They're all sandboxes!
Dec 14, 2006 13:25:34

I had the pleasure of talking with my distinguished podcasting colleagues over at Massively Online Gamer for a few hours last night. We talked about a number of things (which you'll hear in the future I'm sure), but one topic stood out as a sticking point among us. The sandbox. This is a term that gamers toss around plenty when discussing game features. I have never been particularly satisfied with its usage when applied to Massive Multiplayer games, but had never had the opportunity to discuss it in depth with anyone who would really care to hammer it out. We hammered that sucker pretty hard last night.

Wikipedia excerpt regarding the sandbox.
A sandbox-style video game (or a video game with an optional sandbox mode) is a video game with an open-ended and non-linear style of game-play, or a mode of game-play within a game that is more often played in a goal-directed manner. Just as a real-world sandbox can be smoothed out and resculpted again and again, so the sandbox game or game mode can be played and explored repeatedly without a linear "plot" or a particular set of expectations, nor any lasting game-play consequences.

Common features of sandbox-style video gaming:
  • Never-ending gameplay: The user is allowed to play forever, and the game (or mode) is generally designed with this in mind rather than the completion of particular goals or levels in order to reach a grand finale.
  • Freedom to experiment: The player can choose his or her own path in the game, either with no consequences or with consequences that can later be undone (often resulting in a flexible and organic development of the player's character or even of the entire game).
  • Non-linear or nonexistent plot. If there is a plot at all, the player can simply ignore it, or there is a branching plot that evolves based on user choices (resulting in a game that is never the same twice).
  • Urban Dictionary defines sandboxing as:
    In video games, the act of abandoning/putting off your tasks or quests in order to just screw around with an immersive and in-depth game world. Examples of "sandbox" games are Oblivion, the Grand Theft Auto series, and pretty much every single RPG or MMORPG out there. The opposite of a sandbox game would be a "linear" game.
    The MMO community has taken it upon themselves to draw a distinction between MMORPGs that are a sandbox and those that are not. I'll come right out and say that any such distinction is misguided, at least in terms of the classic definition of what a sandbox game is. The term sandbox wasn't meant to distinguish one MMO from another, it was created to separate the concept of linear game play (everything from Donkey Kong to Half Life) from games that let you act with a considerable amount of free will within the boundaries of the game world (everything from Sim City to Oblivion).

    Using the definitions given above, there are a few games that tread on the line between them, not clearly falling into either category. The Final Fantasy titles (excluding FFXI) are a prime example of a game that gives the player perceived free will while constantly forcing you down a predestined path. Optional content and meta-games tip the scale toward a sandbox definition, while the overarching story and funneled game-play leans toward a traditional linear classification. Many RPGs walk this line extremely well, gaining the benefits of both sandbox and linear design. Knights of the Old Republic is a good examples of a game hanging in the balance between the two design theories. Ultimately, these examples are not sandboxes, but they are on the border.

    Meanwhile, the MMORPG community has wrongly decided to subclassify the MMORPG genre within this structure. It should be cleared up, all MUDs and MMORPGs fall into the sandbox classification. The flawed theory tends to argue that Eve Online, Ultima Online and Saga of Ryzom are sandbox games while World of Warcraft, EverQuest and City of Heroes are not. The support given to this argument frequently centers around an inclination for the former list to leave you sans direction, but with an abundance of play options. Flexible PvP rules, factional territory control, advanced economy systems and player driven content are the items frequently called out as critical to a sandbox MMORPG.

    This is simply a matter of degree. The classic sandbox definition means you don't need to finish game levels to proceed. It means there are no clear victory conditions. It means there are many play-style options within the game. It means your game is driven by goals set by the player rather than obstacles presented by the game designers. The news flash is: All MMORPGs fall into this category. The distinctions called out by the "Eve/UO/etc is a sandbox" harbingers ultimately come down to a perceived inequity in player freewill. Both WoW and Eve have an economy based on looting, crafting and trading. There is no doubt that Eve's is far more complicated, but complexity is not the measure of a sandbox. Both Ultima Online and EverQuest have a large world and quests. Does EverQuest fall out of the sandbox model because there are solid hints pointing toward content you might want to enjoy? In fact, by the argument given, the original EverQuest is a sandbox MMO and EverQuest II is not. What argument would the sandbox-crew give to support this? Hint: EQ2 has a quest journal.

