you expect them to yield anything valuable or keep newcomers interest when there is virtually no lead presence after the first post? There's no funneling the discussion into useful directions, providing clarification when requested, authoritative rejection of grossly off-base ideas, or even much indication that anything is being read by someone who might eventually incorporate it into the game.

I realize some of these problem are not as absolute as they might superficially appear, but it's taken me 6 months of activity on a mostly deserted forum to gain that insight. But newcomers don't have the advantage of that perspective.


Pre v.4 Stuff to Do.
(i'd be happy to provide summaries, conclusions, or links to highlights on any of these topics)
Ideas that need futher Development and/or Lead input
Redistribution and Blockades
Planetary Specials: display & role-call
• Migration (no link)
Terraforming (the most recent of many threads)
Victory Conditions (perhaps premature, but not on the road-map anywhere)
Colony Growth ballancing
Simplifying the distribution of planets per star types
• Graphics, information display: 1, 2, 3


Pretty Finished Ideas
Gaian Planets (a modification)
Call 'Population Units': 'Cities'
Changing Red stars from Giants to Dwarfs

This is just the list of things which i've been interested in.

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#13 Post by utilae »

I think one of the things that is missing right now is the time limit on design discussion. In the past, when there was a public design discussion, it was anounced at its start that within one week, Aquiatine/Tyreth would return and make the decision based on the discussion.

I think this kind of time limit and eventual decision at the end of the time limit, allows things to move along much better and progress is made.

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#14 Post by Sandlapper »

Utilae is correct about past procedure, however with Aquitane's duly noted absence (in the old days, the one eyed wonder would have already given a few words of wisdom about the future direction of this project, towards our comrade eleazar; albeit, the fact that it will be days, if not weeks, before Aquitane catches up with this thread speaks volumes), we haven't had too many "official" discussions lately. I presume the coders are still catching up with past edicts, and we haven't needed anything pertinent, lately.

I think there needs to be some continuous active discussion of at least a semi-official capacity. Tyreth just released a request for discussion on combat today, with a week's time limit. Just what Utilae suggested(and I concur with him); but I think we need a whole list of "official" discussion items to keep us busy(Tyreth may already be starting this, just releasing one of many to come). Either A) a list in a timeline order, with each item assigned a week to itself for discussion, or B) a compiled list that we chose from, by consensus, to work on each week. I'm not suggesting a complete, comprehensive list, but a few items that are known to need discussion (even irregardless of version). A list of just 10 items will keep us busy for 10 weeks. The results of our discussions could be official ( or tentatively decided by Tyreth, until the leads can get back together for a yea or nay.

There has been resistence to "officially" discuss later versions until specifically needed. I understand the need for the coders and artists to concentrate on the task at hand, and not have anything for future versions made official that could distract them, however, I think there could be some semi-official discussion of future version needs that could be placed in a "tentatively approved" official folder (obviously subject to future revision). This being done solely to keep this board active through the coming months/years. I think we need some noted activity on the board to attract more coders/artists. While these discussions may not be final and absolute, they should be something we can hang our hats on, and not just a brainstorming thread.

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#15 Post by Moriarty »

geoff wrote:Back when techs were being initially designed, it ended up being me doing essentially all the work, because everyone who contributed refused to learn how to write their techs in the then-used XML format
Well then it strikes me that maybe making tools would have been an idea.
I assume it was just text in an XML format - why not have someone write a quick and dirty "tool" that allows a user to input text or whatever and it'll auto-save it in the correct XML format and what not.

Sure doing it in the XML wouldn't have been much more effort, but it's the PERCEPTION that counts in this case. And the time required to create such a tool can't be much - I'm sure there are dozens of them out there already.
Heck, you could let folks do it online with simple PHP and then they wouldn't even need to upload stuff.

Sure it's probably too late, but I'm sure there will be other XML content needed.

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