Xsolla had the great opportunity to have an insightful chat with Rolf Jansson, CEO of Code Club AB, to learn about Wurm Online’s inspiration, development and direction. Let’s jump straight into the interview.
Could you tell us a little bit about your company? Wikipedia says that you’re big friends with Markus Persson from Mojang. While we are having a little history lesson let’s talk about the game development scene in Sweden. Are there a lot of games being made?
Code Club was founded back in 2007 by me and Markus when Wurm Online was starting to make money. We were named Mojang Specifications AB back then and when Markus left the project he wanted the name so we renamed the company to Onetoofree AB. I had to spell it out all the time though, so I changed it to Code Club in 2011 iirc.
There are a lot of pretty famous game development companies in Sweden – DICE, Mojang, Paradox, Avalanche, King, Coffee Stain Studios to name a few. The indie scene is very active as well and we have lots of smaller developer studios as well. They teach gaming courses at almost every university. We also have Dreamhack – the biggest LAN party in the world. So gaming is pretty hot here.
What is Wurm Online? Tell us about the main idea behind the game and the main features that distinguish this title from the competition.
Wurm Online is a fantasy world where you can change the terrain and create everything such as houses and roads from scratch. It also features a carefully designed in-game economy based around skills and quality levels. It falls into the categories: MMO, Open World and Sandbox. We were pretty alone in this niche until about two years ago and now it’s slowly expanding. The idea is that people should be able to feel that they have an effect on their surroundings and are important. In a lot of MMOs you’re a nobody. In Wurm you become special very quickly depending on where you settle down and what you do.
The game has an extreme freedom for user generated content. Users can virtually create everything by themselves. How does that work and what has your experience with this mechanic been like? Are your users creators or consumers? Do they really enjoy making all those different things?
Luckily, there are restrictions as to where and when you can create things still based on permissions and skills so you generally can’t go around disrupting someone’s creations at will. It takes time to create stuff but also to destroy them which our users feel is fairly well balanced. At higher skill levels you can create things quickly but it’s still balanced according to the economy. Players are consuming the game while producing content for each other as well at the same time. Whenever we release new features, people are eager to create them, so I’d say they enjoy it. Some things require quite a lot of raw material but you’re really not supposed to do these yourself. In case you decide to it anyways I guess it may become pretty tedious but I usually enjoy the crafting process when I play myself.
Why did you decide to go with user generated content and an open structure of the game world? It seems like the idea was a bit ahead of its time. Only now we see players making their own worlds in games like Minecraft and Richard Garriot’s new RPG Shroud of the Avatar.
It actually started back with MUDs in the 90s. I was frustrated with how the genre turned out with static rooms and the same mobs popping all over in a multiplayer world. I had played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons where the possibilities to change things of course are limited by your imagination. I started looking into streaming rooms from a server with my limited programming knowledge. I never got far though since networking was really hairy stuff for me. When graphical MMO’s started arriving I was hoping for a change but it was just the same. Then I learnt Java where networking was easier and I realized it was possible to do.
What kind of engine are you using for your title? Is it your own technology? What were the most important things for you to do to make this whole thing work? Why do you use Java and OpenGL? What are the advantages of these technologies for you?
Me and Markus wrote the code from scratch. We worked on a company with Java and thought it was a lot easier than C++ in many respects and also we liked the idea of not having to code or compile for specific platforms. It also had networking built into the core libraries and automatic garbage collection. Markus started on the client and I did the server. I knew nothing about coding graphics engines really.
How do users actually create all that content. Is there like a software editor in game or is there a crafting mechanic that unites all that?
There is no software editor – it’s all done ingame. It used to be select one thing in your inventory then right-click on another thing to assemble. Now we have a nice user interface for it.
How do you monetize the game? What exactly do you sell and how popular are your goods? What is the best way to monetize such an exciting and unusual game? Are there a bunch of servers on Wurm Online with the emphasis on virtual economy? How does that whole player regulated ecosystem work?
You’ve always been able to play for free as long as you wish which was pretty uncommon for MMO’s when we started. We sell premium time which unlocks your skills as well as silver coins on our website. One silver coin amounts to about 1.6 Euro depending on which package you choose. People use these coins to purchase things from each other in-game and also to buy land deeds from us which they can hand over to each other afterwards. We were always very adamant against pay to win schemes so we sell only a handful of useful items ourselves but rely on the players crafting and selling to each other. When you purchase something from us, a majority of the coins are circulated back into the economy. That way the players always win.
What does the future hold for Wurm Online? How do you intend to develop and promote the game in the future? Are you planning to enter Steam? Are there any plans for creating other titles?
We’re currently finalizing the code for constructing bridges which has been a very long project. After that we will start adding more general content such as decorative items, various animations and monsters as well as fixing some long standing bugs while we think of what the next major step should be. We’re considering some sort of Steam release but we have no other titles planned – we need to stay focused on Wurm since it will be around for a long time still.
Thanks for your time Rolf! It is very much appreciated to hear your thoughts on the state of the game and we are definitely looking forward to seeing Wurm Online develop further along in the near future.