    Sandbox Harbinger says, "Your game play is now directed by that quest journal and any MMO with a quest journal is a theme park instead of a sandbox."

    This is simply not the case. Why should WoW, EQ2 and CoH be classified as linear games simply because they chose to design stronger task tracking systems? There are vast differences in the game-play options across the MMORPG genre. For example, your average Korean port doesn't have much depth of play, but that doesn't mean the arc of a player's experience is channeled beyond his control. The choice to farm, hunt, trade, craft, or grief others is still there.

    Stop trying to sub-classify MMORPGs in this way. They're all sandboxes and slight degrees of system complexity do not change that.

    Submitted by Brent on Dec 14, 2006 13:25:34 CST (comments: 32)


    'The dif.' by JustinSane
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 13:34:00 CST
    I think the difference is in the way you can build a sandcastle and others can knock it down in certain games, whereas in other games it's more like the sand is there to protect you when you trip and fall off the slide.

    'grief is not the answer' by Brent
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 14:00:59 CST
    So you'd consider Warcraft 3 a sandbox, but wouldn't consider SecondLife a sandbox then?

    'So...' by Wilhelm2451
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 15:04:13 CST
    Do we use the term "MMO" in the definition of a "sandbox" or the term "sandbox" in the definition of an "MMO?"


    '/slap Wilhelm' by Brent
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 15:09:52 CST
    good one :)
    Can I say, neither?

    'Hmm.' by Sanctified
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 15:15:59 CST
    I somewhat agree, but the big difference is what choices are left for the player of the MMO if they do not choose to walk the path that is laid for them in games like WoW or EQ?

    The reason people categorize certain MMOs as sandboxes is they leave far more freedom to the players.

    I personally like using the term. Can anyone propose a better term to describe them?

    'Again' by Brent
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 15:23:32 CST
    Sanctified: I guess all I can do is restate the fact that those freedoms you're talking about are only a matter of degrees of freedom not a wholesale change in the sandbox-y qualities of a game. The same basic options exist in all MMOs. Some have a few additional features or capabilities here and there, but they're all still sandboxes despite these small variations.

    'Good poinst...' by darrenl
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 15:25:59 CST
    ...but, if the player chooses to go off the "beaten path" in WoW or EQ2, what is that called? Its usually called grinding. If a player goes off the beaten path in Eve(if there is one), what's that called? Its called playing Eve. That is the distiction most of us think about when we think sandbox vs theme least thats what I think.

    'Beating the Path (and the horse)' by Brent
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 15:41:27 CST
    Sorry, that distinction is still a matter of personal perception rather than a differentiating gameplay mechanic leading to greater freedom. The point is that you CAN go off the path in any MMO. Whether you choose to grind, roleplay, craft, or work over the auction house - it is still not a theme park. You are not sitting in an automated monorail car that leads you through the content, not even in WoW.

    The argument you'd have to pursue to achieve proof of this sandbox segregation in the MMO market is to prove that some MMOs are NOT sandboxes and from where I'm standing I can't see that happening.

    'Beating the pig' by darrenl
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 15:59:44 CST
    ...cause thats the first animal that came to mind :)

    I don't know Brent, if it were just a matter of personal preception, then I don't know if grinding would be as big an issue as it is now for those who choose to level without questing. Most game mechanics are centred around the quest system...anything beyond that is killing mosters over and over to replace questing. Sure, the player can roleplay thinking that these boars are threatening their village and therefore, must die...but lets face it, most players aren't like that.

    Sure, there is crafting. But what is crafting but another grind mechanic of performing the same task over and over....must like not performing adventure questing.

    Now, is this a type of sandbox mechanic? I don't think so..because that still leaves the player with two choices...either live withing the mechanics of progression that are build into the game, or go outside.

    I agree on your proof concept. We'll take your assumption that all MMOs are sandboxes and try to proove that one isn't. Give me some time to think about it and I'll do my best. If I nail it, you owe me a beer :)

    'Concise response' by ErikHyrkas
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 16:17:02 CST
    All MMOs that I'm familiar with are based on the Sandbox principle. Yes, it's possible there is one on the fringe that I don't know of, but I actually doubt it very much.

    The argument that because there is a more attractive route to follow is ignoring the definition. Even those games that encourage a progression usually allow many ways of achieving it. Read the definition of the sandbox again and recognize that your own personal feelings on how constrictive a game is to you is not relevant to the discussion. In this case, we are dealing with a concrete definition and there's no wiggle room for feelings.

