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BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

My random thoughts about MMORPGs. A bit of critique, suggestion, debate, and insanity. Enjoy.

Author: BadSpock

Linear questing games are easier to make? Really?

Posted by BadSpock Thursday January 3 2008 at 11:17AM
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Linear quest-based games are easier to make? Are you serious?

I've heard many people try to use this argument on various forum topics. They like to use this little gem when arguing for the creation of more sandbox games, that the developers don't have the skill or effort required to make a true sandbox game, because linear games are so much "easier" to make every does them.

Are you kidding me?

Let's think about it.

Sandbox game - everything is player created / run. So you DON'T need quests and storylines. The player makes their own quests and stories.

You have to create the UI, the monster AI, the combat system, then advancement system, the crafting, the trading, the social systems, etc. etc. everything else every MMO ever made has had.

Which means you don't have to design and implement thousands of quests. No questing XP rewards to figure out and balance, no quest reward loot tables to create and balance, no quest event triggers to code and test, no quest log text to write and edit, etc.

A quest based game has everything that a sandbox game has. It just ALSO has tons and tons of quests.

It's pretty easy actually. Imagine playing WoW, but never doing a quest, ever. You'd kill stuff, socialize with people, gather resources, craft, kill some more stuff... etc. 

You could play WoW as a sandbox game easily if you chose to never do a quest and just wander around making your own content like you do in a sandbox game. 

Everything that makes a "sandbox' game is there. You may say that the different zones are designed to only allow people of a certain level in WoW. Are sandbox games any different? Monsters still have different relative strengths. In a sandbox game you still go to area X when you are a noob and area Z is only for vets.

"Yeah but in WoW you always go to the same zones at around the same level, you have no freedom!"

In every sandbox MMO I played, it's the exact same way. Certain areas are off limits to noobs, the same stratification exists, it's just that in more linear games, it tells you "mob ten levels higher then you = instant death" where as in a sandbox game, you just go get one shotted quick and remember "ok, that guy pwns me." I'd rather have a little bit of direction from the game to not waste a death on my ignorance, thanks.

They add thousands of quests to make the game more interesting and help you level up a bit faster. So, how is a linear game easier to make again? "They have more work to do, so it's easier for them." Really? Serious?

If you're talking about class vs. skill based advancement, they are really about the same in terms of how "easy" to make. How do I know this? Because I've played plenty of both types, both have imbalances and constant patching/nerfing of different skills/classes/abilities etc. 

No class based game is perfectly balanced, nor is any skill based game. Are the devs stupid for not being able to balance the game? No, you're stupid for assuming you are smarter and better at balancing a game that you didn't create. A smart person would think, "They made the game, they coded it, if anyone can balance it, it'll be them." So why aren't games balanced? Becuase MMOs are so frick'n huge and so many system interact with each other in so many different ways, our heads would explode if we were forced to deal with it on a daily basis. We're lucky we have such hard working and intelligent devs behind our favorite games.... (obviously the previous sentence does not apply to SWG and the NGE or Sigil's Vanguard)

I'd like clarification if you would please, I just simply don't understand where you people are coming from when you say that linear games are easier to make.  

Little help?

Sornin writes:

I think you are incorrect when you state that WoW, without quests, is basically a sandbox game, and can be played as one.

A sandbox game is not a linear game without quests - that is a stupid, simplistic thing to say.

WoW lets players interact with, control, and create very little, which are essential things in a sandbox game.

As for how easy or hard each style is to make, I think a sandbox is much harder because of the very fact things are not mapped out. Developers need to ensure there is enough to do in a sandbox without actually making things to do, such as adding thousands of quests, which is difficult. They need to allow players to control things but not in a manner that is a detriment to others.

Thu Jan 03 2008 11:40AM Report
BadSpock writes:

A sandbox game is a linear game without quests. What do you do in a sandbox game? You grind and/or do other stuff to advance your character towards some end goal. It's very linear. It's just you have more choice as to how you make that advancement and where, but no direction or true purpose to the advancement other then the advancement itself.

To think otherwise is a stupid, simplistic thing to say. :)

Questing gives you the illusion of purpose as your advance towards the end goal. Yes, you are simply killing stuff in order to gain new levels and/or skills for shiny new toys, but at least with questing, you are killing those things for some imaginary purpose. Because Bobby the Cat Wrangler wants their pelts for his stuffed Emu collection.

