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Author Topic: Idea for the upcoming campaign: user generated content  (Read 1157 times)


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Idea for the upcoming campaign: user generated content
« on: August 09, 2012, 12:22:30 PM »

As I understand it the next step in development will be to build the galaxy and its content. Since Alex is as of jet very tight lipped about what he plans, it is a hard and maybe a bit early to speculate (I don't even now if it will be static or procedural generated). However, all open world games have a similar problem, which is that it's quick and easy to generate a lot of space and very tedious to fill it with quality content. There are different solutions (and combinations of those) to this that I have observed in Games:

1. Handcrafted content: obviously the best solution, but to build enough events and missions by hand would require a ludicrous amount of time or manpower

2. Repeating, semi-randomized content: generated missions like in the X-series or S.P.A.Z are an attempt to tackle the problem, but in my mind a very bad one. They just stop to be interesting after the first time and only serve for grinding after that.

3. Fully randomized content: games like Minecraft or 4X-Games have little to no missions or narrative elements but rely completely on the self-sustaining dynamics the make up the game. Which works very well for the most part, but can not convey deeper motivations and never quite reach the complexity and involvement of handcrafted stories

Enough talk about the problems, here's my idea for a solution: Fully utilize player generated content.

What I mean with that is to create an mission-editor that is simple to use and to distribute it with the game. Let players write their own stories and forge them into the game, including story lines, cut-scenes, event triggers, custom items and everything that's necessary for a fulfilling game experience. Tools like RPG maker or the Editor included in Operation Flashpoint/ARMA come to mind.

Obviously that would create a very volatile level of quality. To get the content in the actual game, a detailed rating system would be a solution. Curious players could load newly made content in their game and judge it in multiple categories like quality of writing, consistence with lore, balancing, uniqueness and so on. Only the best content would then be integrated directly into the game (legal issues?) or at least distributed as a recommended bundle, next to the game download button.

 Utilizing player creativity has proven to be a route to success for a game, benefiting both developer and gamer. And judging by the modding and fan fiction scene in this forum Starfarer already has a creative community.

The advantage of this would not only be that the game could be filled with quality content in no time. It
 would also add a whole new level of creative involvement and ensure for Starfarer to be fresh and exciting long beyond the end of it's official development.
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Re: Idea for the upcoming campaign: user generated content
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2012, 12:35:46 PM »

This would be a great idea, but:

1.  What about the legal issues involved in redistributing it?  All user-submitted content would have to meet some very strict legal rules (i.e., be licensed in a way the Starfarer crew could use it without getting sued).  That's very difficult, in practice; say I'm using some code SomeGuy wrote, but he hasn't explicitly put it into Public Domain or a CC license that Starfarer can legally redistribute.  I don't bother telling anybody, but when it's made an "official user level", SomeGuy complains about it, or even threatens to sue.

2.  Building quality new systems is never going to be as easy as a visual editor, I suspect.  It's going to involve a lot of coding.  The only stuff that's easy enough to do with a visual editor is pretty trivial; put a planet here, put a station there, maybe define some patrol routes.  Anything past that rapidly reaches the "pretty darn hard" category. 

3.  Balance, as you've indicated, is a concern, but frankly that's not too hard to handle, if user-generated levels were forced to stick to Vanilla content.  But if they're using Vanilla content, they're going to get stale, fast.  So we'd have random users rating things, or have Starfarer's crew picking and choosing; either way, people are going to get bent out of shape.

It's pretty hard to see how these issues would get resolved well. 

Probably the best way forward in terms of fleshing out the game universe would be offer some minor bounty for complete content kits for things like complex stations with more interactivity, new art, etc.

However, a lot of that is putting the cart before the horse; before anybody can offer, say, a detailed station experience where you can get lots of semi-random adventures and FedEx quests, solve a murder whodunit and generally have an experience actually worth paying out a bounty to license... the stuff, engine-side, to be able to do things like manipulate the UI in useful ways, like constructing pages of descriptive text and dialogue trees, has to exist.  Massive chicken-and-egg problem, and until this stuff exists, it's probably premature to want content built.
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