I Made This

Since the dawn of time, PC gamers have been taking lovingly hand-crafted videogames and saying: “Hey, what if we take that T-Rex over there and make him a Nazi?” And thus, game modifications are born. From the little changes that make your character’s hair blue, to the massive total conversions that change fantasy games like Mount and Blade into a sandbox Star Wars adventure, PC gamers have always had a little more power than their console gaming brethren. Whether it’s a toolkit created and released by the a developer, or you as crazed code-monkey take the time to change one line in a text file to make yourself unstoppable, it is a feature that console gaming seems to lack.

If, like me, you play a lot of videogames, you may have noticed the slight shift towards the use of user-generated content. Okay, fair enough, it’s not so much of a shift – user-created content has been around for years in PC games through modding, if you think about it. Not only are developers making it easier than ever before to allow players to create content in games, but they are actually making games based around user-generated content. So have developers become lazy? Lost their creativity? Gears of Halo Duties 26 would suggest this might be true.

Titles such as Little Big Planet or Minecraft are wildly popular, wherein the tools for content creation are pretty much all the content the developers actually provide, and the players build what they want from the ground up. Sure, most of the time hundreds of hours are spent creating a giant dick or some boobs, yet we still have fun doing it and millions of gamers buy the games just to check out the other giant boobs.

What else is Minecraft for?

It’s also pretty interesting to note that some of the large MMORPGs have taken a step towards the user-generated content frontier, allowing players to script their own quests and story-lines. I mean, how smart is that? The MMO is a giant time-sink that has to be fed with new content constantly in order keep it running. Players spend time playing through missions or quests, and every month they do that the developer gets a fee. What happens, however, when you have the users creating that content? If it’s easy to do and of high enough quality, you find users are content to just play missions other gamers have created. Developers cash in and then lengthen their deadlines for content creation.

Do we miss out though? I mean, I know some writers who can pen an amazing story; would I want to play through missions or content they create? Hell yes. Do I want to load up Star Trek Online and play a mission where I’m told to “Fyre Phasurs!”?  No… no I do not.  I think this is the main risk with this type of gameplay hook; what if everyone creates shit and no one wants to play? Luckily, more often than not, the user-generated content is created by players who have gamed extensively in the past. They know what fun is, and what is fun for them is typically fun for the majority of gamers, which is the same with most game development really.

"Set phasers to 'tickle'..."

The question I ask myself is: “Is this just lazy game development?”  Have developers run out of ideas to the point where it’s easier to just give the tools to the player and have them do it, or does it empower gamers to make what they want, giving us the ability to shape the games we love? I don’t know; I am but a simple gamer (simpler than most), so I’ll let you ponder that while I play Gears of Halo Duties 26 – the multiplayer is awesome! I hear the next one will have Super HD brown and grey textures!




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6 Comments

  1. SimonJK says:

    Wow tough perspective question. I think the best way to look at it is, are the designers sat there thinking “Right, we have spent a year plus and millions of funds lovingly making this game that our reputation and future income is based on, but we cannot be arse making extra content, screw it we will let the gamers make what ever and hopefully it won’t be full of nudes, dicks and boobs (content not players) and then blame them”?

    Based on that thought, I’d say no, not lazy just broadened and maybe just a little cheap. We all know that no matter how good the PC game is there will always be a group of modder ready to make their own stuff whether it be added content or extra equipement – for improvement or just cheating (Borderlands, Two Worlds etc) and the latter can often ruin the game for console players. Personally I like the idea that the designer then go on to program the tool required to make said modded content easier to make and cleaner to play. Other than that, I’m not sure how it really works, does every peice of Elder Scrolls/ Fallout user content get examined and vet before appearing on the offical sites?

    As far as ‘ideas’ go, there is no qualifications required to have them. I assume designers have a tonnes of college degrees etc to do what they do and get paid that they get, but who’s to say some guy or gal who spends weeks playing a game wouldn’t have the experience to think up some excellent content and why should the designers deny said gamer the thrill of having the content made of the world to share.

    Personally the fact that PC users can have this advantage to extend the life of their purchases – such as any Elder Scrolls/ Fallout, over us poor console users who have to wait months for a patch to be vetted never mind whole content is the only thing I am jealous about. Could I do it myself, no – I ain’t got an artistic bone in my body, but the chance would be nice.

    Do I think the console user would ever get the same playing field as PC user get – no chance in hell. Microsoft’s ‘Offensive risk content minimalisation’ policies would prevent that in any form not to mention they would never give anything for free apart from de-icer to stop hell freezing over. I do recall an attempt with a package early in the 360 days at a dev. tool but it had a huge price tag attached – it was pre indie games and I cannot remember the name of it.

