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John Smedely - The Sandbox MMO

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  • HatefullHatefull Posts: 770Member Uncommon

    [mod edit]

    If you want a new idea, go read an old book.

  • evilastroevilastro EdinburghPosts: 4,270Member
    Originally posted by Quirhid

    Thing is, the crowd that wants to "inhabit a virtual world" is rather small. Most people just want a good game. In Eve, for example, most people don't think they're a pirate, a mercenary, a part of a militia or anything of the sort (if they do they're bunch of morons). There is no RP. Ultimately, it's about pissing on the other guy's cereals. Beating someone in a game. PvP.

    Make-believe is a niche market.

     

    If that was true then Second Life and Entropia Universe wouldn't have been as popular as they were.  I think you underestimate how many people just want a fantasy world to live in.  A character they can invest in without having set end game goals that have a finite end point (ie: acquire the tier 15 armour set, wait 4 months, now acquire tier 16!).

  • PhimosisPhimosis Cleburne, TXPosts: 1Member
    Originally posted by askdaboss

    My main problem with many sandbox games is that they often time consuming and that the results are slow to show.

    This is why I enjoy themepark style content that I can simply consume.

    Exactly. Having dabbled in EVE for over 6 months now, I still feel completely lost. I'm even a member of EVE University, which caters to teaching players how to play - however, EU is in itself overwhelming. You have to have incredible amounts of time available to even hope to accomplish the learning curve in that game. Without a doubt, EVE's results are the endpoint to strive for in a game, as Smedely stated. However, the endgame needs to be explained succinctly for new players so they know what they want to do when they reach that point. In EVE, the price for not having heavy amounts of time to dedicate to the game is you get ganked...non-stop...from all fronts.

    In my opinion the BEST solution is blending the gameplay. For the sake of all those new people joining, make the game structured to walk them through the core concepts. Make progression linear until enough core concepts are grasped, then loosen the borders toward the endgame sandbox. If I want to have a "Sorcerer" as the end-game character, then show me what I need to do to get myself there so I'm not hamstrung when I arrive. You can lay out some of the sandbox elements along the way by allowing my Sorc to gain his skills in various ways, be it trial by error out in the wilds or perhaps instead through in-game education methods run by players (a much higher skilled Sorc can "educate" or "mentor" a newer player in a manner that benefits both.

    Sandboxes will ALWAYS need structure and the first pillar of that structure is protection from griefing. Every game has its own army of gamers who are inherently mean and will ALWAYS prey on the weak if able - as such there needs to be protection to keep the game enjoyable. This is another point of frustration in EVE for many people when there are extremely easy ways to circumvent the protection afforded new/weak players, even in the areas that they should be 100% protected. To make the argument that this protection should not exist because players should be able to do what they want to each other just like in real life simply isn't accurate. Griefing exists because those that grief do not suffer adequate consequences when they act the way they do. In real life it is the rare individual that survives a prolonged criminal career. If the EVE griefers were threatened with loss of access to the areas they abuse with "workaround" ganking, they would cease to roam those areas because eventually they would ban themselves out of the game's main population hubs. Its about time that people developing sandbox games with PVP stopped ignoring the reasons we don't nonchalantly kill the guy across the room in real life. 

    The second pillar of a good sandbox structure  is relevant sandbox content. Most games do this fairly well as they progress over time. I'm not suggesting items be "tooltip identified" simply by mousing over the item - but that tooltip could be implemented per individual once the item's purpose is discovered - again, an education system would benefit this model, where someone who knows the item's purpose could link it over chat which would benefit the person asking its purpose as well as being beneficial to the person that linked it. Relevance needs to include PVP, PVE and Crafting progression. In particular, Crafting needs to get into the 21st century with regards to its complexity and variability. More resources should be applied in game development to crafting than any other focus. Trial by error or success through education (again, much like in real life) are the choices that seem most accepted by those of us seeking a unique experience. 

