Jump to content

  • Log In with Google      Sign In   
  • Create Account


Sandbox MMORPGs: advantages and problems


Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.

  • You cannot reply to this topic
38 replies to this topic

#1 forsandifs   Members   -  Reputation: 154

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 08 February 2011 - 08:04 AM

TLDR (short) version:

Sandbox MMORPGs offer unparalleled freedom and depth of gameplay. The reason they have not been as succesfull as Themepark MMORPGs is not due to a problem with the concept of Sandbox MMORPGs but due to poor presentation, design, and implementation. Sandbox MMORPGs need to be as accessible, or more, than their successful Themepark counterparts.

---------

Full version:

There have been many articles written on the topic of sandbox MMORPGs, their advantages and disadvantages, and with comparison to their antithesis, theme park MMORPGs. I am no expert on game design however I feel I have something to add to the topic which I have not seen expressed before in any such articles, namely on the subject of perceived problems with sandbox.

Firstly, what is a sandbox MMORPG? Simply put it is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game where the player is given certain gameplay elements which they can use in a flexible way as they see fit. These elements non-exclusively include things such as gathering and crafting, shapeable environment, Player vs. Player (PvP), and Player vs. Environment (PvE). PvP is usually a major element due to the extremely rich variety of depth of potential interactions possible. These games tend to have skill based character progression. Such games include but are not exclusive to EvE Online, pre-trammel Ultima Online, pre-CU Star Wars Galaxies, and Darkfall Online.

I mentioned also theme park games in the opening paragraph. A theme park MMORPG is a game that essentially runs on rails. The gameplay content includes but is not exclusive to, gathering and crafting, PvP and PvE. Notice the poignant absence of shapeable environment... The players are not allowed to use these gameplay elements as they see fit. Instead there are very strict hardcoded rules as to what can and can't be done, and players are almost always guided as to what to do and when to do it. Character progression is usually level based. Such games include but are not exclusive to World of Warcraft, Everquest, Runes of Magic, and countless other clones. It is worth noting that two very notable games that used to be classed as almost paragons of sandbox have now adopted a much more theme park style, namely Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies...

What are the advantages of Sandbox MMORPGS? The advantages to such game are essentially, freedom, flexibility, and depth. This can lead to an exhilarating and deeply satisfying gameplay experience beyond what can be achieved in theme park MMORPGs. Having a lot of options open to you, all of which have depth and interconnectivity to each other can make a player feel really immersed in and excited by the game world. Stories of player intrigue, politics, wars, and epic battles are common place. Sometimes, as in EvE, these stories can make mainstream news headlines. Crafting is usually very meaningful and players can chose to make it their main occupation. And let me tell you a story about exploration and shapeable environment in such games in the next paragraph...

I tried Darkfall Online the other day, and at first I was a bit lost in what seemed to me a very large, complex, unfamiliar and unfriendly world. But for the first time in I don't remember how long I was actually excited by a game! But I did need some guidance and so I joined a player guild. They were very kind and gave me equipment, a mount, and a basic intro to essential mechanics such as banking and the finer aspects of controlling my character. Then they told me to head to their player built hamlet far away to the north. They told me a few towns I should head to on the way, and that eventually I would reach a stone hill with a lake carved into it. In the walls of the lake there was a cave. I should head into the cave, and swim along it until I got to a waterfall... I should allow myself to drop off the waterfall and thus I would find their hidden settlement, complete with player built housing, shops, etc... I eagerly undertook this quest, for an epic quest it was. I travelled for two days (we're talking real time here) losing my mount half way, and having to run the rest of the way, amazed by the beauty of the landscape and eluding its dangers. It was not easy, but for the first time in any game, I actually felt like a character in a book, really felt it. When I got to the hamlet it surpassed my expectations. Darkfall Online took me back to that long lost feeling I used to have when playing games as child, unjaded. None of the advantages mentioned in this paragraph could be achieved in theme park style MMORPGs; they have no real sense of adventure, very little flexibility, and a pretty meaningless gameplay experience.

Now, what are the problems with sandbox MMORPGs? Why are they a relatively unsuccessful design when they can offer such amazing experiences? I put it to you that there are no inherent problems or disadvantages to sandbox games. I put it to you that the sandbox concept for games is perfect. It is a valid concept which can be realistically implemented, and which has a lot potential fun attached to it, with no inherent downsides. I put it to you that the reason sandbox games are relatively unsuccessful is because there are little to no sandbox games that have been properly designed and implemented. The fault is the developers fault, not the concept itself.