You say that interaction, control, and creation are essential to a sandbox game. I don't agree. I beleive interaction, control, and creation are essential to EVERY MMOG, not just the sandbox ones. This is one of the few things WoW really failed to do. Sure crafting is important, as is controlling your character, the social systems like Guilds, raiding, etc. But you have no effect on the world really, no PvP ownership of anything, no housing, and that sucks. I agree that is what sucks about WoW.

These things are not exclusive to sandbox games. Nor do they have to be.

Things not being mapped out means that you have a lot less work to do. You don't have to code player interactions, you simply have to give the players the tools to do what they wish. In a sandbox or linear game, this is true. Mapping some things out is a second layer. A second layer that sandbox games don't have, and thus, don't require as much work to make.

What I'm saying is, everything the devs have to spend their work hours doing to create a sandbox game, you have to do those things in a more linear quest based game too. However, in a sandbox game, you don't have to create tons of content like quests. Thus, a quest driven game takes more time/work to create because there is simply more content.

Thu Jan 03 2008 12:28PM Report
JB47394 writes:

heerobya, although Sornin is rude in his tone, I have to agree with his statements in general.  Perhaps you should say a bit more about what people could do in a World of Warcraft questless-world that they cannot do today - and why that makes it a reasonable sandbox.

If player-sponsored quests are the key to what you're after, I could see the need to remove quests.  But more broadly, I assume that sandboxes are intended to let players do whatever they're inspired to do.  For that reason, I assume that levels would need to be removed.  Levels are the primary motivation for 90% of the actions in a game.  Take them out of World of Warcraft and I think you've got the makings of a sandbox.

Further taking out the quests would make it even more of a sandbox because players would lose yet another major motivation.  They'd have to make up their own activities.  Unfortunately, I think that the majority of players would be adrift without any idea of what they might want to do in the game.  There's still a type of player that would greatly enjoy the freedom, but the game would be niche.  Fortunately, even niche games can have populations that number in the tens of thousands, which is far more than any game needs for a solid sense of community.  The game just needs to make sure that it avoids spreading that community out too thinly.

Thu Jan 03 2008 12:39PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Levels do create restrictions on freedom, yes, but they also give a sense of purpose and direction. A goal you are reaching towards.

True, a sandbox game will give you the opportunity to create your own goals, rather then reaching max level.

But it doesn't really matter if it's a skill based system or class and level based. If there is an advancement system at all, it's a very linear thing. You start here and end there.

Doesn't matter if it's levels and classes or just skills. If there exists an advancement system, it is a linear system, even if there is no end (no maximums)

They only way to do a completely open system, a TRUE sandbox, is to have ZERO character advancement. No gear stats, no skills, no levels, no experience, nothing. But then can it be called a MMORPG? What will motivate players to keep playing? Some control mechanisms for land, titles, status etc. could keep people playing, but would it ever leave the niche market?

Player sponsored quests open the door for exploitation. It's human nature. You'd have to put massive restrictions and rules to avoid this, and by doing so you'd kill the free spirited nature of a plyaer-sponsored quest system.

I know I play MMORPGs because I like advancing a character, becoming stronger and cooler, getting to do new and exciting things, etc. I can do this is both sandbox and quest based games. I have done this in both, for many years.

Sandbox games, it's all about the end goal. I want to get to point X and be able to do this. To get there, I have limited choices. Pretty much, in any sandbox game I've played, you grind and grind and grind.

In a quest based game, you still "grind" but it's disguised as a quest system. There is "reason" to grind because so and so told you to do this for this quest. It's the same thing, quests just make the pill a little easier to swallow.

Both are very linear because you are progressing along a path. One path, less defined and more open, but still a path. The other, more narrow and clearly defined, but the same path none the less.

Play any quest based game without doing any quests and what do you get? A grind. LOTRO, WoW... Even in a game like EQ2 or Vanguard where you have alternate advancement paths (crafting levels, diplomancy etc) if you don't quest, you grind to advance your character. If you don't quest for combat, you grind killing stuff to advance your character.

How is that any different then a sandbox game?

I think people are refering to a sandbox game as one where you have choice. No restrictive classes, no restrictive progress paths. They seem to look past the fact that classes are a choice you make. Most skill based systems you end up with cookie cutter builds that resemble some class-based archetype.