    The third pillar of a good sandbox structure is something I've yet to see done well....reward the player appropriately. For most MMO's and many an RPG, then has morphed over the last decade into the "achievement" systems as the alternative (additional) stimulus beyond "do quest, get gold and experience". The purpose of the sandbox is to progress the universe. In that mindset, everything we do of consequence should be beneficial to that universe. Each character should radiate a "zone of influence" that offers and accepts learned experience from their surroundings. Major and obvious learning would be something queued to the player, but in the background (again, we're in our 3rd decade of mmo programming now folks) a multitude of additional learning benefits should be applied to the character. My Sorcerer, deciding to have a bite to eat at the local inn should be able to sit at a table and "absorb the experience" of what he sees and hears during that time. Whether it be listening to a new melody for the first time, watching two men arm wrestle, or observe another sorcerer across the room practicing his art - as long as these are within the character's "zone of influence", there should be ongoing calculations being applied to numerous categories of learning that accumulate and influence current/future skills. 10 years ago, the complexity of such a crafting/learning system was not possible. I believe we have arrived now, with the only limitation being the resources applied during development. In truth, today's sandbox should be less about  "crafting" per se and more about cumulative experiences obtained during game play.

    With realistic player incentives to dissuade griefing, relevant content and an open-ended rewards system focusing on the player's ADL's (activities of daily living) that serve to progress the game universe, you have a foundation that truly achieves a next-gen sandbox MMO.

  • ste2000ste2000 londonPosts: 4,699Member Uncommon

    He makes valid points, but Smedley is really good with words, a bit less on the substance.

    I am going to wait for EQN (not Landmark) to see if he really understood how to make a Sandbox MMO, or he is just full of it as usual.

  • FinalFikusFinalFikus Chicago, ILPosts: 906Member
    Originally posted by Quirhid
    Originally posted by FinalFikus
    Originally posted by Quirhid
     

    Games?

    Games are 100% make believe. From pong to soccer. Play is the escape from the reality of we're all the same in the end.

    The marathon started as a reenactment of some type right?

    If you are playing a role playing game, you are role playing. Regardless of what marketing has told us.

    Nothing to do with marketing. There's at least two types of play: A playing with a dollhouse is one, playing monopoly is another. One has rules and an objective, the other doesn't. The virtual world proponents want to do the former while most people prefer the latter.

    See the difference? Dollhouse -> make-believe, Monopoly -> a game. Saying its all the same is rather ignorant.

    If we play dollhouse together. We agree to a set of rules and stipulations. It could be a competition. Which is all you've described.

    V world proponents want the same rules for all.

    Others want rules that mandate secondary systems and secondary players.

    Both are make believe, One is a game.  One requires bribes and rewards.

    If you want to make fun, playing doll house is going to end up sounding better in my opinion.

    "If the Damned gave you a roadmap, then you'd know just where to go"

  • PilnkplonkPilnkplonk zagrebPosts: 1,532Member
    Originally posted by GuyClinch

    The sandbox solves nothing. You just try to offload your content creation to players - and they create shitty content. Some sandbox elements like PvP work to a limited extent but players still get bored of it.

    What developers really need to be doing is designing good procedurally driven content. Thats the real MMO holy grail - you want the game to be able to respond to players needs and desires and make the world more interesting. The borderlands Director is as close as we have to this now.

    Sandbox and procedurally generated content are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I'd say each is crucial for the other's success. I don't know why the majority of mmo developers haven't yet realized this, considering that the very first sandbox game, the legendary Elite back in 8-bit days owed its success exactly to this combination of procedurally generated world and total freedom to do whatever you want within it. So the very first sandbox game, the one which defined the term, was almost completely procedurally dirven... just like Minecraft, incidentally. Why is this insight largely lost to mainstream publishers these days, I have no idea.

    In fact, that's the one thing I miss in EVE and which stopped me from playing it extensively. Just think how much better it would be with procedurally generated universe and events within it... Think Master of Orion played by AIs with players individual characters within that world, capable of influencing and maybe even replacing those AIs for a time.

