Every (other) Tuesday, Mike Sylvester brings you REVOLUTIONARY, a look at the wide world of Wii possibilities.
Custom level creation in console games has come a long way. It used to be, if you wanted to share a track that you built in Excitebike, you had to invite friends over to play your creation on your cartridge, until you powered off your NES and the track was lost forever. Nowadays our levels can be saved to internal storage, and shared by removable media, or across the internet to survive for posterity.
It's a feature that's fully supported by all consoles this generation, and big games are highlighting it amongst their bullet points. System sellers like Halo 3, LittleBigPlanet, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl are trojan-horsing the concept of custom level creation into the consciousness of the console-consuming collective. Former Sony exec Phil Harrison popularized the term "Game 3.0," but we'll be taking a look at how it is playing out on Nintendo's platform.
The first title to support WiiConnect24 did so in the form of custom level sharing. Elebits lets players do what everyone wants to do in a sandbox: create something to destroy in a fantastic spectacle. With a rigid body physics engine in place and a first person perspective, Elebits fills your sandbox with lifesized virtual toys to throw around and have collide with each other. Some really interesting things could be done with this editor in the hands of anyone with a youthful imagination, and the "fun with physics" element can sometimes surpass the main campaign in games which rely so heavily on it. The biggest problem with Elebits' level sharing is that you and most of your Wii-owning friends know probably didn't buy the game. Not much to share, and too few people to share it with.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl, on the other hand, you likely have in your collection of Wii games, so you and your buddies can easily send and receive custom arenas via WiiConnect24, or by SD card sneakernet. Brawl doesn't provide you with a lot of backdrops or building blocks to work with, but what's there is enough to recreate stages from prior Smash Bros. games, fabricate pixel-graphic inspired battlegrounds, or come up with original designs to throw down upon. The ease with which these levels can be shared has given rise to communities and websites dedicated to sharing them. The fact that levels can be stored to SD cards means they can be transferred to PCs, and shared on the ol' worldwide web. Game 3.0 meets Web 2.0.
Though the initial selection of stage-building materials is slim pickin's, dedicated architects will find their selection expanding as the number of stages under their hat increases. In addition to the huge assortment of default songs, music tracks that are unlocked by achieving certain gameplay goals will also become available for linking to custom stages.
Guess what movie scene is being recreated here
While we're of mixed opinions on Stephen Spielberg's BOOM BLOX, there's no denying its appeal to our childish desires to create stuff for ultimate wrecking. With physics perhaps more sophisticated than Elebits, it'll be interesting to see how dominoes fall when they're composed of explosive materials and corrosive chemicals. BOOM BLOX's editor even supports placement of computer-controlled characters to affect or be affected by what's going on in the environment. To make the sharing element relevant, you're going to have to convince your DO NOT WANTing friends to pick up the game, too.
Blast Works is something we can all get behind. Where BOOM BLOX is, at present, of questionable worth, Blast Works is exploding at the seams with value. There will be several games and game types to choose from on the disc, so there ought to be something to please any fan of shmups. Plus, having a level editor so robust that the game's designers even use it to create all of the levels it ships with, it raises the bar for what we want and expect from a game ... (3.0). PC gamers have long known this satisfaction, and with all the necessary hardware components in place, there's no reason why this generation's console gamers should receive anything less from editing tools.
We hope to see some of the less favorable trends of this generation give way to positively evolutionary ones like level editing and user-side content creation. Maybe Nintendo will even see fit to revisit some of their 64DD plans on a more capable console. The world (outside of Japan) is long overdue for a 3D update to Mario Paint. What games would you like to be playing, building, and sharing content for? Let us hear (figuratively, of course) it in the comments.