Welcome to the Penny Arcade Expo which Mod DB attended for the first time in 2008, with the aim of taking you behind the scenes - as we approach and talk to developers of mods and games also attending the conference.

Post feature Report RSS Changing the Game... on Consoles

Games that are pushing the envelope of user-generated content on consoles.

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When making my rounds in the exhibition hall in-between panels and presentations, I naturally gravitated to games that incorporate the ability to create custom content. Usually, this means PC games made by companies that have supported and generated modding communities around their franchises. However, there are a few console titles that are pushing the boundaries of creating user-generated content for the controller-wielding masses. Here are a few of the games on platforms other than the PC in which you can look forward to creating your own levels and change the game.

Far Cry 2 (PC, PS3, X360)

All the hardcore tinkerers out there may be have been disappointed to hear that there would be no mod SDK following the release of Far Cry 2. Developers at Ubisoft, however, are making good on the promise of a level editor available with the game at launch. Clint Hocking, Creative Director, demoed the level editor for the Xbox 360 version of the game live at PAX.

For a game as technically stunning and complex as Far Cry 2, the level editor makes the creation of detailed African savannahs and jungles an elementary affair. It draws many parallels to the tools used in the Sandbox 2 editor for the CryEngine 2 but with an uncluttered, streamlined user interface tailored for use within a console. Within minutes, Clint constructed a colonial village on a golden savannah plain bordered by undulating hills. This was a level complete with vehicles, foliage, and ambient sounds. Then, within a few button presses, he was able to covert the whole thing into a jungle environment - complete with early morning fog. The ease of construction and replacement of assets on environments of this scale, on a console, hasn't been done before.

Of course, all of this incredible ease of use comes with a price. No user-created assets will likely be allowed to be imported due to stringent controls of the platform. However, users will be able to use all of of the game's official assets. It remains to be seen if the PC version of the editor will prove itself as viable, but Far Cry 2 deserves to be recognized for its efforts in pushing user-generated content creation on consoles.


LittleBigPlanet (PS3)

I got to see this game up close and personal for the first time at PAX and it's charm is undeniable. Even with all the hype surrounding it -and while playing the game on a crowded show floor- the game still manages to unleash the inner child within. I consider this game to be more of a toy, similar to Will Wright's design purpose behind his "Sim" games and Spore. The real meat of the game/toy is in designing your own levels. Imagine having your own virtual toy box full of various odds and ends and then going to town with it. Make you own Rube Goldberg-esque machinery, labyrinthine mazes to explore or even constructing elaborate platforming puzzles to stump your friends.

This whole game's light-hearted undertone and whimsical nature is amplified by the amount of expression and emotion conveyed through players avatars. Character customization not only gives you a distinct personality online, but players can also make their avatars display different facial animations for happy, sad, angry etc. Tired of creating things on your own? Jump online with a friend for some co-op level design. All these features point to LittleBigPlanet being the trendsetter for both social gaming and user content creation on a console platform. The amount of variety and flexibility will lead to an unseen level of downloadable content to draw from, providing Sony's infrastructure can handle the stress. My hopes for this game are high; high enough to have me obtain one of the shiny black monolith machines in salivating anticipation (it's the only game I've pre-ordered -- ever).


Bangai-O Spirits (NDS)

This game actually came to my attention through an ad screened before one of the panels at PAX started. One of the game's main draws is its sound load feature. Bangai-O can convert any level you edit or create from scratch into a sound file. Using the DS microphone, you can also play the sound files from any source and download the levels for instant play. It's an interesting feature; one that's managed to bypass all of Nintendo's default friend code malarkey. As a result, it's really opened up the possibility for anyone to share their custom levels without having to exchange their credentials first.

So far, Bangai-O's main source for level downloads has been Youtube. However, here at ModDB, we've since started a profile for the game. Naturally, we think it's a better venue for hosting and discussing the creation of custom levels for Bangai-O Spirits. If you own the game, why not head over there and give it a whirl.

Comments
INtense! Staff
INtense!

User created content has been huge on the net for a while now, and well huge on PC games too... it is great to finally see the consoles slowly catch up via robust tools and extremely easy innovative sharing methods. I guess Spore will fit into this category too once it is released on the consoles.

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matthewdryden
matthewdryden

That is quite an amazing thing with the level designer...and I think LittleBigPlanet might the only thing to persuade me to buy a PS3...now that Rock Band 2 is getting exclusive rights on the 360..

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NullSoldier
NullSoldier

Consoles are far too slow in the technological department, even though they are just now beginning to see custom user creation content, at the lowest level its still something along the lines of WYSIWYG and thats just abysmal for me. I don't settle for half score, I go for the big picture. Obviously these companies just can't see it yet.

However, I think Ubisoft has actually gone pretty down hill at this point and it'll be very unlikely to see any game in the future with an SDK from them. If you've looked at their recent past history they've left the PC community in the dark and I feel like the only reason they even released Farcry 2 on the PC was for the extra sales and because they felt like they had to since Farcry was an original PC title.

