I don’t like Minecraft. That’s made me a bit of a pariah among certain gaming circles, but there it is. I don’t like Minecraft. I get it, it’s a perfectly fine game, and I understand why so many other people like, or even love, it. For me the, there’s basically no reason to play it.
The problem is a lack of a point. Minecraft offers you this huge host of options and gives you one of the best toolboxes ever created. It then asks you to craft your own place in a world, or even your world entirely. Want to build a castle? Build a castle. Want to build a dungeon full of traps? Sure, do that. Want to build a massive machine that mines and collects resources so you don’t have to? That can happen. But to what end? For a lot of people, those are ends unto themselves, but for me, it’s just not enough.
This is a long, roundabout way for me to get to the point of this little article. I would love for a developer to make a deep, enticing, survival sandbox. And, because I enjoy the genre so much, I would love for it to be about zombies.
Now before anyone madly tries to send me a message and tell me about H1Z1, 7 Days to Die, or Day-Z, I want to assure you I know those games, and others like them, exist. But those games don’t really hit the mark of what I want. Those games, consistently, are about: constantly finding the necessary resources to survive, building a shelter to help fend off against zombies and other players, and crafting components into more impressive weapons and tools and habitats
There are certainly elements in there that I like, but never the whole package. I’m looking for a game that gives me a few key things, which I’ll explain in a moment. I want basic survival to be an important factor, but balanced appropriately so that it is easier to manage as time goes on. I want the world to be interesting and diverse, with different environments and locations that offer me a reason to go there, such as rare resources or NPC diversion. I want an investing multiplayer experience that is cooperative, not competitive.
Plenty of games have previously done survival well. The key is having a limited amount of resources in a world where said resources are at a premium. This can be anything from bullets to food and water, and the game I’m looking for here includes both of those. You’re constantly struggling to find these resources in a world that necessitates their use to survive.
It’s an important balancing act that’ll give the game a great curve. Early on a huge emphasis will be placed on food and water, as you need them to survive. You’ll start with scavenging and perhaps hunting, but as the game goes by you’ll find renewable ways to gather these. Maybe you farm or build a reservoir. Maybe you collect valuables and trade from NPCs. Maybe you just find a heaping horde of it, or even steal them to survive.
Regardless, the point is that it starts with a focus on these resources and builds into a dynamic evolution of them. You need water, then food, then weapons, then rarer components you can use for more complicated tasks or constructions, and construction is important. I want to be able to build a base. An important balance needs to be struck between breadth and depth, though. 7 Days to Die, for example, has all of these, but gives far too many options in a somewhat clunky system. Subnautica, by comparison, hits the vibe I’m looking for pretty much on the head.
As for an interesting world, this is something a lot of games similar to what I’m describing have trouble with. I want to be invested in this world. I want to want to go out and explore it. To this end, I want NPCs and I want them to be varied in how I can interact with them. Roving bandits, bandit gangs, other survivors, entire settlements. I should be able to trade with them, steal from them, talk to them, fight and kill them, and sometimes I want to HAVE to defend myself from them.
And I don’t want them to be other players. Other players don’t add to the experience in the way I’m looking for. They don’t act like survivors in a zombie apocalypse, they act like people playing a video game. It’ll take me out of the game and make me act in a way I don’t want to. More than that, I want the world to be full of the remnants of the past. The Fallout franchise has always done this amazingly well; they fill the world with the aftermath of stories and leave it up to you to figure out what happened.
These different metanarrative components can all tie together to deliver varied story experiences. There wouldn’t be a main quest or a linear progression, but a world full of opportunities that you interact with in a natural and flowing way.
As I stated, I don’t want to have to compete with other players. I don’t want another person shooting me with an assault rifle when I’m still trying construct a bow, and I don’t want to have to worry about a savvy player killing me while I’m sleeping in my base.
But I do want other players in my game. Specifically, I want the option of having one or more other players in the game with me working together towards the same ends. My buddy and I could work together to scout and scavenge, have each other’s back in a tight spot, work through conversations with NPCs differently. It would be dynamic and utterly enthralling to share the experience.
And there. That’s it. Wouldn’t that be incredibly fun? I certainly think it would be. You’d be living in this exciting and interesting world. You’re working to live, making it from day to day, fighting off hunger and thirst and the never ending tide of undead. You can go out explore and discover and learn, all while seeking to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish. Live from day to day? Become a bounty hunter? Bandit lord? Psycho killer? Farmer? All of those would be options to you!
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this wouldn’t be fun at all, or maybe it’s just not workable as a game. But I don’t think so. I think lots of games have come remarkably close to what I’m talking about, and I would love to see it end up coming to fruition. Because if a developer made a game like this, that actually pulled off even most of these things?
I’d buy it.