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Tastes Gamey

This blog is about stuff. Sometimes that stuff has to do with MMORPGs.

Author: neschria

Too many MMORPGs, Not Enough Time; Sandboxland ; And Ralutan Dies Some More...

Posted by neschria Monday October 22 2007 at 12:17PM
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I am really and truly torn. I've been enjoying my EQ1 experience, despite my lack of real progress, but I've also been a little side-tracked by silly, cute FIM games-- the sort that would send Dan Fortier right over the edge into a mad, foaming-at-the-mouth murder spree. And I've been enjoying being sidetracked nearly as much as I've enjoyed the game that I am actually paying for. I find that mildly disturbing. 

Does anyone else almost feel obligated to play a game after they've paid a monthly fee, or is it just me? It might just be me. I am notoriously cheap. I hop in and out of free games without a second thought, but I've made a monetary commitment to EQ1 for the month, so I feel like it should get priority, whether I am enjoying it or not.

But it is almost November, and EQ2's new expansion, Rise of Kunark, is looking very tempting. And so does the upcoming update for Lineage 2, another game that I have enjoyed in the past. (Both feature new races-- I will 'fess up right now: I am a total sucker for new races or classes in an expansion/update.)  Should I stick in EQ1? Should I go back to EQ2 or L2? I also have some thought in the back of my mind that maybe I should try WoW again, or move on to LoTRO. Or maybe I should just give up paying for games while I am caught up in all the NaNoWriMo-Holiday-Starting-A-Business activity that is likely to consume my every waking moment between November 1 and January 2.

 I certainly can't play every game that looks like fun at the moment. There just aren't enough hours in the day. I mean, unless I want to give up eating, sleeping, and bathing. I might be a pathetic RPG nerd, but I am a clean, well-rested, well-fed and even occasionally exercised, pathetic RPG nerd.

And then, of course, 2008 rolls around, and there will be even more games to choose from. How unfair is that?!


Like many of the users of this site, I played UO back in the day, and SWG, too, before the dreaded NGE, and I thought Ryzom was a fun game, though I didn't actually subscribe to it. These are the sorts of games that people like to call "sandboxes". There seems to be some differing opinion on exactly what a "sandbox" is, but it may be fair to say that it is, broadly, a game that has skills you can choose to raise, allowing you to mix and match, rather than straight up classes and levels, and it might also include ways to interact with your environment and community in ways other than straight up grouping and killing. You might be able to have a house and run a shop, for instance, or spend your game time making armor for your friends. Suffice to say, it is a game that lets you choose your way in the world, rather than having a linear progression of levels, gear, and encounters as the main objectives. That's the sort of broad definition I am going to use here.

Like many other users of this site, I am also an armchair game designer. Luckily, I have a close friend who doesn't mind discussing MMORPG design with me as long as I am willing to discuss gardening and cats with her. Out of our discussion one day, we came up with an idea for a game that she and I could both play, if it existed.

Yeah. I know. Everyone has a game design idea. But not every hypothetical game design comes out of the collaboration of two housewives chatting while they are each doing laundry one day. ;)

Our hypothetical game (the "Sandboxland" in the title of this blog) takes place in a world where there are cities, nearby countryside, and some harsh, brutal wildlands further out. So far... so common. We agreed on having everyone start with the same stats, which change depending on how you use them. We thought that it would be good to have everyone either choose or be assigned to a "family", with certain starting attributes, factions, quests, chat channels, etc, being specific to that family. There would be plenty of time to go off to join other organizations later.

My friend would like to (surprise, surprise) have a garden and livestock. She'd rather stay close to town and tend her farm and make items, potions, dyes, foods, etc, with the products of her farming. And then she'd take them to the town square and set up a booth to sell and chat. I, of course, don't want to be encumbered with a house and all the trappings thereof. Give me a universal bank and a sword, and I'm off to fend off the goblin menace. (Or whatever is menacing the farmers and merchants of the world. "Goblins" means any given hostile creature, in this case.) 

We thought that player made cities, exerting their own civilizing influence out in the harsh wilds, would be a good thing. She was in favor of permadeath. I was...*ahem*... less enthusiastic about that, being the sort most likely to end up dead from a bad case of axe-in-skull.

We thought it would be great if there was some sort of religion that actually meant something. Random visitations from the gods, prayers that are answered once in a while, some benefit from actually visting and/or contributing to the local temple. (This was probably, in the end, the most important feature we both wanted.) We discussed language possibilities, but came to the conclusion it would just be a random barrier to communication, rather than an actual feature.

We both agreed, in the end,  that the most important thing was building a detailed and interesting virtual world and letting people do whatever they want within that environment. What about storylines? Everyone has one, in the end... We thought perhaps we'd have a backstory and immediate conflicts for people to deal with (taking land from the aforementioned goblin menace, figuring out where all the goblins keep coming from, etc.) with new conflicts arising over time, plus intercity politics and PvP... But neither of us was crazy about participating in a canned storyline.

