I was perusing some of the older pieces on the site today and came across this piece from many years back about the expanding role of the player in additional content. As far as console games go, I'm afraid that I was quite incorrect in my predictions. Fallout 4 may be the closest thing we see to my optimistic view of the future.
Downloadable content. This generation of consoles is well acquainted with the concept. Additional maps, weapons, vehicles, missions, songs, stories, costumes, what have you. The games that survive the test of time in this generation are the ones with regular downloadable content be it in the form of microtransactions, episodic gaming, or just regular updates and fixes from the developers.
When you look at the past couple years, you should notice this easily enough. Halo 3 was released more than a year ago, and with the regular updates and maps Bungie has provided the fans, they've managed to keep their game fresh. Harmonix releases new songs for Rock Band every Tuesday. Even Ace Combat 6, though the multiplayer is now inhabited only by the most terrifying of pilots, releases fairly regular updates and even new missions for download. Gamers get bored easily, it's no secret. Our attention spans are so short that most games don't last more than six months in our homes before they're passed on for the next title.
Sure, some old stalwart classics remain, but how often does the average gamer play them? I think we've already been over that. With downloadable content, developers can trick us (just a little) into thinking we're playing something entirely different, just by adding, tweaking or upgrading.
It's a simple tactic, one used for years in the PC market with expansion packs. You'd drag your parents to the mall and explain that yes you already have that game but this box has new things to add on to that game. Now, with high speed Internet a symbiotic partner of gaming, it's easier than ever for the average player to get new content. A couple clicks here and there and you've got yourself a shiny new gun, mission, blah blah blah.
What's next in this trend though? Already players are getting bored of new maps and guns. We've been complaining on forums and blogs for years now about how much better stuff we could make. In that incessant whining lies our future. More and more, developers are handing the reigns to the players, allowing us to make the things we've always wanted. We the public have been turned into unwitting developers.
Map making has been around for a while, as have developer crafted modding tools for games. Valve is famous for releasing comprehensive development software for their Half-Life engine, resulting in Counter Strike, Team Fortress and a slewough of other titles. Bungie released map making tools for Myth and Myth II back in the day. The one problem with these tools was the steep learning curve for novices like me.
Today, even console games have powerful modding tools at their disposal. Surely most of you immediately think of Little Big Planet, and you are right to do so, but don't forget Halo 3's Forge tools, and most of all the extremely versatile map maker for Far Cry 2. With this tool, even a complete novice like me can make large, detailed maps. There is very little you can't accomplish with this editor and the community is growing by leaps and bounds every day.
Will we become the sole creators of additional content? No, but we are becoming a larger and more important part of our games' survival. Will we have to sift through miles of crap to find just a little really good content? No, most games with community created content have systems in place to let the cream rise to the top. Ratings and reviews allow other users to see what's working and what needs a few more hours of tweaking.
The future of downloadable content is in our hands whether we choose to accept it or not. When developers make it easier than ever to make your own content, why not play around with it. After all, we are all here to play, right?