Summer of Code/Application/2007

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Revision as of 22:07, 7 March 2007 by Salty-horse (talk | contribs) (What we hope to gain: typo)
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Introduction & overview

This is the application of the ScummVM project for the Google Summer of Code. Let's start with a quick overview of the facts before turning to the more elaborate parts of this document.

Project: ScummVM
Participation in prior SoCs: None
Applications for prior SoCs: None
Organization administrator: fingolfin (max AT quendi.de)
Backup administrator: sev (sev.mail AT gmail.com)
Project License: GPL
Ideas page: OpenTasks
IRC channel: #scummvm on irc.freenode.net
Development mailing list: https://lists.sourceforge.net/lists/listinfo/scummvm-devel
Mentors:

About ScummVM

The ScummVM project aims to allow users to run many old (and not so old) commercial graphical point-and-click adventure games (e.g. Monkey Island, Simon the Sorcerer, Space Quest, and many more), provided you already own their data files. To this end, the team works by either reverse engineering game executables (usually with the permission of creators of the game), or by using the original source code of the games (provided by the creators of the games, after negotiations with the team). The number of engines is constantly growing thanks to a very agile and diversified development team.

One of the corner stones of ScummVM's success is its extreme portability. Besides running on all mainstream desktop environments, be it Windows, Mac OS X or most Unix variants (Linux, *BSD, Solaris, ...), it works on game consoles (Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and more), smart phones and PDAs (WinCE, PalmOS or Symbian based), and even on many not-so-mainstream systems (like BeOS, AmigaOS or OS/2).

This high portability is made possible by the flexible and modular structure of the ScummVM internals, which more or less fall into the following three categories:

  1. Backends, responsible for support of specific target devices, like PalmOS or WinCE, etc.
  2. Engines (sometimes dubbed front ends) containing the actual game specific code
  3. Infrastructure code, providing portable access to audio (including MIDI), graphics, user input, data access, a custom graphical user interface, and more

The structure of the team reflects this structure, in so far as developers can be roughly grouped into the following categories (with some people being in more than one, or being multiple times in a single category):

  • Porters -- responsible for a specific port
  • Engine authors -- responsible for a specific game engine (includes being responsible for handling users bug reports, i.e. support)
  • Infrastructure development -- e.g. people working on MIDI code, on the built-in custom GUI, etc.
  • Packagers -- not all ports require dedicated backends (e.g., we have one built around the SDL library, which itself is highly portable), but they still require somebody to test and compile them, which is where porters come in
  • Documentation / web site management
  • Project leads -- we currently have three, and they all are also represented in one of the above categories, but besides this organize and coordinate things, make decisions, solve disputes etc. (as one would expect)

This structure enables us to be highly productive in a team of about 30 currently active developers (out of an all time pool of well over 60), who work together on a codebase exceeding 600,000 LOC. In addition we have many non-developer contributors, and a huge and highly active community. We are among the most active projects hosted on sourceforge.net -- well over 100,000 monthly downloads and ~9 millions project web hits per month speak for themselves, we think.

What we hope to gain

For one thing, we hope to attract new blood -- we hope to gain some new active developers via these projects. While we already have several very active contributors, these are already mostly tied up in specific subprojects and tasks. New people mean new ideas, new energy, new ways of thinking. So a longer lasting engagement of our student contributors would be our highest hope.

Furthermore, all of our developers work on ScummVM in their spare time. But for certain tasks, it's simply best if you can spend a certain time working on this task more or less exclusively -- i.e., just what we would get via the SoC. Hence, we hope to gain some nice shiny new code providing useful new functionality to our users and developers. Even if the authors don't stick around, this will benefit all of the ScummVM community.

Lastly, we also believe that we can learn a lot from this whole event in terms of interaction with prospective new team members, how to motivate students to participate in our projects etc.; knowledge that may turn out to be very valuable outside of the SoC, too.

Our mentors

Our mentors were selected as volunteers from the development team who are already intimately familiar with the internals of ScummVM, our coding conventions etc.. All three are familiar with guiding people (in particular, students) through project work effectively (in fact, two of them happen to be lead developers of ScummVM). As such, we are convinced that we are able to guide interested students through the Summer of Code to the net benefit of all involved parties.

How we will deal with participants 'missing in action'

We hope that nobody will disappear, but we plan to take a proactive approach, i.e., we will try to minimize the risk of a loss of communication, but if it happens, we are prepared to deal with it, too.

For the mentors, the risk is relatively low; two are project leads and are reachable virtually 24/7 (in case of emergencies). We all have exchanged sufficient contact information (including cell phone numbers etc.) to be able to discover our whereabouts etc. Should something really bad happen (like somebody ending up in hospital and hence unable to work, a natural disaster, etc.), we will attempt to shift students to new mentors (among the existing mentors, or drawn from our backup pool of mentors). This will depend on the number of students we have to mentor.

As for the students, for starters we plan to exchange as much communication data as possible (cell phone numbers, postal addresses etc.). Through a friendly atmosphere we hope to minimize the risk of any student being "afraid" to report problems they might have etc.. On the other hand, we will make it clear that we expect dedicated work of the students and that unannounced/unjustified disappearances will draw consequences, like negative reports or even the failure of the whole project. Still, establishing a positive and friendly connection between student and mentor will be the cornerstone of our efforts in this regard. If the student trusts the mentor and tells him about his fear, uncertainties and problems early on, they can try to find a solution together, possibly with the help of the rest of the team. Also, integrating the students into our community should reduce the likelihood of disappearances further (see also the next section).

A common cause (we believe, based on our own experiences as students *g*) is a lack of structure in the assigned work, resp. an inability of the student to make real progress. To avoid this, we will request that students come up with a (realistic) project plan / schedule. The mentors will watch the progress with the students and discuss it with them regularly (at least weekly). We hope to detect potential problems early on this way, thus being able to help the students get around them, to the benefit of all.

If all fails, though, and a student really vanishes completely, we will have to deal with the consequences, just like with regular projects in a company. Projects *can* fail, after all, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

Integrating students with the community

Our community uses forums, IRC, a Wiki and our mailing list for a vivid exchange of thoughts all the time. We will urge the students to participate in all of them; especially on IRC can they directly talk to many nice and helpful team and community members. The mentors will introduce the students to the rest of the team (making sure everybody knows who the students are). There are people active in the IRC channel virtually 24/7, thanks to the international nature of the project.

We also expect the students to talk to non-mentor team members on a regular basis about parts of ScummVM for which these team members are experts (at least if these parts happen to be relevant for the student's project). To achieve that, the mentors will specifically introduce them to each other, and will try to incite them to work together.

Student application template

The following was adapted from the FreeBSD Proposal Guidelines.

  • Name
  • Email
  • Project Title
  • Possible Mentor (optional)
  • Benefits to the ScummVM Community - a good project will not just be fun to work on, but also generally useful to others.
  • Deliverables - It is very important to list quantifiable results here e.g.
    • "Improve X modules in ways Y and Z."
    • "Write 3 new man pages for the new interfaces."
    • "Improve test coverage by writing X more unit/regression tests."
    • "Improve performance in FOO by X%."
  • Project Schedule - How long will the project take? When can you begin work?
  • Availability - How many hours per week can you spend working on this? What other obligations do you have this summer?
  • Bio - Who are you? What makes you the best person to work on this project?