Problems With The Sandbox

Adam Jensen_v1legacy

I never asked for this
Sep 8, 2011
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I disagree with everything. Timekeeping is irrelevant. What Dead Rising did was extremely frustrating. And you will always end up with money that you won't be able to spend in a free roaming game.

The money issue: The best thing you can do is add as much stuff as you can and lock some of them until you reach a specific part of the game. And make it extremely hard to earn money. At least in the beginning. Like in Scarface: The World is Yours. At first you can only do small drug deals and buy cheap stuff. But as you progress you start making more money and you unlock more expensive things to buy. And it also made perfect sense within the story. And the fact that you could put all your money in the bank made your HUD look cleaner and you never felt like you had an insane amount of money that doesn't do anything.
 

cerebus23

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May 16, 2010
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what about fairly linear games like mass effect?

I was more taken out of that series by the simple fact that your were racing to save the galaxy and you had to divert to find minerals, stop off to do something or other, or have half the galaxy to explore yet, me2 sort of combatted this by killing more of your crew after the point of no return point if you messed around too much, but all the games had a certain lack of urgency that you would expect when the entire galaxy is in danger of annilation.

front loaded it is not so bad, but when your near the end of the game then it seems a bit late for the good admiral to call you up to spend a few days exploring some rock on the far side of the galaxy. nm slogging around planets in that buggy.
 

Balkan

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Sep 5, 2011
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There is one more thing to do for clear timelines - character appearance . IN ac2 , Ezio looks the same throughout most of the story . Thats the same EP as the spider man one , you can see that Batman , or Walker or whoever has come a long road since the story began .
Ac revelation did that actually with Altair`s story , you can see how he gets older and more mature .
 

Joseph Shaffer

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Sep 4, 2012
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I've been thinking about the issue of money in games, and I agree with Yahtzee that at a certain point in the game, you've accumulated so much money that spending it all becomes impossible and needless, and acquiring more asinine. So, I've thought what if a player could use ones money to affect the degree of game-play (outside of purchasing more/better equipment)? What if we could use money to lower/raise difficulty of game-play?

Example: you have a mission where you need to enter an enemy stronghold and eliminate the boss. There are two potential game-play outcomes. 1). The standard mode where the player storms through the front entrance and engages in prolong fights with the boss' minions before reaching the boss and taking him/her out. 2.) OR, with a little ingenuity and exploration on the part of the player, the player could discover a disgruntled janitor/security guard in the outside sandbox world who, with the right persuasion of money, could allow the player into the stronghold mission undetected, completely bypassing all the fights with the boss' minions and head straight to the objective.

Both scenarios can suit the game-play style of the player and are perfectly viable gameplay outcomes. However, the second option provides the extra reward to the player for their ingenuity by lowering the level of difficulty, while at the same time giving them a tangible benefit for accumulating money (however the player acquires money in the game). This would certainly alleviate some of the pain from grinding one's way to an even higher money count, because it has some real game-play benefit for the player (and not just providing an excuse to keep employed the players virtual equivalent of an accountant!)
 

Don_blowfish

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Aug 23, 2010
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it is interesting to think about how the ending you discribed in this article reminds me of the ending of Max Payne.
 

chozo_hybrid

Jund 'Em Out!
Jul 15, 2009
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The thing is, unless you are in a timed situation. Then you can take you time and mess around in any game to a degree.

It leaves choice up to the player, to get what they want out of it.
 

viranimus

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Nov 20, 2009
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I think the real problem with it, is certain developers rely on it entirely too much as an excuse of not fully developing their product. We can look at the likes of prototype(at least the original) and clearly see a "sandbox" but it really is only about as big as a sandbox. Even when you encounter games that do it well like anything from Bethesda, you hear the rally cry of "they are crafting a world" That falls flat when you encounter your first zone wall hidden behind a cliff, or in many cases nothing at all. It is even worse when you see the developer hide behind that justification as an excuse to halfass the narrative of their product into rote gaming cliches. I still do not get that logic, What is the point of building a big open complex sandbox, when you deprive the player the motivation to even bother to go out looking for anything within it.
 

The Rogue Wolf

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The timekeeping thing is a really weird thing in some sandbox games, especially Elder Scrolls ones. I remember things taking a lot of time in Morrowind (in no small part because you had to walk everywhere unless you wanted to place your Mark spell somewhere besides that ultra-rich mudcrab or could get to a silt strider), but it felt ridiculous to be the head of a Guild in Oblivion inside of an in-game week. And as much as I enjoyed it in other areas, Skyrim felt worse- I was the Harbinger of the Companions within seventy-two in-game hours.
 

Username Redacted

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Dec 29, 2010
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Both Saints Row 2 and 3 had massive issues with money. I like the mechanic/idea of buying properties as a front for your gang activities but when you're sitting on millions of dollars in revenue from your real estate investments it makes one think that perhaps their character would be a better Realtor than gangster.
 

