Terraria: How to Ineptly Kill Your Open-World Sandbox Experience

Posted by heatDrive88 (2267 posts) -

After playing Terraria for few days now, I can definitely say it is pretty interesting fun. Having not played Minecraft, I was intrigued by the concept of the open-world sandbox, and wanted a game that delivered that concept. Minecraft is popular, but I was never too keen on the graphical style; or lack thereof, depending on your argument. I'll admit, I was much more keen on the art style of Terraria because the 2D character sprites reminded me of SNES-era Final Fantasy art. But I'm not writing this to review or talk about the merits or features of the game, so let me explain further with an introduction about my experience with the game first-hand, and how that developed.

The house that... I totally didn't build.

When I first started, I knew from the get-go just build a house, fight off zombies and other monsters, then keep mining and building better and bigger things. As for the game telling you what you need and how to get very specific ingredients, it will at best only tell you the recipe for an item. The way you figure this out is by talking to your Adventure Guide friend, by showing him a material item (wood, stone, etc.), and he tells you everything that can be made involving that item, and what the other items are needed to craft it.

What it doesn't do however, is tell you where to find those other items. Sometimes it's very obvious, like copper, which anyone will know that you just dig it out of the ground along with any other variety of minerals of varying rarity. However, sometimes items that are more obscure like a hook, which you may not realize if it is a dropped item from a monster, or an item that is crafted, so you have to do a little more exploration in the game (traversal-wise or crafting experimentation with varying materials).

It's this exploration aspect that may turn people off from Terraria. Anyone can build a simple house, but as to progression in the game, it's not always clear which can cause the game to seemingly lose some focus. However, others may find this incredibly rewarding and fun just to explore and experiment away without any real high-level rhyme or reason. I was actually having a good amount of fun from this particular aspect, until I came across an object in the game which I was unsure about - the Dark Altar. So of course, being stumped, I looked it up online using Google. Soon enough however, I found myself doing this for more objects and multiple recipes for items, trying to find out how I can obtain even more powerful weapons and armor, which led to the eventual min/maxing of gameplay, which has entirely killed off the feeling of free exploration and experimentation which I held to be so highly rewarding. By containing my own singular experience without any outside influence, I was playing my very own true personal game of Terraria - not someone else's as depicted in a wiki or a FAQ.

All I wanted to do was dig, but then I just wanted a big sword.

There was a lot to be said in just wasting a lot of time digging in tunnels not knowing what you are looking for exactly (other than to dig deeper and deeper). Whether you find this rewarding or fun at all is up to you. If you find that aspect of the game to be an important part of the fun, don't look up ANYTHING online for hints on the game. I made that mistake, and now I've effectively killed my open-world sandbox by turning it into an objective-based game in an open-world setting, expecting to reach some form of an end-game.

So my advice for all - make sure you know how you want to experience the game. I know this really comes down to a deeper discussion as to how people play games and the concept of min/maxing, but I normally am pretty conscious about this kind of thing specifically before I play any kind of game, especially those with RPG-like systems.

Anyways, let me know what you guys think, or if you guys have had experiences similar to this regarding Terraria or other games.

If you’re interested in experiencing sandboxes in open-worlds, or experiencing open-worlds in sandboxes, check out my personal blog over at http://thedevilshaircut.wordpress.com/ or by following me on Twitter.

#1 Posted by heatDrive88 (2267 posts) -

After playing Terraria for few days now, I can definitely say it is pretty interesting fun. Having not played Minecraft, I was intrigued by the concept of the open-world sandbox, and wanted a game that delivered that concept. Minecraft is popular, but I was never too keen on the graphical style; or lack thereof, depending on your argument. I'll admit, I was much more keen on the art style of Terraria because the 2D character sprites reminded me of SNES-era Final Fantasy art. But I'm not writing this to review or talk about the merits or features of the game, so let me explain further with an introduction about my experience with the game first-hand, and how that developed.

The house that... I totally didn't build.

When I first started, I knew from the get-go just build a house, fight off zombies and other monsters, then keep mining and building better and bigger things. As for the game telling you what you need and how to get very specific ingredients, it will at best only tell you the recipe for an item. The way you figure this out is by talking to your Adventure Guide friend, by showing him a material item (wood, stone, etc.), and he tells you everything that can be made involving that item, and what the other items are needed to craft it.

