The Detriment of the "Sandbox" mode

One of the most irksome things in a game in my opinion, is the sandbox mode.

The sandbox mode for me takes all the fun out of a game because well, why bother with anything else when you can just play the sandbox mode? Why bother with anything else the game offers when you can get it all upfront without any effort?

There are two examples that I can think of that come to mind:

-Roller Coaster Tycoon

Roller Coaster tycoon is probably one of my favorite games, because it gave a challenge while allowing you to do so much with the game. You can change the entire geography of a theme park, if you have the time and money to. You can make a massive Roller Coaster, if you the time and money to, along with the thought put in mind to not make the roller coaster too intense so people will ride it. You can even kill the guests at will, at the cost of park rating of course. Also, the first one takes special notice for me because it gives you such a bare minimum at the start; only 10,000$, with a few of each ride type normally. Then you must complete the objectives to unlock new parks to conquer.

It enforces creativity by limiting you, thus making you have to make the most of what you have in the most effective way possible. Rct 2 sadly left some of these elements by allowing you to go to any scenario at will, and allowing you to make your own scenarios right off the bat. However, at least in Rct 2, you are still limited by a cap on scenery, ride types and more. Thus meaning you have to think ahead when creating your scenario. Roller coaster designer is fine tool, because it is limited by lack of terrain thus meaning it is only good for making pre-made rides.

However, when Rct 3 added a sandbox mode, the challenge felt a little... dulled. I mean, I haven't played rct 3 nearly as much as the earlier ones. Rct 3 gave too much freedom in my opinion, it made the game feel more like a fictional park creator than an actual game, if Rct 2 wasn't that enough. Although the soaked! expansion back was badass.

-Minecraft

Minecraft is a game that only caught my interest because of the survival mode. I saw it personally as a Rct if you could play in first person in some respects. In survival, the game was actually fun. However, eventually creative mode got added back in, and it made me wonder why I should even play survival when I can do everything survival does and more? The lack of diversity in survival was also a turn-off, and I eventually found myself playing the game less and less.

The sandbox mode, creative felt ironically, very uncreative to me because I can do whatever I want off the bat, so who cares? It is the amount of time put into it and nothing else, patience and some craftsmanship perhaps, but without any challenge the immersion is utterly destroyed for me.

To be honest, I personally wish that they ditched creative mode while they could have back in alpha. If people want the creative mode, they can just use a mod to get it back in anyways. People often hacked the earlier versions for "creative modes" anyhow.

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In short, when a game adds in a 'sandbox', or 'god mode' the immersion is broken, the challenge is ruined and the fun (for me at least) is sucked away.

I can't possibly be the only person who feels like this.

Yeah, I get the same thing.

When there is nothing restricting my actions, those actions become meaningless.

Agreed. I find games like Skyrim and Fallout 3 very boring because of the sheer openness. With no direction or restriction to overcome, your actions feel very meaningless.

Nigh Invulnerable:
Agreed. I find games like Skyrim and Fallout 3 very boring because of the sheer openness. With no direction or restriction to overcome, your actions feel very meaningless.

Although to be fair, earlier on skyrim is quite a challenging game. It is only when you start getting to the point where your character gets horrifically powerful does the game become easy.

You guys are approaching sandboxes wrong. For one thing, Minecraft, it's just sheer creativity at work in it's sandbox mode. You're goal isn't to "win" or "survive" but just to build the craziest stuff you can. It's like sitting down to sculpt a bunch of clay, or buying a bunch of legos.

Nigh Invulnerable:
Agreed. I find games like Skyrim and Fallout 3 very boring because of the sheer openness. With no direction or restriction to overcome, your actions feel very meaningless.

I find that people who complain about Bethesda games' openness miss the point. It's not as much of a traditional start to finish game as it is like a D&D book. You get the lore, the monsters, settings, and characters, and a couple basic campaigns, but ultimately you get what you put into it. Rather than just trying to complete all the quests or get all the weapons, try RPing, coming up with your character's backstory, goals, motivations, etc.

So if people want creative mode, they should mod it? Why would that be any different from having it in the game? Da fuq!??!

Also what you described is a very specific instance of gaming. On the flip side, if someone has access to all the tools to create whatever he wants, he could create something truly amazing without limits or time constraints. (Have you seen some of the shit ppl have made in minecraft?)

