Tobold's Blog
Friday, December 07, 2012
Proof of concept

I found a beta key for Salem in my mail, so I went and tried it out. That turned out to be a big disappointment, the version that was available was in a state which I would consider essentially as being unplayable. It was more a proof of concept than an actual game.

So I went a read up a bit more about Salem, and found lots of "previews" lauding the concept, and barely anybody writing about the actual game. I did find a player-created new player's guide, which contained gems like "don't use the official client, it sucks too much, download an alternative player-created client here or here". That just confirmed my impression that Salem simply wasn't in a state yet where it can be appreciated by anyone other than a hardcore fan.

Furthermore I ended up having serious doubts whether I would ever want to play Salem, even in a more advanced state. I do appreciate the "real sandbox" idea from a philosophical standpoint. But practically new player advice like: "The area around the starting zone tends to be void of materials new players need, as other players have already taken them. Run at least 30 minutes away from the starting area before starting collecting stuff." to me doesn't sound fun. Other sandbox games, like A Tale in the Desert, handle the new player experience a lot better than Salem does. As much as the idea of players being able to change the virtual world by e.g. hacking down trees appeals on a theoretical level, as much I would consider such a system unplayable on a practical level.

Does anybody know if Wurm Online is as bad? I hear it "moved out of beta" after six years. I'd like to try a good sandbox game, but I hate implementations of it where "sandbox" means that existing players make the game unplayable for new players. There is no future in that.

I keep meaning to try Wurm but I remember reading a new players guide which seemed to imply that everything was really complex - like creating your own fishing rod was like a 50 stage process. I'm a lightweight, that put me off.
I tryed Wurm... then quit it.

You will need walk a lot for find a free spot where you can build your home, farm, mine.

The problem with non-pvp sandbox MMO is that but diferent players will compete for resources: a place for build homes, mines, farms. While the devs can create non limited resources (metal, stone, wood, etc), space for building will continue to be a limited resource.
I really gave Wurm a go but it didn't take for me.

First off, yes Wurm does have the problem of resources around the starter area. The spawn spot is often a mess of piles of scrap, deserts of trees being cut down etc. I will say that the veteran community does try to off set this by planting trees (something a newbie can't easily/doesn't know how to do). And by encouraging the newbies to spread out immediately and/or find a village to join.

My main problem with Wurm is that there is no economy at all. Trading occurs but only at really high levels. The only currency a newbie has to offer is menial indentured labor. That introduces the grind way too early and you wake up and realize that there's no point to the game at all.
I've heard both Wurm and Mortal Online have similar issues, unfortunately. Even public Minecraft servers tend to experience a variant of this problem, especially if there's no one building railways or stocking newbie-friendly chests near the spawn point.

Glitch had that issue for a while, with both apartment buildings and streets reaching capacity fairly quickly in nexus areas. The eventual solution, providing players their own instanced expandable street and home that could be attached to other folk's probably came too late, and didn't solve the quests that had to be done at least partly in the uninstanced world areas (finding an empty tree plot outside of player streets remained nigh-impossible). But it's at least worth considering some variation of it, if only for the new player experience.

Of course, this either fractures (if you move players to different parts of the overworld) or makes schizophrenic (if you use heavy instancing early on) your playerbase's world.
It's not for the faint-hearted that's for sure, but very immersive. Suits a certain kind of player I think. Best to just try it yourself. I never thought I would like it but I'm still there... Sustained, persistent, changing world, superb weather, and most complete sandbox I've found so far (mind you the bar is low for that).
Wurm has a lot of flaws. But it's one of the absolutely most compelling games I have played since the early MMOs of the late 1990s.

There is just something irresistible and addicting under its very rough surface. As a result, I have been playing almost daily for close to two years now, long after I've gotten bored with modern mainstream games.

