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The Pub at MMORPG.COM  » Why is every game now a Cookie-Cutter MMO and there are no AAA sandbox MMOs?

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Apprentice Member

Joined: 5/14/06
Posts: 225

"Thank God I'm an atheist!"

OP  2/05/13 9:05:35 AM#1

I've been desperately trying to find a AAA sandbox MMO with absolutely no luck.  Basically every sandbox game I find is complete garbage, unfinshed, has terrible graphics, no story or purpose, terrible mechanics, and so on.

I've tried countless cookie-cutter MMO's that are out now, just to find the EXACT same game with different graphics, and not much else.

TERA is a perfect example of what I mean, but there are *so many* others, if not, every single other game.

This is all you do:

1) Start your character in the same exact starting area for each toon you create

2) Pick up quests

3) Go to area X and kill Y monsters of type Z, where the mobs are ALWAYS there, constanly respawning at the same exact location, which are always of the same level, with absolutely NO variation.  They don't even have the intelligence to defend each other.  Only variation is to pick up/gather some objects on the ground, which are always in the same area as well.

4) Turn in Quest(s)

5) Go back to step 2

6) There is no step 6

Besides pvp, which I haven't tried (but not my point), and some linear dungeons, that's really ALL there is to TERA and just about 30 other games I've tried in just the last 2 years.

There's a reason Ultima Online is STILL going after what, 15 years??  It has not gone F2P, and STILL gets subs.  Ever wonder why?  Most of you probably know the answer.

Because it's a sandbox and different from almost every other game out there.

You do whatever you feel like doing.  You can start in many different towns, and you can go anywhere you feel like, in other words, my favorite part on an MMO that is now GONE from almost ever MMO out there.  You will randomly come across all types of monsters and creatures, but yes, there are certain types that you'll find in dungeons, which does make sense.  But in the wilderness, you can find wandering mobs which aren't nearly all in the same location.  You can harvest and mine almost ANYWHERE you want, not just in one exact location.


Exploring is bascially dead in almost every game.  Like the steps above.  You move in a linear path from area 1 to area 2 to area 3, and that's basically the entire game.  For the most part TERA's (and most every other game) area's and maps always have mobs that are higher level than the last area.  It's ridiculously linear.  Sure, you can go to a different area, but you won't be able to kill anything.  Again, EXACTLY like countless other games.  The worse, being the Asian Grinder games.  These games are almost identical in design.  Nothing differentiates one game from another, except slightly different graphics and sound effects.

I've found some sandbox like games (with difficulty), but honestly, most of them are the quality of 3 smart HS/college kids working in their basement for a school project.  Even supposedly AAA titles like Mortal Online, which I thought was TERRIBLE.  Graphics suck, playability sucked, and the mindless kill anyone anywhere for the sake of griefing and stealing all their crap, does NOT define a sandbox.  The game is complete anarchy, and that seems really stupid to me, let alone, not even remotely enjoyable.

I've googled sandbox games, and tried all of them.  Really, every one in the list.  They are all TERRIBLE.  The quality of all them was sub-bar, playabiliy sucked, and most were made of completel empty worlds where nothing was happening.  Exploing just to find nothing is pointless.

I read a GREAT article where the author argued that open world/full loot pvp with 0 restrictions in completely mindless and does not define a sandbox.  Some people disagree, but sorry, it doesn't.  You don't need it to be a sandbox game.  I wish I had the link.

I mean, the ability to kill anyone at any time and steal everything they are carrying (that took them hours or days to collect) is mindless and completely infuriating.  Especially when you can have a high level character killing newbs.  People say that's "realistic", which is total BS.  That's like an adult or hell, and MMA fighter going to the mall and beating up children, and taking their lunch money.  At least in real life, if you did this, the people in the surrounding area, let alone the police, would beat you to a pulp, shoot you, and if you survied, you'd be in jail for years.

With no real repercussions for murdering every one you come across, and full loot, no restriction pvp, you basically have anarchy.  Who wants to start a new character in a world like that?  It's the same thing as me going shopping and worrying about every other shopper having a gun, shooting me, and taking my wallet.  Or hell, like most open world pvp, they kill you just because they can, which is just griefing.  No thanks.

