A LOOK BACK ON THE SURVIVAL SANDBOX
Over the years, there have been many gaming trends that capitalize on the current popularity. From the Doom clones and mascot platformers of the 1990s to the peripheral-based rhythm games and military shooters of the 2000s, there have been many trends in gaming. Gaming is constantly evolving and changing. New games are released every few days or weeks. It is hard to recall that nearly everyone chased the pile of money created for survival sandbox ten years ago.
It all began with two games: Minecraft, and Arma II.
Let’s take a look at the evolution of survival sandbox and its history.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
After Minecraft was discovered, a lot of trends were created. The first games were released in an unfinished state. They would be updated over time to become fully functional. This is what Steam’s famous Early Access program was inspired by. Other games added crafting systems, permadeath or the ability to drop your inventory upon death. Night falls, making it even more dangerous. This is not the first time this was done, although it helped to popularize these systems and make them more accessible. Many people are shocked to see that crafting systems in games can be used to create useless junk and give you more currency to worry about.
We have Arma II. The game’s premise and design philosophy are to reflect everyday military life. Gunfights rarely occur in close quarters. Getting shot is a death sentence. Real-life military tactics and experience are necessary to survive most missions. It appeals to a niche market. Only serious military buffs would touch this game and then continue to play it.
How did Arma II make it to the top of Steam sales in 2013, when the game was released in 2009? It’s simple. Simple.
Dean Hall, the mod’s creator, used Arma II’s realistic features to transform soldiers into civilians, spread weapons and clothing around the map, then added zombies to ruin everyone’s day. The game was instantly transformed. Many games give the player an advantage, allowing them to defeat hordes without hesitation. DayZ is a game where even someone wearing military-grade gear can die, especially if they are taken by surprise.
The mod was created to test if people could rip each other apart during a survival situation. It’s likely that you have played these kinds of games. Stories of tension and negotiation, stories of survival against all odds, acts or cruelty that were committed by players would be shared. All of these stories were driven by players and not developers who had set scenarios or programming. This is why so many people fell in love with the mod, despite its flaws and jank.
These games tackle different genres and are quite different. This game is family-friendly and encourages creativity. It also features a realistic military simulator that has been transformed into a brutally realistic zombie apocalypse simulation where you are your greatest enemy, not the zombies.
They do have one thing in common: You can’t guarantee your fun.
WHAT IT WAS LIKE
Both games have no real ending. You can always do more after Minecraft’s End dimension and Ender Dragon. The End can be ignored completely. You can make that tower, or the castle, visible above the horizon. Or you can destroy the world to defeat enough Withers.
Every time you log in, DayZ is about making it to DayZ with all your items. It is difficult to survive the next day and it takes a lot more resources than you might have. These games have no rewards or tangible reasons to be played. At best, you will get items that make your life easier. But people keep coming back because there is always something to do and something to work towards. This is something the game doesn’t provide. This is why it’s called survival sandbox. It gives players a place to explore and exploit. But it’s up the players to find their own fun.
Some survival games eventually had an end. These ended up usually with a return to civilization or the completion of a quest such as defeating the boss. Although it is nice to have a goal to work towards, most people don’t know these endings exist.
As with any trend there will always be developers trying to grab a piece before it is gone. Many clones of DayZ attempted to replicate the DayZ experience with different degrees of success. Cube World, Ace of Spades and Dragon Quest Builders all had some foundation in Minecraft. You couldn’t look through your phone’s apps store without seeing at least a dozen subpar ripoffs that used the same assets from the store or flood your game full of ads.
DayZ was represented by games like Unturned and H1Z1, which tried to give zombie survival a new spin. Each day passes with increasing difficulty, while losing precious resources such as water over time.
Some people found their niche and were supported over a long time, such as Project Zomboid or 7 Days To Die. However, many others fell into obscurity, like Infestation Survivor Stories which didn’t have a great run.
WHAT IT IS GOING TO BE
Today, survival sandbox games like Subnautica and Don’t Starve together are still very popular. Minecraft is still one of the most loved games in the world. It is still one of the most watched Twitch games, continues to be a popular modding game, and has updates that treat it as a major event. The community voted to add a new mob into the 1.18 update.
But what about DayZ? It is rarely mentioned these days, and it has been forgotten despite its cultural significance.