OUCH! A flying sandbox hit my head!

You can never know from where a sandbox may arrive:

Derek Smart:
The campaign locks the type of craft you can use. So, uhm, how were you able to change it?

Ben Zwycky:
I didn’t change it, just a simple matter of going down to a planet, visiting your local showroom (base) exiting your craft and entering your craft of choice (though it’s a bit more complex to get hold of a zodiac)

The best part was overcoming the problem of how to get the zodiac off the planet. It’s only found on naval bases or the starbase on Majoris, but the Zodiac’s conventional engines are too weak to escape the gravitational pull of earth or Majoris (it can’t reach the required altitude).

So I went down to the naval base on Earth, landed on the carrier, exited and got into the shuttle on the carrier, then grabbed the zodiac on the same carrier with my tractor beam and left the planet.

I now have my zodiac in space, but I still can’t use it because I can’t exit the shuttle in space because I’m an EFP and don’t have a space suit.

I then flew to the Moon, landed, got out of the shuttle and into my lovely new craft, which was able to escape the much weaker local gravitational pull with ease. All that remained was to dock with galcom HQ and change all my ATS and ATA missiles for STS ones and I was ready to go a huntin’.

Conventional methods? What are they? :)

The Battlecruiser series is also an example of sandbox, and has always been closer to a mmorpg than a single-player game. Even if it IS a single-player game.

It perfectly exemplifies another critical problem of the sandbox: it does many things, but it does everything ugly.

Exactly like a Derek Smart’s game.

In other occasions I explained my perplexity about this point:

What I’m noticing is that the trend is to specialize. Instead of building games that try to reach a wide public and create a virtual world that appeals to different player “types” (we had this discussion long ago), we have games that specialize more and more in just one precise direction.

There’s a natural and even obligatory drift to focus more and more. On the thread of Grimwell Brad wrote that he thinks it’s possible to arrive to a virtual world starting from a Diku and by adding progressively more “world-y” parts and move closer to the ideal. But instead what I see is that both the games, devs and players focus progressively and erode the game to the essential. In DAoC the players focus on PvP and the PvE is more and more left out, despite a decent amount of resources have been spent on it with the time.

What I’m saying is that these games seem to become progressively “poorer”, eroded to the minimum common denominator. Specialized and focused as much as possible. I don’t think is exclusivelly a matter of the continue optimization done by the players.

The general impression is that a game offers progressively *less* as the time passes. Maybe the focus helps to rise the quality of that specific part but there doesn’t seem to exist a possibility to move in the other direction and enrich the game instead of draining/exhausting it.

I’m not sure how to wrap all this up, this is just what I observe. Then I blame the mudflation as always.

Ubiq wrote about this in January but I think there’s more than just marketing observations…

Give a look to this strip:

Is the sandbox just the overambitious, silly dream of the (visionary) drunk geek without any practical chance to do something good?

Not from my point of view, of course. This is a different model that I consider more appropriate in the long run. See for example the two curves Raph used to explain the two types of marketing trends:

Raph already explained these, so I won’t comment further. My point is that a mmorpg should found itself on the evolution, because this is one of the native strengths of the genre: the possibility to observe and evolve. The possibility to “reach” what was only a dream before. Dynamism, growth, learning. Already in the processes of the development, not just for the players.

The difference is that WoW, after some years, will be the same game of today. It will still do one thing only, stretching it as much as possible and then more. Exploiting that one thing to the limit. But it will remain the same game. It will never suggest anything else and will never add anything worthwhile to the experience. It won’t use its potential, it will just strain it. This is why, even if it *will* remain successful in the longer term (the general poor state of the industry helps), it will still belong to the first curve. Something that is destined to fade out and get replaced. A transition.

While other games may belong to the second curve. Where the launch isn’t the last stop, but where the journey begins. A game that starts from that point to move toward a maturity.

To do so, though, we need to develop sandboxes that are already “accessible” and “fun” on the very basic level. And then work on top of that. SWG basically didn’t work for these two reasons. Because it didn’t start as accessible and fun and because the devs seem to have demolished more than built.

This is why cannot tolerate anymore sandboxes that overlook the fundamentals.

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