I am loving the huge resurgence in sandbox gameplay at the moment. There are so many new games, and new experiences coming at all the time. To many to play and really delve into. It seemed to have come in vogue with the popularity of Day Z and there have been a wealth of sandbox survival type projects afterwards, ARK: survival Evolved being the current darling.
I love the craze but can’t help at the same time seeing just how much further this genre of open world sandbox has to go. There is a core idea there, and a great core but it is creating a range of fitting mechanics onto that which still needs a lot of work. To eventual create a vision that has the longevity needed. Goals to work towards throughout the experience, a constant steady feeling of progression and of course, elements of cooperation but also competition that can tie it all together.
I can see these games are making progress but sometimes it seems like we want to innovate in areas without understanding the carry on effects across the experience.
The way I see it Day Z was the kinda of pure experience that started it, yes there have been many beforehand but that’s where people have looked as a starting point for this generation of survival sandbox. You can see the carry on in design through the many that have come afterwards but with key changes to the world, design and gameplay.
Rust, H1z1, Ark and so many others have offered up this experience and it seems the main facet that is trying to be developed is that sense of permanence within that world. Unfortunately from what I’ve seen from many is that the experience due to this becomes that much less enjoyable, less engaging. In Day Z you were mostly just a roaming lunatic, A scavenger in a wasteland and you would think letting people have greater effect over the world would create a better experience. To build up, to grow a home, a stronghold. To gather resources and equipment and begin looking at the long game rather than the short character progression but by doing this it added a lot of frustration.
These games began changing it to a progression that was more orientated outside of the self. It become a progression based on your position in the world. This did open up a lot more options within these games and progression that I felt looked more meaningful but it also became a lot more vulnerable. In these multiplayer games and a sense of progression that was permanent in the world it let people take advantage of that when you aren’t actively playing. A whole sense of progression that can effectively be wiped every night you go to bed, or go to work. In the face of this it looks rather pointless; to gather materials, build new items and bases and then have it all reset for the next time you play.
Looking at many of the recent reviews, and experiences form those playing ARK, this is how things have turned out. People have gone through great efforts to tame dinosaurs and build a base for their groups to have everything destroyed each and every time they log back in. In the face of that why would you keep playing.
There is something great there, and something special about the permanence these newer titles are trying to create but there needs to be more thought and planning to limit the issues. Ways to keep progression stable, keeping griefing to minimum and encouraging cooperation. Adding elements of player control on the experience, ways to add greater consequence to negative actions without entirely limiting them.