User-generated content seems to be the new hotness in PC gaming, and that trend is becoming more and more present in our MMOs. Few other companies have embraced the players' power to create as much as Sony Online Entertainment, who've made it very clear that they want the player to help shape and build all of their first-party MMOs going forward. Much like Valve's "Steam Workshop", SOE is championing a feature for their games called "Player Studio". Already a part of EverQuest and FreeRealms, Player Studio is a way for gamers to create and sell their own content in SOE's online worlds. Planetside 2 is the next game in line to adopt the Player Studio, and it's currently in the soft-launch phase now with the final version going live on Monday, July 29th. We caught up with Art Director and fancy tie-wearer Tramell Isaac to to chat about the new feature, what it means for players, what can be made, and what the future holds for UGC in Auraxis.
First up, Tramell wants you all to stop panicking: there will be no penises or vaginas coming to Planetside 2 anytime soon. The common fear with any UGC is that immediately players will be making the most obnoxious things they can think of, littering the game world with a bunch of wieners and racist avatars (remember Spore?). That won't be happening here. As with every facet of Player Studio the last line of defense is in SOE's hands. They have to approve every piece of content made by the players, and Tramell said they'll be making sure that every bit of it is game and world appropriate, even faction-appropriate. I wondered aloud if there was an off-chance that something could slip by, and while T-Ray admitted there was, he doubted it would happen because each piece of UGC goes down a long line of approvals before being opened up for sale in-game. It's also SOE's job to make sure that no copyrighted material makes it through, and even if something is questionable, T-Ray said it likely won't make it past them. This all leads me to believe that there won't be a flood of junk coming to the market, and that SOE still cares about quality over quantity even when it comes to UGC.
One of the new helmets made in Player Studio
That bore the question: isn't this going to be a lot of work for the staff on PS2? Thankfully, Tramell says it won't really add much additional work other than "proofing" to the art team's load. They've learned a lot from the implementation of the PS in FreeRealms and EQ, and about 80% of the actual work towards making the items will be done by the creator. The last 20% of refining will be done by SOE before it's put up for sale on the marketplace. Eventually, Tramell hopes that 90% of the work will be done by the player, and only that last 10% of polishing will be left up to SOE.
So what can players make in the studio for PS2? To start: full helmets, camo patterns, decals for the canopy of any vehicle, hood ornaments, and cockpit decals will all be in. Eventually players will be able to make everything including all vehicle cosmetics, actual weapon skins (giving your rifle a new look, not altering its stats), and so on. Players will be doing all of this with roughly the same tool set as the devs, with a few tweaks for usability. Plus there will be in-game guides to the dos and don'ts for making items, as well as a forum for creators to share, get feedback from the devs, and even collaborate with other artists. Tramell knows that sometimes a modeler might be great at actually crafting things, but he or she might need creative help from a concept artist. Eventually he'd like to see a way for both modelers and artists to collaborate on an item and share in the proceeds.
Oh, I didn't mention that part yet? All items made with Player Studio will sell on the marketplace in the game, and 40% of the proceeds will go right into the creator's pocket. Got a great idea for a killer looking helmet? Why not make some spending cash while giving the players something cool to use in-game?
Another one of the new helmets.
And that's when I asked Tramell if this was all part of SOE's larger move to more user-generated content in their games. He said it most definitely is, and that SOE believes all MMOs would be wise to adopt this mentality. There's only so much content a developer can churn out, at high cost, only to have it gobbled up by the consumer who then is left starving for more. Player Studio is a step towards actually giving players control of their worlds, and more importantly it's a part of building a lasting community in their games. By letting players make their mark on a game, it helps them build real ties to a world, and hopefully keeps them coming back for years.
Player Studio in Planetside 2 is soft-launched today, and goes completely "gold" on Monday. Are you going to step up to the plate and make a cool helmet for the Vanu? Let us know in the comments!
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.