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News & Features Discussion  » General: What’s Wrong With Entertainment?

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  SBFord

Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 13273

 
OP  4/07/11 11:00:22 AM#1

In today's MMO world, there are two sub-genres whose fans are in constant battle with one another: Theme Park vs Sandbox. We've all seen the arguments raging back and forth. In today's column, MMORPG.com Lead Writer Bill Murphy tackles the issue of theme parks as entertainment and wonders why those who are waiting for THE sandbox title to emerge don't take advantage. See what you think and then lend your thoughts in the comments.

I think it’s safe to say that there are more people who would rather go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, than people who actively participate in LARP every weekend. That doesn’t invalidate either pastime; it just shows the difference between a widely known form of entertainment and a subculture that has its own loyal devotees. This is the way things are in the MMO industry as well. More people will flock to a theme park games than will pick up a sandbox experience. You may not like this, but it is currently the established trend in online gaming.

Read more of Bill Murphy's What’s Wrong With Entertainment?.

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  King_Kumquat

Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/15/11
Posts: 532

Seeking Talented Court Jesters.

4/07/11 11:05:14 AM#2

My biggest problem with hand holding, liner, simple MMOs is that there's an illusion of chioce. And the elitism that comes from gear progression baffles me. Seeing someone get booted from taking part in an event because their pants don't have enough +douche points on it is a terrible innovation that isn't fun for anyone and it needs addressed.


Actual critical thinking, tactics, and choice needs to be a part of the development model for MMORPGs.


Instead we're given shells of game systems that evryone seems to forgive because 1,000s people can all kill the same 1 boss over and over and somehow this is supposed to be on par with actual innovation taking place in other video games like Red Dead Redemption's open world or even Dishwasher's combat system.


It's not okay that millions choose the lesser. It's unethical of game designers to stagnate their business.



Will develop an original MMORPG title for money.

  TruthXHurts

Novice Member

Joined: 6/20/10
Posts: 1640

I am here to chew bubblegum and to kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum!

4/07/11 11:09:21 AM#3

My problem with themparks is I don't want to go on a ride. I want to earn something, to risk somethinhg, to have a earned sense of accomplishment. Theme park MMO's deliver none of this. Playing a theme park MMO is like bragging how you rode a mechanical bull that you were duct taped down to.


"I am not in a server with Gankers...THEY ARE IN A SERVER WITH ME!!!"

  Kaynos1972

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 2/10/04
Posts: 2323

4/07/11 11:12:21 AM#4

Themeparks are nice but when you've been on the same ride for the last 10 years it gets old.   Rift is the perfect example of that.  Great game but it's the same old, same old.   I dont care if you give that game a 80% rating, it's just plain boring.

  elocke

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 6/15/04
Posts: 4108

4/07/11 11:22:57 AM#5

Excellent article.  I would love to hear your opinion on themepark/hybrid models, something that ArcheAge and The Secret World seem to leaning toward.  Personally that's what I want.  I think I want the Disney World experience, not just Six Flags.  DW tends to be more interactive and feel more magical as opposed to the fun but only worth a day trip, Six Flags Great Adventure.  I love both, but I would rather go back to DW if I had to choose.  


http://www.twitch.tv/elockethemmoaddict

https://twitter.com/MMOAddicted

  severius

Elite Member

Joined: 8/10/04
Posts: 1527

4/07/11 11:24:29 AM#6

I don't think it has anything to do with, well for some, being angry that sandboxes didn't take the limelight.  For one there hasn't been a AAA developer that has sat down, developed, produced then maintained a sandbox for any length of time. 


Look at what we have: Ultima Online, the great granddaddy of the genre, sandbox, still chugging along some what 13 years later hehe.  Will be interesting to see if WoW, RIFT, LOTRO, AOC etc will even be around after 13 years, at least with the support that UO continues to get.  Star Wars Galaxies, probably was the king of sandbox games until SOE shot itself in the foot, nuff said, oh ya one more, EFF SOE :P.  Finally we have Eve Online.  Started out as a complete shite game, and for some it is still a complete shite game.  But that dev team at CCP, while being complete tools (look how many of them get involved with and undermine their game for their "friends") took a completely lame title and have continued plugging away at it for years until it has come to resemble a AAA title.


Then look at everything else that has come calling itself a sandbox.  The sandbox crowd, for over a decade, have not had any legitimate development studio tackle the challenge of an engaging, intelligent, entertaining sandbox title.  I do think that this might change at some point in the near future.


