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Reader Comments (44)

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 12:25PM Jef Reahard said

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@Seffrid

I don't really consider Fallen Earth a sandbox simply because it has no real economy to speak of. Everyone can make everything, and there's no real need for interaction with other players. At endgame, people have more money than they could spend in two lifetimes due to a lack of money sinks.

Great game otherwise, but the player economy is a large part of what makes a sandbox for me personally. If GamersFirst ever fixes that, I'll go back in a heartbeat.
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Posted: Sep 30th 2011 11:18AM Yarr said

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Wanted: true sandbox game (agree with most of your points in article) with AAA graphics and production value, but NO FFA PvP. Make it B2P like Guild Wars, with a reasonable cash shop for fluff items. Item decay but not breakage, you just have to take it for repair to a properly skilled craftsman. No weapon/armor drops from monsters, everything should be crafted by players from raw materials (which vary in quality), with some type of system to make unique items.

Combat should have both limited skills equipped similar to GW/GW2. If fantasy then facing and weapon lengths should be used to determine hit zones. If guns/lasers then have cover system and be very deadly, not stand around shooting each other point blank like SWTOR.

Crafting, exploration, player merchants and entertainment, etc.. kind of original SWG but with state of the art graphics and game play, but with a good combat system. No questing or on rails story, just a good setting and let the players create things, including features for the role playing types.

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 11:34AM Elwood011 said

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Kinda sounds like you are listing all the points you are going to miss about SWG. At least how it originally was(I never played it after the hated changes).

I've been looking for a game along the points you outlined as well. EVE was close, but if you do want to PVP on occassion, the cost is high.

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 12:28PM Jef Reahard said

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@Elwood011

Well I didn't set out to do that, but now that you mention it SWG is the only game that really has/had all of that. EVE does as well but for the pesky lack of an avatar (and CCP's newfound love-affair with the cash shop).

EVE's PvP is pretty low-risk, tbh. Yeah you'll lose stuff, but that's part of the learning process and it's a nice balance of risk/reward in terms of low sec/hi sec.
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Posted: Oct 2nd 2011 3:09AM (Unverified) said

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@Jef Reahard

That depends on how much you had before you lost it. Those ships can get pretty expensive if you loose too many of them.
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Posted: Sep 30th 2011 11:37AM DeadlyAccurate said

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"No weapon/armor drops from monsters, everything should be crafted by players from raw materials (which vary in quality), with some type of system to make unique items."

I don't completely agree, because when you eliminate the wow-factor that comes from finding a great blue off some random mob, it sort of dims the excitement of killing them. If you know you'll never find anything you can't already get from other players or make yourself, killing them becomes a chore.

Now, if your system to make unique items means special crafting mats only available off mobs, that returns the random element to the game. Fallen Earth had (has?) this problem when I played. It was so bad that you would see mobs by the hundreds left to simply fade away, because no one ever saw a reason to loot them. You know you'd never get anything cool, and if you wanted more cotton or wool or leather, you could get it from harvesting.

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 11:37AM DeadlyAccurate said

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@DeadlyAccurate That was supposed to be in response to Yarr above.
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Posted: Sep 30th 2011 12:27PM Yarr said

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@DeadlyAccurate - Correct, mobs would drop crafting materials, including rare materials, just not actual weapons and armor. They could even be tied to quality, say the basic mob drops low quality material, stronger version of mob drops better quality, boss version drops high quality and possible rare material sometimes. You'd still need to combine with other materials: gathered, grown or from other monster remains. So you'd get a reward from fighting tough monsters and even get a chance at a possible rare material drop. Put in 'item orders' system for weapon/armor you want and the crafter could then offer bounties to get materials, giving players a good reason to go out and kill stuff in the first place.

Forgot to mention, no NPC merchants, totally player driven economy, which would work well with the material bounty system above.

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Posted: Sep 30th 2011 12:26PM Vanpry said

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Interesting read and some good point. I especially agree with the crafting/gear portions.

The thing that is holding back sandbox games is the ffa pvp.

I don't disagree with your ffa pvp points but deciding to become a murderer needs to be a very tough choice. With some harsh penalties to the player behind the keyboard not just the character. Penalizing only the character will not cut it. Because said person will log onto their murder character cause mayhem log out and then log onto their law abiding character.

I don't know that there is any penalty that both sides would agree is harsh enough but not too harsh.

I was really excited about Arch Age until they decided to go ffa pvp and implemented this piss poor trial penalty system.

