There is a lot to be said for user generated content these days. It has basically become the king of the internet, actually. People generally like to create their own stuff, and see their ideas come to life (as long as it’s not too hard to achieve). So why are MMOs still so reluctant to give us the same freedom that websites like MySpace or Facebook have, or games like Unreal Tournament and Oblivion allow?
One of the main ideas behind the MMORPG is to have a persistent world. A world where players can interact with other players and the world will generally react back to them as well, typically through quest lines. For example, if you kill x boss you will then restore y king back to power, or some such nonsense like that. The world will progress through you. An interesting concept, but one not without its own flaws. One of the flaws being that this does not allow for any sort of user generated content. My character can complete quests on behalf of NPCs, however he can’t make his own quest. He can live through the pre-set storyline, but he can’t forge his own story. An interesting problem…
Of course, that’s not to say nobody has tried. Today you can log onto Second Life and proceed to make all sorts of things (as illustrated by the castle above). However, Second Life also doesn’t really have a story line. You can make things but they really have no affect on the world because Second Life isn’t really a world, not in the same sense that WoW is. Another example is the Saga of Ryzom, while it doesn’t exist anymore, the game once provided a content update that allowed for users to create their own stories and scenarios. Unfortunately, I never took the time to test it out, but it is definitely something that sounded interesting.
MMORPGs are much like the internet was 10 years ago. The provide a function, and are generally liked by a good deal of people. However, they aren’t mainstream yet. The World of Warcraft is a huge game, but it could be bigger. As people slowly move toward more and more user generated content websites they are going to start looking for that same functionality within other parts of their lives, including MMORPGs. While it may sound like a challenge now, it’s gotta happen eventually. Nothing escapes consumer apathy. If you give people the tools to make their own toys, you’ll be much more popular because of it.
Bring on the user-generated MMORPGs.