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.