Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wurm Online could be so great.

It's time to revive this old blog. I've been thinking about it off and on, so here we go.

Some months back some of the Massively staff, myself included, fell head over heels in love with Wurm Online. Some of our readers jumped in too, and we created a thriving, ever-expanding village. So many of us worked together that we sort of tripped ourselves up: there were a ton of us in a tiny space, everyone so talented that there wasn't really anything for most people to do. Nobody needed anything done or created, and people gradually drifted away. The challenge was gone. I've been missing the game for a while now and thought I'd log back into our old village.

It was sad and exciting all at once. Everyone was gone. The deed had lapsed so the buildings had all decayed away, the guards had disappeared, and the place was overrun with hostile wildlife. The thought of trying to survive and rebuild in the midst of this was great and I dove in. First priority was food and shelter. I literally could not go 15 minutes without being attacked by a wolf, a mountain lion, or a giant spider. My character had good fighting skills and a decent sword, though, so each time I'd kill the creature, butcher it (hey, food!), forage around the land for items to make some healing covers, and continue about my business.

It was going well -- I'd started building a small house on the site of my old one -- when the game decided I was having too much fun. I was hiding on a boat just off of the coast, healing up from a fight with a spider. Said spider was not dead yet, so he was hanging out on the shoreline, sulking because he couldn't reach me. For about 15 minutes I stayed here, with my wounds healing up and the spider pouting on the shore while I killed time repairing my items.

Then the game froze. No "the servers are shutting down" or anything, just... bam. Everything stopped. My only recourse was to log out and back in. After logging back in the season had changed (there was green grass everywhere instead of snow), so I assume the changing of the season pack caused the servers to hiccup.

Here's the fun part: I logged back in and was dead. When I logged out, I was around 60% health and steadily healing. Well, that's... confusing and annoying and should not have happened, but oh well, stuff happens. Here's the even-more-fun part: Since Massively's deed had lapsed and I had no home deed, I respawned at The Howl, which is literally halfway across the world. Well, that stinks, but I was still enjoying the challenge, so off I went to make the long walk back home. At this point I was considering purchasing a small deed when I got back home so I'd have a "real" spawn point. I love the game and when I was playing before I was happy to spend real-world cash to support a large deed on my alt character and kick in money for Massively's deed on my main. Always happy to support those people creating games I love.

So I traveled for a while, then realized something extremely unpleasant: I was missing a handful of extremely important tools. You see, when you die in Wurm, you lose everything except a few designated "non-drop" items, including beginners tools. Beginners tools are the basics that you need to survive: things like a sword, pickaxe, hatchet, etc. If you're unfamiliar with Wurm, you have to make *everything*. To make a hatchet, for example, you have to cut down a tree, chop it into logs, and carve a hatchet handle from one of those logs. Then you have to mine for iron ore, smelt the ore into an iron lump using a forge or fire, and use an anvil to create a hatchet head. Then you assemble the pieces you've made, and voila: Hatchet.

Obviously you can't create a hatchet in the first place if you don't have ... well, a hatchet to cut down the tree and chop it into logs, a pickaxe to mine the iron, and so on. The game acknowledges this by giving you a handful of low-quality starter tools. Those low quality tools stay with you even if you die. EXCEPT. If you replace them with something better (which players are inevitably going to do with most of them as soon as possible) and stop carrying them around. Weight is a factor in Wurm -- the more you carry the more it drags you down, so of course I ditched my starter tools once I had some better ones. Now I find myself traveling the wilds of Wurm Online with no sword, no hatchet, and no pickaxe. I am literally unable to create anything to survive, unless I happen to stumble across a log that another player has left lying in an open area where I can take it.

Now I am not a developer and as a rule I do not tell devs how to make their games, because I usually do not know what I'm talking about. I'm going to make an exception in this case, because I *know* that the mechanic exists to check a player's inventory at a specified point or event and put an item there if it is not. Why on *earth* would you not put that mechanic in place for when a player respawns at The Howl? Or heck, for when they respawn at *all* if it's too complicated to tell the game "Only check inventory at The Howl". I'm all for a challenge. Heck, I was happily playing on un-deeded land, fending off wild animals in between trying to build a house and scavenging in the grass for food and healing components. But there is a difference between a challenge and completely crippling a character. I have no tools, no weapons, and no way to make any. I *could* beg for some items from the next deed I come across, but I'd frankly rather not. I hate people who do that.

