Sandbox mode (as another DLC?)

#1

After registering in forum this topic has become one of first, I’ve read:


I disagree with OP in many aspects, but as many other readers of that thread, I liked the content of first two sentences. Well, mostly. So, I thought about getting my thoughts straight and written in separate thread.

Let’s start from the beginning. KCD is an openworld RPG game. We like such games for the element of sandbox - you get the whole world to your services soon after start, and can do whatever you want (restricted by game mechanics but hey, that’s pretty much anyway). Now and later I’m going to compare the game with Elder Scrolls series and Fallout (new ones), because that are one of few other games in pretty similar genre and gameplay concept, I had experience with.

One of main problems of sandbox RPGs is time restriction - or maybe it will be correct to say “feel of time restriction”. Usually in such games we have some main quest line to drive our character - and that is cool, until we want to dive in daily routine of wandering around the world, completing side quests, crafting and etc. Actually, noone hurries us, but it feels weird to hunt for loot and treasures, when according to main story your character has some serious (at least for himself) obligations. It wasn’t that bad in Oblivion and Skyrim, where main story stuff happened step by step and, well, from RP perspective you couldn’t do much with this (as both opening Oblivion gates and dragon attacks do not depend on protagonist actions - if we do not look into game mechanic, just analyze general ingame situation) so you could afford yourself to deviate to other activities. Fallout 4 on the other hand demonstrated how you shouldn’t make main quests - and a father/mother, who looks for lost son in post-nuclear wasteland, actually don’t give a f*** and wanders around for weeks and months without purpose, just looking for crafting resources and expensive loot. Damn, they should have just killed the boy in prologue and that would be better motivation - simple revenge, that is not something you would hurry with normaly when finding yourself in the new unknown world. Well, good example is Fallout New Vegas, where you have revenge motivation, which doesn’t make you really hurry - taking into account that your charater got shot in his head and partial amnesia as a consequence, so it is normal that he will explore and hunt for resources which could help him in his main mission.

The fact that it is not just a marginal minority, who feel themselves weird about playing sandbox and not beelining main story (as their character should have sometimes) is proven by existence of “alternative start” mods for Elder Scrolls and Fallout series. Some players tend to like gameplay mechanics and the setting but they don’t want to be the center of the game world. Just some random noname guy/girl who wanders here and there while stuff of world importance happens somewhere else (or not happens at all).

Ok, back to KCD. Our protagonist here is a blacksmith’s sone who is driven by wish to avenge his parents and return the last sword, made by his father, to his master. So motivation is more or less good, can’t say anything here. But, here comes the immersion problem - quests or the main line do not hurry you to complete them, but from RP perspective you would want to complete them as soon as possible. Henry is awake in the mill - time to report to Radzig about the sword, Henry got lesson from the captain - and strict order to report for duty as a town guard, get equipment - and go in patrol just “right now”, Henry beats Hans Capon in the tavern - and gets order to go with him for hunting, so it is logical to assume, that you will execute that order just the next day, and so on with every other quest of the main story… It is not bad that you are not forced to follow that quests as soon as you get them, but if you deviate for some really long time - it simply feels weird. Roleplay, you know.

So, here comes for the rescue the same concept of “alternative start”: give the player a character without past (partial amnesia could help), any important connections with other persons in the world, no main story or anything. Just you in the open from the start world of Bohemia in 1403. Same mechanics, same sidequests, just no main storyline. How could it work?

1) The world: we can simply take post-Skalitz state of affairs as the start. Same stuff happens (in game mechanic - not happens, but who cares) all around, but this time it is mostly not our concern. We solve our simple problems: what will we eat today and where will we sleep.

2) Story: you don’t actually need well developed story for sandbox. But, some starting background could be useful. So, we can minimize changes and take “Skalitz refugee” variant. It is optimal for a sandbox start - because in the time game takes place you can’t just run from your everyday duties if you are a peasant, and if you did - and took path of bandit or a poacher, you are an outlaw and not very welcomed in the cities. Role of burgher is kind of too weird to make - okay, you have home, and some work to make a living, but it is hard to justify, why in the name of gods you leave safety of city walls to wander in the world filled with bandits, cumans, marauders and such. As a noble, well, you have a lot of obligations and will be actively involved into political events, so, not great to make too - we return to the same problem, we tried to get out of.

So, yes, refugee. Poor, having no home (old one in Skalitz is destroyed), just an improvised bed in the refugee camp to start with. Motivation? Motivation is simple: survival. You don’t care about political stuff, who fights whom and such, you don’t want revenge because have no idea, whom to address it to just as have zero opportunities for it. So, yes, survuval. In theory you have a master, Radzig, but what is really good in refugee start - Radzig is not in the situation to care about your disappearing as he won’t even know about the fact of your existence to start with. And noone care, so from immersion point you don’t have any problems with doing whatever you want.

