I guess I should just learn to let things go, but I am bad at it.
One of my pet peeves is not only over-using but allowing certain terms to become part of your vocabulary without actually defining what those words mean. For example, the word "n***er" of "f*g." Just words, yes, but define them and how you use them and understand their possible effects on someone besides your group of buddies.
Now, not to be overly dramatic, and I am in no way comparing using hip Interweb lingo to using racist and homophobic terms, but I am connecting the two in their unoriginality and misuse.
So, the point of the blog: "sandbox." A good deal of the gaming media and multiple spheres (blogs/podcasts) as well as players love to use the terms "hardcore" and "sandbox", as though they are some kind of assurance of either deep challenge or fascinating complexity. I will not get to hardcore on this post, but I have visited that one many times already.
But with sandbox, I am always entertained by players who seem to think that a game that allows many choices is somehow a "sandbox."
"Sandbox" is a good term only to describe something with very limited choices. A box of a material that requires a liquid to hold shape is not something that lends to unlimited imaginings, unless the player is a 5 year old. Yes, I understand the metaphor, but we are all old enough to read this blog, so let's lose (sorry, Interwebz, I meant LOOSE) that tired, immature example.
The term should be, simply, "..a game of choices.." as in "..a game of (many) choices.." or "...a game of (very few) choices..". I don't care if a wiki somewhere defines "sandbox" as a game that allows you to play the game in many ways, or however it defines the word sandbox.
F*** the wiki, please.
What players are trying to say (no matter how the word has been defined) when they call a game "sandbox" is that the game has many options, and that the game allows that player to play in many, many ways. Not that the game allows many choices just within the physical boundaries of the game, which might be what is "given" as part of the current definition.
At least, that's what I HOPE the players are trying to say, otherwise they are using the term to say "..this game has about as many choices as a pile of sand."
So, a game should be bragged about, not for having a few choices, but for having a large sum total of choices, many things to do and many ways to do those things. And I say "brag" because most players seem to use the term "sandbox" like they do "hardcore": to make it seem as though the game they are playing somehow requires a deeper type of thinking.
Just a side note, an immersive game does not necessarily mean it has many choices, so let's leave "Immersion" out of it, for now.
Think of a blank room with a blender, a light switch and a couch.
There are the players that would prefer to nap, prefer to blend or prefer to switch. Maybe the game allows you to do all of those on one character, and maybe only one of those on one character. Just because the game allows you to do them all does not mean that the game has the limitless choices of a "sandbox." (Allowing for sandbox to mean "limitless choices" for now.) Allowing a player to do all those things just means that the game is giving you a few choices, because there are only a few things to do.
Now, if the game allowed you to make not only those choices, but choices that saved you time (a cash shop, for example) or choices that allowed you to do those things in different ways (turning on the blender with your feet, for example) then that would be closer to a true "game of (many) choices." One reason I play like I do is that I enjoy looking at the different ways to do the same things that every one else is doing (for example, making up a trading route in Vanguard when there is no "official" route, using only limited forms of chat that are "realistic" like local chat or in-game "letters" instead of the "magic world chat box" of normal MMO's. ) I like to take any game and use my imagination to turn it into the ultimate game with (many) choices.
But, in reality, most players want to follow the rules placed on them by the game. (Ironically, 99 percent of MMO's have no "rules," just areas of the game that are encouraged, but whatever.) So, to them, the game should be measured by the total number of actual in-game mechanics and systems. A sum total of all the "things to do."
So, add up the "things to do" in your "sandbox" game. Seriously, take a piece of paper and write 'em down.
Of all the games I have played, Mabinogi has probably the most systems in any game I have come across. In other words, it is closer to any "sandbox" than any game out there. But, I might be getting ahead of myself, and thinking of the first game off the top of my head.
Ryzom has a few things to do, but one character can do them all. Still, the sum total of things to do (we are not counting role-play) is low.
Vanguard has a great deal of things to do, and the characters are rich in race choice and in abilities. Every character is an everyman, and can do a little bit of everything. Many choices, and many ways to do them.
Darkfall, the point of this post, has very few choices. Very few. Granted, I am aware that Darkfall was designed to be a massive battle pvp-game that does it well, but that has nothing to do with the fact that it has one of the smallest lists of things to do. Even with my "Immersion Project" pumping some life into the game, the community (a potential game asset) is loud-mouthed enough to just ruin it. Also, the landscape is dead and bland. Pretty, but bland.
No housing: something to do.
No flying: something to do.
Nothing to explore: something to do.(Technically, my opinion, but something that is backed up by players. The game has nothing to explore but more landscape. While this could be wrong for some players, this is mostly agreed upon by the players I have talked to, my only source of information that I can rely on.)
No real death penalty: Higher level players that have played longer confirm this. Losing items means nothing, 90 percent of the time. No fear of death is a loss of something to do: being afraid. Tension can elevate a boring situation into a fantastic one.
Even EVE, with it's limited things to do (having many ways to do those things does not mean the actual number is high) has more things to do than Darkfall, thus seeming more "sandbox."
Let's stop using cheesy terms like "sandbox" and "hard-core" because they don't really apply to what they are being applied to. Just call it what it is or is not: .."a game of ______ choices." Darkfall is a great Mass PvP game, like EVE without the fun stuff that most players do (most EVE players do not PvP regularly) but that does not make Darkfall a "game of many choices."
Now, if I can just convince people to stop using the term "fail."