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What is sandbox game?

KalestonKaleston TrinecPosts: 173Member

So I see this word flying around the forums a lot, but I'm getting confused what sandbox actually is. I tried to find it here on forums and I found no such thread. I tried to find it on wiki and it says: Sandbox game = open world:

a type of video game level design where a player can roam freely through a virtual world and is given considerable freedom in choosing how or when to approach objectives.

Which is very vague and I think you could justify almost every other game to be "sandbox".

Trying to search on internet is futile as sandbox is term used in computer security and developement...

Can we come to some conclusion what features sandbox game must have and what must not have?

I'll be updating this post with replies in this thread.

Comments

  • Mike-McQueenMike-McQueen Enfield, CTPosts: 243Member

    a type of video game level design where a player can roam freely through a virtual world and is given considerable freedom in choosing how or when to approach objectives

    Umm yeah, this.

    I'm a unique and beautiful snowflake.

  • KalestonKaleston TrinecPosts: 173Member
    Originally posted by Mike-McQueen

    a type of video game level design where a player can roam freely through a virtual world and is given considerable freedom in choosing how or when to approach objectives

    Umm yeah, this.

    Ok as I said it's very vague definition. (Totally extreme examples incomming)

    By this definition, you could say WoW is a sandbox game, because player can roam freely through a virtual world. They also have freedom in choosing when to approach objectives and depending on objectives, they also have considerable freedom to reach them. For example you can get to max level by questing, grinding, doing dungeons and so.

    On the other hand we could say Eve is not a sandbox game, because to destroy enemy ship, you can only use weapons and drones, which is actually not considerable freedom of doing so. You can't ram them, you can't even kill a crew on the ship, you can't lead them to asteroid field so they destroy themsleves there, you can't fly into atmosphere of the planet and let them burn and all crazy nonsense everyone knows from sci-fi movies. Heck, there is only one way of character (pilot) progression!

    And this is my problem... where is the line between sandbox game and non sandbox game?

  • mikecacklemikecackle City, ILPosts: 151Member
    Originally posted by Kaleston

    So I see this word flying around the forums a lot, but I'm getting confused what sandbox actually is. I tried to find it here on forums and I found no such thread. I tried to find it on wiki and it says: Sandbox game = open world:

    a type of video game level design where a player can roam freely through a virtual world and is given considerable freedom in choosing how or when to approach objectives.

    Which is very vague and I think you could justify almost every other game to be "sandbox".

    Trying to search on internet is futile as sandbox is term used in computer security and developement...

    Can we come to some conclusion what features sandbox game must have and what must not have?

    I'll be updating this post with replies in this thread.

    It is very much a misconception... For instance.. WoW is somewhat a sandbox, but they call it a themepark because of the instances and queuing to do dungeons and PvP

    I wonder the same thing, So, I believe if it's non linear, say like Age of Conan being linear, very small and you have to follow that route.. and it has queued battle instances.. I guess its a themepark...

    Frankly, the game type doesnt effect anything to do with the quality or fun with the game, just that many people believe thats what they don't want..

     

     

     

  • arcanistarcanist johannesbergPosts: 163Member

    My personal opinion is the difference between sandbox and themepark is how the options are layed out. Its more of a feel than specific things things that you can check in a checklist.

    Take two quest systems. One is a predesigned story written by the devs. The story is a set path and the only choices you have are what the devs give you. Even if there are a hundred paths you're still limited if the devs don't give you the option. An example of this is an assassin failing a quest because the story says you must kill a target while you want to defect to the enemy side. Even if there are fifty different options to kill the target you're still limited by what choices the devs plan to program in.

    The other is a random quest generator that generates quests based on actions by the player. If the generator makes a quest to assassinate someone you could decide to defect and it will generate a new set of quests based on the new situation.

    The first one is themepark the second is sandbox. A simple rule is basicly, if the devs make the decisions its themepark, if the players make the decision its sandbox.

    Other examples include:

    pvp. if the devs decide to arbritratily limit pvp to arenas its themepark. if the players to decide to limit pvp to arenas by voting its sandbox.

    Not everygame is completely sandbox or completely thempark. it is a spectrum. Its more the overall feel that decides the classification.