    Most of the four pages I typed were actually dedicated toward the topic of creating labels, and what might be much more useful to game consumers for labels in this particular market segment. I don't have the energy to retype it at this time, but maybe I'll tackle that topic in the near future.

    I don't believe that with a linear non-sandbox game, you could not spend 2000+ hours paying it and feel even remotely satisfied. Not that such a game couldn't be built, but the maintenance would be brutal because to keep people interested for that many hours, you would have to have a very long and attractive plot that truly never got old. I don't know that we'll ever see such an MMO -- at least not a successful one.

    'Ooops.' by ErikHyrkas
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 16:19:02 CST
    The reference to the lost "four pages" is actually something I was going to edit out, but so much for re-reading my own stuff. I originally posted a longer response, but it was lost to the Internet ether. So, if you are confused by that reference, this should clear it up.

    'RE: Beating the Pig' by Brent
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 16:31:53 CST
    Beer bet is agreed. Sounds fine by me. I won't say I wish you luck, because I'd prefer to be right.

    I guess I do still think that your points are a matter of personal perception rather than a hard qualification of game features that lend some super-sandbox classification. If I go off the beaten path in Eve my options include:

    Mining - Just like collecting tradeskill stuff in WoW and EQ (grind)

    Crafting - Like all other crafting systems

    PvP - Sure not all games have PvP but some do

    Build a corp - Guilds are nothing new, they're groups of people with goals. Whether it is roleplaying, raiding, or PvP it is all the same

    Exploring - You can explore in any MMO.

    Farming - Grinding rats for cash and gear.

    I could keep making lists like this, but I think you get the gist of what I'm pointing out. Games like Eve and UO are certainly more complicated than many of their peers, but that doesn't mean they're in a different class of MMOs, at least as it pertains to the definition of a sandbox.


    And to Erik - Thanks for dropping that in. You clearly see this in the same light I do. A clinical look at what it means to be a sandbox leaves no wiggle room here. I think you said that well.

    'Roast Pig..mmm bbq' by Sanctified
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 17:09:47 CST
    I can definitely see where youre coming from Brent, and I somewhat agree that all MMO's have choices to make.

    My argument is basically that I could stand still in Contra just shooting my gun into nothing if I so choose, but it doesnt make for compelling gameplay.

    Some MMO's are just more of a sandbox than others, therefore the line gets drawn.

    'The definition' by darrenl
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 17:12:11 CST
    I'll go over this in more detail at my site...but I\'ll give you a peek at my thoughts here:

    Never Ending Gameplay:
    The current MMOs do not fall into this category. The only one that does is Eve. Why...because there is no never ending gameplay in any of the current offerings. WoW ends at 60. EQ2 ends at 70. All thats left is the grind...which is not the same as never ending gameplay, which I'll get to in the next part of the definition. The very fact that MMO companies release expansions is to address the fact that players have ended the game, or the that the player HAS reached the goals for that content.

    And...for the thinking of a game being grindy is far from a personal opinion, it too is a clinical definition formed by the MMO community as well as developers of MMOs.

    Freedom to Experiment:
    Sure, I may give you this one...but its very weak. There are choices to be made by the player...but any choices outside of the "optimum" path are usually limited in scope and impact on the gameplay.

    Non-linear or non-existant plot:
    Darren: I don't know about you...but MMOs are always the same game twice. Look at the main reason why everyone is loving EoF, "Thank God, I was soo sick of doing Antonica quests and the Trial Island". Brad, you said yourself that the main reason you didn't look forward to rerolling toons was because of this type of linear feature (please correct me if I wrong or clearify my understanding)

    How is WoW never the same game twice? How is EQ2 never the same game twice? OK...there are mulitple classes to play....but do they really impact the environment in which they play? No, you're still doing the same quests, follwoing the same path, but now you're shooting fireballs to get 10 rats instead of using a sword. How is that non-linear?

    'PS' by darrenl
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 17:13:00 CST
    Love this debate forum...thanks Brent.

    'Re: The definition' by Brent
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 17:39:05 CST
    First, thanks for taking the time to put all that down.
    Second: Nope nope nope

    Your position is the same as Ryan and Gary from MOG and I'm still not sold because you are all approaching the criteria from (as Erik put it so well) an emotional perspective.

