The Sandbox MMO

A lot has been made about how much we’re pushing this concept of “Sandbox” mmos being the future. Not a lot has been said about what that means.

To date most MMOs have been what I would call “content driven” mmos. What that specifically means is we have made things for the players to explicitly do either by themselves or as a group. This can come in a lot of forms including things like Dungeons, expansion packs, quests… or things as simple as a large area with wandering monsters in it that drop loot from some kind of fixed table. There have been a lot of innovations over the years.. things like Battlegrounds, or public quests… but by and large this idea of the MMO company making stuff for the players to  do has become the defacto.

My belief is simple – the content driven model is not where we should be aiming as an industry. Why? It’s unsustainable. When we first began making these kinds of games 18 years ago (I mean no disrespect to the Muds and other games out before Everquest) there was nothing to compare our games to. Players were so excited about being able to be a part of these virtual worlds that just about any content was exciting. Over the years the quality has really been steadily rising to the point where we have some brilliant narrative and exciting storylines in many MMOs today. We still thrill at completing a quest to kill the dragon or save some poor townsperson who was unlucky enough to get kidnapped by orcs. The real issue is a simple one – our ability to consume that content as players has gotten to the point that most content is done by the players nearly immediately after it’s released. It’s also laid out for all to see on any number of websites that contain complete spoilers up to and including the loot drop percentages.

I won’t argue why I think that part sucks. It’s too subjective. The thing that is tough as a game maker is that players are going through the content we make so much faster then we can make it that we’re constantly in a state where our players are looking for stuff to do.

A great example of this happened with SWTOR. I happen to think it’s a very well done game and the team at Bioware should be proud. However people that played the game went through the content so quickly that they became bored a whole lot sooner than the developers wanted them to.

This is a problem we all face. We all as game makers have to deal with the fact that we’re not just competing the content of WoW at launch. We’re dealing with 9 years of it. That’s a very daunting task and it makes the genre unapproachable if people try and fight that fight. Don’t get me wrong.. someone with deep pockets can still pull it off. TESO looks like it’s going to follow the content model and it’s going to have a lot of players. I’m willing to bet that it hits the same problem that  SWTOR did. Just not enough to do.

So if that’s the problem what’s the solution?

In my opinion the solution is focusing a lot more on letting players make and be content for each other. Battlegrounds are an excellent example of an Evergreen style of content where it’s the players themselves that actually create the content. Auction houses are another example. So are things like storytelling tools in SWG.. or the brilliant music system in LOTRO. Building systems into the games that let the players interact with each other in new and unique ways gives us the ability to watch as the players do stuff we never anticipated. We’ll see a lot more creativity in action if the players are at the center of it. Imagine an MMORPG of a massive city.. and the Rogue’s guild is entirely run by players. Where the city has an entire political system that is populated by players who were elected by the playerbase.

There’s a great example of this today with Eve Online. It’s a brilliantly executed system where the players are pretty much in charge of the entire game. Sure there is a lot of content for players to do, but anything that’s important in the game is done by the players. This is a shining example of how this kind of system can thrive.

Our belief at SOE is that it’s smarter to head in this direction now rather than waiting. We want to innovate and let players be a part of everything we do including make the game in the first place. We’re going to take the idea of sandbox gaming and we’re putting it at the core of everything we’re doing. We’ll obviously still be making awesome stuff for players to do, but we’re going to aim very high in terms of letting players be a part of the game systems. The more emergent sandbox style content we can make the less predictable the experience will be.


127 thoughts on “The Sandbox MMO

  1. Pingback: Enter Sandbox – Take My Hand, We’re Off To Never Never Land » Ciaran Laval

  2. If you can deliver a Sandbox MMO that allows player freedom and creativity to burst forth, yet still successfully control the excesses that this freedom brings, you’ll make a genre-defining game.

