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Most of my posts will be to do with the books I write, or the games I design. Feel free to stop by my personal web page, or the game company's web sites.

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Citadel of Sorcery, Sand Box or Theme Park?

Recently some folks who follow the making of Citadel of Sorcery, our MMORPG game in development, asked the question, is CoS more of a Theme park MMO or Sand Box MMO?  That is an interesting question.  So I thought I would go over that in this blog.

My first answer to them was, if I was only allowed to pick from those two choices, I would have to say we are closer to a Theme Park game.  However, that’s not an accurate description of Citadel of Sorcery, our game really doesn’t fit into either category; and why should it?  Who said there can only be two types of MMO games?  Just because most fit into these categories does not mean that there can’t be something new.

We’re all about new.

So in attempting to categorize CoS,  I thought I would first take a look at the generally accepted definitions of Theme Park and Sand Box MMO games, and see how we fit.

Let’s start with a Sand Box game.

Techopedia describes a Sand Box game as:
"A sandbox is a style of game in which minimal character limitations are placed on the gamer, allowing the gamer to roam and change a virtual world at will. In contrast to a progression-style game, a sandbox game emphasizes roaming and allows a gamer to select tasks. Instead of featuring segmented areas or numbered levels, a sandbox game usually occurs in a “world” to which the gamer has full access from start to finish." 

By this definition, CoS has a lot of Sand Box qualities.  We have minimal character limitations (there are no character classes, you make your character into what you wish by what you learn, and there are 2000+ Abilities to learn which may all be improved through practice and study).  You may roam the vast Earth planet sized worlds, and select stories and adventures that you want to do, it is not a linear progression game.  However, that being said, there is a progression of Tiers, which means you do not have access to everything at the start.

However, there are other definitions of a Sand Box game, like from wiseGEEK, which states:
“The major element that sets a sandbox MMO apart from other types, however, is the level of freedom and control that players are given; they are allowed to make the game into what they want it to be. In these types of MMOs, characters often have a great deal of freedom to advance in various ways and players are left to find their own way in the world."

There are varying degrees of freedom that can be allowed in a sandbox MMO, and some proponents of this sub-genre prefer it to be absolute. This would require that players are able to make characters and interact with the world in any way they see fit. The creation of new content and environments within the game and character advancement along undefined routes would all be welcome aspects for any sandbox MMO.“

By this definition, Citadel of Sorcery is even further away from a Sand Box game.  Players do not create new content or environments, though we do have character advancement along undefined routes (see above).  Their actions do change the way the story will unfold, but there are stories through which they will travel.

So, as we can see, CoS isn’t really a Sand Box game, though it shares some elements of one.

Now let’s take a look at a Theme park MMO, and how CoS fits.

Lorehound defined a Theme Park game like this:
“The “Theme park” MMO’s focus on creating an exciting thrill ride for players that will take them to see all the exciting sights of the game world and ensure that they are constantly provided with assignments to complete, so they are never bored or confused as to what they should be doing next.  It really is very much like a real life theme park, where the planners have thought about the path through the park that visitors are going to take and ensured that they are constantly presented with cool rides for them to try out.”

By this definition, CoS has some similarities, there certainly are exciting sights and assignments to complete, players need never be bored or confused as to what they should (or ‘could’ in our case) be doing.  We do this by having epic quests (not simple grocery lists ‘fetch me this’ ‘quests’), which are story driven to a grand climax in every case.  The game keeps the players current options available for them to see, though they need not follow these suggestions at all.

But is the world of CoS built like a theme park, not really.  There is no set path through the world, and we do not put players on a path that every player follows through the game.  In fact, it is a very open ended world, where the players may wander around each massive Tier of the game, and choose what they want to do, and in no particular order (with exception of Tier advancement).  Even more importantly, the world does not remain the same, as time moves forward the world is constantly changing.  Today really is different than tomorrow in Cos, it is not a ‘Groundhogs Day’ kind of world.

Giantbomb notes this about Theme Park MMO games:
“The term “themepark” brings to mind the idea of a setting with attractions to ride over and over. But no matter how many times you ride the attractions, the details just never change. If you wait several years and go back, they are right there, waiting for you...just as you left them. While this could be fun the first few times, it gets boring quick and you could find yourself looking at other themeparks for new and more exciting rides.”

CoS gets away from the ‘ride’ concept completely by changing each quest into something personal for that player.   The player’s past is figured into how starts and unfolds, who is in it, and what their motivations are.  As the player advances through the story how it unfolds and changes is based on game and player choices.

Not only that, but you cannot really repeat a story in CoS.  Even if you by chance see something similar on a different Reflected World, it will not be a repeat of the same events, locations, etc.  Stories are in constant change.  In most definitions, a Theme Park ‘ride’ never changes, and is the same for each player that goes through the attraction.  Clearly we are not a Theme Park by this definition since that is never true of our quests.

So if CoS is not a Sand Box or Theme Park game, what is it?  We prefer to call CoS a “Living World” MMORPG.  What is stressed in this type of game is an immersive and ‘realistic’ world, where life continues to more forward as time passes, it has nearly endless content, none of which repeats, all created in a full planet size world for virtually endless exploration and adventure.  Players make their characters into whatever they want, with their own personal story.  Or in short terms, they adventure in an open and Living World.

The concept of this is not really new, table top games like D&D or Gurps had the idea way back in the Seventies.  It has just not been translated well into modern MMORPG computer games.  Theme parks took the place of Living Worlds, and lately Sand Box games have become popular as players get tired of repeating the same content in Theme Parks.

But if you want to play something new and different, then once Citadel of Sorcery is completed, we invite you to play in a Living World.  Here you will have your own story, which will unfold differently, and on the path that you choose, unlike a Theme Park, and unlike a Sand Box, you will be in a world rich with history and backstory (one that matters) a story that you will help to continue as you forge your personal story in that living, changing world.  Some of your choices can affect the future of the world, and no one will walk the same path as you do through the game.  We have removed all the grinds and time sinks that we can, and replaced them with changing content and adventure.  There are no character classes, advancement caps, etc.  There is also no End Game, where player repeat the same game play over and over.  Your story continues to evolve in the Living World.

We believe that once players experience a Living World MMORPG they will never want to leave.