PvE Sandbox MMO Design

Note: This page is a collection of posts I did about the design of a PvE Sandbox MMO. The individual posts themselves, along with all comments, can still be found on the blog, and will be linked to at the start of each section. Going forward however, please leave comments here rather than on the individual posts. Thank you and enjoy! (Page creation idea credit goes to Rebecca from The Melting Pot)

The Beginning

A few days ago I posted about a PvE Sandbox MMO, and while the post got my overall point across, I think it might be fun to fully expand upon the idea over a series of posts. One of the biggest challenges I have as a writer here is that in my mind I know the game I want to play, but as that game does not 100% exist right now, I can’t refer to it and have people know what I’m talking about. Bringing up one feature without the context of the whole generally leads to confusion over anything else. Perhaps after this series that will be a little clearer for regular readers.

One goal will be to address seemingly unrelated issues (like crafting, housing, progression) by going the sandbox route, all while keeping the main goal, PvE instead of PvP, in place. Today though I want to lay out some high-level goals for the sandbox MMO.

First is that in a sandbox, a player is never ‘done’ with an area. You travel to different places, but you never fully move on from any one place because you have out-leveled it or you have every item you might want from there. New and veteran players should travel to the same areas, but perhaps for different reasons. Getting this aspect right is, IMO, one of the biggest keys to a good MMO.

Second, character progression should be lengthy (ideally infinite) but not outright grindy or heavily required beyond a certain point, and while characters should always be progressing, the difference between veterans and newbies should never reach peasant to god levels.

Third, itemization is key. All gamers love shines, just like we all love character progression. Like the above however, items should remain viable while not turning anyone into a god, and having more wealth should always be a good thing. You should never reach the point of being ‘rich enough’.

Fourth, social structure has to matter to all players, not just those who throw themselves into the deep end of guild politics. Leaders must be able to shape the world, while those who are not yet leaders must have a path to attain such status with the proper amount of work/effort. Those who are not leaders must also have a role and purpose beyond just showing up. Finally the option to play a ‘lone wolf’ must exist, but be a more difficult road for the select few.

Freedom is important, but the game’s structure must be such that it does assist with goals and leads you down the path you have selected. Random and non-interconnected systems all tossed into a world does not qualify as a solid MMO. That said, any character should have the ability to change paths, and at no point should a full re-roll ever be more optimal than going a different direction with your current character. The notion that you are your character, rather than you owning an account with different options, is very important.

Tomorrow I’ll lay out the basics for the game I have in mind, and beyond I’ll dive into different areas and add on to that base.

Combat

The first area I’m going to tackle for the PvE Sandbox is combat, as I think it’s the glue that holds everything together and really sets the tone for the type of game you are playing. It also fuels other systems, and so I believe it’s a good starting point.

Basically, think Mount and Blade or Darkfall. So no tab-targeting, each swing hits or misses based on where the target is vs a dice roll, and things like momentum, weapon reach, and area hit all come into play. I’d also add friendly fire (controlled to prevent griefing, so only when facing mobs and other restrictions), as this really helps control zerging (somewhat anyway) and curbs other cheap tactics.

One goal would be to keep the number of key presses needed to a minimum, so combat comes down to who has better tactics and reactions rather than who has configured their UI to account for the 20+ actions needed. To this end I would remove magic as it’s seen in most MMOs, but not to the extent that M&B does. Basically the world still has some magic to it (floating platforms, monsters, teleports, some kind of healing, etc), but the players themselves can’t throw fireballs or toss out dozens of buffs. Special NPCs could, be they friendly or not.

Since the game is a PvE game, monsters would have decent enough AI that they would drop back, dodge, and use cover. Nothing mind-blowing, but above the usually “run into your sword” charge that common MMO mobs do. Lots of other areas have evolved in MMOs since 97, it’s time for AI to do so as well. The point is to make each encounter challenging enough that you have to focus and react, but also simple enough that every fight does not become a raid boss effort. The more special the encounter, the mob would not only have increased stats, but also increased AI, rather than having a more elaborate script of abilities.

