AcheAge: Getting through the themepark to get to the sandbox

Keen’s ArcheAge post today reiterates one of the ‘core values’ I think any virtual world must have; at no point should I be ‘done’ with an area. I think the whole concept of moving through zones is distinctively ‘not virtual world’ (saying its themepark might be accurate, though perhaps too limiting), and it also just bothers me on a number of levels.

First, anytime you have a setup where you progress through things, you inherit the problem of player separation and motivation. Once you ‘finish’ an area, returning to help someone else out is a pain or at best a waste.

Adding to the above, anytime you ‘finish’ content you are done with it, and now need the devs to make more. Regardless of the size of the development team, ultimately that’s not sustainable, and if the overall goal is to keep playing an MMO ‘forever’, that’s not going to work out.

What’s really interesting about the genre right now is newer games are mixing concepts together from previous titles. What puts me off heavily from ArcheAge is that while it has some ‘sandbox features’, that 1-50 linear zone setup is a killer for me.


About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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30 Responses to AcheAge: Getting through the themepark to get to the sandbox

  1. Bob says:

    Off topic: Current Wow players all but planing to commit ritual suicide over blizzard possibly banning flying mounts in this expansion:

    • kalex716 says:

      Funny thing is, flying mounts is one of the things that killed the game for me.

      I was such a huge fan of the emergent battles and fights that would take place throughout the world due to encounters with the other faction. Flying mounts took most of that away, and then once the “queue dungeons from inside cities” feature came to prominence, it was the nail in the coffin.

      • A concerned Minmatar says:

        I agree with this, flying mounts killed a lot of the old random interactions that existed in vanilla. This made the world a lot less alive and moved the game in a bad direction.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I always found it curious that GW2 went to all the effort to develop their “downleveling” mechanic and add levels to the game, when the map completion achievements would have sufficed to encourage folks to explore the world and they could’ve just made it all balanced content. The whole character progression mechanic should have just been filling bars to acquire skill points. There was no functional purpose of the levels in GW2 that weren’t already covered by other systems in the game adequately.

    Instead they spend a whole lot of time and effort trying to tune and tweak lower level areas to fit the downleveled mechanice, and improve the gear situation to encourage folks to go to those places. Just remove the friggin levels already and make the game what it always should have been from the start!

    Could’ve taken the Dynamic events to the extreme then. Fail states where players lose absolute access to entire zones due to neglect, etc. Stuff you can’t do when you need to keep at least a moderate amount of an areas content always available to accomodate the levelers progressing through a zone. Not to mention how much more of the beautiful world the created would be used constantly by everyone playing the game.

    Level progression is an outdated MMO concept that needs to die.

    • Mobs says:

      I agree on how base leveling mechanic needs to die. What honestly kept me playing GW2 for months like I did, was literally how amazing i thought the world was i always found myself really bummed when I would stumble across a really really cool thought out town or city in one of the zones that it is literally only populated by me and some NPCs for the time being.

      I thought the world and environmental design in GW2 was second to none single player or multiplayer games. I LOVED exploring and the underwater mechanics and environments were just incredible to me. World design; I value alot though, maybe more then most.

    • kalex716 says:

      I’m actually suprised no one has tried to make an MMO that has a compulsion and progression loop similar to what MOBA’s do.

      The content you engage in, is all somewhat time boxed in nature and your character/class or whatever starts low, and builds according to whatever “map” or “zone” you play in.

      Some are designed to be 20 minute long builds and your specific class only gets up to level 10 in those chunks. More challenging zones, or raid zones are 60 minute long and you build deeper into your classes progression tree, and then when you are done you essentially reset.

      It could open up totally new ways to play an RPG.

      • Rammstein says:

        @kalex: I’m confused, that doesn’t sound like an MMORPG at all, that’s sounds like a MOBA. What are you suggesting specifically? A larger, PVE, MOBA? I wouldn’t call that an MMORPG, I’d call it a PVE MOBA.

  3. Mobs says:

    Archeage has some pretty brilliant player driven gameplay mechanics to it. I have played it to level 30+ in the russian version (yes im that guy) The trade routes aspect to that game is awesome, how basically it takes a how guild to move the wares for a large structure and build it together, so they have these basic caravan routes that you can pay off real players/mercs to protect you and your guild as you travel.

    There is some really cool shit going on there in terms of player interactions. Also the sailing mechanic is pretty great too. It feels like Vanguard to me in a lot of ways.

    Playing through the Russian version I saw alot of cool things like that, not too mention the complexities of the player driven court systems which I do not really even grasp yet.

