Monday, February 18, 2013

The eternal question: Sandbox vs. themepark

Lieutenant Morkag-Khor

First, my apologies for not posting sooner, grad school has eaten a large chunk of my playing time. I hope to blog more steadily now and into summertime. Second, I have been following the debate over what elements should be incorporated into the upcoming mmorpg Camelot Unchained by famed DAoC developer Mark Jacobs. In fact, the discussions over whether it's wise that it feature only RvR (3 faction pvp like in DAoC) and gloss over PvE elements has also sparked the old debate of themepark vs. sandbox mmos.

My inbox has been flooded of late from posts and bloggers who have weighed in on the issue, but that's one of the things that I love about playing ddo, Turbine has taken care of making the gameplay radically different than most mmos, but not too different that it won't satisfy a fantasy action junkie like myself. What makes DDO unique in the sandbox vs. themepark debate is that it doesn't neatly fit into any one category.

Since DDO is mostly composed of instanced dungeons with wilderness areas and no significant pvp to speak of, one would be tempted to say that it's mostly a themepark, you do follow a linear pre-designed pattern, i.e. starting off in the Korthos island tutorial and early level content before graduating to Stormreach Harbor. However, DDO has some sandbox elements. For example, you don't have to do quests in order, per se, although I suppose you do if  you want to progress onto capping a character, but seeing as you have relatively more freedom to quest in Stormreach either solo, with a party, or engage in other activities such as collecting, etc, DDO feels less like a linear quest hub to quest hub than World of Warcraft to me.

Last night I decided to finish some of the quests I had not yet completed in both the Harbor and House P. After unsuccessfully going after Lieutenant Morkag-Khor and party wiping in elite in the tear of Dhakaan quest, (we came ever so close) I managed to do a few more quests, including going back to the Harbor to run "Kobolds assault" in elite. Had a blast earning a few more ranks on my warforged Barbarian, which I seem to prefer playing over the spellcaster, mostly because I am still not as adept at wizard game mechanics in ddo. What can I say? I like to wallop stuff in melee.

So say what you will about DDO, but I don't think that I can firmly place it anywhere in the Sandbox-themepark continiuum with absolute certaintity, but I don't think that is at all a bad thing. 

Our party gathers at the Harbor after a long quest chain