The Early Bird gets the… Wurm.

On my previous blog, Battle Priestess, I wrote a series of posts describing my first few days & weeks in Wurm. There’s no better way to kick off the Wild Boar Inn than by reposting those here for posterity.

Originally posted April 25, 2011:

So! Wurm. Let’s talk about Wurm. As I mentioned before, I was a bit burned out on questmania in my other two games, and started for looking something sandboxy. Wurm ended up being an obvious choice for several reasons. First, it’s F2P up to a certain point, which meant I could get all my questing frustrations out for free and then go back to my other games. Second, I’ve heard the horror stories about having to learn to climb and the Fellowship-like trek from the starter area to the other places on the map, which means I’d likely lose my patience and go back to my other games. But I also kept hearing folks saying that it’s like Minecraft Advanced or a Minecraft MMO, and considering that Minecraft was one of the highlights of my gaming year in 2010, I couldn’t not try it.

I went through the tutorial, which does a pretty decent job of teaching you to climb Spiderman-style up steep inclines as well as introducing you to the slightly overwhelming UI. If you’re used to shiny buttons & hotkeys… well, you won’t get that here. It’s all rudimentary drop-down menus and right-clicks. Oh yes, and every item in your inventory has a weight assigned to it. The more you carry, the s l o w e  r   y   o   u     g      e       t.

*ahem*

So at the end of the tutorial, I was offered the choice of going to Freedom (the PvE server) or Wild (the PvP server). I chose PvE, and was placed in an area close to Freedom Market, a player-made town/hub/market. Now I will say that the coolest thing ever in Wurm is realizing that every single fence, road, market stall, house, or landmark was made by the players. So totally cool, and it reminded me very much of my first day or two on multi-player servers in Minecraft. There was also a pretty active worldwide chat channel, and you could hear the sounds of wood being chopped and nails being hammered in the distance.

The pop-up window that greeted me to my new server said “GO! EXPLORE! The further away you go, the better experience you’ll have!”, so I started off in a northeasterly direction, armed with nothing more than a 2-week-old player-made map for navigation. Unfortunately in my haste to get started, I missed picking up a newbie compass at the market, so I was relying completely on landmarks and general directional fortitude. I walked for literally hours, having to stop to catch my breath periodically, especially at the top of steep hills, before I could go any further. I passed into the wilderness, through the steppes, past giant mountains, and into lush forestlands. Oh, and it was nighttime and raining.

Yes, it was that dark. It was actually really creepy… you have to be really careful because you never know what will be out there waiting for you.

What in the world?!?!?!?!?

AIYEEEEE!!!! Giant man-sized scorpion… and that is a YOUNG one. Apparently there was a scorpion nest in these parts. I’ve since then seen an actual giant scorpion and they are grotesquely, monstrously huge.

Just past the scorpion was a giant (but young) man-sized spider as well. I asked in chat and apparently scorpions and spiders, but especially scorpions, are an extremely tough fight, and I had zero fighting skill and no idea how the combat system works. Between the two of them, I didn’t think I would be able to make it any further, so I ran up a friendly looking path lined with oleander bushes to find a place to hunker down until morning.

Oh look, a bed and a nice bench under a tree? Oh crud, it’s not a bench, it’s a… stone coffin. This night was getting better and better.

Finally somebody in chat mentioned that I could just go around the offensive scorpion and spider, and that if worse came to worse I could probably outrun them before they killed me. Just what I like to hear. I did get past them, and eventually made my way up to the Shipyard of Poland, a player-made seaside shipyard and dock on the northeastern tip of the mainland. I was tired, cold, wet, hungry, thirsty, and wounded, and still had no particular goal in mind.

But strangely enough, I was having a blast. It’s ridiculous really… the graphics aren’t cutting-edge, animations are crude at best, and crafting (the vast majority of what you actually do in Wurm) is… well…

Open Inventory.
Equip Hatchet.
Click Tree.
Chop Tree. (10 seconds goes by)
Chop Tree. (10 seconds goes by)
Chop Tree. (10 seconds goes by)
Chop Tree. (10 seconds goes by)
Tree falls down.
Chop up Tree.
Take log.
Equip Carving Knife.
Make kindling.
Kindling Fails.
Make kindling.
Kindling Fails.
Make kinding.
YAY! KINDLING!

Make Campfire.
Despair because I have nothing to cook because first I need to fish, which requires a Fishing Pole, which requires Fishing Line, which requires a String of Cotton, which requires Cotton, which is a random drop from foraging through grass. Unfortunately, none of this is really explained in-game, so for a new player, it really needs to be played with the WurmPedia open in a browser window.

Wurm is at it’s heart a crafting/survival MMO. You can easily spend 80-90% of your time crafting, and you can go days without killing something if you stay on-deed. If you do decide to venture out though, you need to be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to fight or flee, since any area that is not deeded is open to creature spawns, including multiple spawns like pairs and trios of spiders, roaming packs of wolves, and goblins that call all other goblins in the area to you in engaged in combat.

Wurm is also very Minecraft-like (or perhaps it should be that Minecraft is very Wurm-like, since the creator-of-Minecraft Notch was a co-creator of this game as well, BEFORE Minecraft), but with a massively multiplayer twist. As I was traveling I was greeted by random players and had a couple of invites to player towns. Players generally seem eager to help and advise, and once you start frequenting a particular area you’ll find that your neighbors display a frontier settler-like attitude of neighborly generosity and assistance. After a couple of days, I decided to splurge and purchase a deed, which is basically staking your claim on a plot of land, and very quickly thereafter my neighbors were up helping me build a well (since my masonry skill was still too low), offering me the use of their forges, and advising me on fence placement, mining, and terraforming. Wurm is brutal and unforgiving in many ways, and as a result, many players tend to go out of their way to help newbies and get folks on their feet.

So what started out as a quickie-fling to send me running back into the arms of my other games might actually be love. The freedom that players experience in determining their own goals and playstyle is huge… there’s no on-rails, hand-holding experience here. While it takes a while to really wrap your head around everything, that also leaves plenty of growing room as you continue to play the game. It’s ultimately a great change of pace and style from normal MMOs, and Rolf (the sole owner/paid developer of Wurm) really seems to have a little gem of a game on his hands.

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