Gamers aren't as stupid as the industry thinks they are.  We don't need every game to be a cookie-cutter MMO.  SSDD.  I try each game and get bored of them in a few days, if I even last that long.  The industry thinks these are the games we want, but obviously many of them start out as subs, or you need to buy the retail box, and then guess what happens?  They lose players or they fail getting subs or box purchases and then go free to play.  FAIL.

Why can't there be mobs that work together?  How about traveling heards of animals or creatures?  Ones where there are the alphas, then babies they protect, and so one.  If you attack one, the rest try to protect each other and come after you.  Or, some just run, just like packs of animals in say, Africa.  You could have predetors, dossile animals, skittish ones, or even friendly ones you could herd or tame (like UO).

You could come across random camps or mobs or varying levels and power, that aren't always in the same place.  So, you could find a orc encampment that they are actually building and fortifying.  Depending when you find it, their contruction could have just begun, so you have a better chance of taking them out, or for an established fort, you'll need a large team of people to take it, and maybe even control it, take owner ship of it, etc.  Maybe then other groups of intelligent mobs would try to take it from you and you would have to defend it.

Mobs you work together to raid towns is a GREAT idea, like in UO, but the AI could be drastically improved, so they would work together, and use tactics.  Like, Warriors in the front, mages and archers in the back, etc.

What ever happened to dungeons??  I don't mean those cookie cutter instances.  I mean even small caves, or winding dungeons where different creatures live, and they have many different levels, like say, blackburrow? in Everquest.  Man, I so miss dungeons.  Instead of poping mobs on top of you, maybe you could clear the entire dungeon, and new mobs would come in to defend it, you know, from the entrance, and try to take it back.  What about treasure chests?  Anyone remeber those?  Hardly any games remember the joy of finding them in the old-school D&D rpgs I grew up playing.

Those are only a couple of my ideas.  I have countless others.

I'm so "MEH!" with MMO's today.  Their just so mindless, repetitive, and challenge free.  It's like following a recipe to make food.  Step 1->Step 2->Step 3.  That's not a game.

The industry thinks that's what we want, but it isn't.  Most of us what AI in the creatures we fight.  Most of us want to explore.  Most of use want variation.  There's a reason all of these games go f2p so quickly.  Why aren't they getting the hint?





Novice Member

Joined: 10/12/12
Posts: 2125

2/05/13 9:07:30 AM#2
Because sandbox MMO's don't sell as well and have crappy player retention, sans a few good examples. Also, devs like to meddle with crap they don't need to in sandbox MMOs and it pisses people off more often than making them happy.

Currently Playing: ESO and FFXIV
Have played: You name it
If you mention rose tinted glasses, you better be referring to Mitch Hedberg.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 11/21/11
Posts: 7246

2/05/13 9:09:37 AM#3
Because there's only ever been one triple a sandbox - uo.

There's also only been two successful sandboxes, eve and uo.

Elite Member

Joined: 1/13/10
Posts: 13649

Currently playing EVE, SMITE, ArcheAge, and Combat Arms

2/05/13 9:13:41 AM#4
Originally posted by ShakyMo
Because there's only ever been one triple a sandbox - uo.

There's also only been two successful sandboxes, eve and uo.

Agreed. As to the first part of the question, they're not all cookie cutter.

You just reject anything that's not cookie cutter as not being an MMO. Funny how that works.

There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to play, if you want to use a screwdriver to put nails into wood, have at it, simply don't complain when the guy next to you with the hammer is doing it much better and easier. - Allein


Novice Member

Joined: 9/05/12
Posts: 334

SWG pre cu > all

2/05/13 9:25:47 AM#5
If they spent the money they invested in making SWTOR into keep on developing and "fixing" SWG pre cu,, it would have been a huge success.

Novice Member

Joined: 2/14/04
Posts: 992

2/05/13 9:55:18 AM#6

Originally posted by HappyFunBall

... Gamers aren't as stupid as the industry thinks they are.  ...

Sadly I disagree.

Originally posted by HappyFunBall

The industry thinks that's what we want, but it isn't.  Most of us what AI in the creatures we fight.  Most of us want to explore.  Most of use want variation.  There's a reason all of these games go f2p so quickly.  Why aren't they getting the hint?

