What is Wurm Online?

I had mentioned on Friday that I was planning to play Wurm Online for the entire weekend and I was true to my word. In fact, playing Wurm is pretty much all I have been doing in my free time because there’s just so much to do.

I’m quite excited about this game to the point where I’m resisting the urge to spam my Twitter account with OMGSOMUCHFUN! And because I’d love to share this gem of a game with others, I’m going to tell you a bit about it.

First though, if you are at all familiar with Minecraft, I’d like to refer you to Battle Priestess’s excellent comparison of the two games. It was through Battle Priestess and MMO Melting Pot that I first became aware of Wurm.

I know of Minecraft but I’ve never tried it myself, so I’ll be coming from a different perspective.

Wurm Online is an incredibly complex game and one thing is is definitely not is easy. There are two qualities that you must have in order to play this game: patience and perseverance. The entire game is very very grindy and if the final result is not other the time and effort to you, you will not enjoy the game.

Imagine an RTS or sim game where you spend a lot of time building. Normally you are the high overlord commanding your minions to gather materials and then build things for you. Now imagine the new game from the perspective of a minion. In order to create, you need to have and sometimes make the right tools for the job. Then you have to go out and find the materials. Next you begin building, creating the smaller pieces from your materials, which combine into larger pieces which eventually make up the whole. Only in Wurm, there is no overlord who can see the whole map and tells you where to go and what to do. There are no quests, no arrows telling you where to go next. In fact, there isn’t even an in-game map, only user-created ones, and you only get a compass if you make it or if another player gifts one to you. It’s exciting and overwhelming at the same time as you try to decide exactly what you want to do.

Starting Out

As I mentioned before, your player begins on a tutorial island, reminiscent of the one that used to exist in Runescape. It goes through some basic instructions such as moving (different terrain types affect your speed), the GUI, and how to perform actions such as cutting trees, planting, starting a fire, and making a clay bowl.

Before you even leave this island, one thing becomes very apparent: you can and will fail to make things. It’s something that you just have to get used to. As I mentioned in my previous post, it took me about 10 minutes to go through all the steps of making a wooden mallet because of my low chance to succeed. But I will come back to crafting later.

Once you are done with all of the tutorials, you will have a chance to go to 2 different servers. The Freedom server is PvE where PvP is only restricted to duels and the like. This server is open to both free and premium players. The Wild server is PvP, only open to premium players, and is divided into three kingdoms to choose from. I choose to go to the Freedom server because I dislike PvP and I wanted to try it out on a free account for a while. There is always the choice to switch later if you want to.

If you choose the Freedom server, you appear in a village called the Howl. This is where the game lets go of your hand and says “You’re on your own now. Good luck and try not to get killed!”

This is the point where all possibilities are open to you.

The Social Aspect

I’ve noticed that at any one time, there are at least 300 people logged into Wurm. This is nowhere near the number of people in games like World of Warcraft, but it’s still a good amount of people. There’s a chat that’s set up for the entire server, a help chat that everyone is also in that always has at least one Community Assistant available, and a local chat.

I haven’t spent much time watching the server chat but from what I’ve seen, there is nowhere near the amount of trolling that the infamous Trade Chat in WoW has. It and CA Help both appear to be well monitored and I have yet to see any serious bickering. Because each chat is in its own tab, you never experience the chat spam that you do in WoW.

Local chat is interesting because since there are no defined borders in Wurm, it is literally the players that are closest to you. It’s this chat that seems to be the heart of close player interaction.

When I had first finished the tutorial and was wandering around the nearby area feeling rather lost, other players in the area noticed me hanging around and struck up some friendly conversations in local chat. There were many questions answered, items given freely, and a million times more offers to help me should I ever need it. It is true that everyone begins in the same spot but beyond that, there are no “newbie zones”. Experienced premium players mix readily with the new folks and generally seem quite friendly.

If you’re looking to acquire masses of wealth, Wurm is the wrong place to be in. Just about anything that you can’t gather yourself, you trade for. For example, I once dug up 100kg of clay for my neighbor in exchange for a pelt to improve my tools. There is no auction house and there are very few traders that will give you coins for your items. This face-to-face bartering system, coupled with the local chat and good moderation, has created a community that is loosely knit together and quickly weeds out trolls.

And if the moderators don’t get you, the other players will. Close to the starting area where I found all those helpful people, there was one guy who was being rather rude and obnoxious in local chat. One of the friendly guys told me that he was already listed as kill-on-sight on several properties in the area and would probably leave or be kicked off the server rather soon.


Mining smelting mining smelting
Mining smelting mining smelting

For anyone who has played Runescape, you will find that the Wurm’s crafting system is like the version for advanced users. In Runescape, you would buy a pickaxe, find some ore to mine, smelt said ore, and then hammer it into armor or a sword. That would give you points in blacksmithing. In Wurm, Smithing is an overall skill that breaks down into the following subskills:

  • Blacksmithing – Used such as nails or pots and pans
  • Weapon smithing – Used in the creation of weapons such as swords and axes used in fighting
  • Armour smithing – Used in the creation of armour for added protection against attacks
  • Locksmithing – Used in the creation of locks and lockpicks
  • Metallurgy – Used in the creation of alloys like steel, bronze and brass
  • Jewelry smithing – Used to make jewelry

And that’s just smithing. Mining is its own skill and so are things like digging, carpentry, pottery, fighting, animal husbandry, masonry, rope-making, gardening, cooking, repairing, and yes, even catapult-making.