Usually people say that most people can't handle too much freedom, that most people need a lot of hand holding and direction because otherwise people won't know what to do and will get bored, and that the harshness of PvP interactions will alienate most people. I will only grant the validity of the last point. Truly open PvP can only ever appeal to those that enjoy PvP, and certainly not everyone enjoys PvP. However I strongly refute the validity of the other points. People enjoy freedom, and only enjoy freedom. The more freedom a player has the more they will enjoy their game, even if they aren't interested in 99% of the options available to them, they will enjoy the game more, simply because of the excitement such a plethora of meaningful options provides, and because it will make their choice all the more meaningful. What people don't enjoy however is being overwhelmed with information... Also people don't enjoy being left without a clear and concise clue as to what might be fun/good/best for them to do next and how to actually do it... These factors are of paramount importance. But the successful consideration of these points is not exclusive to theme park games! Sandbox games can take them into account too! And if these points are taken into account in a sandbox game, then the generally perceived "disadvantages to sandbox mmorpgs" disappear!

For an illustrative example of some of the points in the above paragraph let me tell you why I for example don't play Darkfall despite the truly amazing experience I had with it... It's because overall it’s a terribly made game! It fails badly on the basics. The character control is extremely clunky. There is no easy way to find out how to actually play the game. There is absolutely no hint as to what you might enjoy doing. They don't have a decent communication interface. Even the weakest mobs are too strong for a good player with a starter character. And things essential to surviving in such a harsh environment like for example finding the bank so you don't lose all your stuff when you die are almost impossible to do unless you are in a small town that is therefore possible to explore in minute detail, or you already know where the bank is! And I think this kind of thing is what hurt UO and SWG so badly, not the fact their game had amazing freedom and interactivity, but the fact they failed to implement any kind of user friendliness, something that is perfectly possible in a sandbox game. People might counter that "well in real life you don't get a flashing icon on your minimap telling you where the bank is". Who cares about real life in a game? Sandbox games aren't exclusively simulators; they are first and foremost games. And games are meant to be fun, right from the word go, all the way till you chose to stop playing in satisfaction, or at least, they have to be if they want to succeed on a massively multiplayer scale...

Would it be so hard to make sure basic and essential stuff such as character control was smooth and easy to learn? Would it be so hard to have a variety of enjoyable tutorial quests that the player can choose from to learn different game mechanics they are interested in? Would it be so hard to have a decent communication interface?! Would it be so hard to have some comprehensive content available to truly N.O.O.B characters that they can actually take part in with enjoyment? Would it be so hard to make it painless for players to find what they absolutely must find just to play? Judging by past sandbox MMORGs apparently so, but I put it to you that it's not difficult. It’s a must for any game, and can be achieved for any game. And if you don't manage to do that you haven't made a game, you've just made a big, steaming pile of mess which relatively few people will waste their time playing, never mind paying for. So, get to it ;)

Sponsor:

#2 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1175

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 February 2011 - 09:30 AM

What people don't enjoy however is being overwhelmed with information...

Your own quote, taken a bit out of context, but you should definitely press "Enter" more often to avoid the (almost literal) wall of text.


That being said, I agree with almost every point you make. Specifically, Sandbox mmos are fun because of that sense of excitement that often lacks in what I think you appropriately called "theme-park mmorpgs". And while that is true, I want to point out that a carefully crafted storyline, even if mostly, or entirely, linear, could also be incredibly entertaining. I think the problem with the carefully crafted storyline is that, since so much effort needs to be put into it, only a few exist, and are repeated by everyone. I think they're just two different types of games, often made different by limitations of resources (after all how many indie game companies have the ability to do several full-blown cutscenes of the different ways an event could go? (akin Mass Effect))

Anyway, the other point you make that I don't completely agree with is

Also people don't enjoy being left without a clear and concise clue as to what might be fun/good/best for them to do next and how to actually do it...

I cite the case of Minecraft, the ever so much increasing in popularity sandbox, kind of mmo-ish, not really RPG (try saying that three times fast). The game gives you absolutely no clue as to what to do. It won't even teach you the basics. Besides lacking an intro, it also lacks a definition of what's 'fun' to do. It's different for almost every person who's tried it, and they all have different ideas of fun. What I think is important is that the game gives you the tools to have almost any goal, and still have fun.

