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Developers, Hug a Modder
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posted by: Aaron Stanton
date posted: 12:00 AM Fri Jul 8th, 2005
last revision: 12:00 AM Fri Jul 8th, 2005

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I want to blow up aliens in Ghost Recon 3.  To this day, one of my most cherished video game memories comes from dual-wielding the light-gun controllers of the pureblood Area 51 in the arcades, of trading off with friends to see who could last the longest under different handicapped conditions.  Then that sort of went away.  I moved on to consoles, until I found myself playing the FPS Area 51 on the Xbox, and I suddenly realized, I wanted to play through Area 51 as a member of the Ghost or Rainbow Six teams.  Rainbow Six 3 weapons and play dynamics against aliens and unrealistic enemies.  Fantasy foes in a reality setting, that's the game I wanted to play? and I could, thanks to Ubisoft's decision to include the map editor with the PC version of Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield.  With that one move, Ubisoft gave a thumbs-up to gung-ho amateur map builders everywhere, and what resulted was one of the most successful modding communities around.  Surf over to www.rvsgaming.com, and what you'll find are maps covering dozens of scenarios: clearing out Area 51, taking down spirits, battling terrorists in real-world locations like the the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (screenshot pictured above, made by wilky9 and found under the name Ancient Temple).  The Raven Shield version of Rainbow Six 3 is as close to an endless game as I know of, and it's because Ubisoft and the developers had the guts to put their tools into the hands of their gamers.  

What ended up happening was that the hacking community quickly discovered that you could modify those maps built on the PC to run on the Xbox version of Rainbow Six 3.  The feature was integrated into the modified dashboards, and suddenly you could download maps from the Internet directly into your Xbox.  To date, the best Xbox Live feature in any game has to be Timesplitters Future Perfect's ability to build maps, upload them, and download them via the Xbox service, allowing gamers to swap their endless custom creations via the Internet.  If this sort of feature is supported with the release of additional textures and map-building tools, it allows a lifespan unheard of in the console market.  Even Timesplitters 3, though, doesn't allow players to create their own textures, and so prevents players from really changing the nature of the game.  In order to do that, you would need a PC map editor, and a company that's willing to accept map submissions for consideration as a download on Xbox Live.  

 Instead, things go the other way, setting the modding community and commercial developers against each other.  In July of 2005, a man was convicted and sentenced for hacking an Xbox.  Honestly, he probably deserved it; not for hacking the Xbox, but for selling them loaded with pirated games.  He deserves a smack on the hand, partly because immoral antics like that are what jeopardize what I consider to be legitimate uses of a modified system - expanding the capabilities of the Xbox.  The problem is that no company will consider taking on the technical difficulties of offering player created content on a console until we look beyond the immoral stuff that can be done on a modified game system.  

Despite the power of the Internet, companies are still extremely resistant to the idea of truly letting the people that play games have any control over what they play.  So here's the challenge: Ghost Recon 3 is the perfect place for a merging of ideologies.  Give the gamers the ability to create their own maps and textures via a PC based map editor, then set up a system so that those maps can be considered for download on Xbox Live.  Ubisoft has long had a reputation as one of the best companies in terms of supporting their games with downloads on Xbox Live; I'd like to see them blaze ground and offer gamers a new type of flexibility and expandability in games.  Xbox 360 is supposed to usher in a new generation of gaming; let's hope it also ushers in a new generation of game community.  Something more than just being able to talk to each other better.