    As for "offloading content creation to players..." well it's been a recipe for success ever since Doom (or Civilization II before that) up till now, with TES games particularly owing their huge popularity to the vast quantities of imaginative mods created by fans. There's nothing wrong with it if you manage it smartly - let the players do whatever the hell they want and then pick and choose "official" content updates from this vast pool. As simple as that. Personally I feel my mouth begin to water when I consider the possibility of player-created PvP arenas in a MMO... Something Smed implied recently and which, being a staple of FPSs, is still ridiculously absent from mmos. I don't think TF2 would be one tenth as successful as it is without player-made arenas and other stuff.. What the mmo dev crowd is waiting for I haven't the foggiest. Kudos to SOE and Smed for taking the (pretty obvious) plunge others should have taken a loong time ago.

    As for Smed's text... i find it perfect. Exactly what I (and many others) have been piping for a long time - you can't have a continuous, endless game which is story (or "content") driven. The very idea of a mmo is directly opposed to the one where you "consume" a set amount of content and then bug off. A story is defined by a beginning and an end, and if you have a game which relies on a player never reaching the end... You'll have a big problem if you make it story-driven - because by their very definition stories end. Sadly, Bioware and others, so obsessed by their story-telling model where it pays if players burn through content quickly and demand more, never managed to realize this. Their answer to everything was "more story" without realizing it is exactly this story-reliance what is killing their mmos longevity. It's heartening to finally see a big name developer realize this simple fact. I must say I'm, dare I say it, cautiously optimistic tho I can't help feeling a little bit sad that so many years of development and genre evolution were wasted on this misguided obsession with stories.

  • UhwopUhwop Wilm, DEPosts: 1,663Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by GuyClinch

    The sandbox solves nothing. You just try to offload your content creation to players - and they create shitty content. Some sandbox elements like PvP work to a limited extent but players still get bored of it.

    What developers really need to be doing is designing good procedurally driven content. Thats the real MMO holy grail - you want the game to be able to respond to players needs and desires and make the world more interesting. The borderlands Director is as close as we have to this now.

    That's not what he's saying in the blog.

    He's saying you still give them content, but also give them the tools to make content themselves, IE: EVE. 

    He's saying that MMO's have only been giving players half of what they need to keep them in the game, and their plan is to give them both parts in their games from now on. 

     

    A sandbox core, with the tools for players to not just make content but be the content, as well as developer created content. 

  • DarthconnorDarthconnor Saint James, MOPosts: 61Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Hatefull

     


    Originally posted by Quirhid

    Originally posted by FinalFikus

    Originally posted by Quirhid  
    Games? Games are 100% make believe. From pong to soccer. Play is the escape from the reality of we're all the same in the end. The marathon started as a reenactment of some type right? If you are playing a role playing game, you are role playing. Regardless of what marketing has told us.
    Nothing to do with marketing. There's at least two types of play: A playing with a dollhouse is one, playing monopoly is another. One has rules and an objective, the other doesn't. The virtual world proponents want to do the former while most people prefer the latter.

     

    See the difference? Dollhouse -> make-believe, Monopoly -> a game. Saying its all the same is rather ignorant.


     


    I prefer the lego analogy. You can follow the directions and build the space ships (theme park) or you can build the space ship however you see fit (sandbox). either way works, why can't we have both in a virtual world? Oh wait we did, it was called SWG.

    Be great to have another game that is close to what SWG was. Dunno bout most but miss playing a game that I could recreate the same character over and over to fit what i was doing and most the grinds only took a few days. I think most need to see content is needed to an extend but not to the point of being the whole game. If you had Swtor story driven missions as just gameplay instead of soemthing you had to do to level players would enjoy it and take the time to do it all instead of what they needed from that planet to level. As it is now most pass up some of the better missions in a rush to get to max level. Take that thought away and make a game that easily level or skill gained and have it in such away that ppl that want it are free to relax and do it as they see fit and you could have alot more content for players without alot more work. Love to actually play thru Swtor content from start to finish as a max level character that been trained as a Jedi in their temple rather then some rookie Jedi that slowly leveling up and taking on these missions without most my abilities.