Ranged combat would be limited to things like bows, crossbows, and throwing weapons, and ammo would not be unlimited. The cost of basic ammo would be low, but players would be more limited by how much they can carry and when they are able to resupply. Ideally if you and some buddies are out hunting mobs, you would save up your ranged ammo for special occasions (getting an advantage on a tougher encounter, for instance), and use melee for common stuff. The crafting/itemization post will cover this in greater detail, but basically all items would suffer wear and tear in the game, and eventually everything breaks, so what you bring out is always a consideration rather than an assumed “use the best in slot you have” type of deal.

As for combat goals, the world would be such that player hubs are all friendly to each other (or at least non-combative), and all players fight against a common enemy faction. This factions goal would be, of course, world domination, and player actions would determine just how close that faction is to its goal. As the world would ideally be larger than what the player population could occupy, the enemy faction would be in control of different areas at different times, based mostly on where the current player population has chosen to establish itself (more on this in a different post about housing/cities).

Economy and Crafting

After combat, I believe the economy is the most important aspect to a quality sandbox title, and not just for those hoping to play a merchant. The ideal system would impact everyone playing on a regular basis rather than being a side-show for the few who decided to focus on crafting. Equally important, the system should be self-regulating, rather than requiring a total wipe every year or so when an expansion is released. Expansions should, well, actually expand an MMO, not just shift everyone over, but that’s another rant.

First let’s talk itemization. In this game items would wear and break fast, somewhere in the range of 2-3 PvE hunting trips per item/set. Getting an item repaired would slow this process some, but only temporarily. Consider games like EVE or DF, where when you go out to PvP, you more or less expect to lose what you bring, and if you don’t it’s a bonus. As this is a PvE game, you don’t expect to die every trip (but more often than when PvE’ing in a themepark), yet the item mentality should be somewhat close. Forget ‘best in slot’ thinking, and replace it with ‘best item for the job’. If you are going out to hunt some easier prey, or travel out into dangerous territory, you bring a cheaper set of gear. It will still get the job done, yet the price of it wearing down or being lost is still below what you will earn while PvE’ing. When you are faced with a do-or-die situation (your house/city being raided by a host of mobs), you bring out the top shelf stuff and hope it’s enough, yet even if you end up losing that, it’s not the end of the world (but does sting).

With gear getting destroyed at such a high rate, it has to be replaced at an equally rapid pace. This is where crafting and, more importantly, selling comes in.

First and foremost the crafting itself would be one-click simple. If you want to play a mini-game, find a mini-game online or get a Wii. Crafting should be more about the economics and supply/demand than who can play a poor mans version of Tetris (or worse) better.

But that does not mean crafting should be instant. To attempt something a bit new (to me at least), I think the initial act of crafting should take 30 seconds or so for the first item, and increasingly more time for subsequent items (a stacking debuff that lasts an hour or so) to represent fatigue. The goal is to allow a crafter to socialize or plan while making a few items that he needs right away, but to prevent someone from chain-crafting 100s of items in a row in just a few minutes. With mobs randomly raiding cities/houses (think random PK raids, but with mobs), going afk to craft would be a bad idea.

Plus you don’t need to do that with the production system. If you own a shop or are part of a crafting guild (more on both tomorrow), you can queue up production similar to what happens in EVE. The production speed would be the reverse of self-crafting; the more you craft, the less time each item takes (mass production efficiency). The goal here is to allow major crafters or crafting teams to mass supply the most common goods (arrows, basic weapons/armor/potions), and to create locations of importance in the world. Guilds will want to protect their production base from roaming mobs or invasions, and players will naturally gravitate together in cities to mutually protect each other. The world would react accordingly, and high-value mob targets would migrate away from major cities, requiring expert PvE hunters to either live out in the wilds or travel longer distances. Major player hubs would also draw the attention of mob warlords looking to raid and pillage player cities, and the bigger a city gets, the more frequent and powerful the raids get.

As for item power, think of it like a Ferrari vs a Toyota. Both get you from point A to point B in basically the same way, with the Ferrari doing it a little faster (if possible), and with some extra comfort. The biggest difference between the two, aside from price, is that the Ferrari is a status symbol and an excessive toy. No one NEEDS a Ferrari to get to work, but at the same time no one would turn it down or complain that they would rather go back to the Toyota. Items should work in a similar fashion. The difference between a basic iron sword and say, a diamond one is somewhat marginal. Yes, the diamond sword does last a little longer and hit a little harder, but we are talking percentage points here rather than orders of magnitude like in most MMOs. The price (determined by availability of materials and crafting difficulty) would be orders of magnitude greater, and so for every diamond sword someone owns, they could have had a few dozen iron ones.

