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Bridging the Gap Between User-Generated Content and Interesting Content

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the yeah-i-said-it dept.

Games 73

Edge Magazine is running a story about user-generated content — or rather, its failure to live up to the hype of the past few years. The author says it "turned out to be a niche. Not everyone has the chops to learn the tools, and even fewer gamers have an idea they want to see through. Instead of revolutionizing games, it merely adds another rung on the ladder from 'player' to 'game-maker.'" Instead, the games that have incorporated the concept in a fun way use what he calls "user-generated, machine-mediated content," and he points out the flexibility of Scribblenauts; the user supplies the imagination and the developer translates that to gameplay. "It shows us our reflection — however tiny, however distorted — inside our games, an experience that is guaranteed to mesmerize us. Ambitious players will still go pick up the tools and learn the languages that let them mod or make their own games; but while they're busy with that, [this system] can invigorate our content — and give us a little more of what we love: ourselves."

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MUDs (4, Insightful)

ShakaUVM (157947) | about 5 years ago | (#29614131)

MUDs showed just how prolific users can be in creating high-quality content. Ok, sure, not all of it was high quality, but they did amazing things back in these online games in the mid-90s that still haven't been replicated in MMORPGs. And since the content was generated by the same people that consume the most content (the hardcore users tended to become the admins), it both satisfied the problem of having an end-game, and made sure that the people tended to have a better understanding of the issues in the game than you see from, say, Blizzard (whose community chats have revealed a rather appalling lack of knowledge about how their game actually works).

The only problem is vetting user-created content, but having a hierarchical admin system similar to what the MUDs used to use could be a reasonably sane solution.

I personally spent many weeks coding stuff for ElendorMUSH - one of the largest Tolkein MUSHes out there (and was where I got this name from). The level of interactivity players had with their environment in my region of the world puts WoW to shame.

Re:MUDs (5, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#29614163)

There is one big difference, though: MUDs had a player base of computing professionals (by default, since they were the ones with access to computers).

They had the tools, the knowledge, and the source code to make a difference. Also, the gameplay encouraged thinking, not just endless grinding for quest items and prof materials.

Today's gamers are, well, not like that. Do you think a 3D Nethack would sell enough subscriptions to keep them in business?

Re:MUDs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29614177)

What about Second Life? Seen lots of interesting MUD type environments emerging from that.
Oh wait, nothing good can come from Second Life. Sorry, I forgot...

Re:MUDs (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 5 years ago | (#29614195)

I can relate to the player-base limitations: I learned half of what I know about object-oriented engineering by making stuff on a MOO (MUD, Object-Oriented) while slacking off during high school and early-college. (The other half I mostly got from my job, a lot of it in the first few months.)

Re:MUDs (1)

esper (11644) | about 5 years ago | (#29615369)

You too, eh?

I'd read a lot about OOP and made a few attempts at it, but had misunderstood the concept thoroughly enough that I was creating a separate class for every object, even if it the code was identical and the only difference was a couple of property values.

Then I started hanging out on LambdaMOO, requested a programmer bit, and started playing around with their tutorials. I "got it" and understood OOP (and how I'd been doing it wrong) almost instantly.

Good times...

Re:MUDs (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about 5 years ago | (#29614231)

Same is true for pretty much all niche systems users have to use, e.g. supporting workflow, versioning systems.

If users would be alter the program it might be possible to improve the situation. Purists may dislike a non-programmers codebase, but hey. Either the systems have to be extremely flexible (hasn't happened yet) or a programming language that is intuitive for beginners has to be accessible without fear.
I wonder if there are experiments where non-programmers are given their first programming language to learn ... you'd have to take new people all the time, but it would be enlightening on how to make programming accessible for everyone.

Re:MUDs (1)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#29614311)

I had one of those experiments in college, a whole semester of it. Introduction to programming for math teacher students. (Turbo Pascal in 2004!)

They mostly just sat there and stared at the blackboard, trying to figure out what all those thingies are, and wrestled with the concept of arrays and keyboard input.

On the other hand, I found out that college girls are easily impressed by a tic-tac-toe implementation I wrote to avoid falling asleep.

Re:MUDs (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | about 5 years ago | (#29614813)

Programming can never be accessible to everyone because not everyone has the logical mindset to get a computer to do what they want.

Ever talk to someone who was spouting nonsense, like 9/11 truthers or Obama birthers? These are people who can't compose a cogent statement in their native language. No programming language can help them.

Re:MUDs (1)

Jurily (900488) | about 5 years ago | (#29615401)

Being the geeks that we are, we tend to think most humans are intelligent and curious enough to learn at least some programming.

Unfortunately that's not true. They're users. Just think of the printers you have to install for all your relatives, or read some Youtube comments.

Re:MUDs (1)

Aklyon (1398879) | about 5 years ago | (#29645549)

They're users. Just think of the printers you have to install for all your relatives, or read some Youtube comments.

theres an IMMENSE difference between the two. one isn't too bad, the other....

Re:MUDs (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 5 years ago | (#29614405)

They had the tools, the knowledge, and the source code to make a difference. Also, the gameplay encouraged thinking, not just endless grinding for quest items and prof materials.

They also had endless spare time to tinker... No way you could ever pay a development team to spend the kind of hours hobbyists used to spend on MUSH/MUD development.

MMO's too (1)

RingDev (879105) | about 5 years ago | (#29615825)

I don't wholey agree with you. I was heavily active in the DAoC mod community on a project (Dark Mod of Camelot) designed to allow player to replace 3-d models from the game with new models created by players. I worked with others on free shards coming up with scripting blocks that were used for machima videos. There are people out there who are very interested in introducing new player developed content into video games.

While 3-d modeling may be a bit above most players heads, things like player created housing and cities have been big successes. And other games have flirted with the idea of player created roads based on traffic patterns (run from point a to point b enough times and a path will appear, keep running and it will improve).

I think in the short term we are going to continue to see improvements in player controlled content (housing, city building, roads, etc...) while long term we will likely see some of the 2nd life style user created content work its way into more games.

