Daily Archives: May 14, 2023

Answering Gaming Questions with AI – Tell Me About Sandbox MMORPGs

I am back once again for another question time with the local AIs.

AIs thinking about video game questions… drawn by an AI

This is the fifth in the series of posts asking gaming questions.  Previously we had:

This time I am going to try to answer the unaswerable, I am going to try to have the AIs tell me what a sandbox MMORPG is.  My prompt:

Define what a sandbox mmorpg is

This is the classic United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart situation where I cannot define what it is, but I know it when I see it.  (Note: remind me to ask the AIs to define “porn” next.)

For me there isn’t a set of hard and fast rules, but a sense of how guided your experience in an MMORPG really is, which can vary greatly.  EverQuest, for example, doesn’t strike many as a sandbox game, but the early days where it, ironically, had very few quests meant that it was fairly open as to how players approached things and set the rules of how people played the game.  Nobody at SOE told people about the etiquette of spawn camps or warning people about trains in Splitpaw.  It was very much a communal agreement and you could find yourself something of an outcast if you did not abide.

On the flip side, EVE Online‘s sandbox nature is undisputed.  But it has a very guided PvE experience, the traditional path of running missions and doing story arcs.  That it is a dead end that tends to leave people unfulfilled is a bit beside the point… lots of PvE content can feel that way.

It isn’t just player agency, or how deep the economy runs that defines things, but also the ability of the community to set its own rules and standards and enforce them that.

Or such are my thoughts at the moment.  The subject is porous enough that I might change my mind in an hour.  But before I do, I went and asked the AIs about the whole thing and this is what I got.

First, as usual, is BingAI:

A sandbox MMORPG is a type of game that offers a large and persistent virtual world that can be freely explored and modified by the players². Unlike a progression-style game, a sandbox MMORPG does not have a linear storyline or predefined tasks, but rather lets the players create their own goals and adventures³. Some examples of sandbox MMORPGs are EVE Online, Minecraft, and Screeps².

(1) The 22 Best Sandbox MMORPGs In 2023 – MMORPG.GG
(2) What is a Sandbox (in Gaming)? – Definition from Techopedia
(3) RPG Defined – What is a Sandbox MMO? – Giant Bomb.
(4) Perfect Definition of a Sandbox Everyone Can Accept – MMORPG.com

As usual, BingAI is brief and to the point, with references.  A world that can be freely explored sounds nice… but modified by players?  You would have to define that in some very specific ways to convince me.

The implied comparison is progression vs. sandbox, with the linear storyline and predefined tasks being the hallmarks of the former, while players creating their own goals and adventures marking the latter.  A bit simplistic.

As for examples… well, EVE Online is pretty easy to accept, but Minecraft?  But I am pretty sure BingAI told me Minecraft wasn’t an MMORPG previously.  Sloppy.  And then there is Screeps.  I have never heard of that.

Overall, too shallow and simple to serve as a useful definition.  This is what you get from just reading stuff you find on the internet.

Grade: D-

On to Google Bard, generally the most fanciful of the group.

A sandbox MMORPG is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that gives players a great deal of freedom and control over their characters and the world they inhabit. Unlike traditional MMORPGs, which have a linear story and set progression paths, sandbox MMORPGs allow players to choose their own goals and objectives. This freedom can be seen in everything from character development to world exploration.

In a sandbox MMORPG, players can choose to focus on combat, crafting, trading, or any other activity they choose. There are no set classes or levels, so players can develop their characters in any way they want. The world of a sandbox MMORPG is also fully explorable, and players can go anywhere they want, at any time.

This freedom of choice is what makes sandbox MMORPGs so appealing to many players. They offer a unique gaming experience that allows players to create their own stories and adventures. Some of the most popular sandbox MMORPGs include EVE Online, Albion Online, and Wurm Online.

Here are some of the key features of sandbox MMORPGs:

Freedom of choice: Players have a great deal of freedom to choose how they want to play the game. They can focus on combat, crafting, trading, or any other activity they choose.
Open world: The world of a sandbox MMORPG is fully explorable, and players can go anywhere they want, at any time.
No set classes or levels: Players can develop their characters in any way they want. There are no set classes or levels.
Player-driven economy: The economy of a sandbox MMORPG is player-driven, which means that players can buy and sell goods and services with each other.
Persistent world: The world of a sandbox MMORPG is persistent, which means that it continues to exist even when you are not playing.

If you are looking for a MMORPG that offers a great deal of freedom and choice, then a sandbox MMORPG may be the perfect choice for you.

In case you missed it, “freedom” seems to be a key element for Google Bard.

The freedom of choice though, that does seem key.  Being able to step off of any progression path seems like a strong pick.

I am not sure open world is as well defined as that section assumed.  Players can certainly seek to travel anywhere at any time, their success and the time it might take them is not assured.

Not having set classes or levels, which usually means a skill based system, is often a go-to when trying to define a sandbox MMO.  It isn’t an absolute, but it is a common factor.

Player driven economy seems key as it is something that enables a number of economic paths as alternatives to the usual combat focus.  But persistent world… again, didn’t that get covered as an aspect of MMORPGs in general in a past post?

That isn’t bad, and unlike BingAI, it managed to pull out three examples of sandbox MMORPGs that most people would agree on.  Not as clownish as Bard can sometimes be, though it still seems a little too sure of itself.

Grade: B-

Then there is ChatGPT.  What will its wisdom bring?

