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Quest for the perfect Fantasy Sandbox!

I started playing MMORPGs, approx. 4 or 5 years ago, and by then MMOs were already settling into the theme park style, much to my disappointment. I've tried various attempt since which fell short. So here I'll be ranting and maybe make a review now n the

Author: happyfarts

My Dream Sandbox

Posted by happyfarts Saturday March 22 2014 at 12:44PM
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Defining my perfect MMO Sandbox ...

Brief Intro

Hi, I'm a gamer, like probably any of you who've bothered reading this article. I'm also a fantasy fan. I've been looking for an MMO I can immerse myself in, and to me that would need to be a Sandbox game. If I had the budget and the motivation, and for no logical reason I felt the need to describe my perfect MMO.


Some of the biggest immersion breakers to in an MMO are loading screens, invisible walls, etc.

I'm aware their some real hardware/performance issues in having a seamless open world, but I also know it can be done. Take Darkfall for example, if nothing else can be said for it, you cannot deny it had a HUGE world map with no loading screens. Not perfect mind you, but it says a lot of the potential size of a seamless world.

Also, invisible walls, nobody likes them. Especially the exploring kind of players. Explorers want to find rooks and crannies which no else knew about. A cool hang out for them and their friends, or some forgotten ruins, possibly with some "wtf" monsters lurking within, an underwater dungeon? or maybe even the perfect plot for building a secret hideout ...

They don't even need a greater reward than a new horizon that no one's seen before.

Which brings me to the edge of the world. Yeah, the world has to have an edge. But still, it doesn't to be in the form of an invisible barricade. I would make the world end in a never ending waterfall into oblivion where players who don't drown on the way can swim or sail off the edge to their deaths!

No world map should EVER be leaked to the public. NEVER!!


Yes, there will be multiple humanoid races with various physical perks: Endurance, strength, agility, speed, intellect, yada yada

Also different races can have different languages. And no, there won't be a convenient common language. Not readily available anyway...


I know I talked about it earlier. So yeah, the gist of it is exploring needs to be a rewarding, or at least "potentially" rewarding experience.

The following are the kind of rewards I had in mind:

·         A travelling sailor comes across a vanishing isle, on which live a temple of secretive monks, who teach him a skill no one can learn anywhere else.

·         An exploring entrepreneur can discover a remote tribe who offer a rare items, gains their trust, and establishes a trade agreement for his guild gaining a monopoly on the goods. (for so long as caravans or guild city don't get raided)

·         A wandering hobo discovers an educated hermit of another race living in the middle nowhere who has nothing better to do, so he offers to teach him his race's language

·         A guild scout goes searching around for a good plot to start a city. Does the guild prefer a remote city on a cliff face, hard to attack and hidden from prying eyes? Or do they prefer an accessible city by a river to have access to river trade and land routes?

Another thing I would add is Cartography (Map-making). Maps will be an item that a player carries around. No map on you? Tough luck, no map!

Let me explain. Your inventory will a new slot just for maps. This will store your world map. A basic one can be purchased from the local NPCs. However, an explorer armed with ink and parchment can actually produce a more detailed map. He will also have the ability to add annotations to this map like "Great Mining Spot!",  "Deer grazing ground", "Mean Bugger Player City", "Ambush Prone".

And most importantly, a cartographer can make copies of his work and sell them for profit! The information on them might be useful for resource gatherers, strategists, empire builders and tradesmen. For example a tradesman might set up a trade route to avoid any potential hot spots with such information.


An important factor to any MMO. First off, I'd like to rule out any target-based or arcade style combat systems. They're either overly causal or overly fanciful. I prefer a more engaging kind of combat, a case in point is Mount & Blade: Warbands (e.g. tutorial, PvP fight). If you like realistic medieval combat, you gotta try this!

For those of you who have already tried this, you know what I'm talking about! I would happily put up with WB graphics in exchange for their combat system.

Now take that combat system, and sprinkle with some magic fireballs flying back and forth and some monsters which can pick up players and lob them over a cliff. Chaos! Beautiful chaos!


Now for Magic. Today's typical fantasy mage has been reduce into bunny hopping COD teenagers. My thoughts? Fuck that!

Magic will be split down into various branches, ranching to the elemental shaman to the arcane wizard. Now as to how will they diverge from the current norm?

