In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "Will the upcoming wave of AAA sandboxes mmos change the public preferences?" by maccarthur2004:
"In the start, almost all mmos were sandbox. Then came EQ and later WoW with the themepark formula. The phenomenal success of WoW shaped the mmo market for the next 10 years, creating a paradigm that all AAA productions followed. The sandboxes became indie products.
Well, with the upcoming wave of AAA sandboxes/sandparks, will the market and the public preferences change once again in the opposite direction? Will these AAA mmorpgs "teach" the public to play and appreciate sandboxes? Will the themepark elements that some of them bring within serve as a "bridge" in that transition?
Open to opinions."
DMKano feels that the execution of these games is crucial to sparking a change in preferences:
It highly depends on how well the games are done.
Players want fun, immersive and well polished games first and foremost - what catergory they are (themepark/sandbox) is not the primary motivator for many gamers.
If there's a sandbox game that is very high quality, fun, very polished, immersive and easy to play yet difficult to master, it would have a much higher chance of doing well than a buggy, unoptimized, overly complicated game.
I think players will be pleasantly surprised with some upcoming sandpark games like ArcheAge for example - it has many of the qualities needed for a successful game.
Jagarid isn't confident that this is all a sign that things are changing:
Sandbox games will never be as popular as Theme Park, ever. Most people prefer to be guided rather than be given creative freedom. Sad, but true. This simple fact will give Theme Parks the edge, no matter how many great sandbox games are made.
psychosiszz points to the resurgence of sandbox games as having to do with players being sick of themepark games:
I feel alot of MMO gamers are sick and tired of the same old theme-park games.
The great thing about sandbox games is that the content is run by players. Which means people can do unique and interesting things with the tools given to them.
The problem with previous sandbox MMORPG's is that you often don't know what your doing, and it takes a while to understand it all. Modern gamers don't have the mental patience us older gamers do (Damn did I say that im 27 lol i feel old now). Which is why I can see a combo theme-park and sandbox emerging. Theme park to hold the players hand and guide them to the sand and how to use it.
One can hope it does change the way people view MMORPG's and set a new bar. I want a living, breathing world, a world which you can change via building and destruction, a seamless world (no zones) and where areas you went early game aren't redundant but still needed for resources/conquest etc. A game where you feel like a part of the world and not some lobby game where you queue up in the main city and wait for PVP/PVE.
As for me, I don't know that the traditional sandbox (systems over content focus) will ever take root as a mainstream MMO sub-genre, but I do feel that developers are finally realizing that the traditional themepark is unsustainable and this resurgence of 'sandbox' MMOs is their course-correction.
I don't think the final result will look like a true-blue sandbox, but we are probably going to see the elements from both sub-genres that work best combine for future games. For games like EverQuest Next, this seems to be a sandbox design as a foundation, with a certain level of developer created content layered on top of it.
The goal is to create a game where the world and system design can keep players entertained in between content deploys. In a traditional sandbox, its entirely systems driven, which works for some, but not everyone. For themeparks, it's entirely content focused, and players just churn through it all too fast. The future, as far I am able to see at this point, should be a combination of these things and it looks to me that the developers behind games like ArcheAge and EverQuest Next understand this quite well.
Your take? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!