Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Are LittleBigPlanet’s Public Tools a Good Thing for Design
From Eduardo

Hi all, the election is over so I will return to non-political stuff. Sorry if I annoyed anyone with my views. I didn’t intend to be a political forum, but the election and what’s going to come from it was too critical to not attempt to inform the public in some way. But, let’s get back to what this place is supposed to be about, the game industry. What better way to do that, than with a question?

Full Question: “LittleBigPlanet is out. Do you think it’s a viable platform for wannabe level designers or all the tools Media Molecule managed to include are gonna go unnoticed to most gamers? What are the pros and cons of handing out powerful tools such as those to the gamer community and how does that affect game design? And, on a different note, is Sony going to be held responsible for all the agressive/racist/offensive/copyrighted content gamers eventually share over their servers?” -Eduardo

An interesting question (I expect no less from Eduardo). Let me first say that this is not the first time that a developer has included the toolset with which to make levels for a game. You can already make games using the Unreal tools, or Blizzard’s Starcraft and Warcraft 2 or 3 tools. What’s unique about LittleBigPlanet is that the tools are on a console. Something that has only been able to be done recently because consoles started having hard drives. We have several previous games to look at though to determine what might come out of LittleBigPlanet’s public toolset, so let’s start there.

Many people have made Quake or Half-Life maps and mods. In fact, the market is pretty much flooded with such things. In the case of Half-Life, there have been some critical mods made by hard core gamers that totally changed the world of first person shooters. Counter Strike was just a mod at first, but it became such a phenomenon that Valve went ahead and hired the creators to continue their work within the company. Though such success stories are pretty few and far between, many level designers have gotten their start in the industry by demonstrating their skills at map making for games already on the market.

Warcraft 2 had a very simple map making program that many people used to make multiplayer maps. However, it wasn’t until Starcraft that people were able to get their hands on an actual proprietary scripting system that would allow them to do… Pretty much anything. From Starcraft maps I have seen versions of Tetris, full blown movies, and a variety of game types that are far removed from the original concept of the game. From Warcraft III there has been quite a few mods that have become just as popular as the normal game (if not more so). Many people have “Defense of the Ancients” (DOTA) parties where everyone works cooperatively to stop the oncoming hordes of bad guys that the AI will spawn and send at their bases. Of course, while there are shining examples of taking the tools and making wonderful things, there is also a massive truck of shit that is dumped daily into the game world.

I don’t want to say that the people who make some of these things are mentally disturbed, but it’s hard to think of how a normal person would come up with the idea for a game they lovingly termed “virgin rape” that also comes with equivalent sound effects that they packed in for our pleasure… Warcraft 3 also had the benefit of distribution via hosting games on, during my time at Blizzard after Warcraft 3 shipped I would often go onto to see what the community was making and playing as far as custom maps go. Let me tell you, there are some horrible things out there. Things no person should ever have to play through.

That being said, we also found that DOTA was one of the most popular custom map types on, and as such we included it in the Frozen Throne expansion for War3. We did not, however, hire the people who made it. Nevertheless, DOTA is still one of the most popular Warcraft 3 custom maps ever made. Not to mention that maps like Tower Defense which started as really silly but fun custom maps in Starcraft and Warcraft 3, are now full blown games with entire development teams behind them. Pretty cool…

I should point out that I think having these kinds of design tools (easy to use, intuitive and fully functional) are the best thing a game developer can do for a game. Long after the initial hype of your game has worn thin and long after the campaigns have been played through multiple times and after the allure of playing multiplayer of the standard game type over and over and over again has worn out, you will find that there is a plethora of new game types that will keep players coming back to your game for many years to come. Half Life 1 would have been long forgotten if things like Counter Strike hadn’t kept the fires burning. Would anyone but the hardcore multiplayer Warcraft 3 nuts still be playing if not for maps like DOTA? Probably not.

So, let’s get to Little Big Planet. Are the tools they made for it a good idea? Absolutely. The amount of content that will come from that will keep people playing the game for ages. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone will make something that wows everyone and it will start the itch to play all over again.

How does having the design tools affect the game design? Well, honestly, you have to spend a lot of design time perfecting the tools for public consumption. On Warcraft 3 we spent much of our development time upgrading and enhancing the Warcraft 3 trigger system so that it would be one of the most powerful and easy to use scripting systems out there. How many players decide to make content for your game is directly proportional to how easy the tools are to use. It does take some time away from design working on the game directly, however, the benefit the design team gets from having really amazing tools FAR outweighs the cost of spending time making those tools (unless you make them stupid, don’t do that).

If you’re a developer and the team is putting no consideration towards updating and making your design tools easier to use, beware, for there will likely be a very difficult crunch cycle towards the end of your project, and a very steep learning curve for any new designers at the beginning. Also, the company is likely run by idiotic morons who don’t care about making great games and just want to crap something into a box and get it onto store shelves. Just saying… Tools are important.

As to Sony being held responsible for bad content that players put out there… Well, they will have to police things to a certain extent. No doubt someone will make a level that will crash the PS3 at some point. They’ll have to ban people who pass that around and make it. There will be some questionable content ones like the infamous “Virgin Rape” that I saw in Warcraft 3. However there’s likely an EULA that says they’re not responsible for your dumb ass downloading shit like that and being offended. No doubt they will yank maps like that from public consumption when they eventually see it, and they may or may not punish the creators at that time.

Overall though, I expect to see a great many things come out of Little Big Planet. I personally think their tools are more limited than Warcraft 3, but they do have an ease of use that is unmatched in any other toolset I’ve seen out there (so far). Hopefully many other developers will jump on this bandwagon and we’ll soon see a plethora of custom new game types within all the games we enjoy playing. It’s almost like an infinite content generation engine. Powered by the hard labor of fans.

It’s a beautiful and occasionally horrifying thing.
posted by CommanderHate at 5:24 pm  

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks again,Commander. On a side note, I just read MM and Sony are starting to delete custom levels due to copyright infringements… guess you were right!
    Anyway, I’ve seen some pretty amazing user-created levels in LBP, and most of the good ones were based in existing IPs, like the infamous God of War level, Sonic’s Green Hill Zone levels, the SAW one, Gradius and many others. I wonder how the deletion news will affect the avid community…
    See you next time!

    Comment by Eduardo Breda — November 11, 2008 @ 6:10 am

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