Tobold's Blog
Friday, August 13, 2010
 
A Tale in the Desert 5 - Day Six

On my sixth day in the 5th telling of A Tale in the Desert I met spinks from Spinksville. That was nice, because I am a fan of her blog, and we hadn't met in other games before. Helpful as ever, spinks solved my papyrus problem by giving me a bunch of both papyrus and seeds. I experimented a bit more with growing papyrus, and drying it to get seeds back, and found a spot with better yield, so I can multiply my papyrus from now on.

Then I participated in an "acro line", where a lot of players in the region organized themselves to work on the Test of the Acrobat, the first big test of the body branch of tests, after the initiation. There are 28 different acrobatics moves, each move having 7 facets, and every player starts out being able to do just one of those moves. The ultimate goal is to master all facets of all 28 moves, by learning them from other players. But there is a much easier intermediate goal, for which you just have to learn and teach a few facets, and which gives you a level. Learning / teaching acrobatics moves involves two players close to each other each doing his moves to show to the other, with the added difficulty that no third player should be in the near vicinity. Thus the "acro line" is organized with players standing in a long line in sufficient distance from each other, with new arrivals going from player to player to do acrobatics with each of them. That looked quite funny when you zoomed the camera out, but it was efficient, and I made level 6 that way.

Back in my camp I decided to build a sheep pen. Not sure yet whether I want to breed sheep in the long run, with the daily feeding requirements, but at least a pen is useful for slaughtering wild sheep with a 100% success rate, thus getting more leather and oil. But a sheep pen needs a lot of materials, among which are 1200 bricks. Fortunately bricks are easy to make in large quantities, even before the brick machine is invented later in the game. One just needs a lot of straw. Straw is hard to get at the start of the game, as you need to pick grass one by one, but after you have gathered a certain number you can put gathering grass as an "offline chore". That is basically ATitD's version of rest xp: You character is doing stuff while offline, like gathering grass or wood, or accumulating travel time, which is consumed when you use forms of fast travel like teleporting home.

While the ATitD Wiki is nice to explain how everything works, private or regional chat is good for exchanging tips between players on how to work most efficiently. Several veteran ATitD players gave me friendly advice on how to use hotkeys to for example make bricks faster, or be able to handle more flax fields in one go. What I haven't done yet is look into macros, which are legal in ATitD as long as they don't work faster than a human could, and as long as you stay at the computer and don't let them run unattended. Of course, as pretty much in every MMORPG, there is some discussion on whether macroing is good or bad, and whether some people aren't "cheating" with unattended macroing, with the small staff of eGenesis unable to catch them.

Me, I don't mind if other people advance much faster than me, whether that is because they play more hours than me per day, or by macroing. I don't subscribe to the theory of MMORPGs being "competitive", as that "race" in a MMORPG would be so obviously unfair as to be completely ridiculous. Some other player *always* started earlier than you, or is playing more than you, or (in games with item shops) spends more money than you.

I talked a lot about the "gameplay" of A Tale in the Desert, but much more than other MMORPGs I know A Tale in the Desert is about living in a virtual world, not playing a game. Earlier tellings didn't even *have* levels, and even now levels are more a guide-rail telling you what you could do next, there being so many possibilities. I'm quite happy logging on, working a bit on my virtual homestead to expand it, doing some new activities, chatting with people, and having some fun. "Winning" the game doesn't really come into it. Having said that, I am not sure that I will play ATitD for very long. There are a couple of games coming out end of September, like Civ5 and FFXIV, which I am looking forward to, and which might pull me away from a peaceful existence in the Egyptian desert.

This sixth installment ends my daily journal of A Tale in the Desert. I will still talk about the game once in a while, as I keep playing, but not in the form of a daily activity log any more. The purpose of the journal was to give people who don't know A Tale in the Desert an idea how it plays for a new player, and I think I've done enough of that to reach this purpose. Remember there is a free trial, so if you are curious, I can only recommend you try A Tale in the Desert out for yourself. It is an "indie" game, less pretty and polished than a multi-million dollar MMORPG, and with a very different gameplay. But if you are in a summer slump or sick and tired of "WoW-clones", this might be just the game you are looking for.
Comments:
I've played several tellings but have never played one from start to finish. Great reviews Tobold!

The main problem with ATITD is player retention. For MMORPG players this game is a great change of pace for several weeks but then, like all tellings, player subscription tails off after 4-6 months into a new telling. The main problems for new players are as follows:

1) Many of the game mechanics are similar to previous tellings, thus veteran players have a big advantage (They help new players as much as possible but at a certain point they use their advantage to stay ahead of the pack)

2) As you level up, the challenges/tests for the various displines require more cooperation and its hard to get into a guild that will help you out as the ATITD regulars like to stay within their trusted cliques.

