With the Unity pricing debacle having caused many indie developers to take up Godot as their primary engine of choice, it’s not at all surprising to discover that 19% of games that were created for the GMTK Game Jam 2023, and nearly 40% of games that were created for the BIGMODE Game Jam 2023, were made using the Godot Engine.

Despite this high level of interest which Godot has received in recent months, some have argued that the Godot Engine toolset still feels a tad incomplete, and that much more resources should be responsibly allocated in order to ensure that it is able to be developed in a manner that will allow it to effectively compete against much more commercially established alternatives on the marketplace.

With this in mind, a dedicated Godot Foundation was established in November 2022. Its goal being to manage all donations that are made to Godot and to ensure that these donations are used to financially support the growth and activities of the open source game engine. As part of this, and knowing that there is a certain level of responsibility which Godot Foundation has towards safeguarding the engine’s future, I spoke to Emilio Coppola (Executive Director, Godot Foundation), and was able to ask him as to what the future holds for the engine. Enjoy!

There’s a lot of game engines out there. Godot obviously distinguishes itself by the fact that it’s open source. But at the same time, why do you think the market needed Godot at a time when we’ve really got GameMaker, Unity, Unreal Engine etc? What market conditions do you think not only enabled Godot to come onto the scene, but also enabled it to get the userbase that it has right now?

One of the aspects that many people like, especially with getting started, is the fact that it’s free. Many other engines also give you the free experience, but with a caveat, where you have to pay a subscription later, or you need to pay a percentage. So the fact that Godot is free and open source draws a lot of newcomers, but also if you look in the tech industry and most industries already, open source is the standard. Like if you’re going to build a server, you’re going to use Linux most likely. If you’re building a website, you’re using a lot of frameworks that are open source. But in the games industry, open source wasn’t so common until recently, because I believe that more people have access to a computer now, and that’s allowing them to make a game. So I think that’s one of the perfect moments for it… The fact that it’s free, the fact that everybody can use it, because it’s a very small download. It’s very accessible in comparison to some of the more established engines where you need to download this really big thing, and then it requires you to have to spend money on it if you really want to get something done, so I guess that’s the reason why we’re seeing so much interest in Godot lately.

And as somebody who isn’t a game developer, I understand that Unity is quite a bit more complicated to unravel in terms of understanding it and being able to get a certain amount out of it…

Yeah, it’s very easy to use. This tool was developed in Argentina at the beginning, inside a game development studio. So the engineers who built it, they were thinking about other people who would use it, such as the artists in the team. So all the features grew organically. So this way, the user always comes first. If you compare Godot with other engines, they’re trying to sell and make investors happy, so they have to prioritize other features that will make the stock and shareholders happy, but we focus on making the users happy. But yeah, the fact that we focus on making the experience easier also makes the engine easier for everybody, such as artists and newcomers.

According to Reddit statistics, Godot is more popular than Unity. And some Reddit members have attempted to explain this by stating that “Godot is crushing it with the indie/beginner/people-who-do-gamejams crowd for a variety of reasons.

Even though Godot is free and open source, what are the chances that it will become a paid for product at some point in the future?

Zero chances because of the Foundation, and the goal of the Foundation is to keep it this way. Everything we do and all of our organization goals are geared towards keeping it this way. That’s why we are never going to be compromise it, and also because of the license. I mean, even if we were to make it a paid for product, the community could take the code that was open source and continue working on that without us.

One of the major problems with open source, and this could be open source software in the case of Godot, is that nobody gets paid… It’s kind of nice that people do this in their own time, but the simple fact is that when you work in an industry where crunch culture is the norm, and therefore from that perspective, developers have limited time and their time is worth a lot of money, how do you ensure that you’re able to get good developers to work on the source code?

Well, many of the developers that we hire as contractors from the Foundation are already users of Godot. They were making their games, and they started making improvements to Godot, and after a while they became more and more active so we extended an invitation to them and asked if they want to do this full-time and keep working on Godot.

Considered by some to be a better monster taming game than Pokemon, Cassette Beasts was developed using the Godot engine due to its workflow efficiency. One of the developers (Tom Coxon) even stated that “Godot is how Bytten Studio, as a two-man team, was able to build an open world RPG with 30+ hours of content in it.

And I assume that the Foundation gets its money from donations?

Yeah, exactly… Donations and grants from companies that might want to donate to us, but it’s 100% donations.

And is this financially feasible?

It is at the moment, yeah. We are very limited in scale if you were to compare us to any other game engine. We have very few people. That of course is something that we need to improve. We need to get more funding if we want to keep up with the amount of users. But since it’s open source we get a lot of contributions. So even if we have around 10 hires that are full time contractors, there are like 2000 people contributing towards it… So we have a lot of volunteers but also a strong core of people that work on the project. I have to add, it is sometimes challenging to be competitive in terms of salary of course. We cannot offer the salaries that other companies offer, but that’s why most of the people who stay are the people who believe in the idea as well. I myself was working in the web development industry, on startups, and I was making way more money. But my passion is this, so I prefer to have a lower salary to work on this, and hopefully in the future we will be able to offer competitive salaries… But for the time being we need to fundraise more.

