The Near Future Of User-Generated Content On Consoles

A small trend at E3 this year was level editing in games like LittleBigPlanet 3, Mario Maker, and Far Cry 4, which has caused me to wonder if they’ll ever really “come back” to consoles, or rather become even semi-common in the first place.

Even though modding has almost always been a hallmark of PC gaming, I feel like it’s become more commonplace, or at least more accessible in the years since Valve added Workshop to Steam. Now it’s like a lot of games, including indies, are expected to come with level editors. Not just ones for hardcore modders either, but simple editors usable by everyday consumers. One of my favorite games from last year — Gunpoint, originally came with one but just recently added Steam Workshop support. I just put that in there so maybe more people would pay attention to that game.

I used to spend hours messing with some of the few console games that had level editors back in the day. One of the most famous was probably Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. I probably spent an unreasonable amount of time on TimeSplitters trying to design multiplayer maps and singleplayer missions.

You’d think online implementation in console games would increase the prevalence of map editors, letting gamers more freely distribute them, but other than LittleBigPlanet there haven’t really been console games that take full advantage of that potential, at least not recently. I guess it’s because publishers want to sell levels as DLC. LittleBigPlanet instead sells additional creation tools.

Out of what was shown at E3, Mario Maker definitely has the most potential depending on the content distribution method and whether it becomes as well-known as other Mario platformers. I think Pushmo is a good indicator of where Nintendo might go with this. QR codes are easy to post online, but I imagine Nintendo will find some way to heavily leverage MiiVerse with Mario Maker. Nintendo probably should have done this a long time ago. I wonder if the ROM hack community will latch onto this game.

Far Cry 4 has some potential too. The tradition for the franchise has been multiplayer map editors, but I’ve never seen Far Cry multiplayer become a big deal. I’ve seen some impressive maps but I’ve never seen any really catch on. It would be excellent if the Steam edition used Workshop but somehow I imagine Ubisoft will just try its own system through UPlay or in the game itself.

What has me enticed though is a magazine clip suggesting Far Cry 4 will let players design their own outposts for friends to capture. That’s basically user-generated singleplayer and co-op content, which could multiply the amount of time people spend with the game, and I’m confident it’ll have some good creation tools.

It’s kind of weird talking about this at the dawn of a new console generation. All that talk of new online features and only now are we hearing hints of user-generated gameplay content. It’ll never be on the level of PC gaming, but there is some potential that I think isn’t being explored.

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