The Theme Park MMO Is Dead, Enter the Sandbox

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I'd like to see an MMO where players can band together, take over dungeons, and their party leader can assume the title of Dungeon Boss.

There have been attempts at sandbox fantasy MMOs in the past several years (see Darkfall). All of them have failed miserably, as have more sandbox-y themepark MMORPGs like Vanguard and Star Wars Galaxies (although both of those ran afoul of sweeping changes that destroyed the game economies). I'm interested in seeing where they go with this, but not enough to donate to the Kickstarter project or keep a really close eye on it.

That being said, there are far, far worse sources of inspiration than EVE. If they can deliver a game with EVE's economic complexity and player-driven story without becoming combat spreadsheets, I'll certainly pay up and join. As someone who enjoys the economic and social aspsects of MMOs and hates running scripted events over and over, what they are attempting sounds like my dream game.

I can't say Eve is entirely about spreadsheets, but there aren't enough players in the game to support that. If less people took care of the background stuff like corp finances and fleet doctrines then more people would be having fun. Unfortunately you need those people in the background but that's the sacrifice of having a player run world.

That said, many MMO's could learn from their model. The idea that a band of people can get together and own territory with their name on it is simply fantastic, or that a small organised group can overcome sheer numbers of hundreds of players is amazing to witness. Then again, not everyone is cut out for PvP and there is certainly a lack of enjoyment for those who want to do nothing but PvE.

Aikayai:
I can't say Eve is entirely about spreadsheets, but there aren't enough players in the game to support that. If less people took care of the background stuff like corp finances and fleet doctrines then more people would be having fun. Unfortunately you need those people in the background but that's the sacrifice of having a player run world.

I wasn't referring to the CEOs and fleet commanders - I think those are valid roles and as you noted they're integral to this kind of game. I was referring to the actual combat mechanics of EVE - outside of small fleet engagements I've never found them very engaging. Then again I've never done more pvp than lowsec patrolling and raiding to keep our little corner of lowsec with its lucrative agents, fields and POSes safe. Personally, I'd rather the combat mechanics of something like Skyrim in a big sandbox MMO world. Still, I played EVE for years despite my stated dislike of those mechanics - the game is just that compelling.

The only thing better than a persistent sandbox fantasy MMO, would be a persistent sandbox Fallout MMO.

Mind adding a link to the Kickstarter? (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1675907842/pathfinder-online-a-fantasy-sandbox-mmo) so those interested in this concept can get their hands on it faster?

Greg Tito:
Ryan Dancey from Goblinworks is busy creating what he calls a sandbox fantasy MMO.

Good luck. That takes a lot of time and effort and coding, from what I can tell.

Perhaps when they say sandbox they don't mean dynamic. After all, MMOs in their very nature are already open-world sandboxes (you can go where you want, when you want, and do a bunch of different fun stuff). But if you want to make something that isn't a themepark of set piece adventures, you have to make it dynamic, and to make it dynamic you need to simulate a dynamic world and offer players a ton of tools to influence said dynamics.

Consider for a moment what would go into something like that:

1. First, you might want to generate terrain dynamically. That means hills and valleys as well as climate. That way each server can feel like it's own experience but also look and feel like an authentic planet. That generally involves research into geology and the construction of a simulated planet (or planet subsection; consider basing the server on an island where local water currents make conventional boat travel "seemingly impossible", until such time as you want to expand the size of the server in which case you can introduce the discovery of a magical portal or a hitherto unknown sailing technique or path or whatever you want).

2. Second, you may want to introduce harvestable resources such as forests, minerals, and wild fruit/vegetables if player-initiated crafting is central. You may also want to generate and simulate soil quality if agriculture will occur. You'll also have to simulate such features growing and replenishing over time. For minerals, you'll consider both the quantity of minerals as well as how far below the surface they are. Even if player-initiated crafting is not a design goal, you'll still want estimates if you want to simulate NPCs properly.

