Sandbox Game or Emergent Gameplay

The Repopulation Gallery Screenshot

If you look at the MMORPG forums, SANDBOX is all the buzz.

Whether you love them or loath them, Developers are turning their eyes toward Sandbox game development.

Why? Because it’s much more cost effective than trying to cycle through content that players will plow through in a matter of hours.

Instead of looking to World of Warcraft and trying to emulate that design, it looks like more and more Developers/Producers are looking at EVE online and yes, even Mine Craft.

Mine Craft is no MMORPG, but in multi-player mode it is an MMO. Massively Multiplayer and Online. It sucks people in and doesn’t let them go.

Now why do people go back to playing Mine Craft instead of enjoying the shiny gems that are the current Themepark MMO’s?

Mine Craft gives you the ability to build your own structures. It even lets you build your own dungeons. I mean come on, how cool is that?

Even if you don’t have the patience to build you can explore, mine, then find other people and trade for anything else. There is even an economy in Mine Craft with respect to Emeralds. They’re only useful as currency (and very American, it’s green).

There are no levels in Mine Craft (there is experience, but that is only used for enchanting goods). You don’t find armor or weapons lying around. If you want to equip yourself, you’re going to have to build it yourself.

The thing is that even Developers/Producers are catching onto the fact that while players do love the super fancy roller coasters in Theme park games, you can only ride that so many times before you get sick of it, or from it.

In a Sandbox, you build yourself a castle. Yeah that by it’s self can be boring.

  • What if a creeper walks up, freaks out, and blows it away. Now you have to repair your castle.
  • Say some guy comes up and starts hacking away at it. You have to kill him, and repair your castle.
  • Now your gear is worn down, you have to make new tools and armor. TO THE MINES!!!

There’s just SO MUCH to do, and it doesn’t end unless you walk away.

Game companies have listened to the folks who play single player games for some time now. These people expect that every game they walk into will be like Diablo, Dragon Age, Skyrm.

You start out as the wandering hero to be, you gain strength and fight monsters for the best gear you can get your hands on. Then you get to the level cap and you go off to defeat the evil masters.

This is great and all, don’t get me wrong. I’ve played through Torchlight II and Diablo 3. It’s fun building the character and getting the loot. Thing is though, after the first couple play throughs  random dungeons or not, it starts to get a little old.

When you are producing new single player games, say one project at a time. It’s cost effective. You produce the game, you sell the title. You offer DLC for the previous title while working on the next.

MMO’s don’t work that way. If you want a steady revenue stream, you need a game that will get people interested and KEEP people interested.

In a recent Wired.com article it looks like even SOE is getting into the act by building a new  MMO with more sandbox elements. Thing is though, I’m going to keep an eye on the independent developers. I have a strong feeling that the success of the independent developer projects will set the tone for how many of the big names pick up the idea and run with it.

The Repopulation is my main focus. It looks a lot more like the kind of game I’ve been waiting for. And yes, still no more elves.

Now fun reads for the day :

Wired (Thanks to Trixie in The Repopulation forums) - The Future of MMO Games

MMORPG Forums - We want worlds not games