Planning optimal paths and stacks might be charming fun at first, but the gameplay quickly becomes stale.

User Rating: 6 | Wilmot's Warehouse PC

INTRO:

Resource management games that are complex often include the factor of physical space. Thus, the player has to consider where to place facilities and the materials that they need. In addition, the player has to consider their size and ease of access. This can get complicated quickly, possibly detracting attention from the other elements of the game.

Thus, perhaps in an attempt to highlight this critical part of the gameplay, an indie developer has made this game, which is oriented around exactly this.

Yes, there is a tutorial for teaching the player how to stack things.
Yes, there is a tutorial for teaching the player how to stack things.

PREMISE:

The game is set in a world where some people are represented as shapes. The titular Wilmot is one of them, as are some others, like Juan, one of his colleagues. His boss, CJ, is a pentagon. Perhaps this is some kind of symbolism, but not every person is a shape.

Anyway, Wilmot is the new worker at the titular warehouse. The warehouse receive shipments of assorted goods, and he has to sort them out so that they can be timely delivered to his “co-workers”, who happen to be human and not geometrical shapes with faces.

Depending on his ability to deliver on time, he may receive commendations or have the warehouse closed. There really is not much of a story; it is about a warehouse, after all.

WILMOT:

Wilmot seems to be in a perpetually good mood, or least the player is not shown his other expressions. Anyway, he is the kind of person that would be quite handy to have at a warehouse: he moves fast, seems untiring and can somehow move multiple boxes of goods at once.

This is not the extent of his capabilities. If the player has been performing well, the player may be able to upgrade Wilmot’s capabilities, such as his strength. There will be more on upgrades later.

ORGANIZING STOCK – IN GENERAL:

The player should not expect Wilmot’s physical abilities to make up for everything however. Much will depend on the player’s ability to organize the hundreds of boxes that would be arriving in the warehouse.

Space is limited in the warehouse, and Wilmot needs to haul the boxes to one end of the warehouse to fulfil orders (more on these later). Thus, while arranging the boxes, the player also needs to consider having enough space for Wilmot himself to move about with the boxes that he is hauling.

COLOUR AND SHAPES:

The goods that would enter the warehouse all come in boxes, each of which is Wilmot’s size. To differentiate between them, they have pictures with different objects and colour fills of different hues and shades. Indeed, these will be how the player organizes them with, because there are just no other means of doing so. There will be more elaboration on this later.

RADIUS OF SIGHT:

Not all of the products are visible whenever they are supposed to appear on-screen. This is because Wilmot has limited sight range, which is represented with a circular area centred on him. Any boxes of products beyond the sight range have their faces obscured together with the borders between the boxes. This can make massive stacks hard to see.

Therefore, it is in the player’s interest to reserve areas in the warehouse for products with specific visual qualities, just so that the player has a good idea of where such goods are without having to search for them.

Regardless of how many boxes there are above Wilmot’s load limit, he will always move massive stacks at the same speed.
Regardless of how many boxes there are above Wilmot’s load limit, he will always move massive stacks at the same speed.

MOVING ABOUT:

Despite being a square, Wilmot can move in just about any direction that the player wills. This is important to keep in mind, especially when Wilmot is carrying things. Precious seconds can be lost bumping into things because the player forgot that Wilmot’s cargo is complicating attempts at moving in zig-zag patterns. Thus, it is wise for the player to plan for Wilmot’s movement and box-handling (and later, Borky the robot’s movement).

SELECTING & CARRYING BOXES:

Wilmot carries boxes by somehow attaching them to himself. The conglomerate of boxes and Wilmot then move as one object; this silly convenience is offset by the need to consider the shape of the conglomerate when moving.

To attach boxes to Wilmot or to add boxes to the conglomerate, the boxes have to be immediately adjacent to Wilmot or the already attached boxes. This adjacency must occur in the cardinal directions.

Attaching boxes requires their selection. In the case of a control scheme with a mouse and keyboard, the player only needs to click on the boxes that are adjacent. Double-clicking immediately selects all boxes of the same product, provided that they are adjacent to each other. Clicking on already-attached boxes releases these specific boxes.

Using any other control scheme may seem inefficient. For these other control schemes, the player does not get cursors that can be manually pointed around. In the case of controllers with analog sticks, the player has to waggle the sticks in the direction of boxes that the player wants to pick up, which can seem imprecise.

ROTATION:

Eventually the player can unlock Wilmot’s ability to “rotate” stacks of boxes. This crazy ability allows the player to ignore the need for having enough space to swing any large object (or group of objects). It works a lot like how the blocks in Tetris can be rotated, without regard to any intervening space.

