In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "Is there something the Sandbox genre can do better at?" by MMOExposed.
To improve the Sandbox genre, is there something that need to be improved? What can be done to improve the genre?
Axehilt feels the moment-to-moment gameplay could be approved across the board:
Quite a lot, but the most obvious is that moment-to-moment gameplay needs to not suck. Games like ATITD or Haven & Hearth get close, as their crafting is involved enough and varied enough to be rather enjoyable. Basically it has to feel like you're actually playing a game and not simply wasting time in a massive decision-less timesink, like harvesting resources in most sandboxes.
Jenuviel offers some commentary on the recent trend of PvP-oriented sandbox games:
I think a big thing they could do to achieve more mainstream success is to stop scaring away the pve crowd with pvp-focused gameplay. I know most of this site's forum-goers are big supporters of open-world-pvp, but the second you decide to make pve players unwilling targets, you've gone from a mainstream title to a niche title. I absolutely believe there should be open-world-pvp sandboxes out there (and there are), but we need a AAA, mainstream, financially successful sandbox if we ever want to see the model catch on.
Conventional wisdom tends toward the belief that social and political conflicts between players are the only way to give long-term life to a sandbox. While such conflicts can certainly add longevity to the game, they're not the only method of doing so (see: A Tale in the Desert), nor is player-versus-player combat always necessarily when it comes to conflict resolution. The best way to make a breakthrough sandbox, in my opinion, is to build with a focus on systems rather than "content." Provide player authoring tools, social tools, deep crafting systems with dynamic resources, a skill system rather than a class system, a huge open world, and include some goals that give those new to MMOs a sense of direction.
That last part's important. Mainstream adoption means grabbing people from a broader market, and most people just have no clue what to do when they log into a sandbox; they wander around for awhile, get listless, then leave. That's fine if you're CCP and you're aiming for a fairly specific demographic, but it's never going to result in market penetration. There has to be some sort of linear quest mechanism in place; it shouldn't be the focus of the game, but it should be there, it should be of decent quality, and it should be supplemented by the aforementioned player authoring tools (hopefully peer-reviewed), so people have direction if and when they need it. Also have things like City of Heroes' badge/title collections. It was quite a simple system, but collecting badges and titles provided concrete goals for achievers and explorers.
Also, I'm probably totally wrong, because I know nothing about game design. Maybe I should have put that sentence first...
jimdandy26 feels sandboxes could use a bit more story:
Telling a decent story for a start.
It's been a while since I've dug in deep with a sandbox game, but from my experience, sandbox games tend to lack polish. Sandbox games often feature a system design focus in place of a focus on developer created content. I've noticed that perhaps the developers have too many systems in the game out of the gate and that each system lacks as a result of the spread focus. Perhaps reining things in at first in order to polish up a smaller amount of systems while leaving room to expand later may be a better course of action for developers of these games.
How do you feel sandbox games could be improved on as a genre? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!