Smed talks sandbox

Smed has a new blog that yells at you with giant text. I wish he had named it “MMOs are still a niche market”, but no dice on that. His first post is about sandbox design.

“When we first began making these kinds of games 18 years ago (I mean no disrespect to the Muds and other games out before Everquest)”

In the Smed history of MMOs, the first one was EQ, a themepark before the word themepark was a thing. This is funny because the first commercially successful MMO was Ultimate Online (sorry M59), a sandbox. What’s also interesting here is that while UO was indeed a virtual world, a game experiment in what would happen if Britannia was populated by more than one Avatar, EQ was a 3D graphic skin over existing MUD design, rather than the brave adventure into unknown lands that Smed views it as.

Fast forward to 2004, and we all know WoW was just a better EQ1, thus beginning the long chain of SOE attempting to copy something, and Blizzard coming along and simply doing the copy/paste job better. EQ1 is also the first and last time one could say SOE did something more right than wrong. The SOE MMO graveyard can attest to that.

No event is more memorable in sandbox history than the NGE for SWG, taking that sandbox and (spot the pattern) trying to make it more of a WoW-like themepark, without success. Smed being the man behind that blunder is something he has admitted and apologies for countless times, but for SWG fans that wound hasn’t quite healed yet, as evident in the comments section of his blog. That he has decided to target that group to hype his next (not EQN) MMO is an… interesting decision.

“A great example of this happened with SWTOR. I happen to think it’s a very well done game and the team at Bioware should be proud.”

That Smed considers it a very well done game should be alarming. From the first reveal of SW:TOR in 2010, some of us could easily see the critical flaw in basing your game on the 4th pillar (one-off content). Now granted, back then we couldn’t predict that the most expensive MMO ever would also come with a terrible engine, plenty of bugs, and all the other problems SW:TOR had; but even if none of those other things happened, the game would still have failed because at its very core, it’s a horribly flawed way to make an MMO. If the leader of my company looked at something like SW:TOR as a ‘very well done game’, I’d be jumping ship.

Now, Smed does finally mention EVE in the second to last paragraph, calling it a shining example, so that’s certainly a positive if you have hopes for the next SOE product.

“Our belief at SOE is that it’s smarter to head in this direction now rather than waiting.”

The above can easily be taken out of context, given that EVE has been the blueprint for a sandbox for over ten years now, and SOE has been around longer than that, but I take the above as Smed saying that rather than making EQ3 yet another themepark that can’t succeed (forget competing with WoW), he would rather try to tap into the magic CCP formula. And while I’m all for that, at the end of the day this is SOE we are talking about. They will find a way to screw it up. And then they will try to fix that screw-up and odds are decent they will make it worse. Because SOE.

Welcome to blogging Smed, hopefully you stick around for a bit.

2 Responses to Smed talks sandbox

  1. zubonganai says:

    thus beginning the long chain of SOE attempting to copy something, and Blizzard coming along and simply doing the copy/paste job better.
    It’s a good line. Fair, too.

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