Reddit User Says Sandbox is the Future of MMOs

I’m doing my initial roll-through this morning, and I found a post on reddit – Themepark MMOs are ultimately unsustainable for 99% of devs. I still think some form of sandbox is the future of the genre.

While I sort of agree to the first bit, I don’t think it’s specific to themeparks, but in fact any MMO. The ongoing costs of running a service like that are pretty high regardless of the type of game it is. While I understand the argument being made, that themeparks require a constant flow of content to sustain a playerbase, there are a lot of hidden variables that impact how long content takes and player retention. Typically though, I would say that more content means better retention, but the smaller playerbase of an indie game may not have to keep the same pace as one of the massive games.

I simply cannot agree with point two. Yeah, don’t get me wrong, I like a good sandbox. Sometimes I even like a mediocre or bad sandbox as a change of pace. While I think there will always be an audience and a place for the sandbox to exist in the industry, I do not believe it has the power to take over as the “future of the genre.” There are a number of problems with his proposed features, but I still think the biggest flaw of the sandbox is its undirected self-motivated style of gameplay.

Sandboxes can in fact be wonderful experiences, but it’s a very different play style. One that requires you to understand what’s possible, or imagine what’s possible, and come up with your own direction and plan for trying to make it happen. In fact, most of the big surviving themeparks have some degree of sandbox present in them. Optional activities that you can engage in, but don’t have to.

“For example, let’s say we’re making a hypothetical game. By adding a basic trading/gathering system, you create a need for certain resources to be acquired to create things of real value. Now if you put some of the more valuable resources in dangerous PvE zones, you create a need for skilled fighters to accompany gatherers. Take it a step further and also make some of those open PvP zones. Now that attracts the attention of gankers, which itself then incentivizes traders to hire protection from players more interested in defending others. After a while, within a single zone, you can end up with roving bands of traders, their protectors, bandits and more all competing with one another to gather, build and accrue wealth and influence. You’ve turned a solo activity into one than can involve a dozen people on opposite sides. You’ve given people a reason to play ‘together’.”

It feels cruel, in a way, but each of these seems to have an obvious counterpoint.

No basic crafting/gathering/trading system is every going to meet the needs and desires of the veteran MMO crafter, though I suppose that depends on what your definition of basic is. I interpreted it as “it technically exists.”

Putting valuable resources in dangerous PvE zones. Don’t, uh, most games already do this? I’ve very seldom had a decent level gatherer that was capable of actually fighting the things near the resources. This is a little different if we’re talking gathering on a combat capable character, but then it’s not really dangerous, just annoying.

I have nothing nice to say about gathering resources in an open PvP zone. I find a way to manage the risk or I don’t bother. Any combat guard you bring along is going to be insufficient to protect you and/or bored out of their mind. If I want to gank you, I’ll focus you first. Mission accomplished, even if I die to your guard.

“You’ve turned a solo activity into one than can involve a dozen people on opposite sides.”

This is exactly why this type of thing doesn’t usually do particularly well. I don’t want to involve dozens of people on opposite sides, I just wanna do my thing.

Of course, all I think of when reading that is that they basically want EVE? All this exists, but it’s a small subset of players. The fact that the themeparks are the ones with the massive subscriber base seems to suggest that more people would rather play those instead.

I’m apparently rather cranky today, it would seem. I’m rather tired of everyone discussing the future of the industry. Whatever it is we most likely won’t recognize it except in hindsight.

Y’all take care.

One thought on “Reddit User Says Sandbox is the Future of MMOs

  1. Agreed with every point you made. I will even add to the gathering in PVP zone flaw with the argument that the “bodyguard” himself might decide to kill the gatherer just so they can get the money and whatever materials were gathered. Assuming there is full loot PVP that is, which I’d assume would be something the author of the post would also propose to “incentivize” PVP or for immersion or whatever.

    Or the “bodyguard” might even be an ally to the ganker, telling them where they are, pretending to fight the ganker and then later splitting up the profits.

    This isn’t conjecture on my part. I’ve played MMOs long enough to know that if people can be act like horrible human beings and feel empowered doing so, they will. Then later they will claim “it is just a game”. Yeah, because being scamming/lying to others is really part of the game rules and fun for everybody involved. /sarcasm

    Liked by 1 person

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