Sandbox and free will

Discussion in 'PlanetSide 2 Gameplay Discussion' started by NotziMad, Aug 5, 2020.

  1. NotziMad

    When most people speak of, or think of sandboxes, online open world video games that are sandboxes as opposed to theme parks, they think of "being able to do whatever you want to do".

    Having that freedom, for most people, is what defines the sandbox category because it is opposed to the them park where everything is on rails, like when you're on a ride in a theme park; you sit back, relax, enjoy the ride.

    Traditionally, sandbox games are associated with Role Playing Games. The reason why is obvious right?


    So one of the ways many players describe this game, Planet Side 2, is by calling it a sandbox. And the reason for that is you're not walking down a path that you can only follow. You can can turn around, you can leave the path and go somewhere else, it's not like Call of Duty or Battle Field single player campaigns where you're basically sitting on a train and shooting at stuff as it comes to you (except that instead of being in a train, you're actively walking forward, but that's really the only difference isn't it?).

    One of the fundamental attributes that illustrates the difference between sandboxes and theme park games is whether things happen over and over again. You play the CoD single player campaign more than once, and the same things happen every time. Every time. There will be small differences, but as a general thing, if you play it 10 times over, it will always be the same experience.

    That's not the case for sandboxes.

    Of course, in a sandbox, many things very often happen over and over, but if you look more closely, there's a type of event that doesn't. The reason why these types of events don't happen over and over, every time, is because, in a sandbox, players do what they want, and players have free will, so players do not repeat the same behaviours over and over.

    That's one of the things that makes sandboxes more fun, they are less predictable, because instead of following a given path the devs prepared for their players, like a train in a theme park, they do and go and act and behave however they want, however they like, and THAT doesn't usually repeat itself over and over.


    Exhibit 1 ; The Esamir continent

    (if you are not new to the game, you already know where this is going right?)

    On Esamir, most of the time, I don't have the numbers, but to take an educated guess, 90% of the time, the same thing happens. Over and over. Every time Esamir opens, same thing happens. Every time. Every single time.

    Esamir is a them park. Esamir is on rails. Either that, or players don't have any free will.

    This has been the case on Esamir for a very long time already. I've played as a solo player for years, but before that, I was a member of lots of different outfits, across all factions, and I remember how everyone in those outfits kept complaining, from the grunts to the leadership, everyone was really frustrated with Esamir, beacause it was a biased continent.

    The reason for that was that the two northern waprgates would naturally, almost "automatically" focus on each other, it wasn't just Mani Biolab at the time, it was also the Tech Plant, and the Southern warpgate would always win.

    Enter the most ******** incompetent senseless and clueless Dev (and his team) online gaming has maybe ever seen, and the introduction of spawns in those biolabs made that problem ten times worse.

    This problem existed on all continents. Every continent had bias (they still do, for most of them, it's worse now than before);

    Indar -> North wins
    Amreish -> North West wins
    Hossin -> that one is maybe the most balanced of them all, at it stands today, it mostly depends on what biolab fights are open. Acan Biolab is the most "accessible", so that usually means that North West and North East fight over it and southern wins.

    So this problem exists already for many years, but it was made worse by the spawns in biolab which created a big fight that never ever ends and acts as huge population sink for the 2 factions envolved.

    (as a side note, this also went a really long way in promoting the "who cares about objectives" gameplay as more and more players spend all their time in a biolab and couldn't care less about what is happening outside of it).


    So as I was saying, On Esamir, which is the most biased of all the continents, because all 3 biolabs are available as soon as it opens and Mani is "physically" close to both northern waprgates on top of that, the same thing happens every time.

    The same thing happens every single time.

    Every single time the same thing happens.

    Every time, the same thing happens over and over.

    (Am I repeating myself? Cause that is what is happening on Esamir, that is what has been happening for years now).

    North west warpgate fights North East warpgate in Mani Biolab while Southern warpgate takes all the map.

    It happens EVERY TIME.

    I'm insisting on this, IT HAPPENS EVERY ******* TIME.

    So where is the sandbox ?

    Where is the free will?

    That's not a sandbox, I'm sorry, it's not, you've turned Esamir (and some of the other continents) into ******* Disney Land.
    • Up x 3
  2. RabidIBM

    I fully agree with you. I did a write up a while back on how I would change Esamir, but it has since fallen to the depths. There were other pieces, but my main point was to rotate the eastern warp gate to the 3 O'clock position.

    I would also like to see Andvari changed so the wall is worth fighting for. Obviously other changes would be needed, but hey, maybe make a unique biolab?