·         Spell Intensity - Most spells won't have a fixed casting time. For example a mage player can tap the fireball attack, which would only spit a few licks of flame no more than a foot away from him. Or he could keep holding the fireball attack, which will be basically let fireball grow to a size where he can't launch it far enough, it goes out of control and blow up in his face. OR he can find the perfect balance and cast a well balanced fireball.

·         Casting Times - For their more epic shit, mages will need the support and protection of his mates. For example, a necromancer trying to summon a handful of skeleton warriors to his friends' aid. He can't protect himself while summoning them, and his movements/abilities or limited while keeping them summoned. Killing or knocking out the caster might make the skeletons drop to the dirt, or go berserk.

·         Group Spells - There will be some super epic spells which can only be done with the joint effort of a circle of skilled casters. E.g. A circle of shamans summon together a huge rock elemental to go bash against the walls of an enemy city or summon a fog to engulf the area around them. Ofc, in casts like these the circle of mages are unable to move or defend themselves.

·         Error Factor - There will also be an error factor. The more skilled, the less likely this will happen. But essentially the bigger the spells, the more horribly wrong it can go. In  group spells one must consider that error factor can rise drastically if there a poorly skilled caster in their midst.
How can it go wrong? Instead of summoning a rock elemental you erupt the earth beneath your feet. Or instead of summoning a thick damp fog you bring about a dozen angry water elementals!

·         No Running - There spells that can be used whilst running will be few, some even limited.

You're probably thinking I'm making caster skills sound highly undesirable. Well that's the idea. Casters are a double edged sword. They can have a huge effect on a battle, but there's also a chance that they can screw your odds of winning as well.

Basically, casters have to choose whether focus on grander magic, which can player a big difference. Or else to focus on smaller, faster spells. You can try learn both ofc. Cough*

Also there will be Spell Cocktails, i.e. casters can make a kind of spell macro.
For example,
                A cast that first casts non-slip feet on yourself, and then freezes the ground around you to make your enemies slip unless they walk real slow.
  or          You first cast fire immunity and then summon a flaming sword so you don't burn yourself.

Anyway the gist of it is that casters can come up with their own combinations.


Nay to hard-coded limitations! You cannot equip and wield what you like. The only thing is that your character skills will affect or be affected accordingly.

For example,
                Spent all your time flipping pages and learning spells and don't have enough strength in your palms to crack a walnut? Sure you can dress up in full plate and wield a two-handed great sword as tall as you are, but you'll be lucky if you can move and you'll be dragging that sword behind you, and any swings you throw (if you can at all) will be so slow that the enemy will see them coming a mile off.

  or          Just learnt a spell, picked up a wand and think you control the elements? Sure you can cast a spell, but rather than an error factor you'll be lucky to have a success factor!

Your backpack will be limited in volume. So no, you can't fit ten full suits of armour in your backpack. Also there are weight limits. If it fits, you can put in your backpack, but the more you carry the slower you move and the more easily you get fatigued. The weight factor will also include the weight of your gear. To pre-empt the question, if you're too heavy you don't float.

There will be items you can't fit in your backpack but will want to carry, eg. a log. You can either use a mule or other beast of burden to drag it back to the lumber mill or else you can find someone to help you haul it back. Bigger log = More help needed.

Players will be able to carry gear in their backpack ... but this will visibly show as strapped to their backpack.


As interesting as it might be, I'm near or certain this will sooner or later lead to monuments of penises or other profanity dotting the countryside. However I'd like to think terrain destruction might be possible. For example chopping a tree at an angle that will make it fall across the road ...


I think we can all agree that the average MMO mob has the intelligence of a fencepost. With the awareness of a walking land mine.

This I would change drastically.

First thing that would need to change is the detection method. A mob should detect either through a cone of vision, or a circular area of hearing. There will be exceptions ofc for mobs that are blind, etc.

This would allow players to creep up on them. Their vision would work like it did in commandos. At a certain distance, mobs won't see you when you're in prone position. Also obstacles will limit their cone of vision.

Their range of hearing will work similarly, you will be able to creep up on them to a point. If you're mail you can only get so close though. Leather and cloth are a different ball game though.

Here are another important points:

·         Mobs can level up. If they kill players or other mobs often enough they will gain skill and "level up"

·         Mobs can loot. Yup, humanoid can loot your shit. They will keep what they like or can use and they'll stash the rest in their hoard. And ofc leave anything they deem useless on your corpse.

·         Mobs can harvest. When you're off in some happier place, mobs will be hunting deer and what not to gather food or leather.

