The typical line of thought: closed source will cost you, but is almost always a better option for developers. It’s a common way of thinking, but not necessarily true – there are a huge number of open source resources for game developers, and open source alternatives can often be better than closed source alternatives. Here are three advantages to using open source over closed source resources.
It’s not unusual for open source projects to have deeper customizability than their paid counterparts. Nothing in an open source engine is proprietary, so you have access to every bit of code that makes the engine run, as well as the ability to modify it to fit your needs.
With closed source engines, you may hit a problem that would be easy to solve if every part of the engine was available to you. Some parts of the engine are going to be locked down and inaccessible, which can be a big problem if you run into a bug that lies within the engine itself.
Open source game engines like Godot or MonoGame are comparable to closed source options in terms of accessibility and community — but without the limits on tinkering. With open source engines, you’ll always be able to poke around in the source code. This gives you a chance to learn a little more about the software and see how you can make it better fit your needs.
Have Specific Needs? Use Specific Resources
Open source doesn’t necessarily mean one-size-fits-all. Even if what you need isn’t the most straightforward or commonplace, you can often find quite a few solutions available to you.
If you don’t really consider yourself a programmer, plenty of accessible open source engines exist to meet your needs. A writer interested in creating interactive fiction could use the open source engine Twine, which is both easy-to-use and allows for a great deal of customization.
Often specific resources allow you to add specific features. If you want to add in-app livestreaming or voice chat to your game, a service like Agora provides an open-source SDK for developers that will let you more easily build those kinds of features into your game. (And if you’re having trouble getting started, Agora offers a quick start guide to help you out.)
No Licensing Costs
Almost always, open source software doesn’t cost anything to license, even if you plan on selling the what you make with the software. Many engines and game development resources are licensed under the MIT license, which allows you to use the engine for any purpose — change it, tinker with it, ship it — so long as you properly include the copyright notice and license statement for the engine you’re using. You won’t have to navigate any pricing models when licensing, and you can spend more time focusing on how to put your new resources to use.
When picking out game development resources, keep these advantages in mind. You don’t necessarily need to pay up for an engine that works for you. And you may discover in the long run that the benefits of open source, including the low cost and flexibility, make it a better fit than any closed source option.