Problems With The Sandbox

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The only Sandbox games I've been able to get into lately are the Infamous series, which is probably one of the reason why I don't want to see that series end despite being a supporter of letting series die out like Resident Evil or Uncharted.

Most sandbox games I'll get halfway through, lose my way get board and put it aside never to be thought of again. That's what i liked about Infamous on to of limiting you to the side quest you can do until you pressed to a certain point in the main story, it also limited the need for money. Now I know the money thing wouldn't work for sandbox games like GTA I don't think it would be bad to limit the importance of it, than you can limit the $$$ gained without handicapping the player as much.

The sense of time is far more disparaging then that. A mission ends on an implication that the next must be completed quickly, lest someone you know dies. Meanwhile, your character fucks around on a four day trip completing some bullshit side quests like skinning enough rabbits. There's two different worlds in sandbox games. The story world and the open world.

People tend to overrate these types of games purely on the basis of "there's more to do", but they could be so much better if someone managed to combine the open world's freedom with a linear game's narrative abilities.

GTA: Basically did the "lose all your stuff" scenario. When the police take you out to the back of Buttfuck Nowhere, you basically are starting from scratch

Agree with Mount and Blade Warband and Mafia 1 doing time management the right way.

I'd also say that The Saboteur worked for the completely opposite reason. It would be the middle of the day for some unspecified amount of time, before gracefully changing to midnight almost without you noticing. Gave you the variety of the day night cycle, but kept the focus firlmy on the important stuff- like actually having fun. Definitely agree with the money issue in sandboxes though.


Yahtzee Croshaw:
What if you did the standard sandbox crime game thing for the first half of the game, gradually acquiring more and more money, luxury apartments, fancy clothes and powerful vehicles, but then at the start of the second half your character falls for some dastardly trick and the villain steals everything you have?

In a sandbox game such as this, I think that'd be a terrible move to make. I'd just load back up the last save before I lost all my cool stuff so I could have a blast on the town.

Agreed. Having all my territory stripped from me after I spent so much time on it in the first half of San Andreas didn't immerse me more or anything like that. It almost killed the whole game for me. Actually I don't think I even did manage to get over it enough to finish the game.

So yeah, terrible idea.

Mafia II annoyed the hell out of me because it did the "you lose all your stuff" 3 times!!? First you go to prison, then your house gets burnt down, then you get chased from another place for some reason I can't remember. I remember thinking "i'm not buying another fucking suit until I'm sure I can keep it".

I've completely lost interest in Skyrim/Fallout open worlds. There is some interesting stuff but most of it seems heavily scripted, fairly wooden and seems to take forever to find a gem of a story. I struggle with games that feed the "fight to get loot to upgrade to do bigger fights to get better loot" loop. I didn't mind it in Borderlands, or Dark Souls but that's because the incentive is finding really intereseting and bizarre loot, and new and bizarre enemies and locations, not just the "upping" of stats.

inFamous 1 & 2 and the Skate series are the best "open-world" playground games I think. You just tool around finding stuff to do. As for timescale, Arkham Asylum did a fantastic job of "the long, long night". Grim Fandango as well, as Yahztee mentioned.

It seems to be a lost art but what ever happened to the time passing montage? It worked so well in every Karate Kid, martial arts revenge film from the 80s.

I've been thinking that another sticky issue with Sandbox games, which is similar to the timescale issue, and directly related to the money/reward issue, is story line expectations.

Just like that bit in sleeping dogs where killing people only counts if you do it in a story mission, some games ignore the achievements of the player in the sandbox portion in increasing ludicrous ways, resulting in the story line taking place in a parallel dimension where the player character is *not* an immensely rich super-powerful lord of the land, but rather the plucky underdog fighting the big bad.

It's like if it was a superhero game, where the actual super-heroics take place outside the story missions.

The most egregious example of this, and it is specially damning because the thing happens *within the storyline*, is GTA San Andreas:

So, after you've travelled all around the state, defeated crime bosses, pulled insane stunts, got involved with government agencies, rob a casino, fly a freaking jetpack... You get your brother out of jail and go back to the neighbourhood gang-banging.

I mean, c'mon! I have a fighter jet parked on my hilltop mansion's helipad! You want me to go back to prowling the streets in a green hoodie? I could bomb every single opposing gang, I have enough guns and money to hire my own freaking army... And I have to go back to worrying about a corrupt cop and some losers in purple hoodies?

