Wurm & Minecraft

I've been thinking, in my own obsessive way, about Wurm, and the underlying structures of the game. Since Notch, the developer of Minecraft, was once a developer for Wurm, there's a clear connection to that as well, and it shares some underlying structures. Even with my short experience of Wurm, it's clear that the "This is game is better than Minecraft!"/"No, Minecraft is better!" discussion happens on the global chat channel at least once a day.

But they're totally different games. Now, I've not played much of Minecraft - enough to determine I could get thoroughly addicted to it, at which point I backed off. I try to keep my addictions to ones where there are other people playing. I've enough, though, to get the gist, and it provides a distinction that I haven't thought about before in sandbox games. That is: "world" sandboxes, and "building set" sandboxes.

Wurm (and EVE, to a lesser degree) fall into the "world sandbox" category here. There's plenty you can change, but there's a fundamental setting, some bits of which are never going to really go away. In EVE, this is most prevalent in things like the gates, the NPC stations, and the asteroid belts. You can mine out a belt, but it'll come back; the political boundaries and the player-created stations are the more long-term changes. Wurm has, for example, the bigger mountains. You could mine them away entirely, but it'd take so very long that they're never really going to go anywhere. The tunnels (with underground canals for shipping, in some cases) are enormous projects, as are the "bridges" (causeways, really) that connect land areas in places. The restrictions in time and material are part of the world.

In contrast, Minecraft essentially presents you with an infinite set of building bricks, and says, have at it. Sure, it can be world-y if you want it to be, but it definitely doesn't have to be. The fellow building a 1:1 model of the Enterprise isn't really doing so in a world; he's taking the blocks and getting on with the project with those. It's Lego, as opposed to the model trains of the world settings.

So I can definitely say I'm a fan of the world sandbox games, and not so much of the building set sandbox games.

Posted by Drew Shiel at May 6, 2011 1:13 PM

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