    Had Swg had missions to do for a distraction while making the main part of the content as it was player driven it would have been much more of something ppl where interested in. That and better tutorial on how systems worked. Most games seem to hang things like better gear and weapons infront of you as a reason to do missions or raids whatever the content is. Once they have it they either sit and wait or they leave til more newer things come out. Give them something like components for making weapons and armor and let them sell that to crafters and think they would have a reason to stay around longer. Build a community of players that all work together to improve their gameplay and instead of creating a game that has guilds that raid and other guilds that craft and yet more that do whatever you can create guilds that play the entire game together and need all kinds of different style players in the same guild to do what the game has to offer.

    Mostly a pipe dream but who knows.

  • RusqueRusque Las Vegas, NVPosts: 2,228Member Uncommon

    Talk is cheap.

    Hell, we talk all the time on these forums, that's exactly what talk is worth.  Let's see it happen, don't care who does it, let's see it.

  • bcbullybcbully Westland, MIPosts: 8,262Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by jesad
    Good stuff BC.  Thanks for the link.

    Your welcome. It's one thing to talk the talk. It's something much more impressive when you have product walking with your talking.

  • Kevyne-ShandrisKevyne-Shandris Hephzibah, GAPosts: 1,946Member
    Originally posted by GuyClinch

    The sandbox solves nothing. You just try to offload your content creation to players - and they create shitty content. Some sandbox elements like PvP work to a limited extent but players still get bored of it.

    Because PvP IS the content.

     

    WoW is facing this problem now, that the old time consuming content is being replaced with more PvP islands, with little but the basic grinding of content left to do, for a time sink. It got boring by the 2nd week.

     

    Games need a light rail of PvE content to keep the game interesting and played (mini events), as just PvPing is getting older than dirt. I tested SOE's PS2 out for a change of pace, and it's like...horrible...as players are just camping bases to score. What a waste of resources.

  • GeezerGamerGeezerGamer ChairPosts: 5,587Member Uncommon

    Smed totally avoided the real issue here. The issue isn't about unsustainable streams of new content, as much as it is about not wanting to release a game that has a grind in it. That's the real issue here. The old games were played for a long time, because they took a long time to play. Now, they release games that don't take a long time to play and then sit back and wonder why no one sticks around. Early MMORPGS, regardless of Theme Park or Sand Box all had grinds. If you are going to develop an MMORPG, you are going to have to develop MEANINGFUL grinds. 

  • Ender4Ender4 milwaukee, WIPosts: 2,253Member

    Pretty much the only major company that actually understands what is wrong with MMORPG these days (I don't count EvE btw). Everyone else that has released a game in the past 5 years has been totally clueless.

    I just hope they can make a decent game out of it.

  • tyfontyfon OSLOPosts: 238Member
    Originally posted by Dewguy79
    Why would anyone listen to this guy or have hopes for Sony?  They are closing games, their credit rating is junk, they just sold their PC division, they forecasted some 20 billion in profit then just came out and said it they will have a billion dollar loss for the year.  If EQN flops there will be no way Smedely will be allowed or have the resources to make another game they will close.

     

    If you actually looked at EQN and EQN:L instead of spewing hate, you would understand that these are the games he is talking about.

    At least they are open and explain what they are doing. Even the Alpha of EQN:L does not have a NDA up. Compare that to ESO which still has a NDA one month prior to launch...

  • Kevyne-ShandrisKevyne-Shandris Hephzibah, GAPosts: 1,946Member
    Originally posted by GeezerGamer

    That's the real issue here. The old games were played for a long time, because they took a long time to play. Now, they release games that don't take a long time to play and then sit back and wonder why no one sticks around.

    Eagle!

     

    It's the journey getting to max level that was the adventure, not what to do at end game.

