|City Building... without an always on connection|
This article originally appears at Digitally Downloaded.
My wife sunk so many hours into Roller Coaster Tycoon 2, designing her park and building coasters. She has gone through spurts over the years where she spends time on video games, but usually they are of a very specific type (Sims, SimCity, Roller Coaster Tycoon... oh, and racing games, because she can generally wallop me in them). She has no interest in shooters, RPGs or general sports titles, but these games with building elements have often tweaked her imagination.
This mindset is also how I got into MUDs - and more specifically how I got into building another MUD about fifteen years ago, and eventually started my own with my wife. I had storyline ideas, and while I am not what I would consider a programmer, I have had some success reading, modifying my own bits of code for the MUD using C or working with Ruby on RPG Maker over the years. I use music and graphics from other sources however, because those are definitely not areas I am strong in.
There are some other complications as well. These are frameworks that you generally work on locally. this provides other logistical concerns like sharing the content and making sure it can work in a variety of environments. Again, I would have eaten these up as a kid, but I was working on text based games in BASIC when I was nine and just showing them to friends in the neighborhood when they came over. Some amazing things can come out of these tools. Over the holidays I had a chance to play a game called Too the Moon that was built on RPG Maker XP by a very small team of talented individuals. They had a goal and realized it wonderfully - but this is not an option for many gamers who have an interest in creation.
I will likely never get around to writing a proper review about either LittleBig Planet 1 or 2. We have both. I have played both very sparingly now and then and with platforming games being among my least favorite genres (along with racing games), I just lose interest quickly. My younger two kids however, have sunk a ton of time into those games. My son got pretty good with the tools, and my daughter - who is only eleven - has gotten very good with them.
She loves Roblox on the computer the kids use, but whenever she has access to the television she puts in LittleBig Planet. For her this is more than just a creative outlet however - it has also become a means of socializing. She will use the headset and talk with other kids that sound about her age, and they talk about Pokemon, cats, My Little Pony and more - and then create areas based on these and more. Half the time they do not even finish their areas, but they seem to be enjoying the process all the same.
It makes sense really. The toolkit is there and powerful, graphics and sound are already part of the system and it is easy to share materials - but the level of acceptability in using these preexisting assets is much higher than someone using the RTP that comes standard with RPG Maker. Sharing what you have made and playing what others have made is easy because it is all built into a framework with sharing and community in mind. The creativity and community are both very accessible for players.
I wish tools like this had been available to me as a kid, and I think it is great seeing games like Mod Nation Racers and LittleBig Planet giving gamers an outlet for their creativity. It also wonder if these tools might not be something more developers should look into more carefully. It seems like there are a lot of games that tack on multiplayer because it is expected now. Some games are simply built with multiplayer in mind from the beginning, like Call of Duty or an MMO.
However, I bet all of us can name a half dozen or so examples off of the top of our heads where multiplayer just feels like a bullet point on the back of the box. Bioshock 2 and Dead Space 2 are examples of slightly older games that added multiplayer components that their predecessors lacked and that gamers generally ignored. This trend has continued recently as well, with the latest God of War and Tomb Raider games getting good reviews for their single player content but for online modes that one of my coworkers described as 'throwaway'.
I wonder though, if development teams might not benefit from exploring content creation options? Obviously this might not work for every game type - but it seems like the potential is there. If Call of Duty offered map creation, or you could come up with your own trials for God of War or build your own maps in Fire Emblem - it just feels like this would give players a reason to keep those discs in their systems and homes well past the completion of the story mode.
What do you think? Do you personally find editing and creating content entertaining? Would it be a reason for you to keep a game longer than you might otherwise? Or do you think I am completely nuts (always an option as well) and the benefits would not outweigh the effort?