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Sandbox and world size

ApraxisApraxis RegensburgPosts: 1,515Member Uncommon

Everytime i read how a sandbox mmo have to be one request is always a huge world.

And dont get me wrong, a huge world is a good thing, but a huge world, especially, when it is completely barren will not bring anything to the table. And there are no benefits for a sandbox in a huge world except the unknown area in front of you to explore, to settle, to build up and to conquer. Thats about it.

I read shortly this article, about a developing approach, which in my mind is the way to go for developing a sandbox.

TL;DR: Start small expand upon that.

Originally posted by Ryan Dancey, https://goblinworks.com/blog/index.html#20121010

 

Start Me Up

 

Enabling this process to begin requires the team to draft and reach consensus on what that initial release target will include: specific numbers of races, skills, character abilities, structures, monsters, NPC systems, market systems, social systems, graphic assets, back-office systems, etc.

In its most simplistic level, this amounts to how we will release a next-generation fantasy sandbox MMO on a fraction of the budget and in a fraction of the time of a current-generation AAA MMO.

A current-gen theme park requires a nearly feature- and content-complete game design before it can be released. Without all systems and all content, a theme park is not a very good game, and players will quickly exhaust its potential. To recoup the cost all of that entails, the game must attract hundreds of thousands (and in some cases millions) of players. That creates a feedback loop of needing a lot of content, which is expensive, which requires a lot of launch customers, which means more content, etc. It's why many MMO projects fail to release or release in a unsatisfactory state.

Our vision for a next-gen design relies on the idea that players create content for themselves in their interactions with one another. That enables us to focus on designing systems rather than content. That allows us to speed up the release dramatically. But it also means that we'll have a fairly small space ready for the players to experience, so we'll carefully regulate the initial size and growth rate of the game to achieve a good balance of character diversity and density. It's the opposite of the theme park feedback loop. The better the sandbox systems are at making interaction between players interesting, the fewer players we need in the game to make it fun to play, which means we need less content and can get the game out faster.

The game that we deliver on Day 1 will be small, bit not empty. It will then grow every couple of weeks as new systems and content are rolled out. The prioritization and mechanics of those additions will reflect the input of the community, and so the game will reflect the sum of many contributors' inputs.

So what your thoughts about that? Do you really think a huge world is a must have from the very beginning?

As we have seen again and again from different indy developers.. they all tried to deliver a huge world, and actually did, but all of those worlds were rather empty, and a lot of sandbox building features missing. Not to talk about other features required for Roleplaying, Socializing and what not, all those parts are important for a good MMORPG and maybe even more for a sandbox mmorpg.

So my thesis is more or less the same as in that blog entry, that the mechanics behind the scene are much more important than the world size. It is a lot better to do first a small world, but with a living world and all thinkable sandbox building features and all other features done, and done good and completed and polished. And then over time add on the world size.

And hell nothing easier than that. You start with an island or a few islands, and after some time you add a continent and let the player discover it and so forth and so on. The border will always the never ending ocean and you will add new land, and new contintent in it, and give after that the player hints for where to find it.. or let a magic portal in some ruins appear, which led to that continent. Nothing is easier then to expand on size. But to add features into a running game is much more complex, and will effect that game a lot more. (and often it is easier to rather release a new game instead)

Comments

  • QuirhidQuirhid TamperePosts: 5,969Member Common
    I've always been a supporter of quality over quantitty. I don't know whether Xsyon is still alive or not, but it had the plan of making world first and adding features later (such as "proper combat"). I think a game will do poorly without some of those core features and infact I haven't heard from Xsyon since. Size does not make a game, the features and mechanics do.

    I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been -Wayne Gretzky

  • LoktofeitLoktofeit Stone Mountain, GAPosts: 13,672Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Apraxis

    Everytime i read how a sandbox mmo have to be one request is always a huge world.

    I've seen 'seamless world' as a common request, not 'huge world' to any noticable degree.

    What Ryan is talking about there isn't really world size, either. He's talking about having something to do within the worldspace, and that something initially being the initial sandbox gameplay that evolves along with the introduction of new content.

    There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to play, if you want to use a screwdriver to put nails into wood, have at it, simply don't complain when the guy next to you with the hammer is doing it much better and easier. - Allein
    "Graphics are often supplied by Engines that (some) MMORPG's are built in" - Spuffyre

  • LarsaLarsa NurembergPosts: 990Member

    It's an interesting question - and sort of a dilemna.

    You want a big world, but you don't want it too big. Difficult to find the good balance at times. The world needs to be big enough to have settlement space for the players and leave room for wildlife - but too big and you have problems with travel times and a lack of social and trading activity because people are too spread out.

    Xsyon did something like was talked about in the original post. Launch with a reasonable large - but not huge - world and be able to expand the world if the need arises. I found the size of the map to be just right (max. travel time from any point on the map to any other point two hours if I remember right).

