PC Gaming

The Repopulation: Crafting in the Sandbox

I know next to nothing about The Repopulation.  I haven’t heard about it at all, and the only reason I saw this video in particular is because it was linked to me along with a brief discussion about sandbox tradeskills.

From what I have learned thus far, The Repopulation is a science fiction MMO currently being kickstarted.  Where as many MMOs lean overwhelmingly toward being a sandbox or theme park-style game, The Repopulation is a “sand park” or a hybrid of the two.  The game features player-created factions with player-created cities, an astounding amount of skills to back up its skill-based gameplay, and it even allows for players to specialize in non-combative roles in ways not often seen in current MMOs.

I won’t lie.  I like a lot of what I have seen on their Kickstarter page, and it definitely has me interested.  But, I am really worried that they are trying to do far too much.  There been a lot of news lately about how many Kickstarter games fail to make it to fruition, and how even with a surplus of consumer goodwill they are still really expensive to fund independent of the big publishers.

I cannot imagine this is any less of the case when it comes to building a MMO of this scope and size.

And that is what worries me the most about The Repopulation: its scope.  I love the idea of player run factions controlling player run cities that can fight with other player factions.  That is exactly the sort of open pvp combat I want to see more of (as opposed just 100% set factions locked in eternally instanced arenas).  Coming from a Ultima Online background, I also really appreciate the attention and love for crafters out there.  I’ve played my share of combat-stupid characters in UO, and it really can be pretty intense to get your mine on when enemy players are around.

Most of all though, this video worries me. I never got into Star Wars Galaxies, but I do know it had a lot of potential skills and skill combinations.  The amount of trade skills alone featured in this video astounds me, and not because I am used to World of Warcraft’s approach.  It really seems like far too many.  Again, I am ignorant of the skill system for The Repopulation, but I hate the tendency of sandbox games to go overboard in just how focused and specific you can make a character. Sure, it is awesome to make that skillet-master chef/ninja star throwing/holy knight looking/stock broker, but that sort of lackadaisical gameplay design ruins the fun for me.

The biggest balancing act you have to strike in a sandbox game, especially one that is a skill-based game, is the balancing of flavor and world integration with solid gameplay design.  For example, Minecraft would probably be fun with a little better character specialization.  I am not sure how I would exactly split the gameplay up to make that happen, but I could see a Minecraft game with some vague sense of jobs or classes.  Terraria, on the other hand, always struck me as a really good balance.  You could tailor your character’s gear (once you found/made it) pretty specifically to one of three overall gameplay-styles.

Whether this game will work or not, it is definitely one to pay attention to.  There is enough potential innovation here for the genre that even an absolute failure could produce some really cool, fun, and interesting gameplay systems that could be utilized in a more specialized game.  But as long as the Kickstarter sells me the game as an open pvp, closed mission, city-building, nation destroying, crafting heavy, Pokemon game I will remain skeptical.

But if that sounds awesome to you, please visit their Kickstarter page and throw your money in.  It can’t hurt, we need more indie sandbox MMOs.


One thought on “The Repopulation: Crafting in the Sandbox

  1. Holy complexity, Batman!

    I started the video thinking, “nice, a sort of ‘blueprint’ based crafting system with various qualities of items, similar to SWG!” and by 5:30 I needed 3 separate spreadsheets to keep track of what was going on.

    There’s a significant difference between ‘difficulty’ and ‘complexity’. They’re not the same. The rule of ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ applies here, where complexity refers to learning, and difficulty refers to mastering. This one appears to be going the route of ‘hard to learn, requires a cursory introduction to statistics to master’.

    My sort of difficulty comes through strategy, not through min/maxing or theorycrafting to figure out the difference between an A8 and an A9 item. There’s some fun to it, and a few people really love this stuff. But the more numbercrunching involved, the more balance it requires. The more balance it requires, the more likely the developers will screw things up and people will complain.

    Other aspects of ‘The Repopulation’ look great! Looks polished up nicely.

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