Sandbox means Boring


That looks boring as hell

If you have been following my blog for any length of time you know that I don’t dislike games because they are sandbox games, take Fallen Earth and Ultima Online as examples. In general I dislike sandbox games due to other factors such as boring combat (Darkfall, EVE) or horrid grinding being required (Darkfall, EVE). I think however that I have discovered another reason I don’t like most sandbox games, and it’s not the elitism that leaks out of those that play them like a festering wound (not today anyway), it’s the fact that most companies, and indeed most players, seem to think that sandbox means boring.

I constantly see blogs about how people just don’t understand this sandbox game or that one. About how, if you want to have fun, you need to find something and use your imagination in order to get any enjoyment out of it. They then berate people for saying that they got bored when that person obviously just wasn’t working at it.

At some point developers and player sat around and decided that in order for a game to be sandbox it needed to have mobs, pvp, a skill system and absolutely nothing to do unless you make it happen. If this is the case why not just open up MS Paint and make something happen. If you try hard enough you WILL have fun, you just have to put in time and effort.

I think something that needs to happen to really help the sandbox genre, at least in my opinion, is for the genre and it’s players to get over itself. Would it ruin Darkfall to have more quests? Surely players would cry foul and say that their favorite sandbox was ruined because they had to go from one place to another, even though NOTHING was changed except the addition of 1000’s more quests. Would it ruin Ultima Online to have a Dungeons and Dragons Online type of immersive, interactive dungeon? How about 30 of them sprinkled throughout the game?

I’m not saying you need to FORCE people to do certain quests or go to certain dungeons, but give me some story and some developer created things to do and perhaps I wouldn’t be sitting around looking for stuff to do 90% of the time I am playing. If there were as many quests in Darkfall as there are in World of Warcraft it wouldn’t take anything away from that game, other than giving people a little direction if they CHOOSE to take it.

Instead sandbox players and developers sit back and grin, thinking about how much better they are than your average MMO player because they have to make their own fun. Sounds more like a failure on the part of the developer to me with the fanbase continuing to support the product just because they are fans.

It’s a wonder that I like some sandbox games. What usually does it is getting lucky and finding that sweet spot, that perfect moment where you experience all the game can be and then spend the rest of your game time pining for it. Kinda like heroin I hear.

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EVE Online: Let’s Be Civil


Very, very pretty.

I was reading Hardcore Casual and We Fly Spitfires and they were both talking about Tobold’s adventures in EVE Online. They also both happened to be doing the same thing while talking about Tobold’s posts, they managed to be snide and elitist without offering anything that might resemble a helpful suggestion.

Don’t get me wrong, I love reading Hardcore Casual and We Fly Spitfires has some real gems. On Hardcore Casual Syncaine took his usual approach and defended sandbox MMO’s, namely EVE. He makes a good point about Tobold seemingly going into the game with the expectation of disliking it, but he loses me when he starts talking about the EVE Offline problem. I played EVE for a very short time and I didn’t like the way you skilled up. I understand it, and I know some people love it, but if I am playing I want to be able to choose to get a certain skill up and not have the game tell me I can’t. Sure you can choose what to skill up on in what order, but this amazing sandbox actually limits what you can do by making you unable to work hard and see faster progress.

Many people have a problem with EVE because the skill system encourages you to not play in the early levels, or so they say. Syncaine makes the point that if you want to play like that, you might as well buy a preskilled character and it’s a good point. However with the inability to focus on skilling up while playing, it leaves the player with only one goal in the early game (assuming they are new, they know almost no one and they are not in a coorporation, which is nearly all new people). That one thing is to get money, and in the starter ship with the starter gear, the best way to make money without the very real risk of losing everything you have is to mine. Mining in EVE is notoriously boring, a fact Syncaine tries to refute by equating it to playing the WoW auction house. I disagree as I can play the WoW Auction House for an hour a day and make a little money and then go about questing in order to improve myself, or make money. In EVE I can mine for three hours, then decide to go skill up OH WAIT I CAN’T! I can just mine some more.

Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires tries to defend it by saying the biggest problem with the EVE skill system is that we are paying money, and feel we are being forced to wait just so CCP can make more money. He feels that if we take the money out of the equation, we would see that the skill system was great. I disagree. If I picked up a single player game and it told me that I couldn’t “beat it” for six months, and that I could play the multiplayer version but I would probably NEVER be as good as the people that picked it up a year ago, I’d probably just stop playing. I could see continuing if there were other things to do in the game, dungeons to run, an alternate advancement system that I could actually work on other than money (which equals ships and gear).

Saying the freedom of EVE Online is it’s greatest asset I feel is a little misleading. EVE is free in the sense that, if you are in the right corporation you can do certain things, but you are in no way free to do whatever you want. In fact, if I want to skill up, I can’t choose to go do that. If I want to PVP and not get destroyed immediately I need to be in a PVP Corporation. If I want to enjoy the political intrigue that is EVE’s Corporation system I need to be in the right Corporation. So how does a newbie get into those Corporations? Well many require a certain amount of skill points to even put in an application, so it seems like you’ll just have to keep paying CCP until you get to the point where you can do what you want to do, as long as your Corporation approves.

Seems like they just traded level restrictions for skill/social networking restrictions. Better start friending  people if you want to really enjoy this Facebook game.

(Keep in mind I didn’t mind EVE, and just didn’t like the skill system. Since that seemed to be what both blogs defended the most, that’s what I tackled. I’d offer some helpful advice but I haven’t played enough to get the requisite skills to join a decent Corp, so I don’t have any advice to give.)

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Let’s Play Star Trek Online: Captains Log 2

Captains Log, Stardate 87863.07.

My name is Captain Amuntoth of Clan Teklik, Ensign in the Federation. I’ve been ordered to return to Earth Spacedock 1 as quickly as my warp engines can get me there. I’ve just had one quick stop to make on the way.


Ensign Selvok: “Sir, we’re approaching Javus IV Sir.”

“Of course we are Selvok, of course we are. Tell me, how goes the skin grafting?”

Ensign Selvok: “Well Sir, though I’m still not certain that this is within Starfleet regulations…”

“Selvok what did we talk about?”

Ensign Selvok: “That my Vulcan heritage counters my emotions, thus making me a genetic freak in need of purification Captain.”

“Precisely, and that is why we grafted some of my skin onto you, in order to purify your flesh as we are working to purify your mind.”

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An Ultima Online Experiment


I played Ultima Online back before Trammel, continued playing after it came out and didn’t leave it until Final Fantasy XI came out, which i played until World of Warcraft came out. I went back when Ultima Online released it’s Kingdom Reborn expansion pack, which was a terrible mess. The updated “3D” style graphics caused the world to look more cluttered than it had before and the newbie starting quests were broken  and it was impossible to complete it.

Jump forward to today when I downloaded and installed the 14 day trial for Ultima Online. I got the new Stygian Abyss client and decided to see what kind of improvements they had brought to UO, if any. It turned out that they did a really great job, at least in the newbie starting quest area. There were many NPCs with quests once I got to New Haven, the starting town, and they ranged from getting my skills up (basically to teach you what you need to do) to crafting or escorting.

The biggest problem with the game right now isn’t even the graphics, which is what I thought it would be. It’s not even the UI which has received many great enhancements. It’s the sound. From the brutally loud and annoying walking noise that accompanies you everywhere you go (unless you turn off the walking noise completely…) or the seemingly four second music clip that seems to repeat over and over. Granted I’ve only played for a few minutes and I intend to give it a thorough playing before I give up on it. I have such fond memories of my time in Brittania that I am really tempted to resub, especially after the little I played today. But I’ll give it the full two weeks and see what’s what.

Makes me want to give Darkfall a try. If only they had a carebare server.