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[Review] Salem: Reviewing a Pilgrim’s Sandbox

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,596MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

Paradox Interactive released its first MMO, Salem, not too long ago. It's a hardcore sandbox experience, according to the development team. Does it deliver? Find out in our latest review before heading to the comments.

Salem has a certain charm to its aesthetics. There’s not a lot you can do with a Java based game such as this, but a great job has been done to accommodate for this time period. Zones are generated around different seasons. For example, the zone I was placed in was in Autumn. Leaves cover the ground, and brightly coloured trees covered the surrounding area, with their leaves dropping in the process. It’s a good take on each zone, and adds some charisma to the game. 

Read more of George Dimmock's Salem: Reviewing a Pilgrim’s Sandbox.

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Comments

  • XilentStormXilentStorm Melbourne, FLPosts: 224Member
    It looked pretty interesting but the cartoony characters (not too bad imo) and the name of the  health bars kinda threw me off. I'm sure others might find the names funny but they bother me imo. :p

    Veteran MMORPG Player -

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  • TharlogTharlog Seattle, WAPosts: 36Member
    The pics in this review are using the old UI, there's been quite a significant aesthetic update since these were taken.
  • azzamasinazzamasin Butler, OHPosts: 3,066Member Uncommon

    Tried it but crafting centric MMO's arent for me.  I need for combat and killing and looting to be the primary source of entertainment.

     

    Played Asheron's Call on and off for close to 14 years and thats a SANDBOX MMO done right IMO.

     

    Sandbox means open world, non-linear gaming PERIOD!

    Subscription Gaming, especially MMO gaming is a Cash grab bigger then the most P2W cash shop!

    Bring Back Exploration and lengthy progression times. RPG's have always been about the Journey not the destination!!!

    image

  • OzmodanOzmodan Hilliard, OHPosts: 7,183Member Uncommon

    I watched a friend play this the other day.  Did not look much different than the pictures displayed here.  Problem with this game, you can only do so much with Java and this game is a good example of that.  Noticing lag on a high end gaming computer is not a good sign.

    You really have to wonder why the developers had to put perma death in a nice crafting sandbox game.  Kind of like oil and water, the two do not mix.  My friend's wife stopped playing after someone came along and killed her.

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Posts: 14,779Member Uncommon

    "There’s not a lot you can do with a Java based game such as this, but a great job has been done to accommodate for this time period."

    Nonsense.  Java is just another programming language, and doesn't meaningfully restrict you any more than C++, C#, or whatever else you might want to use.

    The real graphical restriction is using OpenGL 1.4.  I have no idea why they use that, as it's ancient.  Trying to cram everything into the old fixed-function pipeline greatly limits what you can do.  It likely means that you have to do far too much on the CPU, since what you can offload to the video card is very limited, and that's likely to lead to performance problems.

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Posts: 14,779Member Uncommon
    Now that I look at it a bit more, OpenGL 1.4 didn't even have vertex buffers.  That means that if you want to draw the same object every frame (or at least in a bunch of consecutive frames), you have to pass all of the vertex data to the video card all over again every single frame.  It's much, much more efficient to just pass it once and then tell the video card to use the same data again the next frame, and the one after it, and the one after that.
  • IchmenIchmen Winnipeg, MBPosts: 1,228Member

    judging by the fact the article uses out of date alpha pics.. i honestly cant trust that this was made recently with the "open beta" launch of salem.

    also as its using the default client alot of the issues commented on could have been avoided, as its well known jorb and loftar make really shitty UI clients but decent games.  if people are going to review salem id honestly suggest they spend a few days with the default and with Enders client and compare the game that way. as enders does a billion times better job then the default. also makes your eyes hurt less with the default camra X_X

    CPU: Intel Core i7 CPU 860 2.8GHz
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  • kompletistkompletist Buffalo, NYPosts: 51Member
    Been playing Salem for about 3 weeks now with some of my Darkfall refugee friends. Very complex game for sure. Not much hand holding going on here. Quite a bit of fun so far. I would agree with the review on most fronts.
  • OzmodanOzmodan Hilliard, OHPosts: 7,183Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Quizzical

    "There’s not a lot you can do with a Java based game such as this, but a great job has been done to accommodate for this time period."

