How to Create a Sandbox Game

by Andrew Button
Many sandbox games are played on game consoles.

Many sandbox games are played on game consoles.

Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images

If you like designing open-concept games, you may want to know how to design a game with an open world. In sandbox games, the entire game map is available to you from the beginning, and the game takes place as a series of quests and adventures on the map. Sandbox games are generally open-concept, since the entire game takes place on one map. Since a sandbox game takes place on a large map, developers spend a lot of time working out map details. For those who enjoy the visual aspect of game design, this can be appealing.

Step 1

Develop the characters' sprite and object properties. The sprite is the character's physical appearance, whereas the object properties are the rules governing how the character moves. In programs like Game Maker, RPG Maker and Sandbox Game Maker, design a sprite by going into the sprite menu and opening the draw sprite grid, from which you can draw the sprite's body parts by filling in squares with color. Enter the object properties window to specify parameters such as which key to move forward, which key to shoot and which key to jump.

Step 2

Design the world map. Go to the "world map" window and open a new file. Scale the grid to low resolution to design the basic map shape, which may consist of continents, islands or streets. Fill in the blocks on the grid with color to make these shapes. Draw in the small details by zooming in to a higher resolution. At higher resolutions, draw in features like sidewalks, trees and houses.

Step 3

Place enemy sprites on the map. Design these the same way you designed the playable sprites. When you designate object properties, do not specify that the sprite does something when you press a button. Instead, make it so that the sprite automatically attacks your character when your character shows up. To do this, go into the window for "collision" or "interaction" and place the playable character and the enemy character in the screen. From the pulldown menu, select the way the character will move when it comes into contact with your character, and the effect this will have on your character -- for example, reduced lives.

Step 4

Draw an inventory of items the character can use. Design these items the same way that you designed the characters: generate the image in the sprite grid and specify the object properties from the object grid. To make it so that you character can use the weapon, go into the collision or interaction screen, and specify that the object moves along with the character whenever the character encounters it.

Step 5

Write a sequence of events for the game. Write this up in plain language in a word document first. Write these events as a series of quests or plot developments. For example, "in mission one, johnny has to find the key; in mission two, johnny has to unlock the door; in mission three, johnny has to to find the princess in the castle."

Step 6

Write the game paramaters that make the game events play out. If, for example, you want to make it so that a locked door opens up when a character completes a quest, write a paramater for the door object so that it can only open when the character reaches a certain point in the game. Again, do this by selecting options from the object parameters box.

About the Author

Based in St. John's, Canada, Andrew Button has been writing since 2008, covering politics, business and finance. He has contributed to newspapers and online magazines, including "The Evening Telegram" and cbc.ca. Button is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Memorial University in St. John's.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images