3) Quests: in vanilla KCD a lot of sidequests are somehow tied to the story of main character - for example, we get into criminal world of millers simply because we owe money for own healing. Also, we wake up in the Peshek’s mill, and he thinks that we are more or less a person who can be trusted with delicate affairs. But, if we start as a refugee, we lose roleplay ability to get a lot of quests, because noone in the sane mind will give us some really important task - just because of how we look (not great at all).

So, new paths to drive player into the world out of Rattay walls have to be created. How can this work: we wander around town and hear random people speaking with each other about random stuff. Near tavern someone gossips about millers who are suspiciously rich so they possible somehow connected with the thievery - we hear this and get the sidequest to check Peshek and ask for some work of “delicate nature”. And hey, he gives us the chance with the same quest with the ring and executioner, and well, you know, what will happen later. Another dialogue about war, roaming all around Bohemia and how unsafe are the roads - and our protagonist gets the brilliant idea to try the “career” of marauder or even bandit, robbing random people on the roads. Someone speaks about recent execution of the poacher - “hmm, what actually am I going to lose if I try?” Local alchemist needs some herbs - looks simple to look for some in the nearby forests (and it is also damn leagal - to start with). Well, you get the general idea - couple of dialogues here and there, and so our character decides to leave the relative safety of town walls and bet own life on opportunity to make more money than just by begging or beating other refugees/beggars for bets (because town folk won’t fight with us in our current state).

Main feature of “sandbox” mode as how I see it is that there is no such thing as “main quest” there. All quests have the status of sidequests. You find them, complete them, look for new work. Or don’t look - and just hunt, loot bandits, search for herbs and practice alchemy. It is KCD after all - and you have a lot of things to do there to make a living. And without obligations of avenging your family and serving your master, the way how you make a living is restricted only by your fantasy.

Some of the main story quests from vanilla can be given to us in the “sandbox” mode as same sidequests. Simple job for money - which can be given to us if we have right reputation. A lot of stuff in vanilla that Henry does, could just as well be given to random hired sword - because why not. So, if we assume that we play in the world where Henry never existed or got himself killed or just doing something else, why won’t WE do some job for searching bandits who razed the stud farm in Neuhof or scout their main camp in Pribyslavitz… Well, you get the idea. Radzig (and not only he) has certain lack of men, who know how to hold the sword, so I don’t think, he would refuse suggestion to get another more or less experienced mercenary from time to time. Of course, not all main quests could be re-used this way, but some certainly could, so why not. Who wouldn’t want to drink again with Father Godwin - the best priest, I’ve ever met.

4) Reputation: assuming that we don’t have same plot armor as vanilla Henry - we are NOT him, we have to behave properly, taking into account our status. What could do some blacksmith’s (or not exactly…) son, working for a noble as a warrior and just person for various tasks, we as a starting beggar can’t afford. At least, at the start of game. But, as we all know, clothes make the man. So, if we don’t want to be treated as a beggar, maybe we shouldn’t look (and act) like one?

So, how I see it: clothes importance should be increased, with some effect, defining as whom do you look right now. Like: beggar, burgher, hunter, marauder, trader, nobleman, wandering knight… Some works (and so, quests) can be given only to the person looking as someone else - or at least, better than beggar. More perks for improving disguise and actor abilities of character could be pretty helpful here - just as placing more skillchecks all around the world. Reading can also become even more important in this aspect - when you are definitely going to be in the need for more knowledge of different professions and social statuses to look like anyone, you are not really. Because, you really don’t want to explain to the town guards, why exactly you are dressed as a rich merchant or noble, while you obviously not some. Maybe you are a looter and should be punished… Wait, is this blood on your clothes?

Imagine oportunities which such system opens for a high level character - he can enter the castle as a noble guest (fake one, and it is some real crime, but, you know - high risks, high stakes) and then steal everything he can reach. Or, you can try some thievery in the homes of commoners - and then dress up as a noble to avoid checking up from the town guards, if you have high level speech skill (otherwise, effect will be quite the contrary of expected).

The perk from the stealth line for common face (or smth like that, don’t know how it named in English - I play with Russian loc) could help a lot with the fact that someone in the town/village could see the suspicious evolution of our social status. Like, really, today we are a merchant, tomorrow - mercenary, next day - some noble from somewhere out of Bohemia and etc… Reputation in each settlement can be tied to “personality” they saw there - and the memory of us in certain role will be slowly (or not) decay until we either refresh it with the visit, some talks here and there and such, or being completely forgotten so we can try being someone else. If you don’t care much about playing roles with some shadowy intents, you can simply dress as you like and be a random burgher/mercenary by default - social statuses without many benefits but also not many disadvantages.

