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Columns Give Me Back My Sandbox

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Tim S, 16 Sep 2008.

  1. Denis_iii

    Denis_iii What's a Dremel?

    1 Jan 2007
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    me want ultima underworld again.....and pagan, mmmm blue glowy magic axe I just found with no quest required.....
  2. thEcat

    thEcat What's a Dremel?

    1 Dec 2006
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    <from sandbox to soap box, time for another pill>

    The day I bought BioShock I remember the guy in the shop enthusing how great the game was, how there was so much you could do! Sadly upon playing I realised what he really meant was there were so many ways in which you could kill, as if killing were the only true objective in a computer game.

    I remember an earlier game headlined by the promise that there was so much could do. The tutorial was short, this is how you walk, this is how you talk, take a moment to flesh out your character, this is how you pick things up and this is how you use them. Depending on how long you took over character creation the whole tutorial could be completed in 60 seconds. You were then given your first mission and the introduction concluded with the not altogether reassuring 'You are on your own now. Good luck'

    Talk about 10 hours of game play, what followed after the introduction was 10 hours of pure frustration. The game wasn't broken and the manual held so much that appealed, I was not going to give up. The hours passed and eventually the penny started to drop. I was on my own but not in a game, in a world, a world where I had to think, I had to seek out, I had to chose.

    As the dust settled on my initial confusion and I became more comfortable with the myriad of options, extending down to individual left and right gloves, imagination started to kick in. What if I could run like a cheater? What if I couldn't be seen? What if I could fly?

    I'm sure many of you will have guessed by now that the game I'm describing is Morrowind, the dumbed down progeny of DaggerFall. Not perhaps the best game ever produced but the engine the devs put together was simply outstanding. No engine can be infinite but the Morrowind engine goes the extra mile and then some. The game fires the imagination and even encourages abuse. Within the first five minutes of play you can find a few scrolls of icarian flight that allow you to jump so high the resultant fall will kill you. I've mixed potions that allow my character to move so fast and so far that every step is accompanied by the sound of breaking bones. In short the engine is such that you the player can break your game long before the engine gives up and dies. Sadly such power, such freedom is not for likes of mere mortals, a fact born out by the limits placed on Oblivion, limits devised to protect the oh so precious combat mechanics from player abuse. As if killing were the only true objective in a computer game.

    I can wax lyrical about Morrowind for hours but that's not the point. It is a wonderful sandbox, I'm using as an example to try to get to the root of why current game design is what it is today.

    Game development is an expensive business, very expensive, but why? Seriously, where does all the money go? I would love to see an article breaking down game development costs.

    Covering the high costs requires high sales. High sales demand appealing to the lowest common denominator :

    Choice = confusion.
    Lack of guidance = frustration.
    Freedom requires imagination and can quickly lead to comments like 'I did such and such and the game is no fun any more' :rolleyes:
    Imagination = 'I payed for the game, now you expect me to do the work?'
    Reading = alienation of 30% of potential market.
    Learning = another 30%.
    Thinking = only 10% of the market left.
    Achievements = Players may get upset if not patted on the back every 5 minutes
    Achievements = The content of the game is so poor that something must be done to keep people 'interested'.

    I've just had a look at the front page, no article on cost breakdowns yet so I'll take a stab at the who's and why's myself based on current trends :

    Story: The tea lady, qualification, she's quite good at crosswords.

    Game mechanics: The office boy, qualification, he's had a xbox since he was 13.

    Voice acting: Members of the Sunday pub gang, qualification, they're a good bunch and cheap.

    Graphics: A team of seven people, one team dedicated to each level.

    Management: One sub manager per section or team, one middle manager per pair of sub managers, one senior manager per pair of middle managers. Management is important to any business as indicated by each manager been given a separate office.

    Game design: Marketing, qualification, they know what sells in other games.

    Marketing: All highly qualified most with business degrees and some with previous experience of the music and dog food industries.

    Creative content: I forget the name but the marketing people tell me s/he is quite good even if some of their ideas would cost a fortune and probably not contribute significantly sales.

    Cynical? You bet. And I've not even started on creativity vs the general gaming media, the gaming media who drive sales. In fact for today I'll skip the issue and close with following from a review of the imaginative and fairly entertaining Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile

    Source: http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=57822

    Edit: Garry's Mod, I'll have to give it a try :)
    Last edited: 17 Sep 2008
  3. paulwebber

    paulwebber What's a Dremel?