    Consider someone who has spent their entire life playing console platformer games or sports titles (I wasn't that much different up until I was 19 years old - MMOs didn't exist!) Now plop them down in WoW and tell them they don't have many choices to make. They'll laugh you out of the room because they are blown away by the open ended play. Plop an experienced MMO player like us down in front of Eve and they'll likely be impressed with what is possible, but the raw game mechanics, they're the same....

    I'm going to ignore your statements about MMOs ending when you reach the top level ... that is not the opinion of many raid guilds and isn't a particularly strong point... I can name many people who played EQ for 5+ years and still hadn't seen everything.

    Linear game play, yeah, many MMOs have a relatively paved road to level 10. It is unfortunate, but those game also have the highest subscription numbers because newbies learn throughout that process. It is a bummer for alts. No doubt about it, but if you want to do a different newbie experience in WoW or EQ, just pick another race. EQ2 has corrected that flaw in many ways since launch. It still isn't perfect though.

    And yes, I'm a stubborn bastard and my name isn't Brad.

    '..' by darrenl
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 18:15:36 CST
    Shit...did I say Brad? Crap...I did..

    'Look at WoW...' by darrenl
    Submitted on 2006-12-14 19:33:12 CST
    So I'm going to just concentrate on WoW, because I think its the one game that doesn't fit the all. Lets say that I'm starting my 6th character in WoW. OK...from 1-10 in a new newbie zone. Where do I go from there? According to the maps on, I've got 4-5 choices in the 10-20 range: Silverpine, Loch Modan, Westfall, The Barrens and Darkshore. some of those, depending on the faction,a re not easily accessible...but I can still get there. What are the chances that I haven't visited those other areas with my other five characters at least once before? Depending on the faction and race, chances are I have been there at least once. Given, WoW has got 8 races and 9 classes...thats 72 different opportunities. With only 4-5 zones in which to adventure at any given level, that means that each combination of race and class will visit each zone 14.4 times.

    Check my math...its been a while since I've done statistics and such. But if I'm on my sixth character, chances are that I'm pretty close to visiting each area more than once.

    'Linearity/Sandbox - different prongs of the fork' by scytale2
    Submitted on 2006-12-15 05:03:49 CST
    One of the problems with SWG and Ryzom - the games most associated with the word "sandbox" - is their lack of clear progression route and SWG addressed this with the NGE, to almost universal lack of acclaim (at the time). Ryzom never did anything.

    Every MMO deserves some kind of "helpful assistance to progression in a varied way", regardless of its sandbox nature.

    However, every game, in order to attract the largest number of players, needs to have a large degree of "world interaction", through a variety of methods, not just combat. People like to make their mark and also need to feel that the environment that they are in is "real" for maximum "immersion".

    Linearity without necessity is critical for the best and most successful games
    A Sandbox, where you can feel a part of the world you are adventuring in is also critical to max the experience
    Two prongs of a many-pronged fork.

    No MMO has this yet, so there is a big market out there to aim at....

    'My last thought...I promise' by darrenl
    Submitted on 2006-12-15 07:48:34 CST
    On the way over to work this morning I had the final nail in the coffin of the definition "Non-linear" gameplay. This kind of builds on the numbers that I was giving in my last post

    If any MMO is not to be the same game twice (or even three times) you would need the number of zones that you can level in (at any time) to be equal to all combinations of classes and races. In WoW's case, you would need 72. Now, in theory thats ridiculous, I know, but it currently only has 4-5 zones at any one time. If WoW had 10-ish, then we can talk about non-linear gamplay. Right now, the only game that comes close to this theoretical non-linear gameplay is Eve because the number of "zones" is higher than WoWs...hence sandbox.

    Look at it this way. There is no real way to code a program that creates a truly random number. We can only practically generate pseudo random numbers. Eve is a pseudo random number generator...WoW is just picking a number from 1-20.

    Darren's shutting up now....

    'Response to DarrenL' by scytale2
    Submitted on 2006-12-15 08:06:55 CST
    What you are suggesting is still linear, 72 times over. Whether its wolf pups or skeletons or mini boars, it's still pretty linear.

    Let's presume we all start WoW at aged 10, game age. If it were non-linear we could gain experience by:
    a) Doing well academically
    b) Doing well in sports
    c) Making lots of friends
    d) Exploring our prowess, wherever it may lie
    e) Learning how to do new things we'll never be good at
    f) Going on holiday several times to different places
    g) Even kill mobs, if we are that way inclined
    etc. etc.
    We have a certain degree (albeit not exclusive)control over what we do.

