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Do Sandboxes Overwhelm You With Choices?

TheLizardbonesTheLizardbones Arkham, VAPosts: 10,910Member

Yet another interesting discussion over at Massively.com, but they don't have a forum format for the interactive experience you can get here.

Do Sandboxes Overwhelm You?

To Summarize:
Sandboxes offer a lot of choice, and often they have very little direction on what to do. Does the lack of direction and number of possible directions to go overwhelm you?

This is a simple question, but I expect the answers aren't so simple.

If I can think of a good set of poll choices, I'll add a poll. That is assuming we can avoid getting the thread locked by descending into a sandbox vs theme park argument.

I can not remember winning or losing a single debate on the internet.

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Comments

  • bcbullybcbully Westland, MIPosts: 8,280Member Uncommon

    Grabbing coffee, and interested.

     

    Choice is key to me, the more the better. More skills, profession, more ways to reach your goals. The more open the games systems are, the longer I will play. 

     

    I think being able to set your own goals is key in this.

  • AlBQuirkyAlBQuirky Sioux City, IAPosts: 3,828Member

    Kind of...

    It can be daunting not knowing what a game "allows", what to expect, and not have any real direction. Sometimes, it is nice to have a nice gentle push in a direction to get started.

    Once the feel of the game is figured out, then the many choices are welcome.

    Does that makes sense?

    - Al

    Personally the only modern MMORPG trend that annoys me is the idea that MMOs need to be designed in a way to attract people who don't actually like MMOs. Which to me makes about as much sense as someone trying to figure out a way to get vegetarians to eat at their steakhouse.
    - FARGIN_WAR

  • sketocafesketocafe StoupaPosts: 802Member Uncommon
    Nah. I just pick something and roll with it. If I find that path to be not to my liking i'll try another. Just because you can do a lot of things doesn't mean you have to do them all at once and finding one or two things to do at a time has never been overwhelming for me.
  • CaldrinCaldrin CwmbranPosts: 4,533Member Uncommon

    I guess you have to enjoy that type of game to get into it..

     

    Some people like to have their hand help through everything and thats just fine as well but sandbox games probally wont be the best option for those people

  • TheLizardbonesTheLizardbones Arkham, VAPosts: 10,910Member

    I'm going to answer in a post instead of in the OP.

    My answer is 'No'. Even when there's no clear path, I'll generally just pick a direction or activity and go with it to see what happens. In Minecraft with the Feed the Beast mod pack, I'll pick a project or a mod and go through all the steps of getting the features added from the mod explored. In less sandbox games like Fallout, I'll follow a story from the available stories, but I'll also just spend a lot of time just wandering around to see what happens.

    At the same time, games with a clear directive and a clear story line are just as enjoyable. Half Life 2 is about as on rails as you can get, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.

    With MMOs though, most of my concerns revolve around the general build quality of a game and the concessions made for a game to be an MMO. The number of choices are not generally a problem. More choices are fine, but so is a line to follow, so long as the choices or the line are interesting.

    I can not remember winning or losing a single debate on the internet.

  • VengeSunsoarVengeSunsoar Posts: 5,316Member Uncommon

    A sandbox should offer a lot of choice, however IMO most offer significantly less choice than themepark.

    In most sandbox the choices are what to level/train and what to craft/kill.  There may be a lot of crafting but there is very little variety between crafting so the gameplay ends up being the same.  Same with adventuring, lots of things to train, but very little variety between them so you really end up doing the same thing over and over and over again with several different skills.

    To me that is not really meaningfull choice. 

    However yes.  In the beginning the lack of direction, not knowing anything about the game, not knowing how well various skills/classes perform can be a bit daunting especially if there is no way to redo/relearn/re-distribute points.

     

    Quit worrying about other players in a game and just play.

  • TheLizardbonesTheLizardbones Arkham, VAPosts: 10,910Member


    Originally posted by AlBQuirky
    Kind of...

    It can be daunting not knowing what a game "allows", what to expect, and not have any real direction. Sometimes, it is nice to have a nice gentle push in a direction to get started.

    Once the feel of the game is figured out, then the many choices are welcome.

    Does that makes sense?



    Makes sense to me. When I first started playing Fallout, having direction from the game game me a 'push'. Once I got out in the world though, I had a handle on how things were working and all the possible choices became something to enjoy rather than something to fret over.