    Nonsense.  Java is just another programming language, and doesn't meaningfully restrict you any more than C++, C#, or whatever else you might want to use.

    The real graphical restriction is using OpenGL 1.4.  I have no idea why they use that, as it's ancient.  Trying to cram everything into the old fixed-function pipeline greatly limits what you can do.  It likely means that you have to do far too much on the CPU, since what you can offload to the video card is very limited, and that's likely to lead to performance problems.

    Nonsense, Java is an interpretive language, not compiled like C++.  You should know better than that.  Interpretive languages have a lot of overhead as they compile on the fly.  While Java has been optimized, it still has significant overhead when compared with C++.  When Java periodically does garbage collection it can effect performance.  C++ has to code garbage collection, but you can do it when you want to avoid a performance hit at the wrong time.

    I do agree that OpenGL 1.4 is antiquated though, good point there.

    The game is fun, my friend certainly likes it, but watch your back, players that act friendly can be masking their intentions.

  • TyrandineTyrandine VillejuntePosts: 2Member







    Originally posted by Ozmodan







    You really have to wonder why the developers had to put perma death in a nice crafting sandbox game.  Kind of like oil and water, the two do not mix.  My friend's wife stopped playing after someone came along and killed her.

    Ultima online would like to speak with you.

    The innability for someone to adapt himself/herself to the game isn't any sort of proof of bad gameplay.

    While I do not like salem ... i do think that former mmos usually mixed sandbox mmo and permadeath or some form of full loot, and most people adapted to them.... and I honestly ... kind of miss it ...

    While new mmos don't do it , it has been proven in the part to be reliable.

    The problem is ... most of the "newmmo" community do not like a game were they can actually do productive stuff and having a clear fail-state.

    Having such a "clean and hard" failstate means you can loose... that what you do has meaning but you also can loose it ( giving it extra meaning ). While most players nowadays do not even accept any form of loosing in a mmo, I for once apreciate it ( and that why I'm playing EvE even with a gameplay that doesn't apeal to me )

    Since most mmos don't even have a decent failstate ( wow Black and white ghost , or instant spawn in a near area ) most players aren't used to actually "loosing". Since most mmos are made for ppl that don't tolerate loosing , and want an easy mode mmo ... I think there is clearly some space for more unforgiving mmos, since 90% of the mmos out there don't even have a fail-state.

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Posts: 14,779Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Ozmodan
    Originally posted by Quizzical

    "There’s not a lot you can do with a Java based game such as this, but a great job has been done to accommodate for this time period."

    Nonsense.  Java is just another programming language, and doesn't meaningfully restrict you any more than C++, C#, or whatever else you might want to use.

    The real graphical restriction is using OpenGL 1.4.  I have no idea why they use that, as it's ancient.  Trying to cram everything into the old fixed-function pipeline greatly limits what you can do.  It likely means that you have to do far too much on the CPU, since what you can offload to the video card is very limited, and that's likely to lead to performance problems.

    Nonsense, Java is an interpretive language, not compiled like C++.  You should know better than that.  Interpretive languages have a lot of overhead as they compile on the fly.  While Java has been optimized, it still has significant overhead when compared with C++.  When Java periodically does garbage collection it can effect performance.  C++ has to code garbage collection, but you can do it when you want to avoid a performance hit at the wrong time.

    I do agree that OpenGL 1.4 is antiquated though, good point there.

    The game is fun, my friend certainly likes it, but watch your back, players that act friendly can be masking their intentions.

    So Java can be a little bit slower than C++?  So maybe you're CPU-bound at 200 frames per second instead of 300.  So what?

    Java can still get you full access to all of OpenGL.  I'm not sure about DirectX, but OpenGL is just as good these days.  If you're properly offloading work to the video card, then you're probably going to be GPU-limited anyway apart from a really unbalanced configuration or really low graphical settings.  The problem is that using OpenGL 1.4 doesn't let you properly offload enough work to the video card.

    At worst, you can do nearly everything in Java that you can do in C++, but just make the CPU work a little harder to do it.  That's a long, long way away from the quoted line from the review:  "There’s not a lot you can do with a Java based game such as this".

