What if I told you there’s a MMO that had the following features:
What would you say?
Well, if I then told you the name of the game is Second Life, then you’d probably say “No thanks.”
I often hear people asking for sandbox style MMO features like open-world housing. Oh, how we love the sandbox features like player-run open-world cities in Star Wars Galaxies or the open-world house building of Ultima Online. But these features come at a cost. Open-world housing means that you have to walk past all the urban sprawl just to get to the content… if there’s even any out there.
The more sandbox you give your players, the less the themepark aspects of the game work. If players can pick any skill they want without being restricted to classes or skill-trees, then you end up with cookie-cutter builds and a shallow PVE game. If players have no level grinding and no camping, then they will complain there’s not enough to do in the game. If the crafting system is insanely powerful and complex, people will claim you have to be a programmer to figure it out and say that it takes away from the loot aspect of the game.
Every feature which can be called “sandbox” exists in the sandbox category specifically because it breaks a themepark aspect. Otherwise, it’d be in both and we’d call it just a normal feature of the genre.
The real mystery I find myself pondering today is, “Why don’t people who like sandbox gameplay go play a true sandbox MMO?”