Games Of Tomorrow Built By Players Wiki-Style

According to Sim's creator Will Wright and MS Xbox team head J. Allard, most of tomorrow's computer games will be built by the players, not by big budget departments.


(Spore sample world)

Wright's newest game - Spore - will allow players to take over any part of the experience, not just the protagonist. Players should be directors and producers as well.

"(Gaming) is the only medium where we yield control of the protagonist. Let's yield control of the director--and the producer," said Allard, a vice president at Microsoft. "We're going to take on the Wikipedia model. We're going to take on...the open-source model, if you will, for gaming."

Considering the fact that Wikipedia is a non-profit foundation, there seems to be a lot of discussion in corporations about how much money there is to be made in letting consumers do the work of personalizing their experience. The personalize-your-phone ring-tone market brought in more than $600 million last year. Tivo lets you tailor what you see, iPods let you pick the place you watch it. All at a price, of course.

Spore will allow players to control a species as it evolves from single-cell organisms all the way to interstellar space-traveling "Galactic God," creating the appearance of the species and, later on, the very planets they inhabit. Teams of programmers, game designers and artists take much longer than 6 days to create a world; it's cheaper to let the inhabitants do the work. Each player's creations will be uploaded to the company and then downloaded to other players.

Microsoft's Allard also said that the Xbox 360 will increasingly encourage developers to let players add on to worlds and even sell their creations through a central Xbox store system.

The basic idea of letting players build their own games started offline in home-brewed Dungeons and Dragons style gaming environments. Computer users transfered this idea online into Multi-user Dungeons (or domains) in the late 1970's, running on university computer networks and then on dial-up bulletin boards. Ultima Online is the oldest massively multiplayer online game, introduced in 1997.

Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson did as much as anyone to popularize the idea with his 1992 novel Snow Crash. In the novel, he refers to the online characters that correspond to real individuals - he calls them avatars. Here's a description of an online scene; note the importance of personalization by the user:

The couples coming off the monorail can't afford to have custom avatars made and don't know how to write their own. They have to buy off-the-shelf avatars. One of the girls has a pretty nice one. It would be considered quite the fashion statement among the K-Tel set. Looks like she has bought the Avatar Construction Set (tm) and put together her own, customized model out of miscellaneous parts. It might even look something like its owner. Her date doesn't look half bad himself.
(Read more about Neal Stephenson's avatars)

Take a look at a unique online environment - an online multiplayer church - see Church of Fools. And don't miss Rapture of the Avatar. Read more about this story at CNet News. Read a brief review of Spore.

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