[E3 2017] The Games Harnessing User-Generated Content


Something peculiar I noticed with three games during the E3 2017 presentations has to do with user generated content, how some specific games are handling it, and why they’re doing it.

Of course there’s the well-known news of Bethesda’s Creation Club which looks like another pass at paid mods. Two games at the PC Gamer Show however also seem to be heavily leveraging user-generated content.

I don’t think Bethesda has explicitly stated Creation Club to be another attempt at paid mods, but I always thought that concept was coming back. I think it has merit and makes business sense for two reasons.

Firstly, I think a lot of the people who make mods do deserve to get compensated somehow. Mods can be huge and complex. When it comes to their size, complexity, and the labor that goes into them, many mods are probably comparable to entire games or at least expansion packs. There are Skyrim mods that add entire quest lines to the game and at least one I know of that creates an entire new game out of it. Right now I think the compensation method modders themselves prefer is a tip jar, through Patreon or other means. Bethesda wants to get in on that revenue stream though (platform holders do too).

The second reason this makes sense is because Blockbuster games are all headed towards Games-As-A-Service, and Bethesda is in a weird position when it comes to this. Almost all these “live games” are multiplayer or otherwise online-oriented. Bethesda’s games on the other hand, with the exception of Elder Scrolls Online, are entirely singleplayer. They stand out to me because they’re almost the only big releases these days that can be wholly enjoyed without connecting to the internet. id tired to jam multipalyer into DOOM but it also tried to draw the classic DOOM mod community into its own ecosystem. User-generated content is probably Bethesda’s path into Games-As-A-Service.

One not-as-talked-about game built entirely on user-generated content at E3 this year is Ylands from Arma and DayZ maker Bohemia Interactive. It basically seems to be a sandbox where players can create whatever kind of “game” they want. I can see why Bohemia made this — it’s pretty much what Arma has become.

User-generated content is already probably the main reason people even play Arma. Mods for it over the years though have become much more elaborate than just fan-made missions, maps, and characters. People have been basically making entire new modes and games out of ArmaDayZ obviously being the most famous. A significant draw to Arma III has been “Altis Life.” My current favorite mod — “Dynamic Recon Ops” is basically its own style of game within Arma III. Let’s not forget that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is descended from an Arma III mod. Arma to many people has become less a game and more a toy chest of tools people use to build other games. Bohemia probably realized this and said “screw it, let’s just make a whole game explicitly to offer that to players.”

Lastly we’ve got WarGroove, Chucklefish’s “Nintendo’s not making Advance Wars anymore so screw it, we’ll make it ourselves,” project. My hope and expectation for this game is that it will do for Advance Wars and Fire Emblem what Stardew Valley did for Harvest Moon.

I’ve actually never played Stardew Valley but I have an idea of why it’s a hit: it seems to me that it took a fan favorite Japanese game — Harvest Moon, and applied to it all the advantages of western PC gaming. It probably added quality-of-life elements western Harvest Moon fans waned but that franchise overlooked, and of course heavily leveraged user-generated content. WarGroove seems to be similar, putting Intelligent Systems’ tight strategy gameplay into a product that gives players more control over it. I think at least one previous AW game had a map editor, so I guess Chucklefish is just taking it further.

I imagine Chucklefish fully expects someone to almost immediately recreate AW and FE campaigns within WarGroove. I don’t know if Chucklefish confirmed this but I would imagine the console versions will have these editors as well. They seemed more like simple-to-use tools any player could use rather than complex scripts for modders.

The common point between all three of these developers is they’re realizing the potency of the user-generation communities that have grown around their products and are trying to harness that.


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