-Rick

Re:MUDs (4, Insightful)

plover (150551) | about 5 years ago | (#29614189)

I also added content to a couple of MUDs way back when. I think the difference between those and WoW is that to write for a MUD meant your only technical requirement was to have an good command of the language. Adding content to WoW, Eve, or whatever, would require you to have 3D modeling skills.

You'd also have to be cognizant of game balance -- adding a vending machine to spit out Swords of UberPwnage +10000 for a gold piece, or adding the "Quiet Fieldmouse 1HP" and having him drop 500 gold is going to ruin gameplay.

Back when we were writing MUDs, balance was in our minds because we wanted our creation to be both challenging and fun. Today, with MMORPGs serving as real paycheck-delivering jobs for armies of offshore gold farmers, you'd have to suspect everyone of ulterior motives no matter what they were creating. "You added a tree in the middle of that open field? Hmm, is that really so you can play a game of capture-the-clan-flag, or is it to let you climb up and shoot the snakes easier for your gold-farming operation?"

Re:MUDs (1)

Dekker3D (989692) | about 5 years ago | (#29614233)

another difference: most MUDs are free, as far as i know (hardly ever played them, rather young geekling here). that means if you run into some glaring error that makes the game unplayable or horribly annoying, you just move on to another MUD. most MMORPGs have subscriptions or monthly game cards, so you don't just hop on over to another. MMORPGs are designed to prevent people from switching to another game, anyway. so if one of them suddenly gets a bug.. well, most players are "stuck" with it.

Re:MUDs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29614259)

For something like WoW the failing is not the user generated content but the reliance on "gambling gameplay" and "ProgressQuesting" instead of actual fun. Obviously you can't trust users to create their own gambling gameplay, but if the game has no such thing then you avoid this problem completely. Adding in a real market for evaluating the quality of the user generated gameplay (i.e. allow creators to get paid for what they make (even if only in reputation)) and you might have a workable system. The current approaches have been pretty half-baked, but even then things like DotA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DotA) have been very successful and have spawned commercial games.

Even on MUDs it wasn't that simple (5, Interesting)

Moraelin (679338) | about 5 years ago | (#29614499)

Even on MUDs it wasn't that simple. Yes, maybe you cared about balance, lots of users didn't. But even that only scratches the tip of the iceberg.

Also most MUDs didn't have any real theme. You could have a smurf village next to a Red Dwarf area, next to a medieval D&D-type area, next to a modern day area, next to only the elder gods know what. The MUDs which did try to have a consistent theme, had a bitch of a time enforcing it, and it involved getting approval to add anything.

And even then you occasionally ended up with some bored/disgruntled higher-ranking wizard/builder/whatever-you-call-it adding a smurf area to a strictly-D&D-themed role-playing MUD as just a way of going out with a bang.

So if anyone just let users add stuff to WoW with no further checks, expect to see Halo troopers, next to SW stormtroopers, next to a Star Trek team, next to the penis-tentacled blob from heck and his army of japanese schoolgirl sex slaves.

And then occasionally there was stuff that was just offensive. E.g., I remember having a brief look on a mostly empty MUD and fairly quickly ran into one of the builders walking around showing up as "Wearing Xenia on his dick" if you looked at him. (Exact name changed, otherwise an exact quote though.) Turns out Xenia used to be one of the most popular players. Key words: used to. Apparently she didn't find it funny either.

And so on.

Re:Even on MUDs it wasn't that simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29615199)

army of japanese schoolgirl sex slaves.

[link needed]

Re:Even on MUDs it wasn't that simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29618815)

Here's one. [imdb.com]

Re:Even on MUDs it wasn't that simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29615779)

So if anyone just let users add stuff to WoW with no further checks, expect to see Halo troopers, next to SW stormtroopers, next to a Star Trek team, next to the penis-tentacled blob from heck and his army of japanese schoolgirl sex slaves.

Where do I sign up? That would be fantastic user generated content.

Re:Even on MUDs it wasn't that simple (1)

YourExperiment (1081089) | about 5 years ago | (#29618587)

the penis-tentacled blob from heck and his army of japanese schoolgirl sex slaves.

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your MMORPG.

Re:Even on MUDs it wasn't that simple (1)

ex_ottoyuhr (607701) | about 5 years ago | (#29632259)

The other pitfall that you illustrate is that user-created content is a minefield of IP violations. All of your examples except the one people are commenting on could probably get a game shut down, or at least forced to defend itself legally; I seem to recall hearing about this happening to Little Big Planet, and the same problem even crops up with Spore. Its creature-, building-, and vehicle-creators are hardly easy to use, but it has a whole package of Nintendo content (a Wii-controller-shaped factory, a Bob-omb spaceship, etc.), and I myself created a herbivorous boar-person species that was basically Ganon with his serial numbers filed off and minus sixty or eighty extra pounds. (Named and tagged as such, of course...)

This was before I opted for Spore ornithology instead, creating cranes, swans and the like... but even there, I was creating creatures from an existing setting, only I was using the Audubon Guide instead of Hyrule. Birds are probably public-domain by now (assuming "life of the author" doesn't count resurrection), but the same point holds -- these are not original creations.

There was a double layer of irony in the particular case of Spore -- zealous IP protection for a bottled incitement to IP violations...

Re:MUDs (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | about 5 years ago | (#29614815)

>>Adding content to WoW, Eve, or whatever, would require you to have 3D modeling skills.

Not necessarily. I wrote a reasonably successful mod for Quake, and I don't think I've ever made more than one model for the mod... wait, no. I did modify an existing one, sorta. The mod had a quarter of a million downloads before a modeller volunteered to make some models for it. Till then, I just reused existing stuff in creative ways.

>>you'd have to suspect everyone of ulterior motives no matter what they were creating. "

That sort of reminds me of the NWN grind maps, where the mod would just throw endless waves of easy to kill monsters at you, allowing you to level from 1 to 20 in less than half an hour. Of course, the game allows the DM to arbitrarily assign XP, and there were infinite XP exploits in-game as well, so it's not that broken, compared to something like that in WoW.