  4. weritsblog says:

    I just don’t think I have it in me to suffer through X amount of levels of Eastern style PvE.

  5. sid6.7 says:

    one of the ‘core values’ I think any virtual world must have; at no point should I be ‘done’ with an area.

    That’s a good measuring stick. It’s pretty clear as to what it means and it avoids ‘labels’ that often lump completely different games into the same category.

    The labels thing has always been a sore spot with me because it leads people to poor conclusions because those labels come with expectations that may or may not exist.

    I’m not against categorizing games; I just want the categorization to make more sense than calling something “MMO” or “Sandbox” or “Themepark”. The last two are just analogies that have taken on whole new definitions that encompass vastly different games.

  6. C. T. Murphy says:

    I absolutely agree. If you MUST be ‘done’ with an area in some fashion, then let the questing portion be phased and the final, completed zone be remade as a higher leveled open adventuring experience.

    We have the tech to repurpose these zones, even in hardcore themepark MMOs.

  7. While I agree with the general sentiment of not ‘finishing’ MMOs (god knows I have preached it many times), one needs to realize that the only content you cannot finish in MMOs is . no pre-written content in a source code can fulfill this wish, and only player created content is left.

    And those games, the real sandboxes, 90% of the people who say they want them really don’t. A game without content / where YOU are the content, asks a lot of dedication and time from its player base and only a minority of players are ready to do that.
    so yeah, I’ve written about this before too – it’s fine and dandy not wanting finisheable content in zones but please realize the alternative are MMOs that offer you nothing but ‘tools’.

    “There is no content, so boring” is what you’ll hear.

    (personally, I really prefer good mixtures. they exist in my mind ;))

    • blah html tags….correction:

      “….the only content you cannot finish in MMOs is “no content”, no pre-written content in a source code can fulfill this wish, and only player created content is left.

    • SynCaine says:

      You can have content chunks that drive players, without those chunks expiring or becoming obsolete. Missions in EVE are a good example of this, as are the new daily/weekly feats in DF:UW. Both provide clear stuff to do, but both feed into the greater game and are repeatable+sustainable (you always need the rewards they provide, rather than earning them once and not needing them again, or getting something that is outright better than the reward).

      • I’ve no EVE experience, so I can’t judge – but dailies in WoW were about the most boring and repetitive ‘content’ I can imagine.
        what I could totally be okay with in a sandbox game is interesting quest chains / atunements and dungeons. in combination with lots of sand, those would be fine with me.

        • SynCaine says:

          Dailies in a themepark are boring because nothing can really go wrong, and unless you yourself decide to mix it up, they are always the same.

          In games like EVE or DF, the repeatable content that went smoothly yesterday suddenly results in PvP finding you today, or other factors changed and you can’t bring the same ship/gear to do the content anymore so something else is now more ‘worthwhile’, or even just the fact that a new Corp/Guild has moved into the area has an indirect impact on you.

        • John says:

          so the same dailies as themeparks but with a possible gang. Themepark pvp servers can offer the same thing

        • SynCaine says:

          Not really. Zone PvP (almost typed world) in most themeparks is pointless. No real risk, little reward.

        • John says:

          agree on the risk vs reward part. Although I still find it akward that a pvp focused game need to create dailies to increase the chance or to create battles (I hate dailies with passion).

        • SynCaine says:

          I hate dailies in themeparks, and when AV first announced them for DF I wasn’t thrilled, but they really don’t ‘play’ like a themepark daily at all. Hard to explain here, might actually make a post about it.

    • sid6.7 says:

      @Syl. I couldn’t disagree more strongly. Why assume that a ‘real’ sandbox doesn’t provide any kind of direction to it’s players? That’s not a defining trait.

      A developer can and should provide direction to players.
      The player shouldn’t need to follow that direction and multiple paths should be open to them, but not having guideposts at all is a recipe for disaster and a pretty damn good reason why such games fail.

      It’s not even that difficult — all you need to do is create situations where players need to compete for something. If the thing is compelling enough, the content will create itself.

      This kind of false attribution is exactly why I hate labels. And before we start arguing about what ‘sandbox’ means — recall that it’s an analogy and nothing more.

      • Rammstein says:

        ” recall that it’s an analogy and nothing more.”

