More developers should be making sandbox games. Yes, that is a very forward statement, but it is also quite beneficial. Players love sandbox games, better known as open-world games, so they sell very well. As developers, the objective is to provide a service—in this case, giving players the kind of games they enjoy. What the public wants, the public gets!
But why is it they love sandbox games so much? What about sandbox games stands out? One could argue that the answer could be summed down to the extensive amount of content that goes into the game. But there are many layers to open-world games. A general, condensed answer is just not justified.
Let’s consider all the aspects of sandbox games that appeal to the masses.
Ever explored in Elder Scrolls? The endless exploration, and being able to live vicariously through games. Like being able to explore planets…right from the couch. It’s no secret that most people fall into routines, or lead mundane lifestyles. Leading an exciting life takes dedication and sacrifice. Well it is doable,it will never be as exciting as the things that you can do in sandbox games.
Consider the Grand Theft Auto series and everything possible within that “universe.” Pulling people out of their own cars and stealing them, crashing into buildings, and leading a life of abundant crime, doesn’t come easy in the real world.
World of Warcraft launched in 2004, and…it never left. Being able to roam like a lone wolf or with friends/strangers. The choice is there, usually, and there’s nothing quite like it. Unlike in the real world, where making friends is far more difficult, in sandbox games you can join a server and play with perfect strangers.
In MMOs, players can start a guild or join one. In games like Minecraft, players can host parties and invite their friends. If they simply want to play alone and work on their build or story progression, they can too. However the player feels like experiencing the game, sandbox games tend to provide options that suit those needs.
Eve is no joke. Real time, real working economy. However, players still retain some freedom. You know how linear scripted games make players go from point A to point B, to C, and so on? Well, that’s not the case with open-world games. Players love being able to do missions in whatever order they please, rather than just strictly linear. One minute they can do a side mission and the next minute they can finally get around to continuing the story missions. That sense of freedom they get is often what keeps them playing for much longer than they would otherwise.
So that annoying mission? They can put it off till later. All of a sudden, they can invest their time in crafting and grinding, so as to be prepared for the challenges ahead.
Speaking of Crafting
Sandbox games feature a little bit of everything: trading, crafting, exploring, story missions, side missions, grinding, etc. Hmm…sounds like Fallout 4! Players can never get bored, because they can always switch it up. If they have to gather materials to craft items, but get bored, they can easily go off and do a mission to distract themselves, before going back to crafting. In essence there is something for everyone.
Crafting in and of itself is pretty entertaining. Researching that powerful weapon for a build, and having to find all the materials needed, can lead to some extensive exploration and battles. It is essentially like an unlabeled mission. The same goes for acquiring items to craft armor.
Statistically, sandbox games encourage creativity and personal development. So when people play, the method in which they play tells you who they are. Being able to get creative with playstyles, tactics, and armor, among many other aspects of the game, helps a player feel more . . . accomplished and self-aware, even if they don’t realize the positive effects going on beneath the surface.
In fact, it is often encouraged that the parents sit and watch their children play open-world games so as to better understand how their child thinks and reacts. The same rule applies to new couples.
Other Play Equipment in the Playground
Not that there’s anything wrong with a traditional linear RPG, but there’s nothing quite like free roaming in an open world filled with excitement. As every developer should know, it takes quite a bit more work creating a sandbox game, but it’s worth the effort. Not only do players statistically play the game longer, because there is more content involved, they also become more self-aware. It gives players an opportunity to bond with others, make new friends, practice teamwork, and escape from their mundane lives.
So, will you make a sandbox game?