Anyway, my rant's getting too big now, so, the end.



#3 forsandifs   Members   -  Reputation: 154

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 February 2011 - 11:27 AM

What people don't enjoy however is being overwhelmed with information...

Your own quote, taken a bit out of context, but you should definitely press "Enter" more often to avoid the (almost literal) wall of text.


Yeah, I agree I've made walls of text in that post, but I'm not sure where to put the paragraph breaks in. :/ Thanks for the reply and taking the time to read all that btw :)

EDIT: managed to break it up into more paragraphs. Hopefully its a bit easier to read now :P

EDIT 2: made a TLDR version at the top of the OP :P

And while that is true, I want to point out that a carefully crafted storyline, even if mostly, or entirely, linear, could also be incredibly entertaining. I think the problem with the carefully crafted storyline is that, since so much effort needs to be put into it, only a few exist, and are repeated by everyone. I think they're just two different types of games, often made different by limitations of resources (after all how many indie game companies have the ability to do several full-blown cutscenes of the different ways an event could go? (akin Mass Effect))


Aye absolutely, a game with a great storyline that comes to mind is KOTOR. Just as immersive as any Sandbox could be or more. And the variety of choices, both quest and story wise give plenty sense of freedom. A calssic game, and one of my favourites of all time. However it is not an MMORPG and it doesn't offer as much freedom or dpeth of gameplay as a sandbox game could. And even SWTOR which is touted to be like KOTOR but MMORPG style, will not have the same level of freedom and depth of gameplay that sandbox games can offer.

Anyway, the other point you make that I don't completely agree with is

Also people don't enjoy being left without a clear and concise clue as to what might be fun/good/best for them to do next and how to actually do it...

I cite the case of Minecraft, the ever so much increasing in popularity sandbox, kind of mmo-ish, not really RPG (try saying that three times fast). The game gives you absolutely no clue as to what to do. It won't even teach you the basics. Besides lacking an intro, it also lacks a definition of what's 'fun' to do. It's different for almost every person who's tried it, and they all have different ideas of fun. What I think is important is that the game gives you the tools to have almost any goal, and still have fun.

Anyway, my rant's getting too big now, so, the end.


IMO Minecraft is a sandbox, but its not a GAME... A true SANDBOX (as opposed to a Sandbox Game) doesn't need any clues as to what to do because the concept and gameplay is extremely simple. Just like in Lego. You stick things together and that's it. You get the sand now go play with it. That's all there is to it and that's all it really needs.

A Sandbox GAME though does need clues and some instructions because there are many different gameplay mechanics which the user cannot guess at. The user NEEDS to be introduced to them. Not doing so is like expecting a user to spam the keys on his keyboard to figure out how to open his inventory or control his char, or guess that there's a bank he can store his stuff at, etc... Sure a percentage of users will figure it all out, but its counterproductive, lazy, ridiculous, and terrible design. If Themepark Games need to introduce and facilitate basic gameplay mechanics in order to be truly successful, so do Sandbox Games! So does any Game!

The Sandbox nature of games is not that they are badly designed mess! Its that they offer freedom and depth of gameplay... Telling new users, on a want to know basis, how to control their chars, get started with crafting, etc, does not limit that freedom and depth of gameplay, it simply makes it accessible! Sandbox games don't need to be innaccessible! Quite the opposite..

#4 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1175

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 February 2011 - 12:28 PM

Yeah, I agree, there's not much in minecraft to make it a traditional game. I'm not actually a fan of the game myself, I lost interest after a short while, mostly because I had exhausted all the game mechanics, and that's the only thing that drove the game for me.

So, this actually poses a question, what constitutes a 'game'? When is a sandbox experiment become a game, and are the 'sandbox' and 'game' aspects of a video game working against each other? (i.e. more 'game' you have, less 'sandbox' it is, and vice versa). I'm not actually going to really try to define either, because theoretical discussion like that can eat time away from me doing other things - like working on my terrain.

Take the example of my OP...


It's actually kind of hard to reply to your post unless you disagree with something, and even then, a lot of it would just break down into a debate of shemantics. One of the reasons that I took time to read your post is because sandbox type games hold a lot of personal interest for me.

