Wurm Online: Notch’s Past Project

Ah, pastoral bliss. Then you turn around and there's a spider eating your balls like chicken nuggets. That is Wurm Online.

A “friend” managed to make me feel like a huge tool in the pub yesterday when he informed me that Notch, indie developer of MineCraft fame, programmed another java game called Wurm Online before he made MineCraft. That’d be the Wurm Online that I wrote about heavily on this very site, not to mention the heavy piece of NGJ I wrote on it that amounted to a kind of dark age Deliverance.

In a nutshell, if you take MineCraft, make it massively multiplayer and swap the twee tone and fast pace for a gritty, ambitious medieval saga, you’ve got Wurm Online. If it sounds interesting, that’s because it is. You can start playing for free right here, but be warned. If you go expecting proto-MineCraft, you’re in for some pain. This is a very different beast.


  1. Matt Kemp says:

    He’s actually done others that RPS has written about – Left 4K Dead, Breaking the Tower.

    List here

    • Carra says:

      Oh, Breaking the Tower was a fun time waster. Recommended if you got a spare hour to play.

  2. Tei says:

    Wurms have a horrible interface, I don’t think Notch programmed that part.

    He is described as “co-owner and co-creator”

    link to wurmonline.com

    From WurmPedia
    (Redirected from Notch)
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    Notch is the co-owner and co-creator (along with Rolf) of Wurm Online who used to program the client.

    As of 12th of April 2007, Notch has quit developing Wurm.

    Post (source?):

    Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2007 9:05 am
    You might’ve noticed I haven’t been around much lately. There are basically two reasons for this:
    1) Real Life
    Some things have happened in my life that meant I can’t be around as much as I’ve used to.
    I’m two years away from turning 30, and I’m freaking out.

    2) Project Status
    It feels like most new development that needs to happen is on the server, and there really isn’t

    that much left for me to work on in the client. Adding more features like ridable horses and so feels

    wrong since fighting and religion still [don’t] work properly.

    Because of this, I’ve decided to stop working on Wurm Online, and focus on other things.
    I’ll still be around, of course.

    Perhaps now that I’ve admitted that, I’ll dare showing up on irc again. I miss that place.

    Notch’s response when asked if Wurm would be shut down now that he is resigning:

    Wurm’s not going anywhere. =)

    Blog: link to notch.tumblr.com

    Twitter: link to twitter.com

    Ooops… I was wrong. Seems we have to blame Notch for the horrible interface, since he did the client.

  3. Vague-rant says:

    “Friend” in quotes? Ouch.

  4. KillahMate says:

    Wow. He may be a bastard (supposedly), but he sure isn’t a lazy one.

    • Wulf says:

      Notch isn’t really a bastard, either. That’s just hot-air coming from jealous/self-entitled people, really. You know, he sometimes replies to people in the comments of his blog, and that comments section is sometimes worse than the World of Warcraft forums, the kind of nonsense that utterly obliterates any faith you have/had in humanity. Whenever he does, he’s always more reasonable than I ever could’ve been, frankly. He treats people with dignity, and he’s completely honest, he’s never fibbed about anything.

      What some people don’t like is that he’s not devoting every waking moment to the game, they don’t like that he’s setting up a company, or trying to stop the auth server from falling apart, they feel that every day they should have new content added to the game. Whenever that doesn’t happen, you have people saying that Notch is a bastard. Of course, they don’t realise how much effort he’s already put into it, and how much of an achievement things like the infinite-world maps are (in a game that doesn’t fall over under its own weight) for just one coder to have implemented, by himself.

      Notch is far from a bastard. He understandably gets burned out occasionally, so he has some small periods of downtime where he plays a game, but the amount of effort he’s devoted into the game is pretty damned obvious to anyone who plays it. And in my opinion, anyone who’d call Notch a bastard is a human of sub-World of Warcraft forum quality. Some people really need to grow up. Whatever Notch is, he certainly isn’t lazy or a bastard.

      For anyone who’s doubtful, just look at the interviews with him, or how he responds to people in his own blog’s comments section. I can tell you now that he’s a better person than I am, because I would’ve called some of these people out for being what they are.

    • Urthman says:

      I linked this in the other thread, but I’ll repeat it here because it’s very hard to reconcile the “Notch is a bastard” theory with the guy in this interview:

      link to indiegames.com

    • frymaster says:

      “What some people don’t like is that he’s not devoting every waking moment to the game, they don’t like that he’s setting up a company, or trying to stop the auth server from falling apart”

      which is silly, because I’d call all that stuff “the game” myself. I’m perhaps biased because I mainly play multiplayer; if the auth server is down, I can’t play. For single player people, all they need to do is manage to get the latest updates, then they can play offline.

