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WildStar Column: Is a 'Sandpark' Even Possible?

By Suzie Ford on January 14, 2013

One of the things that Carbine Studios is aiming to do with WildStar is to create the first true hybrid between the theme park MMO and the sandbox MMO. What remains to be seen is whether or not that can actually happen or not. What I really want to know is if such a thing is even possible and, if it is, will either side ever be truly happy?

I will use as my example of no one being happy by looking at the old saying, “you can’t please everyone”. Honestly, this is a true statement. The more each side gives in order to get what they want, the more ‘watered down’ an idea becomes. Give a little here. Give a little there. Pretty soon, there is nothing left that vaguely resembles what you first wanted.

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I know that’s a bit extreme but the point still stands. Can everyone be pleased and feel like the gameplay experience they most crave is satisfying? Clearly Carbine thinks that WildStar can be all things to all players and, just maybe, teach each side a bit more about the other.

So what features does Carbine have in mind as it straddles the fence between theme park and sandbox to create a “sandpark? Let’s take a look:

On the theme park side of the fence, players will find very familiar features with questing, dungeons and a storyline. How those theme park elements manifest themselves has yet to be determined but my guess is that there will be main quest areas within each zone that drag the player along the storyline that the writers have created.

In fact, Jeremy Gaffney stated it this way last October:

In most zones, there is an overall 'theme park' overlay - a main quest line that brings you through the zone, has some clear story to it, and is strongly directed. So you always have a guidepost for where you "need" to go (you can skip it, but most people do it).

What I find interesting, and what will likely appeal to the sandboxers around here is the fact that it can be skipped completely if so desired. It seems that nothing in WildStar is required for players to enjoy the game in whatever way they wish. It’s sort of like Burger King’s old ad “have it your way”.

On the sandbox side of the fence are open ended things like “paths”. Those following the Settler Path collect resources and build towns and other structures. Those on the Explorer Path are charged with discovering new areas for the Settlers and so on. Obviously, with both of these paths, crafting is going to be essential. It’s kind of Minecraft-lite within WildStar.

Fans of WSO were able to submit questions to a tester last week. One of the questions dealt with these paths. I thought the tester’s answer was interesting:

Personally, I find the path of Settler the least enjoyable, it just doesn’t seem to fit my play style. Just can’t seem to get into gathering resources and building stuff to augment towns and outposts. This from a hardcore crafter, who enjoys the gathering and building of things, was rather surprising to discover I didn’t enjoy it. I know others that absolutely love it and dislike my chosen path of Explorer. Looking into every nook and cranny is just not what they are into.

That is the beauty of the Paths: you can pick what fits you and neither choice is bad. There are no bonuses or penalties for choosing a path to go with a certain class or race. Each is an individual choice that you tailor to how you like to play.

While I find the thought of a “sandpark” fascinating, I still worry that players of either stripe will be never be truly happy. In some ways, I’m reminded of the age-old argument that probably still rages on most Guild Wars 1 forums between PvPers and PvEers. It has always seems that any improvement to one side’s feature set leads to weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth by the other ad nauseum. Nobody is satisfied.

Carbine devs seem to have a handle on things but it’s easy for it to look good on paper. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Once more information is released and more players are able to get a look at the game itself, it will become apparent how successful the hybrid gameplay model is likely to be. Until then, we can only speculate.

What do you think? Is it possible to make a true sandpark and please everyone at the same time? What features are crucial to your enjoyment of the game? Leave your thoughts in the comments!


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