Sandboxes need to be unrealistic

| Friday, January 7, 2011
Sandboxes need builders. With no builders, they may have literally nothing.

In real life it is easy to destroy and hard to build. It can take days to build a simple wood house. A couple minutes with some gas and a match can remove that. Building, we must fight gravity and entropy. Destroying, they are our allies.

So I leave this thought: for a sandbox MMO to be successful on the scale of WoW, building must be faster, easier, and more common than destroying. Note that when I say "on the scale of WoW" I mean millions of subscribers, not necessarily 11 million. Or alternatively, equivalent profits from a freemium system as if it were a million+ subscription.

Minecraft fits somewhat what I mean. Building can be very time-consuming, but getting TNT is a huge pain. With creative use of waterfalls of lava or water there can be a great bit of destruction, but at the same time, creative use of them can protect structures.

Over the long long term, building and destruction should balance out. It would be as absurd to have an infinitely built-up world. Eventually the buildings should fall. And then we build over the ruins, before we create more ruins.

My experience in EVE may influence this. I was a noob, one who farmed poorly and probably didn't have anything right in terms of ship choice, loadout, or character stats. It took a while to get my ship. Farming and finding and then getting it back to where I farmed. Then it went boom in oh... two hits. The second hit was my pod. Destruction took five seconds at most.

Slow to rise, quick to fall, is painful.

Also, read this by Tobold.


Stabs said...

I think "sandbox" covers a really wide range of gaming elements. You have no need to have building at all, you could just let the environment build things while people destroy (kinda like reality - oh ho, political insight!)

Sandbox, as used in MMOland, simply means the absence of certain "ride" type features, notably raids and dungeons.

Nils said...

Whatever people mean when they say 'sandbox'.
I agree that Creation and Destruction must be balanced and there must be sandbox elements for solo players.

There must be a feeling of fairness. Maybe fairness in a harsh environment.

Would I miss most in current MMOs, however, is the feeling of travel/distance/trade. It has been destroyed by teleports.

Klepsacovic said...

@Stabs: Are you suggesting that construction workers are NPCs? More seriously, I can't seem to get my head around the idea of a world that we only destroy. Are we clearing out the bad guys to give room for the good guys to build? Or substitute enemies/allies.

@Nils: I'd not mind teleports if they were player-made and had some restrictions on them, such that we have to actually go somewhere before we can magically teleport there.

Anonymous said...

For me, the idea of a sanbox game is one that allows players to affect their surroundings and interact with each other rather than NPCs. I don't think that actually has to mean all sandbox games need to be like EVE and I reckon there is definitely room for them to incorporate elements of things that make WoW successful. The problem is that it's going to take someone with vision to attempt it!

Nils said...

I agree with that Mr We Fly Spitfires ;)
The idea that WoW were a sandbox game if there were no guided questing or, more abstract that games become 'sandboxy', by removing something is absurd.

The point is that while themepark and sandbox games are usually different, they are not perfect opposites fo each other.

A game can offer both functionalities. For example you can rather easily transform WoW into a sandbox by

- removing all teleports and the faction-wide auction house
- introducing transport of goods) and an auction house in each city
- allowing players to build houses in certain regions (not every player, there's not enough space)
- (Re)introducing open world PvP (together with several modifications to make it fun).

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