    But it’s a tough ask, freedom and control in these games are diametrically opposed to each other, so it’s a knife-edge see-saw balance that has to be managed carefully, you can’t just add sandbox features to a themepark, nor visa versa, the whole has to be dealt with holistically, with such balance a keystone of the games design, if it is not then you get to play the “oh god how do I get this damn thing balanced” from day one to day final of the games lifetime, something I’m sure none of the team would want :P Good Luck John, and thank you, this post has had me grinning from ear to ear all day, I thought the dream was dead :P

  3. One more thing I forgot, I wanted to ask you a question, as I’m Interested in your opinion.

    Do you think, after all this time, that Bartle’s seminal work in the area is still valid? (i.e Hearts Clubs, Spades, Diamonds)

    Do you think a game can accommodate and keep all groups happy in one game, or do separate titles need to deliver content tailored for each “type”?

  4. I left EQ after 3+ years to try Eve just because I saw CCP doing many things in better ways than I saw EQ doing. I wanted to see if I liked it better. After 3 years of play, I ended up believing that EVE is a wonderful game; but that it had its’ serious drawbacks, too. It is like CCP deliberately coded or refused to modify silly code that allowed people free reign to grief, so that their game could be seen as a sandbox where you could choose to grief within the structure of virtual anarchy just so they had some unique angle to market.

    Besides the need to be “on call” 24 hours a day to be a pilot asset to your alliance, here are some that really get me that I can think of now off the top of my head:

    1. AFK cloakers shutting down industrial asteroid mining ops and deadspace missions. Imbalanced as cloaking devices and results from mining go. Greater results from mining might be able to accomodate the required gunships required to secure such operations.

    2. “Stealable” undockable BIG EXPENSIVE ships; usually because of underhanded meta-game espionage. Does CCP really believe that the computer experts of the EVE empires would not develop security systems to allow only the correct pilot to enter the cockpit of his rig? Any espionage activities should be coded into the game, not just because of meta-gaming and RL social engineering. Hacking the security system of a ship should be part of the game; whether it has a pilot or not. Why wouldn’t huge alliances be able to build anchorable behemoth space docks for the security of the motherships and titans and to allow the game to give players another good valid target to hit to see if they can steal ships within the rules of the game.

    3. The smallest ships and the greenest of pilots in the game by mass and size and skills are able to knock the biggest ships and best pilots in the game off their warp trajectories to keep them from getting away because there are no realistic collision mechanics built into the game. Any frigate bumping a freighter should go splat, not tie down the freighter long enough for the cavalry to arrive.

    4. lots of players that play the meta-espionage game get blackballed (in the meta-game) by alliances and corps sometimes merely by inspecting the wallet history of players (as if people’s financial records would/should be open for all to see).. If the espionage stuff was coded, a character with high skills could assume identities and do things undetected that only people willing to “burn” an account can accomplish today in the meta-game.

    My point is, it sounds to me like EVE is one model you plan to use for aspects of your future sandbox games, but I think you need to be very careful about how you implement those aspects..

    I can easily see the progression from planet to space to be a really cool storyline for one of these next-gen MMOs – especially if you can craft and build and fly your own spaceship models and sell the systems or skins to others. For some reason, a spacefaring castle like an EVE mothership or Titan seems to be the ultimate thing I could choose to design,craft, build and fly around. Rather than others coming to see my stuff, I “visit” them without an invitation and show them what my stuff can do, lol.

  5. Quoting John: “In my opinion the solution is focusing a lot more on letting players make and be content for each other.”

    I agree 100%. I am a long time Game Master and it has always been the promise of a Game that would let me actually be a GM supported by System mechanics that has kept me hopping from MMO to MMO (and (disappointment after disappointment). The direction you are taking with Landmark is the most promising I have seen.

    However, I would like to add a Caveat :) There is a big difference between Payers making Content and Players as Content. I will make hours upon hours of content if you give me the tools to do so, but I am only interested in Being Content on my own terms. I’m just asking that you remember that there are people like me when you design games. Don’t conflate the types of player content accidentally. Keep the differences in mind.

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  8. I dont know if this has been said or not. I have played Eve online and i have enjoyed it, it is a great sandbox game. one think that disturbed me tho is the fact that the game is run over by psychopaths, scammers, grieffers, dillusional people who thrive off of other peoples misery. and the worst of it is that CCP allows it and supports it. This blog has made me skeptical about EQN. will you have a one server that is over run by these people or will you have multitude of servers with different rule sets, including servers for, well simple word is Carebears.

