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The Pub at MMORPG.COM  » Why an MMO cannot ever and will never be a sandbox.

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  fernetek

Novice Member

Joined: 7/12/12
Posts: 62

 
OP  8/15/12 10:30:02 AM#1

One term that I find increasingly annoying on this forum is "sandbox". Now, we all know what a sanbox is, right? It's the ideal MMO! In a sandbox it's like you're playing another life and not just a game. YOU affect the universe around you, and NPC's and players alike react to those actions, and you have to live with what you've done.

 

Now, I'm not here to argue for or against sandbox's (which I'm very fond of, especially with games like Skyrim and Minecraft). What I'm here to argue is that there will never be an MMO sandbox satiffactory to all of the people calling for one.

 

There are several insurmountable difficulties surrounding the developer of a sandbox, and I've organized them in a list format for neatness.

 

1. Too Much Stuff:

One of the first major difficulties one will find when building any remotely realistic sandbox is just how much stuff there is. What I mean by this is how many various items and entities would have to be coded in to make the world "real".

In a true sandbox if one entered some NPC's mansion (again, assuming the slightest bit of realism) they would find the place loaded with various types of furniture, jewelry, paintings, and an endless list of other objects. Such a game would require enormous amounts of RAM and HDD space, not even mentioning years upon years of development.

To be a true sandbox, all of these would have to be moveable or in the last affectable, as they would be in real life. Now it is true that most people are satisfied with how TES has handled it- a good half of the items one finds in a house are affectable, allowing one a somewhat good sense of realism.

But even this half-measure is impossible in an MMO, to be explained in number two.

 

2. "Massive" Multiplayer: 

The second major difficulty facing a sandbox MMO is simply the fact that it IS an MMO, and that there are many players (and probability states that at least a few of them are going to be less than respectable citizens). Let us assume, for a moment, that some developer was able to accumulate enough capital to make a real sandbox MMO and has spent the better part of two decades doing so.

This new game, to be the "herald of a golden age of gaming", would very quickly look like several atomic bombs dropped on its surface in a few days. Within only weeks of launch, several of the games cities would be burning wrecks, the countryside would be laced with craters and burning farmsteads, and NPC houses would be ransacked of all posessions. The problem is simple- griefing.

For those who don't know the term, griefing is best defined as the purposeful destruction of both player and NPC property, and the general ruining of gameplay for other players. This problem is rampant on Minecraft multiplayer servers, and even after years of gameplay hasn't been completely resolved.

There are a couple ways to solve this. The Minecraft method is to make "plots", wherein only the player residing in said plot can do anything inside of it. This does, of course, completely ruin the realism feel. Another method is to have NPC guards patrolling about ready to stop any would-be criminals. There are several problems with this method.

First of all, there would have to be a highly-complex AI (and I think we all know how well AI's are in games nowadays) that would be capable of recognizing criminals and non-criminals, as it is entirely possible that a player DOES have to create a massive crater in the ground to, say, stop a bunch of criminals from burning down the village.

The difficulty in defining criminals and non-criminals is insurmountable (at least for now), and such a system would quickly result in much of the playerbase leaving out of irritation of being arrested and jailed while having not commited a crime.

Having player guards is quite possibly even worse than NPC guards, as players are quite apt to bring down randomized cruelty on to other players, and old vendetta's can very easily get in the way of being just.

But let us assume, just for a moment, that by some miracle a satisfactory anti-griefing system is devised as to disallow pure chaos but to allow some realism. The second problem with an MMO sanbox again relates to the simple question of the amount of players, and the idea of the sandbox.

The problem that emerges is that of compatibility. Take, for example, an event in-game where a small farming village is attacked by a horde of centaurs (GW2!). Let us assume that a group of players, through bravery and strength, is able to repel the attackers. That's all very nice and dandy- the village is safe and all is well.

And yet, what of the next group of players? Are they to be denied the fun and exciting thrill of battle? No. Unless you want to lost half of your playerbase, EVERYONE needs a shot at saving the village.