As performance is similar, this means a ‘poor’ player in iron can still group up with someone in higher-end gear and not feel useless, while also always encouraging players to gain more wealth and to try maintaining a certain level of average gear. Those who are able to earn more wealth will, on average, use better gear, but almost all players should have one or two sets of great gear to pull out for big events. From the supply side, this means even the basic items will retain some demand, the mid-tier stuff will need replacing often, and even high-end pieces will be lost or destroyed enough to warrant continued demand. This also means that when you add higher-power items to the game, they don’t instantly turn everything before them into junk.

Another way to increase demand and variety without inflating power is to allow crafters to make purely cosmetic changes to items during the crafting process. For example, an iron sword with a special hilt or blade tint would still hit like an iron sword, but the demand for it might be higher or lower based on the look. We all know that while we chase shinies for power, we are not beyond putting effort in just to get something that looks cool (or for WoWbies, paying $25 for a mount to sparkle).

By adding cosmetic options to items, this also allows crafters to get creative and custom-design items to establish a reputation (you could get crazy and allow customization on, say, a City of Heroes character creator level, tech willing). If you know Bob puts in a ton of time to create some unique looking stuff, you might be more willing to travel to his shop instead of someone else’s, and pay a little premium for that iron sword as well. If Bob also has a really great looking shop (tomorrows post) that displays his wears well, his profits will reflect that.

As the world is always shifting based on player movement, resources would also react. If one area is being mined frequently, it starts to yield fewer materials, along with losing the ability to provide rarer goods. Expert gatherers would be those who not only have the skills to find the best resources, but also the ability to survive the harsher parts of the world and make it out alive with them. A guild PvE trip could be more about reaching a mining shaft for the rare ore than for the beasts inside, with both fighters and gatherers coming along, and the guild crafters turning the spoils into high-tier gear for everyone.

Crafting should be far more than min/maxing the auction house and under-cutting the current listings by a penny every few minutes, and the economy needs to be deeper than hitting the gold cap because you can. If the whole system is rewarding, it becomes its own game, and those who may not be interested in bashing monsters daily will still sign up, log in, and play a pivotal role. The best sandbox is not one that caters perfectly to one type of player, but rather creates a world to house a wide range of interests; mixing all those interests together to ultimately create something great.

Housing

If combat and the economy are the two most important areas for a sandbox MMO, player housing is the most neglected. It says a lot about the genre as a whole when the very first MMO, Ultima Online, had and possibly still has the best player housing around. That really is a crime, especially given how important a hook housing can be to players and guilds alike, and just how much content they can drive.

Housing, both individual homes and cities, have to be set in the actual world, not hidden behind some instanced curtain or in a housing-only zone. Secondly, while you don’t need to make every last square inch of the world open for placement, it has to be far more than a few pre-determined plots. The over-development issue that UO faced should be solved not by hard limits, but by soft caps; an area can only have so many houses before it becomes ‘full’, and the closer to full an area gets, the more attention those buildings draw from mobs. The longer the players hold out, the harder the mobs try to overrun the players, eventually resulting in someone moving out or being pushed out. The more popular the area, the higher the risk.

As the only ‘griefing’ that can really occur is from mobs, housing should be destructible; if you can’t protect it, you shouldn’t own it. This prevents the “I got it first, I own it forever” real-estate rush, and gives newer players a chance to eventual own prime locations. The major difference here is that setting when a house is vulnerable (say a 2-3 hour window per day, or a total of 10 hours per week, whatever) won’t upset the mobs trying to destroy it; they will happily show up whether you set your time for primetime or server up/down, while it does allow home owners to actually defend what they own rather then lose it when they are not online, as is all too common in PvP sandboxes.

Housing should be varied, from small and affordable tents and cabins to sprawling mansions and castles, with house size meaning more than just a bigger physical footprint. Larger houses should have the option to hire NPC guards for protection, or to allow for faster crafting production. As this is a PvE game, house storage should be 100% secure from other players, while still being vulnerable to raids from mobs.