·         Mob spawns can level up. What this means is that with enough time passes a mob spawn point can level up.
For example, in the case of a Cave Goblin Spawn
                Level 1 - Mobs wield clubs and spears of stick and stone and defend their cave.
                Level2 - Mobs start using cheap iron weapons, build a wooden rampart at the entrance of their cave. Start sending out scouts in the vicinity
                Level3 - Scouts now mounted on giant cave spiders. Mobs also built a forward camp outside their cave.
                Level4 - Mobs start attacking nearby NPC or player settlements
                Level5 - Mobs will ally with Cave Trolls and attempt capture and occupation of NPC or player settlements. This will turn them into Level 2 spawn points.

So far I've only spoken about hostile mobs though. There will also be more civilised mobs that, once you have their trust, will be open for trade of goods or information. Other services may also be available. For example, possible military support or alliance.


No MMO would be complete without a Guild/Clan to bring players together.

Guilds will a customisable hierarchy by the Guild Master. Stuff like rights etc will be managed from here.  These include, but are not limited to,  guild bank access, city guard management, guild trade agreements, etc.

Now most guilds will want an HQ. The smaller or more secretive guild might want nothing bigger than a rented apartment, or maybe some sprawling mansion if you have the coin. The empire builders will want an entire city for their HQ.

I won't go into Player Cities just yet.

Now guilds can unite in one of two ways:

·         Vassal - Smaller guilds can choose to become the vassals of a larger guild. For protection or free rent or access to their resources. Vassals can't conquer territory in their own name. Any strategic land holdings they acquire like resource points or cities, etc will automatically fall under the ownership of their liege guild.
This is a viable option for smaller specialised guilds who are not interested in empire building. Examples: Mercenaries, Tradesmen, etc
Guilds in an alliance cannot become vassals.

·         Alliance - This is when two guilds, normally of equal standing/strength, decide to combine forces for both protection as well as added firepower. The union generates a Alliance Council which the GMs can add their own members and their dog into.
However, to add a member on the Council there must be a majority vote in favour.

The majority vote will be used for all Alliance wide decisions. For example, war declaration. A particular member guild might have declared war on an a hostile guild and asked the alliance to match suit. Fellow members can declare war individually, but if the Alliance Council votes favour of war all Alliance members are have no choice in the matter and automatically join the war.

Guilds will have black-lists for individuals and can flag them as a KOS, Untrustworthy, Friendly, etc.

Alliances will also have their own black-list. In case of a conflict the Alliance stance will overrule the guild one by default. The GM can change this setting, though he risks the wrath of the other Alliance members.

Guild Gear  & Logo is also important. First off a logo needs to be as customisable as possible. This is important because it represents them.

And for the same reason it is important to show your colours in a variety of ways. Through arm bands, tabards, shield crests. Then there should also be items that can be used in warfare. e.g. war drums or banners that gives nearby guildies a buff and enemies a debuff.

Castle banners also give buff to the local guidlies and vassals.

Guild Reputation is affected by its members, and in turn affects its members.
For example,
Case 1.  A guild comprising of 10 PKers and 1 Do-Gooder will not alter the DGer's personal rep. But the negative rep they give the guild will overrule his gd rep from an outsider's point of view. Making it a PKer guild.

Case2.   A guild comprised of 10 DGers and 1 PKer. The guild will still have a globally positive rep. However that one PKer will still be flagged as a PKer. i.e. negative rep remains prevalent.

This is something to keep in mind. Especially if you're a trade guild. You don't want a bad rep on you. Just to make it clear


A part of this is a concept inspired by Darkfall's NPC vendor, but improved.

Player Cities will have the ability to construct a Market. In this place individuals or guilds will be able to hire a stall and place an NPC vendor at it. The player/guild will place the goods for sale in the stall and set the prices at which the vendor should sell them. The guild owning the market can choose to either exact a tax on all items sold, demand a single payment for use of the stall or both.

This might seem overboard but it is worth it if the guild owner conducts security properly. As markets can generate a lot of wealth for all involved, it is also a highly desirable target for raiders. A trade city of a serious guild will have guards placed strategically, ban weapons from the market, etc.

In case of a successful raid, raiders can kill the NPC vendor, on whom they'll find a key to the stall goods and the cash of any sales he made.

There will also be markets in NPC towns, though they will charged an undesirable tax rate which will raise the prices of items sold, with the specific intention of discouraging trade outside Player cities.