This time let us assume that the village is NOT saved. Lacking in numbers and skill, the second group of players is completely wiped out, and the village burns to the ground.

But wait, the village can't both be alive and dead, can it? We're not dealing with a cat and some poison inside of a box here, people, so don't be smartasses and start talking metaphysics. The problem we have here is, as stated previously, compatibility. What happens the next time the first group of players happens to pass the village? Will it be alive, or dead? If we're talking realism, the village can't POSSIBLY be alive and completely rebuilt after being razed to the ground. 

The overarching problem of a massive multiplayer sandbox can be simply stated as this: there are too many players, and if you want to have a non-instanced world (which is necessary if you want realism) you can't also have a "dynamic" world where everyone takes part in the story. What you will always (ALWAYS) end up with is a themepark-esque style, possibly with an instanced side-story of your own that nobody else affects.

 

3. Login, Logout:

The third, and final problem that I'll cover here is that of story continuity. The problem of an MMO sandbox being realistic is that it is, at the end of the day, a game. In real life, you don't log out- you play as long as your life lasts. Philsophical debates aside, the problems that result from the log-in, log-out feature are many and present many difficulties for the new sandbox.

One of the first problems relates to PvP. If a guild logs out, leaving their castle undefended, another guild (from another timezone, possibly) can readily take the castle with little to no difficulty. What this quickly leads to- on a sandbox with PvP at least- is the power of a server/guild/clan/team being decided by timezones instead of skill or numbers. NPC guards are no solution to this, nor is having the players characters being controlled by an AI. 

The second problem is slightly more petty and unimportant, admittedly, but nontheless impacts the realism of the game. In real life, one cannot simply POOF out of existence for a time, and then reappear in the same spot a few hours later. 

 

4. Conclusion

My overall point is this everyone. While an MMO can DEFINITELY be better by adding more sandbox features, I am highly doubting the idea that there can ever or will ever be a "perfect" sandbox MMO that satisfies even the lowest standards of players. I love sandbox games myself, but I cringe at the thought of playing an MMO that publicizes itself as a sandbox because of the problems I went over above.

While I don't mind anyone disagreeing with me, I'd appreciate you actually reading what I've written before you rant for a good two paragraphs about how I'm wrong and a WoW fanboiz and should just stop playing MMO's if I hate them so much. So yeah, let the flaming begin. 

 

TL;DR

If u want sandbox u no have enuf stuff. If u want sandbox u no have realism. If u want sandbox u no have affect on game. If u want sandbox u no have fairness. DURRRRRRRR...

 

 

 

 

  Dewm

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 5/29/09
Posts: 1341

Players come for the game, but they stay for the people- Most Devs have forgotten this.

8/15/12 10:48:51 AM#2

I would agree with your post...

 

..if I had never played SWG

 

And with Archage coming out, they are doing just about everthing you said couldn't be done.. So yeah.. cool story bro?

  Fadedbomb

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 5/19/06
Posts: 2149

8/15/12 10:52:38 AM#3

You're wrong on so many levels, so I'll just point out a few.

 

 

#1) Developer driven content (aka: Themeparks) require the developers to make several times more assets required, sometimes even for a specific content item (aka: quest), than say a sandbox would require. A "Sandbox" is driven by a given ruleset with X number of assets created that the user then modifies themself (aka: Player Driven Content). This is FAR less work asset creation wise, but far more work code-wise in the initial stages of the development. Essentially meaning that Alpha lasts 3x longer than Beta does for a Sandbox MMO.

 

#2) Sandboxes are CHEAPER to develop than Themeparks. This is lead into from point #1 since Developer driven content requires special attention to detail on a constant basis rather than Sandbox created assets only need to be made with the broadest sense of use possible. Meaning that for a Sandbox title you create everything with a "modular" or "voxel based" mindset allowing for a higher level of use than say Developer Driven created assets that only have 1 purpose or is reused for another purpose as a shortcut (ie: reusing the same enemy, with a different name, that has no connection to previous content.....multicolored lizard people from Eq2 anyone?).

