While the web (and, largely, PC games) have charged ahead with communities and user-created content - Facebook, YouTube and the mod scene, for instance - traditional videogames are only now embracing the idea. We've seen custom decals in Project Gotham, and similar ideas elsewhere, and nowthe first everUnreal Tournament 3 mod on PS3. But there's so much more to community gaming than visual gimmicks or slightly tweaked gameplay, especially when developers can get us gamers to do the work for them.
Spore, for example, uses the ingenuity and creativity of every single gamer with an internet connection who plays the game. Designer Will Wright calls Spore "massively single player", because every lifeform you createis uploaded to a central databaserun by developer Maxis and shared with every other Spore owner. As you explore and evolve your own creature, the world around you is filled by creatures designed by other players, downloaded from the Maxis database.
And it's not just creatures. As you come to build cities or vehicles you can choose either to grab ready-made styles - player created content from the database - or devise your own, which are then uploaded in turn, creating an ever-expanding user-created catalogue of content.
But Sony probably has the year'smost desirablecommunity-based title in LittleBigPlanet. While it doesn't share Spore's scale, it utterly out-cutes Will Wright's evolution sim.Everythingfrom the sweet (or silly) outfit worn by your sackcloth ragdoll character and their facial expression to the background of the level or the objects that fill the environment can be manipulated, created and messed around with. It's the definition of sandbox gaming.
You create the challenges, or the obstacles, or whatever, then upload them for everyone else. Or, if you're stuck for inspiration, you simply grab some interesting level, object or whathaveyou and jump straight in to play. Better yet, it's multiplayer. Censorship will inevitably become an issue - thoughthere's no official wordon how the gamer content will be policed - but, in theory, if you can imagine it, you can make it. Wow, eh?