ATITD: Project Raeli Complete!

And now we conquer the world...

And at long last:

Step 3) Gleefully combine all the accumulated Raeli Oven materials in one place

Running home with a pocket full of 500 Cement, I threw the 10 Cement into the temporary Raeli Oven storage warehouse and ran over to my Clinker Vat to mix up a batch of plaster.

50 extra gypsum, 50 Cement and some Water in Jugs later, I had 500 Plaster. Woot!

Then it was time for the grand build.

With some trepidation, I made a Small Construction Site in my planned location next to my compound with 1 Canvas and 4 Rope. I was a bit afraid that it might be too near to the one across the road, but it allowed to make it with no problems. What a relief.

Also fairly surprising was the fact that no one had swiped that location to build their own Raeli Oven previously. I suppose most people are civil enough to avoid drama with such an action – as baking Raeli Ovens can pollute the area. Someone else having an oven might have an impact on the flax growing in the area, which would be unpleasant for the person living there.

Since it’s mine, I’ll screw up my own flax growing when I choose to. I figure I can always walk a bit when I need to grow more flax.

My warehouse was close by since I scored my ideal location, and it was a simple matter to take everything from the warehouse, load myself up, and then load in all the items one by one into the Small Construction Site / Future Raeli Oven.

You will not believe how much I’m jumping around, squeeing with glee inside. I’m ecstatic to finally own one of these things. Mine, my own. Built with my own two hands from scratch. (Albeit with some help for the group-based raw materials.)

I’ve always had access to Raeli Ovens through fortunate socializing with veterans kind enough to let me into their guild (and for them, these Raelis are part and parcel of the mid-game, they spend a long time building up resources to plunk down a good many multiples in various regions for various colors) and through the kindness of public Raeli ovens built by ATITD altruists.

But it distinctly feels different. The equipment is not yours to do with as you like, you’re always mindful that you have to share and likely bow aside for the veterans to finish up first (because after all, it’s theirs, and it wouldn’t be at all polite to hog what is not yours) and you’re left feeling a bit like a free gift beneficiary – thankful, but not really an equal.

Now if only I knew how to operate it.

It’s going to take me the rest of the month to figure it out, I bet.

I got it going, and came back 12 hours later to find 67 pathetic tiles inside. I suspect I’m meant to watch it for at least ten minutes after starting to make sure there’s a good rate of return before walking off. I was just really sleepy then though.

And I gather that efficiency in tile creation is probably affected by the Raeli Operation skill that will eventually increment after lots and lots of starting and stopping of one. Welp, practice makes perfect. I got all month and more.

It’s mine, all mine, mwahahaha.

So what’s next after this? I could follow in the footsteps of the veterans and attempt to rinse and repeat and do it all over again to litter the world with ovens in search of more colors.

(Mine is presently trending toward green-ish.)

*shudders* Probably not. I’ll work on incrementing the fleet slowly as a sidelong long-term thing. I’ve got lots of other things in ATITD that I intend to catch up on.

ATITD: Kilns, Forges, Ovens and Alloys

The camera scroll back in this game is phenomenal, can you spot my avatar?

Continuing the saga of the Raeli Oven Project, the 3000 Wet Clay Bricks needed firing. I went ahead into even further expansion on the kilns, mostly because I couldn’t bear the thought of 17 or 25 repeated firings.

A bit of serendipity happened: I had left some space in front of the kilns for other kilns, but there was a chest on the left in the way of stacking the kilns in a perfect grid formation. I could have jumped one kiln and proceeded to stack them, but I suddenly realized that offsetting the front row of kilns meant that I could kinda peek around them to check whether the back row was filled. More easily than I could have done with them perfectly stacked anyhow.

So I went ahead with the offset, and put in enough to total 25 kilns. Now I just needed to fire them 10 times, and chuck the bricks into the warehouse. Done.