     

    Didn't need artificial gates because "the grind" to level was the gate itself. Games like that have an extensive quest system (which I read from SOE harder to put together than churning out more and more dungeons/raids, especially their legendary and HQ quest lines).

  • Fenrir767Fenrir767 Waitsfield, VTPosts: 595Member
    That long journey to max level is also what kept millions of players out of those games will faster more consumable theme parks have brought on millions.
  • Ender4Ender4 milwaukee, WIPosts: 2,253Member


    Originally posted by Dewguy79

    Originally posted by Ender4 Pretty much the only major company that actually understands what is wrong with MMORPG these days (I don't count EvE btw). Everyone else that has released a game in the past 5 years has been totally clueless. I just hope they can make a decent game out of it.
    They understand mmorps?  Is that why they have closed more mmos in the last 5 years than all others devs combined ?  If Sony doesn't get their act together and if eqn flops there won't be anymore games for them to release and close.  

    Unfortunately your post is lacking in any sort of reality so it is hard for me to discuss with you. I guess you mean the future closing of Vanguard (a game they took over and didn't make)? or maybe Free realms which was a massive success considering the small budget and small target audience? Both games not closed yet.

  • GeezerGamerGeezerGamer ChairPosts: 5,587Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Fenrir767
    That long journey to max level is also what kept millions of players out of those games will faster more consumable theme parks have brought on millions.

    Another major problem. Trying to appeal to millions who cannot truly be appealed to. They never truly belonged and they will most likely not stay either. But they bring in boxed sales, then leave. 

     

    If anything, I'd say Smed needs to learn the meaning of the expression

    "Dance with the one who brung ya"

     

  • Fenrir767Fenrir767 Waitsfield, VTPosts: 595Member
    @geezergamer They are still here still playing a variety of games from SWTOR, LOTRO, GW2 and everyone's favourite wiping boy WoW. They have been here for 10 years and growing the new model games dwarf the old school MMOs population almost 10 fold.

    The market your dismissing is the largest and most lucrative. There is room for many styles of games I hope you get yours but those millions of gamers most likely won't play it and someone will develop for them.

    The genre has changed the the types of players have changed as we'll and you would have to be insane to ignore the casual MMO player that has exploded into the scene over the past 10 years and many of them have stayed and are still playing!

    So many people say old school was the best well most people don't have the time for old school anymore or didn't enjoy it in the first place.

    The numbers are there you are just ignoring them!
  • Kevyne-ShandrisKevyne-Shandris Hephzibah, GAPosts: 1,946Member
    Originally posted by Fenrir767
    That long journey to max level is also what kept millions of players out of those games will faster more consumable theme parks have brought on millions.

    Actually, increased the player game base, WoW peaked in membership from the end of TBC to the end of WotLK.

     

    Success is offering access to previously closed content, but also keeping the journey long enough to be memorable, including those special achieves.

     

    The other week when I logged in at Storm Peaks to shoot more video, people were still camping the Time-Lost Proto-drake for their Frostbitten achieve...

     

     

    That's the kind of stuff that keeps people in game and busy, and not just be stuck on the dungeon/raid end-game grind. Some are still trying to farm for him 3 years later!

     

    One of the most rewarding events I had in WoW, besides getting the whole 264 (T10) tier set, which I wear to this day. As it didn't involve the crappy community that comes with the largest MMORPGs.

  • Fenrir767Fenrir767 Waitsfield, VTPosts: 595Member
    I never said that providing content was not the case many players couldn't play those games 40 hours a week to stay competitive and keep up. More content is always better also a lot of those WoW Players have found new homes so those people are still playing just not WoW.
  • Kevyne-ShandrisKevyne-Shandris Hephzibah, GAPosts: 1,946Member
    Originally posted by Fenrir767
    @geezergamer They are still here still playing a variety of games from SWTOR, LOTRO, GW2 and everyone's favourite wiping boy WoW. They have been here for 10 years and growing the new model games dwarf the old school MMOs population almost 10 fold.
     

    Yet they...

