Frontier Psychiatry: Wurm Online Interview

By Quintin Smith on June 8th, 2009 at 8:13 am.


As anyone who picked up the last issue of PC Gamer UK might know – it’s the one with Starcraft 2 cover and the massively redesigned editorial – some friends and I have been playing a lot of Wurm Online. Since then I got in touch with developer Rolf Jansson, and you can read his answers to my questions below. But first I need to explain Wurm.

The best way to describe Wurm is as a high fantasy Eve Online, and it’s interesting for exactly the same reasons as Eve and a few more besides. While Eve starts you off in a space-faring milk float with a mining laser, in Wurm you begin as a hopeless peasant with… well, this:

But without the lingonberry, or clay, or assorted wounds. And while in Eve you can one day hope to own this:

In Wurm you could look forward to this:

Or this:

Or, uh, this:

But really, Eve and Wurm run almost totally parallel. They’re both games which eschew structured player experiences and clear-cut levels and instead provide a big fat single world where the ‘game’ is in living out a virtual life doing whatever you choose. Weirdly, both games also saw a release in 2003 and both have been enjoying the same kind of trial-and-error dynamic development ever since. They even both enjoy Scandinavian roots. Eve has Iceland, Wurm has Sweden. Brr!

At this point a not entirely unfair observation would be that Eve has that icy Nordic beauty about it and Wurm looks like a sick in a bag. And yeah, Wurm can look horrible. It actually runs in Java. But there’s an eerie, human beauty to Wurm involving fog and flowers, and sunrises reflecting off of water, and cresting a hill to see a dozen plumes of smoke tumbling upwards from a peaceful village. It also features plenty of scalable options that’ll let you tax your system in the name of making the visuals more palatable.

Anyway! The big, exciting thing that Wurm does that Eve doesn’t is the freedom everyone gets to cultivate or break the world utterly. Anyone can take their shovel and dig pits, mines and tunnels. Anyone can equip a sickle and pluck flowers and seeds from trees and bushes to plant them elsewhere. But that’s just the start, and more importantly nobody can avoid making this kind of impact on the world. If you want to make arrows… no, scratch that. If you want to do something as simple as cook then you need kindling for a fire, and that involves whittling away at something made of wood in your inventory or permanently chopping down a tree.

When the current Wurm servers started they contained nothing but virgin islands, and it was the players who designed and built the villages, forts, farms, shops, mines, roads and inns that are there now in various states of use, misuse and abandonment. This is important! This is /really cool!/ Not only does it give the layout of the world an intriguing, immersive plausibility, it adds an extra dimension to everything from the lowest level crafting to the highest level inter-kingdom warfare. The craftsman needs to think about where his material is coming from, the general needs to think not only about conquering castles but building, repairing and breaking them.

Or, to sell you on the idea using a story, when my flatmate and I first started playing we chose a home with amazing forest of dirty great trees a stone’s throw away. Problem was, the trees were all up what turned out to be a total jerk of a cliff face that would always let me get within centimeters of the top before I ran out of stamina and went rolling back down the hill like a wheel of cheese. One day I finally managed to scrabble up through a mixture of luck and more luck, but this presented me with a problem. I couldn’t get back up reliably but on the trip back down I’d only be able to carry a tiny quantity of the lumber we needed. Checking my inventory I found that as well as my saw I happened to have my hammer, a carving knife and a few nails. I knew what I had to do.

My flatmate didn’t see me for two in-game days. When I arrived back home my character was exhausted, starving hungry and dragging an honest-to-God wooden cart loaded with 2 entire felled trees. The most complex thing I’d whittled prior to that was a mallet. I’d gone up that mountain a boy and come back down a man.

Course, the reason we needed those logs in the first place was that the place we were ‘living’ in was a ramshackle house built into the side of a hill that was so old the stone walls enclosing it had partly crumbled. Instead of going to the immense effort of building some crap shed of our own we moved into this guy’s garden and patched up the holes in the wall with wooden fences. We lived out those days in mortal fear of the unknown landlord coming home and finding us sat in his garden roasting a batch of the crap casseroles we lived off in those days. We’d even had the gall to push his ornate fountain to one side to make room for a tiny corn field.

Don’t judge us. Your first week or two spent playing Wurm are all about transcending this hobo status and becoming more of a craftsman/outdoorsman figure. This is when Wurm comes into its own, because that’s when you start thinking about leaving the newbie island forever and migrating to one of the three gigantic grown-up territories. It’s the equivalent of leaving Empire space in Eve and probably the defining part of Wurm. You step through the one-way portal with what you’ve decided are the bare essentials and are unceremoniously spawned in a strange land where not just your success but your survival is dependent on your skill as a pioneer.

There’s a real energy to that moment, the same flourishing of optimism that’s been documented in real-life frontiersmen. The first thing my friends and I did was go running up a hill covered in wildflowers to see if we could get a view of our new home right up to the horizon. It was beautiful. Never mind the fact that we didn’t expect the cliff at the top and two of us came within inches of flinging ourselves to our deaths.

(I’m telling you man, the cliffs in this fucking game.)