    MMOs need to look at ways to do this rather than use a level 1-60 template, which they vary dependent upon where you are in the world.

    I would favour one lot of XP for every action that you take, which means that you shouldn't "waste" the xp you can earn, because there is only so much you can slot in. Too much time spent grinding will just get you better at combat and you might well miss out on that artistic career you had talent for...

    When your life ends (xp is maxed) you then say, well I'll try another type of life:) and become a politician or an astronaut...

    This is what game longevity is all about.

    'Darren / Scytale2' by Brent
    Submitted on 2006-12-15 10:27:03 CST

    Coming up with the number of permutations for game play doesn't ultimately mean there is or isn't a sandbox. Here is why: there's more than a handful in every MMO and nothing you can ever say will convince me that MMOs aren't the ultimate specimens under the sandbox microscope. People say GTA is a sandbox. Well, if GTA is a sandbox then it goes without question that WoW is.

    I don't understand this vehement need to defend the 'sandboxiness' of Eve Online. Everyone that argues the point is on the Eve train.

    YES! Eve has many freedoms! So do all the MMOs!

    Scytale hit it on the head when he said: 'We have a certain degree (albeit not exclusive)control over what we do.' I'd go one step further and say we also don't have infinite options, which is the direction all these numbers are headed.

    The difference between 13,000,000 options and 185,000,000 options means nothing in the definition of whether it is or isn't a sandbox because both number equate to: a whole bunch.

    'Sandbox as a "badge of honor"' by jkp0317
    Submitted on 2006-12-15 10:28:24 CST
    Going to ramble a bit here........

    Seems many players of "Sandbox" games use it as a badge of honor to signify the amount of player control over the virtual landscape of the game. Some also use it describe the depth/cost of the PvP interaction in a game.

    In UO, players were able plop down persistant player housing, and player kills were full loot if not mistaken (never played).

    Eve, as most know, is all about the player control of 0.0 space, mostly through the enforcement through means of PvP.

    Ryzom is more of a cuddly sandbox due to the community, but it too has player controlled towers with resources, defendable by PvP actions.

    Another common theme in all of these games is the flexibility in the progression of your character through the raising of skills. Although more linear in UO, it is very flexible in both Ryzom/Eve, to the point of being able to take your existing toon in an entirely different direction at any point in their career.

    Games like WOW/EQ2/DAOC/etc, all take you on rails from 1-level cap, you can get there different ways, but a level 70 Templar pretty much looks the same, give or take a fable or 2. As long as a game provides frequent enough updates/additions (read EQ/EQ2), these toons almost always have something to do to continue to enhance. Once a game ceases to allow a progression path (read WOW), it really stops being a sand box for that "character". Does a game that "can be beat" really deserve to be called a sandbox.

    'I lied...must keep debating :)' by darrenl
    Submitted on 2006-12-15 10:44:52 CST
    OK...I brought this up on my site, but I'll repeat it here. If we're going to stick to definitions and be non-emotional about this issue, then let's concentrate on the meaning of non-linear. From Wiki:

    "Linearity of a system allows investigators to make certain mathematical assumptions and approximations, allowing for easier computation of results. In nonlinear systems these assumptions cannot be made. Since nonlinear systems are not equal to the sum of their parts, they are often difficult (or impossible) to model, and their behavior with respect to a given variable (for example, time) is extremely difficult to predict. When modeling non-linear systems, therefore, it is common to approximate them as linear, where possible."

    Fact of the matter is, that WoW, nor EQ2 nor CoH (pick one) can ever truly ever model a non-linear gaming system. Period. By their very nature, they are linear because they are easily modeled. Now, I don't play Eve that much, nor am I on any train, wasn't away there was one, but its the only one in which player behavior is NOT easily modeled or predicted with any degree of certainty. Therefore, the third pillar of the sandbox definition cannot stand on its merits.

    Awesome debate guys...I love this stuff.

    'Brent Is Right' by ender
    Submitted on 2006-12-19 21:09:10 CST
    I agree with everything you have said Brent.

    First of all, let me say I love Eve, it is not my SOLE MMO.. I like Fantasy, but Eve is a my second MMO. I have recently done a test and tried to figure out the many possibilities that Eve has to offer and the realization I came to was startling.