     

    1. Don't stay for long in the "disposible" model MMOs.

    2. Return right back to the nest, WoW.

     

    I wonder why...

     

  • QuirhidQuirhid TamperePosts: 5,969Member Common
    Originally posted by Hatefull

     


    Originally posted by Quirhid

    Originally posted by FinalFikus

    Originally posted by Quirhid  
    Games? Games are 100% make believe. From pong to soccer. Play is the escape from the reality of we're all the same in the end. The marathon started as a reenactment of some type right? If you are playing a role playing game, you are role playing. Regardless of what marketing has told us.
    Nothing to do with marketing. There's at least two types of play: A playing with a dollhouse is one, playing monopoly is another. One has rules and an objective, the other doesn't. The virtual world proponents want to do the former while most people prefer the latter.

     

    See the difference? Dollhouse -> make-believe, Monopoly -> a game. Saying its all the same is rather ignorant.


     


    I prefer the lego analogy. You can follow the directions and build the space ships (theme park) or you can build the space ship however you see fit (sandbox). either way works, why can't we have both in a virtual world? Oh wait we did, it was called SWG.

    There ya go, Legoes is another example. Playing with Legoes is not a game.

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

  • GeezerGamerGeezerGamer ChairPosts: 5,587Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Fenrir767
    @geezergamer They are still here still playing a variety of games from SWTOR, LOTRO, GW2 and everyone's favourite wiping boy WoW. They have been here for 10 years and growing the new model games dwarf the old school MMOs population almost 10 fold.

    The market your dismissing is the largest and most lucrative. There is room for many styles of games I hope you get yours but those millions of gamers most likely won't play it and someone will develop for them.

    The genre has changed the the types of players have changed as we'll and you would have to be insane to ignore the casual MMO player that has exploded into the scene over the past 10 years and many of them have stayed and are still playing!

    So many people say old school was the best well most people don't have the time for old school anymore or didn't enjoy it in the first place.

    The numbers are there you are just ignoring them!

    Those millions of players you mentioned., sure they are still around. However, they aren't dedicated to SWTOR, or LOTRO, or GW2. They are bouncing around between each of these games and more, so these titles are competing for their share of a large overlapping pool of players that none of these games can seem to tie down and get them to commit. If that's the market Smed wants to tap....good luck. All those games have had their share of issues trying to replicate what WoW did. If Smed thinks he has the magic formula to be able to do what none other has........ let's just say, I have my doubts.

     

  • PalaziousPalazious Lewiston, IDPosts: 162Member
    Originally posted by Fenrir767
    @geezergamer They are still here still playing a variety of games from SWTOR, LOTRO, GW2 and everyone's favourite wiping boy WoW. They have been here for 10 years and growing the new model games dwarf the old school MMOs population almost 10 fold.

    The market your dismissing is the largest and most lucrative. There is room for many styles of games I hope you get yours but those millions of gamers most likely won't play it and someone will develop for them.

    The genre has changed the the types of players have changed as we'll and you would have to be insane to ignore the casual MMO player that has exploded into the scene over the past 10 years and many of them have stayed and are still playing!

    So many people say old school was the best well most people don't have the time for old school anymore or didn't enjoy it in the first place.

    The numbers are there you are just ignoring them!

    I think you're correct in the fact that in the last 10 years most players have played the SWTOR, GW2 (games like WoW) but possibly the reason is that the only MMOs released in the last 10 years were themepark MMOs (talking about AAA studio releases).

    If all you serve at the party is Bud light, then for the whole duration of the party it really seems that everyone loves Bud Light.

    I think it's going to take a AAA studio to create a sandbox hybrid type of MMO to change the Genre...right now there just isn't any other options.  I think that the first studio that does this will be extremely successful.

    I'm not sure if EQNext can pull it off but at least they're putting their toes in the water.  Personally, I'll take a reskinned, updated EQ (up to Velious) based on the Forgelight engine and mixed up with a lot of what EVE is based on.  That would keep me happy for another 8 years.

    Palazious <The Vindicators> Darkfall
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