August 2019

The potato farmer problem in open source

One issue leads to the next and the potato farmers kind of arise out of the denial of technological progress in the open source gaming community. Most often those are open source game developers or advocates and probably out of their denial of technological progress they use the argument "But it runs on old hardware" to justify, why they never improve or care to improve. For those who do not know, potato is synonym for the weakest kind of computer as in the game Portal GLaDos(the enemy supercomputer) was kept alive by being stuck to a potato for energy and potato farmer is someone who targets people using old weak computers.

I even became a potato farmer myself as lots of potato farmers tried to convince me I need to make my game to be able to run on old hardware as well, so I scaled everything down as much as I could and called that setting "potato", kind of horrible visually wise, but I hoped to appeal to the potato farmers with that. That was kind of the lowest I could support, but some potato farmers even argued, that this is not enough and that their old Quake1,2 or 3 derivative games still run much better and on much older hardware and therefore those games were better. This was kind of the point where the insanity was too much for me. You cannot make your whole argument around to support old weak hardware, that nobody else uses anyway anymore, especially since you do not even find actual operating systems anymore that run on those machines, which makes the argument even more insane. Some even seem to try to bring the insanity to the next level and even try to downgrade those old games to run even better on old hardware that is mostly nonexistent today.

Sadly those insane people aka potato farmers dominate especially the open source gaming scene, which I see as a huge problem to making actual progress. Sure having a nostalgic retro game here and there is not wrong, but you should not try to make absolutely everything a potato farm. I tried to argue with some potato farmers, that I recently bought a graphics card for around 100 bucks that can run any game I tried so far on max settings and how can people exist that cannot even afford 100 bucks? They then mostly tried to change the subject saying, but you still need a computer and I told them, you can use any cheap used computer if you want for 50 bucks maybe and if that is still too much you can buy the graphics card used too and may get a sufficient gaming PC for 100 bucks total, there are even tutorials on the internet how to build those super cheap gaming PCs. Later I even made the additional argument that you can even pick up computers from the trash for free that can run modern games, so there should be absolutely no excuse left for the potato farmer, but one insane potato farmer then dared to argue "But those computers from the trash had to be produced and they once cost money for someone", yes thanks for the hint Mr. Obvious, I would have never found that out myself, but this is totally irrelevant here, what is relevant is, that there is absolutely no reason to target such old hardware when you get better computer hardware for free now.

I thought I made enough irrefutable arguments here to stop them, but no chance, they just do not care and keep on being potato farmers. I mean potato farming even works to some degree, since you will be in good company of many others who will agree to your irrational arguments and you indeed maybe able to gain some users through it. However this is still not a future proof strategy, since potato farmers are only old people and people from the current generation will never go back to be potato farmers, so eventually the potato farmers will die out. What I think is that they try to make a vice into a virtue since modern hardware and software becomes more and more hostile towards open source over time and the community that is in denial of their failure then tries to justify that their failure is intentional.

Logically the potato farmers will die out, at least I thought so and I did not take the mobile market into consideration. The mobile market is a huge downgrade and suddenly it makes potato farming interesting again as you have a whole new market of new but weak hardware. So the open source game development scene merges with the indie game development scene to target that new market and in that process the open source game development scene loses its ideals, since mobile platforms are even more hostile towards open source, but I already wrote about that here:
So the open source game development scene shot themselves in the foot with that behavior once again, but they are mostly nonexistent nowadays, so it cannot get that much worse.

Even I'm very conservative with my game and target only mediocre quality levels, but I kind of need to find a compromise, because of all the potatoes out there that make up a large part of my target group, but I don't go all the way downward like many others in the open source scene. In the beginning of my game development phase I was a bit like a potato farmer myself, but I quickly upgraded my hardware, because it would hinder my progress unnecessarily, if I had to scale down in quality and/or development speed just because my computer was too weak. Seems I was able to learn and improve, but it seems that most other people are not able to do so. I just remember a funny story of a guy who bragged to me how he managed to cut his electricity bill down to 20 euro per month or so by using a low power consuming computer, I think it was a laptop. He thought he is clever by saving a few euros, but he did not consider how stupid it is to reduce your quality of life so drastically for that. Here in Germany this is called "Bauernschläue" which translates to "peasants cleverness" which refers to a person who is stupid, but thinks he is intelligent, like a potato farmer for example.

I don't even know if potato farmer is a real term, I just remember someone bringing that term up to me in a conversation referring to appealing to low hardware people as a target group. In reality the term refers to people who are stupid, but I think this goes hand in hand in this case as well.

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