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Reader Comments (68)

Posted: Feb 29th 2012 8:12AM Mirsath said

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As far as I see it a sandbox MMO is a game which has clear goals but multiple different paths to get there. It is about the journey rather than the arrival at the destination.

Posted: Feb 29th 2012 8:26AM JuliusSeizure said

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@Mirsath

By that definition almost all MMOs are sandbox. WoW, for example, has the goal of 'advance your character' which can be accomplished by pursuing PvP, quests, dungeons, raids, achievements and soon enough Pokemon battles and public quests.
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Posted: Feb 29th 2012 9:43AM Caskio said

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@Mirsath
This only assumes the journey never ends....

Otherwise you could consider SWTOR a sandbox?
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Posted: Feb 29th 2012 11:02AM SnarlingWolf said

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@Mirsath

You basically defined a theme park MMO.

A Sandbox MMO has NO defined goals. It is a world where players are given the tools to make thier own fun (you know, like a sandbox). Ultima Online at launch was a sandbox. There were no levels, there were no quests. There were just players and creatures in a world and players invented their own fun and their own goals within the world.
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Posted: Feb 29th 2012 12:57PM (Unverified) said

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@Mirsath

To me, "clear goals" is the antithesis of a sandbox. Sandbox seems to be about the journey, not the destination. The goal is what you want to make it.

FWIW, I'm not a sandbox guy. with limited play-time, I like working towards a clear goal.

~Vaish
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Posted: Feb 29th 2012 1:07PM (Unverified) said

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I would define a sandbox as a world with: 1) In-game systems designed to offer multiple avenues of advancement for your character in a variety of ways be it crafting, combat, exploring or political; 2) no invisible walls, all limits to travel ought to be firmly grounded in believable physics; 3) the ability to alter the world-scape either through player buildings, towns, or factions that can be manipulated to make your game experience different then others; 4) Much less scripted hand-holding such that each players path through the game is not identical.
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Posted: Feb 29th 2012 8:19AM JuliusSeizure said

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Sandbox MMO - A Massively Multiplayer Online game where players are encouraged to alter the world in ways that persist without their constant maintenance and have a significant effect on the experiences of other players.

Posted: Feb 29th 2012 9:30AM JuliusSeizure said

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@JuliusSeizure

Just wanted to add that I like a lot of the other thoughts people are bringing to this. I was just trying to boil it down to a single-sentence essential description like I was asked to. ;)
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Posted: Feb 29th 2012 8:22AM Utakata said

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One that is not necessarily Google defined "hardcore".

...but I suppose anything aspect of a game that is not put on rails, such as questing, leveling, gear progression, etc. But allows one multiple approaches and playstyles to achieve the goal of greatdom...whatever that is.

Posted: Feb 29th 2012 8:23AM Gishboy said

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"The MMO where everything's player-made and the points don't matter."

Posted: Feb 29th 2012 9:09AM Grumms said

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@Gishboy They need to being Whose Line back to TV :(
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Posted: Feb 29th 2012 11:50AM cyanpill said

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@Grumms Who's line is it, the MMO!
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Posted: Feb 29th 2012 8:27AM MrSquiggles said

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It's a toughie as it's not as black and white as one might expect.

Off the top of my furry head..

"The increased (or increasing) potential to realise your own autonomous activity freedom as opposed to being confined/restricted/anchored by a game's own functionality systems."

That's pretty vague of course. :)

Another could be:

"A situation of cause and effect, where the effect cannot reliably be predicted in terms of linearity, or the result-permutations vastly outnumber the input-parameters, due to the absence of 1 to 1 equivalence."

I propose that a game that is too 'sandboxy' could potentially make a player wallow in indecision because of lack of focus or direction. But a game that can skillfully blend a bit of both, i.e. optional variance of direction based on choice within predefined paths, would probably do well.

Posted: Feb 29th 2012 8:28AM FrostPaw said

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Sanbox = You get sand and tools to play with the sand, what you do with it is up to you, the developer hasn't given you an objective, thats your job.

Posted: Feb 29th 2012 12:03PM SnarlingWolf said

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@FrostPaw

This 100%. This has always been the definition and is where the term came from. I'm not really sure why there is any confusion at all.
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Posted: Feb 29th 2012 2:04PM Anatidae said

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@FrostPaw Yes. And what you build in the sand is available for others to interact with, that's the MMO part.
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Posted: Feb 29th 2012 8:29AM RenektonBot said

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A sandbox MMO doesn't usually point you a direction and bait you along with quests. There may be a "newbie zone" but a real sandbox won't segregate zones into level-gated themeparks.

That's how I see it anyway.

Posted: Feb 29th 2012 2:12PM Anatidae said

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@RenektonBot I think Sandbox MMOs can have quests and even bait you along a path. The themepark elements don't really affect a sandbox if it exists.

Rather, the sandbox layer allows players to use tools to effect the virtual world around them. A good sandbox has many layers of cause and effect that will ripple out from a player's actions emulating an ecosystem.

Build a house and a farm in a field might attract or displace types of animals. Which might attract and displace the types of monsters in an area. That's beyond the produce the farmer creates that adds to the player economy. A strong force might conquer an area and demand taxes from the farmer. Or a democracy might flourish and the farmer votes on taxes.

If Blizzard dropped in tools to support the example above, they could have an instant sandbox under their existing themepark MMO. They would have some hurdles to work past, but there isn't reason that many sandbox MMO elements can't co-exist with the now popular questing themepark gameplay.
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Posted: Feb 29th 2012 8:30AM smartstep said

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There is no one true definition of sandbox BUT what I personally consider a sandbox MMORPG: (other genres may have bit diffrent things required to be sandbox):

- multiple paths and possiblities
- player-made economy
- players given tools to create or change world around
- each server - SEPARATE VIRTUAL WORLD - no outside influences from other servers or real world i.e. via Cash Shop

Basically sandbox mmorpg for me ,is when developers create virtual world with certain set-in-stone rules and then have players create their own 'game'.

As opposed to themepark where developers direct you through content ,planning exact actions that players will take (like he will go take quests in zone A ,then in zone B and then he will grind isntance for armor - it will take him 30 times to get this tier 1 armor and then ,etc bleh)

Posted: Feb 29th 2012 8:41AM MMOaddict said

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Freedom is first and foremost. BUT, even themeparks built well can give tons of choices giving the "illusion" of freedom. So let's add to that.

Tools.

Tools that allow players to go beyond the typical linear level grind and make the game "world" come to life. Things like housing, altering terrain, planting crops, trees, building castles, political tools, player run cities, etc. Some of these can still come from Themeparks. So, lets add one more thing.

Alternative non-combat modes.

Such as a huge fishing game complete with building of and sailing of, boats that can supplement cooking and other crafting professions. This is a more nebulous area and one could think of a plethora of things that could be put into here. Things that come to mind for me from past games are Eve's trading/corporation game, SWG's speeder bike races, achievement systems, titles, etc.

So to sum up, a Sandbox is:

Freedom
Tools
Alternative Game Modes

I suppose sandbox games are probably too big in conception if developed with no holds barred and is probably the REAL reason none are triple A and a massive risk for game Corporations to even consider.

I'm sure even my paltry list is too small to truly convey a sanbox game, however, let me state, I would prefer a hybrid ANY day over a pure themepark or a pure sandbox game. I look to ArcheAge as a prime example of the kind of game I want to play. Although, I personally would love to fuse GW2 with ArcheAge for the ultimate game.

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