Also thrown into the mix is the fact that every single item in Wurm has a quality level out of 100. Your tools will lose their quality from use and repair and once they reach 0, they will break. When creating or gathering materials, the lower your skill is, the lower quality the item will be. The good news is that not only will your skill improve as you use an item, but a lot of items can be improved upon over time.

Let’s take the creation of a small cart as an example of the crafting system. The overall materials needed for this are 7 shafts, 12 planks, and 2 small nails. Assuming that you already have the required tools on you, you will need wood for the shafts and planks, and iron for the nails.

For the nails, first you will need to find an iron mine. Prospecting and digging your own mine is a whole other process so let’s just hope that you’re lucky and find a pre-existing mine. You need to activate your pick and start mining. Each mining action will result in 1 iron ore weighing 20kg. So you’d gather a couple and find a forge to light and put them in. (Did I mention that building a forge and creating a fire in it is yet another process?) Each iron ore will eventually heat up into a lump of iron weighing 1kg. Small nails take 0.2kg of iron each so theoretically you could get 5 small nails out of it. Ah, but you have maybe a 50% chance of actually making the nails correctly! Each time you fail, you’ll get iron scraps which can be reformed into lumps but have very low quality. Depending on the quality of your tools (which include a small anvil that you of course must make), you might go through several lumps of iron to get your necessary 2 nails.

Now onto the shafts and planks. First you must find a tree that’s suitable to be cut down, as in it has to be the right age and not on someone’s property. You equip your hatchet and begin to cut down a tree, which can take about 5 “chops” lasting 15 seconds each. Once you fell the tree, you must cut it up into logs. Let’s assume that you receive 5 logs weighing 24kg each. A plank requires 4kg of wood to make and yields a 2kg plank plus 2kg in extra wood scraps. A shaft requires 2kg of wood and yields a 1kg shaft plus 1 kg in extra wood scraps. You’d have about a 50% chance of success for both the shaft and the planks, if you’re lucky. I think you can imagine just how many logs and thus trees you might have to cut down.

Finally, you have all your materials prepared. But the cart requires subcomponents, 2 small wheels and a small wheel axle. Luckily you have the mats for those, they just need to be put together first. But guess what? There’s a chance for failure for that too! Luckily your hard-created items don’t get ruined when you fail, they only become slightly damaged. You just need to repair the damage before attempting again.

So each wheel requires 3 planks and two shafts to make. Once both wheels are created, you combine them with another shaft to make the completed wheel axle. And now…finally now you can take the remainder of your materials and attach them to the axle. When the last nail is in place, your very own small cart will be in front of you, crafted by your virtual hands.

O what is the point of it all?

In an RTS/building sim, there are often times maps that are freestyle. You have no objective to complete, only to build to your heart’s content. Remember how small those maps seemed after a while? There was always a point where you’d have conquered every square inch of the map and could expand no further. Then you would end the game and it would all be lost forever.

Now think of a world that’s exponentially larger than that, filled with forests, grasslands, mountains, lakes, and seas. This world not only never ends but it can be reshaped by you and by each of the hundreds of other players on the server. Whole forests could be cut down and then replanted again, mines can be dug, and the very earth can be shaped to your will. You can pick any free spot in the world and set down roots there, building houses, walls, gates, forges, ovens, and storage. Land can be cleared and flattened for gardens, orchards, and fields, and fences can be erected to keep and raise livestock. Any little corner of Wurm can be yours and there’s just something thrilling about planning your settlement and watching it slowly form before your eyes as you work to create it.

If you’re curious but still not convinced, give it a try. There’s no time limit on free accounts, only a skill cap of 20. A lot of the content can still be experienced within those confines and even the things you can’t make can still be seen on the lands of premium players.

Pictures are worth a thousand words so let me show you some of the things that my partner Vahkt and I have accomplished with only our free accounts. (I wish I had remembered to take “before” photos.)

This is only scratching the surface of what Wurm Online is. But it could never be covered in one post so more will have to come in the future. In the meantime, if you’re ever on the Freedom server, just look me up on the character Faeldray. ๐Ÿ˜‰

May 4, 2011 No comments


    1. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚ You’re actually not that far away from me. We’re across the lake from Spider Hollow to the north west of you.

    1. Thank you for the warm welcome and for indirectly introducing me to the game in the first place!

  1. This sounds very interesting! I’m not sure if the time expenditure really appeals to me, but I have to admit just choosing a spot and building a home, and the warm community vibe is very attractive. I’d really like to hear more about what you make, trade, craft, etc. Be sure to share the progress on your home! ๐Ÿ˜€

      1. Hahaha, Touchรฉ. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I meant more the slow building of each component piece by piece. I guess it would be very satisfying knowing you’ve earned everything through your own e-sweat!

  2. I have been thinking to get wurm for quite some time now but I think this has inspired me to play it. I guess i’ll try it out. oh and how much does it cost every month for premium

    1. Ack, sorry for the late reply. I’ve actually since quit playing Wurm but I’m glad that you’re going to give it a try. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a nice game, just not the thing for me at the moment.
      Premium is 10 euros for 2 months or 10 euros for 1 month and 5 silver (in-game coins).

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