      Clearly hiring more devs is going to be a good thing in the long run. Clearly devoting time to the back-end system, now that it’s started being a squeaky wheel, is necessary – he said in his blog that at the time the issues started, it was a test system that didn’t even use an SQL database as a back-end.

      Clearly hiring admin staff is going to be a good thing – last time the payment system had issues, he said he got emails from people who weren’t sure if payment had gone through or not. “A few” of them hadn’t. That was 140 accounts. That means he’d read through well over 140 emails, checked them all, and had to action 140 of them. In the long run, getting people to handle that stuff for him will save him time every day.

      I’m slightly mystified that he can be taking action to correct all of this and people are moaning because he “isn’t working”

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s internet entitlement complex taken to its most chilling extent, really. There seem to be a whole lot of people that believe that if you give a guy 10 euros for a videogame, you not only own the universal development rights to the game yourself, but you get a free contract for the developers immortal soul along with it.

    • Sardaukar says:

      @Dominic White
      They are tremendous fun to provoke, though.

    • Wulf says:


      I’m tempted to set up a Notch appreciation site to do just that, truth be told. Well, that, and to offset how self-entitled and prickish those people can be. A site where comments have to be viewed and approved, and only the best words of praise make it there.

      I say this because, well… I said they were as bad as the World of Warcraft forums, but the more I think about it, the more I realise they’re worse. You don’t have WoW fans ragging on Blizzard like this because they know they’d never get away with it, they’re cowards, and Notch only has to put up with it because he doesn’t have lots of moderation and legal clout to go around (yet).

      The thing is, you have to wonder, how many of these self-entitled geeks are actually paying an MMO subscription right now? That’s $10-15 a month, and even WoW can sometimes go three months without adding a bit of new content, most MMORPGs go much longer, and yet people pay that out without even thinking about it. Minecraft is what, right now? $13? As a one off payment.

      I would like to create a Notch-appreciation site pointing out all of this.

      Truly, you have to be a really horrible excuse for a human to rag on Minecraft and Notch, of all things. I just hope Notch is aware that probably the majority think the way I do, and the naysayers in his comments threads make up but the obnoxious, bratty minority.

    • KillahMate says:

      Well I admit the comment was a bit tongue-in-cheek, I added the ‘supposedly’ because I was pretty sure it was a false accusation. I don’t play Minecraft or have much experience with Notch (though I appreciate it as an achievement, of course), but even from this distance I could smell a faint whiff of whine on those accusations.

      What a shame.

  5. Hippo says:

    “Adding more features like ridable horses and so feels wrong since fighting and religion still [don’t] work properly.”

    Hm. Hm, hm, hm. :-)

    • Bob Bobson says:

      These days Wurm does have ridable horses. And working fighting and religion.

    • Batolemaeus says:

      Notch meant the fighting system that is currently in place.

    • Torgen says:

      Technically, “riding horses” works, as in, you can travel on one.

      However, you do it standing on the horse’s back like a circus rider, and you still hold your tools and weapons 90 degree out to your side, last I checked. And it’s been two years. :) Can you imagine the human scum that pollutes every comment thread on Minecraft reacting to that?

  6. Olero says:

    Having discovered Wurm Online only days ago, I can say it’s quite an experience!

    Positive mostly, with a huge world to explore and create. But the learning curve is very steep and progress is as slow as a turtle with it’s feet cut off. Last but least, the interface is indeed horrible (as are the “animations”). And yet…. It’s a sandbox MMO in a very pure form. Very addictive once you begin to grasp the way of working, and forgot about the lack of animations. And it has the best, helpful online community I’ve encountered so far. When you want to try this, do take your time. Surviving the crude and painful tutorial will be hard enough…

  7. MrBRAD! says:

    Rolf utterly ruined the game and the playerbase with his asshattery. A pity, becasue it was an alright game.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Really? How so? I’ve never played Wurm Online, but I’m interested.

    • MrBRAD! says:

      For the most part, it was the separation of the free to play and the paid players. I was a paid player on the Wild server for a relatively short time compared to most, but when the the free players were deleted from the game and forced into Golden Valley, the lifeblood of the server just died. Large group efforts of the free players such as the Facepunch Forums’ “Pirate Outpost” just puttered out and died.