Certain houses would also serve as shops, with wares being displayed on the walls or in the windows (again, it’s sad that you could do something like this in UO, and as far as I’m aware, in no other MMO). The level of customization would allow an owner enough freedom to make their shop stand out, and with crafted gear allowing for fluff customization, this would be very important. Shops would be operated by a vendor NPC, creating the illusion of a seller without the requirement of the actual player having to stand around and wait for shoppers. That said, if the shop was active the owner would often see his customers looking around, again leading to natural socialization, as shoppers could make requests or provide feedback on what items they would like to see for sale.

Player cities would be a formal collection of houses, with additional perks such as city walls, guard patrols, public crafting areas, local banking, and a town message board or newspaper (that could automatically generate basic information about recent mob movement, attacks, or possibly new areas of resource wealth). This would all come at a high cost, one that would be collected and paid by a guild or the locals, and the creation of a city would also dramatically increase mob aggression for that area. Cities could still operate within the vulnerability system, but the requirements would be much higher (5-6 hours daily, 30 hours per week, etc), as the expectation would be that all city residents accept defensive responsibility and actually protect their city. A ghost town of a city won’t hold up to mob raids for long, and will either be destroyed or the owners will adapt and actually populate the area regularly.

Cities could also expand or contract based on player interest, rather then being hard-locked into a few set sizes. If a guild discovers a rich resource area, they may build up a city to help aid in gathering, with other non-guilded players joining in as well. Once the resources are tapped, they might move on and leave behind only those who wish to stay and continue operating out of the now less-than-ideal location, reducing the footprint and the mob threat level. As the worlds resources and mobs dynamically shift around based on player activity, no single spot would remain as the ‘best’ location for long, although one would expect certain areas to always be somewhat popular (central locations, near caves/dungeons, etc), leading to some stability.

All players should have the goal of owning property, and smaller houses in more remote areas should be easily obtainable for all but the newest players. As a players personal wealth progresses, he can either afford larger single houses, or become part of a city. At no point is a city ‘too big’ in terms of total houses, although the larger the city, the harder it becomes to defend. Great cities will be popular destinations due to all the shops and utilities (bigger cities could, for instance, have better scouts and hence more informative/accurate local reports, making finding a hunting spot or resources easier), yet also somewhat dangerous with tougher and more numerous mobs roaming the area or making a direct attack.

World events could focus on bringing down cities that have been around for ‘too long’, and the world’s natural story arc could at times focus around heroic groups of players holding on to their property for extraordinary lengths of time (think of it like an endless mode in a tower defense game, but MMO style). As with items themselves, players would understand that houses are not permanent items, and hence their loss would not be game over situation. That said, destruction should not be too frequent, to both provide some stability and also increase player attachment to a location. The final defeat in a city that has stood for months would hurt, but it would also make for a grand event in the world’s history. This would also be the case, although on a much smaller scale, for individual houses, though if even somewhat remote, those houses could be held indefinitely by vigilant players.

The major goal however is to make housing the major driver of content in the world. House density influences mob activity, the acquisition and defense of a house is always a major player goal, and the natural shifting of player house locations creates a more dynamic world.

The End

I believe I’ve covered the main areas I wanted to hit on in my PvE Sandbox series. There are a ton of other, smaller systems to consider and discuss, but to keep things somewhat high-level I’ll leave it as is. What I do want to write about today is more of a ‘day in the life’ type of post, both from a newer players perspective and what would be considered end-game, to hopefully give everyone a final view into what I believe something like this would look like.

The first and most important task any new player would set out to accomplish is getting established and learning the ropes. The first few days would be spent around a pre-set starter-area, located at a crossroads of the world (so advanced player traffic is visible, and so further options are available in all directions). This area would be hard-locked in terms of an established but limited town, and the local spawns would also be more static and weaker. The idea is to provide enough stability so fresh players can get started, but an area weak enough that the first major goal would be to leave to seek richer spots.

Once a character is not totally new, they would leave the starter area and decide whether to join up with an existing guild in their location, join an existing player-run town, or set out alone and attempt to get a smaller dwelling of their own. Day-to-day gameplay would consist of monster hunting (non-static and all that) and resource gathering, with perhaps some trade if an opportunity arises. Long-term the goal would be to both expand your character’s possibilities (I tend to favor a hard-cap skill-based system) and your current wealth. As both rise, different opportunities open up, be it a bigger house, higher trade skills, or a stronger contribution to group-based PvE.