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 1:15PM DeadlyAccurate said

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@Vanpry I thought I read that ArcheAge's FFA PvP is limited to about half the world, and the other half is consensual PvP only.
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Posted: Sep 30th 2011 3:07PM Vanpry said

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@DeadlyAccurate

1/3 is ffa pvp 2/3 ffa vs opposite faction and now here is where it gets screwy for me at least. If you attack a innocent same faction person you receive blood points. Build up to many blood points and there is a trial and possible jail system. Players are the judges which I am no fan of but the really strange thing is the accused isn't forced to attend. If they don't attend their names go up on a wanted bulletin and anyone who has played UO know how well wanted bulletin board word. I've heard rumors that if the person actually does show up and is sent to jail there are ways to escape.

I am not sure how they will cope with griefers that steal crops, etc. just because they can or are stronger then said crafter.

It really seams to me like that have a huge exploit me banner across their whole penalty system.
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Posted: Sep 30th 2011 1:01PM mechanicalturk said

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I love FFA PVP. I'm not even good at it. Regardless, I like the thrill. I like to compete. I think a lot of sandbox games do a poor job with integrating PVP into the overall theme of their game. Important trade and crafting resources scarce? Good. There should be competition to acquire and to protect the necessary resources. Need land, a safe haven, etc, then build up a community that protects each other, facilitates commerce, and building. Elements like these spawn a true sandbox environment.

I have no problem with the demand for stricter penalties in an FFA PVP environment. The issue I see with all of these criminal / murder systems is that they only address half the equation. Players always point to real life and say that there are severe penalties for being a criminal. Correct, but for many criminals, there are potentially greater rewards for leading a life of crime. If the risk / punishment factor is dialed up, please make the reward ratio be proportional.

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 1:28PM Tom in VA said

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Wow. It must be the Apocalypse or something because I was expecting to disagree with everything you said and instead I agreed with everything you said. Scary.

I think the thing that mystifies me the most is what you spoke of at the end of the article:

"On the other hand, I also realize that people don't normally sign up for something that frustrates them, particularly when it comes to their leisure time, and so I'm continually mystified at developer insistence when it comes to marrying FFA PvP and the sandbox."

This. So much this.

Why don't the developers of some of these games offer alternate servers that are tweaked as you suggested? It seems like a relatively simple fix to me. Offer two types of servers ("original" and "not-so-aggravating") and then see where the player population gravitates. It may be that the player population will acyually sustain both types of players happily gaming away on their separate and not-quite-equal shards.

It isn't so much that I'm a carebear (though I guess I am one, since I don't enjoy PvP), it's that -- in a GAME -- I have very low tolerance for mechanics that are terribly frustrating and exceedingly NOT FUN. I have enough pain, suffering, and aggravation in my RL job. I don't want it in a game.

Devs really shoot themselves in the foot by not offering players more playstyle options, imo.

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 1:39PM Ref Minor said

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I like PvP in my sandbox, Eve has it good, Hi Sec where death is possible, but your killer will die, so very rare, but possible and lo sec where things are a bit more lairy. The rarer mats are in lo sec and null sec and so as a peacenik crafted you would probably want to take an armed escort to mine your mats, or buy them.

In Outer Empires, after you hit a medium class ship, you pretty much had the option to jump away to an untrailable destination before you could be killed so PvP was always a threat but you could deal with it how you wanted, fight or flight.

Destruction and Construction are conjoined twins in a true sandbox virtual world and are what drives a player run economy.

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 4:01PM heerobya said

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I've been making the same points about FFA PvP for 10+ years.

Bravo sir, bravo.

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 4:24PM Jorev said

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I agree strongly with every point you make except one, and would add more.

Along with the notion of local banking and economies because of the unrealistic nature of mass worldwide transport, I would also demand a weight carry restriction for characters. Back in the day in classic EQ, your strength attribute determined how much you could carry. It is completely unrealistic for a character to carry 50 swords for example. The instant gratification crowd needs to learn logistics and opportunity cost.
Also lets have night vision difficulty based on race. Again, back in the day in classic EQ, certain races could not see at night without an additional light source and that is a good thing as it enhances realism and immersion and offers racial uniqueness.

You speak of meaningful consequences for PVP and that translates into a meaningful death penalty for NPC battles as well. Experience loss is the most successful form of a meaningful death penalty deterrent.

The one exception I disagree with is global chat. If you believe global mass instantaneous trade is unrealistic and bad for the economy, then you should also wish away global chat in a fantasy MMO. Players should be restricted to localized chat only, with yelling range being the farthest distance possible.