      Apparently this change went in to stop “alt-abuse”, where players would use multiple free characters for spying, griefing and other things. I never noticed any issues in the slightest of manners. This could have easily been remedied with a better registration system but alas, they took the other road.

      If you have a game wherein everything is player built (even roads!), and then to take away the majority of the playerbase, bad things happen. I seriously have no clue as to how Rolf figured this would be a good idea. The idea of Golden Valley itself is flawed too; Nobody gets to see the fantastic creations of the high level players. The only things they see are little 1-tile abandoned shacks sitting about everywhere, and the occasional collection of shacks in a sort of “shanty town”.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Ugh, that sounds like a horrible ruining of a fantastic concept. I always planned on trying Wurm out someday.

    • Batolemaeus says:

      I wouldn’t say that removing most players from wild was the worst idea tbh.
      The worst was allowing the players from the pvp server raid the non-pvp mol rehan home server.

      The change was literally over night, nobody on home had any defenses built (and most villages would have had to be completely rebuilt for that) and since champions weren’t allowed on home before, some wild players could destroy entire settlements without any problems.

      The week after the change, the server was practically dead.

    • Tei says:

      Bad decissions not equal asshattery. You can be the nicest person on the planet, and thinks that making a law forcing everybody to smile is a good idea.

    • Batolemaeus says:

      Curse you missing edit function.

      What made the whole thing worse is that you don’t really need a lot of fight skill on home. But the fighting system is, in a nutshell, a simple level based system. If someones fight skill is 70 (takes months of grinding) and yours is 20 (takes weeks of grinding), then you’re simply not going to hit him most of the time.

      Some posts above me there’s a quote of Notch about how the fighting system doesn’t work well. It hasn’t had a significant change since the original “fight fix”.

    • MrBRAD! says:

      Hey, I encourage you to try it out! In my eyes its a shadow of it’s former self, but I’m confident that you’ll still enjoy it if only for a while. Notch was totally right in leaving :\ I’m sure there was some other quite large issue I had with how they handled the segregation but I can’t seem to recall what it was… regardless, hopefully a developer with more sense makes something

      On that note, I have found an mmo of a similar genre in alpha stage (and very much so). Shores of Hazeron – a first-person space empire game. You can’t deform the landscape but you can build cities and TAKE OFF INTO SPACE!

      -snip- I’ll make a new comment post with the rest of the details, rather than clagging up this reply.

    • noobnob says:

      When was that…2008, 2009? 2008, me thinks. At the time, I used to browse /v/ regularly and I remember their shenanigans on Wurm Online. HUNDREDs of players working on structures, settlements and giant underground tunnels. I never got to play the free version back then and now, but the stories were all pretty hilarious.

      Then Rolf came up with the silly division of free and paid players and suddenly the game was back to its stale, near-dead state only to be never heard of again…well, except for this article.

    • M_the_C says:

      Golden Valley was a knee-jerk reaction to a surprising situation (a huge rush of players from 4chan, I believe), and the place isn’t all that bad provided you don’t just hang around the starting area.

      All this is about to change however, the devs and staff, with some help from players, are creating a brand new and engaging tutorial (seen as the largest hurdle for getting people interested in the game and also the cause of some mis-information) which should hopefully be finished soonish. Once that’s in place the plan is for new players to run through the tutorial after which they’ll be able to move to Freedom, the non-pvp server, so that they are able to see the possibilities of premium and join already running villages with the experienced players.

      Further Information.

  8. James says:

    I have seen the future (with my robot eyes), and in it, large development studios come to realize that they too are capable of creating such games.

    It is a sad time for other game genres, the future.

  9. jeremypeel says:

    RPS group?

  10. MrBRAD! says:

    I am posting this as a new comment instead of hiding it in my reply:

    On the topic of a different developer making something similar, I have discovered an mmo of a similar genre in alpha stage (and very much so). Shores of Hazeron is a first-person space empire game. Some of the features include: buildable cities with npc inhabitants for running factories, gettting eaten by wildlife and crewing starships; a full commodity/production system; an almost Spore-like animal generation (ie: massive winged centipede bears with antlers); fully designable starships; land, sea, and air vehicles; “light speed” travel; newtonian space physics; properly-scaled (kinda) solar systems; ringworlds and much much much more!

    For a simple example of the scale of the solar systems, a motorbike on the ground goes at about 40. I took off with a Space Rocket and gut up to about 40,000 travelling over to a distant planet, taking me there in a few minutes (I overshot by a LONG way though, because I started slowing down far to late :P). You can go to every star you can see in the sky and the galaxy is BIG. VERY BIG.

