"The Free Software Foundation has sent out a press release announcing that has pledged $60,000 to the Free Ryzom Campaign. This campaign is seeking to purchase and free the Ryzom multiplayer game, the owner of which is currently in bankruptcy court (LWN covered this campaign last week)."
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I certainly hope that this project takes off. I agree with the FSF that this is a very important project. This could be a major milestone in the development of free software. They are not only trying to GPL the code but they are trying to go another important step. They are attempting to run a democratically run mmorpg, in the sense that users would be considered developers in the decision making process. Running under the GPL for all code and assets is rather important for this goal to work right. It's important to make the enterprise not owned privately for something like this to actually mean anything in practice.
Tale of the Desert claims to be a democracy run by the players in some sense, but the democracy there is limited in power. There is a bit of a political arena in the sense that some game rules can be affected, basically by petition but it appears that Andrew Tepper (the man that runs the MMO) still holds control and probably veto over any decisions that come out of the game run political arena. The political process is really a part of the game in the sense of that game. The fact that it may affect the development process of the game in a very limited and controlled scope does not really give the players control over the game. This is really a feature of the game in my mind rather than true democratic control, whether it's supported by the game code or the development process itself. I don't know if Tepper actually truly claims if the players have any real control over the game or not, but it seems obvious that Tepper holds the control and he is really the one making the final decisions behind the changes wether or not the impetus of those decisions comes from out of the game's political area or from out of his own head. It is an organization like this that Ryzom would need to avoid in order to have any kind of real democratic power within and without the game. There cannot be an entity that "owns" the game and can affect the decisions of the democracy. Possibly there can be someone (or some entity) that does the decision making process for how to carry out the collective decisions of the player public but that person (or entity) cannot have any more power to affect those decisions than one player in the game.