    Sure some features are more traditionally sandbox and some are more traditionally themepark. But generally the overall feel of these features fits the basic rule. In wow all the classess are designed around combat with crafting on the side. eves skill system allows you to ignore combat skills completely.

  • mklinicmklinic Pottstown, PAPosts: 1,435Member Uncommon

    you're coming here to get a clear definition? :P

    This topic has been discussed previously (a few times) and it seems like the only thing that is clear is that everyone has their own idea on what defines a sandbox vs themepark game. Not to be left out, I'll throw in my two cents:

    One on extreme, you have Second Life. You can create content, or anything I suppose. This would be about as far sandbox as you can get with current titles (in my view). Now, try to make that a bit more of a game and you get EvE with its lore and progression mechanics. In that game, content is still player driven, and the devs don't really (*ahem* in an offical capacity :P) interfere. There are other titles that probably fit in this space (Darkfall and Mortal Online maybe?), but just using EvE as an example.

    Contrast this to the most often cited themepark of WoW where you have a very specific progression through levels with bread crumbs from quest hub to quest hub. Not to say WoW has not expanded its progression with things like PvP XP, gathering XP, and so on, but the main point is that you are typically progressing to end-game.

    That last part is probably another distinction on its own. Again, looking at EvE, end-game isn't as much of a defined concept (at least it wasn't for me). In WoW, I know I am working toward the next raid and the next teir of gear. Sure, some people may have their own goals, but 'end-game raiding' is a commonly understood goal. In EvE, my endgame could be mission running, corp warfare, trading, or whatever goal I set for myself.

    I'm not sure if that made it any clearer, but I hope it did. Worst case, it just came off as something that will be picked apart later which might add some clarity as well ;)

     

    -mklinic

    "There's a point I think we're missing.
    It's in the air we raise our fists in."
    -from Behind Closed Doors by Rise Against

  • xDayxxDayx St Charles, MOPosts: 712Member

    I have my own definition of pure sandbox.

    1. Open world

    2. Detailed crafting and resource system

    3. Player construction/building

    4. No levels, skill-based

    5. No quests

     

      So a lot of games that are thought of as sandboxes, in my opinion, aren't 'pure' sandboxes.

  • grimgryphongrimgryphon Pacific Northwest, WAPosts: 682Member
    A sandbox game is a style of play that no one here can define but those same people will resort to dominiating thousands of pages of forum posts arguing about it.

    Optional PvP = No PvP
  • CheopisCheopis Hampton, GAPosts: 4Member

    My definition of a sandbox game is a game where the players define most of the content.  Just like I used to do when I was a kid in my sandbox.  I made hills and roads and places for my own amusement.  Yes there were things in the sandbox that I didn't actually make myself, but my own imagination and the work of my own two hands supplied most of the content.

  • RemyVorenderRemyVorender Riverside, RIPosts: 3,266Member Uncommon
    This is a sandbox: http://www.wurmonline.com/

    Played: AA, AC1, AC2, Aion, AO, AoC, CO, CoX, DAoC, DCUO, DN, EVE, EQ1, EQ2,
    ESO, FE, FFXI, FFXIV, FF, GW1, GW2, Istaria, L2, LoTRO, MO, MxO, NW, Rift, RoE,
    Ryzom, SB, SWG, SWTOR, TERA, TSW, WAR, WoW, WURM...

  • greenreengreenreen Punchoo, AKPosts: 2,101Member Uncommon

    Features of a sandbox too is that you generate your own goals.

    If you are the type of person that sees a house in the distance. Travels over to it, notices a barrel in the back then starts clicking on it because it's interactive and you start wondering, do I need something to hold the liquid in this barrel? Oh, I have my waterskin, let me try to use it here in my hand. Then using your waterskin you fill it with wine from the barrel. You move on then with wine and no clue what you will do with it but you have it now.

    Instead if when you saw the house and investigated your inclination is to type into chat, "Anyone know what this barrel is for in the abandoned house?".

    You are not playing a sandbox playstyle.

    If you need quests and things to direct you where to go, that isn't very sandbox. Sandbox is more about problem solving and puzzles to me. That's why you have to know how to entertain yourself, there won't be a linear line to follow.