Our search for some well-situated land to make our own was even more dramatic. Heading in a rough northerly direction (none of us had compasses and the only map we could find online belonged to the same school of meticulous cartography found in the original Thief) we found an impassable mountain. Next we tried pushing Eastwards, inland. We spent some 40 minutes trekking through a deep forest before finally emerging on the other side, which was lucky because by that point two of us had been slowed to a crawl by dehydration. Then it turned we weren’t at the other side of the forest, not even a little bit. We’d somehow gotten turned completely around and ended up exactly where we’d gone in.

After hours of this type of crap we decided we were through with aggroing pathetic creatures then having to spend the next three minutes running away. Raising an assortment of bruised and broken middle fingers in the direction of this land we returned to the coast with the plan of swimming south, thereby pushing out of the overpopulated new-player zone while avoiding all creatures and obstacles. Aha! Didn’t think of that, did you nature? The human spirit triumphs over all!

Needless to say we almost drowned. The shore quickly turned into a sheer cliff, and unlike a beach you can’t just climb onto a cliff to get your stamina back. We had the option of turning back or forging ahead through the sea and hoping the cliff ended before we were too exhausted to swim further. In an achingly predictable turn of events we chose to forge ahead and the cliff didn’t end.

But here’s the neat thing- someone had made this journey before us and piled up dirt periodically against the cliff wall. Every seven minutes we found another tiny slope of dirt we could fling ourselves onto like beached whales, catching our breath before dropping back into the water like stones.

By the time the cliff gave way to a shore again there was only a mercifully short hike before we found some land we were happy to lay claim to. We’d stumbled across a forested hill overlooking the sea, complete with a mountain ripe for mining a two minute walk away. It was idyllic. It was practical. It was full of these goddamn fucking fifteen-foot wide spiders who if you aggroed them would spend the next ten minutes zeroing in on you with echolocation and sat nav. And the problem with running for your life in this place was that you inevitably bolted straight off a fucking cliff and then had these intolerable five seconds where you and your shattered legs look back up in blind terror at where you fell from and you just have to pray that the horrible animal you were running from isn’t quite insane enough to throw itself after you.

Once we’d built a house we quickly established the most heinous crime an individual in our group was capable of was running for the sanctuary of our cottage when they were being chased by a spider. Yes, it was the safest thing to do. It was also a surefire way of depositing the thing into the dead centre of our camp, which is always a hilarious surprise for anyone coming home after a nice afternoon spent lumberjacking or foraging for berries or whatever.

(Pretty sure my encounters with those spiders has permanently screwed me up. While looking for pictures for this article I found this shot and once my eyes focused on what it’s actually of my heart skipped a beat and I felt sick.)

Another fun surprise we had in those early days occurred when one of us went down to the shore to fill our water barrels. Looking up at the hill you could see a huge gap in the tree line from where we cleared the land, which was basically a massive sign to any foreign raiders passing by in ships that some peaceful people were hiding up there. As the most green-fingered out of the group I dutifully set about harvesting all the tree sprouts I could find, planting them in a neat wall along the hill. Job done, we all relaxed. A week later someone went down to refill the water barrels again and found the tree line, which was otherwise made entirely of pine trees, now had a section roughly where we lived made up of apple trees, olive trees, lemon trees, weeping willows, maple trees and cherry trees. Doggedly we passed out hatchets and tried that again.

It wasn’t overly paranoid of us, either. Enemy raiders are something to be feared. As much as I make Wurm sound like a game about staying warm by smearing yourself with faeces while roasting beetles over an open fire, at high levels it gets plenty heroic. New players bent double over forges trying and failing to make fishing hooks over and over can look forward to making dragon scale armour one day (assuming they can find a dragon, which are believed by the playerbase to be hunted to extinction). That guy whittling away at a log trying to turn it into a plank might end up owning a dockyard and auctioning his own caravels. And every time you plant an onion you’re inching along the long road to becoming a priest of Fo.

Most high-level play in Wurm is focused around warfare between the three kingdoms and, more excitingly, artifacts. These are items scattered around the world of Wurm that cannot be destroyed and if you log off with them in your inventory they’re left on the floor. The Gold Crown of Might, for instance, can dominate any creature in the world utterly for three hours. The Glass Orb of Doom causes everyone in a small radius including the user to be brought right up to death’s door, waiting only for a finishing blow. Getting these things out of the hands of your enemies and into your safest fortresses makes for a pretty intriguing end-game, especially when you consider there are some artifacts nobody quite understands yet.

My friends and I are still very much in the beetle-eating phase though. I mean, rudimentary mount functionality was added in the last patch and while the hardcore exploded onto the forums pointing out all the bugs in mounted combat I logged on to find my friend riding in circles on the camp’s cow. Mighty adventurers we are not. A fun thing about the mounts is last time I checked there still weren’t any sitting animations. Everyone just stands on the back of their animal.

If you’re interested in trying Wurm, you’re in luck. It’s kinda free! The Newbie Island is, anyway, officially known as the Golden Valley server. New players all spawn there and get all the free steak they can eat for 24 hours to help soften their arrival. You really want to gorge yourself on that stuff, incidentally. That way you’ll build up fat layers that’ll come in handy in the lean times ahead. Aside from the free tasty steak, PvP is disabled in the Golden Valley and the monsters are all pansies. All of this is covered in the Wurm Wiki, which you should clutch to your chest like a bible. Seriously. Check it all the time, for everything. Ever. To start playing Wurm without doing so is to go on a first date with your penis already out.

The real disadvantage of not paying a subscription fee is that all of your skills and stats are capped, though even that won’t be a problem for dozens of hours of play. So like I say, the game’s kinda free.