It's not very casual-friendly though, and probably not a good choice for someone looking for a spot of entertainment for a few hours a week. It's more like .. a dangerous drug ^_^ It's more like a 'world' than just a 'game'.
Oh my, yes, it's worth the time trying out. Doesn't cost anything right away, and if you're willing to ask around for help (as I'm certain you are) there is a community that will help you to get set up and started. Also, for someone like you that doesn't like 'twitchy'-type games, there is little you need to do that requires quick reflexes (unless you engage in PVP, which you wouldn't right away anyways).
There is a brand new server opening up on 12/12/12 where everyone will have to start from scratch, even players who have played for years, so it's a perfect time to get in and try it out!
If you want a game where everything is at hands reach and you can max any skill in a month then Wurm is not the game for you.
If you enjoy a challenge and are will ing to put some time and effort into your skills you will find it immensely rewarding.
' I got more satisfaction from making a small cart in Wurm than I ever did crafting Purples in WOW.'
:) Congrats ~ your blog post made it to the Wurm forum. I thought I'd wander over and share my thoughts. I've tried countless games and without fail periodically I'd tire of them. Been playing wurm on and off for over 2 years now. Nothing quite like it. Someone mentioned about about indentured servitude. I don't know about you but I'm not playing the game to make money. That is simply a perk. I play because its fun. & as such there is nothing like shaping your corner of the world. It is time consuming but it does have a sense of accomplishment with it. With an unlimited f2p trial and a very reasonable subscription cost I don't see myself quitting anytime soon. The community is the best I have seen in any game. It is smaller but that much more personal. If anything you should try it out just to see some of the changes.
Wurm is definitely worth trying, it's easily one of if not the best sandbox games around. It's really suited towards a certain type of player, one who enjoys the challenge of survival, one who is patient and enjoys problem-solving, and one who enjoys the facet of shaping the world and making their own way. It's hardcore in a way that hearkens back to the old MUDs and early MMOs - but I enjoy that far more than the more modern themepark MMOs. These days I have gaming ADD with WoW, GW2, Rift, LotRO, etc, but Wurm is the one constant in my gaming.

It's free to try, so give it a shot. If you don't like it, you've lost nothing.

If you really enjoy repeating an action a few hundred times for an slight increase inn skill (which is needed in order to actually make an item later on) then wurm is the game for you...

To be honest on the classic servers there's too much focus on repeatedly doing the same basic chores and when you actually get to see some fruit of your labour you will be frustrated by the fact that your shiny 10QL Shortsword is not even good enough to kill a giant rat.
Then someone will tell you that you needed to spend a few days making dummies to train on in order to increase your basic combat skills to stand an chance against that rat (and that's if you are lucky enough to find an rat instead of something that runs 2x times your speed and can kill you faster than you can shout for mother ).
@Rune You can join an established village as a support system. That way you dont have to work so hard at making everything yourself. Wurm 1.0 will also come with a new "pristine" server. Meaning none of the existing and highly skilled players will be able to go there. Sure they can create alts but when this server is released everyone will be at the same skill level.
WURM is not for the faint-of-heart nor for the type that wants guidance via some type of online system or mission/quest list.

I have played for three years, and have two premium accounts and a few alts. I can tell you and others out there that it is a world that you truly create for yourself. If you can't get past the stage of being thrown into the wilderness with practically nothing and having to fend for yourself foraging through the grass for food because you have no skills or armor to kill anything, then this game is not for you.
Many can't even tolerate the 20-30 minute tutorial (which they did not have when I first started). Which is probably a good thing, as it simply keeps those unprepared out of the wild areas of WURM.
Now, if you don't mind finding someone that already has a deed and is recruiting, then this could be an alternative for those whom like to start out a little slower and learn the game before venturing off alone into the wilderness.
Lots of good information on the Forums and on the Wiki.
the new version release 1.0 is coming with a new server as well which will provide virgin territory to be discovered and concurred for those brave souls with enough fortitude to make it past the meager beginnings of a pioneer.
Stragrace over at MMOQuests plays Wurm and has 99 posts (currently) on her blog about it. You could probably read up on it a bit there if you wanted:
I have to agree with a few of the above posts about how this game is for a certain kind of gamer. Wurm Online is defintaly a different kind of "game"!

You can watch a few videos and read some blogs about starting out in Wurm Online at

The video series is more of a tutorial about Wurm and you can see if this is something that may interest you enough to play.
One of the few games I've tried that makes EVE Online's newbie experience look smooth and well thought out.
I have played Wurm online for a number of months now. It is currently the only MMO I play.

I love that you can modify the terrain, gather your own resources, craft anything you need, and maintain your own little village out wherever you want. I found Wurm because I had been playing a ton of Minecraft and wanted something more advanced.

However, Wurm online is not for the short attention span, immediate gratification players. Those people will be miserable and will probably be better served playing another game. In WoW, you log in and immediately grab a mission and start killing those rats and getting shineys. In Wurm, you log in, look around a bit, and suddenly realize that there is not direction for you and you have to decide where to go from here.

Do you want a farm? Find a spot, chop down the trees, level the terrain, build a fence around it, build a farmhouse for your stuff, plant some seeds, wait 3-5 days while they grow, harvest them, replant some of the product for more crops growing...