Of course, just like the blocks in Tetris, they still need space at where they would be rotated into. If there is not enough space, the rotation is prevented from happening and the player would hear an unpleasant sound clip that indicates this setback.

Just as the player has to consider having enough free space for Wilmot and his boxes to move about, the player has to consider having space for the purpose of convenient rotations. Indeed, one of the best ways of carrying boxes is to carry a long line of them and rotating them into narrow but long pathways. This is useful for “bulk” orders (more on these later).

SLOW-DOWN & OVER-LIMIT:

Wilmot may be strong, but he cannot carry an unlimited number of boxes. His strength can be upgraded, but there is still a limit anyway. The closer that Wilmot’s load gets to his limit, the slower he moves.

If the player makes Wilmot carry more than his limit, he clearly grimaces and his movement slows to a crawl. However, he will move the load anyway, and he moves them at the same slow speed regardless of the amount of load. Therefore, the player could still use this limitation to move massive stacks of products across very short distances, which would be handy in the tidying phases (more on these later).

The mouse is an easier way to play the game than the controller is.
The mouse is an easier way to play the game than the controller is.

PUSHING:

Wilmot can also push into stacks of products instead of carrying them. However, he can only push in the cardinal directions and can only push a stack that is one-box wide.

Furthermore, Wilmot is not as strong at pushing as he is at carrying. For one, the bigger the stack that he is pushing into, the more time that he has to spend pushing into the stack.

The player can also have Wilmot and the boxes that he is carrying push into other boxes. In this case, the boxes that he is carrying is used to expand the front that he is pushing into.

However, due to how much time it takes for Wilmot to build up enough force to push a stack, it may be wiser to carry stacks around instead of pushing them.

STACK HIGHLIGHTS:

One of the visual designs happens to have a subtle effect on gameplay. This is the highlight of boxes of the same product when they have just been stacked together. This is a visual aid that is easy to overlook, mainly because most products have pictures that are noticeably different. However, there are at least two cases of different boxes having very similar pictures.

BOXES WITH SIMILAR PICTURES:

Speaking of which, there are two groups of boxes with pictures that are rather similar; one example is shown in one of the screenshots in this article.

There is a product with the picture of a yellow banana against a cold blue background, and there is also another product with the picture of a yellow banana against a cold blue background. The only difference is a slight difference in the shade of the bananas’ yellow.

Then there are three products with what looks like parodies of paintings based on the infamous photo of the Loch Ness monster. One shows two “body” sections, one shows one head and a body section, and the third shows one tail and a body section. In this case, the differences are more substantial than just the shading of hues, but the details are small.

If the player had been relying on gross details to differentiate between products thus far, these two sets of similar-looking products can trick the player. (I myself had failed one delivery when I learned about these the hard way.)

WORK CYCLES:

Every work cycle is composed of the following phases: delivery and order fulfilment. Each phase is timed, so the player has to consider the time that it takes to keep things orderly and fulfil orders.

NEW PRODUCTS:

At the end of every work cycle, four new products arrive at the warehouse. The faces of these products are randomly selected from the list of products that the developers have made for the game, and there are more than 200 of them. Speaking of the number “200”, the playthrough ends when the number of different products in the warehouse reaches 200.

Do you like stress? Then play on Expert mode.
Do you like stress? Then play on Expert mode.

MANUAL ARRANGEMENT OF PRODUCT GRID NOT RETAINED:

Whenever the player gains new products, the grid that shows the faces of the products are displayed. The player can arrange the faces of the products according to their visual characteristics; this is helpful for knowing which of them are recently new. However, the grid also randomly arranges the faces of the products every time that the player runs the game, thus making this feature rather useless.

DELIVERIES:

The warehouse receives unsorted products, which have to be arranged for transfer to Wilmot’s “co-workers”. The deliveries are made through the doors at the south of the warehouse. During the delivery phase of each work cycle, the delivery vehicle unloads boxes of products at this location; if there are any boxes left from the previous delivery, these would be pushed away by the new arrivals.

More often than not, the boxes are unsorted. There may be clusters of boxes of the same product, which can help in stacking them later elsewhere in the warehouse.

Every delivery phase gives the player a limited amount of time to sort out the delivery. Generally, the player can put the recently new products aside, because the incoming orders very rarely requires these.

PRODUCT ORDERS:

During the order fulfilment phase, the hatch at the northern end of the warehouse opens. Wilmot’s “co-workers” appear at the counter that is behind the hatch.