    • I just got the Landmark, and It looks a lot like EQOA was, The music was great reminded me of my old game, If EQ Next is as big a game world as EQOA, and sandbox, I think you may have already made my game. Thanks Smed!

  9. You had a sandbox mmo. Remember SWG? That was it. You and your company did everything they could to change it into a WOW clone. “The CU is here to stay.” Remember saying that? We do.

    • “You had a sandbox mmo. Remember SWG? That was it. You and your company did everything they could to change it into a WOW clone. “The CU is here to stay.” Remember saying that? We do.”

      Yes, we do.

    • i think swg was ahead of it’s time and because of that, SOE didnt’t earn enough to keep it alive at the pre-CU-state, so they had to shift it into the WOW-direction. i totally understand why people who liked swg were pissed, but on the other hand i understand, why SOE had to pull off this move. there is really no need to keep the smedley/soe-hate alive until today.

      • I’m sorry but what SOE did to Star Wars Galaxies was unforgivable. The lack of communication between SOE and the player base did NOT help at all.

        What SOE with the release of the “NGE” is seen in the gaming industry as “what NOT to do” and is still mentioned by the industry so why should us players keep quiet?

        We had player driven events in SWG well before the NGE. Even SOE had an appointed CSR/Dev who used to attend these event in the guise of an iconic NPC.

        SOE got rid of that position and said it wasn’t needed.

        and Cosmo… if SWG was so ahead of it’s time it couldn’t generate enough money to keep it going… how the hell is Eve-Online still with us!!!!

        They were less than a year apart… if you count that SWG wasn’t even finished at release in May/June 2003 then it was even closer.

        I beta tested both SWG and EvE.

        Both had the potential to still be around today. The difference was the driving force behind the game and SOE are far too corporate to run something like that with long term goals. They want short lived, high revenue, high profit products.

        CCP have had a few bumps on the way but at least they listen.

        SOE should stay well away from MMOs.

      • You say all that but swg closed because another game with star wars name was coming out. I was a fan of the original but soe kept it running many years after their failure which alienates the original fans.
        There is also the long term success that everquest 1/2 have enjoyed. While not hugely populated they are by no means failures.

    • ‘You had a sandbox mmo. Remember SWG? That was it. You and your company did everything they could to change it into a WOW clone. “The CU is here to stay.” Remember saying that? We do.’

      Amen to this. Talk about taking a player driven sandbox and making it “content driven”…

    • SWG…The only way that we could ever even half-forgive Smed for the NGE is to have a new sandbox MMO with similar game systems…Star Wars would be ideal, but probably impossible to pull off at SOE with Disney and SWTOR as they are right now.

  10. Let point out ALL of the flaws in your reasoning.
    First of all, most modern studios have produce and continue to produce mediocre content at best.
    Based on this alone, the content model has a long life span unless all studios actually try and succeed at making every game flawless. Studios simply don’t have the intelligence, and leader, and freedom they require to make game epic hits. It’s akin to Microsoft; that horrible studio driven by idiots thereby reducing all the programmer talent to scraps. A studio first and foremost requires a mastermind like myself in order to produce a superb content model game. You have inconsiderate and foolish studios such as crytek whom says graphics are 3/4 of the game; they should be shot.

    In essence every studio has the same problem; they lack any vision whatever or possess a flawed vision and are unable to synchronize talent in such a way to produce a game without critical flaw. That’s why 95% of modern games I rate as failures. The person with the vision is the mastermind. For instance, I know I could create a hack and slash game that would have gamers drool. Much better than the original diablo which was quite good, diablo II and the joke that is called torchlight. I would say Skyrim succeeds at giving sufficient content especially with mods, but would rate their delivery 6/10, and the content itself 3/10 due to repetition and lack of intelligence or sense that the world is alive.

    “So if that’s the problem what’s the solution?

    In my opinion the solution is focusing a lot more on letting players make and be content for each other.”

