Rolf Jansson - The Gone Gold Interview
MMORPG: It's been a long time since the inception of Wurm way back in 2003. How have your current goals for the game changed since that initial push for the sandbox?
Rolf Jansson: Initially I'd say "not a lot" but let me think a bit. We've surely added features and systems I didn't conceive at the time like meditation and the Epic missions, although some sort of Epic endgame was always in the plans. In general, I think we're pretty much where we aimed at after all these years. We've achieved a lot of what was our "dream list" of features, a lot of which I see in other sandbox mmo discussions here. Things like skillbased systems, "player run" economy, no instancing, free housing, alternatives to run-of-the-mill quest systems etc.
MMORPG: What have been some of the biggest sacrifices, if any, you've had to make to this original "dream list" of MMO features?
Rolf Jansson: Personally I think that magic and AI may have received too little love. Creatures such as goblins aren't as smart as I want them to be - they should be building their own settlements and harassing the players by now. But it's in the plans and usually we manage to deliver one day. We have religious spells and maybe we shouldn't add more magic but I've always fancied magicians and witches living in their towers, huts and dungeons. I was hoping to have had time to look into lakes and rivers. Originally we wanted multi level dungeons but that was also put on hold early on.
MMORPG: A lot of your artists and the like have been volunteers. Being such an independent project, what's it like knowing that now, after all these years the game is finally "going gold"?
Rolf Jansson: Right now I'm a bit nervous but it's going to feel fantastic once we've solved any initial issues. I'm so glad we got all these features finally and that they're working together in a fine way. The character customization is fun since everyone's not looking like photo models and you can really tell people apart. Sometimes when I look around ingame I get immensely proud over all the people involved who managed to produce such beautiful scenery.
MMORPG: What are some of the biggest steps forward the game's made to finally reach this milestone?
Rolf Jansson: I really didn't want to go gold without character customization and visible armour so two years ago we started to switch 3d format and rebuild the 3d modelling system so that it supports skeletal animations and skinning. This pretty much opened up for faster production with all the goodies we wanted. This spring we could afford to hire a modelling firm to help out. Then when Zcul who is one of our volunteers went haywire with the server code and started implementing multistorey buildings I knew we were closing in on our initial goals.
MMORPG: From what I understand, one of the biggest new additions is the fabrication of multi-story buildings, which players will add into the world themselves. What sorts of buildings will this allow players to make, and how will it affect the game directly in terms of PVP, etc?
Rolf Jansson: I recently said in a Q&A session that we would support 41 levels because I had discussed what effects skills would have on how high you could build. It won't be like that but the idea makes sense to me because I want people to be able to build ridiculously high wizard towers like in the Lord Of The Rings movie. At release you'll be able to build around ten floors levels and those crazy towers will require some sort of special foundations instead and come later. You can use various materials such as wood, stone, slate, thatch and marble and we're adding more over time. Zcul's on top of that. It's hard work because you build every wall, floor and roof independently but of course that also gives the most customization options. The effects on PvP are a bit uncertain at this stage since we haven't been able to test it a lot. It will probably be a lot easier to defend by shooting arrows from terraces or windows higher up.
MMORPG: The lead artist you recently hired must have helped out immensely. What sorts of things has he been able to bring to Wurm?
Rolf Jansson: Emil has defined a proper art pipeline and has worked closely with the modelling firm that provides a lot of our creature models. Even though our volunteers over the years have done a tremendous job with pretty insane output, using a proper company is of course more reliable in many ways. Emil still has to look at everything they produce and make changes, which means a lot of work. He also does a lot of design and modelling himself.
MMORPG: What sorts of new creatures, animations, and so forth will we see in the new build?
Rolf Jansson: The game has been lacking a lot of proper models for creatures and most of those will be updated now. We have been releasing many as we've received them from the modelling firm but now we're adding the huge creatures such as deity Avatars which rise above the forest canopy. When it comes to animations we've still got ways to go. The player models will have a good amount including various fight stances, and I think that the other monsters and creatures look really nice when they're idling, fighting or moving around. Now we've got the ball rolling and more models and animations will be added constantly.
One of the things that will be useful is that you can see where your opponents are aiming in PvP with the new stance animations. We've made it easier to move into stances and there are patterns and soft spots, so people should play around a bit with that.
MMORPG: How goes the game's character customization options? It'll be nice for players to finally look different. How's this changed?
Rolf Jansson: Previously we had 8 different character models, a male and female for each basic kingdom. You couldn't change appearance at all. Now we're keeping a sort of "tint" or "bloodline" in the eye, skin and hair colors for the kingdom you start out in but other than that everyone uses the same human features. As is the tradition of Wurm we overdo it, so whenif we make it so that you can have kids this bloodline may go to them depending on who you mate with. Anyways, you will also be able to wear and mix armour pieces you pick up. Eventually armours and weapons will be custom for your kingdom but that's a budget question. Hopefully this release will solve that. We're adding your kingdom emblems as tabards and Sashimono's. Occasionally I'm poking Emil demanding dyable clothes but there's so much to do...
MMORPG: Lastly, for the players who maybe tried Wurm in the past but were turned off by it, what would you tell them now to get their interest piqued to come back? The sandbox MMO is obviously a big draw these days.
Rolf Jansson: I can easily say that I understand why they may have turned in the door. I expect that the first thing you've reacted to would be lack of customization and the stiff animations. That is going to be radically changed on Wednesday.
Secondly, many will have been turned off by failure rates and slow actions. Action time has been severely reduced - so far that people start complaining if we go lower. A standard action takes about 12 seconds on full stamina when you're a newbie. We want to show progress and reward gaining skill, so you will be able to see the timer decreasing all the time as you gain skill and finally end up at about 3 seconds. I must urge you to try and persevere - improvement in Wurm is supposed to really mean something.
Thirdly - we're a small team going at massive development speed which means many of you have experienced bugs which made you quit. If we look back over the 6 years from 2006 when we decided not to reset the database pretty much all accounts, skills and items have been safe since then. It's time to forget those bugs now because they are most certainly fixed and your account is where you left it.
Lastly, Wurm gives you a home on the internet like no other especially now with multi storey. You WILL want to live in Wurm. You'll get nice neighbours. You'll go on adventure, and when you get home you'll experience sunsets from your porch like in no other game! I want to offer you a big warm welcome!