Sandbox end-game: Why keep playing long-term?

Let’s talk PvP sandbox MMO end-game today.

One of my outstanding questions from the whole Warhammer Online saga is in a perfect world, what was the end-game for that MMO? I mean we know it was to raid the other faction’s capital city and sack it, but was that it? If it was, in that perfect world, how many times could the players repeat that activity before getting bored? And if there was something greater, did Mark Jacobs or anyone from Mythic ever talk about it?

Darkfall has a similar problem, where the end-game is territory control, but due to a broken economy and the overall trivial nature of acquiring gear, no one really needs or desperately wants holdings, and the fights that result over them are thinly disguised “fights for the sake of fighting”. The criticism that the game is an awkward oversized arena stems from this general lack of greater purpose.

Finally EVE, as usual, is the best example in the genre in terms of end-game, as null-sec has value and giant organizations via to control it. The current ‘crisis’ is that 2-3 groups control it too well, and the barrier of entry for anyone outside of those 2-3 groups is practically impossible to overcome (short of those established groups imploding and creating a vacuum of power). EVE also benefits here because it has other end-games, though most revolve around the acquisition and use of money.

End-game is one of the issues I thought about when writing up my PvE Sandbox posts, and my solution is rather than relying on the players to create ‘content’ by fighting each other, the game world itself would drive players into action by having mobs attacking their holdings, and for the world overall to be in flux based on player actions and success. This would be further sustainable with AI tweaks or mob changes; whenever the players would get too comfortable with the challenges facing them, whenever they got too good at fighting back the mobs, the devs could step in and alter things to keep it interesting.

Looking forward to some future MMOs like Camelot Unchained and Pathfinder, what are the true end-games for those titles? Both have territory control mechanics, but will they have the depth and detail of EVE to avoid the problems currently facing Darkfall’s end-game? Will either bring something new, interesting, and sustainable to the table to keep players happily playing/paying?

9 Responses to Sandbox end-game: Why keep playing long-term?

  1. Jenks says:

    Time for MMOs to add fabulous cash prizes.

  2. zaphod6502 says:

    I am almost completely burnt out on traditional MMO’s. ESO did not last past the 30 day period, Wildstar did not last past the 30 day period. I started and stopped playing WoW again. I have dabbled with Defiance, SWTOR, and a couple of other F2P MMO’s.

    The only MMO that has survived and I am still playing on an almost daily basis has been EVE Online. I think what has kept me going in that MMO is the wide variety of activities I can engage in.

    One day I am playing the market, another day I am running exploration sites, and another day I am running plexes. Some days I simply theorycraft ship fits and test them in combat.

    Everything I do in EVE can impact other players both directly and indirectly. It has this strange attraction that keeps me coming back. And the larger meta of conflict in the game is always interesting to follow.

    I wish there were more MMO’s like EVE.

  3. Catalina de Erauso says:

    I just wonder, is it possible to develop a game whose goal was cooperation and not competition? Or at least, competitive cooperation between players (not to defeat each other, but to outperform them?)

    ‘What do yo do in that game?’
    ‘Everything goes to hell unless you gang with other people and fix it. You can’t fix everything but you can fix more and better than the other players’
    ‘How do you win?’
    ‘You don’t win. You just keep playing the game, facing challenges and occasional defeat’

    Would this be marketable to a populace infected by competitionism? Striving to be “the one” in something, or feel like that?

    Would we buy a game to be “We” and not “Me”?

    • Kyff says:

      A tale in the desert?
      (Never looked into it though)

      • Fez says:

        Apparently its ownership changed hands recently and it’s now developed/maintained by another company. Not a wide stretch to assume the game will start getting some improvements now, as the former devs were really lazy by any comparison.

        It’s old, looks ugly, but it has many unique gameplay concepts as far as most MMOs go. Was fun when I played it ages ago.

  4. Stormwaltz says:

    I’m fairly sure the intent of Pathfinder’s mob escalation system is not unlike your PvE sandbox design. There are monster areas, and the longer they’re left without a culling, the larger and more powerful they get. If you beat down an escalated mob camp enough, it spawns a “final raid boss” to defeat.

  5. Whorhay says:

    It sounds like the same problem that any MMO or sandbox game has. If you don’t have a big “You’ve Won” condition of some sort you had better have something to hold peoples interest on a constant basis. In any game I don’t think there are enough hardcore competitive people to keep playing just for the sake of continuing to beating the other guy. Sadly the only Massive PvP type game that I’ve played that seemed to have a handle on this was the Ultima browser strategy game. There was a clear you’ve won condition, after which you could go start on a new world to do it again, or keep playing on that world and try to help other people achieve a secondary win.

  6. sid6.7 says:

    What really sets EvE apart from Darkfall isn’t the “trivial nature of acquiring gear” but the lack of in-depth crafting. As a prominent member of one of the easily accessible clans in the game, I can tell you with great certainty that the ‘crafters’ were the first people to leave and they never returned.

    The comment they cited wasn’t that it was trivial to acquire things (which wasn’t really the case until a month+ after launch) but that the sandbox simply lacked sand.

    That’s the crux of the issue — it’s not a sandbox game. It attracts people who believe it’s a sandbox game but even AV define themselves as “hardcore PvP” game rather than a sandbox (just look at the website).

    This is why the “end game” in EvE works. It’s even why non-MMO sandbox games like Minecraft and Rust continue to work. To truly be a sandbox, you need to be able to ‘build’ something.

    • Coeur-de-fer says:

      Moving away from that sandbox ethos – even if it was basically in name only by the time the first incarnation came to a close – was one of my biggest disappointments with DF, and will most likely be the ultimate reason I give it up. It’s rather depressing to read some of the early dev statements and interviews, to see the grand scope of what they wanted to accomplish, and see how far from that trajectory they’ve veered.

      It’s also one of the reasons the constant forumfall assertions that such-and-such feature “has no place in this game”, “this is a PvP game”, etc are so mind-numbing. “This game” has changed in character so many times since development started all those years ago, declaring the arbitrary period that best fits one’s tastes and whimsy as the eternal, immutable essence of it is patently absurd.

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