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Reader Comments (114)

Posted: Jun 7th 2011 12:54PM aurickle said

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@lizardbones
Agreed! I enjoy doing a dungeon or raid once or twice. After that, it ceases to be interesting and instead becomes mindless repetition. That's at best. In the case of raiding it can quickly come to where it feels more like a job than a game.

I like difficulty. But when that challenge actually becomes a matter of how you're going to overcome tedium, it just doesn't appeal.
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:17PM Irem said

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@lizardbones
I have to agree. I love the idea of sandbox games, it's just that none of the current ones appeal to me enough to really get involved in them. I think it's a case of a snake biting its own tail. Sandbox games are less likely to have strong financial support, because themeparks are the proven popular model...so sandboxes are generally less polished, and appeal to fewer players.

I have high hopes for ArcheAge to bring sandbox elements into the mainstream. The term's gotten kind of trendy lately, which is both cool and kind of depressing (because adding "sandbox elements" to a themepark game is a hip way of saying "We're toying with the radical notion that the players might want something more than a combat simulator and virtual social hub").
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:46PM willflynne said

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@lizardbones

"Perhaps it just needs to be a sandbox game with themepark elements. And zombies."

Believe it or not, SWG fits that description. LOL Still plenty of sandbox left and some themeparks to run through, one of them being zombie-oriented.
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 3:47PM Daverator said

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@lizardbones

"They are unpopular with many gamers because they are godawful BORING with a capital BORE."

This. Eve takes possibly the most exciting concept imaginable. You are flying your own spaceship. And it turns it into a turn based strategy game. Which is fine in its own right, but turn based strategy games are not as "fun" as dog fights.

Believe it or not but games can be Deep and fun. IE you can jump right into it and have fun, and once you understand more, you can better influence the outcomes and understand everything that is happening.

Starcraft is fun, you build big armies and smash them against each other. You can enjoy that just by turning it on. However if you choose, you can also learn about the possible build orders and unit strengths and weaknesses and micromanagment. But if you decide to be blissfully unaware of that, you can still make swarms of units to attack the badguy.

Eve, I have heard on multiple occasions, "I watch a movie while mining" OK... Well I have never had to watch a movie while playing call of duty, or mortal kombat, or mario kart, because an aspect of the game revolves around me staring at an unmoving asteroid for 4 hours.
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 12:51PM (Unverified) said

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Endgame is why I've grown tired of Rift. Unlike WoW, I didn't enjoy leveling up, so rolling a new character doesn't fancy me in the least. Doing dailies is worse due to mob congestion, and I just never liked doing them in the first place.

I too am hoping for a new style of gameplay. Whether they keep endgame or not, there should be things to do outside of combat-related activities. Unfortunately for me, I'm not so sure I'd like sandbox stuff 100% of the time.

Variety is the key, and I don't believe the majority players will yearn for this sort of thing anytime soon. New games come out with the same endgame system which resets many players' tolerance for grinding. That tolerance may eventually break down, but with the influx of new players to the genre, it's not going to be a sudden drop.

Posted: Jun 7th 2011 12:57PM (Unverified) said

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Great article Jef! I really like how coherent your arguments are, and the best part is, you're right. On a basic phenomenal level, you've teased out what's really going on with the current formulations of endgame in themepark mmos. I don't know if sandbox elements are the panacea you're hoping for but I will say that meaningful, purposeful and creative play seems to be what's lacking.

Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:28PM Jef Reahard said

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@(Unverified)

Sandboxes (at least current ones) are definitely not the be-all end-all utopia. They've got miles to go imo, but are still quite a bit more enjoyable than the alternative.
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:30PM (Unverified) said

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@Jef Reahard
I agree.
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:03PM Myopic Aardvark said

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Engame is irrelevant - I prefer the story and the more path's to the endgame the better. I'd rather alt multiple times than repeat the same endgame content with the same character.

Engame is NOT the beginning, it's the end and whilst my characters will come out again for ingame events, new content and helping others in tricky situations, I'd rather enjoy the journey.

Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:05PM wfseg said

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Good article, agreed.

Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:07PM Ehra said

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I'm really not getting your point about PvP just being a repetitive grind of "killing the same players over and over again." Does that mean competitive games like FPSs are no different than a typical MMO's "endgame"? All you're doing is playing the same maps shooting the same people with the same weapons. What about Starcraft? The maps are always the same there too, and you're always fighting one of three races!

Heck, what about single player games? All I do in God of War is just kill people over and over again. All I do in Minecraft is gather stuff to build other stuff. All I do in Mass Effect is talk to people and shoot aliens.

All games are about repetition when you do them enough or you dismantle it to its most basic features, even sandbox games; is cutting down a tree for wood to make a table any different from mining ore to make a sword? How about making the twentieth accessory for your house that probably took a fair amount of repetition to build in the first place? Is that really any less repetitive than killing a raid boss for the 10th time or PvP?

Humans are creatures of repetition (or at least love consistency), If we didn't enjoy "repetition" then we wouldn't ever reach max level in a MMO because we'd get bored of playing the same game after a week.

Repetition isn't bad in of itself. The more interesting question is why some forms are less enjoyable than others. And, going back the the first point I made which is why I decided to comment at all, I REALLY don't get your point about PvP :p

Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:26PM Jef Reahard said

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@Ehra

It's different for everyone. To me, yes, shooters and Starcraft are extremely repetitive and boring as hell. I loved them when I was younger and ultra-competitive but these days that sort of stuff doesn't excite me.