A couple of things to keep in mind about subscriptions: No matter how much you might love the sound of all this, try Wurm before you spend any money. The last patch ripped plenty of holes in the game and caused lots of exciting incompatibilities that haven’t all been fixed. Second, when you first pay the subscription fee you get a ‘Referral’ which can be given to any other player who’s paid a subscription fee at least once. They can then cash in that referral for another month or five silver coins.

How Wurm got to the level of development it currently enjoys is a strange one that’s probably better told by Rolf Jansson. Rolf made up one half of the original development team and now organises the band of volunteers and paid specialists who work on Wurm. Wurm’s press department was only too keen to pester him into an interview with us.

RPS: Wurm Online has a fairly unorthodox structure for its development team, a mix of outsourcing and volunteer work. Do you think you could explain it for our readers?

Rolf: The team structure has risen from necessity and player demands. When we started out we were only two people doing everything ourselves and we knew that we needed help with sounds, models and textures. A lot of people offered to help out because they thought that the idea had potential and wished to see it succeed. We wanted the Wurm world to have a consistent look and one person to be in charge of that, since it is a major long term undertaking. Not many volunteered and a few failed, so we decided to share the revenue with the person we were satisfied with, then he could share it with those who help him out.

When the game was opened for playing the players saw the need for Game Masters. We let them elect a few and organize themselves. After a while the need for chat moderators was voiced so we implemented some functionality for that as well.

The issue of payment for these people is in most cases pretty obvious. We usually can’t promise any and nobody asks for it. The internet is teeming with talented people who want to help out and be involved with their hobbies. We need that help and we like to let them contribute. We also have a client development team, a sound engineer/web master, and one person is trusted enough to have access to the server code. All of those work pro bono although some have purchased shares in Onetoofree AB [Rolf’s development company]. We only offer credits and influence and expect everyone to help out for only as long as they have a fun time doing so. Basically, offering more would potentially get us into a lot of legal problems even though it would be nice.

RPS: Where did the decision to use Java Runtime Environment come from?

Rolf: When Markus Persson and I started the project in 2003 we knew Java and C++. I thought that Java was a lot nicer to program, had garbage collection and was platform independent and I think that so did Markus. It also proved to be fast enough in the right hands.

RPS: Okay. So, the most exciting aspect of Wurm is obviously the freedom each individual player has. Has that been difficult to balance? From the outside looking in it seems like you just threw a bunch of empty Wurm Online servers up and the players constructed a living, breathing world at the drop of a hat.

Rolf: You are very right in that putting up a new server is pretty straightforward once a proper new map has been generated. Then creatures start spawning, plants start growing, and the players come to tame and civilize this hostile environment. If this was a single player game this would have been pretty easy to code I believe, even though few single player games allow this kind of interactivity.

A lot of the features are somewhat self-balancing. If you can’t tame that wolf or build that palisade yet it is usually just a matter of time before you can – if the skill level required is within a reasonable range then the players who care will persevere. The economy is supply and demand driven so there is no need for me to find exactly balanced trader prices for items either. NPC traders do not pay much for goods so as long as they have money or players are willing to pay more for an item the price is usually right. But other features do require quite a lot of tweaking before we get them right though, like the new fighting system which still requires some work.

Then the huge amounts of data handled, the processing power and internet bandwidth needed to distribute this information makes this an even more daunting task. Add to that the grief control and anti-cheat functionality that is needed for every feature and you have one of the most advanced server softwares out there, in my opinion. So yes in the end it is very difficult.

RPS: Are there any features or player freedoms you’d have liked to implement but feel you can’t entrust the player base with, no matter the number of Game Masters and how high the skill requirement?

ROLF: No, I can’t recall ever having made such a consideration. The things that usually limit what the players can do is code complexity and whether something should be unique or not. For instance I want history to repeat itself as little as possible.

RPS: A lot of Wurm fans (and I gather some of the development team?) were very upset at the patch this March which, among other things, added functionality for Wild Server players [the most lawless and violent of three kingdoms] to raid the Home Servers and in general took the game in a more war-like direction where nobody is safe. But you posted on the forums saying this was the game you wanted to make all along. Did the reaction of your fanbase disappoint you? And what, ultimately, are you trying to build out of Wurm?

Rolf: Naturally I realized that it was a dramatic change that would upset a lot of people and make them quit. I felt that it was necessary at the time but I probably should have offered them the PvP-free lands we are adding now instead.

PvP as a feature gives a lot of people bad associations and rightly so. More or less uncontrolled PvP as we see in some other games is evil – watching your back all the time from high-skilled gankers gets frustrating quickly. In Wurm PvP is mainly supposed to happen Kingdom versus Kingdom instead because then there is cooperation and heroic glory. But in my opinion PvP must exist inside kingdoms as well because if someone harasses you there must be a way to pay a price but get rid of that player. That price is high in certain kingdoms in Wurm when it comes to reputation and alignment losses.

The alternative to this would be to limit player interaction and have Game Masters available to handle the remaining harassment situations. Some players prefer that and although I personally do not I still understand that they love to play Wurm, so I will make these PvP-free lands available.

Another reason to allow enemy kingdoms to visit your lands is that it makes it more dangerous to go to sleep running a bot, which is good for the economy.

