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Generalized Design Rules when Implementing Content Systems Driven by Players

by Eric L. Rhea

1. Object Placement

Players should have the capacity to place objects within qualified areas. Flipping this around, there should be areas wherein objects cannot be placed by the players. One would not want a player to place a castle in the ocean without some good logistical sense as to why that castle is there.
Pretty Castle in a lake

I built a castle in the swamp, but it sunk. So I built another castle on the swamp, it sunk too. So I built a third castle, and it stayed.


Do not permit the players to build upon any area that might grant them the capacity to turn the region into a mob factory farm (an industrial unit wherein the player consecutively farms a certain type of item through the tactical advantage of having structures to interfere with the ecology of the area).

2. Variance in Region

The regions in which an object may be placed should be aware of what type of object is being placed and be sensitive to allow or disallow placement of that object. E.g., Not all regions should support the construction of houses, but there should exist some regions that support the construction of minor elements, such as scarecrows.


Regions should be carefully calculated so as not to off balance the environment of the game. If region A is designated as a cornfield and region B is designated as an advanced city zone, it might be curious to your players as to why in the middle of a city a cornfield blossoms.

3. Object Interaction and Players

There should exist modes of interaction between the player placed objects and that of other players. E.g., tolerating theft of certain objects between players, object enhancement for defensive or offensive capability against other players, or the enrichment of narrative by allowing objects to contain notes, stories, or other collection of words from the words smiths.


In general, you would not want player placed objects to adversely affect NPCs.

Potential reasons for using player driven content contribution:

1. Potentially lower overhead than using in house content addition.

2. Larger population of players who do play these type of games would find the ability very attractive, potentially leading to higher player retention or to a higher percentage of new players looking for this type of atmosphere.

3. Adds a more varied culture to the game state, whereas system driven content addition does not.

Eric L. Rhea