Since WoW is essentially a jackpot-based system for loot combined with tokens for incremental awards, you could probably devise some sort of random loot generation system that bases the Ilevel of the rewards based on a variety of factors, but never resulting in the ultimate loot available at any point in time. However, since loot in WoW is incredibly one-dimensional (people in Arenas tend to have carbon copies of each others' gear), random generated loot might be more interesting for a player.

You might even want to give awards for the designers of dungeons for making their dungeons "challenging" (certain percentage of encounters resulting in wipes, but not too high or too low) and for the amount of play it gets. Some sort of moderation system (or a hierarchical system, like I said, where you have player admins moderating other players work) would probably be necessary, and should be possible without too much GM intervention. Like perhaps the top 10 played or rated dungeons each week get reviewed by Blizzard GMs, and when approved, put into the actual game.

Honestly - they could get so much new content out of this kind of stuff, it makes me sad to think about. Well, not that sad. I haven't played WoW much since April 2007.

Re:MUDs (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | about 5 years ago | (#29617199)

>I think the difference between those and WoW is that to write for a MUD meant your only technical requirement was to have an good command of the language. Adding content to WoW, Eve, or whatever, would require you to have 3D modeling skills.

Low level MUD designers were just non-coders who used a dumbed-down level creator interface. They would map out rooms and select mobs/objects that have been precreated for them.

The 3D version of this is the same. They map out rooms and select pre-created 3D objects like "dungeon room-4542" and "staircase-452." No need to sit there creating models. A decent level designer will have a lot of these things, including room templates or even entire easily modified level templates.

Customized procs and objects can be made by people with programming and 3D modeling skills. Every designer can be given a few hours of their labor. They cant go crazy, but they can add a few unique things.

Re:MUDs (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about 5 years ago | (#29617257)

To avoid this scenario they need to introduce manufacturing costs... ie: creating something isn't free - if the return isn't worth the cost of making it it won't get made (or it will get made but not in an abusive way, more like a work of art than a product).

A good system would be to suck away experience or levels or whatever is being used for such things.

Re:MUDs (1)

brkello (642429) | about 5 years ago | (#29616981)

I don't really think MUDs show anything relevant to today's gaming. When all you need is a server and someone who is capable of writing text and a little code, it isn't too hard to make something decent/interesting. Now games require talent that draw from a wide range of disciplines, so one type of person can't just do it all.

And while you can find coders easy enough, people to work on the art are a lot more difficult to find. At least ones who don't expect to be compensated well.

A game is an experience. The bar has been raised way above MUDs as far as what a user expects out of the experience. Even if some of the fundamentals are similar, it isn't as simple as it was back in the day.

Re:MUDs (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | about 5 years ago | (#29621827)

>>Even if some of the fundamentals are similar, it isn't as simple as it was back in the day.

I disagree. From a game mechanics point of view, MUDs were much more complicated and interesting than the very simple systems used in games like WoW. If all it took to make WoW was art assets - the only thing that is hard to get for free (though successful projects do tend to attract artists to them) - then there'd be a bijillion games as successful as WoW. Art is really not that hard to generate. I've worked with small game studios that had a couple artists on their team, and they were able to produce amazing amounts of high-quality work in relatively short periods of time (as in, they'd often have something production ready to me within an hour or two).

No, the limiting factor on MMORPGs is game mechanics and content. AoC failed due to missing game mechanics and content. EVE is a failure as a solo MMORPG because there isn't very much interesting single player content, but it is very successful as a guild game, since the guilds essentially generate their own content, and CCP just reports on what the users are doing. If AoC had shipped with mod and map making tools, it would have been a runaway success, IMO.

buzzword incompatibility... (5, Funny)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 5 years ago | (#29614191)

User-generated Content must be crowdsourced. Then you can proactively leverage the synergistic paradigm of the folksomony. We recommend a mashup.

here's a buzzword for you (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29614249)

niggerdick

Re:buzzword incompatibility... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29614343)

Hmmm...let's see here: crowdsourced, paradigm, mashup...bingo.

So wait Secondlife is a failure? So was Starcraft? (2, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 5 years ago | (#29614243)

I think User Generated Content is the future.

Let people get to the max level in your MMORPG, then allow them to open your full fledged world editing tool to make their own home area. Remember player housing? Now you can create a whole island. This must be GM approved still

The only reason why I can't figure why they haven't made user generated dances verified by GM for WOW is maybe they're worried 2 emotes could combine to make a sexual style emote.

Starcraft 2 is going to ship with an even more powerful Map Editor with its own language that is similar to C++.

User generated content is the future.

Oh yeah, and Little Big Planet must have failed too?

Re:So wait Secondlife is a failure? So was Starcra (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | about 5 years ago | (#29614349)

Remember player housing? Hell, I've got two 18x18s and a large tower in UO. Best damn MMO ever.

Re:So wait Secondlife is a failure? So was Starcra (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29614645)

Funny thing is, text MUDs have had user generated content since the 1980s. Entire levels, quests, castles, wizard towers, traps, spells, and storylines, all created by users.

Re:So wait Secondlife is a failure? So was Starcra (1)

Zumbs (1241138) | about 5 years ago | (#29614757)

I think that depends very much on the game. User Generated Content will make the player use more time on the game before continuing to the next one. This makes sense in MMO games, where the player pays a subscription to the publisher. However, in singleplayer games, the publisher has an advantage in getting the player to move on to their $NEXT_SHINY_GAME when it comes out. This it most apparent in gaming consoles, where the console manufacturers does everything in their power to stop usermade content. As an example, the never Bethesda games supports mods natively and they even put free modding tools online. This has sparked a lot of usermade content ("mods"), but it is PC only. Not because the consoles cannot handle the mods, but because the manufacturers say no.

Actually IMHO it makes the LEAST sense in MMOs (5, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | about 5 years ago | (#29615031)

Actually, I notice that most of his examples of where user-generated content was great, were _single_ player games or limited multiplayer games, not MMOs.

In single player games, for a start, nobody pushes their content on you. If you don't want to play someone's goatse map, just don't download it. In MMOs you inherently play on the same map as 10,000+ other players. (Quite literally in WoW's case for the most populated servers.) If I make my own tower shield with the goatse or two-girls-one-cup pic as custom texture, there's not much you can do to avoid seeing it.

