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How to bring high-quality and high-potential content to consumer players, how to empower regular creators, and constantly support them, are urgent challenges for developers to consider in the long-term operation of UGC related games.

Yongcheng Liu, Blogger

September 5, 2023

6 Min Read

Since Minecraft, Fortnite and Roblox sweeping the world, the importance of user-generated content (UGC) in the gaming industry is increasing rapidly. Many developers are joining in, either by implementing in-game ugc editors or providing level design activities, and players now have a range of level editing tools to unleash their creativity. This form of players being both content consumers and creators may become a major trend in the future development of games.

Among the countless player creations, skilled creators have attracted a lot of attention. They have been interviewed by well-known gaming media or game developers to explore their creative process and design inspiration. Undoubtedly, the stories of these top creators can inspire game developers and motivate viewers and players. However, their stories are still not enough to fully understand the entire user-generated content player ecosystem.

From the perspective of the KOL pyramid model, regular user-generated content players are a large group of creators. But there is few research or discussions on how they differ from top creators, their current situation, their demands, etc. We started some research projects, hoping to provide some clues on how to explore and maintain this large player/creator base in game.

What is the reason for ordinary UGC players to start creating content? How did the creative ideas come?

Strawberry(nickname) is a college player who started Roblox last year, but only got hands on trying the UGC editor this year. "Every time I log in, I see the popular maps on the homepage, and when I play them, I want to recreate a similar one." Coincidentally, Green Liquid, a veteran player of Minecraft, has a similar idea. "I keep seeing visually stunning maps on video platforms, with great color combinations, which I think are amazing. I also want to try making a map that only belongs to me.”

Many UGC players want to make popular contents and be popular among communities. No one likes an unchanging pattern, and most players wants to try what's hot. Trying to create similar UGC content to ride the trend has become the starting point of their content creative path.

In addition, creating maps for friends to play together is also one of the reasons for some players to start creating user generated content. Places where friends could hang out casually are common pattern, and many players want to use game editors to create places for themselves and their friends to have good memories.

Some creators may want to create more interactive maps, or generate game levels that they can play with their friends. "The motivation is that I often play levels generated by other players, and I wanted to create a map for my buddies to play. At first, I wanted to create something purely for sightseeing, but without any gameplay, it lacks engagement, so I added some game mechanics.” A creator told us.

It is not difficult to see that there is a group of players who, after seeing visually stunning or uniquely fresh popular user-generated content on social media, have the idea to try it themselves. And their creative inspiration, or the starting point for their creation, is more about a word - replica (imitation), whether it is imitating the works of others or bringing reality into the game.

This is easy to understand. Compared to starting from scratch, remaking has a clearer and visible creative object, and the sense of purpose is relatively stronger, so you won't give up at the beginning. Secondly, remaking has a low threshold for creation and a high probability of success. It allows you to experience the fun and achievement of creation in a short period of time. Many players can also make small innovations based on replicas, and the cost is relatively low.

For ordinary creators, they often "borrow" ideas from top creators when it comes to getting started and exploring ways to use UGC tools. Regarding tool usage techniques (such as using advanced tool, tool combinations, and functions that can enhance graphic creation efficiency, etc), they usually need the game to provide a problem-solving approach or explain tool usage principles with clear examples. By absorbing and applying practical experience, they can start to create new content on their own.

However, some of them may still encounter many obstacles when creating user generated contents.

What are the challenges faced by regular UGC players?

Similar to the creators at the top, the motivation for regular UGC players to continue creating is mostly the following:

  • [Fun] Creating works by themselves and experiencing the fun and sense of accomplishment in creation.

  • [Recognition] Continuously receiving likes and recognition from other players, resonating with others through their works.

  • [Opportunity] Obtaining official recognition and support, thus further expanding their own influence.

  • [Rewards] Discovering rewards and income opportunities (such as becoming a KOL).

  • [Community Belonging] Making new friends during the creation process, engaging in friendly discussions, and generating a sense of community belonging.

In the process of constantly talking with creators, we have also found that besides generating content for pure love, ordinary UGC players are more motivated by the support and encouragement from viewers and fans, as well as the potential opportunities for income, to overcome difficulties and improve their creations.

Although the long-lasting motivating rewards of the platform and the stories of successful creators have encouraged many players to join the UGC community, players most of the time could realize that the popular works are always created by the same top players. And sometimes few players are playing in their maps, which generates less motivation to keep creating more contents.

On one hand, leaving aside players who only care about the joy of creation, ordinary creators often face the dilemma of entering the game late and finding it hard to stand out. Unlike the key creators at the top of the pyramid, who have established an unshakable position in their niche through constant innovation in themes and contents, who have their own personal styles, regular creators’ themes of content creation are narrowing down and many of them lack of proficiency in using UGC tools, making it difficult for them to figure out where to start and how to make progress with their own unique characteristics.

On the other hand, game user generated content platforms have a "symbiotic relationship" with top creators, and the platforms’ resources will unconsciously lean towards the top. In terms of making profits, top creators are important assets for the platform, and the platform will give them more opportunities for making a living as well. Secondly, in terms of user ecosystem, top creators with strong and distinctive content creation can help the platform attract new users and stimulate user engagement, and the platform's viewings can be more inclined towards top creators. Therefore, in the content ecosystem created by the UGC platform, it is difficult to break the barriers among different tiers.

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