Recently I was asked to write something about sandbox games. I am not satisfied with this wish.
At the beginning I had a problem with defining what are sandbox games. I searched a little on the internet, but the definition was many and none to the end I did not answer. So I decided to create my own.
A sandbox game is one that gives the player a lot of freedom to play. And now, nothing more less. This is a very open definition, because it is not really possible to give better. What influences the fact that the player has a large freedom of action in the game? These things can be many, but the main is:
Ability to solve problems in any way. For example, to get a weapon we can rob or kill someone, we can create it yourself or buy.
The game does not press the player to do anything. In the game there may be a goal, but the pursuit of it is not the only thing that the player should do.
Interact with the world. A player can do a lot of things. The world should have a lot of interactive features. You can collect the levels, you can demolish the wall, you can kill someone you want.
Open world. The freedom to explore the world, the lack of artificial barriers. Here, however, there is a lie, because there are no truly open worlds in games. There is always some limitation. A bit elude here the worlds generated by the designs, but they are also limited to specific elements and doomed to repeatability.
In addition to these elements, sandbox games often have other elements not directly related to the same idea of such games.
Zbieractwo. In this or any other form. In GTA we collect cars, weapons and money. In Minecrafcie weapons, blocks and a lot of other things. In Skyrim fruit, herbs, vegetables and sometimes even weapons.
Plot. The story that is to be drawn by the player.
Missions and tasks that give the player a goal.
Character development. By earning levels or getting better equipment.
possibilities of character expression. So all ointment options change the appearance. This has a major impact on the player's identification with his character.
Let's take a look at some of the typical sandbox games and those that show their openness to some extent.
Minecraft. It couldn't be any different. It was the first real sandbox game that gave (and still gives!) the player great opportunity. Here we can fight monsters, build, explore the world. But at some point the game ends. The player begins to realize that he lacks his goal. With the help of coming fashion, and all ointments private servers. This does not change the fact that, over time, we wander without meaning, with no idea for further play.
Terraria. Until I tempt me to call terrarium a revised Minecraft clone. The rules are identical, and the main difference is the transfer of the game environment from 3d to 2d. There are many more elements compared to MC, and the development of the character lasts a lot longer. But here too we have a problem with the fact that the game ends when Skompletujemy already the best weapon.
GTA, Mafia, Prototype2 and others like this. These games unlike the previous two bring the story to the world. This makes the player have a clearly defined goal and will in time seek to implement it.
Sims, simulators of building a hospital, city, base (and what you invent yourself). These games throw us into the game world with a simple aim: to be successful!. The road to its achievement may vary.
World of Warcraft and other MMORG. Games of this type give the player almost unfettered ability to explore the world (almost, because usually the entry into the inappropriate place ends in death), usually also can perform tasks in a fairly arbitrary order. An additional element magnifying the freedom of the player are interactions with other people.
The first game with elements of the sandbox with which I was tangent is UFO: The enemy unknown. Why am I writing here? The game gave some breakthrough ability to destroy walls and attack the enemy from almost any direction. Then it was something wonderful and revealing to me.
Going back to what is this blog, that is, designing games. How to design a good sandboxed game?
Make your world filled with various things that the player can discover and those with whom he can conduct some interactions. This is a difficult and expensive task. A huge world is not easy to fill with unique and interesting things. This involves the powerful amount of work you have to invest in order to map the great size was not monotonous. You need to create a large number of models, characters, different types of environment. In many productions, the abbreviations change only the color or sometimes the names of certain things. Sometimes it works… And sometimes not.
Do not leave the player alone. The player must have a goal in the game. Give the player a variety of challenges that will have to meet during the game. Enter the story you want to explore. Do not let him wander without meaning, because he quickly get bored. On my lips There is a smile of a re's when I see the idea of a game containing something like this: players will create history and tasks themselves.
Let the player have the opportunity to express themselves. Let him do something that can be distinguished from the rest. Change of style, different armour appearance, unique painting of the car. It all will allow him to feel exceptionally and identified with the character.
Don't limit your player in an artificial way. Let's not encounter while playing on an invisible wall. You can not forbid him to do some action, because no.
Some interesting things about the sandboxes wrote Łukasz Wiśniewski. Below the link.
Is there anything else I should move in this topic?