Sandbox vs. ?

Warning. Today’s post contains cursing, foul language and anger.

A lot of the people I follow have been chiming in on the whole Sandbox vs. Theme Park discussion such as Keen, SynCaine and Alex to name just a few. Let’s get a few things straight before we start. I started playing MMO’s back in Ultima Online, before they supposedly “destroyed” that game. I have played most major MMO’s and many free such as Atlantica Online, Asian such as Lineage, or just “kiddy” MMO’s such as Wizards101.

I game a lot too. Most of my free time is spent gaming, and a lot of that is playing MMO’s with my friends. I also fall squarely on the “Theme Park” side of the discussion, though I think that term is derogatory. You see I’ve played so called Sandbox MMO’s before. It was amazing in Ultima Online, and from what I hear Everquest 1. Have you ever noticed how it has sucked in every other MMO that has come out since? Ever noticed how most of them have tanked?

I believe there are two main reasons for this. The first is that 80% of the people who say they want a hardcore PVP free for all Sandbox game reminiscent of Ultima Online actually don’t. The second is that PVP of any kind, whether it is in an FPS style game like Call of Duty or Halo, or it is a game like World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online or Aion, is flooded with douches.

I’ll try to explain both of these, starting with the second. Let me be clear here that I do NOT think that everyone who likes PVP is a douche or an asshole, and I don’t think that PVP makes people into this. I simply think that the massive amount of asshats out there (many of whom starting playing MMO’s with WoW) are drawn to PVP. Not really though. They are drawn to the misery of others, and PVP is a means to an end.

These are the type of people who will roll onto a role-playing server JUST to harass the role-players. These people are the teabaggers, the Halo jocks, the people who don’t really enjoy the game, only the interaction with others that makes them feel good. You will hear these people, from here on referred to as asshats, berating the game in general chat and wishing it didn’t suck SO much. Most often you will find them playing some kind of rogue class where they can stealth and gank lowbies. These are the same people who will cry the loudest when a new MMO talks about putting in protections for lowbies.

More after the jump

The second type of person is the one who loves video games. This may be recent or older. They enjoy friendly competition and a good challenge while playing their MMO’s. They have heard since they started playing that Ultima Online was amazing and the thing they usually hear as a reason for that game being so awesome is it’s hardcore PVP FFA sandbox gameplay.

These people want to live, or relive, that feeling more than anything. They want that rush of danger, that thrill of true victory that you pulled out of the jaws of defeat. They want a wild west feeling to their MMO where anything can and will happen and they can do anything at anytime. They have no idea what they are talking about. This could be due to not having actually played UO or EQ, or maybe they did but it’s been a very long while, and their memory isn’t as clear as it once was.

A lot of what made those games great isn’t something that can be done now days. Can you imagine not having a hot bar like in Ultima? Opening your spellbook with one spell a page, scrolling through and finding the right spell for what you need each time?

Edit: As SynCaine pointed out in the comments you could drag a spell from your spellbook, create a macro for it, and then place that on your hotbar. Check out his comment for other information.

Can you imagine running out of reagents to cast spells, and having to go herbalize for an hour or so, or spend a nice amount of money, just to cast your spells? And what about not having any quests? This is the biggest thing most Sandbox people seem to cry. “We want a game that’s not on tracks! We want to go anywhere, fight anything, whenever we want. Maybe it’s too high level for us, maybe it’s way low level, maybe it’s just right, but we want the option!”

That is stupid. You already have the option, as much as you ever did. You want a game that is not on tracks, which means no developer made quests or dungeons, at least not the WoW kind. You want to come up with your own things. There are many games out that give this to the player, and we usually call them Asian grind fests. The truth is that most people DO want quests and instanced dungeon type things. Oh and for those people who don’t? Let’s stick with the WoW analogy for now and say they really want the ability to go anywhere, attack anything, and make their own quests. You have that ability already. You can probably find a mod to hide the level of your target, because that’s all most Sandbox games offer. Sure there may not be real “levels” but that Goblin with all Super Amazing Enchanted Gold Armor with the Power Axe and 100 in axe skill and heavy armor, he’s basically a level cap mob and you with your starter gear and 2 in swords? You’re a low level newb whether there’s a number by your name or not. And you do not HAVE to do the quests. Make up your own, go find some Kobolds and say “those Kobolds probably raided a local village and now they must pay” or whatever it is you feel the need to do.