3. Third, you'll need to populate the world with animals and monsters. You can simplify this by creating "communities" (large groups of a particular species operating under one ruleset) and spreading them around the map. Each community of animals/monsters should have values for population and the amount of area they're spread around, rules for generating their combat stats if encountered (and meta rules for defining the rules of a randomly generated community), and rules for determining how they grow over time, how much they tend to migrate (and for what reasons: i.e. a community of goblins might migrate in response to PCs hunting them, or migrate towards small impoverished settlements to start ransacking them), and so on. You'll also need to simulate these communities reacting to each others presence and proximity; for example, an Orc settlement would likely not be very close to a Goblin settlement without a good reason (say for example, in your world Orcs and Goblins like to work together, or Orcs tend to enslave Goblins, or Orcs and Goblins aren't necessarily evil or hostile to others and would be more like NPCs), whereas communities of Rabbits would tend to be everywhere regardless of proximity since they reproduce so quickly and consistently flee from danger.

4. Fourth, you'll need to populate the world with NPCs. Like monster settlements, they'll need rules determining where settlements are likely to occur and for what reasons (proximity to a water source or other resources, proximity to nearby settlements, access to trade and travel routes, etc.). You'll want to simulate the migration of NPCs to a particular area, the construction of settlements, and the sorts of shops and trades that spring up. You might also want to simulate the strength of the NPCs (down to which NPCs are which classes or work which trades at what experience level) to measure their ability to handle small scale raids by monsters to armed incursions from PCs and large scale invasions in the case of nation-simulation.

5. You'll need to simulate and generate how NPCs influence PCs. Whether it be a local farmer begging a PC to exterminate a local pack of wolves attacking his cattle, or the city watch cracking down on crime by outlawing weapons in city districts in response to an increase in murder rates (whether said murder rates be a result from NPC simulation or PC action), or the collapse of a mine two towns over making weapons harder to come by, or the sudden presence and incursion of a dragon scaring travelers and traders off the roads. Even more important, once you've simulated these reactions you need ways to communicate this information to PCs dynamically so that they can come in and be adventurers like they're supposed to.

6. You'll also need to create systems to handle how PCs influence the world around them. If a bunch of PCs start a guild and start a town, it's natural for NPCs to move in and take advantage of the protection. And then what about taxes, and making laws, and hiring a city watch, and constructing a city hall or whatever? What about a contract system that allows PCs to make agreements with each other or other NPCs? Can you (and do you even want to) create a system that allows for PCs to raise armies realistically, from supplying your army with food to simulating morale? There are so many possibilities here and it can be as complex as you like. The more realistic you make it, the more possibilities you offer your players and the more dynamic the game becomes as a result.

7. To shake things up a bit it's important to generate "leaders" who will cause animals, monsters and NPCs to act differently. Perhaps an alpha-wolf causes a community of wolves to get more aggressive, or an evil necromancer appears and raises an army of undead via the local cemetery, or an Orc chieftain unites several bands of Orcs under one banner and assaults a village, or somebody takes out the local crime kingpin or leader of the thieves guild and takes over the underworld. You might also want to include a handful of cool "set pieces" regardless: hidden portals to the underworld buried deep in the far corners of the earth, menacing dragons atop the highest mountains, and so on. Where NPCs are least likely to want to be is where the cool stuff should happen, so you can even generate these kinds of things systematically if you wish.

There's more where that came from but I'm sure you all understand what I'm getting at by now so I'll stop there.

Wow.. a sandbox MMO? It's certainly groundbreaking, one could even say it'd be an ultima(te) online experience. But seriously, here's to hoping it works because I'm interested in something newer than UO, I haven't been back to that in years.

An mmo Rts where player's start together on a planet With either stranger's or friends and then slowly after thousands of in game years develop space travel and then enter the huge galaxy with player run allaince's and trading of Minerals and trying to exploit each other Leaking an enemy's Home world -coordinates)or there minning bases to other players Colonizing other planets to help you empire growing Descovering Diffrent Mineral's and elements and working how they interact with each other designing ships to suit your playstyle desiging your empire to fit your play style making a fleet filled with ships you designed and the crew following commands you make

Greg Tito:
The Theme Park MMO Is Dead, Enter the Sandbox

What do you want out of an MMO?

Read Full Article

The problem I see with their idea is that, with a persistant world (where dungeons and monsters stay dead) PvE would suck after a while, as than everything is dead.

I think, if you want to make a Sandbox MMO, you need to do almost exactly like EVE, and make the game focused completely on the players and their interaction with one another. I honestly find the idea behind EVE to be awesome, but the game looks just downright terrible to play.

isnt WoW pretty much the only successful themepark MMO?

Sounds like a great idea...if they can pull it off. Only time will tell.

The only thing that puts me off this project is the subscription model.
Ugh.

I was considering backing it until I saw that.

DjinnFor:

Greg Tito:
Ryan Dancey from Goblinworks is busy creating what he calls a sandbox fantasy MMO.

Good luck. That takes a lot of time and effort and coding, from what I can tell.

A good sandbox MMO actually has leaner development costs. Less time spent making content people blast through in a matter of hours and minutes, and more time gets spent building mechanics that actually make the game interesting.

1. First, you might want to generate terrain dynamically. That means hills and valleys as well as climate. That way each server can feel like it's own experience but also look and feel like an authentic planet. That generally involves research into geology and the construction of a simulated planet (or planet subsection; consider basing the server on an island where local water currents make conventional boat travel "seemingly impossible", until such time as you want to expand the size of the server in which case you can introduce the discovery of a magical portal or a hitherto unknown sailing technique or path or whatever you want).

Game needs a world generator that actually accounts for natural forces. Arbitrary mountains and impassable oceans cornering off every zone in WoW and GW2 got old fast.

2. Second, you may want to introduce harvestable resources such as forests, minerals, and wild fruit/vegetables if player-initiated crafting is central. You may also want to generate and simulate soil quality if agriculture will occur. You'll also have to simulate such features growing and replenishing over time. For minerals, you'll consider both the quantity of minerals as well as how far below the surface they are. Even if player-initiated crafting is not a design goal, you'll still want estimates if you want to simulate NPCs properly.

3. Third, you'll need to populate the world with animals and monsters. You can simplify this by creating "communities" (large groups of a particular species operating under one ruleset) and spreading them around the map. Each community of animals/monsters should have values for population and the amount of area they're spread around, rules for generating their combat stats if encountered (and meta rules for defining the rules of a randomly generated community), and rules for determining how they grow over time, how much they tend to migrate (and for what reasons: i.e. a community of goblins might migrate in response to PCs hunting them, or migrate towards small impoverished settlements to start ransacking them), and so on. You'll also need to simulate these communities reacting to each others presence and proximity; for example, an Orc settlement would likely not be very close to a Goblin settlement without a good reason (say for example, in your world Orcs and Goblins like to work together, or Orcs tend to enslave Goblins, or Orcs and Goblins aren't necessarily evil or hostile to others and would be more like NPCs), whereas communities of Rabbits would tend to be everywhere regardless of proximity since they reproduce so quickly and consistently flee from danger.

A proper sandbox MMO is dictated by algorithms. Theoretically it SHOULD be possible to kill the last boar. Killing anything should carry real consequences. More importantly, the world should know how to react. Deforesting an entire zone should turn it into a swamp, and hopefully someone rolled a druid, or else a primordial death spirit pops up, and so on.

6. You'll also need to create systems to handle how PCs influence the world around them. If a bunch of PCs start a guild and start a town, it's natural for NPCs to move in and take advantage of the protection. And then what about taxes, and making laws, and hiring a city watch, and constructing a city hall or whatever? What about a contract system that allows PCs to make agreements with each other or other NPCs? Can you (and do you even want to) create a system that allows for PCs to raise armies realistically, from supplying your army with food to simulating morale? There are so many possibilities here and it can be as complex as you like. The more realistic you make it, the more possibilities you offer your players and the more dynamic the game becomes as a result.

