12/31 - Building a Better Building Tool - markus1142 Blog - www.GameInformer.com
Switch Lights

The lights are on

12/31 - Building a Better Building Tool

Replay value is a great quality for a game to have these days. Games are making better use of multiplayer modes, both competitive and cooperative, to keep players coming back after the single-player content is completed. Mass Effect had been rolling out "weekend challenges" fairly consistently, offering small rewards to players who return time and again to complete certain tasks in multiplayer. Halo 4 and Far Cry 3 have their own style of daily and weekly (and in Halo's case, monthly) challenges to entice players with.

 

One thing I've started to see more of is the introduction of map editors. Unlike the PC gaming world, which is very much alive with map editors and custom content, console releases are rather limited in the amount of new content they get. Left 4 Dead was a great example, with Valve offering free dlc through Steam in addition to the many community-designed levels, while console players had to wait months to purchase the same content. Map editors are a great way for games to offer console players the chance to create their own content to play on.

If only there was a toolset for "make the game better."

Pariah, a disappointing FPS from some years ago, came with its own map editor. And for the time, it was actually a rather impressive tool. It may not have been the most impressive editor, but it did offer players several options for placing buildings and objects, to create their own maps to play on. Unfortunately, the game itself failed to impress many gamers in the first place, and it ended up being little more than an enjoyable sandbox for a game barely anyone wanted to play.

Ridge Racer Unbounded may break ground as being - as far as I know - the first racing game to offer a map editor. The trailers show off some of the craziness you can create; unfortunately, the playable demo doesn't let you try it out. Worse, the demo struck me as a watered down version of Burnout, rife with takedowns and rubberbanding. As much as I can see myself having a blast with the editor, I cant see myself picking up a game no one I know is excited for, just so I can build maps to play on alone. If nothing else, I hope it starts a trend of established racing franchises offering level editors - it would have bbreathed some much needed life into Need For Speed: Most Wanted.

I need to go back and see if there's an option to "spawn tigers everywhere."

Far Cry 3 has quite a few offerings. The singleplayer offers dozens of hours of fun, and the co-op mode - while unpolished - is still a blast with four players. I haven't even touched the competitive multiplayer yet. I did jump into the map editor one night, and, well, to call it unintuitive might be an understatement.

The various tools are easy enough to find from the selection wheel, and the item/tool categories are fairly straight forward. But the controls are abhorrent Lacking even the basic navigational interface of most RTS console ports (left analog move, right analog rotate / zoom,) moving the cursor/cameraview around feels more like grappling with an angry AI than building a map. I haven't found any "auto-level" or "snap to angle" commands to keep the cursor on a grid, allowing me to build terrain in straight lines, or ensure both halves of a map are anything close to symmetrical. I hope they're there and I just haven't found them.

Aside from some interface frustrations, the map editor is ambitious if nothing else, offering several tools I haven't seen elsewhere. You can adjust the time of day and even the weather, recreating some of your favorite moments from the campaign. From bright and sunny, to overcast and raining, to a night time thunderstorm, you can create a wide variety of ambient settings to go with your maps. Terrain deformation, also noticeably absent in many editors, lets players create a jungle paradise (or tropical hell) that goes beyond placing some trees or rivers here or there.

I made a hallway. In space. I call it "Space Hallway."

Possibly the most well-known editor out there right now, Halo's Forge has been around since Halo 3, returning for Halo: Reach and, most recently, Halo 4. It has its limitations; many maps only allow you to edit "objects," such as the placement of crates, objectives, or spawn locations. Few maps let you actually build, and those that do only offer a basic set of building blocks. After a while, it making everything out of the same grey metal gets really old.

That said, Forge still offers one of the more intuitive control schemes, an despite a steep learning curve (particularly when it comes to objective game types,) offers a great degree of freedom to users. Little details like snap-to rotations and coordinate adjustments let you line up pieces with precision, while vehicle and weapon respawn times let you influence the amount of chaos the map will offer. "Trait zones" can be some of the more ingenious tools to play with, letting you designate areas where everything from a player's shields and health, to gravity and jump height, can be altered. I just hope they do more with it as the series goes on; the idea of being able to adjust lighting, weather, or terrain for Halo maps is just too tempting to pass up.

Until then, I'll just settle for recreating TRON battles.

Even with limitations and frustrations, map editors can be a great way to increase a game's replay value. Providing an outlet for creativity is a great hook (just look at Minecraft's sales figures,) and letting players channel that into in-game content they can further enjoy is a double bonus. With almost every game now offering some form of multiplayer, it's a trend I'd love to see more games make use of. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go over here and daydream about making custom maps for Aliens: Colonial Marines...

comments