A sandbox MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) is a type of online game that emphasizes open-world exploration, player freedom, and non-linear gameplay in a virtual setting. Unlike theme park MMORPGs, which follow a more structured, linear progression, sandbox MMORPGs give players the opportunity to create their own experiences, shape the world around them, and interact with others in unique ways.

In a sandbox MMORPG, players can often:

1. Explore large, open worlds with few restrictions or boundaries.
2. Choose and develop their characters’ skills, abilities, and professions without being limited by predetermined classes or roles.
3. Engage in player-driven economies where they can gather resources, craft items, and trade with other players.
4. Participate in dynamic and emergent events, such as player-created quests or spontaneous world events.
5. Build and customize their own homes, cities, or other structures, often with in-depth crafting and building systems.
6. Create and enforce their own rules, laws, or social structures within the game world.
7. Participate in large-scale PvP (Player vs. Player) battles, sieges, or other conflicts that can shape the game’s politics and alliances.

Sandbox MMORPGs are known for fostering a strong sense of immersion, player agency, and social interaction, as players can collaborate, compete, or simply coexist within the shared virtual world. Examples of popular sandbox MMORPGs include EVE Online, Ultima Online, and Black Desert Online.

Sandbox MMORPGs must have the word “online” in their name.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a pattern it latched onto.  There have been some crazy comedy in training AIs with samples only to have the AI latch onto some unexpected pattern of the data it is being trained on rather than the aspect it was supposed to see.  AIs do not think, they only find and repeat patterns.

ChatGPT hedges quite a bit in this.  It has a list of characteristics that are “often” part of sandbox titles, but not necessarily in all of them.  So you can pick and choose from that list.  And its example titles include Black Desert Online, which quite clearly has classes and levels, something that the other two definitions were set against.

All in all it is an unsatisfying answer.  Yet, how can I hold that against it when I said up front I could not define a sandbox MMORPG in any absolute terms.

Grade: A-

Then, as a follow up, I asked each to recommend some sandbox MMORPGs to me.

BingAI told me there are many sandbox MMORPGs, but these are some of the more popular ones:

  • EVE Online: A sci-fi sandbox MMORPG that lets you explore a vast and dynamic galaxy, engage in various activities such as mining, trading, combat, exploration, and politics, and shape the game world with your actions.
  • Minecraft: A sandbox MMORPG that allows you to build anything you can imagine using blocks, destroy the environment and modify anything in a massive amount of multiplayer modes available.
  • Black Desert Online: A fantasy sandbox MMORPG that features an immersive open-world that invites adventurers to explore it, a complex and fluid action combat system, a deep character customization system, and a variety of life skills and professions.
  • Screeps: A strategy sandbox MMORPG for programmers that lets you control a colony of units using JavaScript and other programming languages, secure resources, train units, and conquer territories.

Once again, Minecraft isn’t and MMORPG and I’ve never heard of Screeps.

Google Bard also assured me there were MANY sandbox MMORPGs and gave me the following list:

  • EVE Online: EVE Online is a massive space-based MMORPG that is known for its complex and player-driven economy. Players can choose to be traders, miners, explorers, or even pirates.
  • Albion Online: Albion Online is a fantasy sandbox MMORPG that is set in a medieval world. Players can choose to focus on combat, crafting, or trading.
  • Wurm Online: Wurm Online is a sandbox MMORPG that is set in a medieval world. Players can build their own homes, villages, and even kingdoms.
  • Black Desert Online: Black Desert Online is a fantasy sandbox MMORPG that is known for its action combat and stunning graphics. Players can choose to focus on combat, crafting, or exploration.
  • ArcheAge: ArcheAge is a fantasy sandbox MMORPG that is known for its open-world PvP and player-driven economy. Players can choose to be pirates, traders, or adventurers.

Then ChatGPT, after reminding me that it doesn’t know anything that happened after September of 2021, told me the following were popular sandbox MMORPG choices:

  • EVE Online: A space-based sandbox MMORPG known for its complex player-driven economy, massive PvP battles, and political intrigue. The game offers a vast, interconnected universe where players can engage in mining, exploration, manufacturing, trading, and combat.
  • Black Desert Online: A visually stunning sandbox MMORPG with a large, open-world to explore, fluid action combat, and an in-depth life skill system. The game features a vast character customization system, housing, trading, and more.
  • Albion Online: A cross-platform medieval fantasy sandbox MMORPG, where players can engage in a player-driven economy, open-world PvP, and territorial control. Albion Online emphasizes guild cooperation and strategic alliances in its gameplay.
  • ArcheAge: A sandbox MMORPG set in a vast fantasy world, offering a mix of both sandbox and theme park elements. Players can engage in crafting, trading, farming, PvP combat, and exploration. ArcheAge also features a unique naval system, with players able to build and customize their own ships for ocean adventures.
  • Star Wars Galaxies (SWGEmu): Although the official servers were shut down in 2011, passionate fans have created private servers running the Star Wars Galaxies Emulator (SWGEmu). This sandbox MMORPG is set in the Star Wars universe and allows players to create their own adventures, explore planets, engage in crafting, and participate in player-driven events.
  • Mortal Online 2: A first-person, open-world sandbox MMORPG with a focus on realism and player freedom. The game offers a deep crafting system, full-loot PvP, and territorial control, where player actions can have lasting consequences in the world.

EVE Online and Black Desert Online seem to be the consensus candidates, while ArcheAge and Albion Online both got two mentions.  Mortal Online 2 and Screeps both get one vote from the three.

But the surprise suggestion has to be SWGEmu.  I am sure Bree and MJ over at Massively OP would be pleased.