This, a hundred times over. The biggest problem with the modern MMMORPG is that they never adequately give people a feeling of agency.

FelixG:
isnt WoW pretty much the only successful themepark MMO?

WoW's the most successful. But UO and Everquest were also quite successful in their day.

DjinnFor:

Greg Tito:
Ryan Dancey from Goblinworks is busy creating what he calls a sandbox fantasy MMO.

Consider for a moment what would go into something like that. <huge snip>

First, your expectations for the level of detail required are ludicrous. Look at minecraft to see what it needs be at a fairly basic level. Although these days minecraft itself is quite a bit beyond basic.

Second, your suggestions seem to be based around recreating a themepark MMO, just with code rather than human programmed quests. I agree that doing such a thing would be a hell of an undertaking, but suggest that you've rather missed the point of a sandbox -- where it's the players that generate the action.

Kwil:

FelixG:
isnt WoW pretty much the only successful themepark MMO?

WoW's the most successful. But UO and Everquest were also quite successful in their day.

DjinnFor:

Greg Tito:
Ryan Dancey from Goblinworks is busy creating what he calls a sandbox fantasy MMO.

Consider for a moment what would go into something like that. <huge snip>

First, your expectations for the level of detail required are ludicrous. Look at minecraft to see what it needs be at a fairly basic level. Although these days minecraft itself is quite a bit beyond basic.

Second, your suggestions seem to be based around recreating a themepark MMO, just with code rather than human programmed quests. I agree that doing such a thing would be a hell of an undertaking, but suggest that you've rather missed the point of a sandbox -- where it's the players that generate the action.

I played UO and it was a lot more sandbox than themepark

But yeah I didnt count everquest, that is a good one

The thing is... Minecraft is split into many individual servers, so even though stuff like this happens it's spread out with a few people over a vast distance. Trying to emulate that gameplay in a MMO setting especially because of the vast power difference caused by levelling and the like would be impossible.

You'd have to either make it so that there were no levels and the equipment you have is limited to just defensive capability as opposed to adding offensive capability.

With Minecraft people drop their items on death, so if someone is being a jerk then everyone could gang up and punish that person and take their equipment to stop them. In a MMO setting I don't see that going as well. Also you get the large elite group who are snobs and hate everyone and instantly level in a day then go around killing newbies, it's the worst part of WoW and in a Minecraft structured setting combined with leveling, it would suck even more.

But with those things said it sounds like it is a good idea and could be done well... but the amount od balancing and things that are needed are likely to either fail outright trying to hold onto regular MMORPG tropes or will scare the audience in the need for them to have meaningful input into a game.

I remember what happened with Runescape, an incredibly simple (and grindy) MMO I played between the years of 2003 - 2007. Over the years that game developed nothing short of an INSANELY complex economic system, and the developers of the game weren't responsible for it at all, purely the players. You would see stuff that could make economics students learn new shit.

The entire game was market/money-driven and you would see people taking part in first-level jobs (gathering, farming), 2nd-level jobs (buying materials from first-level workers, crafting it, selling final product for more) and 3rd-level jobs (investing in insanely expensive shit, selling back for higher, spending all day in the market). Entire websites came up which drew on statistics seeing pricing trends, supply/demand ratios, etc. All over a browser-based Java MMO, it was nuts!
And you could just be someone who ignores all that and plays the game for hardcore PvP/PvE.

I wouldn't mind seeing an MMO like that again rise up.

I want wow, but with more emphasis on world pvp.. so mop, i want mop to come out already

If making an MMO keeps Ryan Dancey away from the tabletop gaming industry, great. That man has been poison to my favorite hobby for years.

