Occupy White Walls just launched a new Kickstarter for a very different game and we got a hands-on opportunity to tour this inventive new MMORPG that puts art above combat skills
Occupy White Walls stands out among the massively crowded market simply because it is barely recognizable as an MMORPG. There are no high fantasy castles to be conquered as I log into my hands-on for the first time. I am not asked to pick a class, and there are no orcs harassing the local villagers. Instead, it is more likely that anybody intending to Occupy White Walls will be asked to pick the best mood lighting for their loot than ascend the nearest watchtower or slay any dragons. Occupy White Walls is, after all, a massively multiplayer experience about building and displaying art.
Developed by StikiPixels and built to encourage players to uncover their artistic side, this unusual enterprise has been in Early Access over on Steam for the last year. It already has something of a cult following and this is entirely understandable. Dropping into a gallery, what another MMO might consider your home instance, the first thing that stands out are the avatars of OWW’s citizens. Gone are the cloth and metal of combat armor. Instead, this chrome is more likely to be an aesthetic choice that wraps around a frame that just about looks human. While trying out OWW for the first time, it is abundantly clear that individual aesthetics are a little restricted, with avatars consigned to looking more like a cut and paste piece of modern art than anything that players can really pour themselves into. This selection of bodies and heads, however, isn’t the point of OWW.
Wandering around the galleries that make up OWW, these avatars are your way to explore the world and it certainly isn’t Mulgore. Coming closer to Minecraft than WoW, OWW encourages players to take blank spaces and use them as a canvas, building galleries from the ground up. Over 2000 architectural assets are already available to use, from simple walls and paint jobs to ceilings and staircases that might feature in some of the real world’s most ostentatious buildings. There’s a massive range from art deco to minimalist settings and while I’m just barely able to screw together an IKEA kit in real life some of the twisted concoctions that players have already come up with turn the viewing spaces into works of art alone.
Like any MMO, the massively multiplayer element to OWW is key. Creating space to view art is essential to the game but it manages to rise above a simple sandbox construction sim. The developers do this by allowing players to visit these creations, open up new spaces, and even spawn NPCs to peruse player’s work. This gamified system allows players to earn the more traditional XP, cash, and upgrades required to expand their existing useable region and even purchase the components required to build a bigger better space.
Constructing a space is surprisingly easy. An opening tutorial combines click and drag assets and a hot bar menu system to place, twist, and deploy everything from doors to interactive objects. An in-game menu system opens up a plethora of purchase options and each of these elements can be fully manipulated in open space, rotated, and contorted. While the massive menu of construction items range from walls to desks, and windows to Christmas baubles, there is no need to use these items as labeled.
Gathered around the fledgling walls of any great gallery sit the stars of the show. Artwork from a huge variety of artists peppers the walls of several spaces that already exist in-game and just like any real-world art installation you’ll need to curate your display. With over 6000 artworks in the game already that could be kind of difficult. Thankfully StikiPixels has a solution to that with an inbuilt AI that is out to deliver some stunning pieces and enthrall players. Opening up your own private collection of artwork in-game is, again, a simple enough task, A grid of 3 x 3 pictures appears to select from in the game’s menu but the real genius is under the hood. While Occupy White Walls will act a bit like Spotify and present players with lots of engaging work, it manages to change things up every time a player opens the game. This Daisy AI is already operational in the game so when I started to hunt for a piece to hang on a wall, the AI took my own taste into account while rotating in four random items. This strategy exposes players to new and potentially exciting finds and allows a large number of emerging artists to gain an audience. The beauty of this mechanic is that unlike your audio release list, it is unlikely to turn into an echo chamber. Much like the rest of the game, hanging art is gamified. Upgrades and extensions are available at prescribed milestones and should you manage to hang enough pieces, you’ll be able to crush those goals. As players’ collections grow, visitors can purchase items from their gallery and an in-game economy even exists, allowing open trade.
The great thing about this artistic AI is that it isn’t everything that you need to see in Occupy White Walls. The freeform building systems feel open enough to allow players to mould and craft their space as they wish. The instructions don’t stop at the front door, of which you can also find plenty of styles to consider. Player avatars can find a selection of eerie masks. Everything from a blank golden shroud to neon discotheque cyberpunk disco balls sit aloft your shoulders because why not. The weather is customizable, the sky is changeable, and there are even music packs. With so many selections and a leveling curve that doesn’t feel like a rush to the raid boss, I could have spent hours just relaxing in OWW building my own little paradise.
With the multitude of tools on offer and the wealth of ideas at play, OWW already has thousands of these individual spaces in the game and probably this is possibly one of the most interesting parts of this experience. With no distinct narrative element to this Minecraft for art, many players have taken it upon themselves to tell their own stories. During my time in OWW, I fund areas that spiraled off down their own aesthetic rabbit hole, dipping into the same artistic inspiration that brought games like RiME or Gris to the screen, conveying emotion through immersion, sight, and sound. From the placement of light and shadow along a wall to the immaculately constructed mosaic I found. Heck, I even found an interactive quiz room. The power of the community imagination in OWW is impressive.
Occupy White walls deserves a much fuller review of its crafting components, the deep and complex game systems, and it’s artwork but this is a game that has yet to meet its full potential. For me, I could buy into this experience and simply wander in among other players genius or peruse the talented artists, which can also be found on Kultura. Occupy White Walls has just launched a Kickstarter and if you’re looking for something that is unlike anything else you’ve seen before then head over to the page now. You’ve still got time left to pledge if interested and, eventually, build that cubist nightmare you’ve always dreamed of.