The Epic Wurm lands that will be released soon will be a tale where everyone may play a crucial part and feel that they contribute to something fantastic and jaw-dropping. The tale will be determined by what the players decide to do. Like many other tales I want this one to consist of slow buildups, dramatic changes, mysterious artefacts and creatures, beauty and heroism in epic situations by interesting players… ehh people. I think that soon we will have most parts covered. That tale requires PvP.

RPS: Yess. I’ve heard a bunch of scattered stuff about your desire to lay the outline of a story and get the players to fill all the roles. Do you think you could explain that in more detail for our readers?

Rolf: I am always a bit reluctant to speak about upcoming features because I think people have seen enough hypes fail already in all kinds of games and I’d rather not be part of that. But the general idea is that there are forces in Wurm – for instance the gods – that have agendas and usually they need the players to help them with this.

RPS: I’ve been told you guys are pretty opinionated on the independent games sector. Can you give me one of those opinions now?

Rolf: Actually I am not very opinionated, apart from that I don’t see any of the big bucks gaming companies doing this kind of free-form game. I wanted to play the game that Wurm aims to be for over a decade and got tired of waiting. There are some independent companies aiming at the same niche with the huge world, skill based progression and sandbox type of play but for some reason they seem to fail. I can understand that a big game company attempting something like this would need a huge budget given the expected quality at release and I guess an independent developer has the possibility to try new ideas in the way that suits them best and with less expectations.

RPS: That’s something we’re seeing less and less of in the mod scene these days- people creating these things simply because it’s the game in their head they want to play. It seems like today everyone’s trying to second-guess everyone else, attempting to make something that’ll get them or the game taken on by a developer. What did you think of A Tale In The Desert?

ROLF: I haven’t actually played it because I read that it didn’t have PvP. I got the impression that it was a skill based crafting game with a plot that reset once per year. It just didn’t sound epic enough for me for some reason.

RPS: Touchy subject- are you making a living out of Wurm? Would you recommend your subscriber model of a generous free-to-play game followed by subscription fees followed by optional in-game purchases?

Rolf: Yes I work full time at Wurm and can usually lift a normal salary by most standards. I’ve had a lot of different jobs and this is not the best paid and is absolutely the most strenuous. Trying to run a company, keep game servers up and keep players happy 24/7 while developing an MMO and inadvertently introducing bugs is not something I would normally recommend. I need to earn a lot more before I can consider it worth the effort.

I like our endless free trial model. It gives people the opportunity to try the game and see it for what it is before they decide if they want to pay for it. I don’t like time limited trials myself.

Apart from giving a steady, fairly predictable cash flow, subscriptions is a good way of reducing cheating on payment-only servers. Then there is always real money to be lost if you are caught, but I guess a one-time fee also does the trick.

I am not a big fan of selling in-game items such as swords and potions in web shops. To me it means that the rich win the game. I do however like that we sell in game coins to those who can afford which they in turn give to the other players for items and services they produce. Then all the players gain and we get our share as well.

If you can – make a game where advertising fits well in-game such as a racing game. Money is always good for a game.

The Wurm Online website is here.

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88 Comments »

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  1. Theoban says:

    THEOBAN’S EMBARRASSING ANECDOTES #4687

    I tried Wurm Online after hearing one of the RPS podcasts. I played it for a bit but haven’t gone back in because during my time I couldn’t find out how to quit

    I am not good with games.

  2. The Fanciest of Pants says:

    Ok… wierd.

    “Frontier Psychiatrist” was blaring on winamp when I saw this. Freaky.

    Edit: This looks positively fascinating, will definately be giving this a go.

    And good on em too, I always thought that “I want this thing to exist” is the best reason to create anything, and often produces the most profound result.

  3. RogB says:

    Having never played it, this gives me a feel of a MMO 3d version of dwarf fortress. If my snobbish eyes can tolerate the graphics I do fancy giving this a pop!
    I wonder if we can buddy up somewhere and help each other out through the insane learning curve?

  4. cullnean says:

    i shall give it a whirl me and a mate were wondering about a fantasy equivilent of eve

  5. Duncan says:

    I loved the article in PCG on Wurm, and I love this article too. But I’m not convinced I’d ever enjoy playing the game.

    Maybe it’s like the videogame equivalent of Oasis. I hate listening to them, but really like reading interviews with the Gallaghers.

  6. Dave says:

    OOOhhh having burnt out massively after 5 years of Eve this looks right up my alley…

  7. Jazmeister says:

    It has what? You can do WHAT? You can DEFORM THE LANDSCAPE?

    Is… is this… joy?

  8. Lewis says:

    This is the first Quinns recommendation that I’ve not gone on to absolutely adore.

    I find it interesting… I think I need a buddy to play with, though.

  9. Larington says:

    Is the PvP free server/land in yet? I might consider playing a game focused on building rather than destroying, heck thats at least half the enjoyment I’m getting out of the latest sims game at the moment.

    Oh, also, the stuff about spiders and riding a cow in circles had me in hysterics. Which is nice ’cause I ought to laugh more than I do.

  10. Jockie says:

    Sounds very interesting, but also kind of like it could be incredibly boring. I’d play if I could get a decent group of people to play with, but it will be a hard sell to most my MMO playing friends.