Despite the sound of it, this isn't actually meant to be a standard Tolkienesque fantasy setting. No elves, no dwarves, no wizards throwing fireballs-- just humans, some imaginary gods, and a little low magic here and there, set in a strange world with some hostile influence that has to be discovered and overcome... until the next hostile influence comes along. I think, in the end, our Sandboxland would be a game of exploring, socializing, and staking out a claim in a dark, uncharted world.  

Despite all the talk about sandboxes and their relative merits and/or shortcomings, the other sort of game seems to be the favored format right now. UO is getting quite old, SWG has changed, and Ryzom is going under (again). I don't think this is a failure of the free-and-open game idea. I think we just haven't seen a polished and refined sandbox yet. It is a sub-genre still waiting for its WoW.


I should go to guild lobby and summon Ralutan's corpses in the hopes of getting a rez or two and recovering some lost experience. I've died too much lately, generally due to my own stupidity or the failure of Root to take hold. I haven't been summoning corpses. I've been decaying them after looting (rather than leaving poor Ralutan's corpse lying around on the ground as a monument to his untimely demise).

And then I should just go back to Crescent Reach and Blightfire Moors, where I was doing quite well before I got the urge to go play elsewhere. I've got a ton of quests in my log for Blightfire I could be working on, anyway, and I could use the armor if I can manage to scare up the silk and the patterns.

I wish my husband would come play with me. I know I get on his nerves a little, but he usually plays a mage, so I miss his pet... Ummm... And his sparkling conversation and sharp wit.Yeah. That's right. I miss his wit. That's what I'll say next time I bug him to come play. That might work better than "I need your dps so I can level faster before the end of the month."

ABRaquel writes:

I do agree with you, there are too many games out there to choose from and I'm a sucker for new races, the thought of starting fresh with a new race is always appealing to me.

I've decided to give L2 a try when they release the expansion, since EQ2 would force me to buy an expansion for X amount of dollars.

Mon Oct 22 2007 3:18PM Report
Eetherean writes:

you forgot to mention EVE in the sandbox category. =D


but i agree with the ideas, it would really be fun.

Mon Oct 22 2007 6:15PM Report
ArcheusCross writes:

"I don't think this is a failure of the free-and-open game idea. I think we just haven't seen a polished and refined sandbox yet. It is a sub-genre still waiting for its WoW."

I don't think theres a better statement on this site. People really have no clue how much potential a well thought out sandbox could have. I really hope soon that a game developer out there makes a sandbox with WoW like success.

I too have played uo and swg in their days of glory. SWG pre-cu was the best sandbox i had ever tried. It got so close...

In any case.. very good blog :)


Tue Oct 23 2007 6:08AM Report
badgerbadger writes:

 Nesch; as always; your blogs are entertaining beyond measure.. then i remebered you're an aspiring writer and quit being surprised.

 Your "brainstorm" MMo sounded awesome - if you could convince anyone in "power" $ - to invest any in an idea thats NOt a carbon copy of whats proven successful ;we may be right in1

 Count me in as a beta-tester!

 Also;if you have a moment and give a dead bunnies raggedly hide; check out my somewhat similar blog.

 Finally - as to permadeath; I think i said this already; but as you suffer from alt-itis; I don't think permadeath would bother the kind of player you SOUND like ytou are as much - you would just say: "YAY i get to try out my halfling barbarian were-bunny build "or some such.

  Just dont bite any of MY alts ok?

Tue Oct 30 2007 4:14AM Report
neschria writes:

On the other hand, if I'd played a character a while and enjoyed her (or his) story development, I might get attached to the character and then feel sad if she/he permadied. It's a matter of whether a character is a build or player on the game-stage-- whether it is a piece on a chessboard or an imaginary person you've gotten to know... Then again, permadeath could be part of the ongoing drama, if it were done right... (Ah, now the hamsters in my head are waking up and starting to turn the wheels again.)

Tue Oct 30 2007 2:56PM Report
badgerbadger writes:

 Glad to have woken the hamsters! just watch out for your rodent slaying alter-ego ...

 Well.. almost all PnP roleplaying games handle permadeath - the risk is part of the trade; and the stakes are what make the gamble.

Elsewhere i think I posted on this (?) forum about a PnP game where as the characters died we played their next generation - our game was involved enough that most had wives; children; etc...

  Most MMO's simply don't have that much a storyline; which i think both this and your Ralutan posts address.. and hopefully what would be addressed if your game concept were to be realized (as you put it; if the charcater's death - or anything else - was included in the drama... we both know the extent of most games drama is a guy with an exclaimation point (or whatever) over his head).

Tue Oct 30 2007 9:12PM Report
badgerbadger writes:

a ps:

on re-reading this i wanted to point out the Tolkien wizards dont so much throw fireballs and in fact are(sort of) an ancient servitor race - why they arent playable in LOTR..

 Anyway; sorry I digress- wanted to say as a PS i read a post by a fellow Hexxity that said how characters instead of an endless "endgame" could have a retirement quest(s) that bestows a better situation for what one can play next 9this reminded me of your thoughts on permadeath and mine on player status) Cheers and Kudos!

Wed Oct 31 2007 10:57AM Report
neschria writes:

Re: wizards: You're right about that. I should have said "paperback novel fantasy setting".

Mon Dec 17 2007 6:48PM Report writes:
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