    Right, let’s increase corporate profitability by cheaping out to the max on quest and single player experience and letting players do it themselves. Let’s save money on the console platform by not allowing local coop. That attitude, a horrible one, the same horrible attitude articulated by Crytek and other developers who fail to produce good content. The first crysis was great, every after it absolute garbage; I wonder why. Greed, and cheap and lazy folks. Gamers appetite can’t be met because the devs either lack passion or cannot fully express it and or don’t have a mastermind to lead them.

    You do have a point and good example with Eve Online however.

    “Our belief at SOE is that it’s smarter to head in this direction now rather than waiting. We want to innovate and let players be a part of everything we do including make the game in the first place.”

    Then simply enable great mod kits, lazy dev.


    • By all means please tell how you would fix mmos. Even a little bit would be enlightening I’m sure. Anyone can preach that they think they can make a better game, but it means nothing until u can at least describe how, or make your vision come to life to prove it.

      • Information is power, I don’t work for free.
        If you don’t know intelligence when you see it, you are at loss.
        Very few could have and would have come up with what I said previously; you stand corrected.

      • There are dozens of items that I could list, I’ll share the least creative ones.
        For starters, gamers love to be surprised. In fact, on this basis alone if every time a player resume his game surprises awaited him, this alone would buy love and royalty from gamers.
        But how do you do that, it seems unfathomable. Again I can’t give you the complete answer, but I can tell you it relates to Artificial Intelligence on an NPC level (not globally from the game engine) because surprises are more often communicated via persons or NPCs and not the world itself. So rather then making the world alive, a more daunting task, the goal is to create living thinking NPCs which can create a story for you, surprise the gamer… etc..

  11. Maybe you should have listened to the SWG palyers a couple of years ago. We told you over and over and over again moving away from the Sandbox was a bad idea.

    • The problem was though, WOW came out as was making money hand over fist, and had such fast growing numbers, that everyone else wanted a piece of that. from a business standpoint, someone felt that they had to change to keep up. unfortunately, the way they did so was terrible.

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  13. I almost completely disagree with almost every post here in their assessment of EVE and Smed’s reference to the game and its gameplay. In fact I think some of your complaints about the way people conduct themselves in EVE are a direct result of the type of freedom and creative liberty (for the player) SOE is trying to make mainstream. Admittedly, because of the mechanics and the mood of the universe there are more griefers in EVE especially in the areas that are meant to be ‘safe’. However, you’re letting the mechanics and CCP’s attitude toward the game cloud the overall vision. Allow me to give an example that will better explain.

    Most would consider the ultimate culmination of griefing in EVE (and possibly in any man-created universe) to be a completely player created, funded, and executed event by the name of Hulkageddon. An event complete with huge prizes, in-game and non-gameplay related goals, stat tracking for all involved and several other community-building functions. To my knowledge the largest of these events generated over 1.5 trillion worth of in-game currency in damages, (not including whatever funds the effected players recovered from insurance) that’s roughly 51,150 dollars (using PLEX conversion at current prices), and relieving people of over 2000 ships in the course of about 9 days.

    For those who have no idea what I am talking about the Hulk is a high level industrial mining ship worth 205 million in in-game currency (or about 7$ using PLEX conversion at current prices). Hulkageddon is/was a very large scale mass extermination of people using these and other industrial ships in mostly areas usually considered ‘safe’ by the users. These areas are usually considered ‘safe’ because attacking someone in these areas means being destroyed with no hope of escape. The catch, your own demise comes with a short time delay. This time delay is the intentional loophole CCP built into the game to give people a choice i.e. if it is worth it to you to do so and you can kill it before your ship is, in-turn, destroyed then, you are free to do so. There are other penalties to the aggressor and the victim(s) and others has/have the opportunity to defend him/herself if they are capable but, I won’t go into all that. This event exists entirely because of the mechanic that creates that simple choice. Again an event whose prizes are decided, funded, tracked and awarded by the players organizing the event based upon several criteria and the entire event is organized and executed by players with no help or interference from the game developers.