  11. Malagate says:

    Hmm, it sounds interesting, but then I’m not sure about it as if I did dip into it then it’d be yet another MMO I’ve tried all by myself. As far as I can tell, such games are much better when you can go into them with like minded fellows at regular times, rather than being self reliant or rely on the kindness of strangers (which, in a game with pvp, is usually non-existant).

    So can someone tell me, is this a game where you can go in solo and achieve something fun? Or should I be attempting to russle up a few people before diving in?

  12. Stromko says:

    Terrain deformation and a player-molded world. It’s not Love but it’s the closest thing short of it, and is actually playable by all now which Love isn’t.

    This definitely sounds like a game that’s improved by sharing it with chums, Malagate. You can get a lot more done. When things go wrong you can share the misery around and make it fun.

    I’d be the first to point out that Losing is Fun is quite true in the case of games like Dwarf Fortress, but an online world balanced around months of game time and hundreds or thousands of players sharing the same world means that ‘mega projects’ (or even making your own cabin) will take massively more time and energy to accomplish, and you’ll need as many friends as possible to fill in the empty grind, spread out the workload, and of course help you out of trouble.

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Seeing that enormous statue in the screenshot, my immediate thought was “If I dug a tunnel beneath it, could I undermine it”?

    KG

  14. White Noise says:

    I played this a while back with my brother (when the PCG article came out), who betrayed me and dealt a medium wound to my leg. Medium wounds do not heal.

    In order to get the healing poultice for my leg, my brother and I were forced into slavery down a mine by an evil overlord. Currently I think my character is lying in a pool of water, deep in the ground, surrounded by silver ore and his own blood, slowly starving to death.

    Good times.

  15. Malagate says:

    What White Noise wrote only makes it seem greater to me, and judging by the other people saying that they’d need a buddy to play with (misery loves company!), I’d say if we all met up in the Newbie zone tonight or so with an [RPS] tag then wonderful things may happen.

    If we all pull together, we may be riding cows to new lands, victory, small wooden huts and terrifyingly gigantic spiders.

    Who’s with me?

  16. H says:

    I really, really fancy this game, it keeps drawing me in, but no way in hell would I start it alone. And a lot of it makes me think it’s a lot of hard work for little or no reward, but STILL it draws me in.

    If a bunch of RPSers get into it and need an extra man, give me a shout.

  17. Calistas says:

    Me to. I logged in, wandered around, fell off something and drank some water. Oh, I also cut a tree up a bit. Hmm. If I could go somewhere and join a hippy Wurm commune I might get to like this thing, but it’s a bit dry when you first log in.

  18. Jockie says:

    I’m up for a bit of an RPS collective attempt at the game, as long as someone else organises it.

    Edit: except the registration page seems to be down.

  19. Tei says:

    I have played it eons ago. Back then It was a pure sandbox game. With lots of people building PINK HOUSES everywhere. There was not animation at all. It was more “A Tale in the desert” than Eve. “Wurm”, and “Hearth and Hearth” and “A Tale In The Desert” and “Escape isle *” are games on the same type … “Survivalist Crafting Multiplayer Persistant Simulators”. The survivalist is because the whole thing is about …make your own life, build things, learn to craft things you may need. It could looks like a very hardcore market, but actually this type of gameplay with lots of eyecandy are very popular on the casual market. Since is like a carebear dream made true.

    *SPOILERS*
    Now, Imagine if the guys of Something Awnfull + the guys of GarrysMod forum + the guys on Bay12 (Dwarf fortress) forum join in a MMO. That thing would happend one day. It will be glorious, since this world are modifable. One man can dream? I dream of a horde of trolls and jerks on one of these worlds.. (not Wurms, since Wurms feel like stable enough, and it will feel like boring to troll wurms). Theres already some population of Bay12 guys in H&H, but since these guys are the good guys, theres not problem.. other than a excesive chopping of trees. (but I don’t want to point fingers).

  20. Owen says:

    Just wanted to say Quintin that I REALLY enjoyed your article in PCG. Really interesting and involving read, plus got me interested in the game. Cheers

    (and after finishing reading THIS article I can say this is more of the same! Will definitely be giving this one a try. Can’t believe it’s been around since 2003…)

  21. Jockie says:

    @Tei, pretty sure there’s an SA presence on wurm as well seeing as I first heard of the game over on their forums.

  22. Megazver says:

    I wish someone would do a Blizzard on this and A Tale In The Desert, and actually made a game with the same basic gameplay but, well, actually fun.

    Oh, and do an article on ATITD. It should be right up your alley.

    E: I think there’s, like, four people from SA actually playing this. This game is too much of an acquired taste for an average goon. Most goons who would be interested in this sort of collaborative building MMO are playing ATITD, because it doesn’t want them to die a horrible death.

  23. Piratepete says:

    How much is the subscription?

  24. Davee says:

    Whoa, thats funny. I had been thinking about how EVE Online would work like in fantasy MMO-form (and better yet; it comes from my homeland!)… I’m definetly going to try it out.

    And I’m also up for an RPS gathering, but considering how large the continents seem to be, at what spot shall we meet and at what time (preferably GMT)?

    P.S: I’m regeristing to play on the Wild server/Jenn-Kellon if that affects what starting world you enter (and it seems like the most fun server if I decide to pay up later on).

  25. Malagate says:

    @Piratepete, according to wikipedia, I do believe it’s €5 a month to subscribe, however you can’t buy a single month. The minimum cost is €10, and for that you can either have 1 month and 5 silver or 2 months subscription. Apparantly they have options for even longer subscriptions.

