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.