Still in Steam Early Access, Road To Voskok is a hardcore single-player survival game that’s regarded by many as being a veritable showcase for what Godot is capable of.

I know a thing or two about passion, in that I’m a “journalist” who doesn’t get paid. But I also know that when it comes to paid journalists out there, I do better work than a lot of journalists out there. For example, it’s not in my financial interest to do this. I don’t make any money. And you know what? When you compare my standard of journalism with say, what’s out there… Yeah, fair enough, I won’t be able to get access to games like Call Of Duty, like IGN… But you look at their paid journalists or whatever, and I understand that they’d obviously have to do some research on Call Of Duty prior to their interview… But the flip side is that I think that a lot of journalists who get paid for doing what they do, they do a massive disservice to themselves and to their readership because they coast on the name of whatever publication they’re working for. And in a lot of ways, I’ve experienced that. I’m not going to mention the publication, but there was a representative from a certain big name publication, and we were both there in the presentation for a certain AAA game. We were both there. And after the presentation, because it’s a presentation, a jam-packed presentation where there were like, I don’t know, 20 other people… And at the end of the presentation, the people doing the presentation said: “Alright, thank you for coming, off you go. And hopefully you write about the game and you buy our game and you make us all millionaires” (sic). But after the presentation, I went back to the PR company and asked if I could interview one of the developers, you know, like the producers or directors or whatever. And they were like, “Sure, how about tomorrow? Or how about in the next half hour?” A bit like me coming up to you and asking you if I could interview somebody from Godot? “Yeah, sure”. And so there I am as a nobody, and I interviewed someone from the dev team. I think it was that very same day, or the day afterwards when the big name publication put up their article, and they basically stated that… they basically insinuated that all the journalists were shuffled out the door on the pretence that the developer / publisher didn’t want the journalists to ask them all these random questions. “So we were just fielded out the door and we had no time for questions. So it’s their fault that I wasn’t able to get a proper Q&A with the developer”. But they’re the big name publication, and yet that’s how they spun it. Like, spun the whole presentation to make themselves look good and make the industry look bad. And obviously, I, as a complete nobody… well, we’re all somebodies in the eyes of the Lord… But, you know… as a complete nobody… basically afterwards, I just asked, “hey, could I just interview one of the people from the game?” And that’s how I got this massive scoop. Not that it makes a difference. But to me, I just thought that that is disgusting journalism. Because that journalist isn’t putting across anything that hasn’t been presented to 20 other people…

They’re all going to write the same thing…

And it’s not so much even that, but it’s like, “you write for this big name publication, so it’s expected of you to go out there and chase these big name news stories. It shouldn’t be people like me who don’t get paid. You get paid”. You know…

The passion comes from there, yeah…

But then the flip side however is that you talk about how you’ve taken a salary cut…

Yeah, well, it is hard sometimes. But when you look at some other people that have the same vision as you, it’s very, very easy to work with them. But yeah, I would also like to move faster sometimes. And, you know, we just don’t have the resources or the time or, like, it’s just harder than when you think about it versus when you try to do it, right? So yeah, it’s challenging.

A roguelike survival miner game, Dome Keeper is the most popular Godot developed game on Steam DB at the time of writing (having amassed 61,433 followers).

When are we going to get the ability for people to be able to export their programs to Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft etc? Will that ever happen?

Yeah, so you can already do it. Since Godot is open source, if you are technical enough, you can go away, and find your way around doing it. There are people who have done it, but if you don’t have the knowledge, then there are companies that provide services in porting the game, which is usually what happens, even if you use Unity, Game Maker, or Unreal. You really need someone who is experienced in that platform to help you optimize the game. There are some companies that offer that service, but the problem with proprietary platforms is that we cannot ship some parts of their code as they need to be closed source. We will only ship open source stuff, so it’s more like a licensing thing rather than, “can you do it, or can you not?” If you’re experienced in it, then you can do it, without having to go through a third party. But if you’re an indie developer, then maybe it’s too big for you to handle.

Where do you see Godot going from here?

I think that it’s going to keep growing. We’re starting to see more and more hit games that are being made by bigger studios. So I think the next step will be proper studios using the engine. Most of the users right now are indie developers, which is where we all came from, but we’re starting to see some interest in that area that could open new doors, new possibilities, and hopefully that leads to bigger improvements for everybody. So that’s where I think Godot will be in a few years. Now that more people are considering it as a serious option, and not just as a hobby tool, that’s where I think we will be.

Emilio, thank you so much…

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