Problems With The Sandbox


New member
Nov 18, 2009
I've been thinking that another sticky issue with Sandbox games, which is similar to the timescale issue, and directly related to the money/reward issue, is story line expectations.

Just like that bit in sleeping dogs where killing people only counts if you do it in a story mission, some games ignore the achievements of the player in the sandbox portion in increasing ludicrous ways, resulting in the story line taking place in a parallel dimension where the player character is *not* an immensely rich super-powerful lord of the land, but rather the plucky underdog fighting the big bad.

It's like if it was a superhero game, where the actual super-heroics take place outside the story missions.

The most egregious example of this, and it is specially damning because the thing happens *within the storyline*, is GTA San Andreas:

So, after you've travelled all around the state, defeated crime bosses, pulled insane stunts, got involved with government agencies, rob a casino, fly a freaking jetpack... You get your brother out of jail and go back to the neighbourhood gang-banging.

I mean, c'mon! I have a fighter jet parked on my hilltop mansion's helipad! You want me to go back to prowling the streets in a green hoodie? I could bomb every single opposing gang, I have enough guns and money to hire my own freaking army... And I have to go back to worrying about a corrupt cop and some losers in purple hoodies?

As you can guess, that's the point when I stopped playing.

In general, I'd say sandboxes and linear storylines are very hard to mix properly. Sometimes I try to think about how Minecraft would work with a cohesive story line, and end up curled in a corner weeping in fear.


New member
Jul 16, 2011
I'll just simply say that whatever they decide to put into a game it MUST relate to gameplay. This wasn't always true during the era of pacman where one just go for the highest score. But lets be honest, in those days the novelty of moving pixels where enough to get us excited and the score didn't matter much.

It is hard to imagine a AAA game of today that reward players with only high scores. The very reason RPGs are so fun and why alot of other genre adopt some aspect or another of RPGs is because RPGs know how to keep scores.

When one defeats a tough mob in an RPG we don't just get rewarded with a higher rating in the score board, we actually get LOOT that improve our future survival in the game. A reward that relates to gameplay.

Personally I think every sandbox game NEED deeper RPG elements, particularly looting and the way to spend money since moving pixels alone isn't rewarding enough to keep us moving those pixels.


New member
Apr 19, 2010
The first point does put me in mind of Guild Wars 2. While I understand the decision of the designer, I can't help being taken out of the story a little if at the end of the last story instance the NPCs say there's no time to get help, or better yet, present me with one of the choices for the next mission to (often) either rescue my personal friend or a large group of unknown civilians because there isn't time to do both.... and then tell me the recommended level for that next, time essential mission is 3 levels above the last mission, and I have to do some more open-world questing before I can realistically start the mission.

A note on the second point, don't a lot of the GTA games already offer more gameplay for money? When you buy the expensive property in Vice City, they generally unlock a new mission chain. Like when you buy the movie studio, and you get a bunch of missions to make the greatest porn movie ever.


New member
Aug 1, 2009
My favorite is when the game assumes you have no money even though you have completed a truckload of missions and could buy half the city.

Random Quest Person: I need your help. I need 3,000 credits (coins/dollars/monies/etc) to be able to do this very important thing (go on a voyage, ferry your across this river, sell you a quest item, etc)

Player: 3,000? *checks current credits* I have 1,000,000...


Player: 3,000? checks credits* hmm... not enough Hold up the city pays me in 2 minutes. *goes to home base/game bank* Sweet, now I have 8,000.

Then the game acts as though 3,000 was a lot to get/spend.


New member
Oct 22, 2008
BehattedWanderer said:
Wasn't Mafia 2 like that? Silly and trite as the story was, it kept a pretty good "see how time has passed" kind of thing after the arrest, and it even robs you of all of your fancy suits in the raid that causes you to flee to your buddy's house in your underpants, causing you to more or less start anew. They don't take your cars, if I remember right, which is kind of weird, but hey, close enough. It could really have used more to buy, however.
Pretty much this. The whole time reading this I was thinking to myself that he is describing Mafia 2.


New member
Dec 25, 2008
huh...that's really interesting with the time differentials and the random crap you do in between missions lol
never really bothered me much since my mind just mentally goes "oh yeah story missions gotta do those" but guess I just get immersed if it's a good sandbox...and if not then nvm I'm out

Something Amyss

Aswyng and Amyss
Dec 3, 2008
1. time. I don't think this can ever bee completely solved, because there's always the issue of allowing people to roam around and do stuff. While I liked Dead Rising, it can also be incredibly frustrating.

2. This is completely legit. Though, as long as there are ways to gain money, there will be this problem. Some games go overboard on it. When I can be a millionaire before I even take on the Syndicate in Steelport, something's wrong. ESPECIALLY when the whole story was all "they took our stuff away!"

More increments as well as more options.

ThingWhatSqueaks said:
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.
You act as if there's a difference. >.>


New member
Feb 22, 2011
Just realized that Prototype handles this really well, by dribbling out a few upgrades and sidequests after each event. So you can spend a little while picking out the best upgrades and sidequests before you get back to work, but there's no real incentive to spend all day grinding XP.

On the other hand, there's a few bits at the end where missions are broken up in a weird way. You set up the Bloodtox pump and you're buddy-buddy with the military, setting up your defenses, then right before the big battle you get sent back to the sandbox to walk around and stretch your legs a bit. That section would have worked a lot better as a long, continuous mission with checkpoints.

I think maybe developers have to be willing to close down the sandbox when they really need you doing something. Put nasty things where they don't want you going, make you get chased by monsters from one sidequest to the next, just make it clear that it'll be a lot more fun if you follow the prescribed story first.