And, well, just look at how much that link was popular on Slashdot. The goatse links are probably the main reason why in the meantime there's the name of the site in square brackets next to any link. At one point, if you didn't run into half a dozen goatse links and a rickrolling in one thread, it was a slow day.

And on Second Life there were quite a few attacks of the pink flying penises on someone else's event.

Let's face it, any game will have a population of trolls, and if you offer them even half a chance to push offensive stuff on unwilling victims, they _will_ do it.

Second, in single player games you don't ruin anyone else's day if you break balance. If you want to give your marines in Starcraft 2 a Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch or let the Zerg spawn Vorpal Bunnies, who cares? Even in limited multiplayer games, it's between you and the server's owner, and doesn't ruin anyone else's enjoyment.

In a MMO, you'd very soon see hunters with 100,000 HP damage photon cannons and rogues with dual insta-kill lightsabers in level 19 battlegrounds. 'Nuff said.

Third, the limited single-player games try hard to detect and prevent any differences that one side doesn't know about. If I want to give my marines insta-kill miniguns, either you install that mod too, or the game will refuse to connect. In effect there's a very strong element of opt-in. You have to aggree to my list of mods and actually actively install them too. You effectively have to opt-in for my changes. I can't spring unbalanced or unfair suprises on you.

In a MMO, everyone _has_ to play in the same world. The only way to not play in the same world where my hunter is running around with a tactical nuke launcher, is to stop connecting to that server.

Etc.

Basically it's not that simple at all.

There is a solution to this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29615699)

1) allow only player to make up environment and mob which have identical property and level than what is available for the concerned area

2) allow the player to make up item in value and quantity only to what is allowed to that area
 
UGC in MMo does not need to be *allow them to make everything* to be interresting. Already building your own area, with a few remoded mob/items would be enough to be a smash hit.

Still not a full solution, sorry (3, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | about 5 years ago | (#29616095)

1) allow only player to make up environment and mob which have identical property and level than what is available for the concerned area

2) allow the player to make up item in value and quantity only to what is allowed to that area

UGC in MMo does not need to be *allow them to make everything* to be interresting. Already building your own area, with a few remoded mob/items would be enough to be a smash hit.

That's a good start, no doubt, but I fear that it still doesn't cover even a fraction of the problem spectrum. E.g.,

A. What do you do about offensive textures and meshes?

Do you allow the users to do any 3D editing? If yes, how do you prevent people from running around with a Black Russian cod piece? (Think: strap-on, for those who somehow missed Black Adder series 1.) For that matter, how about a cod-piece which isn't just a strap-on, but has a naked gnome impaled on it too? How do you prevent people from running around with plate armours which look like naked female meshes?

Unless you want to make the game AO from the start, that is.

How do you prevent people from having a giant penis monster as a custom animal in their areas? For bonus points, tamable. Sure, it'll have the same stats and xo as any other animal, but you're going to get a new one ripped by the media, as soon as some fundie mother goes questing with her pre-teen daughter in that area and tells the tear-wringing story of the trauma on every TV channel.

Just a map editor? How about a map which is a giant snow plain with "YOUR MOM SUCKS DICK!!!" written on it in 100 ft big letters?

B. What do you do about content which is, simply put, just crap?

It may not seem like a problem per se, after all, if you don't like someone's Smurf Massacre map, you can simply not go there, right? But now imagine you have a million players cheerfully churning crap content after crap content, until finding anything else is... well, an example of DDOS on a human.

Exactly that happened on COH with its ill advised "Mission Architect". Within weeks there were tens of thousands of user missions, the majority of which were simply farming exercises. Worse yet, the rating system didn't really help either: the best rated _maps_ were the simple farming exercises and exploits.

Let's face it, about 99% of the people vastly over-estimate their creative abilities. Just like, say, most people think they're funnier than they really are, most people really aren't that good at creating anything. Especially stories and quests.

C. What about other kinds of exploits? Sadly, with your plan you don't even cover all the exploits.

E.g., what's to keep one from making a map where (1) everyone is an undead, and (2) everyone is a melee fighter, no mages or even ranged fighters, and (3) everyone does strictly physical damage, and (4) if they have to spend some points on defenses, they're all dumped into fire, ice and nature protection. You probably got the idea by now, it's a paladin grind map. Sure, the mobs individually satisfy your points requirements for their level, but the mix is where the problem is.

(Again, there are a few thousand of user-created maps on COH which are exactly that kind of an exploit. In fact, by now finding any map where any enemies do any other kind of damage than physical and don't prefer melee, is a task akin to cleaning the Augean stables.)

E.g., how about, say, a map with a sorta Ziggurat in the middle, with the top accessible only via a spiral road winding around it... or by clever jumping between the road segments. It's the kind of thing that doesn't look like a blatant exploit at a superficial look, but it would actually be the perfect kiting map. The players could pull some boss npc and skip to the top, while the NPC follows the road up, then simply jump their way down and make the NPC follow the road in reverse.

Re:So wait Secondlife is a failure? So was Starcra (1)

hyphz (179185) | about 5 years ago | (#29615115)

The problem with UGC is that there's a strict limit to how much work it's worth investing in it, because there's a such a high probability that your work will be lost in the mix.

Game makers know that they can hide this problem very easily, because they can advertise the best and most successful UGC. Nobody is going to complain about the UGC that was good but that no-one noticed because.. well, because no-one noticed it.

On the other hand, they can design around it. I'm thinking of Guitar Hero having an Achievement for uploading a track (aaarggh! That instantly guaranteed that the board is overrun with rubbish), or the first version of LBP where the only sorting of levels was by popularity. I remember seeing an actual post where someone said, "what's the point of designing a level when, even if you advertise it on boards, it'll get maybe 200 plays and never make the top page no matter what?" Second Life, rather cynically, is designed to make money from UGC whether it's noticed or not, and to make even more money from people advertising it.