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

  • ArclanArclan Chicago, ILPosts: 1,494Member Uncommon

    Themepark = player is part of the story and is told where to go and what to do by NPCs.
    Sandbox = player is not part of the story and is not told where to go nor what to do.

    Huge world is good.
    Huge world + lots of servers + numerous starting zones + players level so fast they do not spend more than one day at the same spot = bad.

    I prefer small, cozy, populated cities/wilderness as opposed to large, barren, empty cities/wilderness.

    Vanguard failed, partly, due to its vast (and empty-feeling) world. In EQ, new freeport is terrible whereas old freeport was charming. Difference? Size.

    Luckily, i don't need you to like me to enjoy video games. -nariusseldon.
    In F2P I think it's more a case of the game's trying to play the player's. -laserit

  • MawneeMawnee Spring Hill, FLPosts: 197Member Uncommon
    A sandbox won't be fun unless you have room to build your castle.
  • XAPKenXAPKen Northwest, INPosts: 4,927Member Uncommon

    I think Oblivion nailed it with world size (but then messed it up with anywhere-to-destination fast travel).  Content density is also reasonable.  Plenty of open space yet lots of cave, fort, ruins entrances scattered about.

     

    It's probably the closest I've seen to free-roaming RPG perfection in terms of world design and layout.


    Ken Fisher - Semi retired old fart Network Administrator, now turned Amateur Game Developer.  I don't Forum PVP.  If you feel I've attacked you, it was probably by accident.  Realm Lords 2 on MMORPG.com
  • nethervoidnethervoid xanex, CAPosts: 528Member
    I don't really care about their world size approach, but I do like their approach of putting in working systems rather than working attractions. To create a good sandbox you need to build systems that allow players to create cities, create dungeons, trade, and put in small stuff like player clothing and all that, so players can be more creative and actually create content. The main limit to player created content has always been the breadth of what can be changed or more directly lack of range of things which the player can change.

    nethervoid - Est. '97
    [UO|EQ|SB|SWG|PS|HZ|EVE|NWN|WoW|VG|DF|SWTOR]
    13k subs YouTube Gaming channel

  • LoktofeitLoktofeit Stone Mountain, GAPosts: 13,672Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Larsa

    It's an interesting question - and sort of a dilemna.

    You want a big world, but you don't want it too big. Difficult to find the good balance at times. The world needs to be big enough to have settlement space for the players and leave room for wildlife - but too big and you have problems with travel times and a lack of social and trading activity because people are too spread out.

    Xsyon did something like was talked about in the original post. Launch with a reasonable large - but not huge - world and be able to expand the world if the need arises. I found the size of the map to be just right (max. travel time from any point on the map to any other point two hours if I remember right).

    The Xsyon devs definitely nailed it when it came to world size and travel time for the initial population. Places were still accessible in a reasonable amount of time but the world was big enough that there was still that feelingof exploration. The lack of walled-off zones went a long way toward giving that open world feel.

    There isn't a "right" or "wrong" way to play, if you want to use a screwdriver to put nails into wood, have at it, simply don't complain when the guy next to you with the hammer is doing it much better and easier. - Allein
    "Graphics are often supplied by Engines that (some) MMORPG's are built in" - Spuffyre

  • SimphanaticSimphanatic Marion, IAPosts: 92Member
    I'm a girl and I can vouch that style and substance trump size ... even in game worlds.
  • fenistilfenistil GliwicePosts: 3,005Member

    It really depends on your realistic expectations of playerbase and ON GAME DESIGN. 

    Just throwing huge world out there does not work. 

     

    If you're doing niche game then better start with something that is not huge. 

     

    Much more important is imho seamlessness and openess.  Seamless we all know what's that.   What do I mean by openess?   In example open world in Rift is seamless*, but  it is not very open.   "Places/zones" are small, cramped and walled at every single side.   It create feel of game world beign artifical and 'tunneled'.

     

    So instead of simply going for really huge worlds it is better to start smaller and create 'world' feel by having good world design. Seamless and open. 

    Of course if you're going for that kind of sandbox.

  • QuirhidQuirhid TamperePosts: 5,969Member Common
    Originally posted by Mawnee
    A sandbox won't be fun unless you have room to build your castle.

    I guess I missed all the fun when I ran past all those rows and rows of empty houses and castles for sale in Mortal Online. I ran across the continent and saw no-one. Fun, fun.

    I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been -Wayne Gretzky

  • fenistilfenistil GliwicePosts: 3,005Member
    Originally posted by Quirhid
    Originally posted by Mawnee
    A sandbox won't be fun unless you have room to build your castle.

    I guess I missed all the fun when I ran past all those rows and rows of empty houses and castles for sale in Mortal Online. I ran across the continent and saw no-one. Fun, fun.

    Mortal Online failed because it is bad half-amateur game, not because of type of game it is.

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