Theres tons of companies leaving the PC Markets and there all blaming piracy when infact it's only because they've developed bad games and have no other scape goat. Simply look at Unreal 3 for an example. Unreal 3 was certainly not as successful as they wanted it to be, and they blamed it on piracy. While i'm sure piracy was a factor, no extent of piracy can hide the fact that you simply developed a game that people won't play.

(Not to say that Unreal 3 isn't a good game I really like it but I say this looking at the numbers)

and BTW... Little Big Planet is an amazing game. I wish I owned a console period, if I did it would be a PS3 so I could play that game. I don't see why they don't port it over and tailor it to the PC. You could do some crazy stuff if they supported custom scripted events and worlds. The possibilities are endless on a PC game. :)

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Henley Staff
Henley

its because sony wants to support there console, not the pc. I mean stenchy is getting a ps3 for that reason only.

Fair call if developers want to move over to consoles, i mean just look at XBL and see how successful the games have been on that!

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Radcliff
Radcliff

Yeah, it would seem a little counter-productive for Sony to be supporting the PC. Their goal is to sell as many PlayStation 3's as possible, they're sure as heck aren't going to do that by supporting PC.

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NutManIV
NutManIV

Unreal 3 sold 1 million on the PC if I remember correctly. Its funny how the games end up doing well after the developers blame piracy for poor first month sales. Remember crysis doing SOOO bad at retail? Yeah it went on to sell a million. :P

I also wish Sony would put their games on the PC like Microsoft does. Why not? I really wanna play ratchet and clank but I'm not gonna pay $400 to play it! I already have a gaming pc and a 360. I can't afford a ps3 right now. I just don't understand why they can't do a PC version once its clear that the PS3 version has hit the limit for sales.

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Nickelpat
Nickelpat

Because Sony owns the Playstation and makes profits from it's games, if it started putting stuff on the PC no one would need to buy a PlayStation. And UT3 used pretty random codes that were quite difficult to crack if I remember which is probably why piracy didn't effect that as much as other titles.

And it is nice to see consoles catching up to the PC, especially when they support it. A friend of mine apparently tried applying a funky mod to a PS2 game that required the console be taken apart and discs be switched at the loading screen without open the tray (Which is why it needed to be taken apart) and he obviously broke it. Yes, I know that was the stupidest thing someone could do and probably not a mod at all in the first place.

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Radcliff
Radcliff

It's not all piracy though. They're clinging to whatever they think can save them. Plus, piracy also exists on consoles (although it's not as prevalent, it does exist), so that point is pretty much moot.

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Broadsword530
Broadsword530

No SDK for farcry 2 = MASSIVE FAIL!

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Hitez
Hitez

i doubt it will be a MASSIVE FAIL.
a little fail for the creative folk out there...but not a massive fail.

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Drenwick
Drenwick

Wow, that creator is very impressive. That will be another game on the 2008 to-buy list.

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NullSoldier
NullSoldier

It may be a biased statement but too bad they don't port it over to a system where people actually care about user created content. :)

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stenchy Author
stenchy

You've made your point, no need to spam the comments with your point of view.

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Broadsword530
Broadsword530

Also the farcry level creator looks very simple. Even the PC version (http://www.gamekyo.com/video12812_far-cry-2-demo-from-games-convention.html About half way threw that video) While to someone who is a casual gamer this may seem good to me it seems really bad. In my experience i have found that the more complex the map editor is the more you can do with it.

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stenchy Author
stenchy

On the contrary, I think simple level editors like this boost the potential amount for user-generated content and the speed at which it is developed. While it may not be a full mod SDK, it will appeal to more gamers that are not interested in committing themselves to spending hours wrapping their heads around an editor. It's a different approach and a step in the right direction at least.

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Lucífer
Lucífer

I'd buy a PS3 just for Far Cry 2!

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mjnowak
mjnowak

im buying a ps3 just cause their awesome ( i own a 360 and wii so i know i want one :D ) Also little big planet just looks dope as hell! and farcry but ill get LBP first :P

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Dr.Worm
Dr.Worm

OMFG Far Cry 2 was soo impressive WOW!! i hope it's that easy on the PC version

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NullSoldier
NullSoldier

How can you possibly defend the simple editor? Because content can be produced quickly? Oh yes thats EXACTLY what we need tons of simplistic garbage produced by casual gamers flooding the game mod world. Yes lets all do that.

This is exactly what im talking about. I guess I really feel passionate about this kind of topic and have commented in this so much is because things like this effect us all, even me. Gamers lower their standards for crappy games and what do you expect to happen? Game companies MAKE bad games to meet those bad expectations. I'm so glad there are still game development companies around that refuse to conform to "decent" or even "ok". (Valve, Blizzard)

Xbox and PS have developed a generation of gamers with low expectations, and since the console and PC markets are merging together even more companies that used to be decent are being effected by the situation and as we see here, producing mediocre games.

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stenchy Author
stenchy

Now you're just spitting out nonsense. You could apply you're same argument to PC mods, as the amount of mediocre/unfinished content out there eclipses the stuff worth playing. Secondly, this article is about unleashing people's creativity to create custom content on consoles. It's unrealistic to expect everyone to pick up and learn complicated modding tools, which is why mods have remained a niche community.