Do I have a solution? Divide UGC-using users into smaller "groups" which can communicate within each other. The most popular levels within these groups are then promoted up a rung to greater visibility, and so on until the very top level where they're visible to all - but to download those top-rank levels, you have to pay with credits that you get from viewing levels within your own local group. The idea is to keep the small supportive communities, which often drive creation in these games when they're new, going. When this works, it works well: for example, in Second Life I've heard from many of the newer creators who've done well that they basically got into a group which supported and noticed what they were doing, which is great, but since it's not organised it's entirely a "right place at the right time" thing.

Re:So wait Secondlife is a failure? So was Starcra (1)

uncledrax (112438) | about 5 years ago | (#29615667)

Don't forget most FPSes, they've been doing it since the Wolf3d editor came out.

Frankly, The main reason companies -want- to offer custom content abilities is to extend the lifespan of their title. Also they often get really great ideas out of it (for example: Epic's Make Something Unreal contest, which had entries that later spawned at least 3 retail titles I know about.. definitely 2 that use the Unreal Engine, which generates additional licensing for Epic...; the other thing about Unreal in particular is lately the game itself blows, I only keep buying them -for- the mods).

As for MMOs, Second Life would probably be king of user-generated content, but in general I think it brings about certain issues having player-generated-content that brings things like new-art into the game. In UO you frequently had player-created story-arcs.

Re:So wait Secondlife is a failure? So was Starcra (1)

brkello (642429) | about 5 years ago | (#29617069)

If I were a game company, and I was going to do housing, I would do it such a way that was tightly controlled (in the sense that the user has freedom to do what they want, but the software strictly limits what you can place and where you can place it. Letting anyone do whatever they want, like you said, would require a review. There are millions of people that multiple characters. Do I really want to devote resources to be checking up for all the stupid stuff users will try to slip in? Hell no. That's why you don't and won't see this.

Re:So wait Secondlife is a failure? So was Starcra (1)

hitmark (640295) | about 5 years ago | (#29675925)

city of heros/villains added something like that recently.

so far i think the biggest news was that people found way to made easy training missions so that they could quickly level with limited effort...

Multiple users interface. (1)

Capsy (1644737) | about 5 years ago | (#29614265)

I think that UGC has a lot of potential, although, it might be better suited to having the tools all in place so that people who are friends via the internet can interact in the building portion. For instance, the creator has final say over everything, but if they so choose, they can publish drafts and betas to a user content workshop. One the matetrial enters the workshop, anyone can create objects, triggers, puzzles, even whole areas and concepts. When the creator goes back to it a few days later, they may have a lot of "feedback" content to work with if they so choose. The plus side, as this has to be saved to server side to prevent plagurism and theft of content created by others, is that if you use someone's idea, they get a message saying it is being used, and they receive credit for it because the server forces credit where it's due. It could be a whole new way to create interesting, fun, replayable games. Casual games aside, this would allow people to create MMO's and then host their own servers, possibly opening up new avenues of inspiration for others.

Interesting Article (1)

pinkushun (1467193) | about 5 years ago | (#29614307)

But it's not worth getting into any sort of fight about which is better.

Over generalisation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29614327)

Hmm. What about, for example, the computer golf genre, for several of those games (Microsoft Links, PGA Tour, Jack Nicklaus GBC), the user created content far surpassed the content supplied with the original games, in quality and quantity, in fact, those communities lasted long, long after the games themselves died, and still continue to this day. Not all of those people are computer savvy, but a community of people help out and share knowledge and keep the games alive. This seems like a generalisation targeted specifically at FPS and 3DStudio style level editors. It is a bit odd that there isn't more available in the way of randomly generated content within the context of a high powered graphics environment, but to say user created content hasn't done much for games in general is just wrong. Likewise, the RPG crowd (NWN, Baldurs Gate etc) have produced an incredible amount of great content. How about the Thief community, another game that is long dead and yet people continue to create content the equal or superior to the original (Thief 2X for example, The Dark Mod).

Re:Over generalisation (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | about 5 years ago | (#29615983)

Thats because the real complaint isn't really about "Damn all user generated content sucks." it is about being down on the idea of a.) not getting cash off of someone else's work (SC2 styled mod monetization) b.) No real protected from getting sued by Fox when one of your users runs around in a Homer Simpson avatar.

From a profit and liability standpoint, UGC is a nightmare for publishers and devs.

Edge missed the mark. (3, Insightful)

((hristopher _-*-_-* (956823) | about 5 years ago | (#29614335)

I think edge has it so wrong here, it's a knee jerk reaction to a play session with Scribblenauts.

The hype of user generated content started long before littlebigplanet and spore etc, as there has been a content and growing tide of people that make a hobby from generating content since the early days of doom.

In fact, user generated content has become is own art form. Just as there is sculpture and painting.

There will be titles that come up that provide simpler was of doing that (and therefore appeal to those who don't want to make a hobby out of it), however the more detailed the creation process can become, the more intrinsic reward and sense of achievement that can be had. Sure detailed doesn't have to mean complex, but complexity comes from interface not from design, and detailed creation usually requires complexity within the interface due to the limitations that we have in interacting with it (mouse, game controller, keyboard).

IMO Littlebigplanet is probably the most significant user generated content advancement this generation of games, not Scribblenaughts. Scribblenaughts computer moderation actually kills true generation of content. It's not user generated at all in the end, and nothing unique can be created.

Edge have missed the mark, Scribblenaughts isn't brilliant because of it's user-generated, machine-mediated content, it's brilliant because it allows creative problem solving like no other game before it.

Re:Edge missed the mark. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29614369)

IMO Littlebigplanet is probably the most significant user generated content advancement this generation of games

What about Second Life? Blue Mars etc.?

Re:Edge missed the mark. (1)

((hristopher _-*-_-* (956823) | about 5 years ago | (#29614451)

Second Life and to a lesser extent Blue Mars, are fantastic user-driver online worlds with a hoard of very talented and really creative people - however they have not managed to do this in the mainstream, whereas LBP (LittleBigPlanet) has without limiting it's capabilities.