‘End-game’ would still consist of monster hunting and other wealth-gaining activities, but would also include defending a town/house from PvE attacks, and fighting back against PvE strongholds or known lairs. The main content driver would be the continued struggle between the players and the mobs, with both sides always seeking to control more territory and establish bigger and better cities.

The world would have three factions; the players, the enemy NPC faction, and neutral mobs. Neutral mobs would not only be wildlife creatures like wolves and bears (with dens and reactive behavior to player actions), but things like goblin/orc tribes and such. Small factions that also attempt to establish settlements, but not part of one overarching force. They are the more daily consistent content or the small-scale conflict drivers. Potentially neutral mobs could fight the enemy faction. I’m a fan of AI on AI battles, just to watch how it plays out.

The enemy NPC faction would be a more unified force of (pick your lore) and their minions. This is where the AI would need to act most like a player, and this faction would always be looking to control larger sections of the world. The only ‘spawn points’ this faction would have is out of its established locations, all locations that the players could seek out and destroy. The further the faction gets pushed back, the stronger it gets (the reverse of what usually happens in a PvP sandbox, where the zerg gets bigger as it attracts more players).

Ultimately, if the faction gets pushed back far enough, a big-bad spawns, creating something of a world event. In reverse, if the world gets a little too overrun, a good guy hero spawns and starts an event. Both situations would normally be rare, but both could be triggered with some dev action (make the faction stronger/weaker, offer more rewards for attacking, etc).

So there it is, a PvE sandbox MMO. It’s been fun, and either I hit the lottery and make it, or someone with cash has a great unannounced project. Until then, I’ll be switching between my sociopath playground and my rainbow candyland.

29 Responses to PvE Sandbox MMO Design

  1. [...] from player housing, economy and crafting, combat and the aforementioned end-game content: you can browse through them all here. In every case you could say that it’s familiar and imitates X other MMO but it’s more [...]

  2. waze says:

    Interesting utopia. I could almost agree with everything you’ve mentioned with the exception of the mechanics of your city invasions.

    I’m assuming that these sprawling player-built cities will house low level and high level players alike. So how would an invading force be composed? I’m not sure it would be a good idea to spawn mobs that will faceroll newbies or have higher-levelled/geared players steamrolling invasion content.

    I’m also thinking, however, that you may have already addressed this problem with your idea of reducing the differences between higher level gear and lower level gear. And if this is the case, then I’d have to ask… why bother with the high level gear if you can’t feel like you’ve benefited immensely for working towards it?

    Those really are some great ideas, but I’m afraid that it will most likely be what it is: a fairytale utopia. I don’t think there are enough hardcore gamers out there to generate the demand necessary, let alone a games developer with the skill and funding to get all those aspects right. We can always hope though :)

    • SynCaine says:

      People run the same raid dozens of times for the chance of a 1% crit upgrade, I’m not worried about players not being motivated by smaller (compared to most games) power differences in gear/skill :)

      And yes, the power scale would be such that an entry mob would be easy (but not a one-shot) for veteran players, but still something that could hurt or kill them with enough numbers. Same for players vs mobs; with enough new players even a tough mob could be taken down.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hello there, great article. I always thought it would be cool to develop an MMO but I see too many fail due to newbies trying to make them and people losing motivation. Once I get a better skillset I might make a demo or something(my networking skills are severely lacking).

    Anyways, this is similar to what I have considered to be my “dream” MMO. A dynamic game that lives and breathes. I have some similar ideas as you(and different ones of course), but you definately filled some holes in my imaginary design document.

  4. Ian says:

    Have you seen Fallen Earth’s dev blog ? Between Progress Towns triggering PVE events and the way FE crafting works, if they implement it, I think its close to what you want.

    http://fallenearth.gamersfirst.com/

  5. Meta Joke says:

    Not to be a downer–I’d love to see and play this game too–but I read a lot of posts like this, and think it’s worth saying. This is not “PVE MMO Design.” It’s “PVE MMO Daydreaming” and it’s a (the, if you allow me to generalize) common dream of gamers maybe since Adventure and certainly since MUDding got its feet under it: “A PVE MMO with no PVP where what I do actually *matters* and I don’t get bored ’cause the game has dynamic content!” (The generalized version is “The game that focuses on what I want and leaves out stuff that isn’t fun for me.”)

