The Daily Grind: Which multiplayer survival sandbox is the most like an MMORPG?

A week or so ago, I took an ARK: Survival Evolved post out of our newsroom to write up, expecting something mundane. I’m an MMORPG player, after all; survival sandboxes look cool, but most give off the same non-persistent, ephemeral, could-fail-at-any-time vibe as emulators, especially the player-hosted ones for games in eternal early access, so I’ve always stayed away. But ARK has put a lot of effort (and cash) into cultivating incredibly high-quality mods, and that’s what got my attention and made me glad I’d taken the post: An auction house mod in the game seems like exactly the sort of thing that helps this subgenre turn the corner from “everybody haplessly running around naked killing dinos and each other with crappy axes” to genuine persistence and social tools and server anchors. Far more than construction projects that you’re really only building to function as content for somebody else to tear down, anyway.

Let’s say I’m looking for a good multiplayer survival sandbox — MJ’s put together several lists for her new column already to choose from. But which one do you think is the most like an MMORPG and would most appeal to an MMORPG-first type of gamer — and why?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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39 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Which multiplayer survival sandbox is the most like an MMORPG?"

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steve

As Miol wrote below, ARK is the closest I’ve seen in some respects.

Though ‘seamless worlds’ is an element of modern MMO design, it doesn’t define the MMO genre and the ARK officials allow you to move players and material from map to map. Zone control is a thing, with ever-larger and more organized groups working to control those maps. Thousands of players existing across multiple zone maps makes it an MMO as much as EQ.

To those who point out that a single map can’t handle more than 60 players without problems I counter that no MMO really handles that sort of thing very well and never has.

What benefit do you have in an MMO where thousands of players are sharing the same space without any need to interact? When I moved to WoW I found myself interacting with fewer people in any meaningful way. For all the security that came with not having others impact your gameplay we lost the things that addicted me to the genre in the first place.

I used to know people by name in EQ. I knew their reputations, and grew to know many of them as people and not just a means to complete some single-serving instance. ARK, even on our little Massively server brought that back and with it a wealth of interaction that no daily quest or LFG queue could replicate.

There are many here who dismiss the survival genre, and I hold no animosity toward people who enjoy their time in a themepark or sporting arena, but for me there is no greater incentive to play than to be able to meet others and help or be helped by those who know my name. That’s what makes me want to grind out thousands of hours, and the survival genre has taken up that mantle the themeparks left by the wayside.

That’s the promise of what Landmark could have been. Zones or servers each with an individual history of villainy and altruism, populated by real people and not just single-serving interactions measured by DPS meters or how fast the run is completed.

I cannot believe that virtual worlds and identity has been lost, never to be seen again. Most of you may no longer have time for that, but others will and do, and even if most people play themeparks or move into lobby-based sports arenas I know there will always be Odds out there who want a real community and a living, breathing online world.

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Johnny

The definition of MMO does not loosen or change because you don’t find use in thousands of people sharing the same space. Its simply a descriptor. The way you talk about it makes me believe you feel MMO should stand for more than massively multiplayer online. Well, it doesn’t and it shouldn’t.

miol
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miol

Aren’t you late for the party, repeating the same answer every time everywhere?! o.O

miol
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miol

Couldn’t agree more! /hat tip

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Bionicall

In my opinion, one of the defining characteristics of the MMORPG genre, is the ‘R’, a role that we are playing. So potentially the survival sandbox that fits this is Space Engineers. Simply for the fact that you are taking on the role of an ‘Engineer’.

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Johnny

That would mean you are focusing on RPG. The MMO part is useless to you. MMO only stands for massively multiplayer online. Space Engineers gives no one that feeling as you never see that many people in game.

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Bionicall

Your mileage may vary. My experiences playing space engineers have been with a dedicated group, all talking at least. That has been way more interactive and massively multiplayer than anything I have played in years.

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flying_dutchman

In someways they are more MMORPG than alot of MMO’s. Farming goblins endlessly to get an extra +1% attack damage don’t make a game an MMO. Alot of Survival games have created pretty awesome environments that gives players a ton of freedom to play as they want. I remember when ARK first came out and all the other tribes on the island were playing politics and back-stabbing each other. Too me that’s more of an Awesome MMORPG moment than downing another crappy raid boss. It’s actual interaction with humans in a virtual world, where consequences matter and decisions shape the game-world.