@ Ascon, Djinnfor: For your consideration, if you care to see some of the solutions for the problems you are raising: Development Blog. And first, they're working with a well-known IP that comes from outside video games. The owners of the IP are a company called Paizo. Paizo makes table top RPGs. This would be like if twenty years ago, a company had tried to make a game called Baldur's Gate Online and had sat down right next to the old TSR staff that owned that IP. And, you know, TSR had not been a thoroughly mismanaged company.

I'll leave it to others to debate the merits of that IP, but it does mean there's some underlying assumptions from the IP as well.

DjinnFor:
*snip*

So, Minecraft on super steroids? Sounds awesome, too bad creating that level of dynamics is nigh impossible to be done practically on the scale of an MMO. Impossible for an indie company to do it without taking probably 20 years, and too much dev time required for a AAA company to not end up shoving it out the door before its finished; ruining everyone's first impressions of it and dooming it from the get go.

We can dream though, maybe when our grandkids are cursing each other out over the Xbox Live immersive neural network.

It doesn't really matter what you make, as long as you don't satisfy the kind of gamer that logs in twice a week for half an hour it's pointless.

A dungeon that is cleared stays cleared? I'm a little unsure about that; things need to 'respawn' unless the world is procedurally generated and slowly gets bigger and bigger as it becomes more and more 'tamed'. Other than that, it's something to look into imo.

The biggest challenge in creating a true persistent sandbox is how to stay welcoming to new players after a couple months.

Okay, so pathfinder online will have dungeons that "will be empty" when some player kills all the mobs, so for the newbies there's nothing left to do.
Players can create lasting structures that dot the landscape: all the land has been occupied by the old hands.

This sandbox MMO is a recipe for new players leaving immediately and for the oldest players to grow bored sooner or later.

Sylocat:
I'd like to see an MMO where players can band together, take over dungeons, and their party leader can assume the title of Dungeon Boss.

This, but cranked up to 11. The whole thing is a massive game of 'king of the hill'. There'd be different factions, and territories held by them. Players could band together and go to war, enormous PvP battles for key areas. The best players would become kings, rulers of enormous empires. But would they be benevolent kings protecting their subjects? Or do they rule with an iron fist? All up to the players.

Yes, more of this. Much more.

For those stating Ultima Online and Everquest, I agree. They were fairly sandboxy and that was kinda interesting. But I think that there are plenty of modern innovations to the MMO genre that could be incorporated to make the overall formula better. Instead of being a one or the other sort of deal, we should take the advantages of both the sandbox and theme park style MMOs and consider how they could all be applied.

[DISCLAIMER]: This is all my personal opinions on the matter and not stated fact. Generally speaking this should always be assumed whenever anyone says anything ever, but that's difficult for some to understand. Thank you.

A couple examples,

Questing.
I don't think quests are a thing that -shouldn't- exist in this world. They give a good goal to work towards and it can be a good way for people to make money. Have a few NPCs that have (sensical) quests posted on say a central bounty board, but then also allow players to place a quest reward of money and items for recovering things that they want and attach an EXP reward based on the difficulty of whatever the task is. If they need 30 of some super-rare resource then reward accordingly.

Encourage group play but don't require it.
Guild Wars 2 did a cool thing with giving everybody their own individual money and loot for killing things whether they were grouped or not. It's not a perfect game, but that's something they have down. Life gets easier when groups of people work together and the mechanics of the game should aid in that. Allow people to all sign a "contract" when accepting a quest like the one mentioned before that will divide the monetary rewards and give them all full experience for the job.

On the other hand, make it so that if you are a bad enough dude to go out and take down a freaking dragon one on one that you can do that. Personally, I dislike the numbers game of MMOs where you "Must have this big a number to ride this ride". Most of the time it doesn't add anything other than a gear grind. There are some cases where being good enough lets you go in with slightly lower numbers but usually you want to wait until you have as much gear as you can.