#5 forsandifs   Members   -  Reputation: 154

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 February 2011 - 12:46 PM

I'm kind of looking for a distraction atm so I will try and define that :P But you are right, it mostly is semantics.

A Sandbox is literally just that, an environment you can play and make things with.

A Sandbox Game is that to some extent, PLUS other tools you can also play with and use in a flexible way. Such as combat and AI controlled environment

Minecraft does not have many additional tools, and therefore I would class it as much closer to a Sandbox than a Sandbox Game.

---

As to what there is new or controversial in my post worth commenting on... well, I would crystalize it thus: The Sandbox MMORPG concept is perfect, and the only problem with past implementations is that too many fundamental mechanics of the game were badly designed and not accessible enough.

The above might not on the face of it seem very comment worthy, controversial, or new, but why then have those mistakes been repeated for every Sandbox MMORPG so far?! I can't imagine it being an impossible or even improbable extra effort to implement smooth versions of basic mechanics, and want to know introductions to said mechanics.

#6 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1175

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 February 2011 - 01:14 PM

Well, that's a definition.

As for why these mistakes are common: one, I have no clue if they really are common, or if the developers would consider them mistakes, two, I doubt it's impossible to 'fix' them, and three, you should try it yourself before commenting on it's difficulty. That last part is important, because as anyone who's ever tried to make a video game has found out, not all things are as simple as they might seem.

Y'know, just sayin'.



#7 forsandifs   Members   -  Reputation: 154

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 February 2011 - 01:37 PM

As for why these mistakes are common: one, I have no clue if they really are common


Well, if you'll take it from me, I've tried many and all Sandbox MMORPGs I know of, and they all suffer from these issues.

or if the developers would consider them mistakes


If not, why not?

two, I doubt it's impossible to 'fix' them


Agreed.

and three, you should try it yourself before commenting on it's difficulty. That last part is important, because as anyone who's ever tried to make a video game has found out, not all things are as simple as they might seem.


Oh, I plan to. But first I'm working on a graphics engine.

#8 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1175

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 February 2011 - 02:03 PM

Ok, I can take your word for it, and I did, I was just ... erm, speaking from personal experience? Also there are a few cases of developers calling things 'features' despite them actually being flaws, or even straight up bugs.

And, yeah, I wasn't ragging on you, you certainly make good points, I just got back from reading a thread from an 'idea guy' posted recently, and that stuck with me. I still can't believe that thread exists... anyway. Yes, I speak out of turn too, despite not having tried out everything I comment on. Can't really blame me, but it certainly makes your opinion more worthy once you've done it for yourself. Also, ditto on the gfx/game engine.(shameless self-advertising)

#9 RPG   Members   -  Reputation: 99

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 February 2011 - 02:51 PM

I feel that a lot of sandbox games aren't as popular as Theme Park games because of users. It takes a certain person to really enjoy something like a Sandbox game. Just like it takes another person to enjoy something like Minecraft. They sort of make their own game out of it. I think most people are just used to being "on the rails" from years of that sort of game-play.


Always looking for vending machines and joysticks...

#10 Bigdeadbug   Members   -  Reputation: 173

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 February 2011 - 07:11 PM

Very nice post. I cart help but agree with almost all of your points on thematter. Personally i have tried a few "Sandbox Games" since i startedplaying MMOGs (Darkfall, EvE Online and Mortal Online are the ones that standout) and all have suffered from the issues you talked about. I think it is nocoincidence that the most popular of these, EvE Online, is the one that has thestrongest tutorial section, from my experiences, and general the most playerfriendly approach to its design. Having said that it was not that long ago nowthat EvE also felt just as unfriendly as other sandbox MMOGs.

This may be harsh but i do think it is down to developers that the sandboxMMORPGs are nowhere near as popular as their theme park MMORPGcounterparts. It seems that the idea of a "realistic" MMORPG goeshand in hand with it being exceptionally harsh to new players, at least in thedesigners mind. There seems to be some confusion between making a game easy andgiving strong support to new and maybe even old, players when they firstventure into the world. For both Darkfall and Mortal i remember having tosearch forums as-well as Youtube to find out even the most basic aspects of thegame. The player base, as RPG pointed out, also seems to be part of the problembut i can’t help but feel that it is the designers that cause the players tobecome like this than the other way around.

