Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Sandbox Challenge: Wurm Online IV

With no iron anywhere to be found in my newly discovered mine I decided to keep moving. It wasn’t a very nice looking spot either. There was more to explore and hopefully more to scavenge. I continued eastward, following the shore and after a slight fall, and a short swim, lady luck, again, came to visit. Just at the edge of a settlement (ie a claimed area where I can’t steal, cut, or farm) I saw a cave. Scrambling up to the entrance I peered inside. Just inside was the corpse of who I presume was the previous occupant (I didn't do it, honest, but I would have if I was allowed). Behind him was a standing forge and a vein of iron in the far wall. Get In!

I may be a Wurm noob but I realized this was a lucky find. This land was not claimed so I could mine it to my hearts content. It was located in a rather nice spot at the edge of a lake with a boat moored nearby (yes, I tried, and no, I couldn’t steal it because it was locked). Nearby I found a cart (which no one seemed to be using) so I dragged it home. I lit the forge, grabbed my pick, and began mining, cooking, and smelting. It did take some time to re-make the anvil’s but in the process I leveled my skills and in between I fished, explored, and chatted. All in all, not a bad way to pass the time.

The only thing this spot is missing is a place to plant and grow crops. I managed to forage a couple onions but no other root vegetables or grain crops. I can’t find any wild animals (and can’t kill the tame ones secure in other peoples fenced areas) so hunting isn’t an option. From what I’ve seen in the help-channel the wild animal population is a little scarce due to player overpopulation in the settled areas. I see people reporting that they’ve been killed by this, or that, but the only thing I’ve come across is a unicorn spawn which didn’t actually spawn anything. These spawns only happen at certain times (or seasons).

This is a common feature of Wurm. There are day/night cycles, seasonal/climate variations, and animals only spawn at certain times. You can’t harvest fruit trees unless they are in season for example and that depends on actually having a sickle to do so. A sickle has to be made in a forge, tempered, polished (with a pelt which I can’t hunt, or buy as I have no money), and then inserted into a handle. The handle is carved from a shaft which is made from a log which is cut from a tree. You see the complexity here?

Unlike some games (Xsyon, A Tale In The Desert) in which these complex crafting systems are tedious or boring I find the Wurm way of doing things quite acceptable and I can’t really put my finger on why. I guess because it’s easy, fluid, and intuitive. It is part of the experience rather than something you want to get out of the way.

I do think the game could do with a few tweaks. More animals, obviously, would be a great help. I’m 20 hours in and I do really fancy killing something. They say Wurm is more of a simulator rather than a game and I agree. How about we simulate some animals for me to kill then? A rabbit, a squirrel, something. I see more wildlife in my neighborhood by the time I walk from my house to my car than I have in this game. It’s ridiculous.

Where are the birds? Surely I could tame them- I certainly can in real life (or could before The Duchess of Dumb began chasing every bird away so she could eat the birdseed herself....stupid is a stupid does.....). When I log in the game, er simulator, tells me that there are around 350 people logged in. This doesn’t strike me a huge population capable of devastating all the local fauna. Could we get some more animals in the world please? Thanks.

One of the things this game could borrow from A Tale in the Desert is the idea that player-constructed areas can deteriorate or, even more realistically, be claimed and taken over by others. Having to run such a long distance from the starting area to find an ‘empty’ area to settle is frustrating when those areas have actually been long-abandoned by their players.

I know that developers want to keep the option open for players to come back (and pay) especially in a game like this where it takes a while to build up. The problem is that I am here, now, and thinking of subbing so maybe what I want/need should be a priority. After a few months of neglect these places should return to whence they came unless someone takes over the upkeep. That would be a nice, realistic effect. If it was only available to paying players it would work itself out: a returning player who found his claim jumped could just take over a similar one from someone else. Everyone’s a winner!

The Wild server (with full stealing and pvp) is apparently less populated but, of course, more dangerous. I would love to check it out but it is only available to paying customers so I’ll have to wait. The subscription cost is only 10 Euro for 2 months which I think is very reasonable for this game. It isn’t over-reaching in what it thinks it can demand in today’s market. If the graphics were updated and the game re-released I think they would have a hit on their hands. Look at the initial success of Xyson- there is a player base desperate for this type of game and while you may not get WoW, or Eve type numbers, there is still some money to be made, or at the very least a game I'd like to play....and shouldn't that be the goal of any game designer- pleasing me? Yes, I rather thought so too.


  1. If you had an active subscription, I'd say your house should remain yours for the duration of your sub. But let your sub lapse, and don't renew it for a month (maybe 6-8 weeks at the latest) and the in-game bank should foreclose on your house. Likewise if you're an F2P player and you don't log in for a month...bye bye house.

    A few years ago I wrote a premise for a Harvest Moon: Online game and "Player Housing" is an integral part of my hypothetical game, (as it should be, it being a Harvest Moon game) so I had to work out how Player Housing could work in my world and like you said, it basically comes down to "I'm here, you're not."

    If you're not playing and thus not paying for the game, but I am playing, and I might pay, then who's the customer here? Yeah, that's right, I am. So sod off, Baldrick-who-is-not-here, and give me your bloody house ;)

  2. I agree. The decay rate is pretty good tough (now that I know the game better), and accelerates if you haven't logged in for some time which I think is fair. Once your deed funds expire (if, in fact you have a deed) then the decay rate is the same as it is everywhere.