It turns out that, after a very long time not trying out any new games, I am trying out a new game. This will be my first non-Classic post for Ulalu.
Occupy White Walls (OWW) is a PC builder MMO currently in Early Access (alpha) and available for free on Steam. Its premise is simple: You build a gallery and collect artwork which you then hang on its walls. The game contains sizable collections of real-world art assets and architectural/interior-design assets, and its Unreal Engine framework lets you unleash your creativity with them in countless ways.
Here’s a bit more about it.
This game is in permanent creative mode — there are no monsters or robbers or shady brokers to attack your gallery or pilfer your in-game earnings. Instead, you peacefully design and construct your gallery base and collect real-world artworks, which you place within the gallery any way you choose.
In your free time, you can explore the galleries of other players, some of which make you realize immediately how uncreative and inadequate your own gallery is, thus compelling you to put more hours into the game.
For those of us who are into art and enjoy building games, OWW is a perfect match.
You acquire OWW artworks by purchasing them, but first you must find them. There are two ways to find art that speaks to you. One is by using an AI-driven app, called DAISY, which provides a dynamic list of recommended art that you can simply click on to buy. As far as I can tell, it only recommends artwork — there is no search or filter capability.
The second way to acquire art is from other players. You can purchase art (actually, an instance of it) from any other gallery that you visit. You can also buy art that other players link in chat.
Learning About Art
OWW art assets aren’t just pretty pictures. Each artwork is linked to a data set which includes information about the artist and (usually) a full description of the piece. You can access this data for any artwork in the game, including art you see in other players’ galleries.
Interestingly, the game will soon allow uploads of artwork by player artists. There’s a suggestion that the game will serve as a way for artists to get exposure for their work. We’ll have to wait to see how that plays out.
When you think of an art gallery, a certain typical structure comes to mind. But as with any sandbox-style game, players have really been letting their creativity fly. You can visit galleries that include shopping malls, hotels, mazes, story-telling adventures, and puzzles. While the default gallery floats in an endless sea of water, others float loose in outer space.
You begin with a limited area of 3D “blocks” available to build within. You can expand beyond those boundaries by purchasing per-block expansions, the prices of which increase over time.
Placing building assets within blocks is intuitive and relatively painless. You can also attach art to all walls and some other building assets easily, with the exception that there isn’t much “snapping” capability and precision placement is sometimes a challenge. Other annoyances are slated to be corrected in future releases, such as interior wall textures being applied to the outer surfaces of walls. (See the yellow building in my gallery compound, above.)
There is in-game currency, referred to as “credits” or simply “money,” which you use to acquire both art and building assets. You earn these credits by setting your gallery to “Open” mode, which invites in a crowd of annoying NPC visitors who pay in credits on their way out. The catch is that a gallery only remains open for 30 minutes at a time. Each time it closes, you stop earning credits until you set it to Open again.
As you probably guessed, as I write this post I have the game sitting open in a separate window so that I can re-open my gallery when it closes. Other players can also set your gallery to Open, just to be nice. (Read more about that below under Social.)
Initially I was surprised to learn that the price of each painting is the same regardless of how famous or expensive the painting is in the real world. If you come across the Mona Lisa in OWW (which I eventually did via Denonome/Skronk’s gallery) it would set you back the same number of credits as an obscure piece of digital art created in 2019.
This even-pricing approach can be explained by the devs’ “Fair-to-play” principle, as outlined on their website:
OWW is in fact an MMO, although an instanced one (there is not one giant Firenze of galleries to run between). Currently, any player can visit any other player’s gallery by searching for the player’s name and then transporting there. As I previously mentioned, once in another player’s gallery, you can open it for them if it’s closed, and you can leave a public comment in a sort of guest book at the front desk.
You can also grant other players “Builder” status for your gallery, which means they have the ability to add or remove architectural/design assets but not to place artwork or collect credits. This is largely being used by multi accounts, it seems (see below).
Although you can Favorite other players’ galleries, there currently are no friends lists or guild capabilities. It will be interesting to see if any of that develops over time.
Leveling is a little unusual. You level by purchasing artwork. Each level requires that you purchase a set number of pieces of art in order to advance, and those numbers increase as you gain level. The uniform per-item price of art also increases as you level.
The benefit of leveling is that each time you level, more building assets become available to you.
Not much going on here. There is one type of OWW avatar when you begin: an artist’s modelling doll type of thing. (I can never remember what those are really called.)
You can, however, change its coloring and change its face mask, neither of which will make you anything nearly attractive as a gnome.
The alpha release of the game can become particularly laggy once a gallery build reaches a certain size or degree of complexity. I haven’t reached that point in my own build, but it’s something freely discussed in chat.
In part to get around that limitation, serious players have taken to building additional, separate galleries, which they (and other players) can travel between using portals. The game doesn’t yet support multiple galleries per account, however, so to add them players are creating additional accounts. This multi-accounting works because you can assign your main account Builder status for your other galleries.
Update: A dev popped into chat and announced that multiple galleries per account are coming soon.
This is clunky but doable because the game is free-to-play. Some savvy players even informed me that I could use pseudo-email handles to make the process easier. (This involves adding a plus symbol and text to your gmail handle to create a unique email address.)
I should mention that there are other benefits to creating additional galleries, but that’s a topic for another day.
Speaking of lag, general lag does happen. Movement can get chunky, assets are sometimes slow to load, and certain data fields occasionally go missing from UI windows. You’re most likely to encounter some of these issues when visiting very large or intricately designed galleries.
The occasional out-of-memory disconnect also occurs from time to time, but not so often that it puts me off the game. We must remember that (as I write this post) the game is still in alpha release.
Overall Impressions Thus Far
I’m enjoying the game. The art assets are fantastic and there are just enough building options at each level to keep me moving forward.
As far as gameplay, clearly this is a niche game. I’ve already seen comments to the effect of “What’s the point?” (Actually, most of them literally state “What’s the point?”) Speaking for myself, the point is to curate my own collection of art, come up with interesting ideas for gallery designs, and keep opening up new building assets so that I can make my gallery more interesting. That’s just fun to me.
Of course, as with art itself, galleries are also meant to be shared. So sharing a gallery with other players and exploring theirs — both for inspiration and to hunt for new art — is compelling.
That said, I’m uncertain how I feel about the equal pricing of artwork. Tiered pricing and/or allowing gallery owners to set their own sale prices would raise the stakes and make gameplay much more strategic. But that would work against the game’s priority of remaining “fair,” in that only rich people might afford the more desirous pieces.
Then again, you can’t make the game completely fair without eliminating currency, can you? At minimum, there will be unfairness in that some players will earn more passive income than others only because they have more opportunities to hop into the game throughout the day and click “Open gallery.”
If you’ve tried OWW, I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments.
In the meantime, here are some users whose galleries you should check out, if you haven’t already. Be sure to leave a comment at their front desks if you visit.
- ula (my noob gallery)