    Besides, the overwhelming majority of the work that the CPU does is just looping through a relative handful of code a zillion times--in some cases, literally billions of times over the course of a game session.  Compiling that on the fly once the game gets going is not a big deal, even with just-in-time compilation for an interpreted language such as Java.

  • PsychowPsychow SF Giants Territory, CAPosts: 1,784Member

    Am I correct in presuming that if a game is a sandbox...it automatically gets +3 in it's review score?

     

    I ask because the quality and polish of this game is nowhere near the current themepark MMOs we have seen recently, yet the score is similar.

  • Mtibbs1989Mtibbs1989 Fredericksburg, VAPosts: 2,920Member Uncommon

    Originally posted by Quizzical

    "There’s not a lot you can do with a Java based game such as this, but a great job has been done to accommodate for this time period."

    Nonsense.  Java is just another programming language, and doesn't meaningfully restrict you any more than C++, C#, or whatever else you might want to use.

    The real graphical restriction is using OpenGL 1.4.  I have no idea why they use that, as it's ancient.  Trying to cram everything into the old fixed-function pipeline greatly limits what you can do.  It likely means that you have to do far too much on the CPU, since what you can offload to the video card is very limited, and that's likely to lead to performance problems.

     Your actually dated on your information when it comes to Java. It's possible to use DirectX within Java these days. A great example of a company taking advantage of this is JAGEX with their Runescape title . It offers the ability to play in OpenGL and DirectX.

     Runescape also has a new version coming out this year (2013) with all new graphics, audio, and stabalization to their client (lag fixes) when they finally convert Runescape over to HTML5.

    image

    Somebody, somewhere has better skills as you have, more experience as you have, is smarter than you, has more friends as you do and can stay online longer. Just pray he's not out to get you.
  • QuizzicalQuizzical Posts: 14,779Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Mtibbs1989

    Originally posted by Quizzical

    "There’s not a lot you can do with a Java based game such as this, but a great job has been done to accommodate for this time period."

    Nonsense.  Java is just another programming language, and doesn't meaningfully restrict you any more than C++, C#, or whatever else you might want to use.

    The real graphical restriction is using OpenGL 1.4.  I have no idea why they use that, as it's ancient.  Trying to cram everything into the old fixed-function pipeline greatly limits what you can do.  It likely means that you have to do far too much on the CPU, since what you can offload to the video card is very limited, and that's likely to lead to performance problems.

     Your actually dated on your information when it comes to Java. It's possible to use DirectX within Java these days. A great example of a company taking advantage of this is JAGEX with their Runescape title . It offers the ability to play in OpenGL and DirectX.

     Runescape also has a new version coming out this year (2013) with all new graphics, audio, and stabalization to their client (lag fixes) when they finally convert Runescape over to HTML5.

    The reason Salem uses OpenGL 1.4 isn't because of Java.  It's because of... actually, I have no idea why they use that.  I know that Java gives you access to at least OpenGL 4.2, and probably the latest and greatest 4.3 by now.  Last time I really looked into the details, nothing gave you access to OpenGL 4.3, as it didn't exist yet, and then video drivers weren't ready for a while even after Khronos announced what was added to the core specification in 4.3.

    The problem isn't Java.  The problem is that Salem chose to use OpenGL 1.4.

    http://forum.salemthegame.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=4467

    They're using JOGL v2, which I've used for OpenGL 4.2--and in particular, I make very heavy use of tessellation, which wasn't an option before OpenGL 4.0.  So JOGL definitely isn't the problem.

    For what it's worth, the Khronos group only officially releases OpenGL in C.  That's not C++, but just plain C.  Then they let anyone else who cares to write programs to convert functions in other languages to the equivalent C and pass the data through.  That's a large chunk of what JOGL does.

    -----

    While HTML5 is recent, it doesn't give you access to have the video card do all that much.  My personal view is that having geometry shaders available (DirectX 10 or later, OpenGL 3.2 or later) is basically the dividing line between modern 3D graphics and rather archaic stuff, and HTML5 is definitely on the wrong side of that line.  Some more recent stuff like tessellation is great, too, but it's easier to give that up than geometry shaders.

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Posts: 14,779Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Psychow

    Am I correct in presuming that if a game is a sandbox...it automatically gets +3 in it's review score?

     

    I ask because the quality and polish of this game is nowhere near the current themepark MMOs we have seen recently, yet the score is similar.