What it doesn't do however, is tell you where to find those other items. Sometimes it's very obvious, like copper, which anyone will know that you just dig it out of the ground along with any other variety of minerals of varying rarity. However, sometimes items that are more obscure like a hook, which you may not realize if it is a dropped item from a monster, or an item that is crafted, so you have to do a little more exploration in the game (traversal-wise or crafting experimentation with varying materials).

It's this exploration aspect that may turn people off from Terraria. Anyone can build a simple house, but as to progression in the game, it's not always clear which can cause the game to seemingly lose some focus. However, others may find this incredibly rewarding and fun just to explore and experiment away without any real high-level rhyme or reason. I was actually having a good amount of fun from this particular aspect, until I came across an object in the game which I was unsure about - the Dark Altar. So of course, being stumped, I looked it up online using Google. Soon enough however, I found myself doing this for more objects and multiple recipes for items, trying to find out how I can obtain even more powerful weapons and armor, which led to the eventual min/maxing of gameplay, which has entirely killed off the feeling of free exploration and experimentation which I held to be so highly rewarding. By containing my own singular experience without any outside influence, I was playing my very own true personal game of Terraria - not someone else's as depicted in a wiki or a FAQ.

All I wanted to do was dig, but then I just wanted a big sword.

There was a lot to be said in just wasting a lot of time digging in tunnels not knowing what you are looking for exactly (other than to dig deeper and deeper). Whether you find this rewarding or fun at all is up to you. If you find that aspect of the game to be an important part of the fun, don't look up ANYTHING online for hints on the game. I made that mistake, and now I've effectively killed my open-world sandbox by turning it into an objective-based game in an open-world setting, expecting to reach some form of an end-game.

So my advice for all - make sure you know how you want to experience the game. I know this really comes down to a deeper discussion as to how people play games and the concept of min/maxing, but I normally am pretty conscious about this kind of thing specifically before I play any kind of game, especially those with RPG-like systems.

Anyways, let me know what you guys think, or if you guys have had experiences similar to this regarding Terraria or other games.

#2 Posted by McGhee (6094 posts) -

It would be cool if you found schematics for crafting items in chests in the caves rather than needing to look them up online.

#3 Posted by heatDrive88 (2267 posts) -

@McGhee_the_Insomniac said:

It would be cool if you found schematics for crafting items in chests in the caves rather than needing to look them up online.

You don't have to look them up online. There's sort of halfway enough information in the game to tell you what you need to make an object, but it depends on what your objective of playing Terraria is. Part of the open-world sandbox concept is the free-roaming exploration. As soon as you look up online in a guide as to what you need to do exactly, your exploration path goes from a serpentine-like train of events to a simple straight-line. That's the problem inherent that I was trying to get across.

I know in this day and age, looking up anything on Google is paramount and the automatic response if you're stuck on something. It's just unfortunate that I wasn't able to consciously avoid this reaction when I was having a completely different and fun experience without it.

#4 Posted by Getz (2989 posts) -

I was sold the minute I started fucking around and realized there's a whole other city in the sky. Where I found some jet boots. JET BOOTS.

#5 Posted by Capum15 (4807 posts) -

I've never been bothered with looking up stuff for open world games. I did for Minecraft and still have loads of fun.

#6 Posted by SSully (4125 posts) -

I did the same thing for minecraft, but it isn't really a killer for me. I still set myself goals the same way I did before I learned how to get the different high level items. The only thing that might be lost is the sense of mystery and ignorance to the world when you first started playing.

#7 Posted by heatDrive88 (2267 posts) -

@SSully said:

...the sense of mystery and ignorance to the world when you first started playing.

That's exactly what I wanted to maintain and keep hold of. That pure sense of discovery was a part of the game that I really enjoyed. I know there's still tons of fun to be had building things ridiculous buildings and playing with friends, but there was a line I wasn't ready to cross in that game where it could potentially turn into a grind for items, which it has haphazardly turned into at part of my experience with the gameplay.

