There’s a smaller subset of MMORPG players who refuse to play the more popular online games most people know about (Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic) and choose to play what are called “Sandbox Games.” Some examples include Eve Online, Mortal Online, and Darkfall—more obscure titles, but all with dedicated followings. Folks have different definitions for sandbox gaming, but based on some of the discussions on the MMO Smacktalk podcast there appear to be some common threads, though not all the mentioned games are true to these “pure” ideas:
With the final patch for World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm expansion out the door, Blizzard recently posted an interesting interview with Greg Street, one of the lead designers looking back on what worked and didn’t work in this latest update. One of the first things mentioned was the enthusiasm for redesigning the 1-60 level “zones”, or geographic areas of Azeroth where characters begin their questing.
So having played a few years of online games, and talking about what’s great about them, what’s not so great? There’s no shortage of articles claiming the anti-social nature of computer gaming, and I even talked about it a bit in my last blog, so I thought for a change it might be good to talk a little more about the shortfalls within the games themselves –the things that prevent these games from being truly great.
Three years ago I found I had a little more time on my hands than I had for the past five, and decided to get back to my gaming roots. Back in my high school days we had done lots of tabletop gaming, but had also jumped into the computer gaming pretty heavily with Wizardry and Ultima for the Apple II. College hit, and then work, and then things got really busy. Fast forward to 2009, and I log into World of Warcraft (or “WoW” as it is universally called) for the first time, and if I am not addicted, I am certainly damn intrigued.
So three years ago, I realized I had lost touch with my gaming roots. That is, somewhere after many days of Dungeons & Dragons in high school (we started the original “blue box” D&D basic set back in 1977 and played the original Ultima and Wizardry series for the Apple II), I had graduated college, started working and actually making a decent living. Somewhere in there I opened a bookstore and ran it well for 5 good years. My brother, who I had gamed with many times back in our high school days had kept up with his gaming, but had turned over to computer gaming as his main hobby – mostly due to the fact that our friends were now spread across the country, and all of us were strapped for time. I listened in envy as he described playing Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest and ultimately of course World of Warcraft. In there were mixed any number of “first person shooters” – Doom, Half Life, Thief, Call of Duty, and so on…