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Free-to-play MMO museum manager Occupy White Walls enters early access

Real art in (doubly literal) unreal spaces

There's an odd appeal to constructing and decorating your own little space in an MMO - Occupy White Walls takes that concept, builds on it and discards all else. Released into early access today by Stiki Pixels, it's a free-to-play (entirely so at present) creative sandbox with an artistic focus. Players construct, light and decorate your own little art galleries, choose what pieces to display, how and where, and hopefully earn cash to expand further from visiting NPCs and the tips they leave. From the bit I've played, it's rather relaxing. An early trailer hangs below.

Occupy White Walls has been floating around for a while, but today's Steam release is the closest it's had to a grand public opening. The current version is entirely free (with purchasable items planned later), and contains a decent range of building blocks to assemble your gallery from, along with a bunch of masked mannequin figures to act as your avatar. You're free to poke around anyone else's gallery - this is a social MMO after all - and leave comments and thoughts on each art piece before or after 'purchasing' it. It's not crowded though, thanks to instanced spaces.

Even as a shameless philistine with little appreciation for art galleries, Occupy White Walls makes it clear that how a piece of art is presented is every bit as important as the piece itself. It's easy to find yourself moving a piece from wall to wall, finding the best lighting for it ('natural' or otherwise), switching between frames, or even eschewing one entirely. Even though the NPC guests don't seem judgemental at all (I've had a few wander into the void outside of my construction to do a little dance), I find myself wanting to impress them or perhaps any real human that wanders in.

If there's one grumble I have so far (and it might just be entirely my own fault), it's that I didn't spot an option to type in an artist's name and build up from there. My dream of starting with a moodily lit collection of Zdzisław Beksiński pieces and expand from there as the AI recommends increasingly nightmarish art has been torpedoed for the moment. Understandable if this is intentional, though. The focus seems to be on introducing people to new artists through an AI recommendation engine. I wonder what art profile it'll build of me, given long enough to study?

Occupy White Walls is free-to-play and available in early access on Steam here. Stiki Pixels estimate a hefty 12-18 months of work until they're entirely happy, but artists (or at least gallery-creator-enablers) are a bunch of perfectionists. Peruse its aesthetically pleasing page here. Oh, and being an online game, they're having some launch-day issues. No need to rush.

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Dominic Tarason