The co-workers come with orders for specific products in specific amounts, and Wilmot’s job is to provide these. The fulfilment of the orders can be done in any order, though the player will want to prioritize certain orders over the others. (There will be more elaboration on this shortly.)

The products to be delivered must be brought over to the hatch. Any pertinent products that are in the vicinity of the hatch will be taken away to fulfil the orders. Any excess boxes of products will be left in front of the hatch, which can complicate later transfers if they are still in the way. Therefore, it is in the player’s interest to deliver exact amounts.

“BULK” ORDERS:

If any of the orders include only one product, the game also checks the amount of stock for the product. If the stock is considerable, the game may issue a “bulk” order instead. Bulk orders always require at least 10 units to be sent to the hatch. In this case, the player might want to learn how to use the rotation feature skilfully, especially on how to rotate long stacks into narrow walkways as mentioned earlier.

Interestingly, the tip of the long stack of products can come into proximity of the hatch and the products will count as having been delivered. If this happens, this leaves Wilmot quite some distance away from the hatch. This is convenient because it can shave a few seconds off travel time to stacks that are far from the hatch.

It is wise to consider setting up an ad-hoc collection point for multiple products before moving the entire stack over to the hatch.
It is wise to consider setting up an ad-hoc collection point for multiple products before moving the entire stack over to the hatch.

STARS:

The main reason to fulfil the orders is the “stars” that can be earned. Each order fulfilment phase offers three stars that can be earned, and seven more stars that are distributed among the co-workers. In the latter case of stars, two of the co-workers have stars attached to their orders; the stars are granted when their orders are fulfilled.

(Presumably, these represent “big-ticket” orders in real-life production management. However, in this game, these star attachments are randomly assigned; there will be more on this later.)

However, the player has to work against the clock to earn these stars. As the clock ticks down on the order fulfilment phase, the number of stars that can be earned dwindles. This applies to the three stars for the entire phase and the stars that the co-workers offer.

If the timer counts down to zero, any stars that have yet to be earned are lost. If there are any unfulfilled orders, even the already-earned stars are lost. (The first time that this happens, Wilmot gets a tongue-lashing from his boss.) In the case of the aforementioned three stars, they will certainly count down to zero if the player does not end the order fulfilment phase early.

STOCK TAKE AND UPGRADE SCREENS:

After the end of several work cycles (usually four), the “stock take” phase begins. In normal game settings, the player is given all the time that he/she needs to have the products in the entire warehouse reorganized. Indeed, the player may need to have the boxes move across considerable distances so as to free up space for new stocks.

Prior to the beginning of the stock take phase, the upgrade screen is shown. The player can spend any stars that have been earned on upgrades to Wilmot’s capabilities, amenities in the warehouse or the removal of impediments in the warehouse.

THE ROBOT:

One of the upgrades that the player can obtain is Borky the robot. Borky is loaded with relatively decent programming – as long as Borky can stay away from Wilmot and vice versa.

Borky can be set adjacent to a group of boxes. It then analyses up to ten or less of them. It checks the type of product that they are, and then searches the warehouse for stacks of the same products. The robot then collects one box at a time, and transport it over to the nearest stack of products of the same type. It repeats until all the scanned boxes have been accounted for.

After that, it returns to the original spot where it was set its recent task, and goes on standby. The player can then ignore it until later, or set it on a new task.

As for how the robot moves, it can only ever move in the cardinal directions. The path that the robot takes is always the shortest in terms of total distance. Therefore, the player can expect it to take shortcuts whenever it can.

However, it will not consider the player’s intended path for Wilmot’s movement, because it cannot. Therefore, the player might find the robot getting in Wilmot’s way more often than the player would like. The robot’s response to this is immediate freezing, which is perhaps the most that it could do in such a situation without making things worse.

On the other hand, Borky can be picked up and carried like any other box of product, which is convenient.

There is a product with bananas, and another product with bananas. Try differentiating them.
There is a product with bananas, and another product with bananas. Try differentiating them.

COMPLAINTS - OVERVIEW:

The first few hours with the game would be an interesting experience, because not many video games would deal with matters as seemingly mundane as stock-keeping in a warehouse.

Unfortunately, the appeal wears off quickly. Less sophisticated players would find that stock-keeping in a warehouse is as boring as it sounds. More sophisticated ones would notice the preponderance of randomization scripts, and the lost opportunities for more complexity.

The following are explanations on the complaints about the game.

RANDOM SELECTION OF PRODUCTS FOR ORDERS:

The orders for specific products are actually randomly made; this can be observed after having compared conditions in the warehouse against the permutations of orders. Thus, there is no connection between the amount of stock in the warehouse and the orders. Indeed, it is possible for the player to have a lot of stock for a specific product that did not appear in many orders.