 

#3) Since Themeparks rely on Developer Driven content the development team's size directly impacts new content for the game world that players will eat through in a direct linear fashion. This leads to "stagnation" and "End-Game" mentality. This means that Themepark MMOs are forced to compete with 10+yrs of content from say WoW that already exists. Meaning Themeparks are bound to fail because previous Themeparks were released years ago and have had far more time to add content for users to experience. Properly made Sandboxes (aka: NOT Darkfall Online, Mortal Online, etc) do not have this issue as 70% of the content players will consume is player driven, and only 30% is Developer Created (ie: items such as swords, armor, houses, vehicles/mounts, world areas to explore, etc). Sandbox Developers are not worried about jamming as many linear pre-written pre-determined Developer Driven quests into their product allowing for a LOT more time to be spent on actual game mechanics. This allows for either a smaller team for the same amount of progress or a MASSIVE amount of depth to your product because you have a AAA Themepark size team that only has to worry about Sandbox elements for an MMO.

 

 

These are only 3 reasons, but overall the OP has absolutely no idea what they're talking about. The market has already shown Sandbox titles are now the future "Thing To Do". Co-Op smaller Multiplayer Sandbox INDIE developers have already shown AAA Sandbox MMOs are not just possible, but popular.

The Theory of Conservative Conservation of Ignorant Stupidity:
Having a different opinion must mean you're a troll.

  Muntz

Advanced Member

Joined: 10/09/09
Posts: 290

8/15/12 11:08:22 AM#4
Originally posted by Fadedbomb

You're wrong on so many levels, so I'll just point out a few.

 

 

#1) Developer driven content (aka: Themeparks) require the developers to make several times more assets required, sometimes even for a specific content item (aka: quest), than say a sandbox would require. A "Sandbox" is driven by a given ruleset with X number of assets created that the user then modifies themself (aka: Player Driven Content). This is FAR less work asset creation wise, but far more work code-wise in the initial stages of the development. Essentially meaning that Alpha lasts 3x longer than Beta does for a Sandbox MMO.

 

#2) Sandboxes are CHEAPER to develop than Themeparks. This is lead into from point #1 since Developer driven content requires special attention to detail on a constant basis rather than Sandbox created assets only need to be made with the broadest sense of use possible. Meaning that for a Sandbox title you create everything with a "modular" or "voxel based" mindset allowing for a higher level of use than say Developer Driven created assets that only have 1 purpose or is reused for another purpose as a shortcut (ie: reusing the same enemy, with a different name, that has no connection to previous content.....multicolored lizard people from Eq2 anyone?).

 

#3) Since Themeparks rely on Developer Driven content the development team's size directly impacts new content for the game world that players will eat through in a direct linear fashion. This leads to "stagnation" and "End-Game" mentality. This means that Themepark MMOs are forced to compete with 10+yrs of content from say WoW that already exists. Meaning Themeparks are bound to fail because previous Themeparks were released years ago and have had far more time to add content for users to experience. Properly made Sandboxes (aka: NOT Darkfall Online, Mortal Online, etc) do not have this issue as 70% of the content players will consume is player driven, and only 30% is Developer Created (ie: items such as swords, armor, houses, vehicles/mounts, world areas to explore, etc). Sandbox Developers are not worried about jamming as many linear pre-written pre-determined Developer Driven quests into their product allowing for a LOT more time to be spent on actual game mechanics. This allows for either a smaller team for the same amount of progress or a MASSIVE amount of depth to your product because you have a AAA Themepark size team that only has to worry about Sandbox elements for an MMO.

 

 

These are only 3 reasons, but overall the OP has absolutely no idea what they're talking about. The market has already shown Sandbox titles are now the future "Thing To Do". Co-Op smaller Multiplayer Sandbox INDIE developers have already shown AAA Sandbox MMOs are not just possible, but popular.

Something that has always confused me, so if a pure sandbox has no quest system how do players drive PvE content? 

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10578

I think with my heart and move with my head.-Kongos

8/15/12 11:11:19 AM#5

1) That isn't a 'too much stuff' issue. That's a conflict between a Story and the World. The solution is fairly simple. In Story places, the world is not a sandbox. In areas outside of the Story places, it is a sandbox.

