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Reader Comments (29)

Posted: Jul 5th 2010 9:26PM Jef Reahard said

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What server are you on that's sparsely populated, out of curiosity? I've played on Lucan and AB and there are people everywhere.

Also the platforming sounds cool, is that in a guild house?
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Posted: Jul 5th 2010 9:54PM xBludx said

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Jef, you said:

"Due to the dearth of good sandbox titles on the market ... "

Could you write a piece on what you think a "good" sandbox title would be? I would be very interested to read your ideas on this.

Posted: Jul 5th 2010 10:34PM Jef Reahard said

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@Nox:

Well, if I can ever convince my editors of the need for a sandbox-focused column, I'll be happy to wax on about that for months, ha. In the meantime I'll have to confine it to the comments as it doesn't really fit into my current columns except as a short aside.

My whole thing with 'a dearth of good sandbox titles' isn't necessarily to disparage the ones that are out there, but rather to lament the fact that they all have a couple of cool features instead of one uber-game doing it right. Tbh, I get really tired of having to game-hop, I want a single sandbox game that does it all. Games that incorporate a couple of good ideas but then ignore a lot of cool stuff that has been done in earlier games really frustrate me.

Out of all the current games, what I would like to see most is a combination of EVE and A Tale in the Desert. EVE gets almost everything right but for me there's a rather large emotional disconnect due to the lack of a bipedal avatar and any kind of livable space. A Tale in the Desert is freaking awesome for crafters and creative types, but has no combat. A hybrid of the two would probably be my ideal game.

I'm less concerned about actual progression mechanics than most people I know. I don't really care if it's a skill/profession system that you can continually tweak like classic SWG, or offline skill leveling like EVE, or some hybrid system. My only requirement is the ability to be what you want and not be shoehorned into a class. Yeah it will lead to flavor-of-the-month builds, but so do AAs and all the other themepark class/level mechanics, so that's really not a counter-argument in my mind.

I'd also like to throw in bits and pieces from other games: terrain changing functionality like Wurm/Xsyon, the music system from LotRo, the entertainer professions/housing/storyteller/chronicle systems from SWG, thieving and book-writing from UO, etc.

Also crucial from my point of view is a real player-driven economy, and by real I mean no artificial restrictions like bind-on-equip/bind-on-pickup. Loot should be cosmetic; all meaningful gear and equipment would ideally come from player crafters and would have substantial decay mechanics built in to continually stimulate the economy.

Finally, it seems like many of the newer indie sandbox games are focusing in on FFA PvP, and I think that's a mistake. Sandbox isn't about full loot and red equals dead. That can be a small component of it, but titles like Darkfall and Mortal could be so much more than they are if the developers (and marketers) would stop catering to the PvP niche. Sandbox is freedom to be anything, not freedom to only be a mass murderer/corpse looter.

So, yeah, if EVE/SWG/ATITD/UO had a baby, and threw in a couple cool fluff features from the various themepark games, I'd never play anything else.

How about you?
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Posted: Jul 6th 2010 5:02AM (Unverified) said

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I recently played when FilePlanet was offering a 30-day trial and while I loved New Halas I felt a bit lost once I was done there. I ended up heading off to the Butcherblock Mountains which found a lot less interesting, maybe I should have headed to Freeport or somewhere else.
The housing was definitely the best I've experienced in any game, and crafting new things to put in my house almost became such an obsession that I nearly didn't leave New Halas.

Posted: Jul 6th 2010 2:37AM (Unverified) said

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First time poster on this site, though a longtime lurker.

Jef, I am really liking your column. I have been playing EQ2 since launch. I have MMO A.D.D. and bounced back and forth between every big mmo released over the years. The one MMO I always come back to when everything else gets tired is EQ2. Such a great game. I'll be looking forward to the column every week. Really hope that some of you on the fence give it a go. :)

Posted: Jul 6th 2010 10:34AM Jef Reahard said

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Thanks, glad to have you on board.

I've got the ADD as well, good way to describe my experience of this genre, heh. If any game can cure me of it, it would be EQ2.
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Posted: Jul 6th 2010 10:40PM Araxes said

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At the moment, there is one "polished" pathway through the game: Butcherblock > Steamfont > Lavastorm > Sinking Sands > Tenebrous Tangle > Barren Sky > Bonemire > Kunark > Moors > Sundered Frontier / Stonebrunt.

