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tehgamemaker

Fill Your Own Canvas

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I think that blank canvas like games are under used. Games like "Minecraft" where you randomly appear in a randomly generated world with absolutely no goal or anything. Minecraft is one of the few games that has absolutely no story and I still put hours into it. Also Grand Theft Auto. Sure there is a story mode but most people just spend their time mindlessly shooting people and making the authorities mad. So what do you all think? Do you like the idea of blank canvas games?

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Yep. The first sandbox-style game I played was Driver 2 for the Playstation. There was a story mode for that also, but I enjoyed just playing the "Take a drive" mode, where you drive around the city evading police while weaving through traffic.mellow.gif Very limited in what that allows you to do, however, and the game itself isn't designed to be a sandbox.

Another enjoyable game type is 'open world' games. Slightly different from sandbox games like Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress, but still very very enjoyable are 'open world' games like Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. If you haven't played Morrowind, I recommend checking it out. I put 350 hours into that game when it came out in 2002.
(Note: Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion is released, but I recommend Morrowind over it, also note: Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim will be out at the end of this year)

Alternatively, you can go play with Legos or Playmobil. laugh.gif

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You mean free roamers? Yeah, I enjoy them, but only if they are well made and I am free to pursue whatever I am interested within the confines of the world. If not, I quickly lose interest and pursue some other avenue of entertainment. Minecraft does things fairly well, but can be a tad bit on the annoying side. Fortunately, because of the game's structure, there is very little of "you cannot do this" so there really doesn't feel like any limitations are fixed - which, if there is, completely destroys the free roamer atmosphere. Certain logical limitations are reasonable (you can't fly a starship into a sun and live) but other than that anything that restricts me also annoys me (yes, I am annoyed that I have fixed ceiling that I can't build beyond - mostly because I'd rather have a physical reason for it than a ghost barrier - but it's also the only limitation on your freedom that's clearly visible).

Of course, there is a trade-off in that - a certain point where it either keeps my interest or loses me completely - based on whether I find the activities available of interest. In a space-sim I enjoy pirating, for example, and I lose interest if I cannot attack traders or raid supply trains - it's an artificial limitation to prevent griefing, which I can respect, but still makes me feel limited and confined; which ironically contradicts the open-space setting. I'd rather get a penalty, whether it be a bounty on my head or police attacking on sight, than to be forbidden by some ominous force from doing an action I wish to perform. Certain exceptions apply, of course, like killing harmless children - which is just begging for a game ban.

I'm also from the school of thought that spawns from "power to the player" rather than designer wisdom so my feelings towards artificial interventionism is of course, to say the least, heavily biased, but that does not mean I can't see the benefits of the more formula inspired approach. Most games would in fact probably be walking disasters without designers hand holding the player! But my heart still rests with good old free roamers and the freedom that can be enjoyed there. Game mechanics and rules are still there, for sure, but they're more of an inspiration rather than a limitation and meant to keep the player's mind flowing from act to act without wandering away into total oblivion - a sort of guideline rather than rulebook, if you will, and hey, who isn't to say I want to piss off every space cop in the neighborhood this fine day ey? :)

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Another enjoyable game type is 'open world' games. Slightly different from sandbox games like Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress, but still very very enjoyable are 'open world' games like Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. If you haven't played Morrowind, I recommend checking it out. I put 350 hours into that game when it came out in 2002.
Oh god, combined with the construction kit and the mod sites, Morrowind was definitely a dangerous time-sink of a sand-box :D

I probably spent equal amounts of time inside my houses as I did actually questing and dungeon crawling! I'd have piles of books in my living room to sort though and arrange on the bookshelves, silverware and cutlery to be laid out, food to be dished up, drawers of trinkets to collect, extra rooms added to store all my alchemy ingredients and equipment, armouries full of rows of tables covered in neatly arranged weapons of all descriptions, interesting NPCs from all over the world to 'collect' by convincing them to travel to my local tavern or house, etc...


I think the reason we don't see more sandbox games is that they're obviously extremely expensive to make with that amount of content.
Of course, the minimalistic minecraftesque approach is the exception to this ;)

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Those sort of games are always really fun and especially good games at maintaining communities. I also think the reward systems in such games are extremely solid. The fun doesn't come from owning a castle, the fun comes from building it (it's about the journey rather than the destination so to speak).

The only real issue is that such games can be a nightmare to test as it's a very long process. This can mean that games like Minecraft can always run the risk of being very buggy (although Notch did a great job of dodging that bullet by making the Beta into the product being sold so no-one could complain in the early stages). It means that you won't see as many games that give the player so much creative control coming out of big companies like Activision or EA.

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I loathe sandbox games (with exceptions, but even then I play these shortly), I feel the designers were lazy when making these and drop all the work on my shoulders. I especially hate those "choose your own goal". I find it much more fun when I have clearly set boundaries and the goal and then I work out the best solution to beat the game.

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