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PlayerCreated Assets

Here is something else that might be risky but potentially a significant advancement for this kind of game (MMORPG) -- Player Created resources/assets to add to the game. We've seen some minor aspects of this in games like LOTRO where players submitted textures for horses that were used in the game or longer ago in Neverwinter Nights, player created clothing+prop objects/terrain building blocks which were then distributed enmasse (via Patch) allowing world builder's use in the player-controlled server game (64 players per server).

The player base is a huge resource for imagination and skills (and time+effort) which could help a MMORPG in one of its main difficulties -- the need for a constant stream of new content to keep longterm players interested.

The main difficulties are
1) Legalities of ownership of things that players create and submit to the company
2) Proper Tools being provided to players to allow them to create assets compatible for the game engne. Often such tools (easy/simple to use ones...) can be as big a project as the game itself.
3) A vetting procedure for the assets that eliminates invalid/dysfunctional/improper/duplicate/inadaquate/unbalanced items without consuming excessive company resources ($$$). Some apsects of asset validation can be automated.
4) Friendly mechanism to constantly send (publish) new assets to all players (we have alot of bandwidth these days so transparent background transmission should be doable - it just hasnt been really done yet). Otherwise a (prefeably quick) Login-time Patch of client content has to be done.

Such Asset items could be:
1) Clothing/body variations (these usually dont effect game mechanics, so are easy to vet/test)
2) Terrain modules/building blocks (requires 3D type editing, but templating can greatly speed up creation)
3) Props (freestanding 3D objects that can be placed within the terrain and manipulated - including vehicles)
4) Sound effects (new or modifications/variations) - maybe voice 'recordings' or basic NPC dialog snippets. Music of various sorts (copyright vetting ,,,,) Text speaking...
5) Textures for signs/wall/floor/liquid surfaces
6) Particle/lighting effects (water/fire/sparks/flocking/vapors/insects)
7) Behavior scripting of props/NPCs/baddies/effects (this is largely in the expert realm for the core 'scripts' but adjustable parameterization/templates can be used to allow tuning/cloning)
8 ) Mini-Games (game scripting code+2D assets -- Apps creation tools already exist to do this)
9) Assemblies/installations of game scenes - combinations/clusters of props/terrain placed in relation to each other. This may be some small cluster of props or extend all the way to entire unique modules of cityscape (think of a rival to Kasmirs... or a football stadium)
10) 3D character animations - new or variations of existing movements of figures (Avatars/NPCs/baddies/props)
11) Game mechanics (usually very difficult but can be a matter of parameter changes instead of logic and possibly recombinations of existing modular logic : ie- new machine (prop) that effects the local environment and 'connected' objects in already defined ways -- via standard attributes)
12) Auto-generation patterns for the Self-extending parts of Rapture (world map) that can grow with additional players (or at least grow the city huge without alot of very tedious and expensive development hands-on ($$$) customization -- which the company wont be willing to pay for).
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One aspect which is often missed : is that some Assets mentioned above have more than one component, which more than one person is better/skilled at creating/modifying, and Collaboration SHOULD be done to facilitate good Asset creation. Thus a publishing/review mechanism would be needed to allow unfinished/polished assets to be submitted/reviewed/critiqued/pre-vetting/tested/modified/resubmitted/voted on -- with any component being potentially added to/modified/refined by players having more skill.
Many of the Assets would be 'parameterized' so that people without programming/scripting skill would be able to modify/adjust/tune them for asthetics/balance/polish. Retouching graphics textures is something that just about anyone can do who has Photoshop or even Gimp. Even NPC behaviors are largely controlled via flags/coefficients that tune their responses and certainly NPC dialog scripting is mostly creating appropriate text response tree-patterns.
A good part of the vetting process would be carried out by players (Scripting especially is one that can require specialized expertise to make sure it does what its supposed to, but also does not have something hidden in it that is harmful or improper). Sandbox Testing Worlds that allow viewing/manipulating/testing candidate objects INSIDE the game mechanism would need to be be provided (the tools would also pre-test alot OUT-OF-GAME). Efforts by players in these activities could possibly be rewarded IN-GAME -- at minimum with recorded attribution of their effort for the new creations/improvements.

Some players have more fun doing the above chores/activities than actually playing the game and creative roles like this can greatly increase the player MTBQ (mean time before quitting). Too many MMORPG games Ive seen have multitudes of players STARVING for something new to do in the game and this kind of continuous additions (far beyond what game companies budget for in-house) would also keep many people playing (AND PAYING) much longer.

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Again, this is something not yet seen in any major game company's MMORPG products (there is risks the investors usually flee from), but it may in future turn out to be the way these games get done. It would take a company who really wants to be "Cutting Edge" to carry it out.
Bioshock Online 'The Rise of Rapture' would already have the seed Assets to make a good initial chunk of the game World (playable while players create/submit and have assets adopted) and thus a head start as compared to an entirely new genre.
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