As for Minecraft the lack of a tutorial was the one criticism i had of it.Although there is a solid community and wiki that meant it wasn't"necessarily" needed but it still took me longer than i liked to figureout elements like crafting. The same has been true of the people i introducedit to, every single one has asked for help figuring out the initial gamemechanics.

Anyway I'll stop there didn't want to rant to much especially on my firstpost :unsure:











#11 forsandifs   Members   -  Reputation: 154

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 10 February 2011 - 08:04 PM

I feel that a lot of sandbox games aren't as popular as Theme Park games because of users. It takes a certain person to really enjoy something like a Sandbox game. Just like it takes another person to enjoy something like Minecraft. They sort of make their own game out of it. I think most people are just used to being "on the rails" from years of that sort of game-play.


You make a good and valid point and you might be right. I think there are definately people that enjoy being on rails more, and definately there are people that don't enjoy being on rails.

However, do I think that this means a Sandbox MMORPG can't be successful? No.

Why not? Well, because its impossible to prove that argument is true as opposed to my own. I'm arguing that Sandbox is not so successful because there haven't been any well made sandbox mmorpgs, you on the other hand are arguing most people don't want much freedom and variety in a game, they want a scripted and mono-linear experience, so that even if someone made a well made Sandbox MMORPG it wouldn't be succesful. Neither hypothesis has any possible evidence to support it because the test case of a well made Sandbox MMORPG has not occurred yet.

I suppose market research could be carried out, but how can people know if they would like something if they haven't tried yet? Perhaps a gaming psychology survey rather than a binary survey could help to support one argument or the other? I can only guess at what the results would be based on personal experience, and my guess would be that there would be a sufficient market for such a game.

---

Nice post Bigdeadbug, I can only agree with your well explained points. Welcome to gamdev.net forums btw!

#12 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4717

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 11 February 2011 - 05:00 AM

The big issue with sandbox games is that "Joe Average" wants to have a big red arrow over a NPC so he knows that he must click on him, and then he wants a big "X" on his map and better yet another big red arrow that points in the direction where he needs to kill 3 goblins.
And, while there certainly exists the Red Shirted League (apologies to Sir Conan Doyle for that pun), a lot of people really are not all too much interested in why they need to collect 6 rat tails for Frimbo Toenail's magic coffeemug ointment, or whether Zonko Bignose died in the Battle of Seven Hammerstrikes. As long as it involves flashing lights and XP, it's all good.

In one word: people want to be served. Which explains why sandbox games ("do everything yourself") are not such big successes.

That may sound grossly exaggerated, but it is actually paraphrasing something I've read in a review of the Rift beta not long ago where the author gave it a lot of praise because it was basically like WoW with better graphics, and you didn't need to use your brain at all any more. Which pretty much reflects the spirit of the "uh, crap, I never read those... what did I have to kill?" statements that I've seen from literally hundreds of people in online games before.

#13 Edtharan   Members   -  Reputation: 606

Like
1Likes
Like

Posted 11 February 2011 - 08:48 AM

A Sandbox is literally just that, an environment you can play and make things with.

A Sandbox Game is that to some extent, PLUS other tools you can also play with and use in a flexible way. Such as combat and AI controlled environment

Minecraft does not have many additional tools, and therefore I would class it as much closer to a Sandbox than a Sandbox Game.

---

As to what there is new or controversial in my post worth commenting on... well, I would crystalize it thus: The Sandbox MMORPG concept is perfect, and the only problem with past implementations is that too many fundamental mechanics of the game were badly designed and not accessible enough.

I am currently running what could be considered an ultimate sandbox: OpenSim.

This is just a virtual world server that is like Second Life (it is based on the code for second life that was released as open source). You have to make everything. However, there is no Game-play in it (other than what you make yourself). It is also multi-player so you can play over networks too.

The above might not on the face of it seem very comment worthy, controversial, or new, but why then have those mistakes been repeated for every Sandbox MMORPG so far?! I can't imagine it being an impossible or even improbable extra effort to implement smooth versions of basic mechanics, and want to know introductions to said mechanics.


I think the mistakes that are made with Sandbox MMOs is that they treat them like regular MMOs but the player does not have to follow the story line if they don't want to. In most MMOs the players are PvE, which means that they are driven to interact with the environment and interacting with other players only comes about due to the difficulty of the dungeons (as multiple people are usually needed to defeat the enemies, especially bosses), but in a Sandbox MMos, the environment does not have any clear direction to it and the players can get lost or leave for lack of direction.