They did get the hint - at the cash register. Millions of people buy the games from the large publishers, millions. That's a pretty strong hint, isn'it?

I maintain this List of Sandbox MMORPGs. Please post or send PM for corrections and suggestions.



Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 14702

2/05/13 10:01:51 AM#7

I somewhat suspect that you're more interested in ranting than in finding an AAA sandbox, but in case you're not, you might want to look into Uncharted Waters Online.  It's made by Tecmo-Koei (actually Koei), which has shipped several dozen titles over the course of about 30 years, so it's not some obscure indie studio that doesn't know how to do much.

EVE Online is generally regarded as the most successful sandbox game.  It was originally very much an indie game, though one could argue that the success of EVE made CCP into an AAA studio.

Both of those games have a very steep learning curve, though.  If you quit within a few days thinking you've seen all that they have to offer, it only means that you're so confused that you don't even know what you don't know.


Made History

Joined: 7/11/11
Posts: 6496

Pink, it's like red but not quite.

2/05/13 10:02:56 AM#8
Originally posted by HappyFunBall

I'm so "MEH!" with MMO's today.  Their just so mindless, repetitive, and challenge free.

So what's your proposed plan of action?

Yackyack, or learn to code?

Self-pity imprisons us in the walls of our own self-absorption. The whole world shrinks down to the size of our problem, and the more we dwell on it, the smaller we are and the larger the problem seems to grow.


Elite Member

Joined: 11/19/12
Posts: 2067

2/05/13 10:04:53 AM#9

Some of that creature behavior exists in Ryzom.


The Behaviour of the Creatures is unique to our MMORPG

The creatures in our MMORPG behave intelligently. In our MMORPG each creature has its own set of behaviours, and natural enemies. Wild gingos travel in small packs, willing to attack anything they think they can kill for food. The more docile bodoc travels in herds, but fiercely come to each others defence should they be attacked. Some creatures will migrate naturally; others will prefer to remain in the same general area.



Advanced Member

Joined: 4/06/12
Posts: 262

2/05/13 10:06:08 AM#10

You are preaching to the choir ,brother.

I'll support your post just because you and I are sitting in the same boat.

( Note to self-Don't say anything bad about Drizzt.)

An acerbic sense of humor is NOT allowed here.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/24/11
Posts: 80

2/05/13 10:06:55 AM#11

To be fair, TERA's most redeeming qualities would have to be its non-target combat system and decent gamepad support. I've yet to see these implemented in another triple-A MMORPG title currently. Unfortunately, where TERA fails is as what you mentioned, OP, about its lackluster questing progression. It's more of the same as what we've seen in other MMORPGs right now. I guess that's just the nature of themepark-based games, but I feel like the developers could be far more creative with certain things. Oh well, they make the games, we do not, so there's not much we can say.


I'm still waiting for that "perfect" game right now. There are too many being made and none of them satisfy me still. Maybe my expectations have gone up so far high it's become unrealistic, but at the same time I can't help but think that game developers are also just being lazy, especially when they clearly know what's out there on the market right now... why make more of the same? How are you going to stand out by doing just that?!


Advanced Member

Joined: 10/02/04
Posts: 4563

2/05/13 10:09:56 AM#12

WOW is the reason..

Game companies seen how much they made on that game and they all want some of the pie... Sadly and for some odd reason they cant get their heads around the fact that WOW is probally a one off and it already exists.. copying the game does not work as people will always like the origional one more..

So its not down to the fact that a Sandbox game wont sell well, we have seen a few do really well.. its the fact that game companeis think they can beat WOW at tis own game.. well its not gonna happen ever.

Tho over the next few years there are a few decent Sandbox MMOS on the horizion even some AAA ones so there is at least some hope.




Spotlight Poster

Joined: 2/10/12
Posts: 1405

2/05/13 10:12:34 AM#13

It's because WoW sold millions of copies. Because of this, investors and developers think that they can just duplicate WoW and make the same kind of money.


It's been proven time and time again that the copy method does not work. It's like when Apple released the first iPod nano. It flew off the shelves. Several other entities released like-minded mp3 players,. Some did decent, but most ended up in the $5.00 Walmart bin.


