On 9 September 2015, PCGamesN released an article outlining an interview with Garry’s Mod and Rust creator Garry Newman on a potential sequel to his famous Source engine mod, Garry’s Mod. In it, he made the sequel known whilst discussing whether raising the original game’s price was viable, as he mentions: “We wouldn’t raise the price now, I mean we’re kind of working on a sequel, so it’d be stupid to the raise the price, really. It’s early days. We’re looking at having more VR stuff in it – that’s the big point of it. And it won’t be called Garry’s Mod 2,” Newman said in the interview.
Since then, news on this mysterious Garry’s Mod sequel steadily ramped up over the course of half a decade. From a formal announcement of the existence and title of the game, S&Box, to news on the eventual open beta. Facepunch are working hard to release what will no doubt be a true spiritual successor to Garry’s Mod.
What does that mean, exactly? Moreover, how does a spiritual successor even compare to something as abstract as Garry’s Mod? So far, news, images, and videos of S&Box at work prove that the game encompasses what the original Source mod represents with added polish and then some, but as the game’s website mentions: “It’s not going to be Garry’s Mod 2. It will eclipse what is possible in Garry’s Mod rather than simply be a modern version of it.”
The Modern Makeover
In that regard, there is an element of competitiveness here. Despite Facepunch working hard on both projects, raking in the glorious, triumphant successes of both titles regardless, there are several considerations, including player count, to worry about. Since both titles rely heavily on multiplayer servers and community created content to keep player count so high, there’s an argument to be made that both titles are fighting for the same spot at the top.
The emphasis by Newman and Facepunch Studios that S&Box is not a direct sequel to Garry’s Mod and that to treat it as such is disingenuous is a tricky prospect. Firstly, the demand by fans to stick to that enigmatic, strange Garry’s Mod feeling will define what makes S&Box different from its predecessor. Newman expressed his trouble with this concept in an interview with PC Gamer: “There’s a lot of ‘is this Garry’s Mod 2’, the honest answer is maybe, but nowhere near that yet. We’ve basically built our own game engine on top of UE4. We’re really using UE4 for its core features, rendering, networking, physics. It’s all done in an engine agnostic way.”
S&Box would of course switch to Source 2 later in its development after a Twitter poll by Newman showed the profound public inclination towards the engine, perhaps to capture that enigmatic, strange feeling that’s afforded to Garry’s Mod. That being said, it’s difficult to know whether fans will have the drive to switch over to the new platform. Since Garry’s Mod already features a mod workshop filled to the brim with content, S&Box is going to have a hard time comparing to that upon release.
Whether S&Box would even contain the ability to create user-generated content (UGC) was a long debate for Newman initially, as he mentions: “It’s too early to say whether this will turn into a spiritual successor of Garry’s Mod, or whether it will even be released as a mod-able platform (we might use it internally to make our own games on). But at the moment we’re enjoying playing around with it and that’s enough right now.” Facepunch later made it clear after revealing additional information that it would allow for UGC.
Similarly, community servers are a prevalent issue too. Sure, server population is no problem—it’s not like players are mutually tied to a singular title only—but a large portion of servers hosted by community members including roleplay and DarkRP servers have vast amounts of time and money pumped into them. Facepunch must ensure that there is a legitimate reason why server owners should feel compelled to migrate to S&Box or invest their effort into adding servers to the ranks.
That being said, a vast amount of these concerns are such that they won’t last the entirety of the game’s existence. Once more content creators opt to spend time expanding upon S&Box’s community content, more players will feel compelled to play. Additionally, the sheer quality that Facepunch’s new title displays alone is enough to get people ready to jump over to the new title.
Can S&Box Stand on Its Own Feet?
It’s clear that the effort Facepunch are putting into S&Box is creating something that can survive long enough on its own to endure the weeks or months without major modding additions. Its expansive sandbox to the joy of simply messing around with friends in the sheer freedom that it has to offer can keep one enthralled for hours. Garry’s Mod itself is a staunch representation of this – the title didn’t just release with mountains of workshop addons at the ready, it had to endure similar amounts of patience, waiting for players to discover and toy with it in a way that’s only possible through Gmod.
The only difference is that S&Box won’t have to wait as long. The momentum of Facepunch’s success has already pushed it beyond Garry’s Mod and its initial development. Newman’s notoriety as a developer that will go the extra steps to meet his vision is something not to take lightly. It’s a reminder that, if nothing else, S&Box will be a quality product, Garry’s Mod contender or not.
Whether the two are fated to butt heads for the fight to the top, it’s hard to tell. Naturally, two titles in the same genre trying to accomplish vaguely similar ends are bound to have some sort of rivalry. But then, in an abstract way, everything is fighting for the right to our time in one way or another. S&Box’s existence as it flourishes from mere previews and screenshots to a fully fledged title is going to be one of the more interesting developments to witness in the near future.