The progression is still linear, just less defined. In a sandbox game, you don't go to area X because the enemies /con too difficult. Untill you become stronger, then you can go there. A quest based game is the exact same thing, it's just masked in a system that gives you guidance and something to do, as well as some reason to do it.

Honestly, all questing systems are is a way to "spice up" the same grind for experience / leveling / gaining skill, which are all simply different methods for advancing your character along a linear path.

Having to create all the content in a quest based game is definetely more time consuming and challenging then NOT having to create all the content in a quest system.

Thu Jan 03 2008 1:00PM Report
Sornin writes:

"heerobya, although Sornin is rude in his tone, I have to agree with his statements in general."

Yeah, I probably should have chosen my words more carefully. Part of the reason I was so blunt is that I usually agree with things heerobya writes, and thus to see what I feel is a simplistic analysis of what a sandbox from him evoked a rather strong response.

A sandbox is simply not a linear game without quests - I will never agree that it is. The design goes a lot deeper than that, as quests and such are quite a shallow aspect of a game. They merely are a story and advancement mechanic, that is it.

Sandboxes are about freedom, down to the core. You cannot take something away to add such an abstract concept. If you take quests away from WoW, there is no more freedom than with them in.

With quests, you can both quest and simply grind for gear/levels. Without them, you can only grind. How did that add more freedom? If anything, it took some away.

A real sandbox game puts the players squarely at the helm of creating content - the developers just give the framework. There is also no concept of an end, similar to real life - things just keep going. WoW is not a framework in that there is a definite progression to an end game and you cannot alter the world in any appreciable way; you cannot add things to it, you cannot control it. All you can do is level, gather gear, and PvP.

And all of this is why a sandbox game - a good one - is tough to make. Players want to be entertained, not make their own entertainment or simulate life. A blank slate may appeal to some, but most what to progress toward some defined goal that is given to them.

Sandboxes also inherently have a very skewed hierarchy, where the few dominate the many, another parallel to real life. In a linear game everyone can reach "the end" and feel good, even if some do have a bit better gear or a higher PvP rank. In a sandbox, there will be a few who control portions of the world and various aspects of it, and the rest are left in their shadow. Look at Second Life as an example - you have talented/wealthy people who own entire islands with mansions and such, then you have "commoners" who wander the streets like bums.

I play MMORPGs to conquer things and play the hero, not be reminded of the fact that I am just an ordinary guy. A sandbox does not let people be heroes, and that is probably the strongest reason it is tough to make one.

Thu Jan 03 2008 1:07PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Very well written Sorin, and I do understand where you are coming from and agree with you.

You are heading down the philosophical path, the true "essence" of sandbox vs. linear where as I am simply pointing out the exacting details of game systems and coding etc. etc.

I'm not in disagreement with you, hell I wish we could have another great sandbox game. But as you said, only a few get to be the hero, sandbox games become very stratified and form their own power struggle between the elite and everyone else. You create a target class, a fodder class, and a ruling class.

At least more linear quest based games allow everyone to be the hero.

I hope for a happy medium to one day exist, and I've tried (in great length) with my old blog posting to define my vision of a game that is indeed both sandbox and quest driven, where everyone can be a hero but an individual can still stand out.

Maybe I should start that up again...

Thu Jan 03 2008 1:20PM Report
vajuras writes:

I gotta get back to work but being a gameplay programmer (yes mmorpg.com will be changing my account status hopefully soon to relfect this) I can enlighten you to challgenes of creating a "Sandbox". Your idea of a sandbox is limited. Sandbox games like grand theft auto, oblivion, etc is nothing like the simplistic view you presented.

post from Developer's Corner I made:

 

Back to "dynamic" content vs "static" I want to provide an example of how we develop games however you might need to be a programmer to follow.

For programmers, its easy for us to provide our game designers with "scripts" (static content for quests and NPC behavior). It is alos easy for us to simply provide "pathnodes" to our designers to allow them to instruct mob AI where to go in a 3d enviroment.

Its really tough to compute things in real time- which is what Sandbox usually calls for. For instance, if you use Havok or renderware physics in your title then if you allow players to move around objects- now the Bot AI has to compute how to navigate around that object.

