It always puts me in awe when I see what some people can come up with when given creative tools. Case in point: The Foundry in Star Trek Online.
I just finished the User generated mission: “Purity 1” created by the folks at Starbase UGC. And man it was amazing. Very light on combat, but incredibly well written. And I even got to take part in a space battle while on the bridge. I’m not going to write a review, others have done that better than I could ever hope to (like this one).
But playing through it got me thinking about Player Created Content in general. There don’t seem to be very many games that use that kind of system. Apart from the wide-open sandboxes like Eve, where everything is based on the players and their interactions, there’s pretty much only Cryptic that allows its players to create fully fledged missions. Sure, some companies dabble in that regard, like EQ2’s Dungeon Maker, but as far I as I have experienced that one doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Cryptic’s tools can do. Of course I am happy to be corrected, but in my journeys through current MMOs I don’t think I encountered are any rivals.
Why is that? For one thing there’s the obvious juggling of finite development resources. Are they going to be spent on new missions, or on tools for players to create them. Then there’s the hassle of updating those tools, fixing bugs and plugging loopholes and exploits. Also, how are the player made additions going to fit in with the rest of the game, both storywise and in regards to incentives to play them. Like the rewards for Foundry missions in STO have undergone several overhauls, mostly due to excessive farming. You want them to be rewarding, but not too rewarding for players.
Maybe that’s all too much hassle to be widely spread.
Still, I believe the resources spent on Player-made-content tools are well spent. It creates things to do for players wanting to tell their own story, as well as those who like to enjoy more stories. Especially in an expansive IP such as Star Trek, there are many who want to tell their own stories, and the Foundry gives them the option to do that in a video game. Also it helps the other half of the playerbase, simply because there’s more stuff to do.
Even if a player mission is not perfect, the chances that it’s enjoyable is pretty much the same as for developer created content in my experience. During my STO play sessions I think I played through more user-generated missions than the ones delivered by Cryptic. The pace at which a system like the Foundry can churn out new content is way above what any developer can hope to achieve. Yes, there are a lot of bad apples around, but since I usually stick to the higher rated or reviewed ones, the level of quality is very high.
For the future I wish for more games to embrace the players as a source of content. The reason is pretty selfish. I simply want to enjoy and take part in more awesome stories.