Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Gathering ore and herbs
Through discussion with readers I realized that sometimes it is hard to explain what you are actually doing in a MMORPG, because we tend to take descriptive shortcuts. For example you might say that you spent an hour gathering ore and herbs in a MMORPG. But unless the person you talk with knows that specific MMORPG, he doesn't know what gathering ore and herbs entails. And the same activity might be very different in different MMORPGs. Thus for demonstration I'm going to compare gathering ore and herbs in World of Warcraft and in A Tale in the Desert.
In World of Warcraft both ore and herbs spawn in nodes. There is a fixed and limited number of such nodes in every zone, but even if left well alone not all of these nodes spawn a resource. There is some maximum number of resource spawns. Gathering ore and herbs in World of Warcraft is exactly the same activity: You turn on the search with a button on your mini-map, move through the zone, and see the nodes with spawns as golden dots on your mini-map. You then go to that location, click on the node, and receive your ore or herb in your inventory. Sometimes you also find secondary resources, like stones or gems in ore nodes, or a second herb in a herb node.
In A Tale in the Desert ore and herbs are two very different things. Ore doesn't spawn in nodes, but runs in veins under ground. You find those veins by dowsing, based on your perception score, and then can build a mine on top of the vein. In the 5th telling mines and veins don't deteriorate from use, thus people often put their mine to be useable by anyone. So if you don't want to go through all of the trouble of dowsing a vein and building a rather expensive mine, you use a public mine. In front of a mine you will find 7 curious stones of different colors, with different shapes, different decorations, and different crystals growing out of them. That is a mini-game with which ore is produced. Each mine has a different game, even two iron mines can have different stones in front of them. First you need to figure out which attribute of the stones is important; it might be the color and the shape of the decorations, or it might be two other attributes, like the shape of the stone and the shape of the crystals. Lets say in our case it is color and shape. Then to produce ore you need to select 3 stones which all have the same color or all have different colors, and which all have the same shape or all have different shapes. Thus three blue stones with different shapes would work. Two blue stones and a red stone will not work, regardless of shape. Sometimes you can even find a combo with 4 stones all being the same or all different in shape and color, and that gives you a much better ore yield. You can use each combination only once, but one stone can be part of several different combinations. And if you use the same stone several times, the stone can crumble and release additional resources like coal and gems. As several people working the same mine use the same stone more often (each player can use the same combinations once), the chance to crumble stones and get gems is higher if you mine with others. Once you run out of combinations, you click on the mine and get a new set of stones.
Herbs in A Tale in the Desert are more similar to how they are in World of Warcraft, in as far as they grow in the wild and you need to run around and find them. Only there is not helpful radar to see them from a distance. And they don't glow with sparkles, so unless you come close enough to click on them you can easily confuse herbs with regular plants. Herbs in A Tale in the Desert aren't sorted by zones, and there are over a hundred different herbs. Once you find one, you get two options: Eat or forage. Eating the herb destroys it, and gives you some stat modification. The same herb always has the same stats, but there are negative stats as well as positive. Thus you'd better know what you are eating. But herbs aren't labeled with names, you need to identify them by their color, shape, stems, and leaves. Pretty much impossible to remember all, so players organized herb-identification websites. Identification is also important if you want to forage the herb, for later use in cooking or smoking. The forage window has a dozen or so different options from cutting the leaves to digging out the roots, with only one being the correct one for each herb. Choose the right option and you get a small number of those herbs in your inventory.
As you can see, saying "I gathered ore and herbs" in two different games can be a very different gameplay. By design World of Warcraft is made for maximum accessibility, so activities like gathering or crafting are not very complex. A Tale in the Desert is an extremely complex game, and comes with little in-built explanations. Explanations or data from other players, in-game or via the Wiki, are frequently necessary to do an activity, and there is a much larger selection of different gameplay activities. But while blogging about it, of course I'd rather say stuff like "I made charcoal", than to explain every time the (quite fun) mini-game you need to play in ATitD to turn wood into charcoal.