    Basically in EVE you have far fewer choices to begin with than in any other MMO... before you flame me... let me explain.

    1. Before you can do anything you must spend 1-2 solid months training up, basically clicking a button and waiting for 2 months 'real world' time. All the while you are flying a crappy tin can either Ratting (running missions killing NPC pirates) or (Mining, which is unbelievably slow and boring).

    2. After you get some decent money and begin to understand the difficult mechanics of combat. You can begin to have some real fun with tactics while you are fighting NPC. It starts to get fun... but it is still a grind.

    3. The harsh reality of EVE is that at least 1/2 of the games content, probably more, will be completely closed off to you.. there is ZERO open exploration of EVE... You CANNOT explore the Universe and seek out new life and new civilizations and boldly do anything unless you are part of a CORP (GUILD) and depending on which one you join.. probably half the Universe will kill you on sight. Sure this is challenging and keeps you on your toes... but in the end... its pretty freaking lame.

    I gave this a little test recently and, you know, do a little /gasp 'role playing' as an explorer... there was no opportunity to. Instant death in 0.0 no matter where you turn. Even as you gain levels the possibility of exploration is once again very limited because of all the player controlled areas. EVE is not a wilderness... its the Bronx, and if you want to go walking around the Bronx to get your jollies... then go for it... I for one find it very nice to be able to have the freedom of the forest.

    The bottom line to me is that its true all MMOs are sandbox games. Some are more than others, but EVE as linear than any I have ever played. I can play WOW and even on a PVP server I am not forced into combat no matter where I go. Freedom is not having to die to see or experience the game... Freedom is being able to have a choice, and having a choice does not mean choosing to stay out of parts of a game because I dont want to join a certain Guild to see it...

    /rant off

    'Response to ender' by scytale2
    Submitted on 2006-12-20 08:33:05 CST
    I think Brent has thrown us a \"curve ball\" as you Americans like to say. \"Sandbox\" is just not descriptive enough and it is certainly not an antonym for \"linear\".

    I also think that you are confusing your negative views on the \"restrictions\" of EVE (Which I share) as being issues of linearity. I hated WoW when certain areas were restricted due to horrid PvP players, but this was independent of the linearity of the game.

    I think the best description of the concept which I think Brent is trying to put across in this thread is to coin another metaphor is \"many ways to crack a nut\".

    To me combat in the elf kingdoms and combat in the dwarf/gnome kingdoms are still combat = Option 1.
    If you\'re kind you might split combat into solo, group and raid combat. Let\'s say \"combat\" is the equivalent of \"work\" in real life and most of us spend less than 25% of our life working. We spend more than 25% sleeping, which wouldn\'t make for riveting MMO gameplay (and this can be presumed as the time you are \"logged off\"\" anyway). This leaves us 50% of our time doing other things.
    (3 types of activity)

    Option 2 = crafting. Now crafting can be very varied and include a lot of different activities - buying and selling, gathering, manufacturing and even in some games there is a business model too. If we\'re generous we might give crafting 5 different options in terms of type of activity.
    (5 types of activity)

    In most MMOs, there is a social element - chatting, roleplaying, searching for a group. All of this is kind of similar, so I would equate it to just one type of activity.
    (1 type of activity)

    Character honing and decisionmaking would be the next type of activity. This would include \"questfinding and selection\", loot examination, inventory management and a bit of exploration.
    (Let\'s say 2 types of activity)

    'Response to ender (2)' by scytale2
    Submitted on 2006-12-20 08:33:34 CST
    Ok, well I\'ve done this to show that it\'s not about where you are going, it is about how you get there and making sure that there are many, many different types of activity leading to a goal. For example, let\'s take Fallout as a game - about 60 hours of fun with a combat character. You can then play again as either a stealthy and then a diplomatic character, with all different options. If you completed the game and chose a stealthy character and found that the game played identically, then it would not be worth doing? The fun is in the \"way you play\" or the \"how\".

    Tbh, I don\'t think MMOs have clicked with this yet - vanguard\'s diplomatic career is moving the right direction, but how long have we waited for something like this amongst modern MMOs? Nothing since Ultima On-line imho.

    EVE\'s options are very limited and the game has no \"endgame\" as such so it is definitely non-linear. However, it is no more a sandbox than WoW because there are so few variations on its initial theme.