What is lacking is motivation to do something in the game.

The way to solve this problem is to think about the game differently. The main driver can't be pre-set quests and the quest givers, so the only thing that can really do this is other players. IF you just apply the old MMO model of player interaction, there is nothing they really need to communicate about. A player might need someone to help them through a difficult area, but the motivation for doing so is sole dependent on the player in a Sandbox game. Thus only the player who enjoy grind for the sake of grind will end up driving the game experience, not something that really works.

The idea then it so increase the depth and breadth of player interactions. Allow players to set challenges for other players and have the winners rewarded. This does not have to be that players create the areas, but it could be that there is some metric that players can gain by setting goals.

One example is that players can swear fealty to other players and can own land. The maximum amount of land you can own is dependent on how many vassals you have, the more vassals, the more land (although it does mean that you actually own it, just that you can own it).

Players can give other players missions to fulfil, such as attacking another player's buildings as quests. The player setting the quest identifies the location, the bounty that is rewarded for completion and the time frame the mission needs to be done by, and the game determines boss monsters and minions of the place. When another player take up this quest, and completes it, that player is rewarded by treasure and other resources and the player setting the quest is rewarded by capturing the location as their own and gaining some other resources (eg: prestige, etc).

The game-play between the players engaged in the area domination causes the story of the players playing the hack and slash to have motivation (quests). However, the skill that these players have in completing the quests feeds back into the game-play of the Area domination game to resolve their actions. Because of this, it is in the interests of the Area Domination players to provide the Hack and Slash players with interesting and fun quests as that will keep the good players around their areas, but as these will be inherently risky quests (but not too risky), then the Area Domination player must balance the risk against the ability to hold onto valuable players. It creates a complex interaction between both types of players that drives them to create more and more interesting game-play (as the Area Domination players are really competing for Hack and Slash players).

It is a sandbox game as there is not developer created missions, and player are really free to do what they want. Players would be allowed to be both Hack and Slash players and at the same time Area Domination Players. They would be free to spend as much or as little time on either as they see fit (or not player one or the other). However, the game-play is still focused and players would have direction and motivation at all times.

#14 Bigdeadbug   Members   -  Reputation: 173

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 11 February 2011 - 08:51 AM

Although there is truth in what you say, playing Warhammer Online which had quest locations on the map and then going back to other games did feel like a step back at the time, this seems to be an issues with theme park MMORPGs.In-fact it's an issue, and i do see it as one, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum to the issues found plaguing Sandbox MMORPGs. The designers seem to pander somewhat to the idea players don't read the quest text and seem to have given up trying to engage them through it, instead using everything at their disposal to remove the need to read it.

I would argue from what i have experienced that Rifts questing system is the worst part of Rift (at least in the area of game-play), the redeeming factor in this is the use of Rifts and invasions as you level that adds a dynamic feel to the world (something you would expect more from a Sandbox MMORPG).

For a sandbox MMORPG the use of questing is not necessarily required and even when it is the flexible nature of the world can mean a much more dynamic and interesting questing system. In-fact the questing system/Help system in EvE was an area that received a lot of hate when i used to follow some EvE related forums, but in comparison to the majority of MMORPGs its easily one of the most successful games out there. This isn't to say that there will not still players that would rather be served the information, there will always be players like that but i feel it should be the designers job to engage the player in the game not given them an easy way to avoid a large portion of content within the game.

I'm not saying the player should not be given a helping hand through the game at times, especially at the start, quite the opposite in-fact. This help shouldn't remove the need for player to think but actually encourage them to think so they can enjoy the game without the need for such obscene"hints".

(sorry probably got a tad off topic at points :huh: )


Nice post Bigdeadbug, I can only agree with your well explained points. Welcome to gamdev.net forums btw!


Thank you very much. :D

Edited by Bigdeadbug, 11 February 2011 - 09:03 AM.


#15 Dreddnafious Maelstrom   Members   -  Reputation: 579

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 12 February 2011 - 02:13 PM

Although there is truth in what you say, playing Warhammer Online which had quest locations on the map and then going back to other games did feel like a step back at the time, this seems to be an issues with theme park MMORPGs.In-fact it's an issue, and i do see it as one, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum to the issues found plaguing Sandbox MMORPGs. The designers seem to pander somewhat to the idea players don't read the quest text and seem to have given up trying to engage them through it, instead using everything at their disposal to remove the need to read it.