(LU55 added in many new quests and a new questline in the KoS zones, astarting in Tenebrous Tangle, which makes leveling through the 60's a MUCH, much more enjoyable process. I just ran through Barren Sky with an alt and it is honestly one of the best zones in the game, now, for questing progression. This series also rewards you with a brand new set of class-specific armor by the time you leave Bonemire.)

A new player can embark upon this whole process by getting a quest in Butcherblock from the old pirate NPC 'Silvers.' He sets you from zone to zone, and in each zone there are quest hubs and questlines, as well as some standalone quests and of course, new lore and legend mobs, and collections, every turn.

SOE stated at one point in the past that they were working on a revamp of Thundering Steppes; originally, it was to go live with Halas.

It can be presumed, and has been hinted at, that they are working on 'multiple Golden Paths' -- so to say. So that, if you start in one area, with a certain race, your "path" through the game may not necessarily be the same as if you start in another area of the world.

Just for hypothetical example: Let's say you begin in Halas, and instead of heading to Butcherblock, you are directed to the Thunderring Steppes. From there, perhaps, you go to the Enchanted Lands. Then maybe Rivervale. Then perhaps the Feerott, Everfrost, Greater Faydark, Loping Plains ... and then Kunark > TSO > SF.

(That supposes that they aren't building another entire continent of 20 - 90 content, a la EoF expansion.) Smokejumper's comments have hinted that team's goals for the next expansion are "very ambitious" -- we shall see! He also hints that they are using the original cities as content "destinations" rather than starting areas -- which I think is a great idea to make them more of a focal point rather than forgettable, confusing places. So perhaps a revamp of Antonica / Commonlands is on the way, as well.

All of that isn't to say that, if you prefer, you can see a LOT more ... and that's an understatement. The so-called Golden Path is just that -- one path. It happens to be based around some of the best content. But there ARE a lot of other zones, aside from what I gave in my hypothetical example: Antonica, Commonlands, Nektulos, Zek, Pillars of Flame. Not to mention the contested dungeons, which are just too many to name, and forget the instances, there are hundreds. All of which have quests attached. If they don't then they have achievements to be gained, by completing, or killing a certain named, etc etc.

Posted: Jul 9th 2010 10:25AM xBludx said

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Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Jef.

Sadly, I don't have a lot of experience with most of the games you mentioned. I would expecially have liked to play UO. I did try a free shard recently, but couldn't get into it because of the graphics. I couldn't see much around me and felt kind of....thwarted? I'm not sure, but that's the best word I can come up with. It was kind of claustrophobic. Maybe I will go back and give it another try.

I feel exactly the same way about EVE. I have tried to get into it, but I get bored and don't feel a connection with the technology-based stuff. I need the "bi-pedal avatar" as you so aptly mentioned.

Currently, I am playing Darkfall. Strangely, perhaps, I like the character progression and the PVE combat. I have only had 2 successful PVP encounters so far and been killed 14 times. But I think with time that will improve. I hope, anyway. I do like Darkfall's combat and look forward to finding a clan to experience large-scale battle. However, I wish there was more to do for different playstyles like crafters, traders, assassins, and all the other possibilities I heard about in UO.

I played MO a bit after release. There seems to be potential there, but it's really half-baked at the moment. I will probably check back in a month or so to see what's happening thing. But, really, it is just hope for a larger variety of play options. Now, it is mainly PVP as a viable play style, and for that, I might as well stay with my 4-month old character in Darkfall.

But there is something about the sandbox, Jef. If some developer gets it just right and we really have a next-gen UO, it will be a whole new world for MMOs - guaranteed. I also think there is room in the world right now for several successful sandbox games including EVE, Darkfall, and Mortal Online. I hope they all do well and thrive.

Where is the next UO? Is it MO? Can it be?

Posted: Jul 10th 2010 2:23PM Jef Reahard said

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I don't see it being Mortal. Is it possible? Sure, but my experience with StarVault leaves me a little skeptical. Xsyon looks fairly promising, and Dawntide may get there, but both of them are very rough atm.

I think the future (and ironically, past) of multiplayer sandboxes is private servers. There just aren't enough people clamoring for them to offset the development costs. I'd like to see some developer rent private shard technology. Yeah there are a lot of them in the wild illegally, but the support and reliability just don't make it worth your while, to say nothing of the legality/morality.
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