Don't limit the exploration.
If you want a sandbox, make it like Skyrim or Morrowind. There are no zone barriers (and I'd remove the ones in front of dungeons and buildings) preventing you from walking from one end of the map to the other. Implement a climbing mechanic so that someone -could- struggle their way to the top of that mountain or to the bottom of that ravine. Maybe have a freaking parkour skill so that agile thiefy types can faff about Assassin's Creed style if they want.

Customization customization customization.
This is probably the hardest one to get right in my eyes, simply because of the planning and thought you need to put into it.

Have different layers of gear. Instead of the old class systems determining what gear you can use, have it all be accessible to everyone. Make it so you can have Light, then Medium, then Heavy gear all stacked up. Leathers under Chainmail under Platemail. Throw some robes and capes and things of the like. Make sure that the layers underneath don't clip through (that always bothers the crap out of me when it's super obvious). Make it so people can dye it whatever colors they want. If you want to micro-transaction some of this, that's a fine idea. Some people won't care about it, but those that do will be happy to support your game to bling out their character. Also, moving in big flowy wizard robes is a lot harder than moving in leather or chainmail (in my experience, at least).

Continuing on in this, player housing. Let people build their house. Maybe even go crazy and have it be a little Sims-esque. But let them have a home and let groups of player homes attract NPCs. Let towns steadily grow from the adventuring players clearing out havens in the world and settling there. Let players construct fortresses and battle each other for them.

tldr; Fight together, fight alone if you can, take jobs and earn money, explore EVERYTHING, be who you want and look the part, build what you want and live there, take what you want and suffer the consequences in a persistent world.

That ended up far more wordy than I'd originally intended. Hmm. Oh well!

A sandbox MMO, huh? So like RuneScape and Eve have been doing for years... Get ready for this being grindtastic (and that's not a good kind of tastic).

Sandbox games can work if they are done right. With pathfinder online, if players can make their own holdings, they could just build a holding specifically for monsters to invade and allow newer players to get some fun in. It would be an interesting community project to build the equivalent of Under Mountain.

"When you build a structure or slay a big monster or clear out a dungeon in Pathfinder Online, that will have an impact that will be lasting, people will be able to see that structure that you built. And that dungeon will be empty and those monsters will stay dead."
So how is it going to work when there's no more dungeons, resources, and all the animals are extinct?

I have to say I love Pathfinder as a Tabletop RPG but I'm a little concerned about how it will translate to an MMO Computer Game.

Nurb:
"When you build a structure or slay a big monster or clear out a dungeon in Pathfinder Online, that will have an impact that will be lasting, people will be able to see that structure that you built. And that dungeon will be empty and those monsters will stay dead."
So how is it going to work when there's no more dungeons, resources, and all the animals are extinct?

Make more dungeons, monsters, resources and animals I guess? Or maybe create new worlds to explore when the current one is staring to run dry. Dungeons and Dragons had multiple universes that stories took place in. Maybe Pathfinder will try to do the same.

While this is fascinating in concept, it seems to me that PvE latecomers would really get the shaft if the devs are serious about this persistent-events concept. Where's a noob supposed to go when all the starter dungeons have been cleaned out for months, if not years? I suppose your options then would be to set up shop in the tutorial town or just go back to WoW -- and of those, I know what I'd pick.

WoW didn't improve the theme-park. WoW invented the theme-park. Before WoW most MMOs just dropped your dumb ass in to a world and said "Figure it out."

Nurb:
"When you build a structure or slay a big monster or clear out a dungeon in Pathfinder Online, that will have an impact that will be lasting, people will be able to see that structure that you built. And that dungeon will be empty and those monsters will stay dead."
So how is it going to work when there's no more dungeons, resources, and all the animals are extinct?

I'm very curious about that to. For the game to stay accessible, the world would have to be constantly changing. And I don't just mean adding new content: the very geography of the world would need to be re-surfaced every few days in order to replace those dungeons that were cleared and mobs that were killed. That would require massive man-power and incur a huge expense. I'm curious to hear how they plan to pull this off.

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