By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Worlds Adrift’s developers have a pretty ambitious thing going on right now. The game is still very much in development, and there’s not a lot of hands on going on right now; well, that’s not true. We have in our hands the “Island Creator” toolkit, and there is some gameplay floating around from dev streams. However, I do not have my hands on that per se’, just the Island Creator. But after watching a lot of gameplay, I have to say it’s pretty interesting. I don’t see much in the way of a storyline, at least not yet, but it is the definition of ambitious sandbox gaming. It’s a massively-multiplayer physics driven survival sandbox game. So it’s not a traditional MMO at all. I’ve heard Luke Williams say that there will be no official lore in the world, when it goes live, letting players build it as they see fit. Leaving it up to the players should be a phenomenal experience.
You play as a Skypirate; and come on, who hasn’t secretly fantasized about being a Skypirate? I know I have. I blame shows like Tailspin though… anyway! You craft yourself a little airship and cruise around these floating islands, looking for ruins, old technology, anything to make you and your ship a bit better. That’s how you upgrade, by exploring these ruins, swinging around on a cool grappling hook searching every nook and cranny for these blueprints or pieces of salvageable tech. Anything might be just the ticket to a better ship, and better life. At the minimum it will make you look cooler, and that’s all that really matters in an MMO. It’s not so much about killing things as it is exploring, finding out what you can about the world around you. It’s so bold! There are creatures though, and from what I understand, they’re going to breed and spawn and grow and try to push humanity out. And taking photos and exploring and gaining knowledge will make things better for people. But more for you; come on, Sky Pirates are ultimately all about themselves. Between grappling hooks, swinging around like Spiderman, and sailing in your own custom ship, exploration is the big buzzword here.
Wait: There’s a Tool. . . To Make Islands?
Instead of giving us straight gameplay, they’re letting us create our own, and explore at our leisure. I’m a bit torn on how I feel about it. Part of me wants to explore the Islands they’ve created, get a feel for how ship building and flying goes, but conversely, I enjoy seeing my own creations come to life. Though I’m sooo bad at creating stuff like this in 3D, I really am. But they make it pretty easy to at least get started. Apparently my Island isn’t very complex at all [30%, whatever that means], but you start off with pretty simple statistics. You have a “Noise Algorithm,” which lets you designate what kind of land is on your island. You have a few flavors here:
Simple: As it implies, simple, fast, pretty smooth land. This would probably be easier to shape up and down as you desire.
Perlin: More complicated algorithm, more variation. You’ll see more fine details here, stuff you probably won’t get in the default Simple.
Ridged Multi-Fractal: Similar to Perlin, but has more Rocky, Craggy, Mountainous surfaces. Probably a lot harder to traverse and explore compared to Perlin, at least from the outset.
From there, you generate your basic island! Nothing on it but ground! There are lots of options to choose from, but going in order, I’ll give you guys a bit of a run down on what you can do with it. Sculpting is pretty simple to understand. You sculpt the ground up or down as you need it. Carving to remove land, dig in and perhaps make cool caves, add mass, creating hills, islands, outcroppings, or flatten to make land nice and even. Good spots to put circles of stones, ruins, things of that nature. Then you’ll want to smooth out the seams of the island, since there’s always a chance for cracks or broken cells, and you want it to look as close to real [as far as flying islands can be] as you can. You can also get rid of island pieces that are floating off on their own, but I think it’s kind of a magical look. I tend to leave those be.
The next important facet of this creation process is putting the ground down. You have ground, but you need grass, rock, mud, sand, whatever you want to put on it. You can change the colors of it [within reason] and paint it across the ground. You can paint, fill, or erase as you see fit. Each layer also has choices. The layers have a “top” “side”, and “bottom” tint/texture to pick, so there’s really a lot to consider if you want to really get down-and-dirty.
And now that you’ve shaped your island and put the types of soil/grass you want on them, the final task is to populate it with flora, rocks, ruins, pieces of old technology, graves, whatever your little heart desires! You can auto-fill, letting the game decide where trees go, or you can put them down yourself if you’d rather! Did you design a cool, deep cave? Put some glowing mushrooms or plants in it! Leave some ruined pieces of a city underneath the main part of the island, as if there was a hidden society, tucked away from prying eyes. You create your own story and can produce whatever style Island you want. Of course it’s all ruins and devastation, but how you arrange it is entirely up to you.
You can adjust Day/Night, add clouds while you’re crafting too, so you can see how it’ll look at various points of the day and from a distance thanks to the deep clouds. However, some of the zoom in is pretty terrible, because you can only get so deep into a cave before it starts to push outside of regular visibility and shows you some weird voxel crap. That’s going to happen when you aren’t building from the point of view of a player, but as basically God.
But when you get right down to it, what’s the point? You don’t get to kill stuff or explore anything other than what you’ve made. But it lets you see how the world is going to look, and feel. I personally don’t know yet if this is something that will be a part of the main game, if you’ll be able to create your own islands for other players to explore, but it’s a fantastic way to give people a sneak peek, a bare taste of what’s going to be in store when this goes live. It’s unique even among survival games, and I appreciate that. Even among game betas, this is unique. The devs had to have realized that with creation, every player will literally approach it a different way, and want to try things someone else didn’t consider. This way, the developers can see so many different ideas, things that will and will not work when the game goes live. It’s ballsy as hell, and I like it. I don’t think every game should or could try this, but Worlds Adrift is really taking the development/testing phase and standing it on its head. Now, as long as they pay attention to what they come up with in their player creations, that’s the real trick, isn’t it? I honestly like this approach, and only time will tell if it succeeds or not. Maybe they’ll update it and let us have airships to sail the skies in the Island creator to really get a good look at our work.