     

    Someone dumped the whole toybox in a sandbox game instead of making it lego bricks stacked up, does that make sense lol

  • LarsaLarsa NurembergPosts: 990Member


    Originally posted by Kaleston

    ... Can we come to some conclusion what features sandbox game must have and what must not have? ...


     

    Not a chance.

    Some people don't like sandboxes, nothing wrong with that, but they will tell you that all sandboxes are full loot PvP gank-n-grief games. Some people like full loot PvP gank-n-grief games, nothing wrong with that, they will tell you that a sandbox needs to have full loot PvP - otherwise it's no "real" sandbox.

    Another bunch of people have never played a sandbox MMORPG but that won't stop them telling you that they all suck. And then you get the fans of a particular game that will tell you that "their" game is a sandbox - no matter whether that game has any sandbox features or not.

    No chance all these people could ever agree on anything. :)

    I maintain this List of Sandbox MMORPGs. Please post or send PM for corrections and suggestions.

  • DAS1337DAS1337 Parma, OHPosts: 2,404Member
    Originally posted by Kaleston

    So I see this word flying around the forums a lot, but I'm getting confused what sandbox actually is. I tried to find it here on forums and I found no such thread. I tried to find it on wiki and it says: Sandbox game = open world:

    a type of video game level design where a player can roam freely through a virtual world and is given considerable freedom in choosing how or when to approach objectives.

    Which is very vague and I think you could justify almost every other game to be "sandbox".

    Trying to search on internet is futile as sandbox is term used in computer security and developement...

    Can we come to some conclusion what features sandbox game must have and what must not have?

    I'll be updating this post with replies in this thread.

     

    You answered your own question.

     

    Just because a game has a 'sandbox' feature doesn't make it a sandbox.  Generally, it's a number of features that equates to the definition that you found.  I know for a fact that there have been hundreds of threads, if not thousands on this very website that go into great detail in discussion of what is and what isn't a sandbox feature or game.

     

    This thread is a troll thread.  I will not bite.

  • azzamasinazzamasin Butler, OHPosts: 3,058Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by xDayx

    I have my own definition of pure sandbox.

    1. Open world

    2. Detailed crafting and resource system

    3. Player construction/building

    4. No levels, skill-based

    5. No quests

     

      So a lot of games that are thought of as sandboxes, in my opinion, aren't 'pure' sandboxes.

    My own defintion is:

    1. Open World
    2. exploration with no hand holding, you want to level, you go kill stuff or find a quest giver not told where the quest is at
    3. non linear
    4. Lack of elements such as Raiding, instanced dungeons or instanced battlegrounds. 
    5. Everything takes place out in the world and no storys are told other then the one you make. i.e. your not a hero your just an adventurer trying to progress.  The heroes are the NPC's who populated the world before you.
    6. no grinding a particular mob for a particular drop.  Drops can come from anything and anywhere based on chance
    7. player housing
    8. journey to level cap is the main focus of the game, not just a chore to do to get to the real endgame.
    9. deep character progression, from loot to systems such as skill aquistion
    10. Many forms of systems such as crafting, politics, subterfuge
    11. group based exploration
    12. many real life elements such as harsh death penalties,  trading based economies, crafting only professions, encumberance, resource management (i.e. mana for magicusers, stamina for melee users)
    13. Deep character combat, not whack a mole 7 sec fights.  Fights are at least 30-45 secs long with many elements incloved such as postioning, attack heights, power attacks.  Combat that isnt easily min-maxed.

    Sandbox means open world, non-linear gaming PERIOD!

    Subscription Gaming, especially MMO gaming is a Cash grab bigger then the most P2W cash shop!

    Bring Back Exploration and lengthy progression times. RPG's have always been about the Journey not the destination!!!

    image

  • bishboshbishbosh SydneyPosts: 388Member

    there is really no hard definition to what a sandbox.  i can list some commonly accepted sandbox features and sandbox games however

     

    common sandbox features:

    - no classes, level up whatever skills you want

    - no levels/ linear progression

    - do whatever you want, minimal/no quests

    - ability to build/destroy/change the game world

    - crafting, item decay/destruction, economy, trade, local economies

    - minimal/no instancing- gameplay focus is on persistent game world

    - game focus is on the persistent ever chaning game world rather than instanced dungeons/raids/battlegrounds and token/reputation grind for next tier of gear

     

    some sandbox games

    - minecraft

    - EVE online

    - ultima online

    - star wars galaxies

    - darkfall

    - archeage (unreleased)

     

     

     

  • DAS1337DAS1337 Parma, OHPosts: 2,404Member
    Originally posted by xDayx

    I have my own definition of pure sandbox.

