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Is Crowdsourcing the Next Big Thing In Game Design?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the everyone-make-a-zombie dept.

PC Games (Games) 47

An anonymous reader writes "We've all heard about user-generated content for games that have fixed toolsets — but this interesting piece on Develop has got me thinking about the idea of games production being opened to a community before development finishes. A new iPhone game (Aztec Odyssey) did that with its soundtrack; could someone do it with the game's art assets? Or level design? A great comment under the story says that LittleBigPlanet would have been more interesting if it was just shipped as a toolset with no pre-built levels. I'm inclined to agree!"

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RPGMaker (3, Informative)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324625)

Let's look at that as an example. What a great success that was. (This is sarcasm guys)

Re:RPGMaker (1)

Mystra_x64 (1108487) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324981)

I actually liked it. But Linux version doesn't seem to exist.

Potentially (4, Insightful)

Sylos (1073710) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324653)

In certain circumstances, this could be an amazing and powerful tool for creating some truly genuine creativity. However, with all that power comes a metric ton of suck. This will take off like "player made" MMO's have taken off.

How many times must I say this? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28324667)

"I don't work for free."

Re:How many times must I say this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28329481)

Not necessarily. You've greatly enhanced this /. discussion with your valuable contribution, did you get paid for it?

I hope not (4, Interesting)

courseofhumanevents (1168415) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324671)

The problem with allowing the general public to make content for a game is that you get content the general public makes. If you really want to play in Penisworld, be my guest, but as for me, I prefer content with coherent design beyond the capabilities of Joe Nobody.

Re:I hope not (2, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324727)

While I agree that it would up the ante for crap games from 90% to 99%, there would still be more novel games overall. They'd be harder to find, hiding amongst the crap games like "Goatse: Hunt for the Treasure", but word of mouth would spread them around quickly.

( Trust me, you do NOT want to go looking for that secret level. )

Re:I hope not (2, Insightful)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325643)

The trouble with crowdsourcing is that you might get a handful of cool levels, but you won't get a complete game out of it. Games are fun because they work as a whole, have a carefully crafted difficulty curve, carefully introduced new items and abilities and a story on top of that. With user contributed levels you always have the problem that they start with the assumption that everything is available from the start, progress doesn't happen, the whole game loses coherence, its no longer a game, but just a random collection of levels and I really couldn't care less about those types of games.

Crowedsourcing however works when the customization is limited, i.e. everybody creating his own custom character works fine in MMORPGs, because they are enough restrictions to not break the game world. But for a whole game, no way for me.

Re:I hope not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28325951)

"Games are fun because they work as a whole, have a carefully crafted difficulty curve, carefully introduced new items and abilities and a story on top of that."

Many games cannot hit even this benchmark, also you neglect to take into account that some content doesn't need any kind of context. For instance at some point the "game world" is played out and people just want to do stuff and modify it with art, texture packs and all sorts of customization. Ideally it takes time for great stuff to be made but it's a lot better then relying on developers only. Lots of cool stuff happens, while you may get a lot of crap, that's why you have rankings. On the net Neverwinternights had something like this, at nwn vault, I think if they set up a proper review system/site that could be easily accessed it could work. I found plenty of Neverwinter nigh levels like this.

I think the biggest barrier is not the users but the toolsets to create, it takes a metric assload of work to build game assets, if game developers/elite mod community members could make the whole process of adding making and adding content easier like Neverwinter nights attempted to do, it would do a lot of user generated content.

Re:I hope not (0, Offtopic)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324785)

Some of the best CTF maps for Unreal Tournament were and still are community made.

That said, you can't rely on community content to pick up your game. Epic, I'm speaking to you.
They released UT3 for the PC as a console port, complete with giant text that covers your screen when you hit DOMINATING etc.
But worst of all they butchered the UI (you have to disconnect and click 3 times now before you get back to the server browser-- no more server browsing and loading up the data files for a map you don't have while you keep playing in the current game. This is not complicated stuff, in fact it's so easy they got it right 10 years ago with UT99) and refused to fix the list of 100 or so bugs that were game breaking issues for the pros. Simple stuff like making team communication easier.

It's quite clear what went wrong, they left the bugs in there and didn't bother with correctly porting the game to the PC. The PC gaming crowd is a no-BS sort of group. It's awfully hard to get lots of great content from your userbase for your console players to game on when the only people that can actually make maps are the PC gamers who are underwhelmed by the craptastic game you pushed out. It's pretty sad when the game you made 10 years ago is STILL better than what you came out with (many liked ut2k4, just talking about UT3 here).