I decided to join Wurm because I read about the crafting system and it was so complex and it actually required effort. Want a small barrel? Chop down a tree, chop up the tree, make planks from the logs, go get mine some iron, smelt the iron, make some nails, attach nail to first plank, keep attaching planks until you're done.

Time consuming. Highly addictive. An awesome world where you create the world for yourself in a true sandbox. Just keep in mind what it _is_ and what is _is_not_.
Wurm is an amazing world - yes world. Three and a half years into it, almost daily playing, and I can truly say no other game comes close to providing a sense of ownership, control, and worth. It boils down to time. If you make Wurm a hobby as I have done, you will have time to enjoy it as you would any hobby. If you want a 10 minute a day wind-down game, Wurm is not the one.
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Not surprisingly, after your post was picked up on the official Wurm forums, several positive comments have been posted to follow the early negative ones.

While I have usually despised games that pandered to instant gratification because it attracted the same people who sought instant gratification in real life, I'm old enough to realize that to seek delayed gratification, in a video game, is something that is not quite healthy.

Wurm delays gratification to such an extreme that it takes months (played casually) to accomplish anything, and then it forces you to keep playing (or paying) to maintain what you've made. You will reach a point where you will be doing nothing new except repair what you already have. This is meant to hide that there is nothing in the way of gratification at any stage, even years later.

There is no endgame, which means that in most cases the only thing Wurm players ever take pride in is their skill levels. Recently, a player who reached the maximum level of 100 Fishing posted the news on the forum; this was inevitably followed by a lengthy "Grats" parade, but all I can see is someone staring blankly at a virtual fishing rod for minutes if not hours on end for a few years.

Also, servers turn into a mess very early on. Nobody cares about what the next guy is doing, so roads never tend to go anywhere. If you decide to put up lights, you'll be the only one looking after them; nobody else will bother. If, however, someone finds something of any use anywhere, he won't hesitate to fence or deed all over it if he can. The whole starting area looks like a zombie suburb after a few weeks, everyone cuts trees (and can't replant, if they're newbies, because there is no sickle in the starter kit despite repeated demands to this effect), and what does Rolf do to keep people playing his game if there is no endgame and that the servers get too messy?

He simply announces, with great fanfare, the opening of a new server. The last one, Celebration, is barely six months old, and it's a mess already, taken over by the same old players while newbies come and go.

Also, something else must be said: The entire economy is based on coins, which pay, among other things, for deeds (exclusive land) and monthly deed upkeep; the larger the deed, the higher the upkeep. Coins cannot be earned from the game environment; they must be bought from the cash shop, with two exceptions. The first is a free two silver coins given to every new premium account. (Yes, Wurm has a cash shop ON TOP of a voluntary subscription model.) The second is a trader, which costs 50 silver (50 Euros), which can buy a certain amount of the garbage you produce because it's supplied with coins directly from the game. There's a balancing act to be done (the trader must sell back a portion of what he bought), but established players only need to use their traders to make all the money they need.

If you have no trader and don't want to buy coins, your only way to get some is through other players, and it turns into, as one poster said above, indentured labour. Since you don't have skills, expect the most menial tasks, like making 500 stone bricks for 1 silver (the going rate). It's one of the surest ways to grow disgusted of the game.

The new server that has been announced is supposedly reserved only for new characters, but I'm expecting more of the same; what's to stop someone, probably an old player wanting to go through the "newbie experience" again, from buying coins and getting newbies to "play" Wurm for him in exchange for a pittance? Oh, and those players will never say that they are exploiting you; expect them to say that they are "helping" you.

This "launch" affair is purely arbitrary; it's not a few new "features" that will change anything to the fact that the design of Wurm is a failure that caters to elitists and leaves players with a feeling of having wasted months, if not years, of their lives.
Well, thanks for the post (and to Barry Shelton and Vetarnias answers in particular), one more title added to the "never bother" list :)
It seems to have all the problems Ryzom had, in worse. I'll steer clear of it and keep to my "instant gratification" games, a bit like I tend to go to a restaurant here-and-now when I want good food, instead of embarking in a 10-year long study to become a fine chef :)

Actually, my earlier comment, as long as the formatting here would allow, was just a condensed version of my review of the game just a few months ago, where I get into specifics:
If it's as bad as you say, it shows how much people want - or think they want - a good sandbox game.

Whether such a game is possible is yet unknown.
@Gerry Quinn

"If it's as bad as you say, it shows how much people want - or think they want - a good sandbox game.

Whether such a game is possible is yet unknown."

I am being critical to sandbox MMO after I tryed some: SWG (pre that thing that destroyed the game), EVE, ATITD, Darkfall and Wurm. Before it, I thought that sandbox was a good idea, but after I tryed it I was forced to see that the problem with the MMO sandbox... are the other players. Ever and forever. That will have no solution.