Callate

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Dec 5, 2008
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A lot of what Yahtzee says in this article has a lot of merit. I've seen the "and then we take away everything you've gained thus far" bit in a number of games, though (albeit usually not out-and-out sandboxes), and I have to confess, I hate it with a passion. It always seems lazy to me- "Remember how hard everything was when you just had the pistol? Ha! Guess what?! Now you'll just have to go through all those suddenly-hard-again enemies you've been laughing at for the last hour again, and the modelers, AI programmers and skinners are all going to go have a smoke break."

I'm not saying it couldn't be done well, especially if you could regain the things you'd lost and put them to new uses. If you'd been taking Louie's Gun Shop for granted as just a place to get free ammo (that you could already get easily any number of other places for a few bucks from your huge stockpile o' cash) and suddenly in the new order the police are looking for you and you can't buy ammo from any of the legal stores and old Louie's is now the only thing holding the eastern front of your territory in place, you'd start looking at it in a very different light.

Still, generally speaking, I'd prefer that game designers worked additively rather than subtractively to increase their play time. Too much money? Suggest I need to up-arm my minions to ward off the increasingly aggressive attacks against my store fronts (and pay for their ammo on a regular basis.) Give me a useful sidekick who needs a medicine I need to re-route my empire towards acquiring. (Emphasis on useful- don't give me someone I'm told I'm supposed to care about who bad-ends the storyline if they die.) Have my slum apartment tenants complain about bad neighbors. There's no good reason that the things we buy and think of as bonuses, useful though they might be, shouldn't unlock new storylines and content of their own.

I also have to say that I'm hoping some day to see a game where the characters in the cut-scene hold their breath when I walk into the room and refuse to tell me bad news that could get me killed because I've been making a habit of running over twelve grandmothers and a puppy every time I go from point x to point y. The first time our seemingly non-storyline sandbox activities actually turn out to have a real influence on the storyline, preferably in more than a binary good-or-evil fashion- that's going to be a real kick in the teeth, in a good way. I'm not saying every sandbox should do that, but I'd absolutely adore to see it done, at least once, well.
 

el_kabong

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Mar 18, 2010
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Something that always bugged me (that ties into the article's wealth problem) about most crime sandbox game is unlimited resources. Example: the best cars in the game spawn at the same rate, even if you've stolen 200 of them previously. Therefore, the only benefit of stealing a really nice car is to go really fast.

This isn't a terrible reason, but I'd like to see a crime game where there's no respawn for resources. At the beginning of the game, these high-value resources have a set level (we'll use the example of 5 cars) following relatively random paths and/or activities, though the possiblity of seeing a Ferrari driving through the ghetto would be less likely than it being in an affluent suburb mansion.

If you steal and total one of the top-tier cars, that car is gone. You only have 4 left to pursue. Not only will this make finding one all the more novel and exciting, but will also provide subtle and potentially rewarding role-playing opportunities. Let's say you find one of these cars. Do you drive it safely to your garage to collect it, a constant symbol of your wealth and prestige? Or do you go get drunk at a bar, pick up a hooker, and wrap it around a tree?

The way, following this logic, to make wealth worth something more in the game is by allowing you to purchase those limited resources. Are you a petty thief who stumbles across one of the only rocket launchers in the game? Or are you a well-funded billionaire criminal who can buy rocket launchers on a whim because of your expansive cash? This would also help you get a greater sense of the rags-to-riches crime story that takes up a lot of these sandboxes by mirroring real life. Rich people have access to more resources than poor people.
 

Azaraxzealot

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Dec 1, 2009
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Just Cause 2 made money very easy to gain and lose at the same time (what with the black market items being so expensive) the only really big problem was the fact that there was a finite amount of money you could earn in the game. Once you had 100%'d all the settlements, completed all the missions, and found all the resource items, that was it, all the money in the game was found. Unless you get money from challenges if you complete them again (I don't).

I like the way Borderlands did it with a new game+ and raising everything (the enemies' levels, the loot, the mission experience rewards) so that you feel like you have purpose again. Now if only a game could just have NO level cap and endless new game+'s while keeping a generally consistent rate of leveling up so it doesn't feel like a complete time-sink.

Still holding out for Crackdown + Borderlands shooty-looty-superhero-y game like that.
 

oldtaku

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Jan 7, 2011
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I really liked the one twist Mass Effect 2 did with the timekeeping. It's not really sandbox game, but you can certainly cruise around the galaxy looking for resources and taking your sweet time.

Then there's that place where they tell you 'hey, you better hurry.' And because you know there's never any hurry (you can spend 40 hours with the final boss's finger hovering over the nuclear launch button or demon invasion), you can just fart along like you did before until you're ready to finish. Whoops. Sorry guys!
 