2) I've seen the results of this in several Minecraft servers. I don't know what the solution is, except to give the game a point, outside of just playing in a sandbox. I've played on Minecraft servers that alternatively solve this issue or make it worse. The servers that solved the issue gave players something to do as a group rather than have them loitering around as individuals. You have to spread the players out, and at the same time, get them to group up into tribes.

3) This is a non-issue. The Minecraft mod "Factions" solves this issue.

4) I think you're right about this. A pure sandbox experience has a limited appeal. A theme park experience that allows for sandbox interactivity seems like it would appeal to a much wider range of people.

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

  rdrpappy

Novice Member

Joined: 3/18/04
Posts: 337

8/15/12 11:12:51 AM#6
Archage, Embers of Caerus, The Repoulation there are several very promising sandbox games coming out, so I'm not sure what you are talking about.
  Fadedbomb

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 5/19/06
Posts: 2149

8/15/12 11:15:30 AM#7
Originally posted by Muntz
Originally posted by Fadedbomb
<Snipe>

Something that has always confused me, so if a pure sandbox has no quest system how do players drive PvE content? 

Does Minecraft have a "Quest System"? (Hint, No and i've seen 300 player Minecraft servers..an MMO? Maybe not...but your question is about pure sandbox "PvE Content")

Did SWG have a "Quest System" pre-CU, or even Pre-NGE? (hint: No, it had some minor quests, but not a 'Quest System')

Did DAOC, admitedly a "SandPark" have a Quest-System prior to Shrouded Isles? (Hint, No)

Did EQ, admitedly a "SandPark", have a Quest-System prior to Planes of Power? (Hint, No....like DAOC it had minor quests but not a 'Quest System'....you didn't even have a quest journal!)

Did Shadowbane have a "Quest System"?

Did UO have a "Quest System" back in the day?

Did/Does Teraria have a "Quest System"? (Again, Granted not an MMO, but your point is around pure sandbox PVE Content)

Etc etc etc......The answers are there you're just not willing to take the time and find them, or you missed out on the "Sandbox" experience for SWG-NGE burried the idea from popular mindset until recently.

The Theory of Conservative Conservation of Ignorant Stupidity:
Having a different opinion must mean you're a troll.

  zekeofev

Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/28/11
Posts: 223

8/15/12 11:21:40 AM#8
Originally posted by Muntz
Originally posted by Fadedbomb

You're wrong on so many levels, so I'll just point out a few.

 

 

#1) Developer driven content (aka: Themeparks) require the developers to make several times more assets required, sometimes even for a specific content item (aka: quest), than say a sandbox would require. A "Sandbox" is driven by a given ruleset with X number of assets created that the user then modifies themself (aka: Player Driven Content). This is FAR less work asset creation wise, but far more work code-wise in the initial stages of the development. Essentially meaning that Alpha lasts 3x longer than Beta does for a Sandbox MMO.

 

#2) Sandboxes are CHEAPER to develop than Themeparks. This is lead into from point #1 since Developer driven content requires special attention to detail on a constant basis rather than Sandbox created assets only need to be made with the broadest sense of use possible. Meaning that for a Sandbox title you create everything with a "modular" or "voxel based" mindset allowing for a higher level of use than say Developer Driven created assets that only have 1 purpose or is reused for another purpose as a shortcut (ie: reusing the same enemy, with a different name, that has no connection to previous content.....multicolored lizard people from Eq2 anyone?).

 

#3) Since Themeparks rely on Developer Driven content the development team's size directly impacts new content for the game world that players will eat through in a direct linear fashion. This leads to "stagnation" and "End-Game" mentality. This means that Themepark MMOs are forced to compete with 10+yrs of content from say WoW that already exists. Meaning Themeparks are bound to fail because previous Themeparks were released years ago and have had far more time to add content for users to experience. Properly made Sandboxes (aka: NOT Darkfall Online, Mortal Online, etc) do not have this issue as 70% of the content players will consume is player driven, and only 30% is Developer Created (ie: items such as swords, armor, houses, vehicles/mounts, world areas to explore, etc). Sandbox Developers are not worried about jamming as many linear pre-written pre-determined Developer Driven quests into their product allowing for a LOT more time to be spent on actual game mechanics. This allows for either a smaller team for the same amount of progress or a MASSIVE amount of depth to your product because you have a AAA Themepark size team that only has to worry about Sandbox elements for an MMO.