    My beef is when people call these musings ‘design.’ Ideas are a dime a dozen. THIS idea is a dime a gross. Design is hard. Design has to take into account things like practicality. I promise you that every designer who actually worked on WoW, EVE, FE, EQ, UO, Achaea, Aardwolf, GW, or whatever other acronym you like has had this idea, every gamer out there is sitting there with a credit card in hand begging for the chance to give money to this game, and we still don’t have it. Because–and I’ll be ignoring the ‘business side’ of things for a second, because it just opens a family sized can of worms instead of the single serving–game design involves not only higher level concepts (“Ranged combat would be limited to things like bows, crossbows, and throwing weapons, and ammo would not be unlimited.”) but the finer details of those concepts (How are bows and crossbows different?), the interplay between the concepts (Does the AI in plate charge a bow and try to cover from a crossbow? What if it’s a bow with the Sick Arrow of Platesmadeofpaper? How does the AI know it’s The SAoPmop?) even down to the level of the specific numbers (The crossbow does 80-100 damage against plate, the bow does 50-60 against plate, but the SAoPmop adds 40 damage against plate. Why are these numbers multiples of 10? Because players like whole numbers, and it gives us more granularity, so the bow has a range of 10 points instead of 2 and so characters can have Might Of The Plateslayer buff cast on them for 10% weapon damage and have that be meaningful [resulting in 55-66 damage, because a result of 5-6 damage wouldn't actually be different from base damage]. See page 40 of the design document.)

    When a company needs a new logo, and the CEO says “we need it to be something snappy, and blue!” nobody considers him a graphic designer. Because he’s not. He has a notion. But there are people who specialize in producing workable ideas–and then acting on them–from notion. Graphic designers. “Snappy and blue” turns into the AOL logo. Yes, nobody considers the AOL logo snappy anymore, but at the time it wasn’t bad.

    “My living room sucks, I should move the couch to the other wall and put the TV on this one.” does not make you an interior designer. The interior designer is responsible for realizing that, for example, with the sofa on the other wall, the light from the window doesn’t reach it and the room seems dark, so a paned mirror should be hung to open the room up.

    “My jacket should be long, and made of a thin material, so it flows in the wind like every movie trench coat does, but it’d also be heavy enough not to sag when I have my two cell phones and my 3DS in the pocket, and it’ll make everyone who wears one look like they’re on the brink of whipping out a katana and giving space invaders what for.” It’d be an awesome coat. But… how are you going to do it? Until you answer that question you don’t have a design.

    “…Ultimately, if the faction gets pushed back far enough, a big-bad spawns, creating something of a world event. In reverse, if the world gets a little too overrun, a good guy hero spawns and starts an event. Both situations would normally be rare, but both could be triggered with some dev action (make the faction stronger/weaker, offer more rewards for attacking, etc).” Define ‘pushed back.’ How does the big bad spawn? Or the ‘good’ her? Big flash of light? World echo? Quietly in some remote corner of the world to start using his own AI routines to build an army until someone finds him or his brings his army to bear on a PC capital? What rewards would the dev offer? In what ways can the dev make a faction stronger or weaker? ‘Etc’ in particular has no place in a design document.

    “So there it is, a PvE sandbox MMO.” No. Until I can give you my CC number and log in, it’s just a daydream.

    • Nils says:

      Daydream or not. If nobody voiced this kind of opinion, we’d never get anything done.

      Chesterton said:
      “The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”

      Some daydreamers made WoW. The Conservatives now protect it as their holy grail. Time for the Progressives to make another mistake.

    • Rammstein says:

      Meta Joke,is it a customary endeavor for you to write that many words about other people’s daydreams? I must admit, that seems a little creepy to me.

      Basically, you wrote tl;dr, but took 500 words to say it. Not only is that a contradiction, but tl;dr is a useless thing to post in the first place. The proper response to someone posting something that you feel is valueless is to ignore it.