So, in MMO space allowing players to deform the enviroment will call for dynamic pathfinding. Now this might not be a big deal since most RPGs use cells anyway for navigation. But think about allowing players to build 'buildings'. Now, we're talking about 'dynamic lighting' (PSSM, trapezoid shadowmapping, variance, etc). Dynamic lighting alone is way more expensive then static lightmaps

So think about this on the software level. Dynamic structure placement- such a simple thing, introduces 'dynamic' lighting. This is very demanding on video cards we're talking extra render passes.

Such a simple thing, dynamic building placement. Yet this simple thing introduces pretty killer client load unless you simply skip shadow rendering altogether (which EVE Online and Shadowbane does)

Let's not even consider other issues such as how much land you want to give players. Too much land and they won't see each other or make friends. Too little land then players will fight over the resources or use EBAY to RMT land ownership like Raph Koster saw in UO.

Dynamic vs static. On a design level, static content is much easier. Its not too hard to order a game designer to script up some quests. You can train a designer to learn script pretty fast (like we saw with C&C3, elder scrolls shadowkey, etc). But if you bypass script and instead try to focus on a Dynamic AI then that puts the load on the overburdenned programmers.


In theory and depending on the game content- you can bypass many of these issues of course. A sandbox, in theory, could be way simplier to develop. But on the flipside, if you are trying to create a full blown sandbox that requires dynamic lighting for structure placement on Terrain, dynamic Bot AI creating challenges, etc then you could be looking at a long development cycle.

For titles I've shipped we've always stuck to "static" content personally because there is simply no budget, and no time to pursue experimental dynamic content like Agents, deployable agents, etc.

Thu Jan 03 2008 1:54PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Thanks Vajuras. Very informative.

But still, the way I see it, the sandbox and the quest game BOTH have to have the AI, the lighting, the pathfinding, the real time interactions... it's the first layer. The first layer that ALL MMOGs have had and will have. Sure, they vary in complexity and functionality based off the type of game you are creating, your budget, and what technology you are working with, but they ALL have these features.

It's like people think that because a game has quests, mobs don't have AI and there is no pathing or complex system underlying the way everything in the game moves, interactcs, is animated, etc. etc.

Quest based game have all of the other things that sandbox games have, but they ALSO have quests. True, creating a quest might be as simple as writing scripts and editting text files, but it's work that needs to be done and work that talented professionals (especially creative people like writers, world builders etc.) have to do, and thus takes production time and money and effort.

So, because of this, it's more "difficult" to do then choosing NOT to do it. Get what I'm saying?

Thu Jan 03 2008 2:05PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Games like Grand Theft Auto and Oblivion are really hybrids, and so is my current favorite Mass Effect.

They have a very linear, progression based, quest driven "main" storyline.

But they also have tons of side content and stuff to do that you don't "have" to do. This is the sandbox element. You are in a playground and you are given the opportunity to do these things, but you don't "have" to ride the merry-go-round or swing on the swings.

I think this IS the way that MMOs should be. You have tons of quests and story and instances etc. etc. but you don't HAVE to do them. It's like in WoW, you don't have to do all the quests, or any of them if you don't want to, but they are there to do if you so wish, and it'll help you out immensily to do so.

I hate the current trend I've seen in games like Tabula Rasa where you get little to no experience from just wandering around and killing stuff, and instead you get 95% of your XP from questing.

Make an hour of questing reward the same amount of experience as an hour of grinding mobs, as an hour of crafting, as an hour of participating in some organized social activity or system, or an hour of PvP, etc. etc.

I'm trying to argue that at the very heart of it, quests are simply a clever way to put some make up and a pretty dress on "the grind" to make it easier on the eyes. At the basic level, all MMOs are really the exact same formula. They all have that same "first layer" of "we are in an online world you can interact with" but quest based games add a SECOND layer, the questing, to help dress up that first layer to make it more accessable and enjoyable.

By adding that second layer, it takes more work then simply creating the first layer and saying "here's your world, go find something to do!" like sandbox games do.

Thu Jan 03 2008 2:12PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Let me clarify, in WoW you are pretty much forced to quest if you want to "succeed" but you in theory could do the game without questing.

Heck, anyone heard of the Troll warrior who leveled to 70 naked? no weapons, no items, no armor.

WoW just tells you "welcome to the playground, you should go to the swings, then the merry-go-round" but you aren't forced into it.