    'A few thoughts on an interesting debate pt 1' by tdous
    Submitted on 2007-01-07 16:04:20 CST
    Not to seem condescending to those who disagree, to my mind it is a simple enough position that all MMOs have varying degrees, equally, of freedom and restriction. What use is a metaphor without vastly overstating its signifcance so here goes:

    As MMO players we want our games to be an infinite universe of sand. For some reason we also seem to want to argue that our life in the sand is much richer than the that person still playing in their box.

    But our games are not infinite. There is not infinite sand and there are limits to the number of different shapes of bucket provided in the sandbox or to the tools we have to make the buckets.

    Your "[insert your own earliest good example] thru to WoW"-type MMO is a small sandbox. You climb in and you fill the provided buckets with sand. You place them, lift them and reveal your very own small castle. Many, many other people have probably made the same castle. The box may have 2 or 200 buckets. Once you have tried all the buckets you may want to build your own castle, but perhaps you don't have a shovel, there simply isn't enough sand, or the foundations would be too big to fit inside the walls of the box.

    By this token, Eve is the Sahara. If you start in the middle and look in every direction you will not see the sides. But even the Sahara ends where the climate conditions don't favour it or the land becomes the sea. It's possible that it will take you much longer to find one of the sides of the sandbox. You might be lucky enough to never feel yourself pushing gainlessly against them. But they are there. Your castle can be a big as you can make it or as big as the other people in the sandbox will allow you to build it if they have the means to stop you. You may have thousands of differently shaped buckets and perhaps even a plastic-molding factory that makes them in the size and shape you choose but there still is not an infinite amount of sand.

    'A few thoughts on an interesting debate pt 2' by tdous
    Submitted on 2007-01-07 16:05:37 CST
    The MMO genre has shown that as much as gaming is starting to become a more acceptable choice of lifestyle, these are the games which themselves become a lifestyle. They take real time and real commitment if you want to "achieve" within their worlds and not in small measures.

    It can be embarrassing or exciting, depending on your outlook, to find that there is another way of living that would appear more rewarding. Have you wasted your time and effort? But also, in a lifestyle where you are led falsely to believe that the imagination is where your limits lie, it can be hard to admit that you simply have not "achieved" to the degree necessary to understand the true limitations. And that's when the argument becomes about whose lifestyle is superior, whose lifestyle offers more choice, more freedom, and whose offer the most restrictive limitations. As is mankind's want, it becomes "my sandbox is bigger than your sandbox" and then, a step further, "my sandbox is immeasurably better than your *cough* theme park".

    The truth is that those branding more restrictive (by whatever definition) MMOs as anything other than a sandbox, especially with a term intended to indicate a lack of freedom such as "theme park", are attempting, albeit subconsciously, to redefine the term "sandbox" using the template of their own game. The reason is to convince themselves that their sandbox does not contain a finite amount of sand, a limited number of buckets only so many bucket designing tools. They have chosen the true path, the righteous and fulfilling life. The unenlightened are still wasting their time visiting the tourist attractions.

    To quote the original post, "They're all sandboxes!" which seems too obvious to me to argue against, but I find the reasons for arguing much more interesting than the argument itself.

    [Sorry it was so long.. started writing until I stopped. I like it when that happens.]

    'Freedom and Anarchy' by ender
    Submitted on 2007-01-08 00:51:45 CST
    [quote]think that you are confusing your negative views on the "restrictions" of EVE (Which I share) as being issues of linearity. [/quote]

    You are probably right. I have changed my views a bit. I think EVE does have alot more opportunities than most MMO's just maybe not necessarily the ones that so called "carebears" will want.

    I do think, however that people often mistake what EVE really has, it isn't "Freedom" per se, as much as "Anarchy". Those of us from the US tend to look at the world a bit differently than many others in the world. While the Anarchy of EVE certainly can be fun, with each Corp setting up their own laws etc. it tends to grate on those of us who may not be the rebel type. I think I prefer my MMO's with a few broad rules, a constitution if you will that provides us the freedoms to excel and enjoy ourselves. Not sure if it's out there yet... but it will be... someday.

    'I dunno.' by drdysdy
    Submitted on 2008-01-24 05:46:13 CST
    Most MMO's are NOT sandbox games.

    It is abundantly clear that nearly all MMO's are goal oriented. Any game that includes a leveling system is goal oriented, thus not sand box. There are very very few sand-box MMO's, the only one I can think of at the moment is Face of Mankind, and EVE somewhat.

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