A tale of two Hexagons

This is a guest post by user Hythlodaeus, discussing open source clones, indie game community behavior and developer’s apologies.

Vee Software’s Open Hexagon is a very, very recent game, but even in its short existence, it has already managed to stir up quite an amount of controversy, the matter being that Open Hexagon is none other than a free software clone of the popular iOS/Android game Super Hexagon, created by the equally popular indie developer Terry Cavanagh.

Now, video game clones are not a negative or uncommon thing at all, and have pretty much existed since the beginnings of video game history. However, Open Hexagon developer, Vee, has recently found himself the victim of some serious flak, the reason behind this being that he decided to release his own game clone before the much anticipated PC/Steam version of Super Hexagon. This resulted in a legion of rabid Cavanagh fans rushing in to accuse Vee of being a thief, a liar, and quite a variety of other unpleasant names and insults.

To make a few things clear, Open Hexagon is not only 100% free software, programmed from scratch using C++ and SFML (unlike Super Hexagon which is primarily based in Adobe Flash, with the PC port being completely redone in C++ as well), as it is also available for absolutely zero cost. It is not geared as a competitor for Super Hexagon, and it’s certainly not trying to profit from its original concept at all. If anything it’s actually attracting more attention towards the original game. If that wasn’t enough, the developer actually took the time and decency to ask permission to Cavanagh himself to create his game, while he had no obligation to do so at all.

image: tweets between devs

What ensued was a deep and long-winded apology from Vee, to all Super Hexagon fans, and the subsequent approval of his game by Cavanagh, despite the fact that he was never against the idea, since day one. I guess all’s well that ends well, but even though Cavanagh’s reactions were fairly reasonable from his part, I still can’t stop thinking that issues like this could have been easily avoided altogether, had he, and other indie developers such as him, made habit of releasing the source code of their own games, something that has, in fact, been done successfully in the past with surprisingly positive results.

Call me crazy, but I find it troubling that this new, so-called generation of “indie” developers and their supporters, heralded as the avant-guarde of video game originality, and as a counter-cultural movement that opposes industry stereotypes and its negative practices, shows so little knowledge and sensibility on matters of software freedom, and how it can be used to help and empower other amateur / independent developers such as themselves. The result is the accidental propagation, to their followers, of the gross misconception that for some reason, game concepts are the exclusive property of their authors, and that copying and innovating over other people’s ideas is a wrong thing to do. Coincidently, Vee himself has shown some great eloquence on this matter in his written apology, which really makes me wonder how come there aren’t more people like him in this new indie circle:

As a independent game developer, I wanted to create my own tribute version of the game, not only as an experiment, but also as a completely new experience: I wanted to make the game fully open, both as a free open-source product, and also as a customizable and scriptable game, in order to let people share their creations and have fun.

Now, the game itself is quite simple. You are a triangle spinning around a hexagon. Incoming polygons want you dead, so you have to dodge them. Sounds easy enough, right? It turns out it isn’t. And it could be a lot more if you’re whiling to help, because unlike Cavanagh, Vee crafted his game thinking of customization and the freedom to easily script, paint and construct your own levels in any way you wish.


image: Open Hexagon ad

Version 1.3 is out now, with updates pouring in, on a nearly daily basis, as Vee is still trying to shape his game into a more unique experience, a process in which you can take part as well! So if you have a mind for quick-reaction puzzle games and enjoy crafting your own personal conundrums for later enjoyment, or even showing them to your friends, by all means, download Open Hexagon, play it, and share your own levels with others!

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