The fact most survival games turn into KOS gank-boxes, says a lot more about people than it does about the games.

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Johnny

Its literally impossible to have an MMO moment outside of an MMO. Because if it was an MMO moment you would have been sharing space with a massive amount of other players. If you only shared space with 16, its not an MMO moment. Just a plain old multiplayer game moment.

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Dug From The Earth

None of them are even close to an mmorpg.

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mysecretid

This is a really good question — but I haven’t played enough sandboxes myself to answer it.

I’ll be curious to see what other Massively posters have to say here …

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enamel

Exiled mod for Arma is probably the closest one for me. It has persistent housing in the world, a central safe zone for trading and the game loop involves farming items to sell for gold (credits). You go out into the world and gather items, take them back to the central zone and sell them for cash, then you can trade with other players or buy and sell directly from the NPC traders.

The big feature it is missing is character progression ala RPGs, but has a ton of player skill progression. Also small server sizes, up to 100 players, but this is probably more than the amount of players in a single instance at once in a modern MMO.

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Robert Mann

Wait, you think an AH will… generate persistence and social tools? It’s the exact thing that keeps trade gameplay from really mattering, outside “I have all this gold!” epeen.

No, an AH won’t do that. It provides no more reason to care about others, and in fact it probably makes it just that much easier for the scum to go running over, get their hands on something potent, and go attack people with little to no chance of fighting back effectively.

If you want something more or less like most MMORPGs you are… well, looking at the wrong type of game right now. Simply put the entire idea in most of them is different from what you will find throughout the MMORPG genre. Some of that is good (open world housing, trade, more comple/deep systems outside combat) and some of it is bad or potentially bad (open PvP, full loot, longer reward timeframes for things other than attacking people who have little to no chance of fighting back effectively.)

Simply put, there are some people who like the current primary design and push for it… and then there’s the rest of us who want something deeper still, with rules that actually push persistence and social interactions beyond “I killzor you, lolz!” There are a few ideas there with some promise… but they aren’t really fully fleshed out yet.

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Rheem Octuris

Crowfall is a survival sandbox MMORPG, if you think about it.

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Rottenrotny

Survivals sandboxes for me kind of go like this:

Log in and create a character.
Enter the world and figure things out.
Level and or build some stuff.
Repeat.
Ok this is pretty cool now what?
Oh, so there’s nothing else unless I want to go ganking?
Logout

They all feel like I’m playing the starter zone of an MMO + building stuff… forever.
I like it for the first little while but eventually they all end up seemingly giving me the same impression… that they’re not done.
Player generated combat (PVP) isn’t enough to keep me playing.
Devs need to add lots and lots of more MMO-y PVE elements like quests, NPCs, towns, dungeons, epic/elite/world boss type mobs. The open world zones are great, but they need to be 10x+ as big while remaining completely uninstanced/unphased.
As they are, there’s not a single Survival Sandbox that will keep my attention for more than a couple/few days and so I’m not purchasing any for the foreseeable future.

malrats
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malrats

These days it’s so common to only see a few people at a time in a MMO. So I’d say that any survival game that can surpass that is worthy of the “massive” name in some way. MMOs and their instancing mostly all feel like single player RPGs without the great storytelling and some occasional forced grouping and people you may encounter.

I’ll never really FEEL an MMO again until I’m running around a beautiful world, happen upon some new dungeon, and to my surprise find dozens of other players camping out inside.

Yeah, I got my start in EverQuest long ago. ;)

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Johnny

The MMO definition doesn’t change because you don’t experience it often.

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Robert Mann

That, and a reason to care. The modern harvest of ‘MMOs’ leaves me running by people, or people running by me, and the only time they matter to me is if they happen to be a jerk or want help (I’m pretty open about helping people out, grouping up, answering questions, etc.)

Sadly, this leaves the world feeling like nothing more than a solo RPG with random NPCs running by doing things 99.99% of the time. The lack of other people mattering in terms of the world around us is glaring.