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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Two ‘Failures’ and the Sandbox Revival

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148 posts found
  MikeB Community Manager

Joined: 5/27/09
Posts: 5614

OP  8/08/12 1:59:13 AM#1

Could the sandbox sub-genre of MMOs be set for a revival of sorts? How did the relative failures of both Star Wars Galaxies and Star Wars: The Old Republic play into the state of the sandbox MMO? We discuss it all in this week's column.

We know this sad story all too well, and so does SOE, but it was likely this failure of such a high profile sandbox game combined with the unprecedented success of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft that has relegated the sandbox MMO sub-genre into a niche over the last few years. If SOE couldn’t get anywhere near Blizzard numbers with a sandbox game and the Star Wars IP, why should anyone else even bother? And thus the next couple of years saw the release of many ‘themepark’ MMOs featuring linear quest-driven content that was quickly consumed by players, often resulting in even faster subscriber turnover due to players’ voracious appetites for content and the increasingly fickle sense of loyalty gamers show any given title.

Read more of Michael Bitton's Two 'Failures' and the Sandbox Revival.

Michael "MikeB" Bitton
Community Manager
Twitter: @eMikeB


Advanced Member

Joined: 2/14/10
Posts: 2168

8/08/12 10:12:02 AM#2
most people have played WoW till their eyes bled. we have been gear grinding for years and are simply tired of that old formula. people want something inspired, something fresh, something challenging, and something they can leave a mark in.
there is plent of space for a good sandbox and games like Dayz and Minecraft have shown that. however it has to be done has to be a solid game and it has to have something unique and innovative. it has to make you think "i really cannot find this feature, or set of features, in any other game".
Devs have to stop trying to copy and paste for a quick buck and they have to sit down and ask themselves "what kind of world would i want to lose myself in for hours on end? what would my dream mmo play and feel like?", that is how you make the magic happen.
we are all waiting to partake in something truly magical. it's why we play to begin with.

Bitter Vet™

Joined: 9/13/06
Posts: 20033

Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions. Pvbs 18:2, NIV

8/08/12 10:12:58 AM#3

Well written article and I can agree with the major points, that SWG helped put nails in the sandbox coffin and WOW's unprecented success had Developers falling all over themselves trying to copy it.

At first the "clones" weren't very good, and people said, a well made theme park game could do as well as WOW.  But then the quality went way up, and yet even those titles couldn't really carve out a solid base of long term subscribers.

Almost every post WOW title ends up F2P these days, just a matter of when, not if.

As others have mentioned, the problem is what is there to do once you burn though the quest content.  It has even been made worse since the leveling curve has gotten shorter with every game and pretty much all of them now dump you off in the same gear grinding, dungeon centric content. (or running dailies)

I recall hitting level 50 on my first character in DAOC. (grinding all the way with groups of various types).   What to do next?  Get out to the Frontiers and join in the "big boy" RVR, and start refining my build with additional Realm points/abilities. 

Meanwhile, I also started crafting, because I wanted to become a master in one of them.  I took up Spellcrafting, and worked on that for quite a while, interspersed with RVR action.

I decided my role in groups and RVR wasn't to my liking (I was a stealther) so I decide to re-roll a group centric character, a Minstrel.  I had a considerably different leveling experience playing that character, and eventually over the years with pretty much every class I tried in that game. (Hence I had like 5 or 6 level 50s, each at RR 5 or better)

I also had 2 high level crafters, SC and Armor, rerolled on the FFA PVP servers, joined a role playing horde of kobolds (Shadowclan, good times) and battled for Darkness Falls too many times

I defended our clan's "keep" (we adopted one in Mordred and fought all comers) and I even put up with some PVE raiding/gear grinding when Trials of Atlantis came out, but I really didn't like it and was a portent of what was to come in WOW and other titles one day.

Oh yeah, we were talking about sandboxes.  I later found EVE, and there was a game that I really could sink my teeth in.  It had even more diversity and things to work on doing than even DAOC (which was a case in point that even theme parks can have some serious end game things to work on).

I'll wrap it up.... players really are not screaming for a sandbox or a themepark, we just want MMO's that give us something more to do besides the same tired forumula that we've had shovelled at us for about the last 8 years.



Arrogant, Condescending, Dismissive, Elitist, "Meany", you speak as if these are bad things?
Still currently "subscribed" to EVE, and only EVE!!!
"This is the most intelligent, well qualified and articulate response to a post I have ever seen on these forums. It's a shame most people here won't have the attention span to read past the second line." - Anon


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 2/05/11
Posts: 1573

8/08/12 10:13:38 AM#4
Well written and well said.  I couldn't agree more.  It's kind of like the sports team that hires the player coach after having the hard line guy.  Things tend to swing from one side to the other and I'm looking forward to the sandbox being given a chance again or even sandpark by a large studio.

