Something has caught my attention lately - which now is obviously bugging me that much that I feel the urge to write a rant post on my Blawg. Call it the imbalance of the One Power, or whatever, however it’s definitely a mystery in my eyes. Despite GIMP having the status of the most important free (as in freedom) image manipulation program and even the first to have been brought into being, despite thousands and thousands of users, GIMP development has been holding back and progressing slowly the past years. Think about it! If you’re running Linux or any other FOSS operating system, all GUI graphics for the available desktop environments are done with GIMP. Icons, window decorations, gradients (unless done on the software side), backgrounds, everything’s done with GIMP, rarely Krita or something else. Even outside GNU/Linux and Co., there are many Windows and Mac users who do not want to pay a horrifying amount of money for Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, and are not willing to pirate them either. Most of the content created for FOSS games like Nexuiz, Wesnoth, Sauerbraten and the like, are made with GIMP - however, that’s where the line can be drawn, since many game artists, regardless of the circumstances and what projects they’re affiliated with, prefer to use PS or PSP. Those, who aimlessly wander the Internets and want to start making computer graphics will probably get in touch with GIMP, too.
If you compare this relatively vast user base, of which some might be potential contributors, with the very weak development progress over the past few years, you’ll instantly notice disproportionality. GIMP’s power as a competitor who’s just as strong as Photoshop fades away. What have we got recently with 2.6? Brush dynamics when using tablets and a new main window, great. I still dream about a brush extension system similar to the one that got introduced with PS CS1, even though I don’t like Photoshop at all. I don’t like it’s bloated like crap basis, I don’t like its unintuitive GUI and I don’t like the fact that it runs only on OS X and Windows. But there is a bunch of stuff in PS I’d like to see in GIMP, too.
I don’t say that the effort by the GIMP developers and everybody else contributing is futile. Quite the contrary, I say it’s going in the wrong direction.
Blender for example has a smaller user base, still pretty big though for a libre program, but still progresses nicely, even overcomes many conceptual rehauls over time. It provides functionality to the user even commercial 3D graphics suites sometimes lack, and all that despite it having a bad code base. The comparison may be disproportionate since Blender is a 3D application with its own renderer, modelling, sculpting, uv-unwrapping, texture painting, Python scripting and multi-pass functionality, while GIMP is a 2D image manipulation program. But they’re equally important in the process of game art…