Several games have come out recently such as Aion, WAR, Champions Online, Age of Conan and others. All of these games were slammed for a lack of end game content when they first launched, and they aren’t the only ones. But if you remember the days of Ultima Online that is what end game was. Nothing. You did whatever you chose to do that day. Feel like getting some friends together and fighting a dragon for no real reason? O.K. But the biggest part of UO’s “end game” was PVP. There was guild PVP and random FFA PVP. You went around finding other players, sometimes in groups looking for groups, sometimes in gank mode, and often just randomly stumbling into action. You fought over nothing, or you made up lines and decided that “We won’t let those punks pass THIS point!”. There was nothing to really fight over, you couldn’t defend towns or siege keeps.

“But Amun!” you say “why can’t we bring sandbox and update it with current technology?” and the answer is we can, but you aren’t going to like the answer. Sure we can add keep’s and sieges, player controlled towns and massive dungeons, PVP objectives and goals, but with every single thing you add, you just made the game a “theme park” game. You added rails, but they are PVP rails so it’s OK right?

The truth is that most people have no idea what they are asking for when they ask for a true hardcore, sandbox, PVP, FFA game. They’ve never experienced it. They don’t realize that for every kill they get, they’ll die ten times and lose ALL of their gear and have to start from scratch. Does that mean no one wants one of these games? Not at all. There is a large minority who would LOVE games like this, and these are the people still playing the afore mentioned games, AoC, Darkfall etc.

One last thing. There are apparently THOUSANDS of people who hate WoW. These people will take EVERY opportunity to tell you that on ANY forum on ANY topic. They will all mention how lame it is, and how they spent almost 4 years playing it. STOP BEING STUPID! You don’t hate it, it’s not a shit game, you just got tired of it because you played it WAY too long. Maybe you didn’t like some of the changes they made, like any game, but let’s be honest here, if you played it that long you LOVED the game, and it was the best game out in your opinion, you just finally got bored with it. Just like I did.

But who knows, maybe I am wrong about ALL of these things. Feel free to add some comments, email me at Amuntoth at gmail dot com, or just rage quit the blog.


  1. Some inaccuracies (you could drag spells out of your spellbook in UO, and create macros to cast them from hotkeys as well), some strawmman stuff (requiring regs to cast spells is needed in a full loot game like UO or DF, and the reason is more than just to make you hit herb bushes), and some stuff I don’t totally understand (how is having a player city in a world like DF ‘on rails’ content because you can siege it vs going to someones house to kill them in UO?).

    With all that said, your overall point is very correct: most people DON’T want that style of game, but they keep saying they do and then making up excuses when given the opportunity (like DF or EVE). Hence WoW has 11m subs and EVE has 300k.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’ll add the hotkeys for spells thing into the main post. Been a long time since I played Ultima Online. I’m interested to hear your opinion on why requiring regs is needed in a full loot game, and what would be the downside of not having it? I would guess just the fact that anyone who wasn’t a magic user would be at a severe disadvantage after getting killed and looted, while a magic user would be mostly unaffected.

      As for the player city being on rails and the house in UO not I can’t speak to it too much as I haven’t played Darkfall yet (plan to though). I know in UO you could build a house anyway, and if someone found your house they could kill you (assuming they had a key to get in, or you left the door open). In DF from what I have read you have a player city and it’s entire point is to be a spot of contention. Unlike in UO where the house was intended to just be a little house for yourself or your guild and turned into a store and never a big PVP experience. That is not counting the times people ran all the way from one area to their house in another in an attempt to escape from you.

  2. Rantastic! While I generally try to stay positive (for my own mental health more than anything), I always enjoy a good rant and I especially agree with your WoW comments.

    As far as the nostalgia stuff goes, anytime someone talks about the good old days, I have flashbacks to mob trains, XP loss, elite mobs roaming newbies areas, and sitting for five minutes staring at my spellbook waiting for my mana to regen. I used to get a lot of reading done when playing EQ.

  3. Haha exactly. I played tons of minesweeper, I read, I played gameboy, anything to alleviate the boredom of waiting for my mana/health to come back. I hated that.

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