What's a sandpark?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 February 2013, 6:07 am
Syp is geeked about the upcoming Wildstart, and lists his 40 reasons for that. Reason number 4 being: "It’s focusing on a “sandpark” model that embraces the best of both worlds". Which of course immediately makes most people wonder whether that is even possible. What exactly is a "sandpark"?

The problem starts with the fact that most existing games are neither 100% sandbox nor 100% theme park. EVE is generally considered a sandbox game, but it does have agents missions that play like a theme park. WoW is generally considered a theme park game, but it is perfectly possible to step off that rail and do other stuff than to just follow the quest lines from one hub to the next, although some zones are more linear than others. So already sandbox or themepark is a question of shades of gray, not simply black and white.

If I were using graphics in my blog posts, I'd use a screenshot from the start of Darkmoon Island to demonstrate what a theme park is: A dark forest in which you theoretically can go in many directions, but where big neon arrows point towards the most efficient route. Most people will automatically follow that arrow. A sandbox is the same forest without the path and the neon signs, meaning people are more likely to go into different directions, but also more likely to not find the content. Assuming there are things to interact with in the forest, and enough players to meet in that forest to create emergent content, that can be very good. But of course the risk is of players lost in the forest, unsure about what they are supposed to do, and quitting before they found out.

In short, whether a game is sandbox or theme park depends on the amount of guidance offered to the players. Which is difficult, because the amount of guidance NEEDED by each player will be vastly different, depending on both attitude and experience. Thus claiming to be able to find the perfect optimum between the two, the "sandpark" level, appears to be somewhat spurious to me. What do you think?
Tobold's Blog



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