Re:Edge missed the mark. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29614489)

Second Life is a lot more flexible though, when it comes to user generated content focus it's probably the pinnacle. LBP has the reduced scope by far in this regard. Plus, with efforts like OGPX/VWRAP [ietf.org] it's actively expanding and becoming interoperable/decentralised with the assistance of the original innovator, hopefully negating the negative effects of this platform being controlled by one entity, what are the chances of this happening elsewhere?

UT99 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29614399)

Unreal Tournament (1999) has more Maps and user-made content than you can shake a stick at. The inability to port it forward undermined a huge segment of contributors who, although not high-calibre at the time, would probably have continued to hone their skill if all their previous effort hadn't been simply swept aside. I couldn't imagine how much variety would be available, if the game had a conversion port in the map making software.

Just look at Oblivion. (4, Interesting)

Cheney (1547621) | about 5 years ago | (#29614471)

If you look at Oblivion, and all the mods it has accrued through the years.. it's simply amazing. I've literally added hours upon hours to a game that already spans a very long time with its off the shelf content. The Lost Spires [gamespy.com] is just an example of what you can get when you give your players the ability to create their own content.

Re:Just look at Oblivion. (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | about 5 years ago | (#29614639)

Oblivion was the latecomer to the game. The aforementioned doom, BG1/2, F1/2, the NWN series, and the upcoming Dragon Age are all superior examples, especially with NWN's Persistent World servers.

Re:Just look at Oblivion. (1)

Zumbs (1241138) | about 5 years ago | (#29614729)

There is a vast difference. Fallout 1/2 did not support usermade content natively, nor did they come with modding tools. Oblivion did. Its predecessor, Morrowind (2002), even came with modding tools on the disk. If you do not believe me, just take a look at the sheer volume. AFAIK there are only 10s of mods for Fallout 1/2, whereas there are 10.000s of mods for Oblivion.

Re:Just look at Oblivion. (2, Interesting)

IBBoard (1128019) | about 5 years ago | (#29615385)

Ditto for Dawn of War - the community content is great. The original textures were buggy in places and low-spec, and the badges and banners weren't great. In comes (amongst other people) Hangar-8 and he makes some fantastic quality banners that blitz everything in the game already, then he works on improving the 512x512 pixel textures as well and does a great job of those. There were some big mods and maps as well, and I know some of the Mods got lots of interest but I never looked in to them as much.

Then along comes Dawn of War 2. Relic abandon the moddability, make some things like extra colours "bonus content" in special releases, and general try to kill off the custom content side of the game. All that on top of the fact that they've ruined half of the graphics by making things glow and shine when they shouldn't because they thought it was something kewl to add while they upped the resolutions.

The revolution happened. It was called "Doom". (4, Insightful)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | about 5 years ago | (#29614547)

... and it opened the floodgates. Thousands of maps, many of them lousy but some of them brilliant.

Without Doom showing that a good game can spawn a community of people interested in expanding the game, developers wouldn't take the time to release SDKs.

Without that thriving and long-lived community of Doom developers, id would've had little reason to release source code for its engines. Why bother if no one's going to use it?

Without id commercializing TeamTNT's first release as Final Doom, the idea of a group of fans having their work go professional would still be seen as either an insane dream or "selling out".

And would any of this happened if Doom was a lousy game? Hell no! You don't attract talented and skilled people with a poor game. That's half of the problem with this new generation of user-generated games. They seem to think that if you make the tools, someone will use them. The tools are the bonus, not the core; the gift to your fans, not the main selling point for the ad copy.

In a sense, it's like fanfic. People design new stuff for games for the same reason they write fanfic - they want to continue the story, or see how it would play out if changed.
- It's five years later, and the bad guy is back - time to get your gun. It's five years later, and the antagonist has returned - how will the protagonist defeat his old enemy?
- How much harder are things if the Heavy Weapons Dude dual-wields two chainguns? Would the main characters act differently if their brother hadn't died?
- What if we changed all the monsters and the weapons and made a whole new game? What if the characters were taken out of their dark conspiracy-ridden world and dropped into a bedroom farce?

The result is also the same. Some is damn good, some is lousy. The highest amount (and thus the highest amount of quality product) tends to collect around the better series. No TV series would fly if they did half a season and expected fanfic writers to finish it for them, so I don't see how a game company can expect to excel by expecting the community to build the levels.

On the other hand, if there's a good game that just happens to be moddable....

Modding is also the Everest (1)

Tei (520358) | about 5 years ago | (#29614967)

"In a sense, it's like fanfic."

It could be in a sense for some people. But not all modders are made equal. There are wildly different reasons for modding. Even people that is modding, and don't have a good reason. There are people modding because is fun for then (a hobby), there are people that want to recreate a movie (geezers.. :P), there are people that want to show his skill to the industry, there are small studios that want to show his skill to publishers, there are bored people, and solitary worlfs, and more.
Theres not central or unique reason, for modding. Modding happends. Much like climbing mountains.

Re:The revolution happened. It was called "Doom". (1)

hitmark (640295) | about 5 years ago | (#29675903)

doom also had cheap/free tools, and was mostly 2D grid with a height setting.

but you could not really mod doom until the source code was released, and then all kinds of shareware variants showed up...

but things really hit the fan ones quake 1 shipped, especially ones the quake-c compiler hit the games magazine demo discs.

as long as you could grasp the language and had access to a text editor, you could mod and re-mod for a long time. And then people made map and modeling tools that where either free or cheap shareware. After that one started getting mods like team fortress, and most crazy of all, airquake.

but when quake 2 shipped, the requirements moved to visual-c++ and 3d studio, with only the map tool remaining mostly the same. This was a steep step up in entry price for coder and modelers alike, if you wanted to do things cleanly...

The Future? (1)

Luke O'Connell (1046942) | about 5 years ago | (#29614705)

I agree that there has to be some moderation system. But its interesting that we've never seen it come to fruition on MMORPGs. We've seen it work with community based sites (like Neopets) which actually balance their entire world on user-generated content and feedback, but nothing as dynamic as WoW.

I agree that user generated content is the future, but think that it needs some serious controls put in place to avoid scenarios such as the ones plover points out.

On a more fiscally related note though, if MMORPGs did start to allow user submitted content, then would it be right to continue their pricing structure? Therein lies another discussion!

