All words presented in this blog are purely opinion, not fact - unless specifically stated otherwise in the post.

Monday 29 July 2013

The Good and Evil of Player Generated Content.

Personally I have a love hate relationship with Player Generated Content (PGC). I think I love the idea more than I love it in reality. For those who are unaware; PGC is content for computer games that have been made by players. Some people call it modding, some people call it developing, regardless of what you want to call it the outcome is the same; content for a game that has been created by another player, like yourself, or even your annoying little brother who can't use MS paint properly yet.
It's not a new thing, not really. People have been creating their own maps for shooting games for years. What is a new thing is companies making games specifically around the idea of user generated content. There have been good examples, the Bethesda games (Fallout games and Elder scrolls games) are a prime example of this. they created full games with lots of content, a huge world and enough to do that you could never need user generated content while simultaniously releasing a creation kit for the game so that its easy to do and readily available. (admittedly 'easy to do' is subjective, but it's much easier than having to hack into the game's code or something to make it run). However there are some games that do it poorly, or even don't do it and say they did. APB: All Points Bulletin is one of them. APB worked on the concept that the game play was going to be created by the user. the developers didn't need to do much if anything to give the players something to do because once the players were in the world they'd figure something out. This is perfectly fine and a reasonable strategy, except then they asked the players to pay them for it.
Don't get me wrong I have no problem with paying for a game subscription. In the past I have paid for Aion, Champions online, City of Heroes, City of Villains,  DC Universe online, Dungeons and Dragons online, Final Fantasy XI, The Matrix Online, Ragnarok Online, RF Online, The Secret World, Star Trek online, Star Wars galaxies, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Warhammer online, World of Warcraft, and probably a load more - just in case you were looking for my nerd creds, I alphabetised that list.
My problem isn't with paying for a subscription, my problem is paying for it and then not being given anything in return. It's like paying for a house and being given bricks and cement.

The reason I bring it up is because more and more games are releasing editors and I am not sure if its a good thing or a bad thing. It could be great. we could be ushering in a new era of gaming. People could become praised for their level design skills as much as, if not more than, their shooting skills. Equally, however, we could be ushering in an era of lazy game development. With a lack of need for developers to hire level designers and narative designers players will find themselves without easily available high quality story modes. They will still be out there buried in the PGC but much harder to access through searching through the crap.
I recently purchased a game called Shadowrun Returns. I havent looked at the PGC yet but it doesn't look like the main story is going to be particularly long. It only cost £15 and it seems to be made for PGC but if it had been more expensive and made PGC difficult to access I'd be complaining. My point is that if games are going to base themselves around their player driven content I dont think they should be able to charge for it as well. Building an environment for people to create is all well and good, but you don't charge the price of a masterpiece for a piece of canvas and an easel.

- James

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