I am very happy that the MMORPG.com team asked me to talk about our crowdsourcing efforts on Shroud of the Avatar. It is so exciting to be working directly with the community at such a remarkable depth. I have not felt this entwined with our players since the early days of Ultima Online almost 18 years ago.
There are six programs that illustrate our commitment to direct player contribution. Five of them are made possible by the Unity platform and Unity Asset Store, which I cannot say enough good things about. The analogy Richard Garriott likes to give is to the movie business. When making a movie you can purchase or rent a large amount of the content you need. This includes the tools (cameras and lights) as well as the props (stop signs, benches, plants, etc.). Unity has really heralded in a new age of game development that brings us closer to making games more like movies where we can finally purchase much of what we need without having to make it all from scratch.
Unity Asset Store Loop:
We start with the normal path of purchasing assets from the Unity Asset Store. Many of those assets are useable right out of the box but some of them need a little work. We improve those assets and then use them in the game. Now it gets interesting because we then give the improved versions back to the original creators for free so that they can sell the improved versions. We only request that they add “as seen in Shroud of the Avatar” to the asset. This hopefully leads to the original creator selling more of their assets because they are improved and they are getting advertised as part of a high profile project.
Crowdsourcing World Art:
Users can submit world art directly to us to use in the game. If the art is used in the game we pay the creator for their submission. This of course is not unusual but we do a couple of things differently than most. First we offer double compensation if the submitter chooses to apply the payment to their pledge. This makes it so players can over time upgrade their pledges by submitting content to us successfully. Second we encourage the contributors to sell their items they make for us in the Unity Asset Store as well. We only request that they add “as seen in Shroud of the Avatar” to the asset. This essentially allows the creator to get paid twice. In the future we hope to expand submissions to include music, sound effects, animations, user interface, and anything else we can think of. More information can be found here: https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/forum/index.php?threads/crowdsourcing-of-the-avatar.2290/
Game Assets to High Level Backers:
As far as we know we are the first developer to make our game assets available to other developers through our “Build Your Own Dungeon” program. This program is for our backers who are Developer level and above: https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/?p=28594. Our backers can use these assets to make content for us (and get paid for it) or they can use it in their own games.
We have started the first in a series of multi-week contests where we challenge the community to build maps in Unity for Shroud. Each scene jam happens over a weekend. On Friday we will reveal the secret scene challenge and the details! This will likely be done in the form of a document, a video, and some specific assets to help you get started. The secret scene challenge will vary each week and could be anything from Richard describing one of his ideas for a scene to a piece of concept art. We are co-sponsoring these contests with big partners like Unity & Alienware so the prizes are worth over $10,000 and include things like Unity Pro License, a Duke level pledge (with all the attached rewards), an Oculus Rift, and some Alienware gear. The first starts today! https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/?p=29588
To facilitate all of the above we have started giving tutorials about Unity, concept art, and game art creation as part of our developer hangouts with the community. These tutorials are a great way to learn the ins and outs of making game content directly from AAA developers. You can check them out here: https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/?cat=9 and https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/?cat=14
Developer+ Forum Feedback Loops:
Any backers at developer level or above have access to private forums where we the development team discuss game development issues with them. This ranges from getting them to vote on art (we just did a poll on the Edelmann player house) to helping us flesh out our new FAQ we just released. The FAQ experience in particular was awesome because our dev+ folks helped us find errors, missing information and places where we needed more clarity.
As you can see from these programs we are committing ourselves to crowdsourcing in an unprecedented manner and we hope to do even more.