About influence of reputation on the prices: sure, if the merchant doesn’t know us, or we don’t look like the person who could obtain good, we sell, in some more or less legal means, he won’t give us a lot. But, if we are more or less known in the town/village, and have more or less good reputation, price will increase - not drastically, after all we want to fight the not very immersive fact that every beggar can come out of the town, loot some random unlucky bandit or simply wanderer - and get money for weeks to live.

5) Character creation: ah, finally the most tricky part… Well, I’d not expect to get highly customizable system of creating any person you could ever wish, “a-la Skyrim/Fallout 4”. A lot of resources to waste on this - not a DLC level already, something more for KCD2 (or 3 - well, the one, where we won’t play as Henry). So, here come some options…

First one is simple: we play as same Henry, or it may be correct to say, as person who looks like Henry. And has his voice… And name… Okay, we play as Henry, but we ARE not involved in main story line this time (because of the lack of any…) in some other way than we are a random refugee in Rattay now and noone cares about us. So, it is “alternative timeline” where Henry is really a blacksmith’s son and never thinks about unpractical stuff as avenging parents and such - because he can’t do anything, and never seen the face of guy to raze Skalitz, and never lost the sword, and have more important things to do, like you know, survive.

Second is more complicated: creating a small preset of faces and voices to chose from. Some variety, but need to write from scratch more sound for dialogues… is not very optimal. Also, we will anyway play as some Bohemian guy - simply because for a girl our survivalist career will look really weird if we speak about RP. And ability to roleplay as some random wench somewhere is funny but don’t think that it’s going to be something really popular or replayable. Make fun and create couple of Youtube videos - maybe, but does such outcome really worth time and resources…

Conclusion: So, yep, somehow like that… Feel free to comment and post your ideas on the topic: I’ve also posted this as an experiment about how many people could also be interested in such “simple” sandbox, made out of existing game world and story with minimal changes. As I’m new in this forum, I have no idea about how feedback and massive reaction of players affects devs - but experience of discussions in “paradoxplaza” keeps me sort of optimistic.

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Any chances to possible expansion of the game?
#2

No time to read your first post in full and give if proper digestion, but I wanted to jump in here and say: YES! A “Sandbox Mode DLC” sounds brilliant!

Will respond more substantively later, but I have a tendency to be patronizing and long winded so I’ll actually try to hold back till others have weighed in . . .

#3

The basic premise of a sandbox was one of the Kickstarter targets. I certainly would be willing to pay $20-30 (maybe more) for a sandbox.

There are lots of different ways it could be done. For me, the coup de grace would be the ability to initiate battles with some configurability over the combatants (pick blend of pikemen, archers, swords/axemen etc) and with some variability in location (no static battle spawn points; harvested them to point of satiety)

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#4

Well, I used term “sandbox” more in the usual RPG meaning of “get into the open world and entertain yourself” . Basically, just same KCD (to save devs’ time and effort: the simpler is solution - more chance to get something in the final) with slightly different start to eliminate the feel of world spinning around protagonist, some of his plot armor, and give player more feel of freedom. If the same could be done with mods, I’d not bother with such suggestion, because something more or less similar would have already existed.

Creating own warband could be interesting mechanic, but, on the other hand it eliminates the risk of meeting “too many” bandits - which is the entertainment of it’s own. The fact that you can be attacked in fixed places is sad, true, but how to avoid this? Add random wandering enemies all around the roads and forests (not many to avoid game turning into some slasher)? Well, maybe.

I’m also interested in getting more perks and maybe new skills to develop - like mentioned disguise and acting. Could be even greater, if they were added to also base story, not just into sandbox mode. And just the amount of situations, you can create out of this - kill the watchman near enemy camp (another stealth ability for making some quiet noise to carefully lead enemy further from his friends could be useful), dress as him, openly enter the camp, poison food, leave before anyone gets that your face doesn’t look very familiar.

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#5

Bastards appears to be a variety of this

Not really. The number of enemy (bandit/Cuman) NPCs encountered could vary in size from 2x (or more) to 1/2x the size of your squad. Part of the interest would be in dealing with the variability. Do you avoid conflict to live another day, do you try to thin them down (eg with ranged attacks), do you just smash them (eg with heavy armor and axemen), etc?

