Sandbox MMORPGs always sound great, if not downright fantastic, in practice. However, in actual reality some of them end up being fairly limited in their scope, with players spending much of their time ganking or being ganked. Of course this type of gameplay appeals to a lot of players. This is the reason Eve Online, as well as a few others, never have any problems with subscribers or decreasing playerbase.
Whilst all of these games have fairly large player bases, they barely hold a candle to the successful “themepark” games such as Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft. This has driven many a developer/publisher away from investing in the glorious MMORPG subgenre of the sandbox. It’s a shame really, because whilst developers were chasing the World of Warcraft goat, failing to capture it many a time, no one stopped and realized that the pig that is sandbox gaming was standing right next to them. Was that a clumsy enough analogy for you?
With ArcheAge, H1Z1, and Everquest Next, all sandbox games, on the horizon and coming soon to Western audiences, one can’t help but wonder at what managed to make these developers turn their focus to sandbox gaming. But then again, does it really matter why developers are turning their focus to the sandbox genre?
I’ve always found it hard to immerse myself in sandbox games. Whether it be the constant threat of PVP gankers, or just that I prefer a more linear experience in my games, there’s just something about sandbox games which have never resonated with me. I think it’s more of the latter to be honest. If you put me in a game like Final Fanatasy VIII, then I’ll have a blast. You drop me into the sandbox world of GTA V though, and I won’t really know what to do. I’ve never really been one of those people who push games to their limits, missing out on plenty of stuff to do in vast open world games.
I’ve always dreamed of an accessible open-world, sandbox MMORPG. A game where almost anything goes, and where plenty of adventure is to be had. This imaginary game I dreamed of had real time combat as well as a destructible world with towns having to be defended and controlled. I’m also a big fan of usability, and a game being accessible, something which a lot of sandbox MMORPGs aren’t due to their complex nature.
What I’d really like to experience though is a world where gankers can be properly punished, and that there is a system in place whereby crime and punishment can be properly dished out. ArcheAge looks to have systems like this, with players being able to put other players in prison for their deeds. Hopefully such a system will encourage players who don’t like sandboxes due to “griefers”. I always find that in sandbox games, they tend to award players who gank and grief more than players who play by the rules.
Of course ArcheAge also boasts navel combat, which looks simply amazing, as well as farming and house ownership. But I never really cared for those types of things. The ability to have a truly open world free from a whole host of rules which govern what players can and can’t do intrigues me more than most. I’ve always loved games or modes, which see players naturally expand and move through the game world.
Whilst people may scoff at this example, I loved watching how players moved throughout maps in “Team Deathmatch” modes in Call of Duty. The beauty of a team reacting to other enemy players and being given free movement, and not being confined to objectives, always intrigued me. In a sense, that’s what a lot of sandbox games are, free from objectives. That’s not to say that a sandbox MMORPG doesn’t have objectives in it. Most of them have some sort of objective gameplay which players can participate in; it’s just that you really don’t have to if you don’t want to.
If I want to see the whole story in Final Fantasy XIV, I am forced to go through dungeons. Considering the story is one of the larger aspects of Final Fantasy XIV, and one of things which the game focuses on, it’s a bit odd to be forced to do something I may or may not want to participate in. In Sandbox MMORPGs the world, and merely existing, is the core gameplay.
So for fans of the genre they have four, high profile MMORPGs to look forward to. These games look to bring the sandbox genre back in the limelight and will hopefully prove once and for all that the genre is something which can be financially successful. Of course, one of these game, H1Z1, need another game to come first and show the developers how it’s done, but that’s neither here nor there.
Two of these games also come from Korea, a country whose MMO industry is far different from our own. Western gamers traditionally refer to Korea MMOs as “grind fests” due to their limited gameplay and their over reliance on monster grinding to push forward the gameplay. ArcheAge and Black Desert look to rid themselves off of this stereotype, looking to offer amazing worlds and gameplay which is more than a step ahead. Black Desert’s combat gameplay, for example, looks bright, vibrant and incredibly interesting to play.
There are games which fans of the genre can play right now, Eve Online as well a treasure trove of indie sandbox MMOs, however gamers always look to the horizon and in this case what’s over the horizon looks pretty damn sweet.Related: Article, Gameplay, MMORPG, Sandbox