“Player Controlled World Events!” or “Here’s to Hoping They do Something Right!”
I am not a big fan of Cryptic. This isn’t to say they don’t work hard or their games aren’t popular. I am at odds with the developers over at Cryptic because every action that comes from then seems to be entrenched in making more money as quickly as is humanly possible, and has little to do with customer satisfaction. Maybe that is generalizing too much from select isolated incidents, but the fact of the matter remains: my trust in Cryptic is minimal at best and it will likely take a miracle to restore any faith.
I digress. Massively last week reported that Cryptic’s Star Trek Online will allow players to generate content though The Foundry. There are two questions that pop into one’s mind with such an announcement:
- First, will anyone be able to generate and post their content and are there any quality control mechanisms in-built?
- Second, is this a smart move by Cryptic to allow the thousands of individuals with their creative skill sets to contribute to the evolving world, or is this simply clever way to mask the fact that they developers have no idea what the player base wants in terms of content, so they are conveniently handing over the reigns to said players?
The first question, lo and behold, was answered in the same post. All user-generated content will be properly reviewed and subject to intense scrutiny by both the player base and the developers before it makes it onto the live servers. Good strategy, there should be a comprehensive check and balances system to ensure only the best of the very best makes it to the live servers. But then the question becomes, what if the best of the best simply isn’t good enough? Does it automatically get in because there simply isn’t anything better? On a personal level I am quite excited about this step, because I believe the player base can best design (or at the very least inform) content that it wants to engage in itself. However, I look at half-finished, unpolished, and at times downright botched work from Cryptic earlier, and I fear that this little experiment will go so awry, no other developer will ever attempt it again.
This isn’t the first time user-generated content has made rounds of the MMO world. Several WoW addons allow you to create in-game quests to (re)enact events or forge entirely new adventures. Though the use is primarily restricted to RP, such as the excellent 4.01 compatible Verisimilar addon for WoW, it goes to show there is interest in the community for community generated content.
The second questions, however, remains a mystery. If my review of the Blood Moon Halloween event (exactly a year ago to the date) is any indication, Cryptic has never been particularly good at adding content to their games. So perhaps by handing over the driving seat to the player base, they will be able to garner interest that their own content development team failed to illicit. It also means that they can add content to their title, apparently completely free of cost, since I sincerely doubt players will be rewarded monetarily for generating content that makes it to the live servers. I suppose time will tell the true merit of this bold move, and I for one hope its to get the community involved in the project, and not because the folks at Cryptic have run their idea well dry.
If implemented correctly, I think it can be a defining moment in the ongoing MMO evolution. Imagine you gather atop a hill with your friends. Your guild master, an aged veteran of countless wars is briefing you about the undead plague that has spread though the country farmlands in the past week, and how you must use overwhelming numbers to charge and eradicate every undead soul in your path till nothing is left standing in your wake. As a reward, you will get guild points that you can use to purchase things from the guild bank, or repair your equipment. The GM is your quest master and your raid leader rolled into one. And then you charge, axes and swords and battle-hammers raised high, playing out a user-generated event with in-game buddies for in-game fame, glory, and some form of user-generated currency.
I think that would be a helluva lot of fun, so at least for going boldly where no studio has gone before, I salute the team at Cryptic for their audacity and willingness to take risks.