Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What If: User Generated Content

A while back, I was playing a D&D Facebook game. Something of the something... I forget what it was called. It was a neat game, free to play, and pretty true to the feel of a tabletop game (as far as that can go). My character hit max level after a couple months of faithful playing, and eventually I moved on to other games. Such is the way of things.

Today, one of the great ideas from the game sidled up a slapped me upside the head. The game featured a text-based story, little snippets popping up as you proceed from one room to the next in gridded dungeons. Each dungeon was basically an instance, and it had the typical Facebook Game convention of limited daily energy.

It wasn't to hard to progress through the main story, and you could increase the difficulty on subsequent runs. The mechanics were pretty simple, the stats well explained, and the itemization easy for any respectably RPG gamer to understand. In short, it was a fun little game. Well produced and presented.

Now, maybe I'm overselling this idea by calling it great. After all, I didn't personally partake much in it. To be honest, I don't really remember why I got out of the habit of playing every day. I just did.

The idea was "user created dungeons." Once you reached a certain level, a dungeon creator was open to you. You could access your own dungeon through a cute little trap door in your house. What's more, you could invite others to visit your dungeon as well.

What struck me today is why haven't we seen such a thing in an MMORPG? It was just a map creator, and map creators have been around forever. Heck, one could make the argument that the map creator was the true shining star in some of Blizzard's old Warcraft and Starcraft games. User created maps have spawned entire games for Fel's sake! (League of Legends anyone?)

Can you imagine if WoW came with a map creator? We complain all the time about lack of content, lack of challenge of content, or lack of novelty of the content. Well, Blizz could say, shut up and make your own!

I'm sure, at least for WoW, there's a huge amount of technical risk involved here. There are probably all kinds of things you could do to break the carefully balanced system or overload their servers. But what about for a game like Diablo or Guild Wars, where most of the dungeons are instanced? If Blizz can make custom maps play on Battle.net, surely they could make some kind of WoW portal that sent you to Crazy User Generated Dream Realm. Like the Emerald Dream, only not tied to reality.

In fact, they could make the entire thing a dream for you character. Loot, gold, experience gained in the dream could simply not travel with you when you wake up. No need to worry about someone creating a crazy overpowered gear dispensing machine. Or whatever the worry might be.

How much less would we complain between patches and expansions if we could mess around with our own content? There are a lot of really clever, really dedicated gamers out there. Sheer numbers alone says that someone would come up with something awesome that Blizz had never even considered. And if it took off? So what? More subs for you!

Several recent smash hit games have grown out of mods. Day Z and League of Legends are probably two of the more popular examples. Both ideas were born as user-generated content in other games. Sure, they've grown from there in something more or less unique (we could debate about derivative works here, but that's not really the point). More importantly, though, they're popular. People enjoy them. They are entertaining. And that's the whole point of making games: to entertain. It's also really the secret to retaining subscriptions or convincing people to pay in a F2P. We're obviously willing to pay for entertainment... so long as we're kept entertained.

Like I said, just an idea that hit me. I would enjoy tinkering around with dungeons in some of my favorite games. What's more, I would love to see what others come up with. I think a company that figures out how to do this may prove the next evolutionary step for the MMORPG. I've known some good DMs that could really knock a customized WoW dungeon out of the park. I mean, think about it. World of Warcraft PTQ!!

Blizz? Pencil this in for Titan? I've got more ideas. Hire me and they're all yours. Kthxbye.

3 comments:

  1. EQ2 Actually did this, though I have no idea how it has gone since I stopped playing before this feature released. They have some kind of dungeon designer where you can create dungeons for the masses to access.

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  2. It is quite a shock we've not seen this before. It seems like it'd be something to be implemented in Baldur's gate II or something haha.

    I do think, however, the games that'd benefit the most from this are the Xbox 360 Arcade/Playstation Network games.

    Essentially, they'd release a base game -- playable, but not great, and let the users (with no damn in-game purchases) begin to create and craft the world in which they virtually inhabit. Leaving a lot of the design to the players, however... could cause problems.

    Another idea would to have scheduled maitenence, in which anything that's not deemed allowable (by an extensive rules guide, Id guess, or just in-game morality/sensibility) would be removed; they could scatter the lands with new creatures, and make use of the player-created dungeons, by filling them with suitable mobs to fight (I'd never trust my friends to build me a dungeon AND fill it with their choice of death/spiders/aliens/whateverthehell

    We need to test this, we need a basis from which we can build!

    Subscribed :)

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  3. @Jacob - Interesting. I'd not heard anything about that (and never played EQ2). Maybe that means it proved to be an awful idea.

    @Nykx - Thanks for stopping by. The shock was biggest for me when I thought about Blizzard games. All of their older games had a map creator... very good map creators, too. It seems like something they'd have thought to look into. In all of their games, the creator seemed to work well. And so long as it is treated as a "custom game mode," like on Battle.net, you don't have to be too worried about quality. Custom maps that stink don't get played. Custom maps that are well done generally get passed around and become very popular.

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