And Skyrim/Fallout lack direction? Well you can wander around if you want to, or you could do the millions of quests all over the entire gameworld. The option is there.

I enjoy the completely open freedom of a good sandbox. I can do anything I want, no limits at all, it's very liberating and one of the things I play games for. I can certainly understand how limits can add to the experience and I've enjoyed some games that are entirely linear.

What comes in way too often for my comfort is when people want features removed because they can't keep themselves from selecting them.

The "right" way to do it, IMO, is the GTA model. You have constant access to an open world, but whenever you want you can enter a mission or whatever and have it apply the restrictions necessary to make it more of a "game", even though you are still technically operating under the open world rules. Prototype and Red Dead Redemption, in particular, did this fantastically.

The wrong way is to have an "open world" that doesn't matter. The great thing about the Prototype, RDR, or GTA open worlds is that you can dick around, and are rewarded, for basically just killing time or doing non-mission related stuff. In something like, say, Mafia II, or Borderlands, or L.A. Noire the open world aspect just feels like a chore. All you are doing is doing missions, and there is little incentive to explore or play around beyond the places the story takes you. It just feels like it exists to make the travel time between point A and point B take longer.

Gatx:
You guys are approaching sandboxes wrong. For one thing, Minecraft, it's just sheer creativity at work in it's sandbox mode. You're goal isn't to "win" or "survive" but just to build the craziest stuff you can. It's like sitting down to sculpt a bunch of clay, or buying a bunch of legos.

I agree with him. Especially about the Lego part. Lego was one of my favourite toys because I could do whatever I wanted with it - a house. a robot, an aircraft. Everything I wanted if I only had an objective set. However if you don't know what you want with a bunch of pieces, you wouldn't suddenly get a surge of creativity just by staring at them.

The same applies to sandbox games - creativity and ways to have fun wouldn't necessarily leap at you - you have to set an objective and follow it. That's probably why I like sandbox games - I just decide "Now I want to do X" and devote myself to it. Sometimes I may pick a self imposed challenge in (for example) a Bethesda game and stick to it for the whole game, other times I may pick a series of small objectives during play.

Sandbox games are as interesting as you want them to be.

Seems people are confused on sandbox game and sandbox mode, those are not the same thing.

So I'll stay on topic with sandbox mode, it is just like cheats in other games, great for a laugh/change of pace but you will get near zero reward out of using it.
"Games shouldn't have them!" No that is just silly, it is in fact you who should possess self restraint, if you know sandbox mode will not rub you the right way then you should not use it.

I know gamers in particular have issues with self restraint but it is high time you work on that, the community as a whole would benefit from it.

Mr.K.:
Seems people are confused on sandbox game and sandbox mode, those are not the same thing.

OK, I did confuse them. Still, the same thing I said about sandbox games applies to just the mode. It's as interesting as you want it to be. It's not inherently bad or good.

Mr.K.:
Seems people are confused on sandbox game and sandbox mode, those are not the same thing.

So I'll stay on topic with sandbox mode, it is just like cheats in other games, great for a laugh/change of pace but you will get near zero reward out of using it.
"Games shouldn't have them!" No that is just silly, it is in fact you who should possess self restraint, if you know sandbox mode will not rub you the right way then you should not use it.

I know gamers in particular have issues with self restraint but it is high time you work on that, the community as a whole would benefit from it.

Normally I do have such restraint. In fact, most of the time I do avoid those sandbox modes, but the sandbox mode, unlike the cheat which is an easter egg, is usually seen as a "major component" of the game, and in all honesty, it annoys me when a game gives it to you right off the bat. Mega park from Rct 1 wouldn't have been so rewarding if you got it from the start, after all.

And "near-zero reward" doesn't mean much when per say, you already have every park unlocked anyways like in Rct 2 or you can get achievements in creative mode that should only be obtainable in survival, like the finding diamond achievement or the end achievements.

And don't compare minecraft to legos, that is absurd. With legos, you need to pay actual money to get a limited amount of parts to make something with, unlike in minecraft which gives you a infinite amount of every block type for free (after purchase of the game of course).