Re:The Future? (1)

plover (150551) | about 5 years ago | (#29615253)

if MMORPGs did start to allow user submitted content, then would it be right to continue their pricing structure?

So combine them. MMORPG operators could offer a discount, or credit towards future play, for user generated content. Did you create an interesting quest? You get 10% off next month's bill. Did you do some fancy artwork for a suit of arms and armor? Next month is free. Did you create an entire battleground arena? Cool, here's a year of free gameplay and a job offer.

Sure, most UGC is going to be mostly worthless, but if they encouraged it as a marketing tool they'd end up with a lot of neat stuff to sell.

Problems of tools not users... (2, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 5 years ago | (#29614755)

... the real issue is that tools for generating content are not advanced enough. If you look at a game like Need for speed underground or Galactic civilizations 2 which you can easily design your own ships, this is the beginning of what you need. Or how about the F zero GX for the gamecube with the car designer? You need to do all of the legwork in your tools, you can't expect users to train for years to become artists, programmers, technical people. Thats the *real issue*.

You need the computer to autogenerate and aid in generating content in a big way. People want to create content but the software tools just aren't up to scratch yet.

You should all go get a copy of Galciv 2 and play around with the ship builder, they make it easy for anyone to make stuff without having to learn about texture maps, modelling, etc. They have a bunch of pre-fab pieces with "hardpoints", it's basically like virtual lego set.

If you want people to participate in content creation your tools have to do the vast majority of the legwork. The truth is the software tools for the end user just aren't there yet.

Re:Problems of tools not users... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29615079)

Spore.

Re:Problems of tools not users... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29628219)

There's a pitfall there - the more your tools do for the user, the less significant their input becomes. If you make a racing game where all the user has to do is draw a squiggle, choose a theme, then hit "Go," then the possible number of unique and interesting tracks are roughly equal to the Number_of_Interesting_Squiggles, as the theme is largely irrelevant. There's only so many variations on a figure eight track that will remain interesting.

The trick is finding that sweet spot between "it does everything for you" and "you have to do everything yourself" for the type of content that users will be generating. If the point of LittleBigPlanet's development tools, for instance, was to create challenging platform game levels, then they'd have to be regarded as somewhat of a failure. It's possible to create challenging platform game levels, but it turns out to be very hard in practice. What it does turn out to be is a lot of fun to mess around with.

The game types which produce the greatest ease of balance between boring and fun map creation tend to be racing games.

ATV Offroad Fury for the PS2 provided a freeform cross-country course editor which produced endless hours of fun as creating a track simply involved driving over the uneven terrain and dropping checkpoint gates with a single button (to be adjusted and saved later.)

The 1990 PC game Stunts [wikipedia.org] found a happy medium between providing irregularly-sized-but-interlocking prefab track segments (ramps, jumps, corkscrews, road surfaces) on a regular grid, thus allowing any track which followed the fairly forgiving constraints (tracks only cross at intersections, track must complete a circuit) to be saved as a user-generated track which the AI was (theoretically) capable of driving on. The format of the game was head-to-head racing or time-trial racing, and the ruinous consequences of a viciously created track resulted in a very successful game where user-generated content was the focus.

A counterexample would be Excitebike for the Nintendo Entertainment System, which allowed players to create and play tracks, but the lack of variety, lack of permanence (tracks could not be saved) and the rigidness of user input resulted in it being little more than a fun toy, as the actual number of interesting possible created tracks was somewhere on the order of 12 more than what came with the game. Though kudos for being one of the first action games to provide a game editor to consumers.

Re:Problems of tools not users... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 5 years ago | (#29629427)

"There's a pitfall there - the more your tools do for the user, the less significant their input becomes."

I disagree, your example of the figure 8 track is actally a bad example. For instance you had advanced enough tools you could have tools totally redo the art/themes for the track and also change the rules, but this assumes the figure 8 track is a good design anyway, the design of the area of a level pretty much defines a good chunk of what you can do with it. This is how mods like Hero arena and DOTA for starcraft and warcraft 3 came about - people being able to take existing game mechanics and adding new rules/modifying the game within the game.

If developers could make that whole process easier and less time consuming for the user, a lot of time wouldn't be spent learning the tools so much as just pouring out of raw creativity.

I've done game modding and the biggest hurdle is definitely the developers not grasping that they need to make tools for non technical people. When Bioware released the original neverwintern nights, I became hooked on the toolset even though it had some pretty complicated (for the user) elements like scripting and whatnot. Neverwinter toolset IMHO is a great example of what developers could do if they had enough resources/time or human minds worked faster.

The truth is making a tool that advanced would most likely require a heck of a lot of time and money thrown at it. Part of the reason NWN suffered so badly as a game was because they only had a finite amount of money to throw around, if someone sat down or fantsizing here... the industry pooled it's resources to develop these kinds of tools they could make their games much more a vehicle of creativity for people who can't spend years learning about models, texture maps, UV coordinates, etc, etc.

Quite frankly I'd love to see a company like autodesk take a stab at something like that (gmax doesn't really count) but the whole problem is profitability of said tool would probably be zip since gamers don't buy mod tools, but games.

What if generating content was the game itself? (1)

Rhaban (987410) | about 5 years ago | (#29614865)

User generated content should not always be difficult to make, it should not even require the player to learn specific tools. It should be part of the game itself.

I once imagined a game that would be a mix between a mmorpg (or a dungeon crawler) and a sim-like game. The player would start by creating a low level character and his hous/castle/spacestation (Could be in a fantasy or SF setting or whatever, doesn't really matters), and as he progresses into the game he can add different kind of rooms to his home that will help the character (if the character is a magician, a library would help him learn new spells). He could hire guards to protect his belongings, and other players could attack his castle like if any dungeon in any game. Think x-com here: you build a room because it allows you to hire some crew or buy planes or do scientific research, and when your base is attacked the battlefield depends on how you placed the different rooms.
You could buy different objects and furniture for your home that will have be usefull in "sims" mode, orin defense mod, or when you go and attack another player, or in those three modes.

