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From Sandbox to Linear and Back

Dan Fortier Posted:
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MMOWTF: From Sandbox to Linear and back.

Weekly MMORPG.com columnist Dan Fortier talks about getting a balanced diet of both freeform sandbox-style games and linear progression games.

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Dan Fortier. The column is called "MMOWTF" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Fotier. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

Raging flames engulfed the huge spacecraft as it dropped through the planet's thick atmosphere forming huge billowing clouds of vapor across the horizon. The huge craft's underside was white hot as it hurled downward locked in a cruel embrace with gravity. Several of the small antennae along the top of the carrier bent and curled up like a twig in a campfire as the ship fell toward one of the two large continents that made up the landmass of this strange world.

The enormous spacecraft struck the ground with a deafening roar as its bulk dug a trench miles long in the earth, shredding acres of woodland with its impact. The ship slowly skidded to a halt on the bank of a large lake with a small island in the middle. Though the outside of the craft was pitted with uncountable broken windows, the craft had only one person aboard. The pilot of the ship slowly opened his eyes as the thick viscous fluid drained from his pod.

After getting cleaned up by one of the few working automated systems still functioning within his wreaked Thanatos, the captain manually opened the hatch leading outside the ship and coughed as a plasma leak vented noxious gas across the flank of the vessel. After a brief search showed no sign of legs beneath the wreckage and since there was no sign of a large group of midgets coming to welcome him, he decided to make the best of his new home.

"So...This is Azaroth eh?" he grinned, "This ought to be a welcome diversion!"

This week's topic was inspired by a gamer associate of mine and his trek between games with two vastly different play styles: Eve Online and World of Warcraft. It brought to mind all the times I was completely fixated on a game, yet still found myself wanting to play something completely different from time to time to break out of the mould and experience something completely different. Just like having something sweet after you've just eaten a bunch of pretzels makes it taste even better, playing a game with a polar opposite play style, can give you a better appreciation for a game which you've become bored with.

Even the most hardcore among us need a release valve of sorts to avoid getting burnt out. In this case, my friend (We'll call him Harold), was a major player in a rather large Alliance in Eve for over two years. His experience with other MMOs was limited since he was not interested in playing a game with grind and tedious time-sinks. Several others in the circle of people we all know play WoW across a wide variety of servers and we all share our different stories in all the different games we play. Harold decided that he should branch out and try something different while keeping his account on cruise control. He is enjoying his MMO vacation in Azaroth as we speak for a few key reasons:

  • While WoW is based on a much more linear system of advancement, he likes being able to set clear goals for his progression and can plan out his character development at his own pace.
  • The lack of a strong death penalty allows him to jump into PvP with much more gusto than before without fear of losing all his hard earned gear.
  • The class based system makes it simple to design a toon to be great at a few things early on rather than needing a whole set of skills trained in order to focus his character's skills.
  • He can focus on being a player and take a break from having to run the affairs of his Corp like it was a second job.

While I'm definitely not a fan of the Warcraft style, I'm able to see the merits of some their systems when compared to some the more harsh consequences of a more freeform game. When you put a game into its true context of a fun hobby instead of another rabid obsession to a narrow viewpoint, you can begin to spread your roots a little deeper. There's nothing wrong with broadening your horizons, even if it's only for a breather from your main addiction.

I hope my little story enlightened or annoyed you, I'll make an effort next week to put down the tambourine and lighter and dig myself a more gritty hole. In the meantime you can fill us in on your views on the subject. As always check my Blog for any other crap that comes to mind during the week. Auf Wiedersehen!


Dan Fortier