Home > MMO Games > That sandbox vs themepark thing

That sandbox vs themepark thing

January 9, 2011

Quite regularly the debate about the merits of themeparks vs sandbox MMOs come up. Themeparks are accused of being too linear, too restrictive and sandboxes that they may be too boring, take too much time etc. And all of that is true.

But both themeparks and sandbox MMOs can be quite exciting as well; just not necessarily all the time. I see themepark MMOs similar to go to a movie or theatre – you see a (hopefully) well executed event, with perhaps a good story, good acting, some nice effects etc. A sandbox MMO is more like a hobby or sports activity that you do yourself – play golf, bonsai tree gardening, build model airplanes, fencing, boxing, collect stamps etc. If you are into it the experience is longer lasting and can be quite rewarding and you typically define your own goals. For an outsider it may fun, or it may look as if it is the most weird and boring thing to do ever.

I want both types of experiences and they can all be great – themeparks and sandboxes. People may complain of themeparks because they have done the equivalent of watching Police Academy and then watched all the sequels, but that does not make movies bad in general or all the same. And just because one cannot get into bonsai tree gardening does not mean that all hobbies suck and that sandbox MMOs are bad.

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Categories: MMO Games
  1. xXJayeDuBXx
    January 9, 2011 at 19:48

    I really enjoy the way Fallen Earth has setup their game. The zones are fairly large, there are multiple starting areas to choose from and players have total freedom in how they want to advance their character which gives you the sandbox feel. But I also like that each town is essentially a quest hub much like the so called theme park MMO’s. I think it’s a great combination and almost the best of both worlds. It’s just too bad that there are things about Fallen Earth that bother me enough to not play it.

  2. January 9, 2011 at 22:34

    Yes, Fallen Earth was definitely promising. I played it for a while after launch, but decided to stop playing for a coupe of reasons. It has been almost a year now, possibly time to revisit the game again.

    That being said, Earthrise will also release now in February which is a bit similar in target audience to Fallen Earth. I find that game to be both promising as well as a source for concern – will probably try it out anyway though.

  3. January 10, 2011 at 01:03

    I think Jaydub touched on what is wrong with most MMO sandboxes, and why sandboxes are so much more popular offline than in MMOs. MMO sandboxes generally give you a bunch of systems, and then expect you to make your own fun with them. They tend to contain little or extremely weak scripted content to suck you into the setting of the game or guide you in learning it.

    Contrast that with games like Fallout (any of them but tactics), Morrowind, Fable, even GTA. They all have very strong narratives embedded in an open sandbox world. You can follow the story or not as the mood takes you. In MMO sandboxes (UO, DF, launch SWG, EVE, ect.) you get get dumped into a bunch of incredibly deep systems, and usually haven’t the foggiest idea what you should be doing or even what there is to do. That does not make for a compelling first few minutes (or even hours or days in some cases) of play.

  4. January 10, 2011 at 05:59

    Yes, that is a good point, there is certainly room for improvement there.

    Old SWG though I think was fairly ok in that regard, at least I do not recall that I felt particularly lost in that game. They also had a few quest hubs, which were actually referred to as themeparks and the first place I heard that term. Plus also the Anarcy Online-ish mission generators.

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