    ** ** **

    Re: VengeSunSoar's post - I find the possibility of my choices being permanent and bad choices being unfixable daunting. I don't think this is limited to sandbox games though.

    I can not remember winning or losing a single debate on the internet.

  • ScalplessScalpless SnowballvillePosts: 1,396Member Uncommon

    This article makes a false assumption:

    "An MMO sandbox dumps you in and is indifferent to what you do next. It won't hold your hand; it won't tell you where to go, what to be, or how to progress. In short, it presents hundreds of choices to you with no guidance and sometimes no context."

    That's not a sandbox. That's a game with a bad (or no) tutorial. Nothing prevents a sandbox RPG from having a series of tutorial quests. For example, EVE has a decent tutorial. It doesn't teach you everything, but it teaches you enough and is long enough for you not to feel lost afterwards.

  • NetSageNetSage Lake Geneva, WIPosts: 1,040Member Uncommon
    A good and true sandbox may.  I mean look at EVE it's complexity lies in the fact of how much people can do.  But, if you break it down into a specific professions it can be a lot more manageable.  I think people are to used to being able to do everything a game has to offer in one go.  Well sandbox makes that hard and makes you specialized your development which leads to people digging their own grave since they aren't great at anything now.
  • nariusseldonnariusseldon santa clara, CAPosts: 22,441Member

    It is well known in psychology that too many choices paralyze people (look up the book "The Paradox of Choice".

    And even in gameplay, more is not always better. I want interesting choices, not just choice.

    Let me use this extreme example to illustrate. You can create 100 fireball skills, and each does one point of damage more than the previous one. So there are 100 choices ... but it is not fun, because you may was well just use the highest damage one. There is no reason to use any other. (That reminds me of EQ, if you play a wiz, you get a new "nuke" every few levels, that essentially just do more damage ... everyone just use the lastest. There is no reason to have the earlier nuke at the later part of the game).

    So it is not about the number of choices, it is about intersting choices, and trade-offs.

  • mistmakermistmaker viennaPosts: 232Member Uncommon

    there arent any good sandboxes out, so my answer is no.

    SWG was my last sandbox game, and no, it didnt overwhelm me. 

     

    why should they?

  • KarahandrasKarahandras Sible HedinghamPosts: 1,676Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Scalpless

    This article makes a false assumption:

    "An MMO sandbox dumps you in and is indifferent to what you do next. It won't hold your hand; it won't tell you where to go, what to be, or how to progress. In short, it presents hundreds of choices to you with no guidance and sometimes no context."

    That's not a sandbox. That's a game with a bad (or no) tutorial. Nothing prevents a sandbox RPG from having a series of tutorial quests. For example, EVE has a decent tutorial. It doesn't teach you everything, but it teaches you enough and is long enough for you not to feel lost afterwards.

    This + people that didn't bother with the tutorials and then complain it's too hard/directionless.

  • SulaaSulaa nPosts: 1,151Member Common

    Figuring out 'what' and 'how' were one of best things about mmorpg's.   Practically all of them are missing this atm.  Propably because many people don't want that, which is why I don't like 'for everyone and their dog' kind of games.  It makes demanding and inaccessible design choices invalid.

  • AeliousAelious Portland, ORPosts: 2,854Member Uncommon
    For me? No, never too many choices. I like making my own story in an MMO and not feeling like I'm playing out a prewritten one that I can't wander from if I want to progress.

    It's worth pointing out that a lack of predefined direction does not mean lack of features. More gameplay options are great and I connect that mindset to making your own way.
  • veritas723veritas723 ny, NYPosts: 38Member

    i often times don't find the abundance of "choice" to be the primary barrier.   more so  motivation to do any of the available choices.

     

    there hasn't been a real sandbox MMO of any caliber for a good long while.   I'd say Skyrim  was the last game that scratched the sandbox-y itch  for me.

    maybe i've been programed by to many games with gear progression or Rep grinds.   but i tend to need some goal or start/end point.   be it the next level,   moving to the next zone... the next instance with  the next highest lvl bracket.   

    in sandbox games i tend to fixate on skill progression and aesthetics.  getting a matched suit of armor, or completing some "look"  

     

    when i just amble,  i really get into aesthetics.   in SWG  i used to spend hours tweaking the layout of my wookiee's home, using the oddball loot items to make designs/decor.    Same with my Rodian smuggler's spice shop.  i'd scour the GTN for some item that I could drop in my shop to make it look like a dirty junk shop dealing stims.  