Re:I hope not (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28324937)

I started writing a reply to your post and I have a lot of interesting points to make in this subject:

-pc game communities tend towards more technical people that have the ability and interest to create proper game additions, not to mention inherently catering to people who play the game on the same platform that they have access to development tools on.

-lower the barrier to entry creates the "1 tweet" syndrome, or massive massive amounts of cruft that is next to impossible to sort through. OK so you "crowd source" development, how do you "crowd source" QA?

but i found your post meandering, incoherent and mostly not conforming at all to the idea of the discussion at hand. next time, please do take care to read the article and understand the subject before posting a reply. i do not know why you spent 2 paragraphs moaning about epic, pc ports and bugs there in when we are talking about community development.

if i could, i would mod you down as irrational.

Re:I hope not (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325017)

If you really want to play in Penisworld, be my guest, but as for me, I prefer content with coherent design beyond the capabilities of Joe Nobody.

Yes, after searching for hours for decent user created content on little big planet, I came up with roughly as much content as one level of the actual game levels. The quality on the Ico level was about equal to the game's included levels, but that was the only one in the same ballpark that I stumbled across. There were undoubtedly great ones that I didn't find, but how long would I have had to look to find it?

You could play any number of tasteless 9/11 simulators, few of which even worked right (I was curious.) You could play quite a few levels that were just art, some anime character in blocks. A suprising number of "tons and tons of points" levels. Nothing very playable. Aside from the Ico level, which while impressive, would not for me have justified the purchase.

Had little big planet shipped only as a toolset, IMO it would have been an interesting novelty but not a good game. So that's not a good example.

The music in an iphone game also does not seem like a solid indicator as to the rest of the game industry trends.

Re:I hope not (1)

averner (1341263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325131)

Community ratings with a blacklist system, to keep Penisworld out of G-rated games no matter how many trolls think it would be cool to get it in there, would take care of this quite nicely. You won't see much crap float up to the top with a good ratings system. People could still browse the bad mods, but they could also choose not to have to sift through them to get to the good ones.

The main challenge (after advertising of course) is to make it easy for the musicians, level designers, texturers, modelers, etc to express themselves, to spark initial interest in them doing so. With models, you can just have them submit the models in any popular format, allowing modelers using different software packages to contribute content. But with levels, a good map editor is important to get skilled mappers with free time interested and productive. Of course, this is an investment in its own, so overinvesting in this could defeat the purpose of crowdsourcing.

Player input is great, player control isn't (1)

cliffski (65094) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325369)

I agree that if you open up game design and asset design to players you will tend to get a metric ton of crap, but there is a good argument for opening up the design process for commentary by players.

There are a lot of frustrated designers out there with a lot of ideas, and a lot of people who have played a ton more games than me. When I'm considering how to proceed with a part of the design for my next game, I tend to blog about it and canvas opinions. I get a lot of very well thought out design ideas and suggestions, and some of them have and will make it into the final game. (
As long as you aren't making any pledges that the player ideas will take priority over the designers 'vision' (horrible term), then I think there is a lot to be gained by listening to the players. They are the people who will pay for the game, after all.

Re:I hope not (1)

dontPanik (1296779) | more than 5 years ago | (#28333813)

Yeah, I'm glad I don't surf user-created content all day.

For example, what if I surfed a comment system all day where I read options from Joe Nobodies? That would suck! Think of all the shitty opinions I would have to read! Oh wait...

That's just inviting... (2, Funny)

Ransak (548582) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324725)

... more flying penis attacks. [] Won't someone think of the children?

Little Big Planet...more interesting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28324729)

Sure, it couldn't have been less interesting so any changes would make it more interesting.

LittleBigPlanet (4, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324743)

A great comment under the story says that LittleBigPlanet would have been more interesting if it was just shipped as a toolset with no pre-built levels. I'm inclined to agree!"

And I'm inclined to disagree. I enjoyed going through the pre-made content, more than any platform game I've ever played.

Re:LittleBigPlanet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28324853)

It can be fun. You just have to give people a more or less familiar concept to work with, like lego blocks [] . Of course, it wasn't really all that successful, but I had a lot of laughs with it.

Re:LittleBigPlanet (2, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325091)

You mean you actually enjoyed the content made by the people who originally envisioned the how the game should work and built the engine around that concept?

How does that work?

