News: SirVer is Passing the Chieftain Baton to GunChleoc
15 years ago, SirVer decided that it would be fun to figure out how Settlers II maps worked, and Widelands was born. He has been leading the project as Chieftain ever since, but due to happy circumstances in his life, he no longer has the time to do so. So, I (!GunChleoc) have been slowly taking over the administrative duties over the past months, and we have decided to make it official now. This way, !SirVer can spend his valuable Widelands time on coding rather than categorizing bugs and whatnot. I would not be here without his gentle encouragement, so let’s all raise a glass to our fearless leader!
!SirVer has left a message for us - it’s an interesting trip down memory lane and well worth a read
TL;DR: After 15 years of duty I will step down as the chieftain of Widelands. GunChleoc will take over the position with all rights and responsibilities. I will stick around as contributor. This adaptation just reflects the workload as it is distributed right now.
I registered Widelands on SourceForge.net on 15 November 2001. At this point I had some code on my disk that could load and display some data of Settlers II maps. It was not much, but I worked hard on it with my nearly non-existent C++ knowledge and though I had no immediate plans to continue developing it, it was a pity to just leave it lying around on my disk. I think I was also planning to reinstall my operating system, so the code would have been gone soon anyway. I therefore decided to dump it onto !SourceForge.net. I required a name for the project - so I improvised: If this will ever be a game, it will be about rolling fields, big mountains and wide lands - so I called it Widelands on a whim.
A few brave people (sintflut, ixprefect) somehow found the project and joined early on and I think we decided to restart from scratch when we actually started using a code tracking system and a mailing list. My first post on the mailing list is a prime example that my English has improved a bit over time. And the mailing list is the only thing from the old days that we are still using up to this point.
To collaborate on source code, we started with the best source code tracking tool available back then: CVS. We transitioned to SVN - the new hotness - in May of 2006 due to bugs in the deployment of CVS on !SourceForge. In 2010, !SourceForge deactivated access to their services for users from certain countries. This was their interpretation of a US law that basically said: If you have cryptographic software, do not give it to those countries. Widelands did not have cryptographic services, but the blanket ban hit us just as well. As free software advocates, we decided to move away from !SourceForge.
At this point in time, Launchpad was a well staffed, well supported up-and-coming hosting site. Gitorious was established, but small (now dead). GitHub was new and did not have many features yet - especially they did not allow hosting a repository of the size like ours. Launchpad came with a powerful bug-tracker, translation in the browser, release management, downloads and a sane distributed version control system (bzr) that was much easier to use and simple to transition to from SVN. Git was a thing, but it was hard to use correctly, pretty new and unpolished - a risky choice for a mature code base like ours. Launchpad and bzr was a clear and easy choice back then.
So, we moved to Launchpad and we are still there. !GitHub has since caught up - and overtaken - Launchpad in features and popularity. Bzr is basically not developed any more and Git became an industry standard. So Widelands might still see a third move in version control system (CVS → SVN → BZR → GIT) and a second move in project host (!SourceForge → Launchpad → !GitHub).
Today, Widelands spans more than the game: There is the editor of course that is shipped with the game. But the website is also a standalone project that went through 5 complete rewrites. And there is the metaserver that facilitates playing over the internet with others - it also saw 2 complete rewrites. All together, OpenHub estimates the time investment of Widelands to be roughly 60 years, this equates to ~6.000.000€.
What about all those rewrites? This does not sound super efficient, and it fact it wasn’t: we reinvented the homepage many times - from basic HTML, over standalone frameworks like Tiki and XOOPS to now Python using Django. We wrote the metaserver first in Python using Twisted, then rewrote it in the Go language. Those rewrites might not have been technically required, and were mostly triggered out of curiosity about different tech: they provided a learning experience for every dev that worked on them. The same holds true for the game: I learned C++ through Widelands and now make my living programming C++. And very frequently Widelands was the first project for new developers to work on. I think that is the best Widelands did for the world: providing an educational playground for people to learn and do stuff in a real project, with real feedback and very tangible results.
Widelands also succeeded as a game: it is the only work I contributed to that made it to Wikipedia. And so far we have ~640.000 downloads directly from Launchpad and another ~540.000 from SourceForge. This nets more than 215 downloads per day from us - the primary distributor - directly. But since Widelands is distributed by many others and has also been shipped on DVDs bundled with magazines we believe this is a small part of the actual reach of Widelands.
Why do I decide to retire my position now? This year saw the birth of my baby daughter - a time for reflection for me. I realized that I play fewer video games than I used to. Also, since I am paid being a programmer and technical leader, I do not feel the urge to do it as much in my free time anymore. I want to get some of my time back.
For that reason I already handed off the maintainership of my other successful open source project UltiSnips - and now I want to do the same for Widelands.
GunChleoc already does the work that I should be doing: she mentors, reviews code, is frequent first replier on bugs and writes news posts. She understands Widelands goals of being fun and non-violent, educational for developers and inclusive as a community. She originally joined the team to make Widelands easier to translate - driving the move to Transifex that has greatly benefitted us. But since then she grew so much: She is now a proficient C++ coder and knows the code base better than any other developer from top to bottom. And she is interested, willing and happy to work on cleanups and bug fixes - an important property for the chieftain. Thanks for taking this burden from me, !GunChleoc!
As for me, I will continue running (and paying for) the server that hosts the website and the metaserver. I still want to work on Widelands as time permits, but I do not want to feel responsible for it as much anymore. The Widelands community is awesome, it was a beautiful 15 years and I am very grateful for helming this project for so long. Thanks for having me!
8 comments Posted by GunChleoc on 2016-11-15, 07:12
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