    It's the nature of theme parks that they tend to be more polished than sandboxes, just like it's the nature of sandboxes that they tend to give you more freedom on what you can do than theme parks.  If you rate purely on polish without considering what they're trying to polish, then you'll almost automatically grade all sandboxes down as a result.

  • MagicManICTMagicManICT Wichita, KSPosts: 92Member

    I find it funny that this isn't even a released game yet and it's already got this score. What will the game be like in the 4-6 months when it sees actual release status? I think this site needs to relabel this review and mark it as something other than "released" software.

    According to Paradox, Salem is in a "Commercial beta" testing period. I believe Allods did this starting about four to six months before it released. As most everyone knows, Minecraft was available to purchase (at a discount) well before a released version ever came out. Expect more of this with smaller productions, especially with the popularity of crowdsourcing increasing.

    I don't expect the "social tools" too improve too much mostly because I've been watching Seatribe develop games for a few years now. I would love to see them improve, though. The game is dangerous enough without adding in complex UI mechanics.

  • SteakpuncherSteakpuncher LondonderryPosts: 255Member
    Just incase anyone is curious, the "sister-mmo" of this game is actually called "Haven and Hearth" not "Hearth and Home."
  • hrobertsonhrobertson HerefordPosts: 22Member

    Originally posted by Steakpuncher

    Just incase anyone is curious, the "sister-mmo" of this game is actually called "Haven and Hearth" not "Hearth and Home."
    I was about to post the same thing.

    I'd also like to offer my opinion that Haven and Hearth is actually still a better game than Salem, and the devs, Fredrik Tolf and Björn Johannessen, should have continued working on that.

    A quote from their website:


    Originally posted on their website:

    We have no producer, and we resent the concept. If anything, we operate under the faux company Seatribe.
    Getting involved with Paradox was the worst decision they've made.
  • NinjaGazNinjaGaz MacclesfieldPosts: 53Member Common

    I tried this one for a few nights in a week. Managed to get the hang of it and start building my own house. The game is a crafting game and I guess the addiction should be the constant progress that you make with your character.

    I was playing solo, maybe that was my problem, but progress was slow. It involved a lot of wandering around trying to find things to boost your stats, to learn something new so that you can wander around trying to find things to boost your stats, to learn something new, etc.

    I found myself asking "Why am I playing this!?" but still kept playing. I read forums for help, etc and noticed someone had reached 1000 stats. I was stat at ~10 stats. There was talk about murderers out there and I just wondered what chance at all I would have against them? I'd played wondering why I was playing and then wondered what would happen in my character got killed. I then thought that was the time to stop!

    I think it'd be good if you had free time and had a number of friends to play with, but it was really just a timesink for me that wasn't actually that satisfying - all with the possibility of having your entire progress wiped out at any point.

  • TheocritusTheocritus Gary, INPosts: 3,740Member Uncommon
    Most people pretty much have no chance in this type of game...It caters to the extremely hardcore who will play 20 hours a day and the game just isnt that enticing.....I'm surprised theyre still running.
  • GacekSSJ4GacekSSJ4 WarsawPosts: 7Member

    Originally posted by Theocritus

    Most people pretty much have no chance in this type of game...It caters to the extremely hardcore who will play 20 hours a day and the game just isnt that enticing.....I'm surprised theyre still running.

    Acually.... they're not doing well. There are few hardcores who are happy about how game looks like atm. New characters have no chance to get through. So don't bother starting.

    After recent changes, new players can't achive levels of those who played before changes (they can, but would need some "legacy stuff" from before patches).

    So games is designed for hardcores, and promotes those who started playing earlier.

    You can't trust anyone in this game. People create new characters to get your trust, get into your city and destroy you while you're online.

    All of your stuff can be destroyed when you're offline. To get decent "protection" you need to settle a city. And this requires Silver, new players can't get it easily, so would need to buy it. However, this only gives you 24h warning before you're attacked. And got time to pray :)

    So overall. Don't even start playing if you don't like being killed few times, losing everything and starting over every while.

  • GacekSSJ4GacekSSJ4 WarsawPosts: 7Member

    PS: You can find how "many" people play this game: http://www.webatrocity.com/salem/hnh_vs_salem_24hour.php

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