    Now, I understand this is an extreme example and that this event is centered around griefing, something that is fought tooth and nail by most devs/community managers and generally looked at as a detriment to the member-base as a whole. But, if you can look past all that and try to appreciate the scope of the event and what that could translate to in a more mainstream environment with different mechanics and different goals, you will realize that this event involved thousands of individual players the majority of whom had no reason to play together before or no tangible goal whether playing together or by themselves. That it changed the landscape of (almost) the entire game for those 9 days and months after as the ripples of it influenced markets and trade across EVE due to the simultaneous loss of supply and spike of demand. That a sense of community sprung to life where before there was nothing and all of it being completely player-generated with the devs doing nothing more than providing the players with a simple choice instead of trying to decide what’s best for them. To me that is the essence of what a true sandbox is all about and what SOE is gearing their games toward. I find it almost impossible to see that as a bad thing.

    • Hulkageddon is a prime example of a player driven event. Having seen both sides of EvE as part of a mining corp/alliance and also as member of a pirate alliance I can only conclude that the people who moan about losing their mining ships aren’t playing the game as intended.

      If you choose to mine regardless of being in high-sec space then the idea is to sit and watch the pretty lasers firing at those veldspar asteroids until your eyes go funny.

      MMOs aren’t intended for you to set it going then p1ss off to the corner shop. If you go AFK then as far as most people are concerned you deserve to lose your ship.

      If you were at the keyboard maybe seeing 15 bright red coloured players/15 thrashers on d-scan jump into local would give you a bit of a warning to align and warp off.

      Bloody carebears moan more than goonswarm

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  15. Sir, I am PROFOUNDLY happy to read this blog! It feels like “yes this is what I always wanted MMOs to be and to become!”

    Being part of the Landmark Alpha at the moment, I am very, very happy to see that SOE talks so open with us, with 100% transparency, no PR bla bla at all, but honest and positive connection to the fans and community. I support this way of making MMOs and this idea you elaborate 100!

    Thanks. It really made me, a SWG veteran, very happy to read!

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  17. Good post, thanks Smed, couldn’t agree more. So when are you guys announcing the new push in sandbox territory for SOE with the revival of SWG, as you hinted to on Reddit? ;) And that it’s the pré-party version with updated graphics and re-written network layer increasing performance ;) ;)

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  19. I am a 60 year old female gamer. I started playing games with my sons. Parents have to keep an eye on what the kids are doing! I played SWG from launch until it shut down. Please don’t just tease and taunt the loyal and hurting SWG fan base that still exists. Either make a game we can really come home to or let it go for good. If you do get that game up and running get your mom to play!

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  21. If SWG were to be re-released in an updated version of pre-NGE I would definitely go back. 33 professions with a skill matrix was excellent. NGE was a complete mistake alienating years of dedicated players.

    One of the main problems with SWG was the database they used and the non-instanced housing. Yes the fact you could run into a house and see all the amazing layouts people spent time to create.

    The problem was that the database couldn’t handle the amount. EVERY SINGLE ITEM was always loaded from EVERY SINGLE STRUCTURE on the planet.

    They need to have updated DX11 graphics (or whatever is next gen), a far better network performance than previous, an engine that can run well when there are more than 30 people in same area. The ability to run the FPS at whatever your PC can handle would be nice too rather than have it blocked at 30 (and later 60).

    I still do not trust SOE. This little nibble of hope for us pre-NGE SWG fans is great. I’m willing to be if it does appear it will be half finished or a console port or some idiotic idea to try rinse out the last few extra purchases from players.

  22. I for one am happy to hear this stance from somebody in Smed’s position. Me, a person who was just as pissed as anybody when SWG fell apart. I’m excited to see where this realization leads in the next few years. It’s time to look forward instead of back.

    I do have some concerns about how future sandboxes may be implemented but most of these have to do with under the hood mechanics, the appearance of the game (natural, motion captured animations), pacing, and social stuff. Take social for example… having a huge array of emotes, socials, moods, and animations that triggered based on your chats like SWG did was amazing. Those emotes made conversations so much more personal. I’ve never played another game where players actually used spatial chat like we did in SWG and I believe it is because of the way chat worked in the game.