    15 Sep 2008
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    ive gotta say this column is the favourite ive ever read! the geeks of this world are crying out for a new pointless sandbox game. after all the games that have been released over the years, i will happily spend a fair few hours playing the sims (original) version and i still thouroughly enjoy it! im not a big fan of the 'movie' games, although they have their pro's. one being the main fact that it is a movie game! it is like being part of a high budget blockbuster, that makes it great compared to a movie, not to a sandbox game. the comparison is to broad, its like comparing a banana with a hammer.....?
  4. Silver51

    Silver51 I cast flare!

    24 Jul 2006
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    Did you ever try the Discovery or Rebalance mods for Freelancer? At the time I had some stability issues with Rebalance, but you did get to fly a Minbari cruiser.


  5. Star*Dagger

    Star*Dagger What's a Dremel?

    30 Nov 2007
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    Every gamer wanting a sandbox should Verily hearken unto the Glory that is EVE Online.

    Spend 6 months there, you need about that long to figure things out. It will most likely be the most rewarding (and sometimes frustrating) 6 months of gaming you will ever have.

    Warning: You might never be seen on these forums again, due to fueling your own spacestation, expanding your allainces borders in outlaw space and generally having more fun (and work) than any other game out there.

    EVE is the PhD for gamers who are Gamers. After you have played Freelancer through 5 times and are tired of this or that mod in FPS try it out.

    My biggest regret in EVE is ONLY this: That people hadn't told me earlier.
    It is not for everyone, it is only for people who play games like they are Wars and dont want artificial limitations places upon the Gamers expression of his or her own /insert type/ Personality.

    Looking forward to seeing those who can handle it.

    Yours in Caldari Missile Plasma,
  6. Warbunny

    Warbunny Sssnaaaakkkkeee!

    19 Sep 2008
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    You do make a fair few interesting points in your column, but I have to agree to disagree with a fair few points.

    Firstly, with respect to MMO's, and the whole "questing" system. Since when do you have to do quests to explore Everquest, Eve online or World of warcraft? You can play them in a completeley Ultima online style if thats your cup of tea. (but you might be missing out on the so-called 'richness' of the world by not picking up on the lore that the writers have included) Nobody is forcing you.

    Are you saying that there are not enough games that are non-linear? or are you refering to replayability? Again, you seem to be turning a blind eye to a *few* games. (Sims2, World of Warcraft, Everquest2, Spore, Civ 4, Eve online..) All these games are non-linear in a most ways and play host to many features that add replayability.

    There are a multitude of PC games that are non-linear, but for any game to have a story, then of course it will be mainly linear.
    I do agree though, that the Achievement system is relativley new for PC gamers, but it does force those who would not be willing to explore a world to do so, even if for the wrong reasons.
  7. seveneleven

    seveneleven What's a Dremel?

    26 Dec 2007
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    I'm beginning to think the Bit-tech crew don't even work together.I mean how can Mr Martin blame a game for it's steep learning curve and LACK of tutorial (and ultimately LOWER its score because of that) and then Mr Harris (or some other columnist) write the article at hand?!With all due respect to different oppinions this is just dumb.
  8. Cthippo

    Cthippo Can't mod my way out of a paper bag

    7 Aug 2005
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    Cliff doesn't work for Bit, he's a game developer who occasionally writes columns. He is in no way affiliated with bit, except that they sometimes publishes what he has to say.

    I think there needs to be a balance for most people. Pure sandbox is fun, for a while, but then it gets to be just more of the same. It needs a plot or plots to keep it all going. I think the closest anyone has come to perfection in this balancing act was Stalker. The game was divided into three zones and you had to accomplish certain things to get to the next zone, but within a zone you could go anywhere and do anything, follow the excellent plot line, spend your time grinding for items or stats, or just go exploring. My only complaint was in the economics. Despite the fact that you could easily get a godawful amount of money, but there really wasn't that much that was worth buying. With better economics and maybe some better side quests, it could have been a truly superlative game. I hope someday they make a Stalker MMO.
  9. gmarappledude2

    gmarappledude2 What's a Dremel?

    16 Sep 2008
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    It is interesting! the only game which has ever lead to an RL holiday 6500 Miles from home!
  10. Xir

    Xir Modder

    26 Apr 2006
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    don't remember if it was freelancer or starlancer...but when finishing the quests (an the story line) you'd only traveled through about a fifth of the universe...
    The rest was up to you!

    Sounds great, but there really wasn't a lot to discover...just more of the same pirates.
    It probably was supposed to become MMO but the plug was pulled.

    EVE was great (did the Beta) but for me it was way too expensive...well when it started anyway, don't know how the pricing in europe is today.
  11. SinxarKnights

    SinxarKnights Minimodder

    21 Jan 2007
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    Hehe, after reading.. UO is what comes to mind. Ah.... what good times. To bad it turned all neon and everyone is scared of pvp.
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