#8 Posted by SSully (4125 posts) -

@heatDrive88: Well its obviously your own fault for going on the wiki. My advice is to keep playing, but do not look up anything for the new updates. With the rate they are updating this game you will have plenty of content to build up mystery in no time.

#9 Posted by dungbootle (2457 posts) -

I can't even imagine learning to play Minecraft/Terraria without looking up recipes on the internet.

#10 Posted by heatDrive88 (2267 posts) -
@SSully: Don't get me wrong, I know it was my fault. Don't get me wrong about my feelings about still playing the game and still having fun with the game as it is, it's just an entirely different kind of fun and a different kind of experience.
#11 Posted by Nux (2301 posts) -

The game is fun but for me once I got into my dungeon I very quickly lost interest in this game. By then I had almost all the best Items in the game anyway.

#12 Posted by fox01313 (5061 posts) -

At least with the current version they put in a patch to help out with the guide actually showing you what you can make with various materials. Still a bit foggy on the game myself as I think I found one of the altars when I started over but couldn't get it going. So far just recently found about 3k feet down all the hellstone & damn enemies around there, big tip for people not familiar with that area, take a few stacks of dirt or regular stone with you, box yourself in & then start building out to explore more without having to shoot/kill something every few moments, ash is like sand where it has a gravity effect to it so it's good when stacked up but not really good for making single strips over something like dirt/stone).

#13 Posted by heatDrive88 (2267 posts) -
@dungbootle said:
I can't even imagine learning to play Minecraft/Terraria without looking up recipes on the internet.
Think of it somewhere in line with Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat when it was first released. A huge amount of fun in the scene was just trying to discover special moves or fatalities. The excitement and discovery when you found out there totally was some green-ninja named Reptile as a secret character to fight on the bottom of the Pit in the first Mortal Kombat is an experience in itself, or alternatively even finding out Ryu could throw a fireball for the first time in the first Street Fighter without the precognition of knowing from the internet (or in alignment with those times, game guides or even BBS).
#14 Posted by Example1013 (4834 posts) -

It's a good thing I'm anal retentive about not googling help unless absolutely necessary. I find it more rewarding to figure shit out on my own.

#15 Posted by Example1013 (4834 posts) -

Perfect quote for this, Heat.

Knowledge comes at a price.

#16 Posted by Strife777 (1500 posts) -

I just started playing it yesterday. It's pretty fun, but I feel like I might lose interest fast.

But for now, I will continue clicking endlessly into the earth, digging my way into the unknown.

#17 Posted by Kyle (2323 posts) -

I don't know, I think without the use of online resources, it's very easy to not even realize that there are different locations and environments to explore other than the ground beneath your spawn point. I can totally imagine a person spending hours mining underground, getting all the way down to the hell layer, getting immediately eviscerated by fire imps, and then just throwing up their hands and saying "well, looks like I'm done playing Terraria."

While I would definitely say that requiring the use of wiki resources for your game is a major flaw, like it or not, this is really the only way to experience everything Terraria has to offer.

#18 Posted by NekuCTR (1663 posts) -

Grats on making the front page dude.

#19 Posted by PyroMenace (46 posts) -

I wasn't sure if I was going to try it out or not, eventually though, seeing a lot of my friends playing made me bite. Though they all informed me on what makes what and where to find a lot of the stuff that's it out there. I still had a lot of fun with it, but over a handful of long play sessions I grew bored of tunneling. Now when thinking of it, I only lasted as long as I did in knowing what I could make and where to find some things, after that I didn't feel like going through the monotony of digging and trying to find things on my own, so I quit.

#20 Posted by HS21 (2682 posts) -

After getting tired of roaming around in Minecraft for a month this game might not be for me either. 

#21 Posted by m0rdr3d (474 posts) -

There's nothing wrong with searching the wiki for games like these... They need it.  The Guide may as well give you a link for the wiki in his advice.  If you have a problem with relying on it too much, that's one thing, but that's probably not the issue.  I mean, let's face it, Terraria isn't exactly packed with things to do after a certain point.  It's still got some fun to be had, but it's not the same.  Also, there's only so much to do in 2D as well.  The devs are updating it all the time so maybe that will help.

#22 Edited by HURRyDURRy (30 posts) -

I showed my lady a video of this game, and asked her what her first impression was, since we play Minecraft at the moment. 
 