Here's the icing on this foul-tasting cake: Wurm has a help channel. Certain players are given the "CA" title and they are the moderators/enforcers/helpers in that channel. From the chat rules: "The CA chat channel is for players that have game questions for the CA team to answer. CA control that channel and players will abide by any directive issued by a CA as to the use and conduct on that channel. Failure to abide by any such directive may result in a penalty being issued." Okay, fair enough. When I realized that I was missing those tools I asked in help "What would cause me to respawn with only some of my beginner tools? I died and came back without most of mine." There were some CA people in the chat, but another player answered first, and said that it was probably because I didn't have them in inventory. I thanked him, and said "I was afraid that might be it. Very annoying to travel cross country without any of those." Then a CA player chimed in and said "When you die without them in your inventory." I replied that another player had answered me already, and the CA said "I thought you were asking again when you kept talking."

Whoa there, Nellie. See the "annoying" line above? That is all I said, cut and pasted from the chat log. Let's just tone the snark down there. If a game's development team is going to give players a title, power, and a directive to help, then they need to be careful about who they give those things to *and* make sure they have a code of conduct to abide by. Now strictly speaking my comment about it being annoying was not a question. What it *was* was an extremely brief expression of frustration at the situation and... well, I don't really see anything wrong with it. I didn't curse, scream, throw a fit, or spam the channel.

Unfortunately, this is typical of the help and GM team at Wurm Online. They take great enjoyment in their power but want none of the responsibility. We at Massively noticed it months ago when we were all playing and I'm disappointed to see that it's as bad if not worse than ever. (We had an issue some months back where a game bug caused our boat to disappear, and we had to summon a GM to help. She arrived to show off her character's goth costume that "regular" players do not have access to, then spent 15 minutes telling us that yes, she could see exactly where our boat was and no, she was not going to tell us. We wound up having to find it on our own.)

This game could be so wonderful. I love it. I want to play it. But it's actively discouraging me at this point, which is a huge shame. I feel like I'm saying "Take my money!!" and it's slamming the door in my face.


  1. Wow, that is unforunate, especially the part about the GM. Personally I have never really gotten into Wurm. I tried a few times but the controls and graphics didn't set well with me. I do hope someone over at Wurm reads this and notices they have some serious issues to address. It's likely that others are having the same isses.

    Maybe ArcheAge will have to be your new Sandbox fix, or Repopulation or something.

  2. Sorry you had a bad experience with the staff (The second CA response was rather unnecessary... especially their follow up). All staff in WurmOnline are volunteers but we do listen carefully to critisisms. The escalation process is to PM Oracle [Head GM] through the forums. As far as the boat goes, we are bound to not help out with issues that aren't caused by bugs (I don't know the precise details of your boat situation, so I can only infer from the GM's response that the boat had not bugged - I could be wrong) and as such are not allowed to port boats around.

    The goth costume is actually the avatar model for the Hoard of the Summoned Kingdom. GM accounts are able to switch between kingdoms as some bug calls require it. The Hoard of the Summond are a kingdom that follow Libila [Black Light Religion] that are playable on the Epic servers.

    The reason starter tools are no-drop in the first place, is to allow players to have those tools should they die. It's also to avoid the server cluttering up with countless copies of the starter tools as would happen if players received another copy of the tools each time they died. It is wise to permanently keep those items within your inventory if you do not have a deed set up. Living on your own without a deed is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. Of course it's an option as far as playstyle goes, but that doesn't mean the game is designed around making it as easy an option as alternatives. Living in a village, or near your nearest spawn point ensures easier retrieval of your corpse and items should ou die.

    Your death is unfortunate - your avatar remains in the game world for a few mins on log out and it is quite likley the spider could have approached you during that time. It would not have been the graphics update that caused the freeze as I was actually in game and playing when the new update occured. I had to log out all accounts to be abe to update my game files, but I was able to continue playing with the 'old set up' for as long as I wanted while I remained logged in.

    Your comments have however inspired a thought, if starter tools had high decay rates if left outside any containers (inventories, chests etc.), the server would not clutter up with tools and providing a new set of no-drop tools would be more feasible. Personally though, I feel that this is not in keeping with the idea of Wurm as a fairly tough survival game.

  3. Let me help you.

    Problem: You don't have adequate tools nor do you know how to obtain them independantly.

    Answer: In wurm there is something called crude tools. You can rummage on a rock tile to get small iron rocks and rock shards. You can use these on each other to make all of the various tools but in crude form this will get you started. You can get shafts for these tools by foraging grass tiles for a wooden branch this will work as a makeshift shaft to put on the tools that require a handle IE Shovel Head = Shovel...


    I am sorry to hear that you had a somewhat confusing experience with the GM team. All things considered this issue was probably heightened by your frustration.

    I apologize if i misunderstood the problem as well.


  4. Well all I can say is I understand that you are mad, but well you know, your items are still there in your body, you just need to go get them. really. in 24 hours you can get them back.
    And like somebody said, you can make some crude tools to help you with. easy :D.
    Sorry man, give the new game a try.