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November 28, 2023

Building Metaverse Experiences in The Sandbox

What is The Sandbox?

The Sandbox is an Ethereum-based decentralized gaming platform that merges the exciting worlds of Play-to-Earn, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and user-generated content. It empowers players to create, own, and monetize their gaming experiences while providing a playground for developers, artists, and creators to bring their visions to life. It has already made waves by securing partnerships with high-profile celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Paris Hilton and brands like Atari and The Smurfs. 

The platform provides an array of creative software tools, including the Game Maker to design game experiences and Voxel Edit to create voxel-based NFTs. These tools allow artists and creators to unleash their imagination, rig, and animate assets, and monetize their creations on the marketplace. 

Experiences you can create include action adventure games (fighting, obstacles, quests), retro gaming, puzzle games, NFT galleries, fashion shows, social hubs, night clubs, skating rinks, homes, and etc.! Educational and historical experiences have also been created as well. Brands have also created various assets and experiences from themed lands to interactive music events and avatar collections.

Chord Hero (Hong Kong) - educational ukulele experience for students
Walled City Rhapsody by Index Game

Building Experiences in the Game Maker and Level Design Takeaways 

Game Maker templates allow creators to build unique worlds in minutes. Here are some examples we created and the level design principles we took away from these creations:

We created a quick tropical island building using the Game Maker’s available assets
Used the voxel brush with the Mall template to quickly sculpt an extensive rooftop garden 
Finally, we used the voxel brush method and the Ice Grotto template to sculpt a cyberpunk city.

Here, we'll explore essential level design principles from our experiments in The Sandbox:

1. Balancing Open Spaces and Exploration:

Avoid: Making the scenery feel too open may decrease player motivation to explore. It can also make travel across the space feel tedious and disorienting without landmarks.

Do: Create spaces that are hidden from plain view. This provides opportunities for exploration and a sense of privacy. Utilize the Vox Brush tool to carve out nooks and crannies, leaving spaces beneath structures and landmarks. However, ensure a balance with open areas to prevent overwhelming the player.

Do: Add portals for long-distance travel to enhance player convenience.

Do: Infuse mystery by placing glowing assets in the hidden nooks and crannies, creating an illusion of extra space.

2.Using Scenery Silhouette to Bring Cities to Life:

Do: For metropolitan and cityscape settings, introduce vibrancy by constructing buildings. Utilize the Vox Brush tool to stack blocks of various sizes and heights in an abstract manner, quickly crafting a city or platform silhouette.

3. Adding Visual Details for Simulate Life:

Do: Embrace creativity with limited assets by using them unconventionally. Create visual interest and illusions by, for example, placing torches horizontally to simulate lighting details on buildings, resembling lights from windows. Experiment with sporadically placing glowing elements to enhance the scene's visual appeal.

4. Navigating Players with Communal Spaces/Zones:

Do: Establish clear communal spaces to naturally guide players using different block sections. People often gravitate towards landmarks or lighter-colored blocks for guidance, while darker blocks may suggest negative space.

Do: Differentiate gathering and walking spaces by incorporating elements like tall statues or cement blocks. This clarity prevents players from feeling lost or confused about where to go.

5. Use Inviting Architecture to Encourage Exploration:

Avoid: Creating closed-off buildings can reduce the sense of space and make the world less inviting for exploration unless a sense of mystery is desired.

Do: Design open buildings that lead the eye inward, inspiring players to explore the space within.

Do: Leverage different skybox settings to experiment with the mood and atmosphere of your experience. It's a powerful tool to set the tone and ambiance that complements your level design.

Conclusion

Incorporating these level design principles in The Sandbox can elevate your game to new heights, offering players a captivating and engaging experience. Whether you're crafting sprawling landscapes, intricate cityscapes, or mysterious adventures, mastering these principles will guide you towards creating immersive, visually stunning, and highly playable environments. The Sandbox provides a versatile canvas for creative visions, bringing gaming and brands to the next level.

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