    I think if Smed’s team can deliver on the *concepts* that we loved about SWG they could win big.

  23. Smed, are you seriously going to claim that the problem with content is that people go through it too fast? Did it ever occur to you that it is because you started catering entirely to the casual player? What did you expect would happen when you broadcast the quest locations, make leveling fast, and the content easy? I really am a bit confused how it didn’t occur to you that the problem was not “content driven” development, but your implementation of that development.

    Some of us remember the opening of EQ and we remember the average player was barely at level cap before new content came out (usually most were around their early 40s). Sure, some hit it a few months earlier, but then the locusts were an extremely small percentage of the player base and you handled them fine by creating brutal raid content that kept them busy for months.

    So I think you are being a bit dishonest concerning the issue of “content driven” MMOs and I think the real problem is that you as well as the rest of the MMO companies out there have been desperately trying to capture WoWs success in the market. You have chased it so much that as WoW has slowly destroyed their own systems attempting to cater to the widest possible audience, so have you by making content extremely easy that the average player can consume it within only a few weeks of play.

    No sir, the problem is not “content driven” MMOs, it is designing entertainment gimmicks rather than focusing on solid game play.

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  25. “Imagine an MMORPG of a massive city.. and the Rogue’s guild is entirely run by players. Where the city has an entire political system that is populated by players who were elected by the playerbase.”

    Smed, I’m not so sure your idea of a ‘Lord of the flies’ type MMO is viable. There’s still plenty of unfriendly people out here in the real world. What happens when that player run Rogue’s guild decides black people aren’t welcome? Too unlikely? We’ve come too far for that kind of racism? Ok, let’s go with something that could be thought of taking the ‘high road’… How about the Rogue’s guild officers look up sexual predator lists and somehow (facebook, etc) find out one of their members is on that list and they kick him out. No word gets out, it’s just kept among the guild officers, you, SOE, and the general public never find out. I mean he’s a bad guy, right, a sexual predator? So that Rogue’s guild is doing the ‘right’ thing… aren’t they?

    What happens when that player-driven content, that dynamic in-game political system becomes despotic and not just in-game? We’re already seeing the social media spectrum turning into a court of popular opinion. Add in all the drama that comes along with an MMO, especially a highly contentious PvP MMO like EVE and suddenly you’re not publishing EverQuest Next, you’re publishing EverQuest Salem.

    And for the record, don’t give me that marketing department spiel about you’ll be diligent on this front and stop any form of harassment before it gets out of hand, because that is nonsense. EVE hasn’t been able to, and it’s becoming an epidemic on social media, how could you possibly do anything to stem the tide when your customers are communicating all of this unhealthy social harassment on non-SOE channels? It’s just the vague end effects that are manifesting within your realm of control and by then the perpetrators certainly could have some placating excuse for their actions in place to hand your company’s representatives.

    • I see your point. You raise some valid concerns, does that mean we should never try anything along these lines? Sure people might make things messy but I don’t see that as a reason to scrap innovative game design. We deal with the issues as they come, both as a community and they as the dev team.

    • What you describe however happens even now in current games, being a sandbox does not fix problems like that. You are attacking Smedley’s post on an issue that happens every day across any game that is online, so get off your moral high horse thinking that its the developers fault for not controlling how people act in an online game. Go play club penguin if you need that kind of comfort.

      • Thanks for being a living example of my point… the ‘fly’ in my ‘Lord of the flies’ analogy as it were. I’ll go ahead and get you up to speed with what the difference is, so you’ll know why people ignored your insult-laden and sandbox defending and defensive post…

        In today’s gaming the ostracizing that the players control is external to the game. They can kick people out of their guild, refuse to group with them, not buy their crafter’s goods, but none of that prevents them from playing the game.

        In the ‘Lord of the flies’ game, the players can deny access to parts of the game that the player has been given a license to, by SOE. At that point the racism, harassment, and legal issues become SOE’s responsibility. As it stands now, they can wash their hands of guild politics, but once it is internal to the game and prevents players from having access to the product that a license from SOE guarantees then SOE becomes liable.

