Tobold's Blog
Thursday, August 12, 2010
A Tale in the Desert 5 - Day Five

So by day 5 of my adventures in the virtual desert of A Tale in the Desert I'm beginning to settle in. My main activity on this day consisted of gathering and crafting basic resources and then using them to make my house a lot bigger, with the result that I have now quite a spacious compound. I also built a dromedary pen, which was probably a mistake: Attracting wild camels is done by a sort of secret bidding, which puts you in direct competition with the other players in your region. There is only 1 wild camel per virtual day, and it goes into the open dromedary pen which offers the most straw, and then eats all that straw. Thus you basically "bid" for the camel with straw, and the better organized guilds can always outbid the solo players. The other problem is that if you have animals, you need to provide them with food (straw for camels, onions for sheep), which adds a lot of mandatory work load to your daily schedule. I'm not sure that is really worth it for me.

I managed to trade my excess garlic seeds for carrot seeds, and now have 4 each of the 5 different basic vegetables. Thus I started growing vegetables as a new activity. The basics of growing vegetables is simple, you plant the seed, and then water it every time it visibly grows, until you can harvest the vegetable and get your seed back at the same time. The tricky bits of vegetables are increasing the number of seeds, and the yield of how many vegetables you get for every seed. Increasing the number of seeds happens if you grow vegetables under specific environmental conditions, which are unknown at the start of each telling. Players experiment, and then exchange their results via word of mouth or the ATitD Wiki. Yields depend on the vegetable, the location, and sometimes the player. I only tried onions yet, where at my place I get 7 onions per seed, which is already above average.

But from my previous ATitD experience I remember one nifty trick I should try soon: As the yield of growing vegetables depends on location, the difficult part is to know how far you need to move from your current location to get a different result. There is a sort of invisible "grid" overlayed on the map, which each grid square giving you a different yield. Thus the best place to try growing vegetables is to go to coordinate 0,0 of the map of Egypt, and then try growing vegetables at 10,10 and 10,-10, and -10,10, and -10,-10. At least in previous tellings the invisible grid originated at 0,0, so those 4 locations give you 4 different yields for each vegetable, so there is a good chance to find one "good" spot for yourself without traveling all over Egypt to try.

Day 5 ended in frustration when I tried to grow papyrus. At first I was lucky and my only seed gave me 14 papyrus plants, which was more than the 8 papyrus I had dried to get than 1 seed. So I dried the 14 papyrus, got 2 seeds this time and thought I was well on the way to get an ever increasing number of papyrus and seeds. But when I planted the papyrus seeds again, at the same spot on the Nile as before, and not at the same time, the yield of papyrus this time was catastrophic: I only got 4 papyrus out of 2 seeds. So now I'm at less than the papyrus I'd need to get more seeds and am stuck, until I either find wild papyrus, or beg for seeds from another player. And I was following all the advice from the ATitD wiki on drying the papyrus at high altitudes and how to plant the papyrus for maximum yield, and got far less than seeds per papyrus and papyrus per seed than reported on the Wiki. Really frustrating and annoying, that.
If it helps, I logged in on a trial account to see how things were going and went on a wander. And I picked up loads of papyrus on the way.

I'd be happy to give it to you. Unfortunately I'm ... in the middle of nowhere ;)
You might still be able to teleport to me if your trial account hasn't been played for too many hours. There is an teleport to friend functionality for new characters.
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At the end of your post, you hint at a very interesting topic -- proper knowledge exchange (i.e., beneficial social interactions leading to successful knowledge transfer)can greatly increase your success in games while ineffective knowledge exchange (i.e., relying on incorrect sources of information, or no knowledge exchange at all) may decrease your success.

I wonder how you would have played this game if:
1) players were speaking different languages
2) all players were learning the game at the same time (perhaps even developing a "communication skill" in-game)
3) players could only interact avatar to avatar (no instant communications to all communities in your region)
4) an external Wiki was unavailable.

I think a lot of games would be played differently if the above items were different. The games would definitely be a lot more challenging, albeit a bit less social.

Perhaps we can attribute our success as the human civilization to a pattern of effective knowledge exchange to date. Taking it one step further -- are we actually improving knowledge exchange in recent years with all this technology? Or are we getting too far removed from the basics?
Taking it one step further -- are we actually improving knowledge exchange in recent years with all this technology? Or are we getting too far removed from the basics?

We definitely are improving. Problem with games, especially those virtual worlds, is that external knowledge exchange is unavoidable. It is very hard to design around that 'limitation'.

It's just impossible to make a stoneage simulation if all participants have access to a external wiki of how to make the best tool.

On the other hand, virtual worlds have much bigger problems at the moment ;) For example that people want to participate (and pay) without spending more than a few hours a week.
Thanks to your posts I am THIS close to trying the game out, it seems incredibly fun.

I'm just worried about money, and probably more importantly, time commitment. I would hate to take a started package from one of your readers and then play an hour a day and quit in a week or something.

Oh hush! Come give it a shot. I'll personally give you a starter package to get you going.

We make it seem like the "package" is valuable (which it is) but in reality the items that will be immensely useful to you will be very easy for "established" players to make.

Whisper me (Jongo) or my fiance (Tessie) to get your package and make sure you start in the Sterope region. Look forward to seeing you! We already have 5 or so Toboldians in our mini-community.
>Increasing the number of seeds happens if you grow vegetables under specific environmental conditions, which are unknown at the start of each telling.

I like this aspect, but I feel randomization every now and then would upset a lot of players of other games who aren't so used to it. For example, imagine if every 3 months, the mob packs in elwynn rotated: the defias set up bases somewhere new, the gnolls spread a little further north, a goldshire quest giver went to visit his aunt (where he'll still give you a quest), and the spiders in the mines gained a level.

Small, fairly simple changes that could excite the game and keep it fresh, having players exploring around to see the changes while they level their nth alt.

And then there'd be the people "How am I supposed to do this quest there's only X amount of gnolls and I need X+5 of the item, I shouldn't have to wait on respawns!"
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