      Of course that means I should ignore your comment, but I’m not really posting for you, I’m posting to reiterate to SynCaine that I think his “design”, or whatever semantical nonsense you wish to go through demands it be called, was worth reading and thinking about. There is indeed a middle ground between “I want what I like, without the parts I don’t like” and a fully functional game delivering that exactly. Your insistence on a black and white worldview in which the ground in between is a patch of scorched earth not large enough to fit yet another Starbucks in, paints you as a bitter child. Here’s a nickel, go buy yourself a licorice whip from your local player-run automated vendor NPC. Try not to get pk’d on the way.

  6. splendino says:

    I want do play this game you are talking about… NOW :P

  7. Meta Joke says:

    I’ll keep it brief this time, because apparently a lengthy reply means I didn’t read what I’m replying to.

    By no means did I write the longest ‘tl;dr’ in the world. I read the post carefully. Nor do I think his post is valueless. It has positive value in the sense of providing insight concerning the direction people (in this case Syncaine, representing at least those whose comments support him) want to see the industry go.

    What made me speak up is that by calling it a ‘design’ he’s also providing a ‘negative’ value. People will read this post and think, “This is a game design? That’s easy! I can do that!” and start putting ‘game designer’ on their resumes. It’s a disservice to people who are really game designers who have their title cheapened, and to companies looking for game designers who now have waste time and money to sort through people who have no claim to the title.

    It’s happened to programmers, it’s happened to engineers, it’s happened to web designers, it’s happened to graphics designers, it’s happened to marketers…. you get the idea.

    As you said,”There is indeed a middle ground between “I want what I like, without the parts I don’t like” and a fully functional game delivering that exactly.” I agree completely. That was my point. I call that middle ground the design. This post is the “I want what I like, without the parts I don’t like.”

    Thanks for the ad hominem at the end, by the way. Maybe it and a nickel will buy me another licorice whip.

    • Rammstein says:

      Blah blah blah semantic bullshit. “What made me speak up is that by calling it a ‘design’ he’s also providing a ‘negative’ value.”

      Right, you wrote 800 words now about the semantics of the word design. Who the fuck cares about what he calls it. OK? Am I being clear enough for you? Your semantic quibblings are boring and useless, I’m sorry that you didn’t get that memo freshman year.

      I’m also sorry that you don’t understand what an ad hominem attack is. “An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. ”

      I’m not rejecting your claim because you write like a petulant child. I’m rejecting your claim because…wait I didn’t reject your claim. Thanks for playing.

      If you don’t want me to tell you that everything you wrote is worthless garbage providing negative added value because it’s just not kosher, then instead of whining about ad hominems, try not going on other people’s blogs and implying that everything they wrote is worthless garbage providing negative added value. Just an idea.

    • Rammstein says:

      p.s.

      “No. Until I can give you my CC number and log in, it’s just a daydream.”

      “As you said,”There is indeed a middle ground between “I want what I like, without the parts I don’t like” and a fully functional game delivering that exactly.” I agree completely. That was my point. I call that middle ground the design. ”

      Obvious contradiction and/or backpedaling. You clearly and unequivocally stated that there is absolutely no middle ground between daydreaming and the fully functional game. You were lying then, or you’re now, I don’t really care which.

  8. Chocoholic says:

    I’ve just finished reading your ideas and I think there’s great value in them. I find that I agree with a lot of things you’ve said. I guess I’ll be reading your ideas a couple of times more to be able to give a good response, but for now, thank you for sharing your ideas!

  9. Nicole says:

    I don’t know if that person just has a general lack of trust in the ability of people to parse intended meanings, but I for one didn’t get the impression that Syn was claiming to be something he’s not. I didn’t get the impression that he thought design or the implementation of his ideas is or would be easy, nor that he believes himself to be a designer in the professional sense of the word.

    When I read it, I wondered how these ideas could actually be implemented (so I understood intuitively, as did most readers in all likelihood, that this wasn’t the equivalent of a schematic). Trust me, most of the people who would pretend to possess skills they don’t wouldn’t have the patience to sit through Syn’s posts no matter how interesting they are.

  10. [...] PvE Sandbox MMO Design   [...]

