Man I am getting sick of promising features (and games that contain them) being shuttered. If MMORPG developers are ever going to crack the problem of ravenous gamers consuming content at a blazing pace, then chances are player creativity is going to be the tool to solve it.
We’ve seen this in plenty of places, from the successful (Minecraft, Roblox, Trove) to the sunsetted (Landmark, City of Heroes). Players like to create and many would leap at a chance to expand their favorite game worlds via their handmade quests, so why not facilitate that?
To its credit, Cryptic’s long been in the player created content business. City of Heroes did spawn Mission Architect to let supers make their own maps, and while that was a problematic system, it was popular enough to make it into both Neverwinter and Star Trek Online as The Foundry. I’d only briefly engaged in both ends of this system (creation and consumption), but I liked that it was there and felt that so much more could be done to sift the really good created quests from the cruddy ones that littered up the place.
But after the first year or so of these games’ operation, you could tell that Cryptic didn’t really have the heart to keep The Foundry in the forefront. It did make some half-hearted attempts to promote it, but after a while it was demoted to one of those systems that you know will never get an update or a revision. It was a withering appendage.
And now that appendage is gone, as the studio is ending both games’ Foundries. The official excuse is that the people who helped to create and maintain this system are no longer with the company and it’s a pain to update. There’s a ring of truth to that, but it also sounds like a convenient excuse to do what Cryptic always does — which is to get frustrated with a system that isn’t working out as well or is as popular as it hoped and then just can it with vague promises of maybe doing a better version in the future. STO players are still waiting on that exploration system, by the way.
I’m not crying buckets over this, but I have to say that it is a real shame that both of these games are losing this. For starters, plenty of players — such as the MMO blogosphere’s Tipa! — put in countless hours crafting their own narrative experiences to share with others. This sunset wipes all of that work out while the games endure.
Also, this isn’t an idea that should be given up on. I think Daybreak had it right when it saw that player-created content was a rich resource to be harvested, and even though the Landmark/EverQuest Next experiment didn’t pan out, that doesn’t mean the studio was wrong about this. The Foundry needed help, maybe even a total rewrite. But you look at Star Trek Online, which might get one new mission every two or three months, and you can see that there’s a real need for more content to fill the gaps.
How these player-created content systems can be wielded, promoted, and utilized in MMOs is a speculation essay for another day, but suffice to say that some serious thinking and planning would need to be done to avoid gross exploits while promoting quality.
In the meanwhile, these games have one less item to put on their feature list. And while Cryptic may deny it, it’s a pretty significant loss for the potential of both titles.