If you can have problems at ATITD, where players have social incentives to cooperate (well, there is that anti-pharaoh that say to you just not cooperate, so there are too incentives for non cooperation), we ever will have problems with other players at ANY sandbox MMO.

It is something will never have a solution. How I wrote above, any sandbox MMO is based at build things (let's name it "sandcastle"), so players need slots of land for build sandcastles on top of it.

But land is limited, so there is a competiiton between players for land. PvP made the things worse, other players can come and destroy your sandcastle...

After try for some time I just was forced to see that sandbox MMO was not aq good idea.

Have a go at Dwarf Fortress instead :)
Re GQ & JC:

Yes I want a sandbox and am not hopeful it will happen.

My rationalization is to go meta - I will enjoy the [sandbox] games until I play them. E.g., I had dozens of hours of entertainment reading about EVE and ships and training plans. It only quit being fun when I logged in.

I expect to get many hours of enjoyment while learning about Wildstar, EQ3, Greed Monger and 0x10c. Alas, there is not a great chance that any will be a great game. OTOH, I will probably get more hours of entertainment from learning about those than many got from some $60 cartridge games.
Maybe we should be thinking in terms of 'emergent gameplay' rather than 'sandbox'. What I mean is that the players will influence the direction of change but not the form. Player behaviour will affect whether an area becomes civilised farmland or zombie wasteland, but it will not for the most part be affected directly by individual actions, though probably citizens who contribute resources can vote on some things, or contribute resources directly (e.g. you could get a NPC who will try to enforce the law in a given area).

It can work with faction versus faction PvP too.

The trouble with sandboxes is that in the real world, there are loads of pressures on people to conform to some basic pro-social behaviours. (Like, a police force to make you keep the law against murdering people, various social and legal pressures to pay taxes and help your local economy, etc).

In a game, it's really hard to implement that kind of thing (outside of individual guilds) and much much easier to have a free for all anarchy. So you can really easily end up with a tragedy of the commons scenario, unless you happen to have a bunch of players who actually want to make their virtual world 'work.'

I don't think it's impossible to have a workable sandbox. But I think you might need to vet the players.
It is my belief that Wurm would only benefit at this point from the kind of rigour you, Tobold, and your readers would apply. It's pretty sturdy but it has its flaws as Brash said. If you do decide to try it and would like a contact within the game I can be reached through my blog:!/my-stats/
Bad link, that.
I really enjoyed the START of my time in Wurm, but its biggest flaw is that there is no way to streamline/automate maintenance.

One of their answers to the problem of players claiming all the available land then not logging in, resulting in ghost towns (which still exist, btw) was that everything deteriorates. So you have to go out and craft and gather and work to maintain your property. And of course you have to keep yourself fed and protected at the same time.

So, after you beat the initial hurdle of getting out of starting-area-ghetto, working your way tiringly out to somewhere where you can carve out your own pioneering paradise, you will eventually reach a stage where the growing/building/creating parts of your day are completely overtaken by the maintenance.

Once that happens, you will realize that you are logging into a virtual game to do virtual chores that you don't enjoy. Then you will stop logging in.
Starting with Second Life, this sandbox experience has always attracted a lot of publicity and debate, yet I don't feel that the right game mechanics have been "invented" to make virtual communities more alive.

Maybe I'm wrong and Blizzard will offer player housing and closed, guild-owned communities in TITAN. But I doubt it. That nut is not about to be cracked.

Sooner or later, it all becomes another UO covered with houses with no people in sight. A few vendors here and there, usually with no goods.
On the subject of decay, Cam is correct. And if you're a newbie, it's even worse, because the lower the quality of what you're making, the faster the decay. Instead of making things progressively harder, Wurm does the exact opposite: it makes everything far easier for established players.

I understand that some decay is necessary to maintain a balancing act for making space for new players, but in its present form it might even dissuade some players from returning, since they'd have to work at getting back what they had when they left.
Vetarnias, I have never played Wurm, and based on what you wrote, I will not be playing it. I just wanted to commend you on a well written review of a game I can tell you had an extensive and dedicated experience with. I can feel your dissatisfaction!
Thank you. What's especially disappointing for me is that Wurm is exactly my kind of game, but it suffers from too many bad design decisions that can't be overlooked.

Probably the best equivalent I found was a Minecraft server a few friends launched. I find solo Minecraft rather boring and aimless, but in multiplayer it becomes something completely different, like Wurm but without the excessive grind.
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