Do you remember that one time you thought to yourself: “I wish that someone would make a game similar to Minecraft, or Conan Exiles, but let you use the system to create an art gallery using pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries?” Do you remember that very specific thought that crossed your mind? Probably not, but regardless, you thought it at some point. We all did, and so here we are at Occupy White Walls.
Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. – Vincent Van Gough
I recall another publication calling this the weirdest MMO they’ve ever played and before I start this review I want to state that it’s not THAT weird. Seriously, I’ve seen odder MMOs that I won’t list here, but Occupy White Walls is actually pretty expected in an age where gaming is turning into more of a utility as opposed to a mindless bloodbath. In a way, gaming has always been art but OWW really takes it to the next level by allowing you to create your very own art gallery, and when you’re ready, you can show it off to the world.
Curate your Own Gallery
If you’ve ever dreamed of owning and curating your own art gallery then this might be as close as you ever get. When you start the game you will have a set amount of money (don’t worry, it’s a lot) and you can use it to build the foundations of your own gallery. From the color and pattern of the floor tiles to creative archways that allow you to give the space character, you can create a gallery that will draw people in on architecture alone, not to mention the actual art you choose to display.
As of right now there are 800 items for floors, ceilings, and other architectural designs, but there are thousands of paintings available. Like I said before, you will only find works from the 18th and 19th centuries, but you have a lot to work with. If you know anything about art, you can definitely use that knowledge to create a more coherent gallery and really draw your visitors in.
To choose artwork for your gallery, all you need to do is Press ‘I’ and navigate to the ‘art’ section. Initially it will be empty, but you can click ‘Get More Artwork’ near the bottom and you will be treated to a pretty massive gallery. My biggest lament here is that the gallery is not easier to navigate but once again they are in alpha, so there are certain things that you need to come to expect. What they do have so far is pretty amazing; you can view each painting up close, but you can also read the description of the painting. You can quickly learn more about its origins, the painter, and you can even view the comments that other users have left on it. If you want, you can add your own comments and indicate whether you like or dislike the piece.
Building in OWW
Creating a gallery in OWW is much like a typical survival/building game. The interface features a hotbar and a menu of assets that you can access. Once you find an asset you like, you can purchase it using your in-game currency and drag it to your hotbar. You can click it or press the corresponding button to bring it into the world and place it wherever you like, building the perfect gallery suited to your tastes. As you jump into the game for the first time however, you’ll probably be lost, especially if you’re clueless on the different works of art. Don’t worry, the developers took that into account as well.
On the OWW homepage they discuss the AI discovery Engine, or D.A.I.S.Y which helps you those who don’t know much about artwork. All you need to do is start looking at different pieces that suit your tastes and the AI will start to learn your preferences. It will show you the artwork that you like the most, and keep away what you seem to like the least. Through this, building a gallery is easy, assuming that you even want to take that step.
You Don’t Have to Build a Gallery
Surprise: a game about building an art gallery doesn’t actually require you to build one. Based on the in-game tutorial it’s pretty clear that they want you to do that, but you don’t need to. Instead, you have the option to start visiting random galleries to see what other users have been creating during their time in-game. You can click ‘random’ as many times as you want, or you can visit galleries by right clicking the names of players in the chat list. As you bounce from place to place you will be treated to alternate digital realities where you can see how each individual player interpreted the world and created their own space based on the 800 digital architecture assets available to them. You’re not just looking at renderings from the game engine when you visit another player’s gallery; you’re getting a look inside their head, and that can be a most amazing experience.
Limited Creativity – For Now
I’m actually sad to say that in a game dedicated to creativity there are certain limitations that must be observed. Both of these are actually pretty understandable:
Custom Artwork – You won’t be able to upload your own artwork or pieces from other artists anytime soon, so your gallery is going to be limited to whatever you find in-game. This may be an engine limitation or it might be that they don’t have space on their servers for the millions of images that users would upload given the chance. Either way, we can accept their decision here because there are already thousands of art assets in the game for us to use. It’s just fine for an alpha build.
Avatar Simplicity – The second thing that bothers me is the avatar simplicity. I know that the game is more about focusing on the artwork and less on people visiting the galleries, but I think it would be nice if there were more avatars to choose from or even the ability to represent yourself as a human being if you wish. If you look in the store you will find several different body types and masks to really give yourself a unique look, but all in all, I didn’t feel like myself, so to speak. I hope that this is something they plan to address before they leave alpha but if not, no biggies.
A World of Learning
The real beauty of this place is that you will be able to play a ‘game,’ but you will also be able to learn more about the artwork. If you have kids that want to play online games, this is the perfect opportunity for them to stretch their creative muscles and spend some time learning about artwork. To be perfectly honest I found the game to be extremely relaxing much as I did with other building games. I was able to place walls, buildings, artwork, and all the while I was learning. In a world where the market seems to be dominated with blood and gore in video games, it’s nice to see something different for a change. All in all, this is going to be a pretty great concept, and a great game once it makes it out of early access.
Using an interface popularized by Minecraft, the gameplay is extremely easy and brings plenty to the table for new players. The controls are similar to any other third person survival game, and it features a simple hotbar from which assets can be placed into the gallery.
There’s a lot of innovation going on here; you have the ability to build your own art gallery and you can learn about the art as you are placing it. I have yet to see any other game that gives you that opportunity, or at least one that is fully dedicated to art education.
There’s a tutorial for you to muddle your way through but if you have played Minecraft or any other survival/building type game on the market then you already know the routine here. You add items to your hotbar, you get items from the store. WSAD to move, enter to chat, etc. There isn’t much to say in this section other than that the game is very easy to learn.
Graphics / Sound
The game has a pretty robust soundtrack but in my opinion it doesn’t add THAT much to it. What really shines here are the graphics. The artwork itself is accompanied by a seamless world with reflective surfaces that really immerse you in the environment. There are also a wide variety of effects that allow you to make each room in your museum a different experience. Seriously, I can’t wait until they get further along with this thing and allow us to create more varied environments and experiences in our galleries. Imagine an outdoor exhibit where you explore the works of Van Gough, or a cathedral setting where you can view the works of Michelangelo. The possibilities are endless If they stick with it.
So far, this is a great game but it’s not likely going to appeal to the larger community. It’s more of a niche, albeit a very beautiful niche. I think that it’s going to become a very exciting game, and perhaps even an educational tool as time goes by. I hope you give it a try as it moves along in alpha.
+Easy to Learn
-Interface is a Bit Limited in Alpha
-Avatar Creation is Very Rigid
-Can be Sluggish on Mid-Range Video Cards
Related: Alpha, Art, MMO, Occupy White Walls, Preview, Sandbox