    As for *that dev* I'm not as inclined to hate on him as hard as others. I would compare him to the PL who steps up and saves the platoon from being disbanded when the real PL logs off. Hey may not be great, he may be in way over his head, but he took on a project others had written off as dead, and it isn't dead yet. I have no doubt that shutting down PS2 was part of the arena plan.
    • Up x 2
  3. Johannes Kaiser

    True story.
    • Up x 1
  4. NotziMad

    ok I'll grant you that.

    However, if he was, is, over his head, he should have been fired and someone with the experience and competence required for the job should have been hired in his place.

    So it's maybe not entirely "his" fault, but at the end of the day, he's not doing a good job. At all.
  5. Demigan

    The thing about free will is thay people have their own choice, and wont always make the same choice as you do.

    The simple reason that players have been inside Biolabs and other large contested area's is that it offers the most fun for them. It gives them the large-scale combat in reasonably balanced area's that they want without the dead time between base captures or the unbalanced combat when you have to fight something without proper protection.

    If you want the players to make a different choice in this sandbox, the different choices need to give them similar satisfaction. This is more than a simple "Esamir continent has a wrong layout", this is about the core gameplay loop(s) and how rewarding they are.
    • Up x 3
  6. NotziMad

    As usual, you missed the point.

    And as usual, this will be my last reply to you.

  7. That_One_Kane_Guy

    If you crowd all of your toys into one corner of your sandbox do not be surprised if that's where most of the kids play. That doesn't mean your sandbox is no longer a sandbox, just that you're wasting its potential. Infinite choices do not necessarily generate infinite outcomes. Players are short-sighted, predictable b*stards. They go where the fun is happening.

    Ironically, if it wasn't for free will, you would likely see more player distribution simply due to probability and the lack of motivation to find 'fun'.
    • Up x 4
  8. Demigan

    Nope I didnt. You championed the idea that PS2 isnt a sandbox based on a bad definition of what a sandbox is and then blame the placement of Biolabs on continents for this as the core problem.
    But players willingly choose for Biolabs not because they lack choice, freedom or free will, they do it because its the most enjoyable choice for the lionshare of players. The core problem is not with biolab placement, but a lack of enjoyable alternatve choices. If you offer solid alternative enjoyable fights to Biolab fights then your problems will vanish.
    • Up x 1
  9. Johannes Kaiser

    To be fair, at least with Mani I would say it's in the placement as well. Because it's such an easy nobrainer for the people who just want to sit in a Biolab 24/7.
    • Up x 1
  10. DarkStarAnubis

    You are mixing variety of choices with variety of outcomes. One thing does not grant the other (although it could somehow be expected).

    But aside from that, IMHO sandbox has another meaning, especially for PS2.

    In a scripted, single-player, episode based game there are many (if not all) things predefined. Your choices are very limited and the path is fixed. A typical example is Doom. You see an empty room, you enter the room, the doors close,a bunch of monsters appear, you kill all the monsters, the doors reopen. Every time. And to go in the level you have to go through that room.

    Then you get the multi-path and/or multi-ending games. Take the Deus-Ex franchise as example. Or the Stalker one. Is it still episode based but you have usually multiple paths and multiple ways to achieve the result. More choices, but not infinite choices.

    Then you get the single-player "sandboxes". The Morrowind franchise for example. You have a main quest/path but guess what? Who cares, you can play forever doing other things. Many, many choices. Artificially enhanced by the possibility to mod the game and add more weapons, equipment, quests, ... That's the single player pinnacle in terms of freewill.

    Then you move to (m)MO FPS kind of first generation. Let's say Counter-Strike. Here you get your level map, your timer, your session, two teams and off you go. Limited choices. It evolved a lot graphically but the concept hasn't changed.

    Now enter PS2. From that perspective PS2 is merely an MO FPS on a bigger scale, "Massive".

    You get your level map, devs call it continent but it is a small island at the end. You get your session (a continent opens) and your timer (the alert). There are hundreds of players instead of 32. There are 3 teams instead of 2. But at the end, it is still the same.

    The sandbox is not there. the game mechanism of PS2 is 100% the same of Counter-Strike. And nobody says Counter-Strike is a Sandbox.

    The Sandbox is the fully missing character evolution coupled with the lack of endgame. Just "be all you can be". Total freedom. Be a Stalker, a Medic, pilot an ESF, support with a Sundie and keep doing that forever and ever. Or change and do something else. You have a lot of choices to play and keep playing. There are many variants and the learning curve is infinite as well. You could play all your life to get better at shooting, or positioning, or base knowledge, or battle flow awareness, or moving, or all of them together. Just play. Devs put a lot of effort is making an incredibly varied set of equipment, weapons, implants, abilities etc designed in such a way (in theory, they mess up things from time to time and people then yell "OP") to NOT provide an evolution in terms of "more powerful characters". A BR100 does not kill you because he has a Promise and you have the Carv. he kills you for other reasons.

