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Survival Sandbox

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"This is like a fucking sandbox with landmines."
Anonymous on Rust

In the wake of the incredible success of Minecraft and DayZ, many games sprung up that incorporate some of their mechanics. The survival genre that emerged from these games is based around a few core principles:

  • Usually, the player is dropped into a Wide-Open Sandbox with almost no resources. The sandbox can be either fixed or procedurally generated.
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  • Most, if not all, of the environment, can be broken and picked up, which the player is expected to do in order to craft all or almost all of their own equipment and shelter.
  • There is a heavy emphasis on Resources Management Gameplay. The player will usually have some sort of hunger meter that constantly drains throughout the game and must be regularly replenished.
  • Death is permanent, and the primary objective is simply to survive as long as possible. When Death doesn't completely reset the world it will still be a massive setback.

There is considerable overlap here with the Roguelike and Survival Horror genres. It also shares its emphasis on Emergent Gameplay with the Immersive Sim, but those tend to be much more focused in terms of scope and narrative.

Tips for playing a survival game:

  • Manage your resources. If you're missing a key component for something, you'll want it to be as close as possible. Keep what you need where you need it.
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  • Use shortcuts. Most items in survival games can be renewed, such as cobblestone in Minecraft, or flora in Subnautica. Know how to recreate these items, and you'll have an easier time.
  • Treat every entity as hostile, until proven otherwise. Obviously, this won't apply to realistic survival games, but when dealing with fantasy or sci-fi, this cannot be overstated. Give any unfamiliar creature a wide berth, and watch how it interacts with the environment around you.
  • Don't let your guard down. Always know what's around you, and be ready to drop everything and run if it gets too hairy to handle. Stay alert. Stay aware. Stay alive.
  • Keep an eye on your health. Survival is partly about exploration, but it's mostly about, well, surviving. Don't take unnecessary risks, and know how much health you can restore at any given time.
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  • Function over fashion. When you're building a base, it may be tempting to make it look fancy, or at least deck it out with some extra features. Don't. You're a survivor, not a resort keeper. Focus on getting essential items in place first before worrying about aesthetics.
  • Don't panic. Panicking leads to mistakes, and mistakes lead to pain. Keep a level head at all times.



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