Cocos2D Sources: Zynga Copyright Added

On May 28, 2011, in Games, by Steffen Itterheim

As @GeekAndDad pointed out on Twitter the majority of the cocos2d source code has been updated with a Zynga Copyright. This is in reference to two commits (1) (2) on github in the develop branch of cocos2d-iphone.

The MIT License header now begins with:

* cocos2d for iPhone: http://www.cocos2d-iphone.org
*
* Copyright (c) 2008-2010 Ricardo Quesada
* Copyright (c) 2011 Zynga Inc.
*
* Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
* of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal
* […]

Meaning?

This just means that changes made in 2011 to the cocos2d source code are copyright by Zynga. Which is to be expected, now that Ricardo is an employee of Zynga.

It doesn’t change anything regarding the MIT license. And it doesn’t imply a transfer of copyright. In fact, since Ricardo is still listed as copyright owner for the years 2008-2010 it is suggesting that there was no transfer of copyright.

Also note that some of the source code in the cocos2d-iphone project is copyright by other developers or companies, whose copyright has not been changed. This includes classes like CCActionEase, CCActionGrid, CCActionPageTurn3D, CCBlockSupport, CCGrabber, CCMotionStreak, CCTexture2D – just to name a few.

Zynga hires Ricardo Quesada, Cocos2D Lead Developer

On May 9, 2011, in cocos2d, by Steffen Itterheim

This is hot off the press. According to Gamesbeat, Zynga has hired Ricardo Quesada (lead developer of cocos2d-iphone) and bought “certain assets of Sapus Media”. An official blog post by Zynga validates this news.

The community site cocos2d-iphone.org will continue to be run independently. Cocos2D users are discussing the move in a thread called “cocos2d is now Zynga’s?” on the cocos2d-iphone.org forum.

Apparently the deal includes a relocation of Ricardo from Argentina to San Francisco, according to Reuters: “Under the agreement, the developers, Ricardo Quesada from Argentina, and Rolando Abarca from Chile, will work at Zynga’s San Francisco office.”

The first response from Ricardo does not add anything to the news.

Cocos2D will remain free IMHO

I don’t expect a commercial version of cocos2d-iphone to appear considering that cocos2d-iphone grew mainly because it was free and open source, and also considering that Zynga is a game developer, not a game engine company. It does not make sense to assume Zynga wants to make money off the engine, that’s not the market they are active in.

I doubt that the “little money” you can make with game engines plays any role in the decision for Zynga, whose games are significantly more profitable than any commercial game engine, or possibly all of them combined.

The wording in Zynga’s official blog post leaves little doubt that cocos2d-iphone will see no change except that the developers are now being paid by Zynga to work on the engine. Whether we’ll see all of the future developments to be published with the open source version however is a valid question.

Better tools?

Hopefully we’ll see better support for 3rd party tools, or just as good: really awesome 1st party tools. I think that the latter is hinted at in the blog post, where it says “Ricardo and Rolando focused on developing professional tools for mobile game developers”.

I haven’t seen any of those professional tools yet, and the statement is not referring to the Cocos2D engine itself. If they mean the Sapus Media products however, then that could simply be a regular marketing overstatement. I don’t think they meant the Sapus Media products though, they’re not what developers would consider to be “tools” per se.

Ricardo said over half a year ago that the Mac OS X port will allow him to work on a “cocos2d world editor”. Although that’s the last we heard of it, I’m sure it has been in development, and could possibly have already been in use by Zynga or it’s development sponsored by Zynga. That is speculation but I wouldn’t be surprised if either or both of that were true.

However, in the Reuters report Zynga’s Chief Technology Officer Cadir Lee said that “We will be paying them to continue to develop the platform, as well as work on tools for Zynga, to make sure we can leverage the (platform) in the best way possible”.

This does raise the question whether the tools developed will remain Zynga’s in-house tools and won’t be released to the public. After all, it would be in Zynga’s interest not to give other competing game developers targeting the iOS mobile platform and using cocos2d, like ngmoco or Atari, the same tools for free.

Trademark Ownership?

Cocos2D is a registered trademark in the USA. Thus far, other developers have been allowed to create open source game engines based on Cocos2D’s design philosophy to use the Cocos2D name in their projects, but only if the project is and remains free and open source. The question here is if Zynga now owns the trademark and whether this policy will change.

Congratulations, I guess

I think Congratulations are in order for Ricardo’s personal and professional future. Working for a big company like Zynga will surely provide lots of new and positive experiences, and hopefully as little negative ones as is possible for someone who used to work on his own terms.

For the cocos2d engine and community as a whole, I’m not going to congratulate just yet. I first like to have an idea what this acquisition brings about for the Cocos2D users and supporters. I worry that future developments of Cocos2D will be geared towards Zynga’s requirements, which may not align with what the Cocos2D users want or need. Or a significant portion of the work might remain proprietary, leaving Cocos2D to be supported as a “after-work-hours” open-source project with correspondingly slow progress.

What about you?

What changes this move will bring remains to be seen. What do you expect, worry and hope?

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