I skipped whole zones and quest chains because I hated them. I skipped entire instances, etc. You can make it a more sandbox type of game if you choose to, though, it's very hard to resist the gentle nudge Blizzard gives you towards appropriate level content.

Thu Jan 03 2008 2:17PM Report
vajuras writes:

"But still, the way I see it, the sandbox and the quest game BOTH have to have the AI, the lighting, the pathfinding, the real time interactions... it's the first layer. The first layer that ALL MMOGs have had and will have. Sure, they vary in complexity and functionality based off the type of game you are creating, your budget, and what technology you are working with, but they ALL have these features."

 

not really, in elder scrolls shadowkey (cell phone RPG lol it was my 1st commercial title no laughing)- we used Cells and pathnodes. Pathnodes are 'static' and made quickly by game designers. its a trivial thinkg for programmers to toss to designers and say "go!!!!!"

"It's like people think that because a game has quests, mobs don't have AI and there is no pathing or complex system underlying the way everything in the game moves, interactcs, is animated, etc. etc."

There really is no AI in RPGs- not on the same level as FPS games. We "script" aI in RPG. In a sandbox, a full blown sandbox, AI is 100x more complex. We're talking full blown AI thayt can make decisions, evaluates current game state, distributed computing Agents. All of this has to be coded by an AI programmer (speciailized, expensive). But a designer i can just give him a script. And i can train a designer within like a day to write scripts in LUA. Perhaps 2 weeks tops.

"Quest based game have all of the other things that sandbox games have, but they ALSO have quests. True, creating a quest might be as simple as writing scripts and editting text files, but it's work that needs to be done and work that talented professionals (especially creative people like writers, world builders etc.) have to do, and thus takes production time and money and effort."

yes but that is way less risky then placing all control of Quest generation in the hands of AI. I have heard that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. did this (no time to play). That is mush riskier then using a "script" which will always do the SAME thing everytime. vastly more easier. again, we train game scripters to do this with quick ramp up. checkout posts by Damion shubbert on this subject at zen of design (www.zenofdesign.com)

"So, because of this, it's more "difficult" to do then choosing NOT to do it. Get what I'm saying?"

 I've shipped way too many "static" linear games like elder scrolls shadowkey, C&C3, etc trust me game developers we love making linear games. We hate messing around with 'dynamic' AI. I tried to convince our lead AI programmer on C&C3 to pursue a dynamic thinking AI over a hardcoded, cheating AI and he said "hell no!".

Thu Jan 03 2008 2:34PM Report
BadSpock writes:

I agree, but every sandbox MMO, every sandbox RPG, and every sandbox action game like GTA have all had very un-dynamic AI.

I'm no programmer, but I think the difference is that dynamic AI, the NPCS make choices; and in non-dynamic AI, they simple respond to stimulus (i.e. run scripts)

Non-dynamic - player is here, player is this, player does this, my response is X or Y.

Dynamic AI - I actually have no idea how to describe it without just saying "Look, a player, what should I do?"

I really think dynamic is simple a buzzword used by the industry and clueless fans (like myself) to describe AI that simply is more complex. It still is based off of scripts, still based off of cause and effect, if this happens I do this, but there are just a lot more options and more possible outcomes.

The guys from Spellborn said it best, you create a set of simple rules, but give enough various to the rules that it creates thousands of dynamic situations.

Truely dynamic AI would have to be self-aware and actually think, rather then just react. As far as I know, we can't do that yet.

But, you are definetely right, NO MMO has had good AI like a FPS yet. One day, they will.

Thu Jan 03 2008 2:44PM Report
vajuras writes:

I wonder if I erred in saying FPS are more complex AI when infact Unreal used a pathnode system for bot navigation (static). Anyway, just wanted to point out there are indeed full-blown Sandbox games out there using Dynamic AI. You would have to search the web for "Agents". At EA, I made a presentation on Agents awhile back and many of my audience suggested different games that employed dynamic AI for flocking algorithms, etc. I was amazed this stuff been around for many years

Agents simply make decisions based on local information. They do not 'cheat'. They are unaware of global state. So, a popular application of Agents in gaming is 'sims'. such as a game that simulates Ants- in which is a real life Agent. Agents work together as a cohesive unit to make incredibly complex decisions. If you played Mass Effect think of the 'Geth' *no spoiler I think*

Thu Jan 03 2008 3:44PM Report
BadSpock writes:

very interesting... I will search "Agents" right away.