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

8/08/12 10:13:57 AM#5
MMOs live or die on whether the game generates sustained interest - an IP justs gets people to look at the box.

Novice Member

Joined: 9/22/11
Posts: 3016

8/08/12 10:18:01 AM#6

This get me confused when I read some of M.B. recent articles and then this one.

While they are not directly contraddicting themself, indirectly they actually do.

I am sorry and maybe I am wrong, but it kinda seems like an artice written 'under publicty' after slamming recent Swtor one. 

  User Deleted
8/08/12 10:24:29 AM#7

Well Said MikeB.

Lets Hope 2013 is filled with old innovations making a return and many new ones popping up. Would love to see a sandbox with GW2 WvW added in.

Then top it off with a robust crafting/housing system like SWG. Tack on dynamic events and old school raids for those that have no life still :)

I would pay 40 bucks a month for this game.


Advanced Member

Joined: 2/14/10
Posts: 2168

8/08/12 10:25:33 AM#8

most people have played WoW till their eyes bled. we have been gear grinding for years and are simply tired of that old formula. people want something inspired, something fresh, something challenging, and something they can leave a mark in.

there is plent of space for a good sandbox and games like Dayz and Minecraft have shown that. however it has to be done has to be a solid game and it has to have something unique and innovative. it has to make you think "i really cannot find this feature, or set of features, in any other game".

Devs have to stop trying to copy and paste for a quick buck and they have to sit down and ask themselves "what kind of world would i want to lose myself in for hours on end? what would my dream mmo play and feel like?", that is how you make the magic happen.

we are all waiting to partake in something truly magical. it's why we play to begin with.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/24/07
Posts: 613

8/08/12 10:25:58 AM#9

While I optimistically hope you are right, I pessimistically don’t see it.  I’ve see little indication that MMOs are moving to sandbox, at least in the type we had in SWG.  Allowing your players to wander about the digital landscape without really anything to do outside the quest content is not sandbox, just theme park without the invisible walls.

Here’s hopin’ nonetheless.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 6/15/04
Posts: 4221

8/08/12 10:28:38 AM#10

Been saying it all along.  Hybrids are the wave of the future.  We can't go back to the old style of sandbox and we can't continue with the current themepark style, so we need to find that middle ground and evolve from there, which we are in games like GW2, ArcheAge and Wildstar as well as others in the pipeline for the next few years.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 2/10/12
Posts: 1393

8/08/12 10:28:56 AM#11

I agree with the post. Good post.


Sick and tired of WoW clones. It's all the same steak with different seasoning.


Novice Member

Joined: 8/11/09
Posts: 800

8/08/12 10:30:54 AM#12
I think what we really need is a perfect blend of themepark and sandbox. Theres to many people who wont play sandboxes due to FFA pvp and full loot me included. The last hope IMO is TESO which seems  30% SB and 70% TP and Archeage 30% TP 70% SB. I do believe the failure of swtor is a wake up call to major mmo devs. The classic wow like games dont work anymore. If people wanna play a game like WoW they will just play WoW which perfects that particular style of MMO. With Archeage, TESO, Repopulation, Life is Feudal, and Embers of Caerus in out future hopefully one will do well enough to make the sandbox mmo come back from the grave.

Playing: War Thunder, World of Warcraft, and Grim Dawn
Waiting on:Everquest Next and The Black Desert


Advanced Member

Joined: 8/08/03
Posts: 2361

8/08/12 10:35:53 AM#13

 I don't get it. The Author starts out by pointing out SWG was a Sandbox, and a Sandbox that dispite its popular IP that tanked hard , was bleeding subs even before the NGE. Massive fail but a sanbox. He then goes on to say that SW:TOR a theme park game with the same IP failed, ok how does that equal any revival of sandbox games?

  GW2 is in no way a sandbox, and proclaiming it a overwhelming Major success just yet would be a bit soon I'd say, maybe at leaast wait a month or 2 after its been out. hell there were tons of people saying how SW;Tor was gonna be a major success before it was releaased too and we have seen how thats turned out.

  Surely in the end the Author can come up with better then wishfull thinking and the arguement that because one SW sandbox game failed and one SW theme park game failed its gonna lead to a revival of sandbox games. Thatt just doesn't make any logical sense


Elite Member

Joined: 1/06/05
Posts: 18367

8/08/12 10:42:30 AM#14
Originally posted by fenistil

This get me confused when I read some of M.B. recent articles and then this one.

While they are not directly contraddicting themself, indirectly they actually do.

