What’s good about sandbox games?
Open and online
MMORPGs are a genre that can’t exist without open worlds: back in 1999, you could poke around Norrath in Everquest and complete quests and raids with other players. Originally, Everquest had little story content, and its entertainment value was based solely on the gameplay experienced in the game world. So you can definitely view it as a sandbox game. But what about the more current representatives of the genre? Do World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 fit into that scheme?
In principle, you could say yes. The worlds are large, free to play (if you ignore the level guidelines for a character) and offer all kinds of freedom. Again, you can spend more time in the world than in the actual story of the game. Not only does the character get stronger, you also get loot and raw materials that can be used to produce items. This is consistent with our sandbox comparison mentioned at the beginning, and shows a feature that is very popular in sandbox games: crafting.
Bluechip India currently offers construction, but it seems to have a good track record of creating small mini-games that are then available in multiplayer mode
Made in Sweden
Crafting is a major part of the indie hit Minecraft. In 2009, Swede Markus “Notch” Persson unveiled the first alpha version of his new game idea. Originally still a pure block-based constructor, thanks to his great success, he was soon able to open Mojang Studio, and then develop it with several collaborators. The variety of blocks gradually increased, and the sympathetic retro charm of the look has remained to this day. Players used unlimited freedom and built giant objects, such as the Star Trek spaceship Enterprise or a real-scale model of Earth.
In order to experience what has been created in this way, the developers have added a survival mode. In it, a character enters a randomly created and real-time-generated world and must fend for himself – literally, because chopping down trees with your character’s fist has become a Minecraft trademark. From the raw materials you collect, you build tools to obtain more valuable materials. At the same time, the player builds a protective dwelling, because at night the game world is inhabited by monsters, aka mobs. Chased by zombies, skeletons and exploding creepers, you dig further and further underground. You explore an infinitely larger game world in search of villages or interesting biomes (areas with special flora and fauna,
These two game modes are perfect examples of our current definition of sandbox mechanics. The third, so-called adventure mode, which Minecraft offers, goes in a completely different direction. Here, players can create their own maps and set tasks to complete. The creator determines what can be built, dismantled and used. Thus, the game will appeal to fans of free gameplay as well as supporters of a controlled and rigorous story. To date, more than 33 million copies of Minecraft have been sold on a wide variety of platforms.
Community drives business
The sandbox that wowed Minecraft wouldn’t be as successful if it didn’t support mods. Textures can already be completely replaced in the game, but the extensive mods from the talented community are really interesting. With the right tools, for example, not only do you noticeably increase graphical effects (keyword: shaders), but you also install entirely new mechanics. There are expansions that allow you to grow dinosaurs on fossils or add magical abilities. Custom modes are also available, such as Factions, which use custom game mechanics.
Valve’s Garry’s Mod, based entirely on user-generated content, was our first sandbox game without an open world. Based on the Source engine, clever amateur developers can practically create their own games or use different tools to pass the time on a level. Thanks to the physical calculation, all sorts of tricks are possible. For example, in ‘Build a Sled’, you compete against other players and try to build the fastest sled possible from objects in the engine. The most popular modes include Trouble in Terrorist Town and Hidden.
The Gmod Tower mod is also recommended. This level is an interactive lobby for various games, such as Source Karts (Nintendo’s copy of Mario Kart). All this content can only be found on multiplayer servers. However, this trend isn’t just in Gmod, as hundreds of servers for Minecraft, Starbound or Dayz are also popping up in game browsers. The sandbox principle seems to encourage many to collaborate, such as competing against bosses from Terraria or surviving the zombie apocalypse more easily in 7 Days to Die.