Gameglobe: A free-to-play browser-based UGC engine for games

Square Enix has a rather solid lineup of games for E3 this year, including games like Hitman: Absolution and Tomb Raider. However, the crown jewel of their lineup is a game that no one is talking about: Gameglobe. It's a free-to-play browser-based game--so no wonder it's being largely ignored by the games press. However, Gameglobe shows the most potential in any user-generated content (USG) offering I've ever seen. "Play, Create, Share" is a term popularized by Sony's LittleBigPlanet series. The concept has been expanded upon over the years in games like ShootMania and Trials Evolution. However, Gameglobe's free-to-play business model and browser-based tech has the potential to reach an even bigger audience. focalbox Gameglobe is far from the first browser-based UGC offering. Roblox, for example, has been online since 2006, and features over 5000 games created by its users. However, its barren, LEGO-inspired brick graphics leave a lot to be desired. The creation engine requires some scripting knowledge--and evidenced by the quality of many of Roblox's user-made levels, it's clear that many games need a layer of polish (or two). Production values are what separate Gameglobe from the competition. Games created in Gameglobe look gorgeous--a feat made all the more impressive when you see it running in a Firefox window. Bigpoint Games has been working on a number of browser-based online games, and it's clear whatever streaming technology they've figured out works wonders. Visual fidelity isn't determined so much by polygon count or texture detail, but rather resolution. The game can scale down to 480p up to 1080p, depending on your computer's connection and hardware muscle. Even at the lowest resolution, Gameglobe looks better than most Wii games. The gameplay is incredibly polished as well. Much like LittleBigPlanet is a 2D platformer at heart, Gameglobe is a third-person action platformer. Traversing the environment, fighting enemies, and jumping from platform to platform all functions as what you'd expect out of a retail product. I got to see a Tomb Raider clone (of sorts), with a character jumping around, dodging traps in a massive temple. However, the creation tools allow for more than just third-person platformers.

Gameglobe lets you 'paint' new 3D environments

As impressed as I was by the quality of Gameglobe's playable half, I was even more impressed by its creation engine. Anyone that's used ModNation Racers' creation tools will find themselves comfortable here. You can "paint" new terrain by choosing objects and dragging them across the world. Various sprays can add grass, sand, dirt, and other textures. Props can be selected and dropped into the world, including power-ups, traps, and enemies. Interestingly, you can have enemy AI run automatically, or you can modify their behavior, not unlike in LittleBigPlanet 2. The creation process is very visual--very WYSIWYG. Other games I saw created by Gameglobe developers and closed beta participants included a horror game, Gameglobe's "take" on Dear Esther, if you will. I also saw a cinematic sequence of Final Fantasy-esque airships in battle, which showed off the engine's potential for machinima. I even saw a makeshift clone of Angry Birds. All of these games were launched by clicking a regular hyperlink on Gameglobe's website. Those hyperlinks can be shared like YouTube videos. And, that's what makes Gameglobe so truly exciting. If there's an incredible game within the Gameglobe ecosystem, all it takes to access it is to click the link. There will be a small plug-in download, and then the game will launch. There's no need to create an account or pay for anything--that's for creators and those desiring custom avatars to shell out for. BOOM video 12918 With a powerful, intuitive creation engine and a unique free-to-play business model, it's hard not to be impressed by Gameglobe's vision. The variety of levels I've seen showcased in Gameglobe, and the surprising level of polish they all exhibited, make me confident that Square Enix and Bigpoint are onto something big here--even if no one's really talking about it yet.
Watch the Shacknews E3 2012 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. This preview is based on a hands-off demo shown at a pre-E3 event.