The only example I have seen to date of what I would call "dynamic" AI is in the new Star Wars game, The Force Unleashed.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=7iCdN2FGOaQ

The enemy AI knows that it's falling, knows thay they need to try and catch themselves... they are capable of knowing their surroundings and reacting to changing situations. Check it out, it's interesting stuff.

They say it's NOT animation based, (which to me means scripted actions / reactions) it's all simulation based (which to me means that they are choosing)

Thu Jan 03 2008 4:07PM Report
vajuras writes:

darnit once again I came across as 'rude' I really gotta learn to be more polite. Thank you for this blog good writeup really.

 

your views are not wrong that is one form of a Sandbox.

 

Thu Jan 03 2008 4:08PM Report
BadSpock writes:

The Geth in Mass Effect, in the game's fiction are a hive mind of Agents, I get what you are saying.

The actual AI in the game, not so great, despite how great the game is.

Thu Jan 03 2008 4:09PM Report
vajuras writes:

Oh yeah right on that Star Wars game is exactly what I mean! Each bot AI appears to be an agent. Realtime bot AI, realtime navigation, and crazy physics! I will have to use that as my point for now on

 

Thank you I kepot thinking TES: Oblivion and GTA but you made good posts yo.

Thu Jan 03 2008 4:11PM Report
vajuras writes:

yes I agree on the Geth. They had the 'lore and concept' but they didnt seem smarter once they grouped up.

Thu Jan 03 2008 4:12PM Report
BadSpock writes:

I did start playing again on Veteran combat difficulty, and they are not smarter, just harder to kill and do more damage.

Kind of pissed me off actually.

I was hoping they'd be more difficult like using better cover, flanking tactics, etc. but instead they just do more damage and have better resistances.

Lame, but, I can forgive them because the combat really is awesome and the rest of the game is so damn good.

Thu Jan 03 2008 4:31PM Report
vajuras writes:

my friend and I recently beat halo 3 on legenedary to see the different ending and get the achievent. I am not sure if they used more tactics. The game felt very hard cause we could die in 1 to 3/4 hits. was funny though we got so good at one point, we thought we accidently set the diff down to Normal! Now that was weird....

Yeah im replaying mass Effect on veteran too as a renegade female soldier. I have not noticed any emergent AI. But i like how they focused on good roleplaying

I like playing offline RPGs its like my little own private worlds heh

Thu Jan 03 2008 4:53PM Report
BadSpock writes:

Speaking of a game that'd be really hard to make... :)

Can you imagine the time that went into recording all the voice acting for Mass Effect?

Not only sooo many options and paths, but you have to do each path and choice in both male/female versions. Ridiculous.

Thu Jan 03 2008 5:46PM Report
vajuras writes:

Yeah its mind boggling how indepth Mass Effect is. so much content and different ways to play the game. My coworker and I were just comparing notes about it.

I also like the freedom you have. sometimes you can go to a planet purely for exploration and then sort of run into a Quest encounter. nice, exploration is so totally rewarded here.

Thu Jan 03 2008 7:23PM Report
Owyn writes:

I think the original author is not really understanding what people mean when they talk about a "sandbox" game.

A sandbox is not just a WOW-clone without quests.  In fact, there have been numerous such games (DAOC and AC1 both had very limited questing, for instance) that do not qualify as sandboxes.

Perhaps the best measure of "sandboxyness" might be the change test.  If you log off from the game, and don't log in for a month, what *player generated* changes to the world will have happened in your absence?  The more such changes you would see, the greater the "sandbox factor" of that game.

Great examples of sandbox style gameplay can be found in Eve, ATITD, and Shadowbane.  All of these games allow player interaction with the world to actually change the world - to alter the ways the sandbox looks, more or less.  ;)  If you miss a month in one of these games, you're not just missing out on leveling time - you're missing a month of story.  If you miss a month of WOW, there won't have been ANY player generated changes in your absence - because the game does not allow player generated changes to the world.  That makes WOW "not a sandbox".