I would argue from what i have experienced that Rifts questing system is the worst part of Rift (at least in the area of game-play), the redeeming factor in this is the use of Rifts and invasions as you level that adds a dynamic feel to the world (something you would expect more from a Sandbox MMORPG).

For a sandbox MMORPG the use of questing is not necessarily required and even when it is the flexible nature of the world can mean a much more dynamic and interesting questing system. In-fact the questing system/Help system in EvE was an area that received a lot of hate when i used to follow some EvE related forums, but in comparison to the majority of MMORPGs its easily one of the most successful games out there. This isn't to say that there will not still players that would rather be served the information, there will always be players like that but i feel it should be the designers job to engage the player in the game not given them an easy way to avoid a large portion of content within the game.

I'm not saying the player should not be given a helping hand through the game at times, especially at the start, quite the opposite in-fact. This help shouldn't remove the need for player to think but actually encourage them to think so they can enjoy the game without the need for such obscene"hints".

(sorry probably got a tad off topic at points :huh: )



Nice post Bigdeadbug, I can only agree with your well explained points. Welcome to gamdev.net forums btw!


Thank you very much. :D


I agree with the general premise of the OP and have some ideas regarding "content" of a sandbox game.

Most sandbox games rely on pvp for content as it doesn't have the supporting mechanics required to have procedural pve.

There is the run of the mill procedural pve which is like diablo or city of heroes. This is pre-structured "lairs or dungeons" that randomly generate groups of mobs.

There is a deeper and technically manageable method for procedural content but it requires the game design to support it from top to bottom.

Just as pvp is player generated content confined and shaped via game mechanics so too can pve content be generated.

Player generated quests, transportation of scarce goods across distances that don't have easy or instant travel, bounties as in Star Wars Galaxies.

The original Ultima Online ecosystem was designed to have a procedural monster generator and mobs that leveled up but they squashed it for a simpler implementation.

These issues are fixable with some creativity.
"Let Us Now Try Liberty"-- Frederick Bastiat

#16 Edtharan   Members   -  Reputation: 606

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 14 February 2011 - 03:55 AM

I agree with the general premise of the OP and have some ideas regarding "content" of a sandbox game.

Most sandbox games rely on pvp for content as it doesn't have the supporting mechanics required to have procedural pve.

There is the run of the mill procedural pve which is like diablo or city of heroes. This is pre-structured "lairs or dungeons" that randomly generate groups of mobs.

There is a deeper and technically manageable method for procedural content but it requires the game design to support it from top to bottom.

Just as pvp is player generated content confined and shaped via game mechanics so too can pve content be generated.

Player generated quests, transportation of scarce goods across distances that don't have easy or instant travel, bounties as in Star Wars Galaxies.

The original Ultima Online ecosystem was designed to have a procedural monster generator and mobs that leveled up but they squashed it for a simpler implementation.

These issues are fixable with some creativity.

I agree. In my last post, in the system I described, the Area Domination game could be played by Ais, so all the actual players would experience is the results of the AIs fighting it out. They end up with a dynamic sandbox world where their actions have consequences. Also the AI could be designed to create a form of stability (where if one faction becomes too powerful the other gang up on it).

#17 Dreddnafious Maelstrom   Members   -  Reputation: 579

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 14 February 2011 - 08:18 AM

I've signed up for Rift, the new MMO going into open beta tomorrow. One aspect of it is procedural rifts that open up randomly on the map. They are attuned to a specific element like earth, wind or fire. If left unattended they evolve into footholds, then ultimately fortresses. So they must be dealt with or else they effectively invade the player map.

It's not enough to build a full game on but it's a good example of procedural content that adds to the game via mechanics instead of costly custom content generation.
"Let Us Now Try Liberty"-- Frederick Bastiat

#18 Zummy   Members   -  Reputation: 131

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 15 February 2011 - 12:19 PM

Another note I'd like to create and add on here is that Sandbox games can have a perfect implementation and still fail miserably because Sandbox games require a good community. If the driving force of your game is based off of community-driven aspects, without a good community, that game is lacking one of its core 'selling-points'. Also, another thing I see, at least with the people I've had the experience discussing with, is that sandbox games rarely have that ease to them. They make great, diverse, expansive tool-sets to do just about everything imaginable, but they take a genius to figure out. I believe there should be a good portion of Sandbox elements in most, if not all, modern mmorpgs, but you also have to have at least a few basic towns, quests, etc. built in, that way the player isn't striving to create civilization all by himself.

