When Sandbox Meets MMO
While "Sandbox" is no longer a fresh term for single-player games, (Spore, Far Cry2 and Grand Theft Auto series, etc.) it's still relatively new in the MMO field. However, in recent years, the non-linear concept of sandbox has been adopted by more and more MMOs, which brings up the topic of what will be sparked when sandbox meets MMOs?
What is "Sandbox Game"?A sandbox game is designed as a nonlinear, vast open area with many ways to reach an objective.
The most obvious trait of sandbox game is that players start from zero in the virtual and unknown world. They create everything by themselves, from a needle to a castle. There will be no specific and linear instructions and goals.
This is a sandbox but not a sandbox game.
"Jesus Is My Texture Pack!"
The most popular and successful sandbox game right now is Minecraft, created by Mojang. In the game, players are allowed to build any constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D procedurally generated world. Other activities include exploration, gathering resources, crafting and combat. In Minecraft, the only limit is your imagination. As long as you are full of imagination, you can construct a castle in the sky or a dungeon with dragons. With texture pack you can create almost anything. So there is a saying in Minecraft: "Jesus is my texture pack."
When Sandbox Meets MMO:
Situation 1: Social system becomes pillar.
Social interaction has always been a distinctive feature which distinguishes MMO from single-player game. However, in some sandbox MMOs, division of labor and commodity transaction ensure in-game social functioning, which makes interaction with other players a necessity in some sandbox MMOs. Consequently, social system becomes the pillar of those games.
Take EVE Online as an example. In EVE Online, you can't get much of anything done without the help of other players because many productions are manufactured by other players; most materials used to manufacture are also collected by players. Matthew Woodward, CCP Online's senior game designer once said, "the big enemy (of an MMO) is rest states -- a place where players keep on doing the same things over and over again." In human-computer interaction, no matter how big the database is, there will be repetitions. But interaction between humans will never get repeated. So in this kind of sandbox MMO, relationships between players become the most primary part which can promote the development of the whole virtual world.