As you can guess, that's the point when I stopped playing.

In general, I'd say sandboxes and linear storylines are very hard to mix properly. Sometimes I try to think about how Minecraft would work with a cohesive story line, and end up curled in a corner weeping in fear.

I'll just simply say that whatever they decide to put into a game it MUST relate to gameplay. This wasn't always true during the era of pacman where one just go for the highest score. But lets be honest, in those days the novelty of moving pixels where enough to get us excited and the score didn't matter much.

It is hard to imagine a AAA game of today that reward players with only high scores. The very reason RPGs are so fun and why alot of other genre adopt some aspect or another of RPGs is because RPGs know how to keep scores.

When one defeats a tough mob in an RPG we don't just get rewarded with a higher rating in the score board, we actually get LOOT that improve our future survival in the game. A reward that relates to gameplay.

Personally I think every sandbox game NEED deeper RPG elements, particularly looting and the way to spend money since moving pixels alone isn't rewarding enough to keep us moving those pixels.

The first point does put me in mind of Guild Wars 2. While I understand the decision of the designer, I can't help being taken out of the story a little if at the end of the last story instance the NPCs say there's no time to get help, or better yet, present me with one of the choices for the next mission to (often) either rescue my personal friend or a large group of unknown civilians because there isn't time to do both.... and then tell me the recommended level for that next, time essential mission is 3 levels above the last mission, and I have to do some more open-world questing before I can realistically start the mission.

A note on the second point, don't a lot of the GTA games already offer more gameplay for money? When you buy the expensive property in Vice City, they generally unlock a new mission chain. Like when you buy the movie studio, and you get a bunch of missions to make the greatest porn movie ever.

My favorite is when the game assumes you have no money even though you have completed a truckload of missions and could buy half the city.

Random Quest Person: I need your help. I need 3,000 credits (coins/dollars/monies/etc) to be able to do this very important thing (go on a voyage, ferry your across this river, sell you a quest item, etc)

Player: 3,000? *checks current credits* I have 1,000,000...


Player: 3,000? checks credits* hmm... not enough Hold up the city pays me in 2 minutes. *goes to home base/game bank* Sweet, now I have 8,000.

Then the game acts as though 3,000 was a lot to get/spend.

Wasn't Mafia 2 like that? Silly and trite as the story was, it kept a pretty good "see how time has passed" kind of thing after the arrest, and it even robs you of all of your fancy suits in the raid that causes you to flee to your buddy's house in your underpants, causing you to more or less start anew. They don't take your cars, if I remember right, which is kind of weird, but hey, close enough. It could really have used more to buy, however.

Pretty much this. The whole time reading this I was thinking to myself that he is describing Mafia 2.

strangely enough sandbox games are better suited to characters who arent the standard chosen one.

huh...that's really interesting with the time differentials and the random crap you do in between missions lol
never really bothered me much since my mind just mentally goes "oh yeah story missions gotta do those" but guess I just get immersed if it's a good sandbox...and if not then nvm I'm out

1. time. I don't think this can ever bee completely solved, because there's always the issue of allowing people to roam around and do stuff. While I liked Dead Rising, it can also be incredibly frustrating.

2. This is completely legit. Though, as long as there are ways to gain money, there will be this problem. Some games go overboard on it. When I can be a millionaire before I even take on the Syndicate in Steelport, something's wrong. ESPECIALLY when the whole story was all "they took our stuff away!"

More increments as well as more options.

Both Saints Row 2 and 3 had massive issues with money. I like the mechanic/idea of buying properties as a front for your gang activities but when you're sitting on millions of dollars in revenue from your real estate investments it makes one think that perhaps their character would be a better Realtor than gangster.

You act as if there's a difference. >.>

Just realized that Prototype handles this really well, by dribbling out a few upgrades and sidequests after each event. So you can spend a little while picking out the best upgrades and sidequests before you get back to work, but there's no real incentive to spend all day grinding XP.

On the other hand, there's a few bits at the end where missions are broken up in a weird way. You set up the Bloodtox pump and you're buddy-buddy with the military, setting up your defenses, then right before the big battle you get sent back to the sandbox to walk around and stretch your legs a bit. That section would have worked a lot better as a long, continuous mission with checkpoints.

I think maybe developers have to be willing to close down the sandbox when they really need you doing something. Put nasty things where they don't want you going, make you get chased by monsters from one sidequest to the next, just make it clear that it'll be a lot more fun if you follow the prescribed story first.

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