It seems that the game is designed toward exploration and a more guided experience with something of an end to it all. We both kind of shrugged at this, mostly due to the fact that Minecraft is designated for abstracted "lego" play, which seemed more our speed. 
 
I guess you could make stuff in this game, but the side scrolling seems to limit this.Am I wrong?

#23 Posted by Krisgebis (222 posts) -

Great blog. Well written and I think you highlight an importent point.

The value of exploration and experience. I LOOOOVE exploration and puzzle elements in games. Drop subtle hints of small stories unrelated to the main story and I'll keep scouring the terrain in Stalker for hours. Give me "optional" corruption roots to hunt down and burn, hidden in everyday buildings and scenery will keep me entertained even though lackluster quality titles like Alone in the Dark.

Exploration can (for some) be an essential experience. Taking the slow road in Terraria is the most rewarding. Discovering the recipies, resources, locations etc. by yourself in the game is really fun. As soon as you look up the recipies online, the majority of the items become uninteresting. If you get the recipie, the location of the resources and know the items stats beforehand, then all the items in between won't hold your interest.

The "sword of dragonslaying +5" will become your goal from the beginning, and it wont be a gradual upgrade as you explore and discover the game and its weapons and tools.

The moment my friend spoiled me on highlevel items I began loosing interest. Then my little brother gave me some gear I hadnt discovered yet, and it took some more interest away, and when my friend startet using ram cheat to basicly get infinite resources I put the game down, and havent touched it since.

#24 Posted by geirr (2476 posts) -

@Getz said:

I was sold the minute I started fucking around and realized there's a whole other city in the sky. Where I found some jet boots. JET BOOTS.

The jet boots were one of the greatest moments of 2011, especially when I got to casually use them in front of friends so they could go "WHOAAA!"

#25 Posted by CornBREDX (4785 posts) -

I had a similar experience to this.

I got it because it's 10$ and supposedly like Minecraft. I wanted to see what all the hub bub was about, as it seems to be a new genre in games I haven't played before and I'm all for innovation, so I bought it.

I never got into Minecraft, I played it when it was still very new (I played the demo) and I honestly didn't get it. I think, though, it's just not really for me. I generally play games solo so this may be why (it seems community and multiplayer drive this new genre and I can see the appeal in that).

While Terraria is very similar aesthetically to Minecraft it really goes off on its own in ways- giving you personal objectives you stumble on or find researching on google-and has a unique RPG like element to it.

I agree, the sprite based "SNES" look to it makes it look much more appealing, and I enjoy the varied gameplay in this. One thing that drives me personally away is the constant bombardment of enemies at almost regular intervals. When I started they had just updated so at a certain point the Eye of Cthullu will randomly attack you. I didn't know why (for the longest time) he kept showing up, and all he does is slaughter me. Nothing in the game tells you why things like this happen so in a way it almost forces you to look it up and find out if you're doing something wrong and ultimately for me this is where the game falls.

It gives you a lot to do, and personal goals to set, but never really fully explains anything in the game. What you said about the guide telling you what you can craft from certain items- I didn't know that until I read this blog. He's always spouting useless info for me so I stopped talking to the guide. I also often feel like I don't understand how to play this game. I enjoy looking for new things, and figuring out how to craft stuff. I like setting personal goals as you start to discover new things. I guess it just comes down to me not understanding this games mechanics or having a grasp on what your really supposed to do.

There is a lot of merit to this game, and the style it uses. I don't regret getting it, and it's still fun for me to play for a little while. Little tweaks to the tips or way it teaches you what the game is about would be nice, but it is fun in short stints.

Online
#26 Posted by lockwoodx (2479 posts) -

@OP: the issues you had with Terreria are the only features that keep me interested in those types of games.

#27 Posted by Duffman (208 posts) -

I can see why looking up information via a wiki can ruin the newness of a game.  I remember when I started playing WoW and didn't know anything.  The world felt so huge and mysterious, and I wasn't quite sure where to go or what mobs I could handle.  Now, I have a level 85 character that I raided with, and the whole world feels so small and predictable.
 
That said, I totally used the Terraria wiki when I started playing.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.