Presented by

  • Kai Richardson

    Kai Richardson

    Kai is one of the maintainers and designers behind one of the largest free and open-source videogames, Space Station 13. He works on the classic Goonstation flavor of the game. Most of his time is spent easing contributor onboarding, managing development, and coordinating with other development teams. Kai also enjoys doing large amounts of cooking when he's not working on Space Station 13 (or waiting for it to compile 🙃). He can be found most days listening to all sorts of music in his Portland, OR home.


Transitioning from a closed-source codebase to an open source model of contribution can present significant challenges. This talk aims to showcase the strategies implemented by our team to navigate this transition successfully. Furthermore, we will delve into the benefits we discovered by embracing community involvement in the development process. Space Station 13 stands out as one of the largest open source game development communities, attracting thousands of individual contributors over the course of a decade. Through active player participation, Space Station 13 has transformed into a collaborative development community where anyone can make their mark on the game. Players-turned-contributors are the forefront of development, constantly adding more unique features (and bugs). These efforts have resulted in a high velocity of 10-20 contributions per day, underscoring the power of open source and community development on a large scale. In this talk, I will focus on the Goonstation flavor of the game, examining the development community’s progression after open-sourcing the codebase in 2020. By sharing the strategies we employed to better connect with and hear from our community, I aim to provide insights into the growth and management of a thriving development community with a focus on player contributions. Additionally, I will cover our failures along the way, highlighting the lessons we gleaned from the things we tried that ultimately just didn't work out for us. By delving into both successes and failures, this talk aims to provide a comprehensive retrospective on the process of transitioning from a closed-source model to a community-developed open-source one. Attendees will gain practical knowledge on fostering community involvement, managing collaboration at scale, and navigating the unique dynamics of open-source game development.