 

 

These are only 3 reasons, but overall the OP has absolutely no idea what they're talking about. The market has already shown Sandbox titles are now the future "Thing To Do". Co-Op smaller Multiplayer Sandbox INDIE developers have already shown AAA Sandbox MMOs are not just possible, but popular.

Something that has always confused me, so if a pure sandbox has no quest system how do players drive PvE content? 

 

 

in SWG there was demand for various monster loot generated from crafters who repaired and created items that depreciated from the system as they were used. Thus players wanted to farm items because of the need for items. Rare monsters that took lots of people to kill gave rare crafting loot to craft items with better statistics. Etc

 

I miss real economies with player trading rather then the false economies of WoW and other themeparks. In WoW the reason everything costs more to repair/buy food/mounts every expansion is to deal with the incredible inflation because monsters throw gold at you. Stupid system.

  Fadedbomb

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 5/19/06
Posts: 2149

8/15/12 11:23:28 AM#9
Originally posted by zekeofev
Originally posted by Muntz
Originally posted by Fadedbomb

 

 

These are only 3 reasons, but overall the OP has absolutely no idea what they're talking about. The market has already shown Sandbox titles are now the future "Thing To Do". Co-Op smaller Multiplayer Sandbox INDIE developers have already shown AAA Sandbox MMOs are not just possible, but popular.

Something that has always confused me, so if a pure sandbox has no quest system how do players drive PvE content? 

 

 

in SWG there was demand for various monster loot generated from crafters who repaired and created items that depreciated from the system as they were used. Thus players wanted to farm items because of the need for items. Rare monsters that took lots of people to kill gave rare crafting loot to craft items with better statistics. Etc

 

I miss real economies with player trading rather then the false economies of WoW and other themeparks. In WoW the reason everything costs more to repair/buy food/mounts every expansion is to deal with the incredible inflation because monsters throw gold at you. Stupid system.

This too ^

The Theory of Conservative Conservation of Ignorant Stupidity:
Having a different opinion must mean you're a troll.

  Naevius

Advanced Member

Joined: 4/26/12
Posts: 319

8/15/12 11:23:29 AM#10

Allow me to introduce the OP to the concept of 'the strawman fallacy', in which you set up an easy (but fake) target to knock down. By defining sandbox as an impossible collection of things, it is of course easy to argue it is impossible.

Nobody said a sandbox has to be 'realistic', or 'have no rules at all' - it simply has to be a world where the players shape the world and define the stories that get told. That is far from impossible. Isn't Second Life a sandbox MMO?

  zekeofev

Apprentice Member

Joined: 1/28/11
Posts: 223

8/15/12 11:27:55 AM#11

You cannot do everything in mindcraft, there is asctually a large restriction on the items developers made. Yet it is one of the most popular sandboxes.

 

SWG had enough stuff to keep me entertained for a long while. If they did not ruin it with the NGE I would of played for a long time. I loved that dancers and musicians were actual classes in the game. The game had goals but it was much more freeform and player driven then a quest based system game.

 

I agree with you that a "perfect" sandbox is not possible (or that the perfect sandbox is real life, either way). However, Sandboxes are quite possible to be successful with. You seem to think that sandbox needs to be do anything. But sandboxes work with limited rules. Yes it is not a "pure" sandbox (hey the devloper won't let me take this guys stuff, this is not a sandbox!!!!), but what players really desire is more freedom then is currently allowed in themeparks.

  UOvet

Novice Member

Joined: 6/26/07
Posts: 510

8/15/12 11:28:03 AM#12

OP I think your thread falls on deaf ears to anyone who is 15 or older. They've been done, with success. Too much stuff? Go away.