        If someone offs themselves because they were kicked out of a guild, then that guilds politics are brought into question and they are investigated. SOE can wring its hands and say it’s an unfortunate act that they don’t condone and remain relatively safe. If the player offs himself because the high ranking rogue’s guild character he loved so much was stripped of his hard earned rogue’s guild status, and prevented from participating in the in-game guild because of player harassment the lawyers won’t be looking at some external guild, they will go straight to SOE.

      • AIUI: in ‘the sandbox,’ there is no in-game guild. The “Rogue’s Guild” of the hypothetical city is run by players because it was established by players; and being booted out of it only differs from being kicked out of any other guild in that player-run guilds have more potential influence in a sandbox than they do in a themepark. Flip side of that, though, is that they’re also more vulnerable. The guy who was kicked out could, at least theoretically, form a rival guild (and take with him anyone in the previous guild who sympathized with him) and oust his former companions from power. (Note, in this sense Eve falls short of the ‘pure sandbox’ – Empire factions are not player-run, and one cannot be excised from them. But I’ve never trusted ‘pure’ anything.)

        Also, and forgive me if this sounds callous, but: if some guy is going to “off himself” over losing in-game status, then he was already on the edge and the fact that this was the final trigger was just a matter of wrong-place wrong-time. He’d have just as likely offed himself after taking the blame for a raid-wipe and enduring a round of “l2p nub” in That Other Game.

      • :Glenn Olson: Thanks for articulating my thoughts on real sandbox design and how the rogues guild would exist, versus his image of a flawed game system.

        For harassment issues there is something called a GM. They are in game for the purpose of policing people going against the user agreement. If you are harassed in game in such a way, you can contact them to review the game logs and deliver a warning or ban if needed. If a game gives so much power to players, then they will be the ones to extract justice for people acting like jerks. Good players will always outnumber the bad.

        As far as my “insult-laden and sandbox defending and defensive post” why shouldn’t I defend a game design style that I prefer when you do not have the correct idea of what a sandbox even is? As to the insults themselves, you have singled out some of the worst possible player interactions that can happen online to make your statements against a vague idea of game design that you clearly don’t understand, thus trying to use a worst case scenario as an argument against what you don’t like.

  26. as one voice in many, the best part of SWG was jump to lightspeed. being able to grind for weapons/items and then craft/combine into more powerful weapons/items was a blast. and the occational group PVP battle with the loadout that was 100% custom and then to improve on it if needed… (i had the strongest ship weapon on bria even after i quite it stayed the strongest) if SOE could incorperate that, plus take from other games systems that are remarkable, for example, a group who tried building an RoboTech MMO, space flight turned into air flight with a quick load screen, another Star treks progression system, fire falls targeting/fighting system, if the devs they have working on this new game have brains between their ears, they would go play alot of other games that are in open beta, or final release and figure out the best parts of each game and throw the systems together with their own ideas and what game they are creating thats like SWG but not. and lets hope they dont screw up like when they tries porting SWG to console. and add in joystick support if a flight sim is added…. and if they do a decent enough job at it, i wouldnt mind buying the game (just not forking out a monthly fee, just out right buy the game) with a cash shop, but even that would have to be balanced and not pay to win style.

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  28. The unfortunate reality is that now, that type of sandbox mmo is difficult to play. Years after SWG was disastrously changed with the NGE, I’m back in game with an emu. Though I love it because it brings back wonderful memories (I was never one of the players clamoring for more content and a more vibrant GCW, mind you), I keep looking for those things that make an MMO easy, those things that spoon-feed content, levels and rewards. I don’t actually want those things, but how quickly we become crippled by convenience!

    It’s not so much that new games have content and therefore players devour it and get to end game quickly; rather, the content itself is so easy, so fast, that even a casual player gets to endgame too soon. Coming back to an SOE title, think pre-Kelethin EQ2 vs EQ2 post-Kelethin. As a casual player a few months after launch, it took me a year to reach level 50. Now, in the blink of an eye, you’re max level (quite literally, if you choose to buy that option with Station Cash)… and that’s a shame.

    Sandbox MMOs are great. But content isn’t the devil. It’s the way content is delivered that makes the difference.