I like player-made content, story arcs, visually customizable characters and environments, and that sort of thing. I'm not arguing that PvP doesn't add an element of chance, of course it does. But underlying that is the same thing over and over and over again. Kill, be killed, rez. There's no room for creativity.

/yawn
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:36PM Ehra said

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@Jef Reahard

Yes, but how is "gather A so you can craft Y then gather B so you can craft X" not repetition in of itself, and what makes one form of repetition" better" than another (ignoring personal preference, assuming it's even possible to come up with a semi objective way of judging this)?

The creativity in PvP comes from how you play the game or your character, whereas the creativity in a sandbox comes from..... well, how you play the game. The mechanics in each game/genre allow/disallow different types of creativity.
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:59PM Jef Reahard said

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@Ehra

That's a fair point. From my perspective, though, being "creative" with a PvP build (or with in-game tactics) isn't really being creative. It's reacting to a situation and adapting to it as best you can, all with the ever-present goal of killing the other player (which never changes, and which rarely, if ever, has any real consequences).

When I think of creativity in a sandbox game, it can be everything from playing the market (similar to a PvP encounter in some ways), to making story content for other players, to doing something crazy with housing items that the developers never intended. Those last two are actually creating something, whereas PvP is basically going through the motions and playing the game as it was intended.

I said this in another post, but I'd support sandbox PvP 110% if it actually had consequences, because that's where (my definition of) creativity would come into play.

Ultimately though, it's easier (and more cost-effective) for developers to just continue coding up new ways to reduce an opponent's HP. That's what these games are, in essence, and I'd like to see them expand beyond that. It's a pretty subjective opinion though, you're right.
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 3:01PM (Unverified) said

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@Jef Reahard it sounds to me like you should not even be playing the sandbox MMO's -- that you are tired of games in general. Go paint, or write, or perform... get involved with another creative community, because game systems themselves aren't able to capture the activity you desire. (Honestly.)

Think about some of the most successful games in the world (not video, not mmo). Chess, tennis, soccer, crossword puzzles. They are pvp, or player-vs-system. They ALL have rules and systems that the human player is meant to try to master in some way, and overcome. Even your example to Ehra about considering "unintended uses of X game items" to be a creative outlet you want, is a great example that shows you don't WANT a system to beat. You want a completely freeform activity that blends other people interacting with your creative actions (or productions).

Just a thought.

As a person who actually likes games, both sandbox at times and theme parks, and learning+beating game systems, I found this soapbox article to reflect more what you're feeling, than trying to affect change of opinion in others.
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 3:24PM Borick said

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@(Unverified) "Go paint, or write, or perform" ... "because game systems themselves aren't able to capture the activity you desire."

MMOS are more than mere game systems. If you miss that, you miss the point. MMOs are worlds. Worlds contain games, not vice-versa.

Also, if you want to paint or write or perform these days, MMOs are a hot venue. From graphics art to writing to all levels of performance and acting, the MMO genre has been a bold new medium for more than a few years now.

This isn't chess. MMOs aren't pong, and they certainly aren't anything related to a zero-sum sport. Jeff out of his element. You are.
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 3:29PM Borick said

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@Borick "Jef isn't out of his element, you are (Donnie)".
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 4:51PM DarkWalker said

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@Jef Reahard
"""I'm not arguing that PvP doesn't add an element of chance, of course it does."""
In my own case, the less left to chance in a game, the happier I am. Specially chance affecting the character long-term.

It's part of the reason I usually don't raid; if it's left to chance if I'll be rewarded or not for some content, I treat it as if there was no reward. So, I only raid for the raid's sake (or, at most, for whichever currency the raid provides with 100% certainty), and I don't even try to accumulate gear drops; in fact, I make it a point of not even looking at loot tables. I take a longer but predictable grind over a random one any time.

"""I said this in another post, but I'd support sandbox PvP 110% if it actually had consequences, because that's where (my definition of) creativity would come into play."""

For my part, I wouldn't even try any game where PvP could have long term negative consequences. Or, to put it another way, I don't trust other players with my fun, so the more they can affect my character against my wishes - including by being able to kill me and make me face the death penalty - the less I'm inclined to give some game a try.

I'm not against sandbox games. I love single player sandbox games. I'm just a pessimist, so if there's a chance someone might try to ruin my fun, I automatically assume this will happen. So, the only ways I might try a sandbox MMO would be if either: other players could not do much against me and my sandbox play; or the game also provides enough of a themepark (preferably solo) experience I think I will have fun even if every other player is dead set against me.

My reason for hating randomness in MMOs is because my pessimism also extends to anything random in the game. I always assume any loot I might be after will not drop, any rare pet/mount/whatever will never be mine, etc, and act accordingly.
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Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:08PM Faryon said

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I agree with the article. I have gotten to the endgame in several MMOs over the last few years and I have quit every time. The one tiny light in the end of this very dark tunnel is The Foundry in STO. The missions created by some of the players are simply amazing, and the Foundry community is helpful and friendly. UGC isn't the magic endgame problem solver many are waiting for, but my experience with it so far has been really positive.

Posted: Jun 7th 2011 1:13PM The Ogre said

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"And I'm here to tell you that most of what passes for said endgame is repetitive schlock."

Agreed, as Cities of Heroes players are finding to their dismay (even if some on the forums are in denial) with the new endgame system Paragon has put in.

Pity the rest of the article goes on your normal "Themeparks suck! Sandbox all the way!" ranting.

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