bit-tech.net

Give Me Back My Sandbox

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supaste 16th September 2008, 19:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by C-Sniper
Unfortunately since Sim City was owned by EA. It has random crashes. I am hoping for the next game like Sim City to be from Monte Cristo Studios which is in the process of making Cities XL. It should be very good since they are a semi-indie developer.

The offical name will be Cities XL the website can be found here -> http://www.citiesxl.com/index.php
CardJoe 16th September 2008, 19:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by pendragon
meh, I have to disagree with this one.. perhaps I didn't read the article closely enough, but I honestly felt like there've been too many 'sandbox' games recently ..and I like the story aspect of linear games. [shrugs] to each their own

I agree with preferring story definitely on a personal level, but I'm also reminded of something in Philip Marlowe's feature on bit-tech a while back which discussed games that encouraged and rewarded sheer exploration. I can't thing of a game which really incentivised or rewarded that since Deus Ex, and even then that was only in the lamest possible +50xp kind of way.
Veles 16th September 2008, 20:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by supaste
The offical name will be Cities XL the website can be found here -> http://www.citiesxl.com/index.php

That looks awesome :D
Bungle 16th September 2008, 21:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cliff Harris
Nowadays, the games have to congratulate you for every tiny thing you do otherwise you don’t feel you’re making progress. Well done! You moved the mouse! Have 6,000 platinum points!.
I must admit that gets on my nerves. It's one thing to congratulate the user for doing something fairly complex, but for just moving the mouse or pressing a key, that is basically the developer having a laugh (at us).

They must think the average user resembles something like this.
http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b292/Boef/2001_ape.jpg
Star*Dagger 16th September 2008, 23:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bungle
I must admit that gets on my nerves. It's one thing to congratulate the user for doing something fairly complex, but for just moving the mouse or pressing a key, that is basically the developer having a laugh (at us).

They must think the average user resembles something like this.
http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b292/Boef/2001_ape.jpg

Is that George W. Bush standing over the bones of the American Economy?

LOL

Yours in Gaming while the Game is up Plasma,
Star*Dagger
1ad7 17th September 2008, 01:26 Quote
Games have become too linear, but there a good times to be linear they just dont try to hide it anymore they want you to get all the trophys and shit... gta is 50% linear 50% sand box but it disguises the linear parts well. Quest and strict Pvp killed MMO's for me, screw finding elf armor and dyeing it 3 times for some stupid npc (Runescape ahh back in the day....) I just want to kill some nerdy kid and take his shit.... is that too much to ask?
johnmustrule 17th September 2008, 01:58 Quote
AHHH! they changed sim city D: WHY! My one true love.
Vimesey 17th September 2008, 02:30 Quote
One thing i've noticed, this writer always throws what appears to be a cheap plug of his own games into his articles. 'This is bad, my games don't ahve this *link*'. This may be part of the deal, but the way they are slipped in always seems a bit blunt.
EnglishLion 17th September 2008, 04:10 Quote
Jet Set Willy - Has to be one of the first non-linear games. OK your aim was always to collect all the shiny objects but you got a free choice with regard to which order to visit which rooms.

On the other hand Manic Miner was very linear but still a good game too.
crazybob 17th September 2008, 06:01 Quote
6C7H6dTcquw

Allow me to present Armadillo Run. I'm sure many of you have played the Fantastic Contraption flash game that's been popular lately; Armadillo Run is the same concept with far more levels, more parts and options, and a proper physics engine. It's a great sandbox; there are levels with goals, and you're somewhat constrained by the hardpoints and budget in the levels, but you can also use the editor to create on a totally blank slate.

