Video Gaming is something of an expensive hobby. Systems have cost anywhere between $100 and $600. Games are $60 each. Then there are peripherals and $1500 TVs. So it makes sense that gamers are looking for ways to make their gaming dollar go further. But what can the Developers do to help your money go further? They can offer one thing: added value.
Multiplayer will add quite a bit of replayability to a game, particularly if all you're really interested in is going online and shooting your friends in the face with sniper rifles. First Person Shooters are becoming known for particularly robust multiplayer experiences, but other games will have multiplayer modes that are equal to, sometimes even better than, the single player game. Gears of War and Uncharted have been noted for a solid Multiplayer experience. And sometimes the multiplayer is just tacked on as an afterthought. I'm looking at you, Grand Theft Auto IV.
Add-ons can range in size from the Gigawatt Blades in InFamous, to The Ballad of Gay Tony in Grand Theft Auto 4. New missions, new weapons, new Multiplayer maps, even things as useless as the Gold Amp for Infamous 2. Rockstar really shines in the Add-On department: Undead Nightmare, The Lost and the Damned, and the Ballad of Gay Tony are completely new stories related to the games they're expanding. How's that for added value?
Creating an Open World environment with plenty of side missions unrelated to the core story of a game has seen considerable growth since it was first introduced in the 1980s. Yet again, Rockstar really shines in this department. Other Developers are catching up in the quality department. I'm looking at you Sucker Punch (InFamous) and Ubisoft Montreal(Assassin's Creed). Just Cause 2 gave us 414 square miles to play around in. I was at 89% completion after 125 hours of gameplay. Let's see more of that kind of thing. Just remember to include lots of airplanes.
And, finally, there is User Generated Content. This is hands down the best way to add replayability to a video game. People who bought the first LittleBigPlanet on Day One are still having fun with it. The reason UGC is such an added value is the fact that there's always more of it. Granted 90-99% of it sucks, but there are 4.3 Million user created levels on LittleBigPlanet2, 1% of that is still 43,000 levels worth playing. the best part is it doesn't cost anything to download and play User created levels.
But how best to use it? How can it be applied in games that aren't LittleBigPlanet? Let's look at some different Genres and see if we can figure it out.
First Person Shooters — My initial impulse was a Multiplayer Map Editor, but I noticed something when I was playing LittleBigPlanet2: there was never more than two or three people playing a user created level at any given time. Some levels didn't have anyone playing. This didn't bode well for the idea. what would happen if 40,000 people were playing on 50,000 maps? You'd end up in a sniper duel against yourself. So I considered a mission editor for the single player. Start with a totally blank area, choose an environment (desert, jungle, urban, spaceship, cave, etc.), place buildings, trees, rocks, cars, garbage, hills, and other stuff, place enemies and obstacles, define an objective and you're done. If you're lazy, you can place a single player mission in a multiplayer map, or if you're really lazy, you can just play all the user created levels.
The MP map editor can be made to work, however. if players can see which maps are the most popular, which ones are the most used, and, of course, players can just invite their friends to a specific map. With all those features in place, the really awful maps will be neglected, and eventually deleted.
Sports Games — Let's try and name a few sports that aren't played on wide open flat fields. We could maybe tweak the players' uniforms, or make the outfield grass purple. This isn't going to work.
But wait, there's Golf, and racing.
With Golf…. a really robust course editor would be perfect, especially if some of the obstacles were giant cupcakes, and windmills, and freeways and stuff. I could see something like this happening in Outlaw Golf or Hotshots Golf, if it hasn't already.
Racing games like Need For Speed, Burnout, Motorstorm, DeathTrack, and WipEout should learn from ModNation Racers and include a track editor. WipEout could also include an Anti-Gravity craft editor. Can't you just see some of the craft people would come up with? Not to mention the tracks.
Sandbox games — I'll find out how well InFamous 2 did with its mission editor on Tuesday. Some of you already know because you got into the Beta. I hate you all, and I hope you all die. No I don't, I'm just kidding. I am a little jealous, though. the great thing about the mission editor in a sandbox game is you won't be starting with a blank slate, like you would in LBP or a First Person Shooter. the map is already there. Set the starting point, define the objective(s), place enemies and/or obstacles, and you're done. Let's see a mission editor in Assassin's Creed and Grand Theft Auto. Could be fun.
Platform games — Honestly, LittleBigPlanet already nailed it. 4.3 million levels have been created. That's huge.
You don't have to create anything yourself to benefit from UGC. Other people will create. All you have to do is find the good stuff. There will always be more.