    ATTN RPS WRITERS: Please do NOT make a post on this as the servers will literally die from stress. Currently, they don’t handle 40 people very well and I would hate to think about how much server downtime we would have if word got out. Just this comment alone probably won’t be very nice to their servers and anybody attempting to play. If you are looking for more info on this game, The Bay12 community (Dwarf Fortress) has taken to it greatly and I am sure they will have some helpful stuff up. Facepunch also got into the game but the empire kinda self-destructed. This game is very much still in alpha and you’ll need to keep that in mind. The official website contains a manual with some tutorials and there is a wiki coming along, but expect major difficulty.

    tl;dr Have fun riding motorbikes out the side of spaceships and into the sun! Expect unplayable levels of lag, problems and server downtime though.

    • jeremypeel says:

      Sounds potentially fantastic, MrBRAD!. Remind us about it in a couple of years!

    • Harlander says:

      Hey, quit horning in on my evangelising-Shores of Hazeron action! :p

      SoH’s been in development since 1995, so your ‘couple of years’ estimate probably isn’t too wide of the mark…

    • Davee says:

      Sounds a bit like the indie-developed Infinity MMO: link to infinity-universe.com

  11. Hazza says:

    Wurm is a terrific game, and its only gotten better over time.
    Join HOTS, we have cookies! =)

  12. Davee says:

    What I miss most on the Wild server is simply player numbers. I want to see the larger cities bustling with life!
    I’m not sure how the server would cope, but considering the code optimizations and hardware upgrades that has taken place since the 4chan-invasion days, I’m pretty sure a double in population shouldn’t be that much of a problem.
    The Wurm-community is too small to be divided onto two/three servers imho. Rolf should do it like EVE does!

    But in any case, there is only one Wurm out there – I recommend you give it a try. Next to Minecraft, it’s pretty much as close as you get to a genuine Sandbox MMO (I know there are others though). :)

    • MrBRAD! says:

      Well Rolf has made it like EVE, sort of. You can travel between the two servers by going to one of the world boundaries. Naturally, he has castrated the feature though by limiting how many times you can travel between them (I think the wiki said 8 times) and I don’t believe you take any items with you. Plus, some of your hard-earned skills decay!

      When it was first announced, I foresaw large shipping companies sending out the higher ql ore of Wild over to the other server; passenger services taking people between servers; couriers delivering Being Rolf, he did as I said above; castrated it.

      If a post containing stuff like this was posted on the Wurm forum, it’d just be whinged about by utterly loony people and then probably locked or deleted by a mod. I don’t understand why the game is constantly driven in the direction that (normal) players do not want. Is it Rolf? I know the lure of extra income can make some people clinically insane (eg: our good friend Bobby K.) but the decisons that are being made here are only forcing players away! It’s as if the game is purposely having its throat cut. I really doubt there could be a better way of stealthily ruining this game than the road they are currently on. It’s a disgrace, and I feel sorry for the game itself.

      So much potential thrown away… :'(

    • MrBRAD! says:

      *couriers delivering things to people cross-server.

      (Is there an edit button? For the life of me I can’t spot one and it’d be great what with all the large posts I do. I suppose I need to be logged in…)

  13. Moonracer says:

    Sadly I got as far as loading up Wurm and got distracted right at the start of the tutorial and haven’t gone back. It sounded like it has the same learning curve as Dwarf Fortress, only more stressful because it’s online.

  14. SomeDrunkAsshole says:

    Goddammit i just tried playing this sorry spool of shovel-wank on the strength of this site thing and i can report that it is the most fun i have had trying to inhabit the body of a physically and mentally handicapped survivalist since i last nailed my penis to the face of an elk. If you like repeatedly clicking things and wondering if you why your character is congenitally incapable of digging up a piece of soil without thirty minutes of practice, this is the long drawn out rasping death rattle of a game for you. I love the minecraft, but Notch deserves headbutts for this soul-withering knuckle of leathery misery.

    Stay the feck away.

    • Harlander says:

      I wouldn’t put it in quite those terms, perhaps, but my experience with Wurm was of a similar flavour.

      There’s a compulsive, feverish component to gameplay, but I wouldn’t have called it fun.

  15. mwoody says:

    Y’know, that screenshot in the post is astounding – it’s the only grab from Wurm I’ve ever seen that makes it look good.

    I don’t mean that as snarky, really, as I enjoyed the game for a little while as I played. It’s just never been a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination, and that pic is taken at an astoundingly perfect storm of angle, time of day, and distance to look really nice.