I might suggest that the 90% Crap Idea is pretty much what we already get from the MMORPG companies.
Players are constantly starved for content and wake up their accounts for a month or two and then stop playing and paying (til 6+ months for the next 'drop'). The big games can continue as they have, but have only in those limited genres.
The description Ive given here (above) lacks alot of the details of what the full system I propose would have to be.
Again the things produced by some small percentage of the playerbase (who wantto be creators) get selected for use (stringent functional testing at minimum). REUSE is a key element shortcircuiting further additions.
The collaboration model (only mentioned above ) allows people to build on what other people have already done, thus improving them incrementally. Hardly anyone is good at everything required, so it would take multiple people to produce each of the complete 'Assets' finally used in the game. Someone does good ideas or planning, another basic shapes/structures, another refines that (and possibly others do later), another is good at textures and applying them, another is good at realistic weathering/usifying, another can adapt behavior attributes (tweaking or just installing existing templates) and animations/sound effects , some other can do any needed specialized behaviors. A whole lot can combine objects into scene assemblages (which become someone elses building block for mission scenarios (which have add in creativity for dialogs/story plot/pacing/theater style scripted interplay -- the real aim of this production.
Obviously the Community vetting and collaboration is the key to this system, but dedication CAN be found for such. Advice and commenting for revision and testing and inspection all to be done through a well define process.
Those who have skills and know the tools have much higher efficiency (so its not so tedius for them to do alot in their speciality) BTW SOME people are good at creating tutorials to TEACH others how to be proficient...
The publishing model is to share everything and asset projects are forked and resubmitted (and ANYONE can come along and mod it if they want to try)
A WHOLE lot of the low level fiddley bits would be done by the company (game mechanics, object atrributes systems for standard interactions, etc..)
I didn't mention that the detail level of objects is more along the 'deformable' world type definition and play use (much more genericly interactive and reactive). Thus more you can use things for IN-GAME (and ALOT of creation ALSO can potentially be done by any Player In-Game). There are LOTS of small things to create for a rich world - not everyone has to create A Mech-Tiger-Tank. Many aren't that hard. with so much basic stuff already predone and inherant tweakability and (much more) Idiot Proof Tools and integration of processes.
The GOOD tools (fundamental to this system) comprehensively cover producing all of these things -- thats why they will be as big a project as a AAA game by itself to build (and some players can be better at Tool Making/Improving than most in the companies, and THAT is part of this whole thing TOO)
Creators get credit for the part they do, and add to, and those things they add are structured for reusability and modification.
The company would try to set standards and the community would have to maintain those strong standards (and the company would have the Final Word to enforce adherence). Obviously there are legal issues like copyright infringement which have to be enforced strictly, and the vetting system would be defined to prevent publishing anything with such issues.
I never said it would be easy (and DID say this is Next-Next generation stuff), but the way costs are going up and playtimes going down for these games, the Wodinoneeye Law says that within some number of years with games progressing as they are, they will each cost as much as the US Yearly Economy and playtime will Last a fraction of a second. Well before that, most players will stop buying them.
Consider IF players could create using already defined 'objects' and use them to create higher-order things for the game. Guns already work, chairs already work, NPC already have improved AI. The TEMPLATES are designed for mod'ing with the least needed work. Now large numbers of Player Creators DONT have to fumble around trying to build everything they envision up from scratch (and no longer fail when they couldnt do EVERYTHING so complex and tedious). Now you (many more players) can build the more interesting aspects of the actual game instead of get stuck reinventing all the building blocks.
I suppose I could say that Open Source never could work because of this Sturgeons Law, but what is the reality there ???
Yep, all all a miserable failure ... right ? Nobody in their right mind will do anything quality for free ... right ?
(now do that in a more organized fashion....)
This would be a largely new paradigm for game production, employed in a more complex/thorough way. It really has to be done with consistency or wont work (and its a daunting project that only a visionary (with sufficient cash) could attempt and will probably take some such pioneer to eventually do it)
"Second Life had almost exactly the vision that you lay out."
Vision is one thing, carrying it out is another. This system I speak of is far larger and would need to be much better designed as to expandibility ('Templates', as the fundamental design for EVERYTHING involved - parameterized hierarchical )
Second Life had(has) this fundamental element of people $ELLING their in-game productions/creation which NIXED most/alot of collaboration.
Result - a constant flow of new APPROVED content, improvement of the assets already deployed. Heavy use of procedurally generated game terrain/scenarios are possible (again via that comprehensive TEMPLATE system the whole thing is based on). Creation On-The-Fly (alot of it) instead of 'static' level worlds.
An interesting aspect in such a system is that Micro Genre games can be built upon generic items already produced (and working), being tweaking instead of a complete rebuilding and then you can so much sooner get to doing the 'good part' of creating the game.