Dungeon Creator

Quake Level Editor

Quake level editor - slightly less complicated than brain surgery.

Although I haven’t messed around with map editors and developer tools in years, I used to be a big fan of creating my own resources for games. I was practically addicted to level editors for Doom, Quake, Command & Conquer etc when I was a kid and playing Starcraft 2 recently has brought a lot of those memories back and I’m just itching to create a new SC2 map (I’ve got a great idea for a 4 player scenario). It made me think of something though: much like these map editors, couldn’t we have tools for creating our own dungeon and raid instances in MMORPGs?

Obviously there would need to be limitations on what could be created and it would all have to be built using pre-existing resources (textures, mobs, items etc) but it seems to me like it would be a rather elegant solution for dealing with the constant demand of content in MMOs. I mean, how many times have you run the same group instance in WoW or done the same raid in Everquest 2? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to do totally new things on a consistent basis or even design your own dungeon for your guild to attempt?

No doubt creating a dungeon is a very complex and complicated process that designers and developers go through but surely it would be possible, with the right amount of time and effort, to create software tools that could be used by the fan base to create dungeons? Items and loot could just drop randomly or be associated to special boss mobs and there would need to be some basic rules and restrictions in place to stop creators trying to abuse the system and create exp mines or loot factories. Although it would certainly add an additional overhead to the MMO company, they would most likely require someone to manually check and approve all player made dungeons before they were made available to the public (just like in the Appl store, for instance).

I’m sure many people would argue that all of this would damage the story or immersion of their favourite MMO and they’d probably be right but, as we’ve witnessed with things like the introduction of Real ID and in-game integration with Twitter, MMORPGs are already moving away from the idea that external intervention is sacrilege. Further more, as many people pointed out with Blizzard’s integration of Real ID, not acknowledging the outside world and being immersed in a game are two completely separate things. And at the end of the day, does it really matter if a dungeon in LotRO doesn’t tie in with the books or if an instance in WoW isn’t directly about the Lich King? I’d be curious to know how many people honestly cared about that sort of stuff anyway, at least in WoW.

I know the idea isn’t fool proof and would still require a reasonable investment of time and money by any developer in order to carry it out but it would certainly be an interesting way forward for MMOs and potentially give players the freedom, creativity and content they so desire.

So, brilliant idea or just plain bonkers?

-Gordon

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19 Comments

  1. Arkenor says:

    City of Heroes has taken some steps in that direction. Is that the sort of thing you mean>?

    • Jon says:

      Sounds *exactly* like what City of Heroes/Villains has via the Mission Architect. I remember the press release from the Monday after they released the tools – the Players had created more content in *one weekend* than the development team had been able to create since the start of work on the game.

      And, contrary to Tesh’s concerns, a lot of it was rated 4 and 5 stars by the community after playing through it.

      Ryzom has creation tools, too – but the playerbase has always been much smaller, so there isn’t nearly the amount of good content developed for it.

  2. Stop says:

    Two MMOs already have this, to a certain extent (usually with regards to customizability): FFXI’s Moblin Maze Mongers and CoH’s Mission Architect.

  3. Klepsacovic says:

    The lore problem isn’t really so bad, it just needs to be approached from a safe direction. Clearly no lore characters can be created or used, so the instance would be limited to trash and NPCs of low enough rank as to be insignificant. They would use specific texture and mob sets to resemble currently existing instances and explained as extensions of them rather than truly new areas. This could even improve the lore situation, by reducing the gap between lore world size and game world size.

    • rowan says:

      I have to agree here. In WoW, at least, there are a number of instances–and even a raid or two–currently in the game that do not have a direct impact on the sweeping history of Azeroth, IMHO. They may have quests that lead into and out of them, but they are not part of the central epic.

      STO is an even better example of a game that could have a mission editor in it. It is already heavily instanced, and many of the minor missions involve a somewhat random group of rooms and corridors, as well. Cryptic even bragged about it at one point, if I am not mistaken. It would not be hard to give players a bit of leeway in designing some “dungeons” there.

    • Gordon says:

      Absolutely. It wouldn’t be any sort of substitution to properly designed instances but it would be a nice alternative to running the same content over and over again.

  4. Tesh says:

    To a degree, LOVE allows players to modify the game, as does WURM. Neither is quite what you’re talking about here, but there is precedent for some user control over the world.

    …but you know that it would be abused by idiots. I think it’s safe to say that the first few dungeons created would be patterned after crude body organs. That’s just what idiots with editors do.

    My company has dealt with user generated content before, and we really pushed for an editor to our Band of Bugs game, in spite of Microsoft’s concerns. We got the editor in there, but we ran into two things: One, not many people bother with it, and two, of those that do, there is an unfortunate amount of actively bad design and a significant amount of incompetent design. It really didn’t add a lot of value to the game, and we certainly didn’t see much of that value in increased sales.

    I think a dungeon maker for something like WoW could benefit from someone like Ixobelle, but he’s a bit of a rare snowflake. A pointy one.

    User generated content can be pretty cool, but far too many people either abuse it or misuse it, and in the end, it’s just not worth the dev time in the vast majority of cases. Unless an MMO is built for it from the ground up, it’s almost certainly not worth introducing it later.

  5. Zerakin says:

    I thought the developers already have one at their disposal, but it is just not released to the public.

    • Tesh says:

      The editor we used to make levels in Band of Bugs is almost exactly like the map editor we released for the retail version of the game. It made it easier to test the editor to have us use it internally for level design; call it a trial by fire, as it were.

      We did have a few special “dev tools”, but probably 90-95% of the tools we used are in the player editor.

      On the other hand, when I worked on Tiger Woods, the tools we used to make the golf courses just wouldn’t work for players. There were too many specialized setup options and no real master editor suite.

      That’s why I say you really should have a plan for this sort of editor from the beginning. It’s a headache to develop it later. It’s not impossible, but it’s not usually just an easy thing. We always knew we wanted a level editor in BoB, so we could build for it. TW wasn’t supposed to have an editor, so the tools didn’t have that in mind.

  6. Bhagpuss says:

    Ryzom’s first expansion was something along these lines, wasn’t it?

  7. RubberJohnny says:

    While I’m not so sure about allowing this for PvE instances, creating maps for PvP battlegrounds is something that MMOs would do well to support. With a way of turning off rewards and running custom maps, guilds could test and iterate within the game itself, just as FPSes do on private servers today.

    I’d point to Team Fortress 2 as a non-MMO model I’d like to see adopted, with the cream of the fan made maps being added into the base game and officially supported.

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