Advanced Markets will also give the guild owner the ability to create Trade Routes by land, and by sea if a port city. This will work similarly to Caeser 3's trade system. There will be an adjacent warehouse where the guild owner can place goods which he wants to sell or barter for other goods. However this will not be accessible to individuals.

In order to create a trade route the guilds trade representatives need to create a trade agreement with another Player cities or friendly NPC cities where they will establish the agreed rates. If any updates occur to the contract trade will be stopped until the 2nd party accepts the changes.

A point about Advanced Markets. Vassals will also have access to create trade routes from their liege's Adv. Market. Obviously, separate guilds will have their goods stored separately in the warehouse.


Villages are resource points. There are mining villages, farming villages, fishing villages, lumberjack villages ... and so on.

Each village has a happiness meter. This will affect their population regeneration (PR) and their yield.

When capturing or creating a Player city the first thing you want to do is go to the neighbouring villages in your region and gain their allegiance. There are two ways to do this.

·         Force - You can threaten the mayor to co-operate. This is by far the fastest and least involving method. However it causes a negative effect on the yield and PR. You could hire an NPC supervisor for the village. It will improve the yield to above average but drop the PR even further.

·         Persuade - Winning them over. They would immediately start co-operating but their yield will be very poor. This will improve over time so long as guild presence persist in the area. So basically it means hanging around in the region. In the village would help even more. Doing quests in the region would help even more again! This is a slow process but it will offer the potentially highest yield and once you've hit the happy max very little effort is needed.

Some things to keep in mind. If using Force, threats need to be done every so often or else the yield will drop. If using Persuade, the occasional quests in the area are enough to keep the high yield coming in.

Villages collect their resources locally and every so often they will send a cart off with the surplus goods towards the player city. (Similar to Warrior Kings if you know it)

Also, Villages can revolt, especially if they were happy with their previous liege. This basically turns them into spawn points of rabble and the little yield they generate they will keep. Quelling a revolt involves killing off the instigators and try to kill as little of the rest of the populace as possible.

Note: Both the cart and the local village store are targets for raiders.


I want LOTRO music system included. I can't be more blunt then t hat lol.


/hood for hooded cloaks like in DAoC


.... Anyway, there's more but I needed to get some out of my system.

If you agree or want to ask anything drop me a msg. If nothing else it would be good to know there are kindred spirits out there :P

Concept: 'First!'in a Sandbox

Posted by happyfarts Monday October 10 2011 at 8:23PM
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So let us start off with agreeing on something. It might not be an original idea but almost everyone likes to be “first” at something. If you don’t believe me, just check out the first comments on youtube.
Well, MMORPG players are no exception. Whether first in their skills or in their achievements, we all get a special kick out of being one step ahead of our peers in one way or another. This is an element not to be under-rated! Sadly not everyone can be first, and no one can be first at everything ... but I’m sure that is something we have all learned to live with by now.
With no further ado, let us burn the world maps, trash mini-maps and  pull out a compass. The ready-made maps are a terrible idea! They help kill an element of unknown in the game. Now onto the good stuff!
In my opinion there should be a new item slot added to a player’s inventory, a Map slot. Over here the player will carry his or her map of a region.
There are several ways a player can appropriate a map:
  1.        They can start off by purchasing a blank map and go around exploring. Their map will automatically start to fill up as they explore, but their map will be sketchy. If they want a more detailed map they’ll need to learn cartography. With cartography they will also be able to copy their maps or other people’s
  2.        They can buy a map from a local town, if available.
  3.        They can buy a map from a player cartographer who’s already explored the area
  4.        They can kill and loot another player’s map
Something very important, Cartographers should be able to make annotations on their maps. Like marking resource nodes, mob spawns, player cities, strategic points and whatnot. This would give their maps added value ... of course they could as easily sell you maps with bogus annotations.
The less information the player has ready at hand, the more he has to discover for himself. And this information can become a new form of trade.
Another example how this can be implemented, starter towns can provide players with a basic introduction to herbs which everyone can gather. But then it will be up to herbalists to discover the purpose for their use through some research ability. They can sell this information for a handsome sum to the NPC town or else keep it to the info to his greedy self.
One can argue that eventually their skills will become obsolete. Well I disagree. The game makers can introduce new rare herbs in secret patches and leave them to be discovered. Maps might need to be updated as wild life migrates or player fortifications rise and fall or humanoid mobs expand their territory. Yes I dream big, somebody has to  :)
One Name, One Head, One Kill
The name says it all. I don’t care how badly everybody wants to kill Lord Fatface! Lord Fatface can only die once! Unless he comes back as the living dead ... My point being, specific characters should never respawn ad eternum. There can be plenty of anonymous Goblin chieftains or Demon lords, but once you give a mob a name just make him bloody hard to kill but once dead, STAYS dead!
Nothing ridicules players’ achievement more than leaving the “Dungeon of Terrors” only to find another party trotting in to do the exact same thing!
New Recipes
Recipes should not drop off some random gorilla you killed.
There should three alternatives:
  •          A player crafter uses a research skill at the cost of some selected mats and discovers a recipe based on those mats used. Once discovered he can have his recipe copied and, like the herbalist, sell it out or keep to himself
  •          Basic Recipes can found for sale in different NPC towns
  •          Players can find remote NPC craftsmen who are willing to exchange some of their recipes for a favour
To state clearly, not all recipes that can be researched should be found off NPC craftsmen and vice versa.
There’s probably more I can think up but I’m too tired and I need my sleep, besides this gives you the general gist of it. MMORPG developers need to give more opportunity for players to discover things for themselves. Players want to feel like they are making a difference with what they do.
Guild Wars 2 is taking a good initiative with their dynamic quest system. I’d like to see that in action. Well that’s enough ranting from end for now. Peace out



