This week, Paizo announced that they’ve licensed their Pathfinder RPG to a company called Goblinworks, with plans to produce a MMORPG. This wouldn’t seem like big news, with the MMORPG so glutted that most games that aren’t called World of Warcraft are actually free to play. But there was a key word, easily overlooked, in that Paizo press release: sandbox.
Over at the nascent Goblinworks web site, the developers describe the game they’re developing like this:
Pathfinder Online is a hybrid sandbox/theme park-style MMO roleplaying game where characters explore, develop, and dominate the River Kingdoms, a treacherous no-man’s-land of squabbling kingdoms on the edge of wilderness. Players explore, adventure, develop, and dominate their domains by playing fighters, rogues, wizards, or any of Pathfinder’s many character types, or they can use the game’s archetype system go beyond the standard options to create nearly any sort of character imaginable.
Pathfinder Online’s robust trading system puts players in control of the world’s economy with player-created items, consumables, fortifications, and settlements. Character-controlled settlements can grow into full-fledged kingdoms that compete for resources as they seek to become the dominant force in the land, raising vast armies to hold their territory against the depredations of monstrous creatures, NPC factions, and other player characters.
Social organizations scale from small parties of a few adventurers to player nations inhabited by thousands. As settlements develop, the surrounding wilderness develops more complex and challenging features, including randomly generated encounters and resources as well as exciting scripted adventures.
That has a lot of promise, and the potential to be something completely different from the “fetch 12 knorlash taints” quests common to pretty much the entire online RPG genre. A world built by the players can be affected by the players. Of course, there needs to be a way to prevent griefing, since a world built by players can be destroyed by other players. A player-managed economy has been the core of EVE’s success and could translate well to a fantasy setting.
That single word, sandbox, has changed my attitude from, “Another fantasy MMORPG? Huh, best of luck to them,” to, “I am very interested in this, please send me your newsletter.”