What’s a Sandbox MMO?

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Sandbox MMOs offer players a high level of freedom and control, allowing them to create characters and interact with the world in any way they see fit. The progression system is more open, and players can complete quests in creative ways. In contrast, “theme park” MMOs are more directed and have more defined roles for characters. Both types have different philosophies and are not superior to each other.

Sandbox Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games are generally developed to give players maximum freedom and creative control. Just like other MMOs, these are persistent environments and usually have a digital world where characters can be created. The main element that distinguishes a sandbox MMO from other types, however, is the level of freedom and control that players are given; they are allowed to make the game into whatever they want it to be. In these types of MMOs, characters are often given 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 afforded in a sandbox MMO, and some advocates of this subgenre prefer it to be absolute. This would require players to be able to create characters and interact with the world in any way they see fit. Creating new content and environments within the game and advancing the character along undefined paths would all be welcome aspects of any sandbox MMO. Many of them, however, don’t quite have this level of freedom, although they may come close to it.

In a sandbox MMO, characters often use a progression system similar to other games, but more “open”. Many games allow players to choose a “class” for a character that defines their role in the world. A sandbox MMO, however, typically allows a player to create a character and then define her role through gameplay and the choices made throughout the game.

Likewise, the freedom to explore and experience a game in any way participants see fit is an important element within a sandbox MMO. While there may still be quests and quests for characters to complete, the way they are accomplished can be much more open to creative thinking. Players are generally free to come up with an idea and then try to make it happen within the game. Some folks may prefer to find big monsters and slay them, while others are content to build player homes and towns which are then populated by the various characters within the game. This is where the name comes from, as players must be free to do as they please, as if they were playing in a sandbox.

In contrast to this, “theme park” MMOs feature characters who are often much more restrained. Just like a real theme park, there are often “attractions” or events that players are directed to in their gameplay experience. The roles for the characters are generally more defined and the developers have more control over the world of the game. Neither type of MMO is superior to the other; they are simply designed with different philosophies.

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