#19 forsandifs   Members   -  Reputation: 154

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 15 February 2011 - 02:57 PM

Another note I'd like to create and add on here is that Sandbox games can have a perfect implementation and still fail miserably because Sandbox games require a good community. If the driving force of your game is based off of community-driven aspects, without a good community, that game is lacking one of its core 'selling-points'. Also, another thing I see, at least with the people I've had the experience discussing with, is that sandbox games rarely have that ease to them. They make great, diverse, expansive tool-sets to do just about everything imaginable, but they take a genius to figure out. I believe there should be a good portion of Sandbox elements in most, if not all, modern mmorpgs, but you also have to have at least a few basic towns, quests, etc. built in, that way the player isn't striving to create civilization all by himself.


I agree on this actually. There has to be something for the player to do on his own that is engaging enough. It can still be sandbox type stuff tho. And about ease of use, I agree that is very important too, which is why strongly made the point of giving the player easily accessible ways of learning game mechanincs he wants to learn.

#20 way2lazy2care   Members   -  Reputation: 782

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 15 February 2011 - 03:35 PM

Usually people say that most people can't handle too much freedom, that most people need a lot of hand holding and direction because otherwise people won't know what to do and will get bored, and that the harshness of PvP interactions will alienate most people. I will only grant the validity of the last point. Truly open PvP can only ever appeal to those that enjoy PvP, and certainly not everyone enjoys PvP. However I strongly refute the validity of the other points. People enjoy freedom, and only enjoy freedom. The more freedom a player has the more they will enjoy their game, even if they aren't interested in 99% of the options available to them, they will enjoy the game more, simply because of the excitement such a plethora of meaningful options provides, and because it will make their choice all the more meaningful. What people don't enjoy however is being overwhelmed with information... Also people don't enjoy being left without a clear and concise clue as to what might be fun/good/best for them to do next and how to actually do it... These factors are of paramount importance. But the successful consideration of these points is not exclusive to theme park games! Sandbox games can take them into account too! And if these points are taken into account in a sandbox game, then the generally perceived "disadvantages to sandbox mmorpgs" disappear!


You should read the paradox of choice. People, in fact, do not enjoy the freedom of choice, and more times than not become increasingly stressed because of it.

A good example of a sandbox game would be horizons. One of the most in depth crafting systems and an all around solid game except for the fact that it was almost entirely missing what you refer to as theme park elements.

One thing you fail to note is that most MMO worlds are enormously expansive, which is a good thing, but if a player has no map they will wander into places they won't like or they will not go anywhere. That's what happened to me in Horizons. I totally loved the game except for this problem. It gave quests, but it did a very poor job of telling you where to go.

The player is thrown into a huge world they know nothing about. The quest lines should be an introduction to the world, and having very direct quest lines isn't a bad thing. If I told you right now to go to Bubba Rays in halifax and dropped you at the airport with a car, what would you do? Probably get lost or go to an info kiosk/use a navigation system. The former two are both akin to the quest lines in something like WoW.

You also don't really touch on how optional the quest lines in a game like WoW are. You could do alright in that game without ever doing a quest. The quests are an option for people who want to have guided advancement and introduction to the world/back story.

There doesn't need to be the distinction you've made. A good MMO should have options. There is no reason some people can't have their hands held, and there's no reason that some people can't do whatever they want within the constraints of your world. However, if you take out the "theme park" side of an mmo, you will have to come up with a better way of introducing your players to the world, backstory, and gameplay mechanics.

This is coming from someone that loves sandbox elements in MMOs. Being able to build your own cities, skill based advancement rather than a level system, in depth crafting, and player driven war all appeal to me. That doesn't mean I never want to be told when I'm missing something awesome, or that what I'm working on has some impact on an existing story, or that, while what I'm doing works, if I do it somewhere else or some other way I can do the same thing faster/better, or that some global event is going on, or that there might be some linear explosion filled action quest that I might want to do once a month.

There are tons of reasons for having the theme park elements you describe.

edit: another thing you might consider "theme park"ish is the travel system in WoW. There are tons of places I never would have seen and ended up going to if it weren't for the on rails experience that purposely flys you through/around the most interesting parts of the world.




Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.



PARTNERS