I am a very active member of the DU community and involved in several different fields. I took part in the Novawrimo contest, collect and write history for the Dual Universe Historical Society and I’m EU diplomat for BOO. I live in Austria (no kangaroos) and enjoy MMOs, tactical shooter and RTS games. For the past 8 years, I have been playing EVE online and it has definitely changed my point of view for MMO’s. Follow me down the break while I share some of my experiences.

As a reminder to the reader: EVE is the only sandbox I played so far with a fully player run economy. That’s why most references will fall back on Eve. This is my personal view and may or may not reflect the opinion of my affiliated organizations or be the truth. It’s just a write-up of my opinion and my truth.

Definition and a little bit of history

It all started with Ultima and Elite; (back in the 90s – where men had long hair, for the young folks) you could roam freely inside the game and ignore the main quest. And many more games were to follow (in no particular order): GTA, Freelancer, X Series, Minecraft, Everquest, WOW, EVE and many,  many more.

But are all of them sandboxes?

Technopedia defines the term like this:

A sandbox is a style of game in which minimal character limitations are placed on the gamer, allowing the gamer to roam and change a virtual world at will. In contrast to a progression-style game, a sandbox game emphasizes roaming and allows a gamer to select tasks. Instead of featuring segmented areas or numbered levels, a sandbox game usually occurs in a “world” to which the gamer has full access from start to finish. A sandbox game is also known as an open-world or free-roaming game.

Yet to me, there is a distinct difference between a sandbox and an open world game.

In a sandbox, you get certain tools at your disposal (=game mechanics) and you have to figure out for yourself what to do with them. There is no correct or wrong way to use those mechanics, there’s only your way of using them.

Take the “margin trading” skill from EVE for example. On level 5 that skill lowers your money in escrow by ~75% on any buy order you set up. So you could set up a buy order of 1 billion ISK, while only having 300 million in your wallet. It’s extremely useful for traders, because they have less money in escrow and can set up way more buy orders for their daily trades. If someone wants to sell to them, then the transaction simply can’t succeed because only 25% are covered – the rest would be taken directly out of your wallet.

Some individuals use this mechanic to scam people. They set up buy orders with ridiculous sums to buy “Item A” (which is usually something every player overlooks and doesn’t know exists or something very popular to make it look less like a scam) while at the same time selling lots of items in a contract where this “Item A” is a part of. As soon as some greedy player, who doesn’t know this scam, buys the whole contract for let’s say 500 million, they think they made a good bargain. They can sell it for 1 billion, right? But that buy order can’t ever be filled, because there isn’t enough money in the escrow or the wallet.

(Editor’s note: confused? So am I, but that’s why it is such a successful scam)

Maybe this isn’t what CCP intended with that skill, but people use it in such a way. This creates immersion and a feeling of a living universe. Because you have to watch closely what you buy and think about it being a good deal, or not. Just like real life.

 

An open world is just that – open. You have game mechanics too, of course, but those are hard boundaries, not tools. In such games, you can’t really do whatever you want. You can avoid the main quests and you can gain levels or gear by exploring the world, but at the end of the day, you need to do the main story arc to proceed or “win” the game. There is always a goal in such games: kill Santa Blanca Cartel, gain level 100 and the uber-mega-super-gear or be #1 in some ranked battles.

No such thing exists in a sandbox – you can’t win, there is no goal, there is no “final”  enemy.

Playing the game and finding your style

The answer to “How to find your playstyle” is pretty easy to me, just play the game and don’t be afraid to test new things and dip your toes into unknown waters. If EVE did teach me some things, then it is:

Get off your lazy ass and dive into a new world full of wonderful and exciting places.

Many players out there enjoy Minecraft and just build enormous palaces, monuments and even ships from various genres. Since I never played Minecraft I can’t really guess their motive for doing so, but as I played Empyrion and Space Engineers I can tell it’s fun to design a new ship. To try it out, see how it works and remake it. Competition is key to me. I wouldn’t change a ship’s design only for its looks. I’d only change it once it doesn’t work anymore in battle because it gets shut down too often. Maybe the core or the engines are too exposed or it can’t defend itself well against smaller ships – I’m focused on PvP.

Others just love to design ships and make them work with minimal crew or elements, others like to design “realistic” ships – neither of those mindsets is better or worse than others, just different.

The answer to “How to find your playstyle” is pretty easy to me, just play the game and don’t be afraid to test new things and dip your toes into unknown waters. If EVE did teach me some things, then it is:

Get off your lazy ass and dive into a new world full of wonderful and exciting places.

If you never actually tried different things in a sandbox, you miss a lot of deep gameplay. You just can’t outright condemn other playstyles you don’t agree with if you never actually tried to think outside your bubble and tried it. This is also true for PvP players, pirates, scammers and everyone who is generally regarded as “the bad guy”.

We all want to flee reality for some hours and want to enjoy the game, but especially in a sandbox, this isn’t quite as easy for everyone. Some lack creativity and they only play in one certain area or field of a sandbox and go blind or ignorant of others. What happens there is bad for the community as a whole and causes drama and grief. Even peaceful miners and builders can cause a lot of that in a community – simply by not accepting the game as it is. Don’t get me wrong here: I’m all in for giving reasonable feedback and improving the game for everyone – I’m just against people complaining about certain mechanics which work as intended, only because they think it’s unfair or can’t accept the most basic core mechanics.

 

The main point, in my honest opinion, why ‘newbros’ leave EVE after some days or weeks is not the steep learning curve or the (to some people) “toxic” community – but their lack of curiosity. They start in ‘high-security’ space and do the tutorial, some missions and start as miners or mission runners. With new ships come new weapons and harder missions and at some point, they get ganked and lose their most valuable ship, maybe more than once. They play mostly alone or with a friend or two and hardly any of those ‘newbros’ actually try new things. Like, going to low sec, going to null sec, jumping into a wormhole, getting involved in the markets, ganking people yourself or becoming a pirate and getting involved in PvP.

Curiosity (and knowing that in the worst case you only lose your ship and gear) is the most important driving factor in a sandbox. If you do the same thing every day for hours, you’ll end up unsubbing because it gets boring after a while and the game won’t tell you what to do next. You have to find your own goals, your own enemies, your own “raids or instances”, your own amusement.

Dual Universe is merely a tool you have to use in order to write your own history inside the game.

Why DU needs ALL of those playstyles & conclusion

This one is pretty easy; because it would be boring.

If everyone was a pirate, miner, builder, explorer or citizen of a nation: law abiding, chaotic, (enter random words of different mindsets or playstyles here) then nothing would happen at all. There would be a standstill – nothing would ever happen.

  • Miners wouldn’t be able to sell their minerals
  • Builders wouldn’t be able to sell their constructs
  • Citizen of a nation wouldn’t be able to defend their borders
  • Pirates wouldn’t be able to steal cargo

And the list continues.

I want to live in a Dual Universe, where nations strive to prosper, explorers venture into deep space to find new resources and mercenaries patrol a planet.

Where the police control ships going through a checkpoint, pirates attack convoys, refugees fleeing a planet under siege. Invasion troops landing near a base while fighter squadrons and battleships dogfight in the sky, some random dude falls into a hidden base and starts exploring it,…

 

So, before you hate others in the DU community because they just play the same game very differently compared to you – relax, try to understand why they do this and smile. You can get your revenge in-game on the next battlefield

 

For I,

am Lethys

 

PS. For all fans of epic videos: