The Weekly Raid: Can User Generated Content Work In MMOs?
The impact of user created content, including such things as mods, maps, addons, and so on, can hardly be overstated. Entire genres have spawned from mods like Counter-Strike, Dota, and various Battle Royale modes. The dream of bringing the creativity and scale made possible by user generated content into the MMO genre has been around for years. Before Minecraft, Notch worked on a MMORPG called Wurm Online which offered a vast, modifiable world. Unfortunately, the complexity proved to limit its appeal to a niche audience.
Since then, we've seen projects like EverQuest Next & Landmark burn out before even launching. Even more benign forms of user created content like add-ons seem to be on the decline. World of Warcraft, which launched way back in 2004, allowed users to customize not just the UI but to create add-ons which gave players access to a host of data including databases of items, auction house stats, and much more. While there are still some add-on friendly MMORPGs like Elder Scrolls Online, many others strictly prohibit their use.
In anticipation for their Steam Early Access launch this week, World's Adrift developer Bossa Studios has done a number of interviews in the gaming press. I was particularly fond of a GamesIndustryBiz interview that highlights some of what World's Adrift has already accomplished and what's in store in the future.
Of particular note is the fact that an in-game tool called Worlds Adrift Island Creator is available to all players. All of the islands featured in the game were created by users using this tool. The Steam Workshop now allows players to vote on and rate which submitted islands deserve to make it into the live game. This sounds familiar to what Landmark was trying to achieve coupled with EverQuest Next. The difference is that World's Adrift is actually pulling it off, albeit at a far less ambitious scale. While World's Adrift does include persistent world and bills itself as a MMO, its certainly not at the same scale that EverQuest Next was trying to achieve.
That doesn't mean World's Adrift can't serve as a great example of what is possible for the genre going forward. Powered by the much hyped SpacialOS engine, World's Adrift claims that all downed ships and altered landscapes (player created bases and so forth) will be permanent in the game world. That means players will be able to discover the crashed ships of their friends, or even popular personalities like streamers.
Responding to a claim that relying on user generated content could be a form of exploitation, Bossa Studio co-founder Henrique Olifiers responds:
"If you think about Minecraft, for instance, or every mod that you play - isn't that outsourcing the game to the community as well? If you play Counter-Strike, you're playing an outsourced game, because it was a mod on Half-Life.
This is nothing new. If you go back to the days of Neverwinter Nights and the Aurora toolset, you played the main game but the fun of it was the mods and the stuff made by people who enjoy it. DayZ was a mod, PUBG was a mod, Dota was a mod... I could go on. There is something there that the industry overlooks and doesn't appreciate how much the players have created over time."
Further Reading: GamesIndustryBiz Interview