Since when is Skyrim a sandbox?

 

UO, SWG and EVE all say hi.

  JimmyYO

Apprentice Member

Joined: 9/13/11
Posts: 541

8/15/12 11:32:12 AM#13
Someone doesn't know what a sandbox is. Sandboxes can't exist because they will never appeal to the masses? Oxymoron ftw.
  Creslin321

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 2/27/09
Posts: 5424

8/15/12 11:34:57 AM#14

Hey guys, I have a great idea!

Let's make a thread where I state that an MMORPG can never be a sandbox, and imply a very narrow definition of sandbox in my OP!  This surely won't end in a bunch of people arguing over the definition of sandbox!

Are you team Azeroth, team Tyria, or team Jacob?

  xr00t3dx

Novice Member

Joined: 12/25/11
Posts: 282

8/15/12 11:35:16 AM#15
Oh damn, You better call CCP and tell them they've been living a dream since May 2003.
  fernetek

Novice Member

Joined: 7/12/12
Posts: 62

 
OP  8/15/12 11:38:51 AM#16
Wow, alot fewer personal insults than I was expecting; thanks guys!
  Loktofeit

Elite Member

Joined: 1/13/10
Posts: 12141

Currently playing EVE, SMITE, Wildstar, and Combat Arms

8/15/12 11:40:03 AM#17
Originally posted by fernetek
Wow, alot fewer personal insults than I was expecting; thanks guys!

We give our trolls the initial benefit of the doubt around here.

"And wikipedia is as accurate as Britannica. Wikipedia is very reliable. You would be hard pressed to find a more reliable source for these kinds of things." -fovoroth

  lizardbones

Elite Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10578

I think with my heart and move with my head.-Kongos

8/15/12 11:44:41 AM#18


Originally posted by Fadedbomb

Originally posted by Muntz

Originally posted by Fadedbomb <Snipe>
Something that has always confused me, so if a pure sandbox has no quest system how do players drive PvE content? 
Does Minecraft have a "Quest System"? (Hint, No and i've seen 300 player Minecraft servers..an MMO? Maybe not...but your question is about pure sandbox "PvE Content")

Did SWG have a "Quest System" pre-CU, or even Pre-NGE? (hint: No, it had some minor quests, but not a 'Quest System')

Did DAOC, admitedly a "SandPark" have a Quest-System prior to Shrouded Isles? (Hint, No)

Did EQ, admitedly a "SandPark", have a Quest-System prior to Planes of Power? (Hint, No....like DAOC it had minor quests but not a 'Quest System'....you didn't even have a quest journal!)

Did Shadowbane have a "Quest System"?

Did UO have a "Quest System" back in the day?

Did/Does Teraria have a "Quest System"? (Again, Granted not an MMO, but your point is around pure sandbox PVE Content)

Etc etc etc......The answers are there you're just not willing to take the time and find them, or you missed out on the "Sandbox" experience for SWG-NGE burried the idea from popular mindset until recently.




Minecraft does have a multiplayer quest system mod. It's not the same as say, WoW's quest system. It's more like jobs that the server needs done (NPCs need cobblestone to build a church, seeds to plant wheat, etc.).

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

  Fadedbomb

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 5/19/06
Posts: 2149

8/15/12 11:45:42 AM#19
Originally posted by fernetek
Wow, alot fewer personal insults than I was expecting; thanks guys!

Apparently we can't tell someone they're "wrong" without personally insulting them. Is this why I get so many temp bans :(?

The Theory of Conservative Conservation of Ignorant Stupidity:
Having a different opinion must mean you're a troll.

  Castillle

Forum Bunny

Joined: 10/24/10
Posts: 2681

8/15/12 11:47:52 AM#20

The OP is obviously true and you must be insane to not see that he/she is right.  The OPs truthfulness is absolute and for that, we must start a religion based on his teachings of sandboxes being impossible.  We shall call it Fernetekism.

Im bored.  Is it noticeable? Ive been sitting at queue in SMITE for the passed 20 minutes -.-

 

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