Last week I wrote about my hopes for New World and how, as a sandbox title, it could offer a new lease of life for the genre. One particular point that I wanted to discuss in greater depth was the prospect of fully open, player versus player looting. I know many might instantly shiver at the thought but for a sandbox to truly be, well, a sandbox, it surely has to have it.
The likes of No Mans Sky, Skyrim, Minecraft and Day Z all fall within the category of a sandbox title. All however lack the complete package of offering everything in terms scope. For example, Day Z brings with it a near complete focus on Player versus Player, while Skyrim is largely lead by a story and non-player characters. There are few sandbox MMO’s that incorporate all elements - including that of full player versus player looting - and those that do are typically niche.
Part of the problem surrounding full player looting and its incorporation into MMO’s is that, typically, players spend a great deal of time securing items of value. To then lose them as a result of being “ganked” can be hard to stomach and potentially represents a loss of many hundreds of hours of game time. While I sympathize, such animosity towards looting is often as a result of the game and its infrastructure failing to accommodate such an approach. Full loot PvP wouldn’t work in say, Guild Wars 2, because so much emphasis is placed on itemization and obtaining the best gear possible (that also happens to be heavily gated). In contrast, it worked in Neocron because powerful items were readily traded and easily obtained. Death was certainly punishing, but you could comfortably be back on your feet within several hours.
In all the full loot PvP games I’ve played, they’ve often been soaked in a much greater atmosphere than any MMO. There’s genuine fear of the unknown, a trepidation to exploring and a huge emphasis on fostering genuine friendships (you never truly know who you can trust). When combined with sandbox systems, such as player housing and the need to physically transport goods when trading, there’s a great deal of scope for genuine depth.
One of my favorite memories is from Ultimate Online and while exploring the wild I encountered a house deep in the woods. Finding the door unlocked, I decided to help myself to many of the items inside only to find, after rooting around upstairs, that when heading for the exit the owner was waiting for me. It was an awkward, frightening, hilarious moment and saw me quickly run up to the roof before his friends arrived. Death swiftly followed and a valuable lesson learned.
This level of human to human interaction is rarely encountered in the genre. While there’s an abundance of player versus player titles, it’s sanitized and heavily regimented. People inevitably want fair fights and while understandable, it’s unquestionably at odds with what a sandbox title inherently is.
For a sandbox to be truly effective, it needs to allow players to play as they see fit with the result of that being an unfair landscape. Like in real life, there will always be people smarter, richer or better looking than you (call it fancy armor in an MMO) and the same should apply in any sandbox title. With many developers constantly attempting to create a level playing field so as to ensure players don’t feel left behind, they further cut the potential depth an MMO affords.
Full loot PvP is only one part of the makeup surrounding a sandbox title but I would argue one of the most important. The likes of Eve Online or Day Z have incredible organic stories that are anchored by its players and their ability to fight one another. Such acts just aren’t possible in conventional MMO’s - irrespective of the game mode they thrust you into - because there’s no room for treachery, manipulation, subterfuge or sabotage.
I fully understand if you’re the type of player that simply likes to log in, get on, and accomplish something without risk, but if you’re that sort of player, a full sandbox experience likely isn’t for you anyway. Chopping away parts of a sandbox game in order to ensure it’s exactly to your liking is missing the point: you’re effectively only seeking an MMO with more depth, as opposed to a total package offering players complete freedom.
The likes of New World has the opportunity to carve out something special in a landscape that’s almost entirely devoid of commercial sandbox MMO’s. As to whether or not Amazon Gaming Studios are brave enough to adopt full loot PvP remains to be seen. I certainly hope they do because if they build the game with it in mind, irrespective of what you like to do in an MMO, it shouldn’t stop you from having fun; Eve Online is a testament to that.
What are your thoughts on full loot PvP? Do you avoid any game with it in? Do you think it’s a must-have feature for a sandbox game? Would you like to see New World offer it? Why do you think large swathes of players dislike it? Let me know.