Novice Member

Joined: 1/15/13
Posts: 9

2/05/13 10:14:03 AM#14


That list is why. WoW has made more money than any other video game in history. Furthermore, there is no other MMO even in the top 10. It's all about the money.


It's like gold fever for devs and for their investors. They want to somehow replicate that magic $$.


Advanced Member

Joined: 10/02/04
Posts: 4563

2/05/13 10:15:33 AM#15
Originally posted by revcasy


That list is why. WoW has made more money than any other video game in history. Furthermore, there is no other MMO even in the top 10. It's all about the money.


It's like gold fever for devs and for their investors. They want to somehow replicate that magic $$.

Exactly but they need to realise they cant do that by copying wow... good link btw :) Mario Kart Wii is a suprise thats for sure..



Novice Member

Joined: 7/05/11
Posts: 1161

Sandbox is your only hope for a decent mmo ;)

2/05/13 10:15:35 AM#16

All the major sandbox games were released pre-WOW. Since wow everyone has been trying to copy their sucess. Has nothing to do with which style is better when you dont have an equal amount of each style to compare. The game devs of today are following the money and have dumbed our games down.

All the sandoxes of pre-wow were successful in terms of time, holding players, and game features. Any game that can last 5+ years, hold 50-500k people for a lengthy time, and able to add to their game over time is successful You do not need half the people in the world playing your game to be successful. 90% of the new aged games die within a few months to a year........ and these games are more successful than ones lasting 7-8-9 years?

With a huge amount of sandboxes coming AA and AAA, indie to top companies, i  do hope to see changes and more companies dabble into sandbox feeling. Hopefuly this will stir competition in the industry and we can start seeing better games pumped out than the past 5 years.




Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 14702

2/05/13 10:23:47 AM#17
Originally posted by LoverNoFighter
If they spent the money they invested in making SWTOR into keep on developing and "fixing" SWG pre cu,, it would have been a huge success.

Doubtful.  Any game that spends $300 million before launching is a long-shot to bring in enough revenue to turn a profit anyway.

If SWTOR had been made on a $10 million budget and brought in half as much revenue as it did, that would have been a huge commercial success.


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Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

2/05/13 10:44:12 AM#18
Originally posted by HappyFunBall

I've googled sandbox games, and tried all of them.  Really, every one in the list.  They are all TERRIBLE.  The quality of all them was sub-bar, playabiliy sucked, and most were made of completel empty worlds where nothing was happening.  Exploing just to find nothing is pointless.

I think this section is the problem.  If our starting point is that we aren't enjoying any of the small budget versions of an idea, it's an uphill climb to convince an investor to fund a large budget version of the same idea.



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Joined: 7/08/10
Posts: 1362

The strong are sometimes wrong but the weak are never free.

2/05/13 10:47:07 AM#19

I think the simple answer is due to multiplication.

AAA polished games take a lot work.

A good sandbox design also takes a lot of work.

Put the two together and your development time just went through the roof. So most companies end up choosing to simplify the design so that they can ge the product out the door sooner. and the simplification usually comes at the expensive of the sandbox elements if the game even had any in the first place.

This is also why, going the other direction, sandbox games tend to look a clunky compared to triple A themeparks.

I would say that only EVE Online could claim to be a triple A sandbox mmo and even there it has taken a decade of expansions to get to where it is. And even so, the systems are all rule generated copies of each other. Which illustrates one of the problems. If you go with a huge world, (or galaxy) you have to use some kind of rule based generation which tends to make things look repetitive. On the other hand if you make your world absolutely unique down to the placement of every stone and tree, you will run out of time and have to settle for a smaller world.

Simply put, a truly expansive world tends to work counter to a truly polished and detailed world. Not that it cant be done, but we need to develop better tools to pull it off and be willing to put more time into such a world's development. We will see if any of the forthcoming sandbox MMOs of the coming year will make strides in this direction.

All die, so die well.


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Joined: 11/21/11
Posts: 7246

2/05/13 10:50:34 AM#20
Onomas what were these pre wow successful sandboxes
1 uo
2 eve

Swg and ac are hybrids
Ao, coh and eq2 are themeparks
EQ is an open world themepark
Daoc is an open world themepark with leaning towards hybrid.
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