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 5:04PM Jef Reahard said

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@Jorev

I agree, and should have specified that I meant local chat in terms of enabling cross-faction stuff. It's just silly to think you can't communicate with someone on a personal level because they're your enemy.
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Posted: Sep 30th 2011 7:48PM JuliusSeizure said

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@Eric Francis

Uh, that would still make for an optimal path of progression, it would just be a more painful one with a lot more travelling time and inadvertent death.

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 10:57PM Rialle said

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Many good points in this article.

Ultimately, many sandboxes lose potential audience because of their insistence on FFA PvP with full looting. If Darkfall opened a PvE server I would probably check it out again. I just don't have the time these days to deal with the gankfest play.

Posted: Sep 30th 2011 11:11PM Space Cobra said

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Great article. But, of course, I have my own special flavors, some of which match some prior responses:

* Cross-Faction chat (later clarified to be made available on local chat), I can agree with.

* Item Decay...only to a certain point. Again, I will bring up my own personal experience of woe and suffering that I forewarned about on the pre-launch boards. I have no problem with decay, per say if it is limited in certain ways.

1) Time/Rate of Decay : Ultimately, this is probably the most important one and it can be subjective for even the Devs to implement. Personally, Decay should only occur when one is LOGGED IN. It should not continue when you are offline or have been offline for quite awhile. This is mainly because, in the future, when a player returns to the game, either after a two-week vacation or a year-long absence, they should not start from square one. It's a good way to kick a player in the stomach while they are feeling happy/nostalgic and wanting to get back into the game. Conversely, Item Decay doesn't have to be tied to time, but to use. If you take WoW's combat decay of gear and apply that to ultimate decay, that may be fine...sorta (again, caveats!). I'd probably let the item be fully repairable with gold for a certain number of times (let's say 10 times to test this out), after those times are up, each time you repair, the item is less efficient (again, this would have to be tinkered with by how much it degrades and if there is an ultimate stop to it; Would one go for 0% efficiency or stop the decay around 50%, so all that hard-earned money does not feel totally wasted by someone who may be inclined to think so?) Also, there are certain looks/styles that certain people would prefer that they'd prefer to keep around; do we have a system that gives a pass on a certain number of items or have the ability to have an appearance-tab (which may hurt a pure crafter, but such hurt goes one way or the other, it seems).

2) Size/Particular Item : This was my main complaint about pre-NGE SWG. I bought a house. Loved it. Saved my Credits for it. Was about to go on vacation, played late into the night. Forgot to put quarters into the house to prevent it's decay before turning into sleep. Went on my vacation, then BAM! My house and all my stored items=Gone!

That was a REAL Kick to my enthusiasm for the game. Hard to log in after that.

So, certain things should be exempt or, at least, dealt with. I can easily state a house should be kept around and there are a significant (imo) portion of players who like to see something they spent time and money on, stick around when they return to a game, no matter how long they were away. However, I do understand the "City Blight" of having nowhere to build and alluvasudden, a barren planet is wall-to-wall city, Perhaps, in my case, IF the house disappears after a certain time period, the game would either flag the items in it unlootable or auto-transfer such loot into a special storage/bank that is only used for such situations? (You can pull out items from this but can't actually use it for personal storage; it would be an emergency type of thing and separate from bags/bank vaults).

* Crafting in general : The ultimate flaw in this is, well, all the MMO systems are about combat and most of the crafting classes are basically focused for combat items. Be they swords or armor or potions. There is not many pure crafting classes. See, I agree with it being a wonderful thing, but you probably have to figure out how it would work in the long run. Granted, there are many who would make characters just for crafting but, IMO, we should stretch that more and the game should support it. For example, while we can agree a game-mechanic such as "eating food ala The Sims" would be a drag on folks (or maybe not, since we talked about Item Decay, would you want a system of People/Avatar Decay? Someone dying of starvation?) what about crafters that deal with that? (Well, maybe they'd be Potion makers of a different stripe in practice?) I remember a guy in UP Beta forums who wanted to be the best damn bread maker in the entire game (shard). Of course, we could probably continue this with Vanity items or special looks for armor/weapons. How to deal with that and balance pre-order Items, a possible cash shop, and blueprints one can get to make such things (and throwing in Item Decay, because Item Decay may hurt such crafters because since these are vanity items, people may be inclined not to spend hard-earned money on it but on replacement equipment for combat use).