Next up, lots of forging:

Forging itself is simple. Have forge. Select forge. Fill with lots of Charcoal. Light forge. Forge eats some charcoal (4o for student’s) to begin with. Forge continues to eat charcoal at 1 a minute (more for the master versions.)

Select whatever you want to make from a long list.

Wait.

Wait some more. Depending on the type of item, it can take 1 minute to 15 minutes to more.

Again, economies of scale. Some people make a lot of forges to finish faster. I’m not much of a metalworker and don’t like the initial burn-off of so much charcoal per forge. So far I’ve been able to get away with less. Tradeoff, I wait longer.

Typically, I just fill the forges with a couple hundred of charcoal, not bothering to calculate how much I need precisely, set them to whatever item I want, and go off and do something else until the little forge chime to say my item is done, next item.

I did need charcoal for the forges though, so a’ charcoaling we went.

By the period of this telling, we are using charcoal ovens, which return 200 charcoal per 209 wood + extra wood used to burn them. In the early game before the technology is unlocked, charcoal hearths are used with lower return (100 charcoal per.)

Making charcoal is an active minigame. The goal is to keep the heat bar over the halfway mark for faster progress on the charcoal, while not letting the danger bar hit the maximum, which would set all the wood and charcoal aflame and burn them to nothingness. Successfully reaching the end of progress bar yields charcoal.

Like most things in ATITD, it’s deeper than it looks on first glance. Novices are mainly concerned with being able to operate one oven to success, until they get the hang of the minigame at least. Then you can start getting complicated in search of efficiency.

One can ramp up by increasing the number of ovens you operate at one time. With practice, 3-4 can be handled. To be honest, it took me a while, until this telling to try 4 ovens. I find it most comfortable and less hectic with 2-3.

One can macro the ovens. One kind of macro just duplicates your clicks across all the ovens you’re running, so essentially you manage one oven and the macro clicks the rest for you. If done quickly, within the tick, all the ovens match up. Another kind of macro strives to automatically run the oven for you based on the color and pixel positioning of the progress bars. Personally, they don’t work well for me. Maybe it’s my geographic location causing extra lag/latency but I can never get all the clicks between ticks, my ovens always desync after some time. And the automatic macro either breaks, or eats so much wood over manually controlling the ovens that I end up wincing and being that guy who snatches the controller and says “Let ME do it.”

Y’see, there is one more thing to consider in making charcoal: wood efficiency. The main way to raise heat is by clicking the ‘wood’ button to add 3 wood per press.

Obviously, the more wood you use in making charcoal, the more costly your final 200 charcoal becomes in terms of total wood consumed. The efficiency ratio ranges from ~1.25 (very good) to 1.3 (decently good) to 1.5 (somewhat wasteful) and higher.

This becomes a trading opportunity for those who have mastered the technique and enjoy making charcoal. If they are certain they can maintain 1.2-1.3 conversion efficiency, it is quite common for them to offer 1:2 charcoal:wood trades. Bring them 2000 wood, and they’ll return you 1000 charcoal, and keep the extra wood for themselves to convert to charcoal.

Opening and closing the vent to alter oxygen levels can also affect heat, as well as danger levels – only practice can tell you when it’s appropriate to play around with those, to maintain or alter heat or danger levels without adding wood. There is a more in-depth description as well as video demonstrations available on the ATITD wiki for those new to the process to learn. I’ll just comment that the method shown is not the only way to do charcoal, so don’t be afraid to just play around with the oven. Their technique demonstrates a very wood efficient way of burning charcoal – when I tried it, I got 1.25 efficiency, but I found it hard to sync multiple ovens and I found it slower than the method I commonly use.

Mine involves maintaining wood and oxygen levels to be as even as possible, and both tend to hover near the 1/4 to 1/3 mark. This can send danger levels flying high if you’re not careful, and either lower the oxygen to lower the danger (if it’s not rising too quickly) or dump one click of water into the oven (which drops danger and heat considerably).

