Selling The Parts To Success: “Toolbox” Games

When I say a game is a toolbox game, I generally mean it to be the kind of game where they give you some if not the large majority of tools to make your own levels, create your own scenarios or what have you as the primary sell of the game. I can’t imagine that many people are looking into LittleBigPlanet 3 to play the pre-built levels by the creators or go into Minecraft to gorge themselves on the surreal universe and engaging plot. You might like them but the whole selling point is “make your own”, although Minecraft seems to go that way as I’d say around 60% is creation and the other 40% is exploring, but I’m counting it anyway.

I’ve always had a bit of an off feeling about these kind of games. One part of me is happy to see developers give amateur designers the means to really show their skills and experience their own way of playing, sharing it with the rest of the community. I consider it a positive notion to all would be participants of future game development. Then there is the other part of me that’s kinda miffed that I don’t get as much as I put in when I already payed the goddamn price to own it and now I have to find the fun in it myself or I don’t get much out of it, this applying more to Minecraft than say LittleBigPlanet.

I find a split between giving players more control and developer designed content is generally effective. Sure you can have all the work of the game we made for your 20 hours or what have you, but when you are done you can see what others have made with similar assets and take a swing at it yourself. In LittleBigPlanet I find the nature of just playing a stage isn’t very fun, it is simple platforming without much complexity to the core gameplay and the main appeal of the game seems to derive from its “create your own and play others” design.

I get it. Some people with vivid imaginations, a mastery of the creation system and a hell of a lot of time can have far more fun with Toolbox game than any other game can, it is a unique experience and more power to them. I personally find myself sometimes not wanting to give credit to a very toolbox like game such as LittleBigPlanet (screw it we are calling it LBP) as there seemingly isn’t much work for them to put in, make some assets and give it to players. Yes they make their own levels and that is good as some games will essentially chuck you the development kit and wish you best of luck but not before they take your money. It just irks me for some reason that it really shouldn’t.

I will praise one thing that LBP seems to do rather well and that is making the interface for creation rather user friendly, if anybody disagrees I’d love to hear why as I am not an avid player only a spectator of a friend. I never saw appeal personally for something like Minecraft because it is inefficient most of the time, it requires a large amount of effort in both acquiring the materials and placing them, make it one or the other so I don’t get irritated. While the use of Creative mode removes the asset acquisition being a problem, it still takes an annoyingly long time to move around and pace each block individually, not to mention loses the joy of making something out of materials you earned yourself. It is one thing for me to sit there in Monster Hunter and just smash the A button to make 140 potions, but surely someone should have realized that these tasks could have done with a bulk option. Being able to make say 50 of an item in Monster Hunter and placing blocks in stacks in Minecraft could have been a major enhancement to the experience and make me happier to devote my time when I’m not trying to build a perimeter to the staircase of my flying castle one gruelling block at a time.

Any of you guys feel like this? What do you think about games that require large amounts of personal objectives or imagination and investment to find the fun? As always thanks for the read.

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  1. #1 by ryz0283 on November 4, 2014 - 8:46 pm

    I’m totally with you on Little Big Planet, the main game is pretty dull and unimaginative. The creation tools are great for people that want to do that kind of thing but… it’s not my bag. I wasn’t too wild on that game. I love Minecraft though, because there is more to do than just create, you can explore, you can set up a server with your friends and build a community, you can fight, craft and adventure. The sense of trying to survive early on in the game, scraping together food and throwing up a primitive shelter, fearing death at every turn, it is thrilling and exciting. I love that initial sense of endless possibility and a whole world to discover.

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    • #2 by Prof.mcstevie on November 4, 2014 - 9:34 pm

      I did find that Minecraft is part survival and part creator which is why it was a bit of a odd one in that regard. Roaming around a land unsafe with very little defence is fun, but when creation is also a big part of the package and it feels so inefficient I would just sort of run out of enthusiasm and just walk to the ends of the earth for kicks.

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    • #3 by ryz0283 on November 4, 2014 - 9:39 pm

      Yep thats essentially what I do! I also quite enjoy trying to make games and activites within it, I built a basketball court and an archery range. Only problem they are fairly terrible to actually play! My brother absoltuely loves creating things though and has built some architectural marvels. It definitely feeds imaginations does Minecraft, theres a reason its so successful.

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    • #4 by Prof.mcstevie on November 4, 2014 - 9:43 pm

      I certainly have the imagination to do many things in a game, but the means to do so should be easy get a hold of. I found myself often jumping to 2-D drawings(bad ones might I add) to try and get a grasp of how to do what I want in a block based format.

      Also, as I said in the post I get tired building things like towers and perimeters as the systems are, block by block is just so damn taxing and shouldn’t be like this, make the difficult stuff difficult, laying a line of blocks should be simple.

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    • #5 by ryz0283 on November 4, 2014 - 9:53 pm

      I suppose the idea was to give a sense of acheivement after you complete something big? I think Minecraft is about giving you the sense of being a real adventurer and replicating the frustrations and difficulties of staying alive and progressing. The flip side of this laboriousness is that accomplishments really feel earned. Perhaps!

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    • #6 by Prof.mcstevie on November 4, 2014 - 10:05 pm

      My accomplishments are laboured either way, but the hard parts should be hard and the easy parts easy is my main irritation. Building a sand castle should be difficult in that getting the thing to form is hard, not finding a bucket and spade that isn’t crooked “just cos”… man you really miss the beach in November, making sand castle analogies.

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