    1. Open world

    2. Detailed crafting and resource system

    3. Player construction/building

    4. No levels, skill-based

    5. No quests

     

      So a lot of games that are thought of as sandboxes, in my opinion, aren't 'pure' sandboxes.

    There is only one thing that is a pure sandbox, and that's a sandbox.

     

    Yes, I would say a sandbox game must have a world.  A world that interacts with itself, without player input.  Filled with dungeons, cities, little cavs, tunnels, lakes, ponds, streams, oceans, wildlife, NPC citizens, all with their own agendas that have nothing to do with you.

     

    I don't believe the detail in a crafting system, or any system, makes a game sandbox or not.  That seems more like your personal preference rather than a pre-requisite to a sandbox feature.  However, as it applied to a 'world, a crafting system that is player driven will lend itself to an economy that is player driven, which I believe is essential to a sandbox environment.  All items in game must be created by the player, with resources obtained from the world.

     

    This, I believe would pass for a sandbox mechanic.  Though, be careful how much freedom is given to the player to create.  Ultimate freedom is nevery truly accurate and is rarely often a good thing.  It does fit the description though.  Though, keep this in mind.  Neverwinter is going to be a themepark game.  However, they will release a toolkit for content creation to the players.  It will still be themepark.  So, I think it depends on how a creation system works within the game.

     

    No levels and no skills do not equal sandbox.  The only games that I can think of that were like that were older first person shooters.  The only things that you could do is progress through the game, picking up different weapons as you go.  Even real life has levels, such as job titles.  Real life is supposed to be the ultimate sandbox though, so that's why I feel that the type of progression does not equal sandbox or themepark.  I will agree that skill based is often described as a sandbox feature by many.  But it's described like that more due to all of te other features that tend to be in a game with level-less progression, not because the feature itself is sandbox.

     

    I can go either way on quests.  Though, I don't think that if a game has quests, that it's not a themepark.  Again, in real life, we have quests.  They are often called jobs, and they are given to us by who we work for, or our parents, teachers, and even friends.  So again, using real life as a sandbox, this feature itself does not equal sandbox.  I believe that there can be quests in a sandbox game.  It's just the rest of the features that are paired with it that often dictate whether someone considers a game sandbox or themepark.

     

    Most people don't think like I do though.  They listen to other people and create labels for things.  They believe something is a certain way and it can't be any other way.  Well, to me, things aren't always black and white.  The whole concept of sandbox is options.  Sandboxes should be evolving, like themeparks are.  However, most sandbox developers miss the boat and only think in black and white.  Thus, the creation of hardcore sandboxes, always hardcore, always very difficult, always poorly made.

     

    It is a shame.

  • ZinzanZinzan NorthPosts: 1,351Member

    It's a good question and one very few actually ask before using the term really badly. Think of a sandpit, the kind you play in as kids, all you have is a few tools (bucket, spade etc) and a load of sand to mould using your imagination.

    Truth of it is there are different levels of sandbox:

    The "pure" sandbox

    You are given the tools you need

    You are placed in a virtual world where the only limitations are the physical aspects of that world (gravity etc)

    There can be no other virtual restrictions placed on players

    Good example of this is minecraft.

    The "semi" sandbox

    This is far more vague and is the real point of contention between gamers, truth is no-one will ever agree at what point a game becomes a sandbox....but i'll try and give a usable example.

    Same as a a sandbox you are given the tools you need and the virtual world in which to explore

    Any limitations placed on the player other than the general physical limitations of the world, so safe zones, NPC policing etc nullifies this as a "pure" sandbox and it is then a "semi" sandbox as your use of the sand is limited by the games developers.

    Examples of this are EvE Online, SWG etc.

    The "themepark"

    This is pretty much anything which has an ongoing storyline throughout the game and leads you from quest to quest and place to place. Themeparks are often also semi sandboxes (SWG), but I have never seen any examples of them being pure sandboxes. This is not impossible, it's just rare.