First of all, what games do every crappy indie dev seem to try and create?  Sandboxes.  They obviously do not have the millions and millions of dollars that an EA, etc have so they consistently come out with no heart, no soul, and little that actually functions lol.  We are hearing more and more about hte exploding costs of developing the themepark style games, look at BioWare's TOR, some say $100 mil, $150 mil, regardless its a shite tonne of cash lol.


With themeparks you have to get into the nitty gritty details, look at some of Ericcson's interviews about how much writing has gone into TOR, thats not required for a sandbox.  The tonne of voiceover work, again not necessary for a sandbox.  It is my belief that as these budgets soar a quality AAA studio could pitch a sandbox as an economical way of starting an mmo universe.  You create the world and the systems that make up the world.  Put in some reason for conflict and plenty of little things for players to play around with.  Then you add in little theme parks here and there.  Keep evolving the crafting to keep players challenged, and keep tacking on to the world.  Hell it happens in real life, just look at the acreage being added to Hawaii on an annual basis lol.



  ericbelser

Advanced Member

Joined: 11/11/08
Posts: 790

4/07/11 11:27:24 AM#7

You hit on it and ignore it in that article; Most of the people I see complaining about themeparks just want something else. I'm not unhappy with Blizzard for making WoW or Trion for making Rift; they are great games...but not what I want.

I agree completely that there is no good reason why there cannot be many different sorts of MMORPGs for people who want different experiences, so why isn't the industry making them?? Why does it seem like anyone who can actually get any start up capital and make a game seems compelled to make a themepark?? Why do all the big studios seem unwilling to make any varations? (Consider a car company, even if they have one "main" or signature line of vehicles they still make other models even if the market for those other models is smaller)

  severius

Elite Member

Joined: 8/10/04
Posts: 1527

4/07/11 11:30:55 AM#8

Originally posted by King_Kumquat



 And the elitism that comes from gear progression baffles me. Seeing someone get booted from taking part in an event because their pants don't have enough +douche points on it is a terrible innovation that isn't fun for anyone and it needs addressed.


 



 


This happens in Sandboxes as well.  It is actually part of what killed Star Wars Galaxies.  Because the development team never had a full handle on the resource and crafting systems they had designed players were easily able to make weapons, armors, and buffs, that made every little bit of content in the game completely and utterly trivial, and if you went into PVP without a combat medic that had the uber poisons you did not stand a chance in hell (unless you were a tkm/doc lol).  One of hte key things that all players want is to be better than their friends so that is what causes the initial "arms race" of gear elitism followed quite quickly with the if you can't bother to get it why should I carry you mindset :)



  King_Kumquat

Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/15/11
Posts: 532

Seeking Talented Court Jesters.

4/07/11 11:46:24 AM#9
Originally posted by severius

Originally posted by King_Kumquat



 And the elitism that comes from gear progression baffles me. Seeing someone get booted from taking part in an event because their pants don't have enough +douche points on it is a terrible innovation that isn't fun for anyone and it needs addressed.


 



 

This happens in Sandboxes as well.  It is actually part of what killed Star Wars Galaxies.  Because the development team never had a full handle on the resource and crafting systems they had designed players were easily able to make weapons, armors, and buffs, that made every little bit of content in the game completely and utterly trivial, and if you went into PVP without a combat medic that had the uber poisons you did not stand a chance in hell (unless you were a tkm/doc lol).  One of hte key things that all players want is to be better than their friends so that is what causes the initial "arms race" of gear elitism followed quite quickly with the if you can't bother to get it why should I carry you mindset :)

Well you're saying SWG is a sandbox. I thought it was just an empty game with a broken progression system and I would never cite it as a good example of any type of game. As fondly as people try to remember it, it sucked. New game experience came about for a reason. But ultimatly was another poor choice made.


Will develop an original MMORPG title for money.

  daelnor

Advanced Member

Joined: 4/16/04
Posts: 1467

4/07/11 11:50:27 AM#10

What I don't understand is why someone hasn't made something in a kindred spirit to DAOC. Not necesarily exactly the same, but maybe a game with similar depth.  I think that's what we're missing these days.  Old EQ, DAOC, AC etc had depth that is lacking now.  Todays games have lots of gimmicks and a loot train to chase.  But that's all. DAOC you had a developed PvP game that was much more than stupid capture the flag mini games, and the outcomes of pvp affected pve, and even some of the dungeons and what not you could do.  PvE wasn't all that great, but the open land dragon raids were pretty cool, and I have to admit, sometimes I miss farming a spawn rather than running around doing stupid quests all the time.  Why can't we have both?

 

Anyone remember Finns? or Redcaps? Why can't we have some of that AND decent pve quests.  I kind of miss open world dungeons too.  There's no reason you can't have open world dungeons and a few instances also.