To get the heat back going again, I’m not afraid of clicking twice on the wood button, or more. Which is a bit wasteful on wood, but it works for me.

One other trick I learned on my own to jump start a failing oven whose heat seems to be dropping beyond repair. Open the oxygen vent to high, dump in about 3-5 clicks of wood, and then switch the vent to low immediately without clicking on the middle option to cut oxygen dramatically. This typically gets the heat roaring back up, but again, wastes wood.

Sometimes though, after sitting for 5-6 minutes and seeing the progress bar -almost- there but not quite, you’re willing to squander the wood rather than the time. I’m not terribly fond of the ovens, I rather go collect more wood with the time I saved, so that’s another tradeoff to consider besides wood efficiency.

I made a couple thousand odd charcoal or so, and started the forges making the random assortment of shovel blades, iron bars and so on. Casting boxes were lit too, to make medium gears. They operate the same way as forges, but require beeswax in addition to the metal raw material.

To kill the waiting time, I started work on alloys. I needed 10 Bearings to be cast after the medium gears, and Bearings require bronze, an alloy of copper and zinc.

Alloy making is another interesting minigame in ATITD.

Alloys are made in Reactories. Which again can be done in multiples. I like to have two Reactories going at once. People really into alloys might run 4.

The goal is to get all the white circles overlapping with each other as close as possible to have a perfect result. Something like this:

One of the things that was hardest for me to grasp about alloys is letting go of perfectionism. I don’t know if it’s learnt from other MMOs, that so-called “sense of entitlement” that says I should be able to do it all and do it perfect every time, or if it’s just a character flaw. I would spend a long time on alloys, searching for that 100% crystallization, and get very frustrated every time I hit 10%, 20%, 30% – 60%, 70% crystallization.

I eventually thought about it in this way. Attaining Perfect Crystalization of a particular alloy is worth an Achievement in-game, so it’s meant to be a relatively infrequent event. Sometimes the tradeoff of time spent is more important than maximum conversion efficiency of the raw materials (especially if the raw materials are cheap.)

To make things more interesting, the return rate of each alloy can vary, there is a floor below which you get nothing. In this case, 30% crystallization yields 1 bronze,

And 50% gives 3 bronze.

One deals with it by setting yourself an acceptable conversion efficiency for the metal, in this case, I settled for 70% crystallization yielding 5 bronze, effectively 62.5% or higher efficiency. Any time my crystallization hits that amount, take the alloy that is formed. If not, then re-heat the metal (using up charcoal) and repeat. This allows a balanced tradeoff between time, amount of alloy produced, and conversion efficiency.

So how in the world do you move the white circles anyway? By clicking. The wiki explains this far better than I, and also includes a diagram of suggested places where to click or not click.

But essentially, wherever you click, the circle nearest to your mouse cursor (as defined from its centre) doesn’t move, and all the other circles will jump towards that circle with a distance determined by how near they are to that circle.

If two or more circles get near enough to overlap, it congeals and the whole thing crystallizes according to how many circles overlapped with the last click. Generally, any two circles overlapped at a distance nearer than 1/4 the diameter will end up congealing the whole thing.

Here’s an animated gif of the process: (I very nearly thought it was going to end up a disaster, but lucked into being able to spread out the circles far enough)

Not every layout the Reactory gives you is solvable. More often than not, it’s not. Like this below, which has 5 circles far away from the main mass, and will never come close enough to make the result worth anything. The trick is to not get frustrated that the stupid reactory gave you this, nor rail that it’s not fair, nor waste time clicking at something that won’t yield good results. Just shrug, and re-heat the thing to reset the layout.

And sometimes you end up clicking yourself into a corner, if you’re not that good at it, like me.

In the case above, all the circles are too spread out to overlap neatly into one final circle, yet near enough that they will likely congeal on my next click no matter where I click. Again, once you see this, there’s not much to be gained from brooding over it, click your best shot, see what the result is (probably not satisfactory) and re-heat.

