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Welcome! I am teaching law at St. Petersburg State University and engaged in legal practice with the international law firm Dentons. Major part of my research is connected to virtual worlds and massive multiplayer online games (a broad field which includes Internet law, video game law, virtual law and game studies). My legal practice is focused on providing support to computer game companies. This interest derives from my passion for computer games which I consider as one of the most important cultural artifacts ever created. Please note that this blog conveys my private opinion which is not necessarily shared by any organisations I am associated with. For more formal and detailed introduction please visit my website arkhipov.info which serves more as a 'business card'.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wurm Online: Minecraft Was Not The First

Minecraft is great, but it was not the first sandbox game by Notch, or at least not the first sandbox game where he was invloved. I was surprised too. If you like such kind of games, you definitely should try Wurm Online

I post a link to more or less official video below, and inside this post you may find a story of my first experience along with some actual screenshots. While watching video have in mind that everything you see besides the landscape and characters was crafted by players.

Yesterday I had a real online adventure. I entered a fantasy world completely disoriented. Standing in the middle of some settlement, I had no map in hands, no known landmarks and no real hint what to do. There was no NPC around to give me any quests, and guide me through the world.

There was, however, a global chat. By introducing myself as a new inhabitant, I made an acquantance with a mayor of a village who invited me to join as a citizen. I appreciated friendly attitude and agreed.

Soon after that another citizen of that village arrived to my location and asked him to follow. We ran for some ten minutes. There were no out-of-pocket horses, which poison most of our virtual worlds, and even more so teleporters.

The journey laid though rocky forest, and we had to evade several local hungry mountain lions by entering waters where the animals could not swim. The lions were deadly. While I was waiting for my companion I had to fight a rat, and got several bruises to take care of. More than two rats in one time could probably kill me.

As it turned out, while we were running and then hiding, the mayor with one more villager was sailing on a boat to get us on board. I must admit that the boat (like everything else) was made by the villagers with crafting skills from the materials gathered and refined in game. Furthermore, the speed of the boat depended on the wind power.  

To put it simple, it was just incredible. For the first time in several years, I felt free in a virtual world once again. Back forth it was Achaea in 2005, but if your job implies a lot of reading and writing, you can hardly perceive anything without graphics as your hobby.

After the captain anchored the ship and we disembarked, I was offered to climb on a cart harnessed with two horses, so that we get to the village faster.


When I arrived to the village and received instructions on do's and dont's, I went out of the rock walls to gather some cotton and lumber. With a carving knife I made a spindle and a wooden hook. I used spindrel to get a cloth line from the cotton, whereto I attached the hook. After carving a shaft, I made a simple fishing pole and went fishing. 

Going to the lake, I had to be very careful. Angry animals were roaring deeper in the forest, and potentially there might be other players - enemies of my village. PvP is unrestricted. Fortunately enough, it was safe.  

Probably, all of the above could be written about many online games, and it was. However, in this case the story pertains more to the game mechanics and not roleplaying. And it is great.

The world of Wurm Online is open-ended. It appears to be inspired by Second Life and Ultima Online, not to mention some other sandbox games. There are 133 skills in the game which are improved through practice, and most actions involve more than one skill. For instance, if you carve something out of wood, you improve not only carpentry, but general skill of handling carving knife. And so on. You may see some of the skills on the screenshots.

The backside of freedom is lack of people. MUD players would not see anything strange, but the number of 43 people online (not 43 k!) may sound frightening. However, it is not. The Wurm Online world is alive from pre-Everquest I times, and I would not say that it is dying. Sadly, but most of the players appear to want to be guided through a game, and there is an inverse proportion between the degree of linear progression and the feeling of virtual social reality in an online world. 

In any case, if you are tired of theme park, give a try to Wurm Online. The more players we have, the more interesting the virtual world would be!        

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