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Sandbox? Virtualization? Freedom? Survival? The term itself is associated with such a lot of meanings. That pretty much sums up what a sandbox game is – a virtual limitless open world where you are free to do your own stuff. We all came to invent a term for these games after the success of Minecraft, which is the “sandbox”. However, in 2016, Minecraft is safely cuddled in Microsoft’s hands, while a plethora of indie devs reinvent the generation of sandbox games with their creative minds.


It all started in 2015 with the release of ARK : Survival Evolved by Studio Wildcard. The game features humans waking up on a mysterious island, which is inhabited by dinosaurs and other extinct creatures, which pose a threat to the presence of humans. Tame the animals, or eradicate them – it’s upto you. You also have the freedom to unleash your creativity by building a variety of bases for yourself (might be a copy from Miecraft, leave these people alone,  they suffered enough in legal lawsuits already).

Closely following up the sandbox genre are survival games (most sandbox titles mentioned have survival elements anyways). These games are more focused on survival , than on creativity. These include DayZ,H1Z1, 7 days to die, The Forest, Escape From Tarkov , etc. A worthy sub-genre is the zombie survival genre, where you inhabit a world infested with zombies. Help other players, or kill them on sight.


Then came the game of Rust, by Facepunch studios, in the same year. Rust offers a bit more independence than ARK (since you won’t have dinos hunting you all the time). Rust is set in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, and although it was supposed to be a zombie survival game, the devs were good enough to tap into the minds of likely buyers and remove the zombie survival theme at the last moment (as if we didn’t have enough DayZ clones already). While the environment poses less trouble, other players certainly do. A toxic community means trolls, jerks, cheaters, and salt – lots of it.


Conan Exiles is a venture to make a survival game with the rich lore of the Conan universe. Funcom Entertainment, the developers being Conan Exiles, is determined to “provide an experience to the player that matters”. Planet Nomads is another title worth watching for. of course, its not like we did not have good space sandbox games (Space Engineers, Empyrion : Galactic Survival, Planet Explorers,etc. Need I say more?) already, but when you add a bit of proper marketing into the mix, the result is that you overshadow the other games and move ahead (this was what attracted the people to the genre in the first place).

Being the early people into the race for reinventing the sandbox genre, these games attracted attention off smaller (but good enough) games like Empyrion: Galactic Survival, Planetary Explorers,etc. Even more devs are looking to tap into the money making venture in the rat race to stay alive in an era where there are more indie Early Access titles on my Steam Discovery Queue than AAA games.


Minecraft clones they might not be,but all of them provide entertainment value of hours (before you decide to get serious with your life,that is). Once a very less explored genre, for fear of buyer disapproval, now a hot destination and a cash cow for many an indie dev.  The bad part is, as most of these titles are early access, devs can stop development,run with the cash that you spent on a half-arsed game, and start another new project (and hence the cycle repeats). However, seeing games that offer you quite a lot of freedom and allowing you to unleash your creativity is quite refreshing.

Where do you stand on the Sandbox? Do you enjoy being left alone and let your mind create emergent gameplay in a barren world. Or do you enjoy the good old days, where games told you what to do, and how to do them, and then you went ahead and did them. Do you think Sandboxes require special efforts from dev, or are they lazily slapped together incomplete games. Let us know what you think in the comments.

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