70 copper, 10 zinc, some charcoal and resin and time later, I had 59 bronze. That’s about 73.75 metal conversion efficiency, not too shabby.

20 of the bronze went into the casting boxes for Bearings, and a short stock take later, my Raeli Oven warehouse was sitting on the following list.

Two more major things left. I’m going to need Moon Steel Sheeting, which involves more alloys, and likely some mining as I don’t have some of the rarer metals on hand. Mining will be another nice minigame to talk about, it was changed for Tale 5 and Tale 6. I’ll be forging copper wire at the same time as the moon steel sheeting, because I forgot to do this session.

And I’m going to have to worry about cement and plaster. I am most likely going to take the social solution out for now, and join one of the scheduled digs and cement stirs this Saturday that is organized by a very friendly and helpful veteran – He runs them for newbies who would not be able to get a hold of them otherwise. This community service probably plays a strong part in retaining the new players who might otherwise give up.

The only thing is that it’s set at 3am, 5am and 7am my time. :) So we’ll see if the alarm clock functions… or we’ll go back to Plan B after Saturday.

ATITD: The Clay “Grind”

Hidden drinking game: Take a shot every time I mention the word 'hardcore'

And now for Clay on a slightly more personal scale.

I’ll also take the opportunity to talk a bit about economies of scale and macros, which are some things that are decidedly uncommon for many regular MMOs.

More Planning for the Raeli Oven Project

Previously, I shared my hopes for working towards the building of my own personal Raeli Oven. Among other things, I’m going to need 3000 Clay Bricks and 20 Clay-Steeped Wool Cloth for that grand project.

Just how much total clay in raw materials is going to be required?

I already have the Wool Cloth, so I just need to soak it in my tubs. This requires:

1 Wool Cloth
10 Clay
20 Water in Jugs

The Jugs themselves are not consumed, just the water, so it’s no biggy. That’s 20 x 10… 200 Clay for the cloth.

12 Wet Clay Bricks are made from 8 Clay and 4 Sand.

This -is- a desert, so sand is essentially free. Just wander over to an area with sand, and pick up as much as you can carry, any time you like.

That makes 3000 Bricks / 12 * 8 Clay = 2000 Clay

In total, 2200 Clay will be needed.

*gulp*

By the way, as previously mentioned, if not for this blog, I really wouldn’t plan as much. I’m more of a go-with-the-flow kind of person, so I would probably just log on, work on making as many Clay Bricks as I possibly could until I got bored, and then proceed to change up activities or log off. Repeat until one day I count 3000 Clay Bricks sitting in my warehouse. Point is, it doesn’t matter if you lean towards being Type A or Type B, it is still possible to play a sandbox in the manner which you enjoy.

However, if you’re more of an obsessive Type A planning sort, A Tale in the Desert will definitely feed your penchant for plans and to-do lists, and you’d probably get there a lot faster than the laid back Type Bs. (The Type Bs would probably enjoy themselves a bit more though and run less risk of burning out.)

Clay Automation

In the usual paradoxical manner of ATITD, if you have an upgraded Raeli Oven, you can actually set it to automatically dredge up clay for you.

Obviously, we don’t have one yet.

(Grrr.)

The societal shortcut route is always possible in this game. It’s how latecomers to the Tale can catch up. Those that came before had it harder, and their work can make things a lot easier for those coming after. It is always possible to get into a Guild with upgraded Raeli Ovens, earn enough trust to be allowed to operate them, and get your Tiles that way, or Clay, and the guild probably already has a ginormous stockpile of Clay somewhere. Or you could trade for it, etc, etc.

I do have social ties to some very nice veterans that I can always ask for help, but you know, it wouldn’t be as fun. Often, I find I like having those ties for the company, the community, and just reassuring backup that if all else fails, there’s always the guild option and asking for a loan. Continually begging would wear down on one’s social reputation, diminishing trust (it’s all interrelated in this game) and worse, I would always feel so inferior and needy and never learn and improve. That’s one of the things I love in ATITD, coming up with one’s own personal methods for generating resources.