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NullSoldier
NullSoldier

No, i'm not spitting out non sense you just don't actually consider whats happening to the gaming community over the past years.

Modding is a niche community? So how much effort does it actually take download and mod and install it? By mod community are you ONLY considering developers as part of a modding community? Thats pretty arrogent of you. Because last time I checked to be a part of a modding community all you had to do was play mods... So I fail to see how the fact that modding tools aren't made for casual gamers is the reason mods are a niche community.

Alright i'll give you a trade off, would you rather HAVE the possibility of making more complicated mods with an SDK, or simply provide every single person who would ever want to make a mod with a simple WYSIWYG? Choose wisley. Because thats exactly what Farcry is doing here. Use your brain.

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stenchy Author
stenchy

I'm not saying that level editors like this are the future, but not every game out there is going to have a mod SDK. Also, including mod players and developers still figures into a much smaller community than the whole of PC gamers. Maybe you should step back and assess the big picture instead of forecasting doom.

You have to understand that not everyone is going to approach modding or custom content with the same appreciation you have for it. In fact, the majority won't and that's OK.

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Radcliff
Radcliff

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't modding SUPPOSED to be challenging? The fact that people actually have to use their brains in order to create anything worth playing is what turned me on to modding in the first place.

Any idiot can make a mod, but very few can make a mod worth playing, and that's the way it should be. When you can make anything worth playing on a challenging medium, it makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd. That's how Red Orchestra became famous. Do you honestly think RO would've become as famous if they used simple tools? No, because any Tom, ****, or Harry could do a mod like that if it were easy.

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NullSoldier
NullSoldier

Looks like someone actually knows where I'm coming from here. :)

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Eglaerinion
Eglaerinion

Own a PS3 and a PC but nearly all the interesting multiplatform games I buy for the PC. Mods are such a large part of why games stay interesting over longer periods of time. The PS3 is for console exclusives like for instance LBP and MGS.

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Robots!
Robots!

looks like its back to consoles for me... map editors were one of the few things keeping me attached to PCs... :(

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Ciasco
Ciasco

I enjoyed the random yells of people asking to burn stuff in the Farcry 2 demo. I also caught it on film, and I thought it was a great idea to start the game off in a place that wasn't a part of the normal procedure. Also, he made the level in less then 10 minutes, and was able to switch the type of environment in less then 10 seconds. It was quite an amazing and powerful engine. I wish they were going to release the SDK, and allow assets to be imported.

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Radcliff
Radcliff

Yeah, it sounds real good, but how much control do you have over your end result? That's what I'm interested in.

I think a lot of people that complain about something being too difficult for them are actually complaining about the fact that they need to use more than three brain cells to get a good result. Nothing is too difficult for you if you actually put some brainpower into it.

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Radcliff
Radcliff

Also, did you know that you can only make multiplayer levels with the new editor? And you can't place AI. They had a video on that on some website, I forget which one.

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Nokiaman
Nokiaman

GTA LCS and VCS from PS2 can be moded,too

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Darius0101
Darius0101

You only need a computer. Emulators ftw D:

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AshHousewares
AshHousewares

Far Cry 2 is the best, and most impressive game ever made.

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NullSoldier
NullSoldier

You forgot </sarcasm> at the end of your comment.... right?.... maybe?...

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Henley Staff
Henley

ok null people are allowed to think what they want, as far as I can tell Far Cry 2 is a map editor it is not there to help people make cookie cutter mods. Its exactly the same concept that halo 3 had with forge and its the exactly the same concept as the island editor in Far Cry 1. So here is a piece of advice, if your worried about all the crappy mods this will produce then your going to be shocked with the engine considering how it was made from the ground up to not have scripted events and to not have the game play exactly the same, its like you saying no one will make custom content for Left 4 Dead because you cannot control the spawns of the zombies. Get over it.

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NullSoldier
NullSoldier

Heh, if you think im just talking about the fact that the far cry 2 map editor will only produce alot of simplistic clones then you missed the point of my entire discussion. While I DO think it will, that was not the point at all. :(

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MrDev
MrDev

Null, Take a moment please, For the most part I completely agree with you

but if you consider the typical map types you have with Farcry 2 that works out quite well, keep in mind the map he made was utter crap but it took him 10 mins, I'm fairly sure there are plenty of fine tuning things that he didn't get into. It works for this game, its very blunt and you will in the end have a load of cookie cutter designs that will eventually fall out and die but there will be a few well made levels. I think its a good Farcry 2 editor... it wont work in many other applications though.

Let the consoles have their cookie cutter levels, We still have valve, Infinity ward, and for now... Id. We will prevail...

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Hitez
Hitez

i guess nobody really notices how similar far cry 2's editor was to the original?? this whole "everyone convert to simplistic WYSIWYG immediately" phase didn't catch on then. i don't think it will happen this time either. Null is being irrational. i understand him, but he isn't thinking it through realistically. because one or two editors make it easy to map doesn't mean the modding world will die out. not everyone will even play far cry 2.

plus, i think Null, you'd like Unreal 3. mods for PS3, and pc, and its very complicated and flexible.

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