    But nobody ever said your choices are meant to have an impact on the grand-scale. Actually they don't it is purely statistical concept.

    Sure, you personally can influence the outcome of a 12 vs 12 battle leading to getting this or that base. But if in the continent you are over-popped 5:1 your faction will always loose.
  11. NotziMad

    You also missed the point. I wonder sometimes how I can improve what I write so as to make it more clear, so I read it again, and I swear to god, it seems obvious to me ...

    Anyway, the meaning of sandbox, just like most meanings, is relative, depends on context, has different shades; there is dark blue, there is light blue and so on. You know that, obviously, so do I, it's not the point though.

    Point is when the outcome of an Alert on any given continent repeats itself consistently for such a long time (we are talking YEARS here), we've got a problem.

    As to the outcome, I've personally, through my individual actions, not only on low pop continents, even at prime time, very often, and I also continue to do so, regularly, not always, but often, won alerts.

    That is to say, if I hadn't done what I did, we would not have won the alert.

    But that's off topic..
  12. DarkStarAnubis

    I got your point don't worry.

    I wrote at the beginning that different choices should grant different outcomes but it is not always the case.

    Esamir has a problem if whoever starts in a certain position always win (or loose conversely).

    But that has nothing to do with the sandbox concept per se, it is a design/implementation flaw.
    • Up x 1
  13. NotziMad

    It does, sandboxes are less predictable and repetitive than theme parks, because of their nature. The whole point about sandboxes is the freedom they provide, and those two concepts are linked : unpredictability is one of the things that develops that freedom and it is also being free that develops unpredictability.

    Think of a simple labyrinth with a path that leads to a crossroad that has two new paths. There's only 4 options available, left, right, turn around, stay put. Whether it's a mouse with no (or limited) free will or whether it's a human being, the outcome is predictable in the same way, free will doesn't impact the result, not significantly, there's only 4 options.

    Free will is unpredictable by nature (not in absolute terms, but more so than without free will). But it needs freedom to express itself and/or develop properly. Like a crossroads in a labyrinth, theme parks provide more limited options and the result is that whether it's a mouse, a monkey, or a human being evolving in that labyrinth matters less, has less of an impact on the outcome.

    Lastly, (well, not lastly, but my last point here), because sandboxes provide more options, more freedom, it's not just free will that has more scope and depth, it's talent and skill. The more freedom there is in a game, the more freedom is granted to the player, the more experience, talent, skill and other things like being smart or being stupid matters. The more those things are rewarded, the more those things have an influence.

    When the options are limited, when the result is predictable, talent, skill, intelligence, coordination (for group or faction play), that kind of thing, matters less. It's not just free will, the less freedom, the more those things are dumbed down, the more freedom, the more those things matter and have an impact on the result.
  14. Demigan

    Minecraft is definitely a sandbox game. Its loose goal is to survive long enough to uncover some dark secrets about the game and defeat some monster.
    So what are the players doing for the most part? Well mining and building. Thats their entire gameplay loop. Some even use the settings to have infinite resources so they only have to build.

    What makes it such a good sandbox is that despite the simplest gameplay loop imagineable, its the way you can use that gameplay loop that gives you freedom. Some players are content with making enough of a shelter to live through the enemies the game has to offer, other will create literal computers inside the game that allow you to play games like tetris or use Minecraft as the most ridiculously complex calculator.

    PS2 has this sandbox reversed. There are many paths to the same goal of capturing a base. You can support your allies, fight a solo battle, fight alongside or against a zerg, grab a vehicle to farm or try to beat enemy vehicles etc. Similar to Minecraft, a culture has developed to avoid the end-game criteria of capturing bases. While everyone works somewhat to the goal of capturing a base, they will actively seek fights where the progress is slow or even non-existant for most of the fight, like biolabs or the Crown tri-state area.

    Ps2 is less of a sandbox than Minecraft, obviously, but its definitely not an on-rails shooter either despite the game needing some on-rails work like lattices to ensure enough people show up for fights.

    Like you said, the execution is wrong. The end-game goals only serve to stop the fun. They encourage zerging, between captures the fight stops for a moment, players arent encouraged to stick around and defend the next base if they lose one base. The game desperately needs redesigning of such goals, of the gameplay flow when a base is lost or a Sunderer destroyed and also make it enjoyable to fight when outnumbered.

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