I'm pretty sure this has been one of my favorite games; anyone who agrees with this article should at least take a look at the demo (be warned, if you finish the demo and want more, you'll have to replay the levels from the demo before you get into the new stuff). Also please be aware that some of the things shown in that video are the result of either exploiting small bugs in the physics engine or editing game files; by default you get one ball and I have no idea how the massive rubber bumpers work. Everything else seems kosher, though, so it should give you a pretty good idea of what's possible.
Faulk_Wulf 17th September 2008, 06:20 Quote
As many others have said:
GTA Series, Saints Row 1/2, Sims (though I never saw a point until Sims Life Stories), Sim City, Sim Societies, Oblivion, Farcry 2.
Of all of these, I think GTA/Saints row is the best example of balance between story and sandbox.
I think MMO's are sold a little short. While grinding and repition is annoying, there is a story and immersion if people take the time to get into it.
Sure there could be more variety, but you can still do what you want in the ways you want.
All in all though, it is a good article and good food for thought.
I think the answer lies in a balance between reward/progress and open-world.
Spaceraver 17th September 2008, 07:12 Quote
The original FarCry is for me the closest to sandbox fps you can get. Yes there is a goal. But you get to roam around, finding new ways to the objectives.
And forgive me for asking.
A good RTS is nothing but a sandbox when you get online.
CardJoe 17th September 2008, 08:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vimesey
One thing i've noticed, this writer always throws what appears to be a cheap plug of his own games into his articles. 'This is bad, my games don't ahve this *link*'. This may be part of the deal, but the way they are slipped in always seems a bit blunt.

There's no deal at all actually as Cliff isn't paid to do these columns at all but volunteers them on issues that occur to him, when they occur to him. In fact, the raw columns that Cliff sends don't have any links in them. The links are all added by me as I see fit, to illustrate points Cliff touches on. In the end, Cliff knows about his games and they are relevant to the discussion, so why not? Give the indie some love! ;)
KypD 17th September 2008, 15:24 Quote
enough people have mentioned garry's mod already, but most people i know outside of the internet that played it shared the sentiment i read, about playing around with a couple of ragdolls and then getting bored. this is a sad thing, as that's where the greatness of garry's mod lies, in being able to create nearly anything you can think of, aside from creating your own models and physics to insert. i'm pretty uncreative when i play the game, but there's still something fun about strapping rockets to a bathtub on saw-blade wheels and ramping it.
Denis_iii 17th September 2008, 16:32 Quote
me want ultima underworld again.....and pagan, mmmm blue glowy magic axe I just found with no quest required.....
thEcat 17th September 2008, 17:24 Quote
<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?
Quote:
The game designer wasn't a storyteller or a movie director, but more like an architect. They set up the rules for a world, let you loose in it, and hoped you would have fun

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'
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
Quote:
Cute fact about Pharaohs; some, apparently, ceremonially ejaculated into the Nile to secure the requisite inundation of the Nile to replenish the farm-lands. Ruler of an empire, cheerfully knocking one off the wrist while an anxious crowd waits and an uncaring Nile sits there. Don't see any developer building that into a game.

Sadly. I wonder how we'd [the gaming media] react if they did.
...
In other words, I've got the feeling criticism is so terribly debased that we wouldn't be able to deal with originality even if we saw it.

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

Edit: Garry's Mod, I'll have to give it a try :)
paulwebber 17th September 2008, 17:33 Quote
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.....?
Silver51 17th September 2008, 19:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by cjmUK
Although you could do what you wanted in Freelancer (and X3 and Elite), don't you think it was a bit same-y? Although you could go anyway you wanted, the missions you got were very repetitive, IMHO - more so than most games, anyway.

I didn't get any sense of immersion...


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.

Discovery:
http://www.discoveryfl.com/

Rebalance:
http://www.moddb.com/mods/mds-freelancer-rebalance
Star*Dagger 18th September 2008, 13:48 Quote
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,
Star*Dagger
Warbunny 19th September 2008, 11:26 Quote
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.
seveneleven 21st September 2008, 18:14 Quote
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.
Cthippo 22nd September 2008, 23:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by seveneleven
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.

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.
gmarappledude2 25th September 2008, 14:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by boiled_elephant
Quote:
Originally Posted by gmarappledude2
I am even more suprised Second Life wasn't mentioned. 99.9% of the content is player created content. When you play second life you can do almost anything, build stuff, open a shop, sit at home watching movies (thats a little sad though), get a job, roam around, meet people, attend concerts, etc.

That sounds interesting...

It is interesting! the only game which has ever lead to an RL holiday 6500 Miles from home!
Xir 6th October 2008, 12:37 Quote
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.
SinxarKnights 22nd January 2009, 07:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by proxess
What you need is Ultima Online... the great grand daddy of MMO!! It's still rolling you know! Just play Pangaea-world!True roleplay (not that pseudo stuff on WoW). You shall feel fulfilled!

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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