The choices you make as leader of the squad (# of pikemen vs axemen vs swordsmen vs archers vs macemen) influence the dynamics of the battle. Obviously can’t use ranged attacks to thin the enemy ranks if you didn’t designate anyone as an archer. Etc

PS4 mods for FO4 don’t permit scripting and outside assets, but wandering NPC mods are some of my favorite. If severely limited modders can do so, them WH can do far better

As it is, some of the battle spawn point NPCs wander (for a while) after their battle resolves. Had a bandit walk from bandit camp spawn point W of Ledetchko to the Ledetchko blacksmith

#6

I’ve continued thinking about character creation for the “sandbox” and decided that “refugee scenario” allows some freedoms in the past of our protagonist, which some players could be interested in more than just “hey, we are really just the already dead blacksmith’s son, and now forget about this totaly unimportant information”. Let’s take a look at how I see possible start.

1. Pre-defined past: You are from Skalitz. You have nearly got killed in the attack on it, was brought by someone to the castle being unconscious - then in the same state was moved to Rattay by some good christian. You wake in the refugee camp soon after arrival, feel yourself like shit, and suffer from partial amnesia. So, summing all this up - you are not completely “a man without past” Elder Scrolls style, but technically as good as one. Noname without anything to lose. And noone gives a f*** about fact of your existence.

2. Variables: even if default Henry’s face and voice would be used for the protagonist of “sandbox” to minimize changes (after all, in my concept this is just KCD without main story and actual end of the game), it is not obligatory to copy his past in every detail. So, you can “create” it in some sort in the opening dialogue about yourself - just as it was handled in original start of KCD. You speak with former neighbor after waking up, realize that you don’t remember his face or name, he asks you - what do you actually do remember, and here it comes. You can chose variants of own answers about full memory loss - no family, no exact profession so no starting stat or skill buff, nothing - you will be like full zero in everything. But, maybe someone will like exactly this option.

Other variants have just the same function as in vanilla do have replics about what were you doing the day before: so you can “remember” that back in Skalitz you were a blacksmith’s son and assistant - and you get buff to strength (as it was assistant doing majority of raw power work, following instructions of master), some limited knowledge of repairing things and maybe one level of fighting with maces - well, by the logic you know, how to hold sledgehammer, right? Or you could be son of local herbalist - so you get buff to vitality for running a lot while looking for needed herbs, and always having best possible medicine in case of illness. Also, logically you get buff to herbalism skill, maybe also some to alchemy. An orphan, hunting in local woods - and so you are agile, stealthy, know your way around bow, well, a bit, but after trauma you will definitely need to refresh your skills in some way. Also, after this variant you should be quietly advised to not speak loud about such - poaching is a crime after all. Or maybe you are, or, well, “were” the assistant of local scribe - so you can read, but that’s, well, the only bonus of your former status. Ofc, there are more possible options about your “general past”, I just took a couple of as examples.

Then you are asked about, if you remember the attack, so you try to remember the day, it happened, and what were you actually doing just before the visit of cumans. And again you pick different variants of what you were doing, varying from unique options, pre-determined by previous choice (like if you were son of blacksmith, you again could beat the shit out of Kunesh to return his debt - or simply “take” hammer, nails and axe from the chest through lockpicking and some stealth; or if you are an assistant of scribe - you helped him with rewriting smth so buffed a bit more your reading and speech) to more general ones - like training with Vanyek an art or swordplay (obvious result), or playing dice with locals (get couple of good loaded dices in inventory) or painting the Deutsch’s house with shit in company of your friends (so, you again buff vitality and stealth - as had to run and hide after this). Or again you can remember nothing, and it’s okay too.

So, by a small number of questions and answers you create own background story, which more or less defines, who you were, what stats and skills will you have, and maybe what work can you ask for in Rattay to make a living to begin with. At the same time, this background choice doesn’t restrict us in roleplay aspect - as after such traumatic experience and losing everything it is logical for protagonist to be able to chose morally questionable ways of getting money. Sometimes - VERY questionable. After all, you are NOT Henry, who has obvious allignment of “lawful good/neutral”, constantly proven by cutscenes of main story - so in “sandbox” from the roleplay perspective nothing restricts you to become some real psycho, got from his tracks after the tragedy and going for a stealthy killing spree around town of Rattay or on the nearby roads. It is possible. EVERYTHING is possible from the story point - because whole story is written by player. Want to train yourself by beating someone’s cows somewhere in the fields, like you do in prologue sometimes? WHY NOT? You are not Henry in his village, suddenly literally going mad, and then quietly returning to his assistant duties like nothing has just happened. Sandbox, so full freedom, no moral obligations or restrictions of plot - just be ready to deal with concequences of pretty questionable reputation in result, but that’s all. Want to be a self proclaimed knight in shining armor? As you wish. Medieval reincarnation of Trevor from GTA5? Okay.

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