PvE Sandbox MMO: 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.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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13 Responses to PvE Sandbox MMO: The beginning

  1. Y||B says:

    Erm, so why do you write about A Tale in the Desert?

    1.) you can do 99% of the content in a single region
    2.) not many ever finish all the character trees
    3.) my house/obelisk/garden is shinier than yours
    4.) let’s just do social PvE instead of kill 10 rats

    • SynCaine says:

      Because I still want combat in my MMO, and ATitD has none. It’s great at what it does, but it just never clicked with me.

      • Gankalicious says:

        Currently playing that one for my challenge, and it does have a lot of those things, yes, but at the same time there are some things missing- like combat which is, in fact, fun. It is also a bit grindy……picking each individual handful of grass so I can make bricks is getting pretty old, pretty fast I have to say but I’ll reserve judgement….for now :)

  2. Neeko says:

    Getting student loan refund tomorrow… And you know what happens then….

  3. Neeko says:

    The game that would end all games would be:

    Combat of God of war/devil may cry
    Loot/online play/random dungeons of diablo.

    Tell me that wouldn’t be the be the best game ever.

  4. Ob says:

    Now THAT sounds like a game I would love to play. Please elaborate.

    • Neeko says:

      Ok, I’ll elaborate a little:

      The reason it will probably never happen is because it would have extremely complex controls, it would almost definitely have to be made for consoles exclusively (or require some something beyond keyboard + mouse for PC).

      Just for fun, lets take GOW3 controls and see if it could be done (honestly never really thought about how it could work) .

      LS – Movement
      RS – Evade
      Triangle – Heavy Attack
      Square – Normal Attack
      Circle – Grab
      X – Jump
      L1 – Guard
      R1 – Interact
      L2 – Use Item
      R2 – Magic
      L3 + R3 – Rage of the Titans
      D pad – Select Weapon

      Instantly you can toss out guard (would need an autoblock feature like most rpgs), magic, use item, rage of titans. Also the D pad would need to be switched up to utilize weapon switch and magic switch (maybe pages of spells much like wow if you ever used that feature… which I didn’t). Might look something like this:

      LS – Movement
      RS – Evade
      Triangle – Heavy Attack
      Square – Normal Attack
      Circle – Interact/Loot Mangled Demon Corpses
      X – Jump
      L1Spell 1
      R1Spell 2
      L2Health Pot (maybe dont even use these, use orbs instead)
      R2Mana Pot (same as above parentheses)
      D Pad Up Weapon Switch
      D Pad Left Down Right Spell Pages 1/2/3
      L3 Unmapped, too easy to push in accidently.
      R3 Grab

      I’m sure a professional could come up with something much better than what I just mapped out in 5 minutes there, but, it still limits you to no guard button, and only 6 mapped spells, 12 if you don’t use potions, and 9 if you take grab off R3 (which would be my preference) and put it on one of the triggers

      As for the gameplay, from the Action RPG side keep:

      Towns/Npcs/Shops
      Dungeons(many randomized)
      Waypoint system
      Stat/Skill points
      Limitless amounts of randomized loot, and lots of different types to choose from (swords/guns/bows/axes etc etc for weaps, and a myriad of different armors)

      From the Action Platformer/ Beat Em Up keep:

      Epic combos
      Spastic ADD gameplay
      Epic bosses
      Puzzles/Challenges
      And possibly – Health/Mana/Currency orbs

      I don’t have a nice way to wrap this wall of text up, gonna go smoke a cig, peace.

  5. Stabs says:

    I did a lot of thinking about this a couple of years ago and I came to the conclusion that you have to build your game from trade routes.

    So perhaps silver in the New World, tobacco from the plantations of Virginia, spices from the Indies and linen from Manchester.

    All of these are plentiful in their locality and practically non-existent or at least very scarce elsewhere.

    It then gives you other design directions – eg no teleports, no global banking, slow travel. Which forces you to other decisions – if you have slow travel then you should be able to be attacked while traveling so it’s not boring.

    But that’s how I decided I would gamify my virtual world, construct it around the flow of trade. Just as much of history was sparked by economic and trade concerns. And still is (oil).

  6. Bhagpuss says:

    Stabs got in ahead of me there with some of what I was going to say. To go a reductionist step further. there’s a really simple shortcut to this discussion. For a Fantasy RPG PvE sandbox, just replicate the world we live in, but remove technology and add magic and monsters. If you can successfully replicate in virtual miniature the same motivators that led humans out of Africa to cover the entire world, there’s your sandbox game.

  7. Beerbrain says:

    I’m interested to see where you go with this Syncaine. A good friend of mine and I have this discussion almost daily.

    On a side note: I purchased Darkfall via your clicky up there. Hopefully you got credit for it :)

  8. bonedead says:

    I’m interested in reading shit that doesn’t take as much thought and/or time.

  9. Stormwaltz says:

    “You should never reach the point of being ‘rich enough’.”

    I know it’s unpopular, but I still like item wear and item loss as a solution for this. Getting to the top of the equipment hill is only half the battle – now you have to stay up there. (With the guiding principle that more expensive items should last longer. You change your oil every three months and your tires every two years, but your car should last a decade if maintained.)

    That comes with the caveat that I’m a crafter, and I like having a job. In most craft system, if I can make a Megasword for my friends, once they all have one, I’ll never make one again.

  10. Mr Pink says:

    I think that the ‘Firefly’ universe would be a great setting for this type of PvE MMO. You have a few core planets that are essentually established and offer quests/jobs/markets, then you have the outer worlds waiting to be colonized on which players could work towards carving out there own place in the verse and build any structure available in the game. Plus you have added threat of PvE combat vs Reavers and possibly Alliance if you want to be all criminal and stuff. Or you could just be one ship out in the black, still just flying, being big damn heros.

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