 

Also.....when can we go back to crafting having need and meaning?  Um...that pretty much sums it up in broad strokes.

  k11keeper

Apprentice Member

Joined: 2/15/04
Posts: 1034

"" "" "" ""

4/07/11 12:17:32 PM#11

Yeah I'm one of those people that want it all. I want a game that has the sandbox elements I like, player housing, epic conflict, and open world where almost anything is possible. At the same time I love a good raid, some games are far superior to others but when I look back on my favorite games killing that epic boss for the first time always got my blood pumping. Yes after the 100th time it got old but that's why you make new bosses. But, PvP in DAoC and L2 never got old, there was always an x factor, and after having the player housing and other elements in swg I've want it in every game. Oh and games with 2 factions just bother me, have it free for all or have as many factions as you can. 

  Thorqemada

Hard Core Member

Joined: 8/30/04
Posts: 1201

4/07/11 12:35:53 PM#12

Lets look at SWTOR - this universe it play in is that big, why not develop a moon in some orbit around some world as sandbox for the sandbox player and tell them: Go, play!
Thing is that a big MMO must not be exclusive, ther is room for an inclusive approach.
Yes you need focus, but on the big picture and if this includes a sandbox part its nothing wrong with it.
Especially as you may get a few 100k more players.
In a intelligent server architecture you can even make the sandbox world interconnected with not only one server but every server so if someone wants to try out the sandbox he will not end up in the empty wolrd of his ignorant serverpopulation but in the world where the sandbox addicted play.
Have Ideas, be creative developers!

PS: Nothin is wrong with entertainment, only it simply does not exclude any sandbox element.

"Torquemada... do not implore him for compassion. Torquemada... do not beg him for forgiveness. Torquemada... do not ask him for mercy. Let's face it, you can't Torquemada anything!"

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  ultrastoat

Novice Member

Joined: 7/14/10
Posts: 183

4/07/11 12:46:38 PM#13

Originally posted by TruthXHurts



My problem with themparks is I don't want to go on a ride. I want to earn something, to risk somethinhg, to have a earned sense of accomplishment. Theme park MMO's deliver none of this. Playing a theme park MMO is like bragging how you rode a mechanical bull that you were duct taped down to.



 


Whereas I understand the feeling of accomplishment that comes from earning something, I don't view it as anything that's really... pertinent to games and specifically MMOs. If you work really, really hard to earn something, and then someone asks you how you got it, they'll probably be immediately discouraged from trying to get it themselves. 


What's more, I view the impossible workaholic MMO player in a certain light. You'll trudge away to earn that special log home and shiny +5 boots that you had to craft from other materials that you could only find in CERTAIN dungeons, and only on every other tuesday. Then you'll parade around the gameworld with these special achievements and have everyone go "ooh, ahh".


And yet, in the real world, you're just sitting at a computer for weeks on end, accomplishing something that, although hard to do, ultimately has no value beyond bragging rights. You can't put it on a resume, you can't go out into the real world and get laid because of all the mindless grinding you did in-game, and I'm pretty sure that if you told a casual acquaintance, with all the pride you can muster, that you built a log house in a game and it took you two weeks but it's ok because it's REALLY AWESOME, they'll just stare blankly and tell you to get a life.


Games have become a more socially acceptable media because of their willingness to cater to the audiences that would otherwise be scared away by over-achieving basement dwellers.


  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10554

I've become dependent upon spell check. My apologies for stupid grammatical errors.

4/07/11 12:55:57 PM#14


Originally posted by TruthXHurts
My problem with themparks is I don't want to go on a ride. I want to earn something, to risk somethinhg, to have a earned sense of accomplishment. Theme park MMO's deliver none of this. Playing a theme park MMO is like bragging how you rode a mechanical bull that you were duct taped down to.


None of these games, None Of Them requires much more than time spent playing. It doesn't matter if you're playing Eve, UO or WoW. You aren't earning anything but more pixels on the screen. What's the difference between endlessly raiding for purples in WoW and endlessly mining for ore in Eve?

For every large, complex problem, there is a simple, clear solution that also happens to be absolutely wrong.

  Ceridith

Novice Member

Joined: 11/24/09
Posts: 3001

The more you hype an upcoming game in your mind, the more it will fail to meet your expectations.

4/07/11 2:08:44 PM#15
Originally posted by lizardbones

 


Originally posted by TruthXHurts
My problem with themparks is I don't want to go on a ride. I want to earn something, to risk somethinhg, to have a earned sense of accomplishment. Theme park MMO's deliver none of this. Playing a theme park MMO is like bragging how you rode a mechanical bull that you were duct taped down to.