Inmates Running the Assylum (3, Insightful)

EXTomar (78739) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324761)

Its fine to take suggestions and inputs from the audience but asking the audience to create the game for you is insanity (pun!). You will always need the team or the leader or the person in control of "the vision" to make the tough calls when there is no right decision to be made. One of the weaknesses in "crowd sourcing" is that everyone is ready to offer their idea too few are around for the repercussions.

Re:Inmates Running the Assylum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28330679)

Well, "the vision" is usually described -- in great detail -- by the game's design document, which should be quite enough to digest both the game's general direction and specific gameplay elements, if chewed. Granted, studios may not want to offer those for free download on the internet (unless the game is a classic from the late '80's and the majority are interested for nostalgic reasons), but at least Inovaz offered one of their storyboards for a soundtrack -- and money ! Hobbyists can be exceptionally skilled and talented, not to mention the existing professionals who might need some supplemental income. You seem to imply that game developers are infallible or would never benefit from working with people that aren't on a weekly payroll. At the very least it's an interesting way to gauge public opinion, perhaps more for things like level design or 3D modeling than audio engineers. id saw the potential of community cooperation with TNT and Evilution, but that was certainly a special niche. Oh yes, you usually get what you pay for, but if supply is ample..

The next big thing? (1)

nausea_malvarma (1544887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324769)

For the last time, YES.

Re:The next big thing? (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324851)

FINALLY the wave that ZZT started is really picking up steam with Little-Big Planets. And Myth 1,2,&3. And Unreal Tournament (and such). And Civ 1,2,3,&4. And Thief 1,2,&3. And Tenchu2. And everything by Blizzard. And counter strike, but I'm not sure you can really count that as it started as a fan-made branch from half-life. Fan-made art and sound are more rare, but fan-made levels are, well, a common feature now. Those game without one, and some form of downloading the top ten maps/whatever, have significantly less replay value. The designers and writers simply cannot match the bulk that the crowd can manage. And if it's open and free, the crowd can even weed out the crap for you. For pretty plotty games like Prince of Persia and Metal Gear however, the majority of what the gamer is buying cannot be remixed for more fun. Where gameplay is key, that can be re-mixed endlessly, and plot can be laid on top.

Re:The next big thing? (2, Insightful)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325151)

Or to summarize, the non-PC crowd has finally discovered what the PC crowd has been calling "modding" and working on in a large organized manner since about doom.

I hope not (1)

ductonius (705942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324789)

Anything that takes power out of the hands of game designers and puts in into the hands of executives will do very ugly things to games. Not only will crowdsourcing increase executive meddling but they'll have a ream of expensive bullshit to back up their own personal bullshit. Since they paid some knob to get them that ream of bullshit they're damn-well not going to ignore it. Every project will start to resemble game of the year X because that's what the crowd is infatuated with at that time.

Personally... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28324803)

I hope the next big thing in video games is another video game crash and another NES like resurrection where gameplay quality is more important.

Re:Personally... (1)

averner (1341263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325171)

Won't happen. The video game industry is a lot more mainstream and diverse than it once was, so the idiocy of a single company would probably just be like a single goat that was buried under a stampede of goats. Sucks for the goat, but the stampede goes on.

Re:Personally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28326993)

Yeah but what happens to all those good companies who already DO make gameplay the deciding quality?
Over the years, so many of these companies have died out, been closed up, etc, all while the industry is still active.

Plus, the chances of this happening now are very little, the industry is a lot bigger now than it was back then.

Although, in saying that, ever since the Wii came out, the amount of simple games that have came out are incredibly high, from something as simple as bowling to painting on a wall... and since this has become the most popular console, it could spell trouble in the future for the consoles that are aiming for the gamers who want a little depth, not those who just want to pass time by playing virtual bowling or whatever. (not saying all Wii games are simple, but most are)
The other console makers could continue to lose money, call it quits and we are left with Nintendo.
But, other devs could move over to Wii development and make games with depth, so there are 2 sides to this. So it is uncertain what will happen if it does come to this.

Toolset (1)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324819)

A great comment under the story says that LittleBigPlanet would have been more interesting if it was just shipped as a toolset with no pre-built levels. I'm inclined to agree!

You go right ahead. I buy video games because I want to play them, not because I want to make them and then play them. If I wanted to do that, I'd still be collecting Lego sets.

Re:Toolset (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324999)

..If I wanted to do that, I'd still be collecting Lego sets.