To make WOW a sandbox, you'd need to add ways for the players to actually impact and change the world.  And that's where sandboxes get harder to make than the amusement park style games like WOW.  Player alteration to the world is inherently risky, unstable, and hard to balance - players, after all, are likely to come up with things that the developers didn't even dream of.  Building a robust system which allows strong player generated change, while preventing abuse and imbalances, is *very* tricky.  Writing more quests, on the other hand, is fairly easy - with a decent scripting editor, I can churn out a half dozen an hour, myself; I'm a decent writer, but even a novice could probably write half that per hour very consistently.

Writing a quest based game just means...generating a lot of quests, which is more a factor of time committed than critical thinking skills, whereas creating a balanced sandbox game requires strong critical thinking skills among the developers.

Fri Jan 04 2008 1:14AM Report
PolarisTCBM writes:

The ONLY TRUE SANDBOX MMO that I know is Second Life... which is not on my taste...

Other Sandbox games as you refer to as games that don't force you to make quests I think the best example would be Lineage2 (which actually turns to be total grinding, but it is probably the most addictive and pvp oriented)

 

Fri Jan 04 2008 5:48AM Report
BadSpock writes:

Owyn - i've played old UO and SWG, a lot, the two games that are arguably the "biggest" and most successful sandbox games.

I know what you are saying, what you are trying to say.

If you  read through the comments, you'll see I already went over this. You're arguing the philosophical, deeper meaning to a sandbox game.

Trust me, I know the difference.

All I'm trying to say is, quests exists to hide the grind behind a purpose. Instanced/epic quests exists to provide a linear story like a single player RPG would.

All MMOs posses the basic layer. Quests are a second layer. This layer is on top of the first in order to provide more entertainment value.

All MMOs are linear if they have an advancement system.

Would I prefer more open worlds? Open worlds where you change and effect the world? Of course. But those are ALWAYs coupled with endless grinding for stats/gear/levels/skills whatever.

Combine quest/story system and a open, dynamic, changing world.

I've said all this before in my "Perfect MMO" blogs.

Fri Jan 04 2008 2:41PM Report
vajuras writes:

"All MMOs are Linear if they have an advancement system"

Not really true. If the game has an open skill system then you can pursue learning any skill you wish (aka Crackdown RPG proved that). Now, skill trees might befuddle that a little if you overlay that atop of a skill-based or skill-point system

unless you mean it is linear to train up a skill from 0->100. then again, a skill-point system like we see in FPS games do not have 0-100 scale but rather as soon as you unlock a new ability its 100% (no grinding)

Compare to WoW where i must hit a certain Level to earn a skill. Also, the talent trees are very linear

Freeform skill system- see crackdown xbox360 RPG on xbox live. free to download and play with.

but an even more open skill system would be a skill-point system that allows you to unlock abilities like we see in FPS

I would say Guild Wars is freeform as well there is no skill tree for PVP characters

Sat Jan 05 2008 11:05AM Report
vajuras writes:

"Would I prefer an open world. Of Course. But those are ALWAYS coupled with endless grinding"

Not true at all checkout Second Life or Starport. Starport there is no grinding for skills. Albeit, its a 2d MMO (indie).

compare to that to any traditional level/class MMO where the grind is really strong

Sat Jan 05 2008 11:09AM Report
BadSpock writes:

Yeah I guess I was talking about the skill systems I've had most experience with. UO and SWG. Both were very linear. SWG was very, very, very grindy.

I really like the approach that Mass Effect took, and think that it'd work well for a MMORPG (with a few adjustment of course)

Instanced, story driven quest chain that takes you through the main plot, gives you freedom to choose how to complete the quests, tied in with an alignment system.

You could do open-world quests like they did the side missions. Tons of worlds to explore, maybe just make the bases themselves intanced.

But I do love the advancement system. Class based, yes, but with a lot of freedom to develope the class as you want to. Using skill points to choose what skills to advance when.

Now if they added the ability to customize the classes further, it'd be a nice system for a MMORPG.

No idea how'd they could do PvP though...

Mon Jan 07 2008 10:13AM Report
deathforce2 writes:

you have nothing to do huh dont ya ? i readed 10 seconds

Thu Jan 17 2008 1:10AM Report
BadSpock writes:

it does get a little slow at work sometimes.

gotta pass the time somehow right? might as well spur some debate/conversation instead of just troll other people's blogs :)

Thu Jan 17 2008 4:15PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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