Sony Online Entertainment boss John Smedley has said the publisher wants to move away from a content-driven model to more sandbox-style games, where player-created, emergent experience rule.
In a new blog post, Smedley said SOE believes it’s smarter to get on board the sandbox bandwagon now rather than wait.
“We want to innovate and let players be a part of everything we do including make the game in the first place. We’re going to take the idea of sandbox gaming and we’re putting it at the core of everything we’re doing,” he said.
“We’ll obviously still be making awesome stuff for players to do, but we’re going to aim very high in terms of letting players be a part of the game systems. The more emergent sandbox style content we can make the less predictable the experience will be.”
Smedley gave some examples of MMOs with emergent content, both from SOE and its competitors, including Planetside 2 and Everquest’s Battlegrounds, auction house, Lord of the Rings Online’s music system, and Star Wars Galaxies’ storytelling tools.
“There’s a great example of this today with Eve Online. It’s a brilliantly executed system where the players are pretty much in charge of the entire game,” he added.
“Sure there is a lot of content for players to do, but anything that’s important in the game is done by the players. This is a shining example of how this kind of system can thrive.”
Games that follow the content-driven model, where developers create everything players experience, require “deep pockets” to fund, Smedley said. He said traditional MMOs like Star Wars: The Old Republic rapidly run out of content, and predicted The Elder Scrolls Online may suffer a similar fate.
Smedley’s vision include things like a city MMO where players run all the guild and hold all elected positions – and notably where players never run out of things to do, and where the gameplay experience cannot be fully summarised in a play guide.
Sony Online Entertainment is currently testing EverQuest Next – Landmark, a sandbox world builder which will eventually provide assets for EverQuest Next itself.