  11. Arrexis says:

    Someone has mentioned details like “deference between crossbow and bow”. Having information from medieval times helps a lot.
    Bow – short to middle range, fast rate of fire, can use flaming arrows and stuff.
    Crossbow – middle to long range, slow-very slow rate of fire, pierce armor.
    How is range determined, a powerful crossbow (real) can shot up 200mts or more.
    Same with other weapons, 1h axe vs 1h sword, one weapon give some benefits that other can’t.
    What I would like to add, why no pvp area. Lets say we have a continent with couple of countries, as with real life, the neighborhood countries can have dispute over that hill, or that valley, which will result in war, players chose which side to take or not to take side at all. During war the player that chose one side can’t visit territory of the other and their towns etc. (well he can but he will be considered enemy, and will be attacked by npc or other players). After the war is over, there will be peace and players will have access to both town, territory again. A player that chose to stay neutral can trade with both side’s and supply war stuffs*.
    And also why not let player have influence on given country monarch, so that he could influence their politics.
    I would also like to see a neutral territory where a group of players (guild) can establish their own town, making the town from scratch will take time and will cost a lot of things – materials (wood, stone, etc) and money for building it. couple of town should be able to form alliance, and now we even can have a player control country.
    Of course things like a group of players controlling map will be prevented, by making guilds have maximum number of players, and having maximum number of groups in alliance.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Sorry but just by stating “sandbox pve mmo” youre not being sandbox at all.
    Let me try to explain:
    Sandbox mmorpg pillars are 3, being: gameplay realism, player tools, plurality.
    This means that EVERYTHING in the form of content must respect and revolve around those 3 principles.
    By neglecting the pvp aspect you are basically attempting heavily against gameplay realism, attempting heavily against plurality, and probably reducing overall complexity that would lead to more player tools. Why is that? again, let me try to explain:
    By ARTIFICIALLY RESTRICTING pvp (player interaction) you are going strongly against gameplay realism. In a full blown sandbox mmorpg enviroment there shouldnt be such artificial balance. You should be able to hit someone with your sword if you are swinging it in his face… you know. What happens after that is another thing.

    The key in balancing a sandbox game is to make it so that every possible playstyle can cohexist in the same setting or enviroment while respecting gameplay realism.
    Going the easy way with areas you cannot pvp (without no reason other than artificial balance), or simply trying to put that out of the game already makes your game not sandbox since respecting gameplay realism is essential.

    Sandbox games arent just building up things, thats what some people believe.
    Sandbox games are a virtual world setting without artificial restrictions (gameplay realism) where players can find and create their own content.

    • saucelah says:

      In the real world, if I kill my neighbor and take his stuff, I go to jail. If someone wants to create a world in which I can’t even kill my neighbor, then that’s fine with me.

      But ok, let’s go with your definition. It’s still different, it’s still an open world, it’s still an MMO, it’s still PvE — call it whatever you want. I’ll call it a good idea.

      • Aikar says:

        Im not applying value judgement to his idea. Wheter its a good or a bad one is not of my concern. However I can tell you I wouldnt buy that game.

        I was simply stating that “pve-sandbox” is contradictory.
        That game would not be a sandbox.

        Then again, there’s never been a game 100% sandbox yet.
        A game is usually sandbox up to a certain degree as long as some of its content revolve around the 3 principles being: player tools, plurality, gameplay realism.

        However artificially removing (for the sake of “balance”) a remarkable type of player interaction such as the choice to attack other players is definetaly a strong red flag against the term.
        That I can say.

        Btw I am known as Aikar, sorry for the late reply, its just that im not a blogger but I happen to read people like him from time to time.

  13. [...] tokens. SWTOR is gamification taken to the extreme. After reading many of the MMO bloggers, like Syncaine at Hardcore Casual, I realise I’m not alone in my thinking [...]

  14. Matt says:

    Interesting, but how will bosses/raids be handled? I assume no instances, but if so you will have to have some kind of anti-camping mechanic.

  15. Retron says:

    Very interesting reading, my brain started working out more :). I’m also on the way to do something similar. I’m working on Project NN which is experimental AI project which will cover Survival, Social and Battle simulation of various lifeforms. So, I’m very curious what will be the result from it, and your project too. Keep good work ;)

  16. [...] don’t like about FFA PvP.  (To Syncaine’s credit, he has a fairly detailed post about a PvE sandbox that I would love to play [...]

  17. [...] PvE Sandbox MMO Design [...]

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