The first thing you notice about UemeU is its streamlined look. Menus are simple boxes in rows and columns, generally with one-word text labels. Omnigon CEO Jeremy Hindle said this minimalist approach is purposeful, designed to prevent new players from becoming overwhelmed. At the start, you're given a choice among the tutorial (yet to be implemented), single player mode, multiplayer mode, and avatar customization. Naturally, as an MMO player, I chose the last. UemeU's development is still in its early stages, (currently, it's in Alpha) and at this point, avatar customization is still pretty rough.
For now, all that's there is a faceless male mannequin called UMan, upon which you can drape a handful of basic hats, shoes and armor-like pieces. The colors of these can be changed with a color picker, but thus far the materials for these things are pretty generic. The mannequin itself has kind of a boneless look and can't really be changed at all. Most disturbing is the lack of facial features. Hindle said the community thus far hasn't been too concerned with that lack, but I suspect role-players will feel differently.
Having created a blue-skinned avatar with a leather pilot's helmet, football shoulder pads and armored leggings, I entered single-player Play mode. As the community creates worlds, you'll be able to visit them (Hindle says at launch, curatorial tools will help you locate the diamonds among the dreck) and he did show me a space dominated by a glass replica of the Parthenon. On my own, I checked out a multi-level building with a colorful dance floor called “Disco House” and attempted running around my own big, empty, Tron-like world.
The few minutes I spent running around, I found the avatar animations to be a little floppy, like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, but all the basic Alpha-quality actions were there. Having run, jumped and sprinted to my heart's content, I then swapped over to Build mode.
UemeU's build mode will be familiar to anyone who's done even a little 3D modeling. For anyone else, it could be slightly intimidating. It's not easy to make complexity and easy-of-use go hand-in-hand, but Omnigon has made a reasonable start. After starting a new world, you're taken to a view of a seemingly infinite plane with a grid on it, with some kind of (possibly random?) sky. To the left of this is an extensive menu of world-building actions. Clicking on these brings up tutorial messages accompanied by helpful graphics that teach you how to use each menu item.
Working your way through so much information can be somewhat overwhelming, but there's no denying the magic of seeing something you've made come alive on the screen. (My favorite thing is the disembodied, Black-and-White-like hand used to sculpt things. Omnigon said they're thinking of making it so the hand can flick, swat, or pat your creations.) UemeU has a slew of built-in attributes you can add to your items including gravity, physics, materials, and particle emitters and best of all, each item and its behaviors is saved as a weensy little file.
In the interest of sharing, items are tagged with their functionality (but not with the original creator) and there's no fee to upload textures. This, Omnigon hopes, will result in a huge communal item library. Think The Sims item library times oh, a thousand. This means anyone can create a complex world, and users with high-end computers can really go nuts.
For wannabe MMO-makers, all this is a pretty big deal. Not only can you craft a gazillion (my official term) individual and composite items, you can author your own quests, set world states, and set action gadgets on NPCs. This means you're mere steps away from bringing your own fantasy (or steampunk, horror, or sci-fi) world to life, and file sizes as small as they are, your world could be huge. Better yet, Omnigon has also sworn its commitment to giving players total creative freedom and adding features that help them do whatever they want to do. When asked why UemeU will be the ultimate creative tool for role-players, Hindle had this to say:
“Games which are used regularly for RP and Dungeons and Dragons-style gameplay tend to be repurposed to fit that role. UemeU is a game which truly has features developed specifically to support RP type gameplay. Perhaps RP-ers finally see a game which will work exactly the way they need. [We have] a two-way dialogue with people when they are asking for features [and this] is very unique and seems to fill proactive RP-ers with confidence.”
He went on to add:
“The special thing about UemeU is that worlds can be connected together using world linkers, whether locally on your computer, on the same server, and between servers. In theory every person in the world could host a server and link them together with world linkers. This also doesn't take into account that there are servers which support multiple worlds. UemeU can be huge... it's essentially a massive distributed network of interconnected creative spaces for people to explore, interact with and create in.”
As mentioned, UemeU is currently in its Alpha and is on a two-week update schedule. As we speak, Omnigon is hard at work on the game's dialog system and is in constant contact with the UemeU community. Beta is scheduled for later this year, and the release date has yet to be determined. Still, the game is in pre-sale right now for players interested in keeping the wheels of development rolling, but for the “try before you buy” types out there, free Mac, PC and Linux downloads are also available.
To learn more about UemeU or to buy/download the game, check out the UemeU website.