Thursday, July 9, 2015

Share and Share Unlike

Galactic Civilizations 3's latest patch offers me the opportunity to create and share custom factions and ship designs with other players - for, wait, wait, get this, for free! Can you believe that?  You get to create content for them and you don't even have to pay them for the privilege!

Okay, okay, I won't get on that issue again. After all, we do tend to like the notion of sending our creations out there to meet and greet other creators so it's important for game designers to provide this functionality. The best example (on par with the game being the most progressive in terms of promoting player creativity all around) was City of Heroes' Mission Architect feature but perhaps a better comparison to Gal Civ 3 would be Spore's creature sharing, both games being long-winded single-player marathons and not multiplayer games. Better, and unfavorable to Gal Civ 3.

For those of you who somehow missed out on this gem, your surroundings in Spore were populated by various other creatures. Some of these were stock Maxis space-fillers, but a sizable chunk of your competing species in every game were creatures created by other players. Insane Lovecraftian monstrosities, ridiculously macho be-fanged and be-toothed Bigfoots, nauseatingly cute huggables and yes, the occasional walking penis, were randomly and automatically downloaded from the player community to keep each replay relatively fresh. No muss, no fuss. All you had to do was start your game and there they'd be, walking and singing and maybe biting your ass off, novel and sometimes wonderfully creative snippets of another mind casually strolling through the projection of your own.
Uploading was handled smoothly through the game interface, a one or two-click affair you could take care of on a whim as you designed. Even EA, fucking EA, one of the most disgusting forces in the game industry, managed to do this without turning it into a pretext for a media blitz.

Even EA, pretty much the industry standard for complacent, constrictive, lowest-common-denominator money-grubbing, is in this case not as bad as selling your soul to Steam as Stardock has. Attempting to share content in Gal Civ 3 shunts you through the "Steam Workshop" little more than page after page of ads crowding out ads for Steam's latest cash-grab. Want to see a random spaceship that another player has designed? Look at these seventeen reviews of top spaceship designs, seventeen more pages of ads. Oh and by the way Steam, did you Steam know about all these Steam other quality Steam products at Steamy low-low Steam prices, Steam player?

I am not a Steam player. I'm an old strategy game player, and I know a zerg-rush when I'm subjected to one. There is absolutely no reason why player creations could not have been inserted into Gal Civ 3 in the same way as into Spore: existing alien races occasionally picking up another player's design and player races popping up here and there randomly. No reason but abject greed to squeeze more blood out of your customer base without lifting a finger.

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