There is an important difference between lego and game creation. Lego is fun.

But if I paid money I want something thats "finished".

Sometimes you really need to be an artist (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28324909)

I don't want to sound elitist, but artists are good at what they do because they have a gift for and they practice. I used to know a writer for Valve way way before he ever hit it big time and the guy just had talent in spades. He was just an artist through and through and everything he did he imprinted with his own style that was usually just pretty damned funny. While it might be nice to think that anyone can go and create a great experience given a good editor, the reality is that these things are really more like another way to scrapbook, home movies or karoake, and likely to produce a great work is absurd. The people that make them are a league apart and they deserve to get paid for what they do.

Re:Sometimes you really need to be an artist (1)

averner (1341263) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325155)

And any artist who actually contributes nicely to a good mod will be able to jumpstart a career in that field using their mod as part of their "portfolio." If they can't find a job with what they made, then they probably weren't that good to begin with. So a lot of people who achieve any real success in the mod community, will probably end up dropping out of it because they are so skilled.

For an average Joe, getting good at any part of modding takes hard work and isn't immediately rewarding. Most people play games to have fun and be immediately "rewarded" and positively reinforced. Modding doesn't provide that unless you're either already good at it or enjoy producing utter crap - and given that most people aren't already good, we see lots of crap.

In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28324913)

"My pizza came with a rebate coupon for ice cream. I think it would have been better without the coupon."

Well don't fucking use the coupon then. It's that simple.

WTF? (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325077)

At that rate you may as well just sell programming books and IDEs instead of games. While I do enjoy some fan work it's rarely up to the same standards as the people who've spent hundreds or thousands of hours building a game and understand the full dynamics of the game engine.

I know someone is going to point out something like CounterStrike or Theif's Dark Loader but let's be honest, these are a bit more than simple level creation and they happen to be a small fraction of everything out there today. There's simply the ones that got it right in a sea of badly designed mods and maps.

I remember when Half Life 1 came out and we got a map pack with a few hundred maps it was fun to see some of the ideas out there but when it came right down to it there were more maps that were unplayable than ones that were just as good or better than the stock deathmatch maps. The rest of the maps in the pack were normally based on a gimmick and once you figured out their weakness it turned out to be a complete slaughter for whatever side was unfortunate enough to spawn in a particular area of a map.

So, I'm sure there is tons of great content for any game that allows mods and map creation but it's a pain to find it. Some sites do offer ratings on their offerings but, unless there is a large community to rate these releases, they're often not very insightful. The community is maturing. I'm sure that more content being released today for any given game is better than the stuff offered up even a few years ago. And it's good to see old favorite maps being ported to games with better engines and game play. It still doesn't mean that a few well designed maps/levels of a game aren't in order. The input of the game designers in way of their own vision on how the game should work is priceless to modders and map makers. It also makes those of us who just want to play a game much much happier.

For my part, a game shouldn't be a hobby. I just want to shoot someone in the head, not study a game engine. I'd code my own game if I wanted to put effort into it.

Sorry to be long winded about it...

The future! (2, Funny)

Useful Wheat (1488675) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325483)

There is a recurring joke told by the person that runs Kingdom of Loathing, and he tells it (or references it) weekly in his podcast, and it goes something like this:

My development group is banding together to release a new MMORPG called "The Future". In "The Future" all content will be user created, because according to everybody user created content is the future. Everything will be provided by users, characters, classes, npcs, quests, art, even the combat system, spells, magic, and theme of the game. The game itself will ship as a large gray box in which users will be given the tools to create whatever they want.

And after a few months when the design has settled down, in "The future" players will be represented by cocks and balls, where they will travel around landscapes of cocks and balls with cock and ball trees and animals. And they will kill monsters shaped like cocks and balls with their penis swords and penis spells. Because as any person who has ever been on the Internet knows, this is what people with the spare time to create this stuff will do.

And that's "The Future".

I'm not saying user created content can't be an excellent source of entertainment, I just don't think letting users create the entire thing will work.

Re:The future! (1)

Neon Aardvark (967388) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325691)

There are loads of models of user created content working when there is an element of control exercised - open source software, wikis, and forums with user moderation (like this one).

I think a huge mmorpg world where everyone is on the same "server", and where most of the content is user created with strong user moderation could be really cool and work well.

