Monday, June 20, 2011

Games and Creativity

This past weekend I've played much less games then I usually do. Part of that is the fact that there's too many out there and I keep looking for new ones. Too tempting! The other part is that I am going back to another hobby I used to have, which is drawing and painting with watercolors. It all started with me getting a box of my old stuff sent from Brazil, and there they were, my old pencils, and I just had to try and see if I could copy this floral image... and BANG I start remembering lots of things, and where I messed up, and why I messed up in this or that color, and how hard it still is to reproduce light.
While I can copy with an OK quality, my objective is to be able to actually create new images from scratch. Have a live model of some landscape and be able to create totally new things in there. That feeling extends to games a lot with my hunger for customization options.
EQ2 is probably the most complete game in that for me right now. I can play the game's objectives of questing, crafting and killing looking the way I want (given the limitations) and take a break building my house's decoration. LotRO also has good cosmetic options, but they have bigger limitations, such as determined furniture spaces in the houses and less cosmetic options in the outfits. And then, APB is just amazing about customizing clothes and vehicles.
So I decided to check Wurm, see how far the possibilities there can go. It is the first "sandbox" title I've ever played, and the game concept itself, being new, is something that makes me a little divided: I am simply free to do as I wish within the game limits. But after playing so many directed games, that feels a little bit "too free".
But then the game started right for me, with a good tutorial and its funny remarks and sign posts along the way. I love comic relief when it is well done. But most importantly, the game showed me the basics without boring me.
Basically, the game tries to follow your simple steps whenever you want to do anything. To craft, make sure you got the right tool, or if you don't use a tool, make sure to pick the hand you'll be using. Instead of having a list of materials, you got to memorize how to craft the objects, such as a mallet. You will activate your axe to cut down a tree, then cut down logs, then activate a carving knife and carve that log into a shaft, then shape the shaft into the head of the mallet, then back to the fallen log, get another piece, shape it into another shaft, activate that shaft and select the head of the mallet to put it all together. It feels like crafting!
Combat gives you options such as in which direction you are trying to hit your enemy, rather than focus on rolls of buttons with cooldowns. To me this reads as "oh just kill it and be done with it". No animations in for combat yet, so it does feel very dull. Right now, as I check the game, that is fine, since killing is what I'm trying NOT to do, I have dozens of games where I can do that. And I discovered all that while being attacked by a lava fiend loosen in a harbor area. Yeah, was weird, but apparently people imprison these creatures to use as light sources.
The Hindmania village, who has a group on MMO Voices, is simply incredible. Organized and well planned, it is difficult to imagine how it was all conceived. Because that is the point that gets me in drawing: I can copy things just fine, but creating new things is the real challenge, to imagine it first and put it on paper. That is what made me feel most amazed by the Wurm village, that a group of people could have a project and put it to work there. And thank you guys for letting me in :)
I do have a little suggestion for the village though: any chances you could name the streets? Would make it easier if not just plain cute to have this kind of detail.
The final impression after playing just a couple of hours in two days, is that I wish the game was not in 3D. I wish it looked like Ultima Online, but with all that freedom of creation. Or maybe it is just me not used to not being able to zoom out a lot to view better my surroundings. But then that kind of kills the realism they are trying to put on the game, since nobody can really have a bird's view of their own head whenever they wish to.
Anyway, I will keep trying to fulfill my little plan in Wurm: I want to plant things, maybe cook, maybe make healing stuffs. So if I make it to understand how to do all that, I'll probably ask for some space in the village to make a garden. The first person perspective is a challenge though, I am really not used to it.
With that said, does anyone know of other good sandbox games? I've read that Fallen Earth is going F2P, but other than that title and Minecraft (I hate the creepers idea), I don't know of any other sandbox titles. Either that or other games with good customization options will be welcome to my list of "new things to check".

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