  2. Lorna says:

    As someone who is drifting back more and more to the PC as a primary gaming medium, I’m quickly realising that it is the place to be. Some of the Oblivion mods are just breathtaking – the level of talent out there is indescribable and makes some of the in-game stuff look like kid’s play by comparison. You raise an interesting question as to whether the devs will get lazy with the ability of users to generate their own content. To be honest, I’m not sure that would ever happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t see one or two titles crop up which have gone down a slightly easier route.

    I think that there are perhaps reasons why devs don’t always do what they can to the full extent – take Sims 3 as an example. As one of EA’s flagship brands, and one that is very much aimed at the family market, they can’t in any way have anything risque or adult. A real pain for those of us who don’t like our content sanitised, especially if it is in a game that is supposed to be representing real life – boobs/dicks and all. Enter a very large modding community. They stepped up and tweaked and played about, and now the game is richer for it if you are prepared to do scary things with files.

    So, I think that sometimes the devs are perhaps not so much lazy, but their hands are tied… either that or they are pushed for time and under pressure to meet deadlines. It would be interesting to find out if various devs are actually flattered when people get hold of their toolboxes and effectively put up (sometimes better) shelves of their own.

    Even the Amnesia devs released their toolkit… although I got scared enough playing the fucking thing itself, let alone any twisted arsed user content. Makes you wonder that if devs had all the time in the world and no time/budget/publisher constraints what wonders we would end up getting.

  3. MarkuzR says:

    I used to mod when I was much younger, thanks to Action Replay on the Amiga allowing me to redesign sprites in games. Actually, it went further back than that… and some of the games you’d get printed out in magazines would end up getting changed half way through typing them up, just to see what I could do with them. I suppose that’s where my love of programming ended up coming from.

    I dropped it after that though, and I don’t really remember modding anything at all until I saw someone mention somewhere that you could give yourself more money in Borderlands by using this Willow Tree software, and I thought “well if you can mod your character for more gold, surely you can mod everything else?” and spent countless hours building custom weapons and even dabbled with making custom levels, but gave up as it was a real ballache with having to use Unreal, do this, do that, save this but overwrite it, replace this file but make sure not to do this etc etc. I couldn’t be arsed with all that fannying around just to play custom levels in Borderlands so I bowed out gracefully before breaking my game!

    I’ve played a LOT of Oblivion mods though, and some of them have been better than actual in-game quests. I suppose I should be surprised, or even disappointed, but actually it makes me happy. I like that the community, who have no time constraints or budgetary demands, can spend months creating seriously in-depth quests and produce incredibly-detailed environments or weapons. It shows not only how much passion the community has for the game, but how they’re willing to dedicate their precious time to prolong the life of a game they love.

    Will it make devs lazy over time? Oh hell yeah. There will be those who think “bugger it” and just throw out as much as they feel will justify the development time, and hope that the community takes over. Doesn’t bother me that much though, to be honest.

  4. SimonJK says:

    Wow, I remember trying stuff like that with my Amiga, but only managed as far a transfering my Xcom squads onto a new game. I did some very early attempts on the BBC B using Mzap and Dzap to alter amounts of lives and inventory cash and fined level codes. When it came to the 360 I looked into buying an Action Replay product to attach my HD to my PC (cannot rememeber what it was called) so I could mod Chrome Hounds but failed to get hold of the hardware so gave up. I did also manage to pick up a few mods for Borderlands very late in to game that got past the first update but nothing really game breaking. I don’t mind the Co-op helping mods but have much hate for the Vs player mods – I played one game of Two Worlds online and it seemed everyone else had modded characters and then the same thing happened with “Worlds 2:(

  5. MarkuzR says:

    I modded a level 372 Mage in Two Worlds II just to see what it was like… and it wasn’t really THAT much better than my level 60 guy, except that mana just didn’t run out at all. For melee etc though, it was doing the same damage as my regular guy – ie killing with one hit, so even though the damage points were much higher… the enemies weren’t any easier to take down. Plus, as Pete will tell you… it was a pain in the arse because I was summoning maybe ten werehounds and had a few dozen anvils flying around my head the whole time so it was almost impossible to walk past me. I ditched it after an hour or so as it was no fun.

  6. Edward says:

    It’s a tricky perspective; I think the main idea behind it is to increase the amount of time people keep playing a game – it’s the reason so many publishers force in multiplayer modes to keep people playing long enough that they won’t trade it in or cause people to just rent it instead. However, it could easily fall into the trap of lazy design and just letting the players do more or less everything themselves. Even then, creating all those tools is time-consuming in the first place; Minecraft took years to make, and it’s basically the ultimate player creation tool!

    Brilliant article, dood :D

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