The first incarnation of Line Rider could hardly have been any simpler. You used your mouse to draw a line on a white screen, hit play, and watched a little character sled down the hill you just created--that was more or less it. But despite this stark minimalism, the game picked up a massive following, as the 24,000-plus YouTube search results for "line rider" can currently attest. Now that Line Rider is being spruced up for a full retail release in the form of Line Rider 2: Unbound--a game whose myriad enhancements we've previously covered--taking this grassroots community following and giving it a proper home has become one of the primary goals for developer InXile Entertainment. To achieve this, InXile is working on turning LineRider.com into an all-purpose community hub where owners of all three versions (Wii, DS, and PC) can share their handiwork to do some good old-fashioned Web 2.0 social networking.
We've previously discussed the community features in Line Rider 2: Unbound, but this is the first time we've seen the process up and running. What it all boils down to is a way for you to take what you've created in the game--for most of us, this will be tracks, but the more dedicated can also create puzzles, clip art, fonts--and upload it to the Line Rider servers. From what we've seen, this looks to be a surprisingly painless process--even for the Wii and DS versions. What you do to get started is fire up the game, head to the "content sharing" menu, and access a user ID that is unique to your system in the menu. With your ID code in hand, you set up an account at LineRider.com and punch in the number. From then on, your account and ID are permanently tied together.
Once you've got an account set up, the process of submitting your work is just as simple. You just head back to the content-sharing menu, select the saved file you want to share, and hit upload. Your work will then be displayed on the local tab of this screen, which keeps a permanent record of all your uploaded files (regardless of whether you delete them from your system), but can also be viewed from your individual profile on the Web site. There, you'll see the title of your creation, a description you've made, and a rating based on others who've downloaded it. If you just switch over to someone else's profile, you can run the process in reverse and download another user's work onto your system.
As of yet, the team at InXile is still working on a way to preview user-generated content. A thumbnail would seem to be the most obvious solution, but that doesn't necessarily help when you're trying to distinguish between tracks that both start out in elaborate fashion, but after downloading you realize that one quickly loses steam while the other carries on with loop after loop. Another potential stumbling block is the fact that all submissions need to be moderated before being shown on the Web site. This requires someone from a moderation team to inspect each track to make sure nobody's drawn or written anything questionable with the art tools and either allow or reject the tracks based on this look-through. This could potentially lead to some delays if the game turns out to be more popular than the team expects.
There will be a few ways to make sifting through all the user submissions a little easier. The most immediate option is to switch over to the global tab on the in-game content-sharing menu. This is where the most recent staff favorites will be featured for all to see and download. But beyond the game, the site will offer a lot of other options. One is the ability to friend certain users whose submissions you tend to enjoy. When they're on your friends list, you'll receive automated notifications letting you know they've uploaded something new. You'll also find the usual collection of community tools, such as blogs and forums, to stay abreast of upcoming design virtuosos.
What we've seen out of the early workings of LineRider.com is an impressive collection of community tools. The two biggest things to keep an eye on will be whether enough fans will warm up to a retail version of Line Rider (remember, the first one was released as a free Flash game) to develop a thriving community, and, at the other end of the spectrum of possibilities, whether the site can handle a flood of user submissions so that the cream rises to the top. We should expect to see those questions answered when Line Rider 2: Unbound is released on September 16.