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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] WildStar: The Marriage of Theme Park & Sandbox

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Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 16270

OP  11/02/12 10:24:19 AM#1

WildStar is aiming to do what no other company has been able to successfully accomplish before: Create a true hybrid between a theme park and sandbox MMORPG. We take a look at how Jeremy Gaffney believes this can happen in this week's column. Read on and then leave us your thoughts in the comments.

What is it that drives this argument time and again and is it even possible to consider that the two varieties could actually meet in the middle somehow? I suspect that we must first develop a working definition for each of the two types of games before trying to answer that question. From there, we’ll take a look at how Carbine Studios plans to bring the two together in WildStar.

Read more of Suzie Ford's WildStar: The Marriage of Theme Park & Sandbox.

Associate Editor:
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  User Deleted
11/02/12 3:11:02 PM#2
Too bad Ncsoft will kill it. 

Novice Member

Joined: 12/22/04
Posts: 50

11/02/12 3:53:46 PM#3
Maybe not. There might have 1 yr after Aion, but it's still kicking especially revived with the F2P model. I enjoy Aion in the beginnign before bots. I bet I will enjoy Wildstar as well, I can't wait for beta to see what's going on with it.

Novice Member

Joined: 1/06/07
Posts: 2541

Hype (noun)
1. to trick; gull.
2. exaggerated publicity; hoopla.
3. swindle, deception, or trick.

11/02/12 3:55:01 PM#4
I see a divorce in their future. 

"Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever." - Noam Chomsky


Elite Member

Joined: 2/27/07
Posts: 7205

11/02/12 4:19:09 PM#5

Again, there is no marriage of sandbox/themepark in this game, it is a themepark period. 

Number one, your sandbox definition is too generic to make any sense, no game that has classes is any kind of a sandbox, that eliminates this game right away.  It eliminates the ability to design your avatar as you like, even if you try to differentiate classes into subclasses.  If I choose to make a mage character initially and decide to change to another form like melee the game should allow such.

I will grant you they are trying to add some sandbox elements, but not enough to even attempt a hybrid tag.

Let's face it, these guys made a themepark to get funding and now are attempting to add in some sandbox features.  Maybe I am too hypercritical, but you just can't tac on a few sandbox features on a game that was designed as a themepark top down and then call it a hybrid.



Elite Member

Joined: 5/12/10
Posts: 2670

11/02/12 4:25:43 PM#6

I never liked sandbox conception in mmo's - hard to control it from development side, gameplay is too playerbase-dependant, and let's face it, most playerbase su**s big time :) and I'm more of a content oriented guy anyway.

On the other hand, I love the GTA series, and they were the first ones labeled as sandbox. And that's why I really looking forward to WildStar's half park / half sandbox experience, this kinda sandbox sounds great. I mean when you have a story, a nice world design, and you can go anywhere, do anything, but you have a goal in the long run. I guess I will enjoy both the explorers and the builders.


Novice Member

Joined: 10/23/12
Posts: 4

11/02/12 4:45:03 PM#7

For me, a beautiful marriage between the sandbox and the theme park models would feature zones with shifting geopolitical dispositions. The players would be able to choose to work with one of several non-player character factions. These factions would each have an impenetrable stronghold somewhere in the zone, and would be able to work out from this position to control contestable locations spread throughout the zone.

For example, the Orcs would have an impenetrable stronghold in Crushbone; this area could never be fully defeated by the players, although players would be able to make temporary incursions (dynamic spawns could be used to insure that the players never fully conquer a stronghold). If the players neglected to contain the Orcs within this stronghold, the Orcs would eventually be able to set up outposts farther afield, perhaps on a strategic hill overlooking the Elf city in the trees. If the players were then unable to dislodge the Orcs from this hill, then perhaps there would be a siege of the Elf city. However, the Elf city would be a stronghold as well, so it would never fall. This isn’t a genocide simulator after all, just a simulation of an ongoing conflict with shifting status quos.

A key to making this type of setup work would be the difficulty of changing the region wide status quo, as well as the length of time each strategic scenario would endure. Players should not see radical swings in geopolitical status quo over short periods. These swings should only result from coordinated player action, and should be so difficult to bring in effect as to make them relatively rare events with long lasting impact. During the course of a single play session, a player would only be able to make a small change to the overall balance of power between the non-player factions. In short, mmorpgs need to get back to simulating “just another day” of a relatively ordinary person in an extraordinary fantasy setting. Many of the theme park games currently on tap provide the same set of heroic moments over and over again; they attempt to make each and every player into a Messiah.

Sadly, players end feeling like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day instead of Jesus Neo.  


Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/15/06
Posts: 842

Your chararacter gains experience and levels up, defining a role playing game.

11/02/12 4:55:12 PM#8
Originally posted by heynow
Too bad Ncsoft will kill it. 

Tis is NCsoft game? gg, dead game then.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 9/16/09
Posts: 327

11/02/12 5:13:59 PM#9
what like ncsoft is gonna kill off GW2? (don't be so trolltastic, games that get killed off generally deserve it.)
  User Deleted
11/02/12 5:15:51 PM#10
I love reading the sandbox purists start to argue over what a sandbox actually is.  Since they can't decide, the article title works just fine.

Hard Core Member

Joined: 3/30/07
Posts: 1308

11/02/12 5:58:35 PM#11
The cartoony appearnace will put off the game for some.  For others, restricting the class to a certain look (race in most games) will put off others.  This seems like it may be targeting a younger audience and an audience which prefers action games over deep-thinking games.  I don't see the sandbox or themepark elements really affecting the game's success more than the graphics and appearance restrictions.

Novice Member

Joined: 4/25/08
Posts: 342

11/02/12 8:07:37 PM#12
Originally posted by heynow
Too bad Ncsoft will kill it. 

Lawl? NcSoft is actually one of the better mmo publishing companies out there and give more power to developers such as time and allowing the devs to be more creative. We have already seen this with GW2 and have heard right from the horse's mouth (Anet devs) the freedom that NcSoft has given them when making GW2. 

Also looking at the trends of NcSoft games, expect WildStar to go B2P which is always a good thing in my book.

Looking forward to EQL and EQN.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 11/21/11
Posts: 7246

11/02/12 8:13:33 PM#13
Where is the other players ARe the content

Im begining to think sandbox is the new buzzword for marketing (based on the success of minecraft),e.g. look at the eqn speil.

Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/15/12
Posts: 1331

11/02/12 10:13:24 PM#14
i never say this but "this game is going to fail".  sounds like they designed a themepark and then decided they made a huge mistake so before they finished high-level content decided to try to fix the game by making high level zones "sandbox-ish".

I think the prostitute mod corrupted your game files man. -elhefen


Elite Member

Joined: 6/10/09
Posts: 7124

11/02/12 11:21:30 PM#15
Originally posted by Suzie_Ford
So now that everyone is clear on the definitions of each, the discussion must turn to whether or not the two can ever be reconciled to one another.

I think you have pretty decent definitions, but they don't seem to describe the game, especially the sandbox part.  I haven't really seen the game play so I can't say they're wrong, but what they describe doesn't sound like a hybrid to me.

Quests aren't a sandbox design element at all unless the players create the quests and rewards.  Sandbox is about players creating, interacting, and participating.  When those elements become predefined, restrictive or excessively guided then it really stops being a sanbox feature or design element.

Themepark "ride-style" quest elements:

  1. The player meets npc and through dialog receives one ore more tasks.  Once completed these tasks may provide specific defined rewards.
  2. The player finds an item on the ground, interacts with it and receives quest dialog.
  3. A player kills creatures and receives quest element as a drop that starts a quest event chain.
  4. A player kills x number of creatures triggering npc dialogs that lead to quest dialog.
  5. Players complete one ore more predefined tasks without speaking to an npc, but still receive credit and the predefined rewards (this is GW2 heart quests).
  6. Any predefined, scripted event that may results in predefined rewards.
Sandbox "builder" quest elements:
  1. Player has a goal or desire and enlists one or more player to complete or assist in the accomplishment of that goal.  There could be predefined rewards such as players offering money, resources, crafted items, cuts of the potential loot, responsibility for repairs, and other such things.  They key is that they are mutually agreed upon and aren't necessarily the same if the task should be repeated.
  2. Players gather resources to create items that assist or fortify themselves, their guild, a player or npc town, or other npcs in an indirect manner.  The rewards may or may not be consistent, but aren't focused on direct reward but in what the secondary effects of that might be (improved economic benefits, improved crafting, buffs or boons, and the like).
  3. There are nearly endless posibilities, but things excluded from this list would be those that are predefined, scripted, and unaffected by players choice.
Nothing about the quest description in the article makes me inclined to consider them even "semi-sandbox".  And honestly, this is a problem I have with what Jeremy Gaffney had to say.  He's using a new buzzword just like Smedley's "sandbox-style" remark.  It's not really sandbox, but just made to feel like it.  We're going to hear this buzzword a lot with the next hype train.  Watch for it.
That isn't necessarily a bad thing except the part where people are excpecting real sandbox elements and will be disappointed they aren't really "sandbox".  I'm all for hybrid design and would certainly welcome some sandbox elements to the themeparks.  However, I don't think that is what themeparks need the most.  What any kind of game (sandbox, themepark, or hybrid) needs are systems, well integrated, interdependent systems.  What we don't need is a next wave of empty buzzwords harvested from the pleas of gamers looking for a deeper and more engaging game experience.

