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Cross post of my Wurm review. Originally posted in the pub as a response to another topic. I figured it would be more useful over here.
There are some good ideas in the game: deformable terrain, (mostly) player-driven economy, ecology sytsem where cutting down the trees impacts the total number of trees in the world, day/night cycles, and more.
There are major problems with the game however. First off, the devs are arrogant. It's their way or the highway, and are totally unwilling to listen to the players good ideas or bad. True they have a vision for the game, but some of the things they come up with are simply not fun. The game itself is basically a graphical MUD. There are 3 ways in games to give feedback to the player about happenings in the world: visual, audible, or textual (i'm ignoring tactile feedback like rumble controllers). Most all of the feedback in the game is textual. This isn't bad for a text-based MUD, for a 3-D game, it's a horrible lack of use of visual/audible cues.
For example, nearby monsters don't make any sounds, and at night they can be near impossible to see. This means a fair amount of the time when you are attacked, the only feedback you get is some orange-colored text in your event window that you are under attack. Adding something as simple as footstep sounds or some visual cue that something is after you seems too hard for the devs to add to the game.
Most every action in the game revolves around you right-clicking on an object, selecting and action, then watching a countdown timer, and finally reading the resultant text in the event log to see whether your action failed or succeeded. If you want to mine rocks, you right click on a rock face, choose mine, then wait 30 seconds for some rocks to appear on the ground infront of you. You cannot do anything else during this 30-second period. You just stand there. While you mostly succeed at mining, many activities include failure rates. Occasionally failing at a task is a nice addition to gameplay, put the Wurm devs seem to think that high rates of failure are both acceptable and fun.
An example of this is with making "healing covers" -- bandaids essentially. If you get a severe wound from combat, they have treated with healing covers or you will eventually die. Healing covers are made out of ingredients that you must round up. Newbs don't have these ingredients, and it would take a newb hours to aquire these things by searching the ground. Unfortunately it's very easy for a newb to get one of these life-threatening wounds, and then it can take literally hours to attempt to fix it. Not only do you have to get the ingredients, but you then must mix them together to create the healing cover. Unfortunately, the failure rate for such actions is very high. Moreover, even after you successfully create a healing cover, you must then apply it to the wound. Unfortunately, you can fail at that step as well. What could be an interesting game mechanics quickly turns into an act of total frustration. Below is a screenshot where i failed 13 times in a row to apply a healing cover to a wound! I was not a newb, and had access to lots of supplies and had decent skills to perform the tasks. Again the devs seem to think that players like being told 12-times straight that they are an idiot piece of shit, while trying to complete a simple task. Fun? No way.
Also, the game is written in Java, and despite what Sun or the Java fanbois will tell you, Java is dirt slow. Lag is generally acceptable, and the servers have close to 99% uptime, but the performance of Java is terrible. On midrange machines you must disable a fair amount of the eye candy to get any decent frame rate. A friend of mine even built a brand-new gaming rig just as the game launched last June, and he would still get sub 10FPS with the eye candy turned on. Of course their devs solution to any problem is that you need a faster computer. They are delirious in their belief that Java is as fast as C++. John Carmack -- the founder of ID software -- often complains about how slow Java is, yet these guys keep trying to convince everyone that Java is just as fast as C++. I like Java, but i don't kid myself into the irrational belief that it's as fast as C++.
Even though the game is fully 3-D, it lacks animations. Sure doors/gates swing open and closed, but that's it. Players glide over the ground as if ice skating as do monsters. Combat consists of you standing next to your foe -- motionless -- and watching the event log to see who hit who and waiting to see who dies first. Not only is combat 100% automated, it's 100% standing still. Sure the devs promise that a combat revamp and animations are in the works, but they also said both of those things were going to be fixed before the game launched last June.
Community-wise, the players are a tight knit group, and many are helpful. There have been problems in the past with GMs who abused their power and were removed, and many more complaints against GMs that the devs seemed to turn a blind eye toward. Of course, allegations of GM abuse are common in MMOs, and Wurm certainly isn't any different in that regard. Also, most gamers know that they have no expectation of free speech in a private game, but the devs give the GMs wide leverage to mute people in game and they devs have been wiped the forums in the past because they didn't like the comments people were making. I can certainly understand not wanting to read comments from people who have nothing to say other than "you suck", but much of the complaints about the game were very valid, but again the devs don't care about what the players have to say.
There is a free "trial" for wurm. Some would say it's free to play, but that's a misnomer. The devs don't want freeloaders, they want premium players. As such, trial accounts have skill caps, can't own towns, and have other restrictions. Premium accounts are 5euro/month ~$7 AND they want you to spend approximately another 5euro/month to buy ingame money. Their economic model is fundamentally broken, but seem to think that players like having to fork over additional cash each month just to pay property taxes on their virtual estate. Of course, it's not required that you buy any ingame cash, but most active players are pretty much forced to just to pay for the upkeep on their buildings. I hate property taxes in real life, and i don't understand they think players would like paying property taxes in the virtual world. Then again it's another way for them to make money so they are all for it. Personally, i would much rather see a flat 10euro/month fee and get rid of the lame IGE-style of selling you gold.
I followed Wurm throughout its development, I was there for launch day last June 6th -- which went smooth BTW -- i supported them with premium a premium account, brought 3 other friends into the game who also bought premium accounts, and bought ingame gold. Even though i didn't like much of how the devs ran the game, it's an indie MMO and i was still willing to support it because i feel we need more indie games. In the end, all of my friends quit wurm because the game was so slow/boring/maddening, and i eventually gave up months later for much the same reasons.
In the end if you have to have a game with deformable terrain, player-built housing/towns, or a mostly player-driven economy, then Wurm might be for you provided you can put up with the infuriating parts of the gameplay and arrogant devs who don't care what you think.
Some rabid Wurm Fanbois might point out something i've missed, and i certainly haven't covered every aspect of the game. I've tried pointing out both the good ideas, and the obvious shortcomings. Is wurm successful? Depends who you ask i guess. On launch day they had about 185 max concurrent users. It fell off the months that followed, but these days it have just shy of 200 max concurrent users at peak times of the day. Sadly, if they removed much of the tedium from the game -- without making any other changes -- i bet the game would have magnitudes more players.
www.TheChippedDagger.com My 90-day 2D Java MMORPG project
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