I certainly have a track record of playing games that fall outside the loose definition of Sandbox, however when I left WoW (my last love) I found myself saying, “I want more! I want more control and be able to create my own fun!” and at the time I meant it! I still think being able to create my own adventures that can grow and change as others join in is a great thing.
Pouring pixel sand out of my shoes…
So why on earth am I playing Rift? Simply because other people can create fun stories as well! I think I have a real appreciation for good tales; to be told a story and enjoy bashing some heads in along the way (or healing a few bashed in heads as well!). I am reminded of Star Trek and how I still love to sit and watch the crew of the Next Generation (or all the others, bar enterprise) toil over a problem and come out the other side by employing cunning and diplomacy. They might be a few hands down (Tasha Yar RIP), but mostly intact.
A good story is definitely a positive in the games industry as a whole and the MMO genre is no exception. The problem here is not that the story tellers are not good enough (although some would disagree), but that the sandboxes we have on offer to play in seem to fall short for certain audiences. I am really glad that Darkfall, Mortal online and a small number of other sandboxes are thriving. They are testament to the fact that sandboxes do work. But with all other markets, because choice is limited many people won't play a sandbox title because it isn't the type that would draw them in.
Which sandbox shall I build my castle in?Because our choice of Sandboxes is quite limited compared to more linear MMO's when one goes belly up as certain titles inevitably do, I lose a little faith in the sandbox. Even if its only my feeling, (which I think it isn't) it means the next time a sandbox appears all the excitement is cancelled out by cynicism.
I am hoping that a development studio will pop up and just focus on the game play. I think one of the issues with Earthrise was trying hard to make the game pretty and not perhaps making that a secondary priority behind game play. After all, no matter how pretty something is, if it doesn't work then that isn't going to be of much use.
So the answer to my original question is?
The answer is that we need more Sandboxes. Sandboxes that last and grow in different directions from those that are already in play. There are some titles coming up that could be interesting and I am keeping my eye on them. Not holding my breath either... I still have my Earthrise bruise.