    The BIGGEST problem gamers on these forums have is they seem to think a game is either a sandbox or a themepark and can not be both, this is really blinkered.

    Everything i have said can be argued and debated, no-one will agree with my definitions but that being said i doubt players will ever truly agree on this subject.

    Expresso gave me a Hearthstone beta key.....I'm so happy :)

  • DAS1337DAS1337 Parma, OHPosts: 2,404Member
    Originally posted by azzamasin
    Originally posted by xDayx

    I have my own definition of pure sandbox.

    1. Open world

    2. Detailed crafting and resource system

    3. Player construction/building

    4. No levels, skill-based

    5. No quests

     

      So a lot of games that are thought of as sandboxes, in my opinion, aren't 'pure' sandboxes.

    My own defintion is:

    1. Open World
    2. exploration with no hand holding, you want to level, you go kill stuff or find a quest giver not told where the quest is at
    3. non linear
    4. Lack of elements such as Raiding, instanced dungeons or instanced battlegrounds. 
    5. Everything takes place out in the world and no storys are told other then the one you make. i.e. your not a hero your just an adventurer trying to progress.  The heroes are the NPC's who populated the world before you.
    6. no grinding a particular mob for a particular drop.  Drops can come from anything and anywhere based on chance
    7. player housing
    8. journey to level cap is the main focus of the game, not just a chore to do to get to the real endgame.
    9. deep character progression, from loot to systems such as skill aquistion
    10. Many forms of systems such as crafting, politics, subterfuge
    11. group based exploration
    12. many real life elements such as harsh death penalties,  trading based economies, crafting only professions, encumberance, resource management (i.e. mana for magicusers, stamina for melee users)
    13. Deep character combat, not whack a mole 7 sec fights.  Fights are at least 30-45 secs long with many elements incloved such as postioning, attack heights, power attacks.  Combat that isnt easily min-maxed.

     

    1 - I agree that the world should be open and un-instanced.

    2 - Somewhat agree, though I don't believe quests equal themepark.  I think there is room for Skyrim style content, RP content and quest content in a game, while still considering it a sandbox

    3 - Redundant, applies to #2

    4 - Raiding is nothing more than a bunch of people grouped up, Raids are not a themepark or sandbox feature.  I agree that instancing should not be in a sandbox game.  It ruins the world and takes away from it's importance.

    5 - Again, redundant.  Applies to #4

    6 - I don't agree with this.  You would get different gear from a bear, than you would a humanoid character.  You think it's sandbox to get a sword from a bear?  

    7 - Housing isn't a sandbox exclusive system.  It does help though.  It makes players feel a part of the world that they are playing in, rather than a visitor.  It's also an excellent time and money sink.  Great content for a sandbox.

    8 - The level cap should never be the focus of the game.  The journey should be, and the journey only.  So, I half agree with this based on how you worded it.

    9 - I don't believe a progression system or loot system matters when it comes to sandbox.  It doesn't have to be complicated.  It can be levels and skill trees and still be considered a sandbox game, though that system wouldn't really be considered sandbox.  Then again, if it's skill based, you're limited by what skills the developers create.  So, it's a tough one. Having a lot of options helps, but be careful.  You need to balance those things, so more doesn't always equal better.

    10 - I agree.  Any good sandbox MMO should have your typical MMO type systems in it =P

    11 - If you mean like in DAOC, where there were areas that solo players could not venture alone and expect to survive, then I think it would be a realistic addition to a sandbox game.  I don't think it's a sandbox feature though.  Ultima Online didn't have any areas like that, and it is considered a sandbox game.

    12 - I would have to agree here too.  Though again, be careful how many systems you add.  You could get blinded like StarVault, into trying to create systems like horse and character breeding/blending, dynamic weather systems and scientific crafting systems which can take away large amounts of resources from completing the basic core functions of the game well.  Sandbox doesn't have to mean 'complicated'.

    13 - I think this would just create a more interesting and diverse combat system, not a sandbox combat system.  The more systems you add, and the more complex such a system is, the harder it is to balance it.  Balance is king in any game, especially sandboxes.