Mirroga

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Jun 6, 2009
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My favorite sandboxes, Arkham City and Infamous 2, never had a problem with either of the problems.

First problem has never been a problem simply because in Arkham City, you are forced to feel the tension and problems Batman face all under one night while Infamous 2 made it clear how every passing major event, you feel the presence of The Beast closer and closer.

As for the second problem, the solution was the only currency you obtain is experience from conflicts and use those points to unlock more ways to mix it up in combat or travel.
 

Twilight_guy

Sight, Sound, and Mind
Nov 24, 2008
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With the amount of recent harping on jetpacks I'm amazed Yahtzee has never reviewed Global Agenda. A game built entirely around "Weeee, jetpacks!"

Anywho, all economic systems in games fail in light of infinite potential cash. No matter How much stuff costs or what it might get you, ay some point you buy everything and money is worthless. The challenge is balancing this so that most players will get most of the stuff before the end but not all of it. Money is only worthwhile while you can get something better. Of course some games cock this up the other way too and make thing ridiculously expensive to the point where getting them seems unreachable and people don't bother. I'm reminded of some MMOs, that force a player to grind for long periods to get the newest thing once they've earned 200 points at 4 pints a day. It's not fixable, only improvable.
 

disgruntledgamer

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Mar 6, 2012
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The only Sandbox games I've been able to get into lately are the Infamous series, which is probably one of the reason why I don't want to see that series end despite being a supporter of letting series die out like Resident Evil or Uncharted.

Most sandbox games I'll get halfway through, lose my way get board and put it aside never to be thought of again. That's what i liked about Infamous on to of limiting you to the side quest you can do until you pressed to a certain point in the main story, it also limited the need for money. Now I know the money thing wouldn't work for sandbox games like GTA I don't think it would be bad to limit the importance of it, than you can limit the $$$ gained without handicapping the player as much.
 

irishda

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Dec 16, 2010
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The sense of time is far more disparaging then that. A mission ends on an implication that the next must be completed quickly, lest someone you know dies. Meanwhile, your character fucks around on a four day trip completing some bullshit side quests like skinning enough rabbits. There's two different worlds in sandbox games. The story world and the open world.

People tend to overrate these types of games purely on the basis of "there's more to do", but they could be so much better if someone managed to combine the open world's freedom with a linear game's narrative abilities.
 

gyroscopeboy

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Nov 27, 2010
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GTA: Basically did the "lose all your stuff" scenario. When the police take you out to the back of Buttfuck Nowhere, you basically are starting from scratch
 

Squilookle

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Nov 6, 2008
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Agree with Mount and Blade Warband and Mafia 1 doing time management the right way.

I'd also say that The Saboteur worked for the completely opposite reason. It would be the middle of the day for some unspecified amount of time, before gracefully changing to midnight almost without you noticing. Gave you the variety of the day night cycle, but kept the focus firlmy on the important stuff- like actually having fun. Definitely agree with the money issue in sandboxes though.

bobmus said:
Yahtzee Croshaw said:
What if you did the standard sandbox crime game thing for the first half of the game, gradually acquiring more and more money, luxury apartments, fancy clothes and powerful vehicles, but then at the start of the second half your character falls for some dastardly trick and the villain steals everything you have?
In a sandbox game such as this, I think that'd be a terrible move to make. I'd just load back up the last save before I lost all my cool stuff so I could have a blast on the town.
Agreed. Having all my territory stripped from me after I spent so much time on it in the first half of San Andreas didn't immerse me more or anything like that. It almost killed the whole game for me. Actually I don't think I even did manage to get over it enough to finish the game.

So yeah, terrible idea.
 

SiskoBlue

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Aug 11, 2010
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Mafia II annoyed the hell out of me because it did the "you lose all your stuff" 3 times!!? First you go to prison, then your house gets burnt down, then you get chased from another place for some reason I can't remember. I remember thinking "i'm not buying another fucking suit until I'm sure I can keep it".

I've completely lost interest in Skyrim/Fallout open worlds. There is some interesting stuff but most of it seems heavily scripted, fairly wooden and seems to take forever to find a gem of a story. I struggle with games that feed the "fight to get loot to upgrade to do bigger fights to get better loot" loop. I didn't mind it in Borderlands, or Dark Souls but that's because the incentive is finding really intereseting and bizarre loot, and new and bizarre enemies and locations, not just the "upping" of stats.

inFamous 1 & 2 and the Skate series are the best "open-world" playground games I think. You just tool around finding stuff to do. As for timescale, Arkham Asylum did a fantastic job of "the long, long night". Grim Fandango as well, as Yahztee mentioned.

It seems to be a lost art but what ever happened to the time passing montage? It worked so well in every Karate Kid, martial arts revenge film from the 80s.