        Something like 95% of all human thought is labeling and analogy. check out

        The reason why arguing about what ‘sandbox’ means is pointless isn’t because analogies aren’t important, but because analogies are SO important that arguing about them never goes anywhere. It’s like arguing with someone about what shade of blue the sky is right now…it’s f@#king pointless, but that doesn’t mean that sensory information isn’t important. Instead, it’s so important, that what you say will never be important enough to compare with the importance of their own sensory data.

        so I agree with everything you say, except that you should say;

        ” recall that it’s an analogy and nothing LESS.”

        • sid6.7 says:

          I have the wiki link bookmarked, I’ll read it later as it looks interesting.

          Word choice aside, the problem with analogies is that they require specific context. Context that can be vastly different depending on the speaker. As with your shades of the sky argument, my context may be different than your context.

          And so we end up arguing about the meaning of an analogy that is really just a vehicle to discuss and communicate a more complex idea. This becomes all the more frequent when the analogy becomes a commonly used “label” to describe a thing.

          Making matters worse, step in too close or step away too far and the analogy can easily lose it’s relevancy to the discussion.

          I’m as guilty of this as anyone. There is something compelling about attempting to find deeper meaning within the analogy and, for example, talk about ‘how much sand’ and the ‘color or texture of the sand’ and the ‘tools we use to shape the sand’.

          But in stretching the analogy, It’s too easy to draw conclusions that are no longer entirely relevant. Syl’s comment is a great example.

          No one tells you what to build in a real sandbox, therefore Syl’s assumption is that if someone gives you guidance in a ‘sandbox’ MMO, that it’s not really a true sandbox. Contextually, I couldn’t disagree more with that assumption since that’s not what I believe to be the defining characteristic of the sandbox analogy.

        • Rammstein says:

          All your drawbacks are spot on; unfortunately since (almost) all human thought is analogical and we’re all humans, we just have to deal with it. If you, as a teacher/boss/authority figure, told your students/employees/subjects to write you something which was free of analogies, the result would be that they would convert the analogies which their thoughts consisted of, into a mixture of physical descriptions and less obvious analogies, which you would read and comprehend through a process of converting the text back into analogical thought.

          e.g. : All your drawbacks are spot on; unfortunately since (almost) all human thought is analogical and we’re all humans, we just have to deal with it

          All: direct reference
          your: metaphor(analogy) between someone’s ideas and physical possessions
          drawbacks: simple metaphor of ‘drawing back’
          are : direct reference to existence
          ‘spot on’ : analogy to physical accuracy and descriptive accuracy
          unfortunately: metaphor of being unhappy with something described as an analogy to a greek goddess and her lack of approval for it
          since: metaphor so old that its origins are now unclear

          etc, i’m already bored with this, but the point is clear, even in that sentence which was an attempt to convert analogical thoughts into a more communicative form with more clear pointing to the physical universe, the majority of the language is still metaphorical in nature. Blatantly obvious analogical speech, as in your examples, is then functioning metaphorically on multiple levels at once, potentially many more than two levels and in an interrelated way.

          Anyway, so back to the main point, which is “But in stretching the analogy, It’s too easy to draw conclusions that are no longer entirely relevant.”

          But what other kinds of human errors in understanding are there? Let’s take the newest EVE devblog, they’re revising how manufacturing/research works as the focus of the upcoming summer expansion. People keep missing the way the math will work out, but they’re (usually) not actually making errors of arithmetic. They’re getting confused by “research installation cost will be based on 2% of the finished product of the BPO’s cost”, and translating this to “research installation cost will be based on 2% of the BPO’s cost”, and sometimes misunderstanding so far as to arrive at “research installation cost will be 2% of the BPO’s cost”–this is them making an incorrect mental analogy to the taxes that they often deal with in their daily lives. Or they’re getting upset by the installation cost being based on a percentage cost of the finished product, because they are making a similar faulty analogy in their mind “taxes are a percentage, so anything I pay that is a percentage cost is obviously another tax!”. Or they’re upset that they’re being ‘double-charged’ another cost for using a POS, since they “already pay for the fuel for the POS”, despite manufacturing having not 1 or 2 costs, but 6-7 costs altogether; because they are making a faulty analogy of the POS as a sovereign state that gives weird’ one cost for everything’-type gameplay, which was never really true but failed less as an analogy before than it does now. I’d try to make some DF:UW examples here but I’m not familiar enough with DF to make them without going and reading patch notes first, but I”m sure some examples are coming to your mind.

