Player Generated Content

STO_Foundry_1

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.

 

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8 thoughts on “Player Generated Content

  1. I didn’t play Neverwinter for very long, but while I did I really enjoyed the Foundry creations. Most of them were nice, bite-sized 15 minute quests I could run through before work in the morning. I’m looking forward to messing around with EQ Landmark (whenever that comes out), though I think that might be mostly construction-based with less options for story or quest mechanics.

  2. Speaking as a NWO player, Cryptic’s Foundry Tools are very good. Not sure if they have as much of a divide between new content / new tools as you may think, though there certainly is one. I would imagine that when a dev makes content they use pretty much the same tool set, just with more options and more tilesets.

    • To be honest, I don’t think that players are using the same toolset as the devs. For one thing the developers have so many more options when making their missions. Also the act of integrating those tools into the game client and making user generated content playable is no small undertaking I presume.

  3. Thanks for the link, man! You give me WAY too much credit, though.

    Adding UGC to a game is a very risky endeavor. As you said, you have exploits, bugs, assets, development, etc. that all have to be looked over, to a general game population that will mostly ignore it. But they ignore it for obvious reasons: the quality isn’t as high as the content they’re already paying for, or if it is high, they have no clue about that going in, they don’t know the length, and the rewards are usually not as good. Basically, players are going in blind. And most gamers, in this age of Youtube and wikis, don’t like going in blind. They like knowing what to expect, and already knowing if it’ll be worth their time or not. Thats why the most played Foundry missions are the ones that essentially let you cheat. Having a 60 ship vs 60 ship battle where the NPCs just fight each other, and all still drop loot, for example. But then do you want to take developers off projects they are working on and set them to police the content? Can you trust the playerbase to do that?

    Thats why UGC tools, like in STO and Neverwinter are so rare. However, I really like that they’re there. Even if it’s not popular, even if the quality is not as high, it’s a pure expression of the fans and community. STO wouldn’t be where it is today without the Foundry, imo, and I still would love to see more games with it.

    • You make a good point there. How to get the players to actually take part? Make them too rewarding in some way and you get the obvious farm missions. Too little reward and no one plays them. It’s a tricky line to walk.

      • That’s why STO has changed it’s reward structure multiple times. First, they didn’t have rewards, then they made it so that you got a reward by completing three missions daily (which led to really easy and quick “cheat” missions, but if you just picked at random, playing 3 missions could potentially take you 3 hours), then they added a metric ton of fleet marks for some reason, and how it is now is that if you do any mission (I think), you get a reward, but only once per day, if you do a promoted mission, ones that have already been vetted, you earn a bigger reward, and I think they reward itself is based on how long you played the mission for, with a min and max allowance.

        In other words, it is indeed a fine line, but one that can, and should, be walked.

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