Develop '09: Second-guessing users is 'vital', but won't catch every eventuality

Relentless’ lessons learnt on bringing UGC to Buzz

If you want to implement user-generated content in your game, you’d better practice your people skills – that’s one of the gems of advice that Relentless’ Dan Croucher shared in his talk during the Evolve strap at the Develop Conference.

Drawing on his experience of bringing user-generated content to the Buzz franchise with MyBuzz, Croucher explained that attempting such a feat will involve a huge number of people on the publisher end – those creating the infrastructure, legal departments – and learning to cooperate with them is a necessity.

He also advised that, given the number of people involved, there will be many ‘battles’ – and that developers will need to pick which ones to fight carefully, because winning them all isn’t a possibility.

Also mentioned was that worrying is a good thing, and second-guessing what the users will do isn’t futile. "Worry about the fine details," he said. "You can’t put too much thought into the consequences of what you’re doing." Croucher pointed to a trophy from the PS3 version of Buzz that was awarded for creating 20 quizzes on MyBuzz, which the team hoped would drive people to create UGC – whereas, in fact, it just generated reams of spam quizzes as people sought to get the trophy as quickly as possible.

Of course, not all eventualities can be thought of in advance, and from that end developers need to have people on hand when the service launches to react quickly to things that don’t work.

Nevertheless, MyBuzz has worked – so far, 1.75 million questions have been authored by the community, the equivalent of 350 Buzz discs. But you can’t rest on your laurels, said Croucher, and those UGC processes will need iteration and development over time. Indeed, new feature ideas for sequels can come from watching trends, such as the new ‘Miniquizzes’ in the latest Buzz PS3 title.

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