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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Boldly going … and so on

STO_Ship_1

Yesterday I mentioned about logging into Star Trek Online because my, at the time, first choice had a server hiccup.

Well, tonight I found myself longing to complete another tour of duty in my trusty ship. So again my plans of visiting Eorzea were ditched.

After last night’s success with the low-threat version of the Crystalline Entity (or rather Crystalline Catastrophe as it is called in game) I went in and took part in the Elite version.Things started badly as I was incapacitated early on by those pesky Tholians. Oh well. Back in I went a bit more careful. And pretty soon, it was reduced to rubble as well.

The Elite version does pack more of a punch and does have a few extra tricks, like little nebulae forming around the entity that impair vision and weapons lock. Still, not too difficult and quite fun so far.

About the special event: Each day players can earn one crystal shard for the first time they complete the Crytsalline Catastrophe Fleet Action. 14 of those shards can then be exchanged for various game currency and a unique Duty officer. I’m curious at what point completing the fleet action every day turns from being fun to being a grind. Fingers crossed that it happens after I have all 14 shards!

On a related note: That oversized Snowflake (in space!) seems to come back from the dead more often than Jack Harkness…

Sometimes things do not go as planned

STO_Cryst_1The thing about online gaming is that you are dependent on, for instance, the servers being online. (“Thank You Captain Obvious…” I hear you say) And true to form, as I was sitting down for some Final Fantasy XIV, the server basically stuck out his tongue and shut down.

Since waiting for servers to be back up isn’t any fun at all, I needed an alternative. After some browsing of games, my decision was made and I logged onto Star Trek Online. Thankfully the patch was small and I was shortly flying my shiny ship through space.

I hadn’t realised that there was another event going on, as I hadn’t logged on for a couple of weeks and had not followed the game too closely lately. It is basically a rerun of the Crystalline Entity event from earlier this year, just with a different one-time reward. Still, there’s no time like the present to rid the galaxy of monstrous snowflakes, right?

To be on the safe side, I chose the lower difficulty for the Task Force, and the Entity was soon reduced to crystal dust. And then I actually forgot to grab my loot… Well yeah. I blame Tribbles or something.