Concept: Mobs in a Sandbox

Posted by happyfarts Sunday October 9 2011 at 2:41PM
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My first post is about PvE, and it's missing counterpart EvP. You might think I'm veering a bit off my sandbox theme here but frankly I believe that Sandbox elements should be not be limited Player-side, but should also be reflected in the NPCs, from here on referred to as mobs.

As anyone who’s played an MMORPG can tell you, for the most part mobs are little more than a mobile resource node with about as much intelligence as a land mine! This lack of intellectual challenge reduces any PvE business one might have to a mundane task and something no one would engage in for any stretch of time if avoidable.


Function followed by Purpose

Mobs lack a goal. A scope in the game other than wondering around till a Player comes to kill them. For example, a Goblin spawn has multiple functions. 

Firstly, to defend their respawn point from outsiders. This is done via tight defence at home base and patrols around their perimeter. They defend themselves successfully enough their numbers can grow and their patrols will get bigger and spread over a wider area.

Secondly, to feed themselves. When I say eat, I don't mean they actually "eat" but they'll gather supplies at their base in a big pile of goodies which deplete over time which Players can loot. To keep their bellies full the goblins will have to send out hunting or raiding parties. Hunting parties will hunt the local wildlife, gathering meat and skins. Raiding parties will hunt other humanoid mobs or Players in an attempt to skip the harvesting process. Lazy goblins!

Lastly, world domination! Lazy cowardly bums they may be, but goblins have their eyes set on the heights. Depending how successful they are in the previous two functions, they will ultimately form battle parties to make a nuisance of themselves.



Mobs who survive attacks from players or other mobs should skill up from their encounters (within limitations) meaning if enough dumbasses die at a goblin’s hand he will become stronger and more dangerous an opponent!


What you See is what you Get

One of the most tiring elements in PvE is that randomised drops. Why does a wolf not always drop teeth? How long can a toothless wolf survive?! Or why does killing a gorilla drop a magic wand? When I kill something I expect to get what it drops, namely any gear it was wearing and yield meat/skins, if applicable, to skinning.


"Nice Gear. I'll Take it!"

Yes, every true sandbox should have Full Looting. But no, it's not just players who can loot your gear. Mobs should be fully capable of looting player loot. Naturally only humanoid will try loot your corpse and that's only if you have better gear. Now you can normally expect them to almost always steal your gold and nick any other interesting items.


No Radar

Yet another poorly implemented idea is how a mob notices you. Normally it would be that you tripped into his perimeter or attacked him. Well in reality mobs should have AT LEAST 2 senses. Sight & hearing.. Their cone of vision picks up whatever is directly in front of them, while their hearing will have a circular range will pick up the less stealthy. The acuteness of each sense varies between mobs of course.

Ideally I would add a 3rd sense, Smell, which would act similarly to the Sight, but it’s direction and range depend on the wind   :)


That is the general idea anyways. Many people would not welcome this. Mobs that the Player?! That act with co-ordination? That go after resource nodes?! That can skill up?!!

In fact most people would feel like they’re in Jurassic Park after the power cut. Well that’s exactly what I want to see. A more dynamic environment in which players can integrate in. An environment that will never feel static or stale because it is in a constant flux.

PvE would finally become an engaging experience!