The same complaint can also be made about the random assignment of stars to specific co-workers. There could have been a gameplay element about products that are in high demand at the time, e.g. market forces that the player can track or forecast.

SEEMINGLY POINTLESS QUARTERS AND YEARS:

Every work cycle appears to represent one working month, and every four months or so counts as a quarter. Four quarters make one year.

With the exception of “stock take” phases occurring at the end of a quarter, all of the just-mentioned information is useless in terms of gameplay.

Presumably, from a tid-bit that is revealed about Wilmot’s boss in the ending credits, the passage of time may be a reference to a certain British sitcom. If so, this is a rather underwhelming Easter egg.

Again, returning to the complaint about the lack of actual business or supply chain elements, the calendaring could have been used to introduce more complexity to the gameplay. For example, the fourth quarter of every year could have had greater and more diverse stock orders, to reflect the holiday season in the Northern hemisphere.

FEATURES OF CONVENIENCE ARE NOT SO CONVENIENT:

The player can purchase “upgrades” that enable certain features of convenience, such as seeing the entirety of the warehouse and the list of products and their amounts.

However, none of these features are given direct control inputs. Rather, they are set into the northern wall of the warehouse. If the player wants to use them, the player has to have Wilmot stand in front of them and press a button. Obviously, this is a hassle.

Wily players would eventually resort to cheesy external means of using these features, such as taking a screenshot of the map feature prior to starting a work cycle.

This is a screenshot of the warehouse, with almost all 200 products.
This is a screenshot of the warehouse, with almost all 200 products.

VISUAL DESIGNS:

The game has highly geometric visuals, and uses a lot of black/white contrast. Indeed, the only things that have actual colours are the faces of the products. Thus, the game is not expected to take too many computing resources.

Yet, the game can chug, especially if the screen is full of product boxes like it would close to the end of a successful playthrough. The game chugs even more if a large stack of products are highlighted after the player has dropped off boxes of the same product next to them.

Wilmot is never seen paid. Rather, as he continues his service in a satisfactory manner, he is “rewarded” with motivational posters. They are not very great rewards, but their staid designs and the deflated tune that plays whenever the player looks at them do go some way to emphasize how unrewarding Wilmot’s job is.

Wilmot’s face is simple, intended for adequately recognizable facial expressions. Interestingly, the developers did a bit more and have his face follow the player’s mouse cursor. Of course, if the player is using a controller, this would not be seen.

SOUND DESIGNS:

The music is the first thing that the player hears from the game, which is appropriate because the music is perhaps the best thing about the game.

As to be expected of an indie game with an indie composer (Eli Rainsberry in this case), the tracks are mainly electronic. They are short, with the longest one only clocking slightly more than three minutes.

Interestingly though, they have been designed with the intention of being easily segmented into looping tunes. Each segment is then applied to a certain gameplay-related occurrence or user interface input. For example, the main menu music only increases in tempo when the player begins the process of starting a new playthrough or selecting an existing run to load.

When the player character gets close to the robot, the music takes on a more subdued tone, with any remaining audible tunes being made higher pitch. This gives the impression that it has been strained through a music filter. Gameplay-wise, this is handy in knowing when the robot happens to be nearby.

Speaking of the robot, it does have some sound clips that it emits when it operates, such as the noises that it makes when it freezes. In contrast, none of the other characters make noises – not even Wilmot.

Most of the sound effects are for purposes of gameplay. For example, there is the echoing chime that plays whenever stacks of products of the same type shimmer, thus informing the player that a good stacking has been made. There are also the noises from pushing stacks of blocks, and those for dragging more loads than Wilmot could handle.

Your reward for finishing a playthrough is having Wilmot rendered redundant. Yay.
Your reward for finishing a playthrough is having Wilmot rendered redundant. Yay.

SUMMARY:

At first, it seems like Wilmot’s Warehouse has hit the crux of what makes all complex resource management games so special. The focus on optimized storage and delivery is spot-on from the get-go, and the meticulous anal-retentive player would be rewarded for making choices that do revolve around this focus.

Yet, there is little more to be had from the game, other than the monotonous tedium of having to do with more aesthetic variations in the things that the player has to handle. The randomly fickle resource demands also diminishes the brevity of the consequences of dwindling stock. The features that are meant for convenience are anything but convenient.

Perhaps the greatest value to be had from this game is teaching the player how to optimize inventory management. Otherwise, the player is better off playing more complex resource management games.