Heck, the particular game may want to explore an inverse and limited offering cash shop for these crafters. Sorta like, "Here is this blueprint you can make. You can buy it and make such an item in-game with the proper mats." I know, you may think the game is making money off a select sub-set of players, but "hold that phone". Of course, other items, even the same one, may make re-appearances as the game soldiers on (so new players can get these) and let's think about it, if we did it "just right" and offered it for not too long a period in the cash shop, such crafter-players may benefit from selling the product of these in in-game gold.

Anyway, just tossing ideas to this but IMO, crafting needs to be expanded for such a system to benefit and it should go further than the traditional roles. There should be some leeway given to the number of craft skills a certain character can have or you can increase alt-slots. There should be a whole plethora of crafting (and by virtue, "mini-games", which is part of my MMO theory to keep people logged on in an MMO-world with giving a variety of activities to do online). So, we could have possibly ship-building, Builder-of-Structures, "Hat" Maker, Cape Maker, Horse Trainer, Exotic Animal Trainer (to ride, even Chocobos), Pet Shop Owner (maybe related to hunting/trapping and training), Shoe Maker...well, I could go on. In fact, the jobs over at Free Realms(and items in EQ2 relating to house furnishings) is a pretty good indication of where to go in this instance.

* Local Banking : I...sorta understand this, but I feel, in practice, that'd be too much a bother for most players. I dig/understand that shuttles and insta-transport "killed" social interaction, but not sure if this should be affected. There are two possible solutions that I can offer, one may be allowing such transfers, but not having them be instant, like either several hours or a few days (!!!) to counter such a system, you can then set up a service of some kind, like you mentioned. This could even be another flavor of "crafter". I am not sure if you played CoH, but when "the Hollows" were introduced, you had some enterprising players serving as "Taxibots" to transfer you to your missions in that zone (and avoid the monsters and the hard-to-reach terrain). A system like that could be applied here (this is similar to EQ1 and the Druid shouts of offering players travel services). The game would probably have to legitimize such a "job" and make it something you can level and, if you hand off items to them, make sure they are not capable of stealing them (possible a special slot window used only for deliveries that the "Taxibot" can't store or take personal items from: As an added bonus, he can "craft" to enlarge such a window to transfer/store even more (or bigger) items in one journey.

* Consequence PvP : You know, while this is all a fantasy and it is "fun", I have been drawn to this idea as far back as UO, possibly even before. You know, Anarchy is fun but, you get the same "griefers" who want to point out this being "real life" in "ganking" but you don't get the other side of this argument from them. I keep hearing people want a "real world MMO", but really, we can take that to the ultimate "The Sims" conclusion, can't we? Really, a game is a game. Now, that does not mean there shouldn't be some controls and I'd be fascinated to see if such punishments worked (I was all for it in UO), but I dunno. I've seen such sneakiness and workarounds in the past, still, that doesn't mean the Devs can't deal with it, but do they WANT to deal with it? Again, I am seeing this "rose-colored vision" from Devs who not only want a "realistic" sandbox, but also buy into the notion of FFA PVP. You know, I remember the suggestions for enforcing penalties/jail-time in UO and one was having NPC guards chase you and that was okay to a point. One could expand on that, too, perhaps the longer you keep away, every they harass you more constantly (and no cool down timers) and, the number of guards increase AND the creatures used by guards improve (I say that because, someone could find a possible spot, like a tree, and hang out there...well, if the guards bring out a flying dragon eventually, to attack you on that spot well...)

Of course, some innocent folks might get hurt (those wanting revenge on the guy that ganked them). Again, perhaps the consequences could be different. Maybe Item Decay that doesn't go away unless you stop or serve your time? Maybe stat-decay that does the same? The inability to reach your bank/storage for a period of time? Being locked from your house, possibly until you go back into town and make amends? I think "Jail time" could be interesting in and of itself, particularly in an RP sense (and I know, Gankers don't care for RP) like a prison yard, but that could get exploited to for Trollability ("Let's overload the Prison Yard Zone!' Of course, then you have different instances as a solution.)

Again, while there is strong evidence for making an RPG into a FFA PVP sorta thing for the freedom (and Garriott wanted this, even though we warned him), most of the pro-PvP types want an FPS without the RPG. Now, "most" does not mean "all" because really, I know enough folks that love PvP and RP, too. But there is a segment that turns anything into PvP. If they had their way, "Hello Kitty Online" would be a PVPers fantasy. There is value in PVP because it can be another "game within a game" or "mini-game", so that's a draw, but these folks seem to forget the RPG aspect and want the "pew-pew" aspect. Really, these games are not for them, but they keep wanting.

Anyway, this post is too long! ;P

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