Uplink Analysis: Sandboxes and Themeparks

Written by David "Scooter" Bass on October 19, 2012

WildStar Uplink is a weekly conversation we hold with our fans about MMO design, philosophy, and news. The main goal of these conversations is to gauge how important certain issues are to the WildStar community. More than just a simple conversation, we ask questions about topics that are important, and we share your responses with the development team directly. Want to participate? Follow @Team_WildStar on Twitter for the weekly question, participate using #WSuplink, and keep an eye on the community team (CRB_Atreid, CRB_Aether, and CRB_Scooter) to interact with us throughout the discussions.

This week, we wanted to explore a different angle of the "Sandbox vs. Themepark" debate:

Why are we always so concerned about "Sandbox vs. Themepark"? What causes that conflict between players, and is it solvable?

Here's a taste of the conversation that ensued based off this infinitely debatable topic:

@jleithart: The conflict arises with people who prefer to be on rails for the experience vs. those of us who prefer to explore for ourselves
@AgentNardz: I think people view theme park games as limited in some fashion, which some think is a negative.
@nohelixws: Sandbox = nonlinear -> can be easier to rack up xp (diff playstyles) and hampers story (since you can do it in any order). Themepark = linear -> more story oriented (it drives forward), RP can be clearer, but right/optimal way to play.
@Team_WildStar: @nohelixws Good way to summarize it, but does that mean you can never have a compelling story in a sandbox environment? -DB
@nohelixws: @Team_WildStar Its significantly harder since a story is inherently linear - actions & consequences are what get you invested.
@AgentNardz: There are always limits to a PC game, so you can't have a true sandbox. Solution is in offering as much fun replay as possible.
@Tairgire: I don't think it is solvable, unless you essentially have 2 MMOs in one. Corollary: You will never please everyone.
@jkkennedytv: The conflict is the lack of content when mixing the two. Players feel one side gets ignored too much or both.
@Bkmiller428: Why can't a MMO offer both? Some zones freestyle/sandbox/hazard zones, others thematic/lore-heavy/mission-rich.
@CRB_Scooter: @bkmiller428 You could. But would that just equate to two separate games being played? Is there no way to combine them?
@nohelixws: @CRB_Scooter If it didn't funnel to fewer down to 1 zone by end game then it would be blend. Also needs easier travel.
@jleithart: @nohelixws @CRB_Scooter But doesn't every MMO filter down to a smaller area at end game?
@jkkennedytv: Player content can be created quests, mini-games using available mechanics, changing landscape (mechanic)
@jkkennedytv: You can also make the appearance of sandbox elements by random events and players reactions change the game world.
@grieger: The problem is that each type caters to two really different user bases. I think it's POSSIBLE to bridge the gap but it's tough.
@grieger: It's like crafting. Themepark types are really not going to care about depth in crafting, but sandbox types would...but then you could have two layers of crafting that serves both groups. The trick is balancing the economics of those layers.
@Ryowulf: Sandbox is nice until you are standing at a starport unsure of what to do or where to go.
@grieger: Ah, but a SB player would look at the destinations and pick one that sounds interesting... unless of course they've been to all of them. :)

When we started talking about this topic internally, it led to a much wider discussion than this article allows for, so we decided to write up a blog post on this very topic, which we'll post on the site next week. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts with us as well!

Respond to us on Twitter at @Team_WildStar and keep an eye on the #WSuplink hashtag for a heads up when we begin a new topic on Monday. Thanks to everyone who participated in this week's discussion, and have a great weekend!

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