But alot of gamers suck at design decisions (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325701)

I mean look at Street Fighter 2. One of the main complains were throws existed at all and quite a few gamers tried to unofficially ban all throwing. Doing that pretty much wrecks the game since once they were gone it became next to impossible to really hurt a player who went completely defensive. (If they got any sort of a lead they'd just do defense the rest of the round and win by a timeout.) Of course to make things more insane alot of these people weren't against strikes that turned out to be unblockable attacks. (Which functionally is the same thing as a throw.)

Re:But alot of gamers suck at design decisions (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28328345)

Or you could play a superior game that has counters for throws and for unblockable attacks, instead of sticking with SF2 through Turbo and all that crap.

Re:But alot of gamers suck at design decisions (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 5 years ago | (#28343133)

See, that's a good way to expand on throws. (Give the player options) Of course SF2 is pretty old so it's not much of a surprise it didn't have counters but really the solution the average gamer came up (throws are illegal) was a stupid idea.(Because it wrecks the game.)

Open source development (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325739)

This is simply open source development.
There are lots of games out there made that way, and they simply suck. Probably because of the lack of a big name that puts people together.

Civ IV (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 5 years ago | (#28325831)

Civilization IV took an approach which at least overlaps somewhat with crowd sourcing. They prioritised modding when designing the game, and have subsequently included fan-made mods in expansion packs and converted fan-made unofficial patches into official ones (though they did additional work).

The benefit of this approach is the community does a lot of the work for them. Not just in generating ideas and the actual production, but in filtering out the crap.

The Aztec Odyssey example in TFA does not sound much like crowd sourcing to me. They only went halfway, effectively just having a huge open tender. The other half would have involved the crowd playing a big part in selecting the winner.

Re:Civ IV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28326525)

Civ IV Beyond the Sword is possible my favorite game of all time. (Or the most hated, depending on how I look at it. It is like the smoking heroine of games.) I've probably wasted 200+ hours in Beyond the Sword, but I've not spent a minute of time on downloading additional mods. Downloading material, installing stuff, testing stuff is what I do for a living. It is not my idea of fun.

The Elder Scrolls series is another example. The problem is that too few people are interested in merging smaller mods into modpacks with a coherent vision of what the game should be like. I don't want to research and experiment with mod setups for 50 hours, before playing a game that lasts 50 hours. I just want to sit down, have a drink, play the game and relax.

My "vision" is that games should have a lot of guns and explosives. That's why I had much more fun in vanilla Fallout 3 than in any modification of Oblivion. But that's besides the point.

Re:Civ IV (1)

OnomatopoeiaSound (1276560) | more than 5 years ago | (#28326811)

But just because the mods are out there does not mean you have to take the time to download them. I played Oblivion primarily on the PS3, same with Fallout 3 (I don't own a fast enough computer, so I was playing them on my roomate's PS3 at the time). I felt that I was missing out because, doing some research on Oblivion, I found some very interesting mods that I would have loved to give a go. Basically, what I'm saying is: release the game for those who want to play a game, and release the mod tools so that those who want to can screw around with it and potentially come up with something cool. Sure, 90% of everything is crap, and in this case you're probably going to be looking at 99.9% crap, but that 0.1% may make the effort worthwhile. Just because something is out there doesn't mean you have to use it or even care about it, but I don't think preventing anybody else from trying it is a good idea either.

Used by FPS games (1)

improfane (855034) | more than 5 years ago | (#28327111)

I'd say that most popular first person shooter games that support user created conten

Take Paintball 2 [1], a Quake based shooter comes with some maps created by the designers. Some of these maps are rarely played online because they're not good maps. Instead players have created maps and these have entered global distribution due to good gameplay. Players are the best judge of fun!

'Crowdsourcing' is here to stay. Knowing what makes a game fun and implementing games are different things and this is why players see that they can do better.

If games accept content contributions, the situation will be no different. Since the game is not mature enough, content will be produced afterward by players who feel they can make better maps with better gameplay.

Crowdsourcing will always exist but only after release. I think the best thing studios can do is give credit and recognition to good map creators by including it in the distribution and publicly congratulate them.

1] []

Something like this? (1)

crawdaddy (344241) | more than 5 years ago | (#28329133)

Kongregate is an online game portal with several neat things available to players and devs. They just added the Kongregate Collabs: [] I can't wait to see what comes out of there.

opened to a community before development finishes (1)

fremean (1189177) | more than 5 years ago | (#28329955)

So.... a bit like the same thing EA games has been doing for years?

Oh wait, no, they don't take suggestions or user generated content back, and they rarely even fix the bugs...

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