Elite Member

Joined: 6/10/09
Posts: 7124

11/02/12 11:24:51 PM#16
Originally posted by ShakyMo
Where is the other players ARe the content

Im begining to think sandbox is the new buzzword for marketing (based on the success of minecraft),e.g. look at the eqn speil.

This is very astute in my opinion.  This game might be fun and engaging, but throwing around sandbox all willy nilly is lame.


Advanced Member

Joined: 12/19/07
Posts: 2628

11/02/12 11:38:31 PM#17
Originally posted by Torvaldr
Originally posted by ShakyMo
Where is the other players ARe the content

Im begining to think sandbox is the new buzzword for marketing (based on the success of minecraft),e.g. look at the eqn speil.

This is very astute in my opinion.  This game might be fun and engaging, but throwing around sandbox all willy nilly is lame.

I'm wondering if these devs ever actually PLAYED a sandbox.  What makes a sandbox a sandbox is a lot more involved than whether or not a zone is open exploration or quest driven.  This is only one tiny aspect of sandbox gameplay.  Furthermore, I've read about their housing system, but it just seems like a take on pseudo-instanced housing with some extended features as far as what you can do at your home, but it still isn't sandbox in nature in my opinion.

I'm keeping an eye on this game to see how it develops, but at this point I'm not even really seeing anything particularly "hybrid" about it.

A sure sign that you are in an old, dying paradigm/mindset, is when you are scared of new ideas and new technology. Don't feel bad. The world is moving on without you, and you are welcome to yell "Get Off My Lawn!" all you want while it happens. You cannot, however, stop an idea whose time has come.


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Joined: 1/10/11
Posts: 2106

11/03/12 12:17:11 AM#18
Originally posted by Ozmodan

Again, there is no marriage of sandbox/themepark in this game, it is a themepark period. 

Number one, your sandbox definition is too generic to make any sense, no game that has classes is any kind of a sandbox, that eliminates this game right away.  It eliminates the ability to design your avatar as you like, even if you try to differentiate classes into subclasses.  If I choose to make a mage character initially and decide to change to another form like melee the game should allow such.

I will grant you they are trying to add some sandbox elements, but not enough to even attempt a hybrid tag.

Let's face it, these guys made a themepark to get funding and now are attempting to add in some sandbox features.  Maybe I am too hypercritical, but you just can't tac on a few sandbox features on a game that was designed as a themepark top down and then call it a hybrid.


And Skyrim is not a sandbox just because it allows you a freeform character development. Personally I find progression where anyone can become anything at any time with some time spent a very un-immersive way, and I dont see it fitting any multiplayer sandbox.


It's as if Aragorn in Lotro all of a sudden decides that he can shoot magic out of his ass now and proceeds doing so. Say, someone who is physically very weak becomes a berserker that runs through walls in another case. Or lets take modern setting, someone with very low intellect all of a sudden decides to become a doctor.


I like classes, freedom INSIDE the classes is awesome imo, but freeform systems I dont like much in multiplayer environment, since everyone is a generic mega person capable of anything and it burns immersion to the ground. The system would have to restrict other paths/skills heavily after choosing some certain playstyle to not make it all stupid, and then it's basically classes with freedom inside them, anyway.


@Article; I dont see Wildstar being a sandbox game though. The article itself basically describes a sandbox loosely, and then lists themepark designs of Wildstar. I dont see the Wildstar questing making it anymore sandbox than GW2. You need a vast toolkit how to interact with the world and other players in order to have a sandbox, not by having a some certain kind of developer driven questing or being able to "build" a hospital on few set locations which despawns at some point so someone else can do the same thing on his turn.


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Joined: 3/24/11
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Everyones a mmo vet these days :P

11/03/12 6:08:44 AM#19
It's funny how people in this forum can claim " it's not a sandbox" ect did you play the game yet? My guess is a strong no, so until then no need to say if its a theme park or sandbox

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Joined: 10/24/06
Posts: 24

11/03/12 6:18:47 AM#20

doesnt sound like sandbox at all.

what about player economy? palyer cities (or is that settlement?) player stores, player interaction? ...

If you realy want a themepark sandbox, just copy the SWG pre cu and place your themepark arround it. i cant tell how much this game did right sandbox whise (failed hard on other ends though).

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