Sandbox Gaming: Too much of something can be a bad thing

“We made a massive map full of interesting things and cool sites to see, how will we get our player to explore?”
“Make them collect 5 of something, over and over again”

This idea was once kept to the boundaries of your typical MMO. Go out see the world and kill x of every animal or being you can find until, eventually the killing for experience stop and the grind for gear began.

Unfortunately the more sandbox games get released the more of a cross over we begin to see.

Its been quite refreshing playing Uncharted 2 over the last month, a game thats driven by story content and the occasional killing spree in an ancient temple. I managed to sink about 8 to 10 hours into the game which for me is a good amount of time. The problem I find with open world games is you never know when to stop the fucking around collecting werewolf dicks and actually put sometime in the story.

Final Fantasy 15 has an interesting approach to the sandbox vs liner gameplay. They essentially split the game up into both categories. The first part of the game sees your driving around with your j-pop boyband – killing the odd monster, collecting the occasion special weapon and upgrading your car. From what I can see none of this seems to be getting your kingdom back its just helping you prepare for the final story.

However even Final Fantasy cannot escape the MMO trope and you soon find yourself killing monsters over and over again for loot and exp, and of course lets not forget collecting things. Earlier Final Fantasies like 7 and 9 had an open world feel to them but managed to avoid the unnecessary repetitive quest approach which seems to be plaguing new sandbox games. Even FF10 which was a much more linear game felt open enough to give you a sense of freedom.

I must admit i managed to spent at least 75 hours in Skyrim and again maybe about 50 hours in fallout 4. A game that in my opinion was incredibly weak. I also managed to spend the equivalent on Witcher 3, again a game i felt was weaker than it previous games simply because it was a sandbox game.

Too much of something can be a bad thing

In all these games i mainly focused on the main story quest and any secondary quest which i can find meaning in, like a little side story. In some cases i get bored of the game long before i even complete it. Too much of something can be a bad thing and this is probably my main issue with sandbox games.

After sinking 45 hours into Final Fantasy XV i managed to make it to chapter 13. At this point i was pretty bored with the game but having read that chapter 13 was just bad, i dragged myself through. Now i’m on the final 3 bosses and to be honest i really don’t give a fuck any more.

Uncharted left me wanting more, so once i completed 2 i moved on to 4 (i’ll go back to 3), however when i complete a sandbox game… well you can’t really, you just get fed up and do the last mission so you can say you sort of finished it.

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Getting back into the controller groove, with the Steam Controller

Recently I picked up a Steam controller and started playing games in front of the TV, not something I have done in a very long time. Being part of the PC master race meant I was anchored to a desk hunched over a keyboard sticky to the touch…  and covered in biscuit crumbs. To the side of it lay my ‘bitchin’ gaming mouse with about three million thumb buttons. Perfect for quick switching weapons in UT or mapping every priest spell from WoW to one thumb.

Taking up a controller for me was like a watchmaker being given an iWatch.

“What the fuck is this handy compact all in one thing where I can just tell the time with out having to configure 8 million different things at once and spend hours calibrating it” – is what I suspect s/he would say.

Its been a slow few weeks with the new Steam Controller, but not for the reasons you might think – after all the controller has been heavily slated. People stating that its difficult to pick up and hard to use. For someone who has been off the controller game for a while I can’t say I noticed, being generally bad with a controller anyway.

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My first experience with my new controller was Skyrim. Unfortunately for me Skyrim has no built in controller support. By default the Steam Controller tries to map to the games Xbox controller settings, since this wasn’t an option with Skyrim the game fell into some kind of half controller half mouse monster. Strangely this worked quite well.

Opening up the controller settings opened up a vast array of customisable options for the controller, you can map any button to any keyboard button and map any of the d-pads (?) to any mouse configurations. They also have an option for user created controller set ups ranked by user approval.

It turned out I wasn’t the only one trying to play Skyrim with the Steam Controller so I opted for the best ranked set-up. This again gave me a mash up of button support with a mouse cursor I could control when it came to the map.

Despite being impressed with the versatility the controller gave me it still failed to come close to ease at which I can play the game with a mouse and keyboard. Despite my lack of “skillz” with a controller it would likely be better for anyone to just play the game with a mouse and keyboard given the lack of native controller support in the game.

Some time later I fired up Witcher 3 on the big screen, having just played the game all the way through with the mouse and keyboard I was interested to see if the controls mapped better on a gamepad. In this scenario the game does indeed play better on a controller, taking into account my obvious keyboard and mouse bias I can see myself becoming more proficient at the game with a controller.

As expected the controller mapped itself over to the native Xbox set up. This unfortunately took longer than expected – basically fuck GoG overlay, and fuck importing game into steam. Its just a massive cluster fuck, after a little bit of googling I managed to fix the issue. So yeah if you have problems with GoG and Steam playing nice, turn off GoG overlay.

Okay lets go back a bit before all the rage. So yes, the controller worked nicely with Witcher, a game with native controller support. The benefit of the steam controller if you can take the default controller set up and fuck around with it, but not just in game. You can fuck around with it on a lower level – okay lets look at an example.

As a rule you want to quick save after every mouse press.

With a controller you lack something all PC loving people can’t live with out – Quick save. As a rule you want to quick save after every mouse press. The problem with a controller is it has no such support. You have to go into a menu and save that way, like a common console player. The Steam controller comes with two back panels which you can map to whatever you like as developer have no use for them since the Xbox controller misses these buttons. So you can straight up map one of them to F5 (Quik save). The other I map to F12 in order to get some sweet arse screen grabs – like this mother fucker:

Is the steam controller worth the money? For me, I’m happy with it. The Steam controller gives you more flexibility over the xbox controller and lets you map any button to your keyboard giving you plenty of control over how you want to play. It even mimics mouse movement pretty well and with further updates I’m sure it will get even better.

Currently using it to work through Firewatch, and everything works. With the added benefit of screen grabs.

 

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