None of these games, None Of Them requires much more than time spent playing. It doesn't matter if you're playing Eve, UO or WoW. You aren't earning anything but more pixels on the screen. What's the difference between endlessly raiding for purples in WoW and endlessly mining for ore in Eve?

Two reasons:

1) Choice

In themepark MMOs your goals are pretty much pre-defined: Level to max level, then grind out better gear. Everything else pretty much takes a back seat. Most of the game's mechanics are designed to serve these grinds, from quests, to dungeons, to even crafting.

Sandbox MMOs on the other hand, are more about what you make of them. The end-game in a sandbox MMO depends on how and why you're playing the game. Sure if you want, you can be playing to become a powerful combat character, which does mean honing your combat skills and getting better fighting equipment. However, most sandbox games (if not all) allow you to entirely focus on a completely different playstyle that can be just as meaningful (if not moreso) than others. Crafting in snadbox MMOs, for example, can be, and is, an entirely separate yet integrated part of the game as combat is. Even in SWG being a doctor or even a dancer was it's own separate, yet legitimate and useful portion of the game. Sandbox MMOs allow and even encourage several different playstyles.

2) The Meta-game

In themepark MMOs, what you do as a player is largely irrelevant. Whether you defeat a dungeon boss has little to no effect on anyone else... because it's instanced and it just respawns. Your actions ingame are largely unaffected, and uneffecting, to the general player population. In pretty much most cases, if only you and a core group of people you regularly grouped with were the only people on a server, your gameplay would be generally the same.

In a sandbox MMO this isn't quite so. In part because of choice, but also the application of said choice into the game's design, other players have a large impact on each other. Sandbox MMOs tend to have intricate player economies where the majority of gear and goods used, are player acquired or created. Without other players, these economies would grind to a halt.

Without those players endlessly mining ore in Eve, the crafters wouldn't have the resources produce enough products for other players. Without enough products, haulers and traders don't have enough to haul or trade. Without much being sold, the combat players who fight over territory for resource control wouldn't have adequate ships, weapons, etc.

Where as in a themepark MMO... you can pretty much be entirely self-sufficient outside of having to group with a handful of people to grind out instances for gear drops.

In the end, yes it's all just pixels on your screen and integers in a database. The difference however, is that what you do in a sandbox MMO actually has some impact on that game's environment, which impacts you and every other player. The difference between an themepark and a sandbox MMO in this respect, is similar to the difference between a single player game and a themepark MMO.

  kalinis

Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/11/10
Posts: 1444

4/07/11 2:10:19 PM#16

So devs are suppose to spend millions of dollars on a sndbox mmo to satisfy what/ 10 pct of the mmo players? Come on the problem isnt there arent any good sandbox games out there.


From everything u read eve online is an excellent well made sandbox sure it took time to grow as all games do. That said its sub base is no where near wows.


If as many people who whine theres no good sandbox games or no sci fi games or themeparks suck woudl put there money where there crying is maybe devs would have a reason to make sandbox games.


When rivft can pull in 1 mil subs for at least the first month without trying and the top sandbox for all intents an purposes is maybe 5 -6 hunder k subs which  model do u think devs are gonna follow.


Come on people u want a true sandbox u need to give it time to grow fix its bugs and become that truly memorable sandbox u want. The problem is everyone wants well done polished games with lots of content.


That happens only in a themepark game. Sandboxes are gonna have glitches cause they try innovvation sandboxes are gonna not have alot of dev created content cause that was never the point. Its a sandbox u create your own fun.


I perfer the themepark but if sandbox people really wanna a sandbox go play eve put your  money where your mouth is. support the early sandbox games and stick it out. Give them the yr or 2 they need to grow.


Give them your complete support for that time and ull be rewarded and maybe just maybe more devs will create sandbox titles. I know sw galaxies had those subs till nge.


the problem is no other sandbox does. Themeparks are more succeful because more people give them a chance no because they are a better game. They just have more content to start so people stick it out longer.


I should shut up now lol im a themepark gamer myself its what i perfer but those that say the perfer sandbox and go on here claiming themeparks suck should look in the mirror i t hink most of them are lying if they  meant what they said eve would get more support.


  King_Kumquat

Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/15/11
Posts: 532

Seeking Talented Court Jesters.

4/07/11 2:14:10 PM#17
Originally posted by kalinis

So devs are suppose to spend millions of dollars on a sndbox mmo to satisfy what/ 10 pct of the mmo players? Come on the problem isnt there arent any good sandbox games out there.


From everything u read eve online is an excellent well made sandbox sure it took time to grow as all games do. That said its sub base is no where near wows.


