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VWN World Review: Universal
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World Review: Universal
Main Review

Compatible with Operating Systems:
Win 98 Win 98se Win 2K Win XP

World Status: Open Beta Development


World Purpose: Simulation, Gameworld

Age Suitability: Teenagers, Young Adults, Mature Adults


World-Type

A novel MMO this one, in part one of the modern trend of making MMO content more accessible, yet does so by firmly calling it a game, and sticking to that belief ? regardless of research on MMOs to the contrary.

Universal is a player-content run system, one of a great many springing up these days. Universal?s promise is that a player can do anything from within one of their worlds; run a business, be a race driver, combat pilot, or tank operator.

Bearing that in mind, Universal is NOT an RPG, as the world?s choice of avatars is limited to one ? a white skinned, brown bearded character called Jesus. Even so, you do have skills. The commercial worlds, of which at the time of writing, there were four, are built round commercial exploitation ? and to become a commercial success you require money. For that, you can either collect a vanishingly small welfare payment, or you can go to school, learn a skill or three, and use those skills in employment in other people?s industries, for which you are paid ? if that business has enough investment (if not, tough luck, you worked for free).

Universal, is one of those annoying worlds which requires a certain amount of play. Your characters, on most worlds, have health bars ? these drop if you are hurt, or if you are hungry or thirsty. Die for whatever reason, from not eating, not drinking, or being shot too many times, and that is it ? you start over on whatever world you were on, with no buildings, and no possessions save for what you had on you at the time. It is therefore in your interest to keep feeding your player as much as possible.

The World in Brief

Universal tries really, really hard, but manages to fall short of the mark.

As a free-to-play world, with a small development staff, it simply does not have the resources to offer anything close to that, yet that is what it promises, and indeed, tries to deliver. Unfortunately, this deliverance is at the cost of leaving bugs half-fixed for months on end, whilst development resources are poured into some other ?cool? new feature.

That said, Universal has implemented several really great ideas ? such as every planet in the universe being a separate server, and descending through that world?s atmosphere connects you to that server.

Sadly, the planet?s surface texture bears no relation to the one on the planet, and planets are prone to sprouting warp drives, and meandering into new star systems, as the staff desire ? which can cause obvious frustration. In addition, the worlds themselves do not, and can not interact ? they are entirely separate islands, much like those in ActiveWorlds, except Universal uses the ?galactic empire? as a novel way to bind them together.

Space navigation is a little bit dicey as you have no thrusters, just main rockets and retro rockets, so turning is a nightmarish task of slowly rotating the ship from several astronomical units away from the target. You then move up and down ? side to side not available ? gently, painstakingly aligning with the target, and then kicking in main burn. Eventually, if you save up enough, you can buy infimip drives that allow you to type in a planetary name, and go straight there, but until then, this interface is limited and frustrating.

Space really has no function in Universal as it currently is, other than to enforce the taking of additional time moving from planet to planet until you have the more advanced drive system. It serves as a way of moving credit from a world, to a central storage ? the galaxy. This is invaluable in case a world goes down, and everything is wiped ? something which happens frequently on Universal as no setting is quite right yet, and commerce worlds tend to stagnate after a couple of months.

 

Sub Reviews

Here at Virtual Worldlets, we look at all worlds, whether for entertainment, training, medicare, industry or military use. Thus, we have the situation where different uses judge by different criteria. Below are a series of sub-reviews, each tailored to a different aspect of the world.

Explorers
For some, its the thrill of discovery, the freedom to strike out, to pioneer. Whether its mapping new lands, or exploring unknown fields of endeavour, to be first, to boldly go, this is what explorers live for.

with the potential for thousands of worlds, any of which could have hundreds of square kilometers within them, Universal is an explorer's paradise. However, the landscape is likely to become repetitive. With a max of 64 different models for buildings per world, and a terrain model that is heightmap only - no caves, or underground tunnels, no cornfields, snow, or other interactive features (save water) - the terrain will swiftly start to look the same wherever you go in the world.

 

Socialisers
The social life is the life for you. To chat, to roam, to gossip all day, and chatter all night. You are the heart of the party, and you are the soul. The drive to chatter, the need to gossip, stretching out, making connections, mind against mind, heart against heart. It keeps you going, it keeps you sane.

The chat interface does have a few problems - you can happilly type off the edge of the chat window without warning. That said, Universal possesses man different chat channels, all started with special characters:

; for galactic chat
/ for private messages
\ for team messages
blank for messages within the local world
There is also a 'mail' option for leaving messages for players to pick up later.

Generally the community is fairly welcoming, although the general standard of English may well be poor enough to cause misunderstanding in a majority, but it is multi-lingual, and that is to be expected.

There are however, enough griefers to cause a hefty churn rate amoung new players, of up to 80%, and with a login system supporting the ability to only log into a world once every seven days to stay active, you may find players fairly dispersed.

 

Achievers
Work, work work. Everybody... You have this burning desire to succeed, to achieve renown, to be the best in whatever field you set your sights to. No matter what, you must be the best... What will you be? A powerful warlord? The leader of a town? You're ambitious, and crave power? This section is for you.

Universal has a ladder achievement system with players who achieve staggering amounts of money posted for fame on the main website.

The goal of the worlds by and large is commerce simulation, and running successful businesses. This means that business may be cutthroat, and you have to struggle, plot, scheme, and fiddle, to come out on top.

Outright cheating, is of course quashed, and punished harshly - all the more potent when your entire multi-planetary economic empire is at risk.

 

Killers
You get your fun through fighting, killing, pillaging and pilfering. From despicable thieves, through sneaky assassins, great military generals, and noble knights, you love to kill, you live to kill.

With over a dozen combat vehicles, and many worlds judging commercial war no different from real war, this is a killer's paradise. Enemy car production plant cutting into your profit line? Gather a few friends, buy from an ammo factory, and an aircraft production facility, and bombs rain from the sky, as your combat fleet blows up the car factory's production buildings, and employees, one after the other....

With many dedicatied combat worlds, offering everything from insanely high-velocity trench-skimming sled battles, to massively multiplayer RTS battles involving footsoldiers, tanks, AA batteries, helicopters, bombers, fighter planes, jetpacks, and the massive military might of very destriuctable installations churning them out.

Universal really does offer something for every killer

 

 

Overall
Universal should play like a fantastic MMO, it certainly has the unused potential. However, that potential has been almost ignored. Development has continued in a haphazard fashion, creating a system that feels less universal than it does a collection of splintered worldlets ? separate mini-game ?worlds? held together by a ?galactic civilisation? which is a completely separate system unto itself, with interaction between them, completely impossible - nothing you do on any world has any effect on space, save for the transfer of local credit into galactic - you cannot make better drives, or weapons for spacecraft, and you cannot transfer cargo from one world to another.

That said, if it would just crash a bit less, Universal would be recommendable as a serious simulation for light business training.

 

Rating 51.5 / 100
Newbie Friendliness
9.0
/ 15
Community Values
11.5
/ 15
Believability
5.0
/ 15
Immersion
3.0
/ 15
Administration
6.5
/ 10
Automated help
4.5
/ 10
Code Integrity
5.0
/ 10
Entertainment
7.0
/ 10

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Client OS:Win 2K, Win 98, Win 2K, Win 2K

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