3) In many ways the game is a social experiment and after a couple of months you get tired of being a guinea pig. Many game mechanics and challenges (quests) test the limits of human cooperation. It sometimes feels like the game designer (Teppy/Pharoah)is deliberately trying to create drama, and one can get fustrated/tired of that after a while.

With that said, I think that ATITD is a 'must try' for all dedicated MMPORG players. There's all kinds of game mechanics that you will not find in any of the mainstream MMO's:
- unlimited guild affiliations.
- player created game content.
- democratic changing of game mechanics.
- player organized/controlled trading/banking.
- no combat or loot. Players gather all resources and craft everything in the game.
- direct contact with the game designer (you can call him up on his cell phone if you want and he will probably take the call).

If you are a WoW player and enjoyed the unlocking of the An'quiraj (sp?) gates (the whole server donating resources to unlock content) then you will enjoy ATITD, because all of the content has to be unlocked by the concerted efforts of the players.

*salutes*
Zig
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Thanks in part to Jongo I had a GREAT first day.

Just signed off for the night, got up to level 3. I have my compound up and a real kiln done. It also just got to 16 squares.

Playing with others is the only way to play. Having my girlfriend there let us split up a lot of tasks and work way more efficiently, and it is obvious that as more and more complicated things need to get done, more and more people will be better.

The other fun thing about this game was the change in mindset concerning how advanced items actually are. It's amazing how candles have gone from something so basic you don't even realize it had to be invented to "oh my god a CANDLE?! How on earth am I ever going to be advanced enough to make a candle?! I'm not stephen freaking hawking!"
 
Tobold, remember, if you don't think you'll play for a while, you can give your property over to a guild to use, and they'll often keep parts of it up in case you should return. (In exchange they get to use your stuff.)
 
A Tale in the Desert shows how to make a good, sustainable MMO.

1. Find a community that will self-select but will be big enough to sustain the game. If such a community doesn't already exist, target a specific kind of playstyle.
2. Make the game entirely cooperative so griefing basically disappears. The self-selecting and self-policing small community will also make griefing rare.
3. Give players real agency in the world. make them feel like they have real say, not just a forum with which they can only shout into the void.

PvP MMOs are so much harder to design, and may be inherently broken because of the time focus (good PvP requires a skill-focus in theforefront). Sticking to a cooperative environment solves so many issues with MMOs--eliminating combat and focusing on deep crafting and immersion solidifies a niche that can sustain the game indefinitely.
 
Was fun meeting you in game, and good luck with the papyrus.
 
PvP MMOs are so much harder to design, and may be inherently broken because of the time focus (good PvP requires a skill-focus in theforefront). Sticking to a cooperative environment solves so many issues with MMOs--eliminating combat and focusing on deep crafting and immersion solidifies a niche that can sustain the game indefinitely.

The conflict that arises through (well designed) PvP might bind the community together even better than a PvE enemy.
I agree completely that MMOs should encourage cooperation inside your own faction. Therefore it is necessary that players depend on each other!
But I see no reason why it should even bother me if the night elf doesn't want to help my orc. He couldn't even if he wanted (example from WoW).

As a remark: Spying and fraud are real threats for a faction-based PvP game (e.g. EVE). Developers need to consider this more than they did in the past!)

That said I could play a MMO without PvP, if the PvE part were good enough. But to play a MMO without destruction sounds strange to me. ATinD apparently uses a two-year 100%-destruction cycle to get rid of the problem of creation without destrution.

I wouldn't like that. I want my house to be destructable in-game(but not at 3 am by some maniac who will never suffer the consequences, obviously :)
 
The main problem with ATITD is player retention. For MMORPG players this game is a great change of pace for several weeks but then, like all tellings, player subscription tails off after 4-6 months into a new telling.

Unlike in other games, the number of subscribers is readily available within the game at the University of Leadership.

During Tale 2, the population started above 2000 and dropped to 1200, in Tale 3 it started around 1800 and dropped to 1000.

The current population on the T5 shard is at 644 and population on the T4 Bastet shard is around 300. This is an all time low for a tale beginning. Let's hope that this is due to the new tale starting in the middle of the summer vacations.
 
After reading this I'm going to go ahead and try it out for myself i could really use a change in pace with the mmorpgs i have been playing as of late.
 
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