The Flexibility to be a Sandbox RPG We Want to Play
In every gamer’s life, there comes a time to take a look at the horizon and see what new and innovating things are in the works. I hit that point recently and began a search to see what could peek my interests. Was there really anything out there that had the potential for different in either its mechanics or its development? This search lead me to TUG (The Untitled Game) by Nerd Kingdom where I read this description and was instantly intrigued.
When you enter the game, you awaken as a newborn Seed: a near-human child without defenses, resources or practical skills. All you have to survive your first day are your wits, a set of simple clothes and a mysterious glowing gemstone embedded in the back of your right hand. It's enough -- barely enough -- and it'll be a challenge to live through the night, but it won't be your last challenge. Deserts, mountains, and forests will impede your progress; crumbled ruins will tempt you into their depths, and the cycles of the moon, the sun, and even the seasons will reveal more opportunities and greater mysteries.
Nerd Kingdom is lauded to be a collaboration of social scientists, economists, artists, and developers exploring new frontiers in technology and design. Their goal is to create a next-generation open-world multiplayer survival sandbox RPG based on ongoing sociology and behavioral science research of player interactions within virtual worlds. While offering both elegant simplicity and a world of complex secrets for those who desire to seek them out.
Impressive words to be sure, but what does that mean, what are they truly aiming to do and why should I be interested? How do you use sociology and behavior to develop a game? I soon discovered that right out the gate, the name defines their philosophy. The Untitled Game is meant to stand for the fact that the world is inhabited by people who define it and until the communities are built, it really is undefined. I found this an impressive philosophy for a game that plans to have your avatar actually develop and change its looks based on the actions. Running a lot could cause you to get skinnier, swing a sword could develop your arms and make them bigger, your actions or lack of actions change who you are. Same with the world around you; making a change, building, developing all puts your mark upon it and those with you. Currently there is no character creation, but in the future there are plans for very robust customization to characters.
TUG offers a massive procedurally-generated world to explore, full of mystery and danger. No bloated UI, no stats to tie you down, just a simple awareness through immersion to guide you along your way as you try and dive into the deep mythos which can discover throughout the world. Those truly ambitious can attempt to decode the original language found on relics and monuments.
I loaded and prepared to jump into the game. I was very impressed with the menu screen, so much so that I just had to share it with you. The artwork gave me the feeling of the pending primitiveness of the world.
Currently you can start your adventures in either Creative or Survival Mode. Creative mode is similar to what you would expect in a Voxel based game: the ability to build. You are given full access to all items and materials to build to anything you would like and shape the world.
You can also start in a Survival Mode where you start with nothing and have to, yes you guessed it, Survive. Break a small rock to get a stone you can use, find a tree to get a branch, then a vine to tie it together to make yourself an axe, hammer or pick depending on the small rock used. And this is just the beginning of discovery since there are no recipe lists, no guiding quests or instructions. Simply interact with the world and discover what you can do. This is also the mode in the future where you will have PvP survival.
I created my first world and jumped in the game on Survival Mode. Started to look around and marveled at how well the terrain looked. Very vibrant in color with naturalistic sounds. Grass blowing in the wind made me feel like a part of the area. Without any tutorials to point the way, I just ran around seeing what I could see. I really enjoyed the natural feel of things, interacting with items did not have any glowing effects around them saying "Hey you! Hit me, click me. It was very experimental, which is refreshing in today’s trends of games that spoon feed you everything. Survival Mode is currently limited to gathering resources to building tools and weapons. As you make better tools you can harvest even more difficult resources that you can take to make new tools.
For being so early in the alpha stage, I was intrigued and impressed by how smooth the features and functions that are in place were. The controls of the game were rather disappointing however, seems as if they were designed to use a controller of a game console, not a computer. All actions are controlled by your mouse, with your number keys allowing you to change the action that occurs based on what you have in your hand. This is especially apparent when in Creative mode and attempting to build things. And I understand the direction of this type of design, you do things with your hands, so you shouldn’t need more controls than what they are giving you. However as a computer gamer that hasn’t played with limited controls like a controller would give you, the learning curve was a bit frustrating. But all in all, once you do get the hang of it, it isn't so bad. I expect there will be significant improvements as development continues.
The Day / Night cycle is very clear and distinct. If you are not prepared for the night, you will only have the faint glow of the moon to guide your way. When darkness hits, it is very dark. These two images are of the small hut I had my daughter build out of stone with glowing crystals and torches inside to light it up in the dark. Take note just how dark it is even with the light of the hut. The downside of this cycle is that it is quick, about every 10 minutes or so. You can also make a torch to carry with you in the night, but even their light doesn’t stretch too far.
While many of the planned features are still a ways off, I see great things coming of TUG. With many planned additions like see integrated modding support, were you the modder gets your hands on the tools of the developers. Pets and companions that can be enticed to join you and help you in your travels. Combat with exotic beasts and PvP. Character creation, evolutions and Third Person Mode all in the works. Are you the type to want to build an entire civilization on official servers or do you like to play offline on your own private island? Nerd Kingdom is working hard to bring us a game that has the flexibility to be the sandbox RPG we want to play. Be sure to keep your eye on this gem.
Franklin Rindaldi / Chief Sarcan is a Retired Navy Chief who plays and discusses MMOs regularly on his YouTube and Twitch Channels. He also frequently streams for MMORPG.com and is an active and positive supporter of the gaming community. You can find Chief Sarcan on Twitter @Chief_Sarcan.