29 March 2007

User Generated Content

Random Sims Image From Online

I've been working on a little RoboBlitz map/mod thing for the last few weeks (obviously not constantly, otherwise I'd really hope to have finished by now). Now Unreal Ed isn't bad by any means but level design is really something that really need to put some time into learning. BSP is probably the most difficult to work with given when you've place it it becomes very difficult to alter it. Mess up a chunk of BSP and you can spend hours fixing it again. Anyway though I've been enjoying it it certainly doesn't have the same entry level feel as, say, the NeverWinter Nights Editor had (though I'm still to finish something using that; which will be my next project).

A couple of upcoming games though are taking much more advantage of user generated content; namely Spore and Little Big Planet. In the case of Spore it populates the planet with creatures other users have generated to insure that your creature is neither entirely at the top of the food chain while it having ample food it can find. It's not to say that they won't make it a challenge for your creature(s) to hunt as in a survival of the fittest concept then your creature may have to evolve to hunt as it needs to (assuming it needs to hunt at all).

In the case of Little Big Planet they are generating levels using User Generated Content. You post your level (which can be created with more than one author at the same time) and other people pop along and discover it. I'm sure like YouTube and such there will be a lot of content that is of disputable quality; they've obviously thought of this and added a rating system. Anyway it looks like an enjoyable game, if only for the fact that generating the levels in the first place looks fun; I've never posted any of my The Movies films but I've enjoyed creating them.

I can't help but wonder if this will make developers a little lazy when it comes to actually including a game in their game though. Rather than spend the time developing some concrete game you just hand the sandbox tools to your users and let them make a game for you (this post was inspired by one of my friends wittering about Web 2.0 stuff). Of course if the toolset is as easy to use as they promise then you'd think if it succeeds at being a good game then the developers would probably find it fairly easy to produce good content using the toolset during development.

This does seem like a good, and natural progression, if I had the ability in The Sims to link to a friend's neighbourhood and have their Sims interact with mine along with getting new houses based on some of the best houses other people have generated (and you can do both of these, just not dynamically in game) then I probably would use this feature. Though this still doesn't really incorporate a social aspect; that is to say that though you may start a game to find your Sims have made two new friends you are still not really interacting with any other players.

At the same time I see that there will always be a need for well executed level design in a game. I'm sure there are a lot of really good NeverWinter Nights modules out there but I have a lot of games and can spend my time playing something of with a professional level design rather than hunting through user generated stuff hoping to find something that can entertain a group of us in multiplayer.

All-in-all a bit of both seems the way forward.

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