    If I remember I am totally going to have a little mess around in the free area tonight, see if I can even play it decently.

  26. Jeremy says:

    I like KG’s thinking, but if this were REALLY a DF MMO, we’d have expendable underlings to do it for us.

    Gonna give this a go, but servers were down before I went to dinner. Let’s see if they’re back up!

  27. bonuswavepilot says:

    @Piratepete: not so easy to find the prices on the main page. Can’t log into the shop without registering a character first… but from the wiki:
    Basic account – free, costs 5 silver from in-game account for every 3 months of inactivity. (Account deleted if insufficient funds.)
    Premium account – 10€ for 2 months, 30€ for 6 months, or 50€ for 12 months. A month in this case is 30 days.
    Premium account also gets you a ‘referral’ which you can give to another premium player, gives them either a free month, or 5 silver (in-game) coins.
    Also, “Premium time (5€ per month) and silver coins (1€ per coin) are for sale in the wurm store. Due to transaction fees, the minimum payment in one transaction is 10€. ”
    They use PayPal for all the cash back and forth.

  28. H says:

    Don’t think I’ll be playing on the Wild server. Sounds too much like shower buggery for my liking.

  29. Grapes says:

    @Tei
    SA has had a large presence in this game ever since the early betas. It goes in waves though but usually results in the building of something pretty awesome (in our opinion anyway). Several of the screenshots you see when starting the game are of things built by the SA goons.

    I think FacePunch (those are the Garrys Mod forums, right?) have had a pretty consistent presence in the game for years too.

    More recently, and the impetus behind the Golden Valley newbie server, was the massive rush of 4chan people that flooded the game (for better or worse).

    edit: Also, what are these games you mention? “Hearth and Hearth” and “Escape Isle”? I can’t find anything on the web on them.

  30. Tei says:

    @Grapes:
    Haven & Hearth:
    http://www.havenandhearth.com/portal/

    I will be harder to search the others, since my memory is really bad.

    note: also sorry for my horrible spelling on the other post, arrgh.

  31. Jubaal says:

    Another good article Quintin. I read your first one in PCG and it inspired me to try Wurm with a couple of friends. We all loved it despite the 1996 graphics. It really made us feel like pioneers carving out our own little place in the world.

    After a week or so we decided to go Premium and travelled to Mol-Rehan. Similar to Quentin’s experience it wasn’t easy finding our own place. We had to change direction many times (mostly due to Larva Spiders and giant Scorpions blocking our way). However finally we found an idyllic spot just back from a lake/river in the middle of a forest with plenty of rock behind for mining.

    I love the complexity of Wurm but it is the little touches which stand out for me, the fact that you can breed animals or create your own orchards. I also still have that sense of fear that someone is going to steal my stuff or a bear is going to get me in the dark. But it is a good fear, the kind that keeps you smiling even though your heart is beating faster than is comfortable. Having a giant scorpion loom out of the dark at me while dragging my cart into my “safe” mine made me jump more than anything in any other game. It was one of those spasm moments where you jump so much in your seat that your mouse goes off the pad and your character view ends up facing the sky!

    If you are thinking of trying out Wurm I’d suggest you start on the free server (Golden Valley) to start with as the two home servers (Mol-Rehan & Jenn Kellon) are being replaced by a new non-PvP server called Freedom. Both Mol-Rehan and Jenn Kellon will be wiped during this process so I’d hold fire in the Free server then move direct to Freedom if you want to go Premium.

    I hope to see some of you RPS folks there!

  32. Guru Bear says:

    Quinn, a really nice article – and thanks so much for doing it and treating us nicely!

    Just to answer a couple of questions from the comments above:

    Playing alone or with a friend

    The beauty of Wurm is that both works. I started playing alone a couple of years ago, then set up a small house, then chatted to the neighbours and eventually we all got together and built an entire village with harbour, ships, farms, houses and 36 citizens (thankfully not playing all at once!). The youngest was about 14 and the oldest was, er, me. And you will just have to guess that one.

    Playing with a friend can make starting easier, but don’t be put off by starting on your own. You can make friends quickly in this game, or find an out-of-the-way corner and live all alone like a single player game – plenty play that way too.

    Cost
    The cost of going “premium” which gives you entry to the main servers where there are no caps is currently 5 Euros per month – you buy it in blocks starting at 1 month plus 5 ingame silvers for 10 Euro.

    Freedom Servers

    The first of the new non-PvP server is coming very soon now, so please come and play on Golden Valley and use the time to get your skills up. The first players going to the new server are some of the most experienced, helpful and nicest players you will find.

    Learning Wurm

    Quinn is right about using the wiki! (The Wurmpedia). Also we have a getting started section which you will find on the main site, very active forums and plenty of players that will give you assorted advice in Wurm itself.

    When you all get to Golden Valley – keep an eye out for me. I am called Bard of Wurm on there and am sometimes the one to come rescue you when you get stuck in a mine. The main GM on there is called Enki who helps everyone and also look out for the various PAs (Player Assistants) who give their time to advise new players.

    Wurm is like a big family, and like many families has its fights – but you will mostly find a lot of Warm Hearts willing to help you have a great time!

    PS: Oh, and listen to the music on the front page of the site – that is my bit!

