What is Sandbox Gaming?
Video games, since their conception, have been used to tell stories. The player is forced to follow a linear path that reveals bits of the story at a time. This is not a bad thing in any way, but a certain genre of games has moved itself into the spotlight. That would be the genre of Sandbox Games, or do whatever you want. Sandbox is not to be confused with Open World Games. Open World games can be Sandbox games, but only if there are no quests or objectives meant to be completed.
The idea for Sandbox is intriguing because the developers are no longer trying to entertain you with fluffy kittens dancing around or a do this or die approach, but rather give you the tools to entertain yourself. It is almost as if a writer gave you a book with only the setting and a character and said, My work is done, you fill out the rest! This game type is not for everyone, but it satisfies that little voice that we all have that says, Wow, those Noobs! If I was in that situation I would have never done that. This is a very common occurrence while watching the television show The Walking Dead. Sandbox games allow you to do what you would do, or at least think you would do, if put in a certain situation.
Revolutionizing the Genre
This genre has put out many great games lately. We have Minecraft to start with. Although Minecraft did not create the Sandbox genre, it did however REVOLUTIONIZE the genre! A game where a guy named Steve is plunked down in the middle of nowhere with only his sheer will to survive and the ability to punch things and turn them into resources. You then create your own story by building yourself a house and planting food for you to survive off of. You have to defend yourself from hordes of undead and exploding green monsters. Some might play for hours upon hours and create magnificent things all the while telling their friends these adventures that took place in a game called Minecraft. Then the friend or friends will ask, So WTH is the point of this game? You think and you realize that there is no real point. The only thing you are doing is basically surviving. Then the next thing you know you are binge playing DayZ, Rust, Terraria, and 7 Days to Die which leads to the creation of your own epic stories or face palming failures. Some games even include multiplayer where you, your friends and even complete strangers are making stories together.
Adding in the Unknown
This concept of playing with complete strangers and given no task to focus on, other than survival, can become quite interesting or exhausting depending on the group. Take DayZ for example. You load the game up for the first time and make your way along the coast seeing the sights and running from zombies when all the sudden you hear a voice in your headset. The voice gets closer and eventually you realize that this person means to rip your arms off and feast on your carcass! There is a distinct randomness that comes with online multiplayers especially when the other players are trying to find stuff to do.
Rust is another example of a game that knows how to approach the genre of Sandbox Games. Built on the classic Source engine, and created by the genius that is Garry Newman. Your player is thrust into a world of naked men, insane player built homes, and of coursezombies. Rust is sort of the best of both worlds for fans of DayZ and Minecraft. It combines the ability to craft and build from Minecraft and the FPS style combat from DayZ. Although, DayZ does have crafting somewhat implemented and Dean Rocket Hall has said he hopes to put building into DayZ in the future, but I digress. Rust lets you feel the fast paced excitement of an FPS, the strategic building and planning of a Minecraft style game, and the freedom of a Sandbox Game.
How to improve
Games that fall into the Sandbox gaming category will continue to have success depending on three things. One being complete freedom, two customization, and three enhanced player tools. Freedom is essential in the definition for Sandbox games and of course there are some limitations in game, but the fewer limitations in a Sandbox game the better. Expansive customization is very important in a Sandbox game. Giving the player more customization options is essential when trying to make the game relatable. Most players enjoy making their player or world unique. They do not want to have the same skin or clothes as the next guy, let alone the same house or weapon. One game that I remember just playing the heck out of was Rainbow Six Vegas 2. This is not a Sandbox game by any means, but it did have a thing or two in the ways of customization. The gunplay was nothing special, but the customization was expansive. I can remember all the sleepless nights trying to unlock different camos and weapon attachments. I really loved this game due to this level of customization that it allowed. Giving the player a lot of well thought out tools rounds out my list. Having complete freedom and expansive customization is great, but if the player has limited tools to use in the way of building, farming, crafting, etc the player will lose interest. Minecraft has pretty much the most in terms of player tools. You can craft, build, cook, and do whatever you want, and with an established modding community like it has the possibilities are endless.
Now I am not saying that these are the only thing that matters when creating a Sandbox game. Graphics, stability, optimization, and a billion other things matter, but those three things are what I look for when I play a Sandbox game. If you disagree, agree, concur, or think Sandbox games are stupid. Please comment below and tell me what you think.