    In skyrim,  I'd constantly organize my cupboard,  putting various reagents and harvested items different places.   etc etc.

     

    One of the greatest strengths of a good sandbox MMO  is the freedom to have fun doing nothing,  that's the one choice I always wish a lot of other mmos had.  

  • Siris23Siris23 Minneapolis, MNPosts: 217Member Uncommon

    There is no one right answer here, it very much dependent on the person playing.

    For me the answer is yes. I feel the need to deliberate and optimize every choice so dropping me into a game where there is no clear choice my brain eventually just shuts down and I can't chose anything and stop playing.

    But that's just me, some people thrive in a free environment and love sandbox style games.

  • nariusseldonnariusseldon santa clara, CAPosts: 22,441Member
    Originally posted by veritas723

    One of the greatest strengths of a good sandbox MMO  is the freedom to have fun doing nothing,  that's the one choice I always wish a lot of other mmos had.  

    Doing nothing is not fun for me. Given the prevalence of combat centric games, i doubt many would find it fun to do nothing.

     

  • waynejr2waynejr2 West Toluca Lake, CAPosts: 4,478Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by VengeSunsoar

    A sandbox should offer a lot of choice, however IMO most offer significantly less choice than themepark.

    In most sandbox the choices are what to level/train and what to craft/kill.  There may be a lot of crafting but there is very little variety between crafting so the gameplay ends up being the same.  Same with adventuring, lots of things to train, but very little variety between them so you really end up doing the same thing over and over and over again with several different skills.

    To me that is not really meaningfull choice. 

    However yes.  In the beginning the lack of direction, not knowing anything about the game, not knowing how well various skills/classes perform can be a bit daunting especially if there is no way to redo/relearn/re-distribute points.

     

     Shouldn't a system with free choices allow for the player to choose a gimped build? 

    What about infomation about the game mechanics?  Could that be part of the players exploration of the game or do players need a complete manual spelling it all out...

  • DrakynnDrakynn The Pas, MBPosts: 2,030Member

    Probably true for a lot of people.I mean take a look at even the simplest MMORPG and you'll find area caht spammed with "OMG How do I <Insert simple task that even a retarded slug could figure out>?!?!?!?"

    Personally both open world  games and Sandbox games cans eeem overwhelming at first glance but if the systems are well explained then finding your way doesn't take long at all.

  • SovrathSovrath Boston Area, MAPosts: 18,461Member Uncommon

    I think it depends on the person and "their reason" for playing in the first place.

    "for me" too much choice is "A-Ok". I don't get option anxiety nor am I compelled to be a completist.

    The more choice the better.

    However, there are people who are wired differently and/or play these games to be entertained and to get a specific type of entertainment experience.

    So, for example, a coworker of mine who is a "gamer" prefers games such as Dishonored or Bio-Shock (among many others) because they are first and foremost games. He wants to be given challenges and he wants to overcome them and then move on.

    A game such as skyrim didn't hold him at all (regardless of the argument of it being sandbox or open world, let's just accept the game doesn't force you down its game play paths) and he only played about 15 minutes after the starter part.

    His comments were that it was too open, too many options and wandering around was to him boring. Even if that meant opening up opportunities or discovering.

    He wants linear game play with challenges, doesn't have to be strictly linear but he wants set paths where he is clear where the next stop is.

    And it's not an intellgence thing. Sometimes I get the sense from the mmo/gamer crowd that if you aren't on board with open "non-handholding" game play then you are a bit "less than".

    There are people out there who are interested in these games as "games". They don't want to explore a world. They don't want many choices. Just give them one choice that is fun that leads to the next choice that is fun.

     

  • waynejr2waynejr2 West Toluca Lake, CAPosts: 4,478Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by nariusseldon

    It is well known in psychology that too many choices paralyze people (look up the book "The Paradox of Choice".

    And even in gameplay, more is not always better. I want interesting choices, not just choice.

    Let me use this extreme example to illustrate. You can create 100 fireball skills, and each does one point of damage more than the previous one. So there are 100 choices ... but it is not fun, because you may was well just use the highest damage one. There is no reason to use any other. (That reminds me of EQ, if you play a wiz, you get a new "nuke" every few levels, that essentially just do more damage ... everyone just use the lastest. There is no reason to have the earlier nuke at the later part of the game).

