Talking with my friend Eric recently, I found myself struggling to vocalize the subtle (but important) differences between two games that seem on the surface to be alike. It led me to consider the distinction between two similar genres.
In the left corner we have Sandbox games, like Grand Theft Auto V and, for relevancy, something like Just Cause 3. In the right corner, we have Open World games, like The Witcher, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout series’. In a broad sense, all of these games are about giving freedom to the player, and creating interesting worlds that are vast and explorable.
The differences between them are more subtle, though. In Sandbox games, the design goal tends to be complete freedom for the player. The gameplay typically encourages non-linear progression, and often results in an experience that is undirected and sometimes get-what-you-put-into-it. In Open World games, there is often a focus on storytelling through the world’s design and objective-based but flexible progression.
In my opinion, although not exclusively true, the Open World genre feels like an evolution of the slightly inferior Sandbox genre. There are definitely examples when this isn’t true, Minecraft being a great example.
[ Today I Was Playing: Towerfall: Ascension and Disney Infinity 2.0 and N++ ]
December 3, 2015