PvE Sandbox MMO: 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.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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11 Responses to PvE Sandbox MMO: The End

  1. Nils says:

    Love it. Time is overdue for a PvE Sandbox.

  2. Gilded says:

    I’m not a big fan of AI (especially in MMOs where you could potentially have real people for most things). Is there a reason for AI specifically in the design? I’m not a fan of starting zones either, but I understand why you would have one (although I wouldn’t mind a game with a different approach).

    • SynCaine says:

      Real people don’t always play by the rules. If I have an AI ‘grief’ you, he will only do it at a set time, at a set level, and only go so far. If I let a player do it, he will burn your house, find the next one, burn that, and corpse-camp you until you quit.

      I want the AI to do some of the GOOD stuff that happens in sandbox PvP, like more random encounters and forcing you to adapt. Adding a sense of danger. Not letting you always pick your fight, etc. I want to remove stuff like ‘create use of mechanics’, min/max or die, server-up attacks, etc.

      Hoe else would you do a new players area? The starter area is still a part (small part) of the world, and players decide when to move on. It would not be a starting zone like in a themepark, where once you hit a certain level you ‘zone out’ and get to the real world.

      • Gilded says:

        “How else would you do a new players area?”

        It’s a pretty game specific thing, but if there are city-states in the game (that are stable) a player could start there.

        My opinion is that a game should be explorable to a decent extent, regardless of level, and without having “zones” filled with dense mobs of creatures auto-attacking you for no reason when you pass them. There wouldn’t be a particular “zone” or area that the player would have to start in, the player would just have to know what he or she can handle (and learn that through experience or common sense).

        • Gankalicious says:

          Wouldn’t these ‘zones of common sense’ be fairly easiy for new players to explore in, then, and since they would be known throughout the land (via the magical internet) and new players would likely go there……they would, in fact, be starter zones, wouldn’t they?

        • Gilded says:

          They wouldn’t be zones of “common sense”. The sandbox itself would be open for exploration and for the most part things wouldn’t attack you unless you attack first. That’s where common sense comes in: if you wander through and there is some really strong creature then you don’t attack it unless you can handle it. No “zones” based on levels, just habitats with various creatures wandering about and doing their own thing.

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  4. Vlonk says:

    Starting in a playercity is rather pointless at the beginning of the game when there is no player infrastructure.

    I would say patching it in after several months is feasible but yet again could bring beginners into a bad spot like a goldrush boomtown on the fall or an isolationist city that shuns the beginners out.

    I would like to see a standardized intro zone with very low ressources and weak mobs so there is always plenty to do for beginners for all the key features of the game. But then there must be an easy takeoff to get started with the friendly part of the playercroud.

    How about an addon that can be build/bought in cities to create a one way/heavy cooldown direct teleporter from starting zones directly into your city?

    I’d guess that is the best recruiting tool you could offer to lure in the younglings and they skip those nasty overlandtravels and deadends.

    Saves the city the babysitting overlandtrips and filters the beginners directly towards the guilds/cites who want to expand right now.

    Just put a short description of your guild/city on a sign in front of the portal and you are good to go.

  5. John says:

    “… or someone with cash has a great unannounced project”

    How come none of the extremely wealthy have ever done this? There are people who pour millions each year into personal projects, but I’ve never heard of anyone deciding to use their excess wealth to fund a game. I think any mmos would be better if there were no pressure from investors to actually make money.

    Or has some rich person actually tried this and I just haven’t heard about it? How much would it take do you think it would take to completely fund such a project (both initial and annual cost)?

    Anyway, great series overall. Was a pleasure to read.

    • SynCaine says:

      38 Studios is basically Curt Shilling pouring his own money into a game studio to make the MMO he wants to play (although since that time it has somewhat changed). That’s the best example I know of.

    • Jordan says:

      because the vast majority of the super rich didn’t get that way by playing video games.

      (professional sports guys being the exception to the rule, and not coincidentally the exception here as well)

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