    • Its not just sandboxes that experience the fast content, the theme parks do as well, more so even. This trend has developed due to game studios seeing WoW’s success in catering to all gamers. Old school everquest was too difficult for the casual player to invest lots of time into, leaving them frustrated and questioning if they should continue to play. WoW made it s o that anyone could play and advance in a reasonable amount of time. However, that has evolved to become much faster as players spend more time in the games with more ease of access. Even fast travel aids in this. Many games in the past required vast distances to be traveled though often dangerous zones to get to the dungeon or quest. now you have to run there 1 time and you can fast travel back almost instantly. Yes few people like to sit riding a horse in game for an hour but it would act as a solid deterrent to casual players, and gave incentive for the dedicated in new rare loot. You didnt even need to go to those places to advance your character, it was an option.

    • Though the lowered difficulty of the MMO is part of it, it’s not the sole reason why content is devoured quickly. The explosion of the Information Age itself is also a factor; a thousand add-on apps to do the thinking for you, twitch streams so everyone can see first hand how The Best are handling things, spoilers taken for granted to the extent that you’re kicked from groups if you *haven’t* read them. Even new content, as yet to be spoiled, is being dissected by hundreds of thousands of players simultaneously working together.

      And the growth of the attitude that the whole point is to devour the content as rapidly as possible, like a carnival pie-eating contest, rather than savored like a five-star meal. But they still demand that five-star quality…

  29. Pingback: The Massive Identity Crisis | The Errant Penman

  30. What we need is a sandbox style universe. you start off on some nameless planet on the ground of course and work your way up to owning a space ship and begin exploring the known galaxy. all of it. 100’s or thousands of planets all with thier own unique ecosystems, Several different alien races, full size land masses, space piracy , space station construction. city building and planet development on a grand scale. would be like taking all the best features of all the popular MMO”s and makeing one mmo to rule them all.

    I will admit i am a star wars fan. i loved star wars galaxies. it had some great gaming aspects. i also loved lord of the rings online. but in those games made from movies made from books, you tend to look for things that are out of place and nit pick at what shouldn’t be there. the best MMO’s are the ones you don’t know the storyline to ahead of time and you learn it as you go. its more fun that way. it also allows the developers to do whatever they want basically. they’re not forced to follow guidelines set out in books and a movie someone else wrote or produced without the intention of it being turned into a game.

  31. Pingback: Landmark: The True Next Gen MMO – Part I | closed beta

  32. Pingback: Landmark: The True Next Gen MMO – Part II | closed beta

  33. John has elegantly outlined “the content paradox”. A game that relies mainly on developer created content runs into the problem of players devouring it shortly after release. Purely player driven content, on the other hand can be quite boring, except in various niche markets. The solution is out there, but is scattered across the game world in shards. I will attempt to gather these shards. First there is the Dev made content: the quests, the instanced dungeons, the background scenarios. Then there is the player created content: The World PVP, PVP matches, the auction house. This is not enough. We need Hybrid content: The circular, or multi state quest is one example. What the players do changes the state of the quest, creating a more or less useful situation for the group, their faction, or the world. Having more than 2 stages in the quest would be more interesting, and the stages should decay back to a steady state only gradually, over days or a week. (Otherwise doing the quest seems futile). Next there is the “randomized” quests: where the hook, the journey and the lair are randomized in a workable fashion. This helps to blunt the “internet problem” as more elements can be added to each randomization as they become available.
    Even adding hybrid content is not enough. Expansions are useful, in they provide opportunities for lots of lore, giving hints about an invasion, new territory, or both. But they are expensive, and should be considered carefully if they contain a reveal. Lastly, my favorite, is the “adding more games” solution. Adding games to a virtual world is complicated, but can vastly increase the player influenced content. Adding an RTS game or a City Management game to an RPG type game, or FPS game, brings in vastly more player driven motivations and quests. Interesting things can happen. This type of content creates many problems as well, but I will wait until John’s next outline of a game problem before I comment.

  34. Pingback: John Smedley said something INCREDIBLY important this week - Memo-RandomMemo-Random

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