I am sorry and maybe I am wrong, but it kinda seems like an artice written 'under publicty' after slamming recent Swtor one. 

There's no contradiction at all.

One could go on and on about how SWToR is a good game ( I do think it's a good game) and yet point out why it was a failure to EA/Bioware (wanting X amount of subs, thinking it was going to constantly grow with subs) or why it was a failure to mmo players wanting to continue in the SWToR world but not having much to continue with.

In one light SWToR can be looked at as a success. In another light it can be considered a dismal failure.


Novice Member

Joined: 11/22/10
Posts: 460

8/08/12 10:48:09 AM#15

Really the only thing that SWTOR showed is that throwing what was in essence an unlimited amount of cash at a game doesn't guarantee the game will be a success. Take the Day-z mod, an indie sandbox game that has taken gaming by storm on what I'd guess was a very low budget by industry standards.

The industry leaders need to be thinking out the box now and stop being sheep, a hybrid sandbox may well be the answer.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 6/11/08
Posts: 10959

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

8/08/12 10:48:25 AM#16

Originally posted by fenistil
This get me confused when I read some of M.B. recent articles and then this one.

While they are not directly contraddicting themself, indirectly they actually do.

I am sorry and maybe I am wrong, but it kinda seems like an artice written 'under publicty' after slamming recent Swtor one. 

Well, the subject matter is certainly a change, but his other articles highlighted either what's good about SWToR, or the irrational responses people have to the game on forums. Neither one of these things means he can't also see a possible trend in the market or a direction for MMORPG in general.

I'm not so sure he's exactly right though. Just because theme park MMORPG don't hold players for long periods of time doesn't mean developers are going to start making sandboxes. They could start making games that are designed to last for three months, and then have follow ups or updates or something. They might continue making theme park games, but they all release as B2P or F2P. There could be new sandbox games coming that do attract a lot of people, but they could all be more like Farmville or Wizard 101 than UO. The sandbox resurgence could happen with games that current sandbox fans wouldn't want to play. Any one of these things seems just as likely as developers deciding to make sandbox games in the classic style.

I can not remember winning or losing a single debate on the internet.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 2/05/11
Posts: 1573

8/08/12 10:51:17 AM#17

Well ultimately developers are going to realize that they simply can't keep up with enough content to satisfy people.  They either can make it the EQ1 route and make you truly grind to extend playtime (I actually don't mind this like most others do) or give the player population some more freedom. 

100% developer driven content MMO's are going to be much less popular in the future as it is just not possible to satisfy people with this model.


And I agree with other in the thread that sandparks are the wave of the future.  Basically themeparks with more freedom.  They will have more structure than a pure sandbox but more freedom than the current Themepark.  Also these would likely dump Full loot PvP as it is simply not popular enough.


Hard Core Member

Joined: 8/21/04
Posts: 8060

Logic be damned!

8/08/12 10:52:03 AM#18

Hybrid is the future.

Elocke is 100% correct.

The "old school" sandbox of UO/EvE etc. just won't cut it, but neither will the cookie-cutter EQ formula games since 2004.

The original MMO audience I feel misses a virtual world, and the "new" MMO audience is growing tired of the same old formula and want virtual world aspects too.

I've probably been lurking for way, way too long.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/13/04
Posts: 148

8/08/12 10:53:46 AM#19

The article mentions SWTOR and then a common weakness of "Themeparks" not being able to keep up with content demands of a ravonous playerbase. SWTOR had plenty of content, I seriously doubt most people that quit consumed all of it. Thier problem wasn't a lack of content. It was designing a world that is better visited than lived in. There is nothing wrong with this and it is absolutly fun if players approach it this way. The sub fee doesn't fit with this type of game which is why f2p is a good choice for them.


If a sandbox means designing a world that is to be "lived in" I am not sure that will ever be anything more than niche. It's a time requirement issue. The pool of gamers that have 80 hours a week to throw at a game is much much smaller than the pool of gamers that have 20 or 10.


If sandbox means making an impact on the world Mindcraft style then yes, absolutly yes this is the next iteration of the genre. If it means fresh bleeding edge always different algorythmicly generated content that we can do once and never agian, then yes of course yes.


If it means FFA Full loot PvP, then no. If it means time commitments that likes of which olympic training doesn't even require, then of course no. If it means frustration so prevasive that you need to repeat the same activity 1000 times to be successful even once, then no. If it means a world so open ended that the only things to do is to grind mobs and emote going to bathroom, then hell no.




Joined: 3/03/12
Posts: 8326

8/08/12 10:54:08 AM#20

Everywhere you said GW2 you sould have put TSW.


Other than that good article.
J.O.B. Daggerfalls BEST Gank Crew

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