Obviously a lot of thought would have to be put into the balance, for example I think a player whose dungeon is attacked should lose less than what the attacking player earn. If i attack a player and kill every guard in his dungeon, from the point of view of the defender the guards may be hurt or and need some healing to be fully operationnal but they must not be permanently dead. If I search the library of a another player after having killed everybody in his dungeon, I may loot a rare book but the book would not disappear from the player's inventory (it may even have been auto-generated without the owner of the dungeon ever having owned this particular book). And there should be some mecanism that doesn't allow player to abuse the system by farming a pruposely weakly defended dungeon.

Depends on the games and tools.. (1)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | about 5 years ago | (#29614921)

Sure, not every game is suited for user generated content. But there are a few that are:

* Civilization 4: The game was build with modders in mind. It uses open technologies like XML and Python to extend the game content. As the general civ players tend to be more ambitious anyway, a huge number of mods and scenarios were created, some of which made it into the second extension pack dvd.

* The elder scrolls Morrowind/Oblivion: The TES constructor gave users a very easy way to extend the game world and many did.

* Homeworld 2: The game is 6 years old and users still build extensive mods around the game (like the complex mod).

So however says that user generated content is not taking off: you are doing it wrong. There are models and examples where it worked very well. But you need the right crowd and you must give them the right tools to play around.

Just because no one mentioned it... (1)

Tempest451 (791438) | about 5 years ago | (#29614987)

City of Heroes has been doing user generated content for months now and has even invited comic writers to come in and create content using their tool.

No Games Companies Have It Right Yet (2, Interesting)

pandrijeczko (588093) | about 5 years ago | (#29614995)

Whether we gamers like it or not, games are made to make money and extending the playable life of a game probably means that some gamers will keep playing the same game rather than buying a new one. So, at that level, UGC could be seen as something games companies would be reluctant to support because it will hit their profits.

I would suggest that one of the best compromises, which I don't think any games company has done yet, would be to publish UGC on their own game web site, make a small charge for downloading it and pass on some of the money to the gamers who created it. That gives encouragement to the fans to create good quality UGC and mods whilst putting some money back to the games company as well.

I'm a big fan of UGC and always grateful to the people who work long and hard to create great user maps and mods - but there's nothing more disappointing than going to ModDB and seeing a great idea for a mod being abandoned a few months later due to lack of interest - maybe putting some money the creators' way will lessen that?

Re:No Games Companies Have It Right Yet (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | about 5 years ago | (#29616025)

From what I've read, StarCraft 2 is supposed to go this route with an AppStore for user created maps.

Filtering and moderating (1)

slim (1652) | about 5 years ago | (#29615037)

As well as providing decent tools for people to create content, there also needs to be a mechanism to promote the good content.

Most people won't want to create, only consume. Most people don't have the time or desier to trawl through the dross made my talentless or inexperienced people - they just want the good stuff.

Other people enjoy the hunt of looking through arbitrary stuff and rating. They need to be utilised.

City of Heroes mission architect (2, Informative)

thesandtiger (819476) | about 5 years ago | (#29615775)

City of Heroes mission architect lets players create missions & campaigns that can be do most of the stuff that the developer-made missions & campaigns can do. Within the first 48 hours, if I remember right, there was more player developed content than there was developer created content. 99.99% of it was, doubtless, absolute shit, but some of it was decent, and some was really quite impressive & interesting.

The problems with CoH's system were:

1) Because it was just a virtual reality type sim in game - that was more or less the canon explanation of it - it didn't really matter to players on any kind of meaningful level; it required a double suspension of disbelief. First to just get into the CoH game itself, but then to get into the game inside the game - not an easy task. If they'd just made the explanation something like "the Portal corporation has opened up a bunch of new dimensions, go scout them out for us. Be warned, some might be a little... odd..." that would have been better.

2) They gave in-game benefits (badges/achievements) for content creation, which was just begging to have the rating system abused. Cartels were formed that would vote up/down MA creations just so people could get badges or to keep people from getting badges. People were going to make content no matter what - no need to give a special incentive. In fact, I daresay that the people who were motivated by the badges/achievements who wouldn't have made content otherwise probably didn't make anything terribly interesting. By all means, have a rating system, but remove the incentive for people to game it.

3) They allowed it to be a way to farm levels & loot. You could make missions that had absurd rewards for absolutely no risk. It was possible to have passive, completely invulnerable NPCs follow the players around and make them completely immune to damage. It was possible to fill the missions entirely with opponents who were trivial to kill but who gave ridiculous amounts of experience. The worst of the offenders in this case had missions in which a crowd of these low-difficulty-high-XP opponents would huddle around BOMBS, and you could just shoot the bomb to make all the opponents die, yielding full xp. To top it off, you got a lot of tickets, which were redeemable for prizes after completing the missions, those prizes being recipes for things that could be sold for a ridiculous amount of in-game money. People farmed the hell out of these missions for that purpose, and were able to get characters from level 1 to level 50 (the cap) in as little as 4 hours in some cases. A lot more thinking needed to go into how to prevent missions from being exploited - even if it was just a hard cap of "only this much xp will be allowed to be accrued over x amount of time in player-created missions."

Fix those problems and you can have an explosion of creativity that won't wreck games. You'll also have an explosion of really stupid content created, but it'll be more reasonable to sift through since there won't be an incentive to create bad content to gain advantage.

LBP (2, Informative)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | about 5 years ago | (#29618233)

The article mentions LittleBigPlanet, but I doubt the author has actually played it much. The user generated content is a huge success. 90% of the levels may be crap, but the best of the homemade levels are fantastic.

The key to making this work is allowing users to rate levels, and providing an easy way to find the best levels. The search function was pretty poor initially, but it now works quite well.

What were some of these Amazing MUD mods? (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | about 5 years ago | (#29620039)

I see folks talking about how amazing and interactive their MUDs were.

I play WoW and know it isn't the be all, end all. I did play some MUDs back in the day but never had time to really devote to them, so what were some of the better Mods and interactiviy you saw. Any good Mods for MUDs or RPGs would be appreciated.

Links would be nice, but I'll take war stories too.

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