  33. Batolemaeus says:

    Hey, i made two of those screenshots. Giev ad moneys! ;)

    Also, suggestion: Since you used a screenshot of our Village, Darkenstone, when it was still in construction. I think i uploaded one when we were mostly finished, also to that gallery. A comparison of the first day picture, the one you used, and the “we’re finished” would be pretty impressive, don’t you think?

  34. Ergates says:

    I tried this briefly (after the PCG article). Couldn’t really get into it due to the terrible terrible lag I was getting. Several second delays between pressing a button and getting a response makes life somewhat difficult – more so if you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing anyway.

    I meant to go back to it later to see if things improved.

  35. Guru Bear says:

    Sorry that you had lag. Generally we have not had much lag issues recently, but there is nothing we can do if the network between us and you is being a pain! :(

    Come and try again.

  36. Torgen says:

    Okay, we making a merry band of RPSers or not? Someone start a thread in the forum, and stake out a site for us.

    Question: I’d imagine that there are plenty of abandoned buildings in the newbie zone to occupy, since people move on after leveling up?

  37. Guru Bear says:

    Yes, though there is not time limit on the entry server, it is a smaller server, and trying to make enormous villages there does not really work. I suggest you make several small groups (2 or 3 in each), spread out and get skilled up. Then you can decide which server you want to all go to and go there when ready. The main servers are 16 times as big, and to find the best spot can take a lot of scouting – which is fun in itself! Also, I recommend you read about deeds/settlement on the wiki – although these are no longer able to be bought on Golden Valley, you will want to on the main servers to protect your village from decay and other things.

    But these cost ingame money which you will either want to buy or save up by working for other players or making and selling stuff on the main servers.

  38. Guru Bear says:

    I will point out that on Wurm we have no problems with people of any race or of any sexual orientation or religion, or none. In fact, we will censor people who are openly racist, homophobic or anything else like that.

    Comments like the one from Guy are completely unwelcome.

  39. Kieron Gillen says:

    The post Guru refers to is deleted, btw. We don’t have any time for that either.

    KG

  40. Jon says:

    I would love to try Wurm but the client crashes to desktop just after I log in. :(

  41. Guru Bear says:

    Jon – have a look through the bugs forum on our site – there maybe a solution there.

    And have you got the most recent java installed? Get it here

  42. Angelsilver says:

    Well said gurubear! (edit- about the race, sex, nationality and such)

    I would like to point out that though wild is a server that allows PVP it is far from what most people visualize a pvp server to be like. I started out on Wild a couple years back and have only died in unwanted PVP a few times. And I am not a PVPer…

    Our village, Blackhorse, was made to be a pvp playground for my friends that enjoy PVP, but is basically a farming community, with ranching added now that breeding has come into play. Our village has come under attack several times and we love to rebuild it. After every attck we have basically only become stronger, but remain far from a fortress, and that is our intent. For the most part PVP is rarer then most people think, If you like PVP, you should go out hunting and looking for it rather then hoping it will come to you.

    Every village has it’s own ideas about PVP and how much they involve themselves in it. Some of that you can control, some you can’t and that is one of the great things about Wild. You do have that fear that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you see a new name in your local, but more often then not, it is just another friendly face.

    I have been involved with MMO’s for many years and I think the Wurm community is one of the best. But some advice for newcomers, don’t tag your names to affiliate with one group or another. There are FP, 4chan, SA goons and many others throughout Wurm and they are part of many villages (and now RPS) integrated into the fabric of Wurm as individuals. You might find that the like minded people are all around Wurm already, and there is no need to try to stick with one group of people that happen to have found us on a particualr site. This is not meant to be a slant on taging your name, but more that if you like wurm, you will want a name that will carry you through the coming years and all of your experiances within the Wurm world no matter where you go or what village you end up in.

    We at Blackhorse would like to say a hearty welcome to RPS and thank Quin for his great articles.

  43. Dode says:

    I reccoment starting wurm with a friend, alone it can get quite boring and frustrating, I am trying to create a stable comunity for the new players on the Golden Valley server, so far we have about 20 active members.
    The name of our Town is Scorpion Stone, if you want to join it when creating a character select “Jenn-Kellon” instead of “Mol-Rehan” and when you get ingame you can PM me by typing: /tell Dode, you can also ask around if im not online.
    You could make our Town a meeting point to find someone to play with or actually joining our comunity.

    If you come I’ll treat you with my pike stew scented with some lemon juice and bread.

  44. Psychopomp says:

    I tried playing this, back when you mentioned it in a podcast, but I could not for the life of me figure out how to chop down a tree.

  45. Mo says:

    That boy needs therapy.

    (hey, someone had to say it)

  46. Quinns says:

    Jubaal you’re breaking my heart over here. Knowing that in writing all this crap I’ve caused even one group of people to have the exact same experience as my friends and I makes it all worthwhile.

    I feel your scorpion-related pain. It’s funny how hard developers have to try to make AAA horror games spooky when Wurm manages effortless, heart-stopping terror through models with no animations and no sound effects. I guess it’s all to do with how they’re transparently so much stronger than you (to the point of making you feel pathetic and inconsequential) combined with how much you stand to lose as a player. Both of those are features mainstream games tend to run screaming from.

  47. Batolemaeus says:

    That’s because those horror games try very, very hard to do something horribble. Err, horrifying. Whatever.

