There is a loud revolution going on in the gaming world, and yet not everyone is aware of it. And it all has to do with the future of games and the gaming industry at large. But first we have to start with the past and a little game that came out at the turn of the century on the Playstation: RPG Maker.
Making RPGs in the Past
When the first incarnation of this game series came out back in 1997 (Actually way earlier than that but the first real platform it was able to catch people) it was built on 2D graphic systems and produced things you’d mostly just see on the original game boy, if even that. It was still such a stellar system though, allowing gamers to actually make their own games, without having a massive knowledge of coding and you didn’t even need to be an artist. Sure, without that knowledge you missed out on being able to create a more personal experience, but that’s the case even with the most recent RPG Maker VX Ace.
It also had one other major problem, it only dealt with role-playing games. Of course, for the game itself this isn’t a bad thing and RPG Maker definitely shouldn’t be faulted on that. But this meant that people couldn’t really branch out of an RPG without major changes to the system they were initially using. So it was likely to just be one of those things you played around with and maybe made a game for your friends to play, or if you were really invested release a full RPG for others to play through various communities.
That is, until most recently, when people started using the Minecraft engine to make games that people could enjoy too.
The Minecraft Movement
Strangely enough Minecraft wasn’t actually a revolution around user-created content, since Second Life was able to pick up on that, but it did assist the movement in a direction of not only allowing users to create their own content, but also out-sourcing that content to others in the form of various games. All sorts of mods were built around the Minecraft system that allowed people to add in voice acting, and npcs, and create entire maps for others to experience. And all of it was done with a more simple process than RPG Maker and even Second Life had previously produced.
It’s that ease that has made Minecraft shine with such degree as being practically a household name for anyone. All you had to know with that game was how to place blocks and you could learn to do anything, including producing scaled replicas of real life areas of the world, like Beijing.
But even with as far as Minecraft had taken it, there was still a lack in something. The games being produced with Minecraft were still for the most part just RPG since it was using a game built with RPG mechanics. So could that be where Everquest Next and its counterpart Everquest Next Landmark come in?
The Next Era of User-Content
It hasn’t even been a few months since the full reveal of the re-designed Everquest Next and yet once again people are calling it the revolution the MMO genre really needs. And it’s entirely possible that by incorporating both the theme park and sandbox method of an MMO it could actually be the direction needed. Of course they are separating their theme park and sandbox versions of the games into two different games, but the connection gives them a unique power that hasn’t been seen with games before and especially MMOs, and there are elements that are supposedly traded between the two thanks to voxels.
Landmark is even providing something that has yet to be seen with any other game: a market for the content you produce with their engine. Their Player Studio will actually allow you to earn money by selling the stuff you make in the Landmark game. This concept does provide a massive improvement for both MMOs and game development for gamers, but it still puts us in an area of simply using player produced content and not necessarily allowing users to create their own versions of a game simply with the same.
Landmark does present something that RPG Maker can grasp onto though, in the direction of 3D engines.
The Voxel Revolution
We’ve only been hearing about voxels recently but they have been around for a while, since they were required for producing 3d models. It’s only now though that we’ve actually been creating things by building them one voxel at a time though. Second Life allowed users to create the world, but in a method that required producing that creation somewhere else and then bringing it in. With the voxel creation method that was first majorly seen with Minecraft, we can get RPG Maker games that allow users to create fully fleshed 3d games built with preset voxels just like tiles are currently. And better yet, we also get MMO games that are actually entire worlds created by those users based on choices made! It’s not just you do a quest and it resets, the quest can actually end up destroying parts of the scenery when you do it and then further alter the area for the next person.
Regardless of what you may think, it’s clear that Everquest Next has managed to grasp the concept and with it now defined could it mean that soon we will have users developing games with a 3d engine without even having a talent for art or programming or needing a game design degree? Is the ease that was found in Minecraft and the newer RPG Makers going to continue to get easier and offer better games?
And most of all, what kind of impact is this going to have on the game industry? We already have seen a massive influx of indie games from things like Steam Greenlight, would making it easier for the average gamer to make a great 3d game simply overstuff the indie game world, much in the same way that anyone these days can write and self-publish a novel?
It very well could, so while we might have to sift through more crap in the gaming world, there also would be an increase in completely awesome games. Just look at how many great games have come from indie developers already!
What do you think we will see with the voxel revolution and user created content?