If as many people who whine theres no good sandbox games or no sci fi games or themeparks suck woudl put there money where there crying is maybe devs would have a reason to make sandbox games.


When rivft can pull in 1 mil subs for at least the first month without trying and the top sandbox for all intents an purposes is maybe 5 -6 hunder k subs which  model do u think devs are gonna follow.


Come on people u want a true sandbox u need to give it time to grow fix its bugs and become that truly memorable sandbox u want. The problem is everyone wants well done polished games with lots of content.


That happens only in a themepark game. Sandboxes are gonna have glitches cause they try innovvation sandboxes are gonna not have alot of dev created content cause that was never the point. Its a sandbox u create your own fun.


I perfer the themepark but if sandbox people really wanna a sandbox go play eve put your  money where your mouth is. support the early sandbox games and stick it out. Give them the yr or 2 they need to grow.


Give them your complete support for that time and ull be rewarded and maybe just maybe more devs will create sandbox titles. I know sw galaxies had those subs till nge.


the problem is no other sandbox does. Themeparks are more succeful because more people give them a chance no because they are a better game. They just have more content to start so people stick it out longer.


I should shut up now lol im a themepark gamer myself its what i perfer but those that say the perfer sandbox and go on here claiming themeparks suck should look in the mirror i t hink most of them are lying if they  meant what they said eve would get more support.

Alrighty then.

I'm going to blame public education for this trend.


Will develop an original MMORPG title for money.

  someforumguy

Advanced Member

Joined: 1/25/07
Posts: 3481

4/07/11 2:22:58 PM#18

I never understood why sandbox and themepark have to be exclusive. Why not a MMO with sandbox elements (SWG like crafting, city system,skillsystem,  beastmaster/creature handler, content creator) combined with themepark elements( long immersive questchains)?

Current SWG is far from polished but tries to achieve it (except for skillsystem). Fallen Earth seems to try to go that way too. Started out with skillsystem, meaningfull crafting system with many quests. They announced wanting to add a housing system with this.

To me it just seems that it is very difficult. We are already in awe if a developing company can release a polished themepark MMO (Rift). So expecting that a company can combine both themepark and sandbox in one go, sets the bar a lot higher.

Although I dont see any other way, because I dont believe that what some players call a sandbox would sell well on its own. The sandbox that lacks quests or any dynamic content and relies completely on players to make their own story, wont sell well. There is probably a market for it, but I dont believe its large. FFA pvp is also no option if you want to attract large amount of players.

  Thorqemada

Hard Core Member

Joined: 8/30/04
Posts: 1201

4/07/11 2:25:25 PM#19

Beside WoW and some asia f2p games which mmo is successfull with half a million subs for years?
There is simply none too...
But SWG+WoW+monolithism+elitism+hobbyism have killed the genre - not the players.
Thing is that it seems that developers think if they offer us the Sahara its the ultimate sandbox while its only a freakin desert.

"Torquemada... do not implore him for compassion. Torquemada... do not beg him for forgiveness. Torquemada... do not ask him for mercy. Let's face it, you can't Torquemada anything!"

MWO Music Video - What does the Mech say: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF6HYNqCDLI
MWO Machinima - Revival (Clan Invasion): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saheVNMp7qQ

  someforumguy

Advanced Member

Joined: 1/25/07
Posts: 3481

4/07/11 2:30:59 PM#20
Originally posted by lizardbones

 


Originally posted by TruthXHurts
My problem with themparks is I don't want to go on a ride. I want to earn something, to risk somethinhg, to have a earned sense of accomplishment. Theme park MMO's deliver none of this. Playing a theme park MMO is like bragging how you rode a mechanical bull that you were duct taped down to.



None of these games, None Of Them requires much more than time spent playing. It doesn't matter if you're playing Eve, UO or WoW. You aren't earning anything but more pixels on the screen. What's the difference between endlessly raiding for purples in WoW and endlessly mining for ore in Eve?

I agree with you 100%. There is this myth that some games are more complex by default and offer more accomplishment. But if you look at how most of the players play those games, then there is not much difference with the way how players play games like WoW or LOTRO.

In EVE and SWG Ive noticed many players who are not even interested in the more complex features like crafting (SWG)or trading/exploring (EVE). They stick to just PVE combat for example, but still act as if they are playing this complex game compared to the themepark stuff there is out there. Its very hypocrite behaviour sometimes.

The gamers that really dive into all features of games like EVE, SWG, are not many. Actually, if you restrict yourself just to PVE/PVP combat in EVE/SWG kind of games, there is not more challenge or accomplishment. If any.

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