    Eve and Wurm achieve it through rarity. It is not so common that you get killed, butchered, looted. But that’s what makes the experience much more intense. That and the fact that you do, in fact, lose some of your stuff.

  48. Dode says:

    I have awfull feeling towards scorpions too, back when i and my friend where still playing wurm togheder we had a nice outpust in the wilderness that was overrun with all sorts of dangerous creatures (crocodiles claimed the most victims), so i became a master in avoiding animas and i tought myself invincible.
    But one day i a scorpion decided that he likes our cave and made his nest there, while i was poking him around to get him out of there got hit by its sting 4 times in the stomach in less than a second.
    Needless to say that i spent the next 3 hours slowly dying, trying to heal my wound. The vision got blurry and red, i barley managed to move.
    And there i was tired, desperatly searching the grass for healing herbs, but even when i had them my hads where shaking and i couldn’t manage to bandage my wound, got somewhere near someone’s farm far from my house and gave my last breath.

    Yes, if you get hit in the same spot heveral times hard enough you can get a bad wound that gets worse in time and you need to treat it with certain herb mixes.

  49. Helm says:

    Well me and my internet friends decided to take a tour in Wurm online on the strength of this article. Here is what followed.

    I connected ahead of my mates and wrestled with the UI (reading wikis is for smart men, not for idiot barbarians such as I). I found the pale woman and she gave me directions to simple missions, which I fulfilled. Then she told me to forage, and I stayed by a single tile – which had been foraged numerous times before I even started and I never got a bit of food on it so I gave up. By that time my friends had come online too and were doing their own bit of wrestling with the UI and mission system.

    Then Torgen was noted with the name ‘Torgenrps’ and I asked and he confirmed he was there because of this article. It was a strange effect, how silent the chat seemed before rps was mentioned. Once mentioned though, a lot of people went ‘oh, me too! I’m because of RPS!’ and we decided to organize a journey party to the PC Gamer lands, armed only with a few (out of date) screenshots on how to get there, vague directions to go ‘west there’ and ‘around the lake’, without a compass, without a system to keep our party organized, and we all looked exactly like copies of each other. This is what our love for RPS made us do.

    Nonetheless, about 10 people set off towards the direction of the camp, we had stragglers at every turn, some people almost drowned, we pulled them out of the water. A few fell down a mountain, but they scaled back, eventually. A person really really wanted help with getting his cart on top of a mountain (?!) and he was so persistent in asking that someone actually went ahead and helped him. Pull a cart. Over a mountain.

    We reached a fort at the top, our army of RPS clones. It was a surreal, but beautiful sight, to see a bunch of yourselves look at the ocean from that vantage. Then a user named Mthec (I think) helped us along to reach the PC Gamer village. Thank you a lot, sorry about perhaps not remembering your name right, I’m just bad with nicknames. Anyway, we eventually got there but not before we got lost and found a quaint little zoo of walled in animals, starving and motionless, looking at us, pleading us for mercy. We did bow in reverence to CHAMPION STARVING LION but did not destroy the walls that held them in check.

    We arrived at the PC Gamer lands and then our guide had to leave. The place was mostly empty. I don’t know what we were imagining on our way there, and perhaps our Odyssey was more important than our Ithaca but I would have liked to see a few people there to whom we could tell our voyage tale.

    At this point, our initial desire to take the journey had been fulfilled, but we were hungry. Some wanted to build homes right away. We were informed that the best idea for eating is to just travel back to initial village for our free steaks. But we would have none of that. We wanted to leave the wildman life, we wanted none of this free food, we wanted to FORAGE.

    We started foraging pretty hardcore, and cutting down trees and making planks to build rudimentary settlements by the beach. A loosely organised conglomeration of beach bums. As one of our party noted ‘this is the only way we’ll ever afford seaside resorts anyway’. And so it was. An hour and many points of foraging skill later, and with just one onion to show for it, I consulted the wiki for rules about foraging. Apparently only one attempt per tile ever 24 hours. Ouch. We’d never feed a group of 10 people even if we foraged the whole section of the map. So then we thought, fishing. We made fishing hooks pretty fast, but then we understood we needed cotton for the thread. Which required botanizing until you hit a cotton seed, and then you’d have to successfully farm it. I started botanizing to get the skill up and then realized… this was a grind trap. I was doing what I had vowed to never do in an MMO. I was clicking a thing to make a number go up so I could then do something that seemed like fun. I can’t afford this, I have comic pages that need inking and cats that need petting.

    I had taken my journey into Wurm Online, fell into improvised camaraderie with wonderful RPS folk, almost drowned with them, scaled a mountain with them, saw a surreal zoo with them, foraged, carved and starved with them for a couple of hours, and that’s what I’ll take from this game. The sense of companionship and exploration. It was a good experience, but I do not have the time to click the same action every 15 seconds to get anywhere more in it. When they make something like this without percentage skill based abilities, I’ll play it more. Perhaps Love will be like this. Until then, I bid you farewell, Wurm Online, and to the wonderful people that we traveled with that choose to persist, goodspeed! If you ever build a castle do mention it so I can be a tourist once more yet and play the ‘applaud’ emote towards it.

  50. Ergates says:

    @Guru Bear: I figured it was probably my connection – it can be a bit flakey at times. Meant to say that above but forgot.

    Any game that lets me grow stuff is worth a few goes at least.