Gatx:
You guys are approaching sandboxes wrong. For one thing, Minecraft, it's just sheer creativity at work in it's sandbox mode. You're goal isn't to "win" or "survive" but just to build the craziest stuff you can. It's like sitting down to sculpt a bunch of clay, or buying a bunch of legos.

Nigh Invulnerable:
Agreed. I find games like Skyrim and Fallout 3 very boring because of the sheer openness. With no direction or restriction to overcome, your actions feel very meaningless.

I find that people who complain about Bethesda games' openness miss the point. It's not as much of a traditional start to finish game as it is like a D&D book. You get the lore, the monsters, settings, and characters, and a couple basic campaigns, but ultimately you get what you put into it. Rather than just trying to complete all the quests or get all the weapons, try RPing, coming up with your character's backstory, goals, motivations, etc.

Here's the problem I encounter when I try to role play in a Bethesda game though: there's not enough detailed options for the type of character I want to create and the story doesn't adapt in any way to my actions. Basically it just reminds me that sitting down at the table for a session of Pathfinder or D&D is infinitely better than any Bethesda game thus far. So take that for what it's worth, I guess.

Sandboxes are great. They break the mold, they make you think and use your brain. They inspire creativity while typical, average, mediocre games inspire turning your brain off, getting drunk and falling asleep all for the sake of a "win high" yay, you beat the game! Now you get to turn it off, put it on your shelf and not touch it for a decade! YAY!

Great thing about sandbox games? They never end up on my shelf. I keep 'em installed on my systems because I know I'll get little creative urges now and then, and they provide in abundance, the tools I need to have a fun time.

Gotta have an imagination. :)

Sandbox mode/game same thing in my opinion. More options are never bad, when presented with more options than you want, don't use them. Problem solved!

It's all a matter of how you play a game and what you want from a game. Personally I like sandbox modes as an optional thing to do in a game (all hail Dungeon Keeper 2 and its awesome My Pet Dungeon mode) but don't enjoy games in which you can "go anywhere you want". Once a game is open-world, everything becomes uninteresting. What's the point of exploring an ancient ruin if you know it won't have any significance at all to the story unless it's part of the main quest? Enter one dungeon in Fallout 3, find out it's just a reused tileset from another dungeon you've already seen with a mind-boggling 10 raiders and a health cabinet. Significance? Null. Saying I should "make my own story" is like selling me a book with blank pages, giving me a backstory and telling me I should write the rest myself. It's lazy, at least.

Skyrim does away with part of the problem by putting rewards that are actually meaningful at the end of dungeons. Some dungeons.

I have to say, I don't see where you're coming from. The campaign and the sandbox mode are entirely separate entities, it's like complaining about there being a skirmish mode in an RTS because they introduce the concepts to you slowly in the campaign and you don't get the full unit roster straight away.

I can understand when the option directly infringes on the existing game - fast travel in the Elder Scrolls games drives me crazy to the point where I've modded it out, being able to instantly teleport to safety when you're in a bad spot ruins exploration for me. But the sandbox is an totally separate mode, it's an option on the menu not part of the challenge of the scenarios.

I generally love freedom in my games and I have no problem finding things to do with the available tools. I've been playing crusader kings 2 recently, that just dumps you as any random lord in medieval europe and lets you go crazy and generate your own story, I love it one of my favourite things about gaming is that you get to determine what happens, when and how based upon the tools and challenges the game gives you. I wish more games gave you more freedom, the more impact you can have the more satisfying the game is as far as I'm concerned.

If I'm going to really get into role playing, I prefer an environment with the freedom to actually do what I want. I've found that Some of the most satisfying moments in a Sand box come from the activities you do for yourself. Gives the game more personal meaning than just following the path someone else laid out for you.

oZode:
snip

Never heard Minecraft compared to Roller-coaster Tycoon before. Odd.

On the topic of minecraft, I never play creative mode. Because I'll finish my structures, and then be like "... now what?"

I mean what would be great is if I could port worlds between them. It's my plan to create a full scale version of Game of Thrones' Winterfell based off the HBO series and any lore-friendly maps I can dig up.

While I would absolutely love to roam its walls and defend them from creepers and zombie hordes, I'd also love to fly over it in Creative mode to get a look at the grandeur. Plus if something complex gets blown up, I don't want it to be permanently marred.

That said, if anyone can give me the world seed for a huge snowy biome, I'd much appreciate it.

 

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