          Is the point I’m driving at becoming clear? Yes, people will use analogies to draw the wrong conclusion. The only choice you are faced with as a writer, is whether you want to use your considered and well-chosen analogies to guide those you communicate with towards better conclusions, or to write avoiding analogies, knowing that your average audience will unconsciously and on-the-fly assign their own, quickly and poorly chosen analogies, to the situations you describe, resulting in an even worse outcome. Put another way, you’re implying(or so I’ve interpreted your comments, correct me if that’s not true) “bad analogies are the source of so many mistakes in people’s thinking, people should stop using them”, and I’m replying “since people naturally think in analogies, A. of course they are the source of people’s mistakes, and B. of course they can’t stop using them.” To draw a nice analogy ;) , consider the oft-quoted statement “In the end, all human death can be described as ‘heart failure’.” –“So people should stop depending on having working hearts.” Easier said than done.

          “Contextually, I couldn’t disagree more with that assumption since that’s not what I believe to be the defining characteristic of the sandbox analogy.”

          His metaphor is pretty decent and self-consistent; it excludes any MMORPG that I know about from being a sandbox game, though. This isn’t really a problem, MMORPG’s are big environments with multiple sub-games contained within them, and sandboxes really aren’t that big; so expand your metaphor to ‘virtual world’ and move forward, with or without him. Someone else who doesn’t care about the little ‘true sandbox’ games and only plays MMORPG’s, will be fine with using sandbox to describe MMORPGs, using the metaphor differently–when talking to him instead, go back to using sandbox.The problem isn’t labeling itself; every word functions as a label. The problem is people who get hung up on labels. Go check labels out at your neighborhood Staples, they’re cheap and disposable, they come in all shapes and sizes, and you can slap more than one on something and it doesn’t explode, unless the thing you slapped them on was a bomb.

      • sid6.7 says:

        Put another way, you’re implying(or so I’ve interpreted your comments, correct me if that’s not true) “bad analogies are the source of so many mistakes in people’s thinking, people should stop using them”,

        Hmm. Not quite – bad analogies are mistakes in logic. This is distinctly different than arguing over what shade of blue is the color of the sky (which is a matter of subjective observation and not logic).

        Analogies are a useful vehicle to distill complex ideas into simpler ideas. Good analogies even have a certain intellectual elegance to them.

        My pet peeve is when people don’t recognize when an analogy fails. Or alternately, try too hard to apply an analogy that doesn’t have as much relevance in a different context.

        My experience is that labels have a polarizing effect on debate, particularly in internet forums and comments. When the label is also an analogy, supporters/detractors work harder to make an the analogy or label fit in situations where it lacks the same relevance as it’s original context.

        This leads to mistakes in logic and people defending seemingly ludicrous positions. Instead of a vehicle to communicate ideas, analogies used this way become the nuclear armament that people use to go to war in internet discussion.

        Case in point — Darkfall and EvE. Ostensibly, these are both called sandboxes. Extrapolating from that, EvE players often have a strong opinion of what makes sense in a sandbox and that influences their opinion of what makes sense in Darkfall.

        They are, however, vastly different games and Darkfall shares an equal number of similarities with Quake. Should we then value Quake players strong opinions on Darkfall as well?

        No – it doesn’t really make sense. In, quite frankly, the same way that mirroring EvE in all ways doesn’t make sense.

        • Rammstein says:

          “Hmm. Not quite – bad analogies are mistakes in logic.”

          analogies aren’t logical , good or bad, so I can’t agree that they are logical mistakes. But, this discussion has gone on long enough. So, we’ll have to agree to disagree there.

          “They are, however, vastly different games and Darkfall shares an equal number of similarities with Quake.”

          A. did you actually count them?
          B. The analogy of ‘similarity between games’ to ‘something which you measure by counting properties in integers’ is a bad analogy ;)

        • sid6.7 says:

          Well played. ;)

  8. I was afraid of the same thing happening once the quests came in – In playing it through, it’s fortunately not the case. At max level, I’m still going back to the initial newbie spawn to mine. The second zone is where my farm is. To grab some wild Maple logs, a different zone (different resources per zone). Trade packs are region specific, and so on.

    There’s different reasons to go to different places all the way up the line – Have yet to be “done” with any of them. Using them forever is just part of the game.

    There just happen to be some quests in there too to prevent the “there is no content, so boring,” like Syl mentions, as happened in its early testing elsewhere. (Which is how quests arrived – Guidance.)

    • SynCaine says:

      From seeing player actions in-game (if that kind of data is available from the Asia/Russian versions), do they reflect the above, or is your experience more of a ‘best case’ scenario?

      If the average player does indeed travel back and forth across most zones even at the level cap, that would be a huge boon to the game, and a significant difference from most other level-based MMOs.

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