Bootstrapping RPGs

This week I’ve been devouring Moxie’s Wurm Online posts over at I just had to try it again.

The first time I started Wurm Online I spawned into a mysterious world and as I was looking at settings to figure out what key did what, some dude ran up to me and attacked. As I tried to figure out a) if I had a sword and b) how I would use one if I had it, he killed me. I respawned and a few seconds later he (or someone else) killed me again. That was the end of my 1st Wurm Online experience.

Now though, there’s a PvE server and *gasp* a bit of a tutorial. Getting into the game was much, much easier and soon I was roaming this world, still totally lost and clueless but drinking in all this potential. Wurm Online really hits me as a ‘graphical MUD’ in the best sense of the phrase. Anything seems possible (I’m sure it isn’t and I’ll hit limitations soon) but you need to use your imagination to supplement the graphics. 🙂

I haven’t done enough to tell great stories like Moxie is doing; hopefully those will come. But I wanted to talk about why I’m so delighted by the game.

Bootstrapping. Y’know, starting with nothing and building up to something. Minecraft is another game that scratches this itch (no coincidence since Notch was an early dev on Wurm Online, or so I’m told). In Minecraft you start with just your fists and punch trees to get wood to make wooden tools so you can dig up stone to make stone tools, etc, etc. The best part of Minecraft, to me, is starting out. Once I’m “secure” and established I start losing interest to some extent.

Wurm Online does the same kind of thing. For instance to make some basic food you use your shovel (you are given a few tools to begin) to dig up clay, then use your hand to make an unfinished clay bowl. Then you use an axe to chop down a tree, use your axe again to shop the tree into logs, then use a carving knife to turn a log into kindling, then use the kindling and a flint to start a fire. Feed more wood into the fire, then put your bowl into the fire to Finish them. Then forage for berries and herbs and cook them together in your bowl to make a meal.

So easy! LOL

I *love* this kind of thing! I love it both in games and stories. Stuff like Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire series (where a modern town is transported back to 1632 and has to rebuild their tech), or William R. Forstchen’s Lost Regiment series (where a Civil War regiment gets transported to another world where people are essentially cattle for another species, and again they use their technological know-how to rebuild). For that matter, this week’s episode of Stargate Atlantis dealt with the same kind of thing!

What I love about this ‘genre’ of game, though, is that it is based around building up, rather than destroying. Sure there’s combat and stuff but crafting is about creating more complex items out of simpler ones, and that scratches a deep itch in my psyche. The Harvest Moon games tend to scratch the same itch, too.

Anyway dear friends, I was wondering if anyone else out there loves this same kind of gameplay, and if you have any other game (or book!) suggestions that cover this same kind of theme of starting from nothing and building up. (Actually now that I think of it, a lot of RTS games touch on this too, to a lesser degree.)

6 thoughts on “Bootstrapping RPGs

  1. Sadly, not everything is possible… 2-story buildings, for example, or character customization. 😉

    But thanks for the linkage and I’m glad you’re enjoying it! I agree, the best part of Minecraft is getting started and building something from scratch… Wurm is very similar, though the process takes considerably longer in Wurm. That’s not a bad thing, though, IMO. 🙂

  2. I love this kind of game if the progression is manageable (for lack of a better term). For example, A Tale in the Desert — I really, really wanted to love that game, but having to reverse engineer everything became exhausting to me. I don’t want to have to keep complex spreadsheets by my computer to play these games — short notes, fine, but not huge intricate if-this-then-that stuff. When I wanted to build a storage box big enough to store my supplies in, I had to first create boards. But to make boards, I had to chop wood. But to chop wood I had to make a Big Tree Axe. To make a BTA, I had to smelt iron and gather wood. But to smelt iron I needed a… and so on until one finally got to the root components. That made me crazy. Much prefer building on the foundation instead — learn to collect clay, as you said, then learn what I can make from the clay, then learn to collect wood and now what can I do with wood *and* clay, etc.

    And please, please let us have the storage for a million components from the get-go… nothing is more irritating then needing a ton of stuff to create storage, while having no place to store a ton of stuff.

    I’ll have to check this one out!

  3. The nice thing is you can play for free until you decide if you want to take the plunge of not.

    As Moxie pointed out, there is *no* character customization and that might be a problem for some people. But it’s first person so at least you don’t really see yourself. 🙂

  4. I got as far as creating an account/character and partially through the tutorial. I was too tired to retain anything I was learning, so shut it down once I got past how to climb steep areas. I’ll try again tonight, or for sure this weekend.

  5. Remember our Player run market on that independent UO shard? It was aspect like what you mention that made games like UO so appealing to me early on. Sure there were limitation but when it came down to it pretty much any item you coudl use in the game was something you could have made, or tamed for that matter.
    You also tag on RTS games at the end and include Civ in that for sure as one of the main appealling elemnts to many in those games is the whole build up from humble beginnings. It was what I had hoped for in Sim Medieval rather then the much narrower product delivered.

    Anyway on your book series. Some others along the lines of those you mentioned are S.M.Stirlings Island in the Sea of Time series, in which the island of Nantucket is thrown back in time to about 1200BC. Then there is the flipside series of Novels of the Change in which S.M Stirling tells the tales of what happened in the current world when Nantucket vanished. Basically technology broke down due to some changes in the laws of Physics so after the bulk of the population die off from starvation we have small groups of individuals rebuilding civilisation without electricty etc.

  6. “Once I�m �secure� and established I start losing interest to some extent.”

    That is one of the problems I am facing with Minecraft. I love the “first night” and a few subsequent nights, as you craft your creep-proof abode, but once that is done and the prospect of digging into the seemingly endless bowels of hell kicks in, you start to lose a little interest.

    Recently though i have started familiarizing myself with Redstone, and that may open up a whole new set of possibilities.

Comments are closed.