Soumit par Administrateur le mercredi, 01/01/2008
Steve Streeting, Torus Knot Software
january 2008

"[...] a number of larger hardware and services companies are realising that open source has a lot of advantages over closed software, particularly if they have business models that don't revolve around selling units of software - the Internet has a lot to do with this, as people move to a more service-delivery culture."

< images courtesy incrediblebox.com
© 2008 Incredible Box / HFI DTC / Aerosystems International

Q1You are the founder of Ogre3D project. Can you tell us how the developer community appeared and grew?
A1It really just grew organically, initially by news on places like GameDev.net, then by wider news coverage in print magazines (including Game Developer) and more mainstream places like Gamasutra, but really now word of mouth is our best referrer. There are enough people now who have used Ogre and liked it, that they tell their friends who try it to and hopefully come to the same conclusion. We try to provide the facilities for a vibrant community, such as hosting community add-ons, a fast dedicated server for the site, promoting moderators and experts in the community, and generally just managing the environment and encouraging people to get involved. We try to be professional, responsive and open, which helps build a solid community.
Q2There are many realtime 3D engines available. How does Ogre3D stand from the crowd?
A2Ogre has always tried to concentrate on quality, stability, flexibility, wide application compatibility and keeping a strong graphics focus. We don't try to be a game engine or anything else which would pull our focus too wide to give every element the attention it deserves - we believe that the power of open software development is in very strongly focussed, high quality components that can be integrated with others of the developers choice. So you'll find lots of community add-on projects integrating Ogre with all kinds of other software, from physics engines to GUI components, augmented reality systems to CAVE. We also take code stability and quality very seriously, and our release structure reflects that - we typically do one major release every year with all the new features, and maintenance releases every 4-8 weeks so people have a solid platform to build production applications on, that doesn't change under their feet all the time. Of course, people who want to be on the cutting edge can be, since our development branch is generally stable anyway and is accessible to all, but there's a guaranteed stable option for those that want it. I think these 2 things set up apart from some of the alternatives out there, which is why you see a big range in the kind of apps being made using Ogre and also see quite a lot of commercial applications using it.
Q3Do you exchange ideas with other Open Source projects such as OSG or Irrlicht? What do you think of those initiatives?
A3Yes, I know some of the developers of Irrlicht, CrystalSpace and others - we all have a slightly different focus and I think each project has its own particular audience. I don't use any other engines personally but the real test is the community; so long as there's a community around a project, then it must be doing the right thing for that particular community. There's no such thing as a 'best' engine, each one has aspects of it that will attract a particular group of people. I think there's room for all of us :-)
Q4You run a consulting company, TorusKnot Software. What kind of professional services do you offer?
A4We offer consultancy, contract development, support - basically if the resources available for free in the community aren't enough (and for most people, they are), we're a fallback where a company can approach us for extra assistance. This might be because they have a particularly specific issue they need addressing quickly, or want some feature developed for them, or they want something investigated and cannot post details on the public forum because of NDAs or other commercially sensitive issues. In addition, we also offer an alternative license for Ogre for people who cannot or do not want to comply with the LGPL conditions in their particular circumstances.
Q5Do business executives consider Open Source engines as serious alternatives to proprietary software?
A5Increasingly, yes. Some sectors have always been very proprietary software oriented (e.g. the mainstream game industry), but the smaller start-up companies are always looking at ways to do things faster and more effectively for a given budget, and open source brings a lot to the table. Also, a number of larger hardware and services companies are realising that open source has a lot of advantages over closed software, particularly if they have business models that don't revolve around selling units of software - the Internet has a lot to do with this, as people move to a more service-delivery culture. I think over time we'll just see more of this.
Q6How is the Ogre3D project managed? How are the orientations decided?
A6I still lead the core project, and what gets worked on in the core tends to go through me still, in terms of 'approval' - I don't implement all of it, of course, we have several team members and many external contributors, but people do tend to consult me about proposed approaches which is nice. The items which go on the planning list are a mixture of things the team has thought of, and things that the community have raised - and we really value the ideas of people 'in the trenches' using Ogre in real products and coming back with ideas of how to make it slicker. Apart from the core project, there are lots of add-ons which are all run pretty independently by their respective maintainers - we encourage them to run in whatever direction makes sense to them. That's a benefit of keeping the core tightly focussed and solid, it means we can operate a 'satellite' system like this where so long as the core is rigorously maintaned in terms of structure and quality, all kinds of cool things can go on around the edges and the best stuff tends to rise to the surface. You couldn't run the whole project like that, because everything would be too independent and changing all the time for people to rely on it, but having a core stable nucleus with elements around it able to change more freely is quite a powerful model I think, and one which many other successful open source projects (Linux, Apache) use to good effect.
Q7Cross-platform formats such as Collada and FBX are becoming widespread. Will Ogre support these formats?
A7We already do, but we don't consider file format support a 'core feature' - they're just sources of data. Ogre has its own core format, that allows us to optimise that and provide tools to do things like calculate edge lists, LOD and tangents offline and have them all there ready to go at runtime for optimum speed, but of course you can source the data that becomes that optimal runtime format from anywhere you like. There are exporters for modelling tools and converters for an awful lot of formats, including Collada. People can use those to convert data offline (which most people do), or convert at runtime if they're willing to take the hit. That's just a conversion process and we have plugins and other code to do that - it's a 'satellite' feature as far as we're concerned, we don't care where model data comes from so long as it can be turned into visual data. To include support for 20 different formats in the core would just bloat it for everyone - instead we have a single optimal core format, and external systems for feeding data into that as optional extras, should you want them.
Q8Can you unveil some future features of Ogre3D?
A8In the next major version we offer things like hardware sRGB support, antialising on render textures, DirectX10 support, a more flexible script compiler system for materials, enhanced tangent generation tools for higher quality normal mapping, and more. Most of these you can already get by using the CVS version, Dx10 support isn't finished yet though.
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