    So it is not about the number of choices, it is about intersting choices, and trade-offs.

     The classic choice problem that is often illustrated was the auto industry.  Back in the day they would have more colors to offer than we do today.  The deal would almost get closed but the spouses would get hung up on color selection and leave to take time to figure it out.  Leading to a Lost sale.  So they narrowed the choices down. 

  • VengeSunsoarVengeSunsoar Posts: 5,316Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by waynejr2
    Originally posted by VengeSunsoar

    A sandbox should offer a lot of choice, however IMO most offer significantly less choice than themepark.

    In most sandbox the choices are what to level/train and what to craft/kill.  There may be a lot of crafting but there is very little variety between crafting so the gameplay ends up being the same.  Same with adventuring, lots of things to train, but very little variety between them so you really end up doing the same thing over and over and over again with several different skills.

    To me that is not really meaningfull choice. 

    However yes.  In the beginning the lack of direction, not knowing anything about the game, not knowing how well various skills/classes perform can be a bit daunting especially if there is no way to redo/relearn/re-distribute points.

     

     Shouldn't a system with free choices allow for the player to choose a gimped build? 

    What about infomation about the game mechanics?  Could that be part of the players exploration of the game or do players need a complete manual spelling it all out...

     Of course, sometimes I choose a gimped build on purpose.  I still want a way to correct unintentioned mistakes without having to delete the character and redo everything I just did.  Repeating content just to get to the same place you were at before with a couple minor changes is usually not very fun.

    Exploration of game mechanics can and often is fun.  However usually there is such very little difference in gameplay between each aspect of fighting or each aspect of crafting that it becomes just a grind.

    Look at Ryzom.  While great variation in armor stats, only a few dozen types of armor.  While dozens of different crafting it is all the exact same thing.  Digging in the dirt the same way over and over and over and over again.  No variation in crafting mechanics at all. 

    That is not good exploration.  That is one gameplay activity copied dozens of times. 

    Quit worrying about other players in a game and just play.

  • bcbullybcbully Westland, MIPosts: 8,280Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by NetSage
    A good and true sandbox may.  I mean look at EVE it's complexity lies in the fact of how much people can do.  But, if you break it down into a specific professions it can be a lot more manageable.  I think people are to used to being able to do everything a game has to offer in one go.  Well sandbox makes that hard and makes you specialized your development which leads to people digging their own grave since they aren't great at anything now.

    good point.

  • GhavriggGhavrigg Halifax, NSPosts: 777Member Uncommon

    Not always. Personally, I've been overwhelmed by sandbox games' choices, but I've also been overwhelmed for other reasons in themeparks, like LotRO, mainly due to the excessive amounts of quests popping up in many small areas. I'd say I was actually more overwhelmed by the quests in LotRO when I played than I ever was in a sandbox, though. I'd rather have to learn mechanics than run a bunch of random quests that don't mean a whole lot overall.

     

  • AxehiltAxehilt San Francisco, CAPosts: 8,751Member Uncommon

    Nobody who played Glitch would claim the game "overwhelmed" them with choices.  "Empty" and "nothing to do" would be the words they would use.

    You can't create an empty world with nothing to do and expect players to like it just because you slap a "sandbox!" sticker on the box.

    So sandboxes underwhelm me with lack of choice.  I want a game filled with interesting possibilities, and they simply provide some terrain (or star systems) to move through very slowly and whatever tools they provide for me to manipulate that world are typically dull (if not outright tedious.)

    Which isn't to say sandbox is a bad idea.  Just that you have to approach it more like Terraria or ATITD or Puzzle Pirates, where the world is manipulatable and that's what makes it a sandbox, but the moment-to-moment gameplay is enjoyable: it's a game.

    There is no sandbox where choice overwhelms currently.  If you took Terraria and added 20 features which were all available from the beginning of the game, you would have a sandbox where choice is overwhelming.  But too much choice isn't the typical sandbox problem.  The typical sandbox problem is they're empty.  If there's barely any game, there's barely any choice.

    "Joe stated his case logically and passionately, but his perceived effeminate voice only drew big gales of stupid laughter..." -Idiocracy
    "There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance." -Socrates

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