  • ottopaulottopaul Minneapolis, MNPosts: 1Member

    I'm not a major sandbox enthusiast, I've never really played a sandbox MMO, though I have played a few sandbox single player games(altho people may argue whether they were actual sandboxes or not, based on these varied opinions we're seeing in this thread). 

    But the one concept that I always thought really made a game sandbox, vs themepark, is this:

    From the moment you start the game, or at any point along your gameplay, you could point your camera in any direction(other than maybe straight up or down, depending on the game), and go in that direction until the end of the game world in that direction. 

    As you go in that direction, you might face obstacles and such, but nothing that really prevents you from going in that direction at this point in time, which would not prevent it later in your gameplay. 

    In WoW, you start in an area surrounded by level 1-2 monsters, and then as you go a little further away, across a river or up a hill, you'll find level 3-4 monsters. If, at level 1, you just started walking in a direction, until you get to the next 'zone', you will find yourself surrounded by level 10 or 15ish monsters, which you absolutely can not kill as a solitary level 1 character, no matter how much skill or strategy you use. 

    In a game like 'Just Cause 2', you could litterally go in any direction, after you pass through a short introductory game sequence which IS on rails. Once past that intro gameplay, you land next to a house which is on the water front, and from that point, you can quite litterally go anywhere that exists in the game. There are of course tools that you will find along your way that may make it easier to explore(such as better weapons or vehicles), but with enough ingenuity, you can get pretty much anywhere with just your starter grappling hook, parachute, and handgun. 

    Some people have said that their definition of a sandbox can not include 'player levels', that there can't really be an advancement of that type. But I've played some games that fit my very minimal definition of sandbox, that DID involve character levels. Certain Elder Scrolls games fall into this category. Both Oblivion and Skyrim allow you to go in any direction, once you pass the initial intro sequence. As you level up, the world scales up(whether it scales well or not is another discussion). At level 1, you can wander 'east'(or any arbitrary direction), stumble upon a cave or dungeon, and head right in to explore. 

    In Morrowind(the Elder Scrolls game prior to Oblivion), the game did NOT scale. It still allowed for a fair amount of freedom in exploration, but you very much could wander into an area full of high level monsters that could easily smush you if you were not of a comparable level yourself. 

    As I said at the beginning, I don't often play MMO games that might qualify as 'sandbox'. The only one that comes to mind that i DID play was Ultima Online. In MMO's, I tend to like real, tangible progression, and it is sometimes hard to include clear progression in an MMO while still being completely free and open at any given progression level. Oblivion/Skyrim style world scaling would probably not work very well in an MMO, as the world shouldn't really cater to individual players in a multiplayer setting. Especially not in a massively multiplayer setting. 

  • DanderXDanderX Miami, FLPosts: 15Member

    http://youtu.be/oq2oxt7Nrxo?hd=1 - This is a perfect sandbox explanation.

    Sandbox is a player driven world with player driven economy in a persistent world without instancing. The most distinctive mechanic in a sandbox game is the open world PvP in which death has its consequences - from full loot to perma-death depending on how hardcore it is.

    Sandbox games: EvE Online, Darkfall, Mortal Online, Xsyon, Lineage 2, Face of Mankind etc.

  • madazzmadazz A town, ONPosts: 1,564Member Uncommon

    A sandbox is just the way a game world is built. It is strange that some people think it can't have levels (I would prefer it not to though).

    Basically you aren't hand held, you can make your own fun and actually affect things going on in the game world to some extent. Where as a themepark is a solid world that you don't truly ever affect except maybe in the auction house.

    Sandboxes could have quests, its just it would be your choice to take them or not.

    I think the major problem here is everyone thinks sandboxes have to follow all of these other stupid and silly little rules (even if I do agree with many of them as it would be fun for me). Some argue a sandbox has to have PvP, it doesnt, some argue it has to have a death penalty, well it doesn't. 

    Sandbox and Themepark are descriptors for the way to interact with the world, not player progression mechanics.

  • AmanaAmana New York, NYPosts: 2,568Moderator Uncommon
    This thread is a little bit redundant. You can find relevant discussion here: http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/317478/Sandbox-vs-Themepark-Discussion-Thread.html

    To give feedback on moderation, contact community@mmorpg.com

This discussion has been closed.