You see, it’s all about those economies of scale again.

With 1 Jug or 10 Jugs, collecting 2200 clay is going to suck pretty hard. You’d have to repeat the “Get Water into Jugs” step too many times and interrupt the process of clay collection.

Typically, players have already made themselves upwards of 100-500 Jugs, depending on how much you can and feel like carrying.

Rummaging around in my warehouses, I eventually locate my Jugs (haha) and find I have 360 to hand, which isn’t too bad. Remember, it’s that whole finding your personal balance point thing again. It’ll take a much longer time investment to create 1000 Jugs rather than 100 Jugs, and only you can decide when enough is enough, or when it isn’t enough.

I pop over to the nearby water source (this is why many players live by the River Nile, and a nearby water source is something new players should bear in mind when looking for a site to call their own) and fill them up.

Quick recap: With 360 Water in Jugs, position oneself over a clay patch, and click on the red clay icon.

“Clunk” goes the sound effect, and 1 Clay pops into your inventory. The icon disappears.  Now you’ll have to move a few steps until the red clay icon appears again, and click once more. Rinse and repeat until you run out of Water in Jugs.

Moving a few steps can be done in two ways:

  1. Click a spot to move there, aka click-to-move.
  2. Minimizing chat channels, then using the arrow keys (not WASD) to move left, right, up, down.

Pop quiz for the math inclined. How many clicks (and key presses) is it going to take to collect 2200 Clay?

Frankly, I don’t know. I’m really poor at math. And Diablo, this game is not.

But it -is- hardcore, in its own way.

It’s a sandbox. You COULD choose to manually click your way to 2200 Clay. No one will stop you. (Though they may point and laugh.)

(Just kidding.)

On The Care and Feeding of Macros

One of my most favorite things about ATITD besides the nice, welcoming community with a small-town feel reminiscent of MUDs, is that the use of macros are legally allowed.

The only thing that is illegal is UNATTENDED macro’ing. If a GM or staff member catches you unable to respond and your character busy botting away, then you’re looking at a ban. There goes your character, your sub and your everything, permadeath essentially. Who says ATITD isn’t hardcore? Moral of the story: Sit and look at your screen and be able to respond and all will be well.

Macros are something that all players should try giving a go with. It’s like a minigame of its own, sitting there planning out your scripted moves, testing, re-testing, until sweet success, stuff works as desired and all that prior time and effort invested will save you time and make it more convenient for you later on. (Sound like the rest of ATITD to you? Yep.)

I have the fondest, nostalgic memories about doing similar things with the MUD I used to play. Some MUDs ban the use of macros and scripts, but mine was always okay with them. So I’d sit and play around with speedwalks (a quick list of n, e, s, w directions to quickly move from place to place), aliases (shortcut abbreviations expanding out to whole word commands), macros and triggers. I was supremely competitive at the time, and found that all this stuff gave me a significant edge over those who didn’t use such things, and won plenty of contests as a result. These things are not just plug-and-play add-ons though, the user is also important in identifying the things that are best shortcutted, customizing all the inputs so that it becomes second nature and knowing how and when best to use the tools.

In many of those old MUD contests, they’d test your knowledge of the quirks, trivia and lore of the MUD too, and that’s not something macros can help with. You yourself the player must have the knowledge and the skill. The machine, the macros, are your tools. I coined my own term for this interrelationship of human input and macro response to produce results quicker than most people can conceive or attain – I called it “cyborging” and it’s an exceptional experience. For me, it hit a flow state very quickly, and all those expressions of “How the fuck?” “Wow” “Goddamn, you’re good” just added egoistical icing on top. Until the burn out, but that’s another tale.

So, back to ATITD. Can we macro clay?

You betcha. In the community spirit of ATITD, people come together to help each other out, and many exceptionally skilled people (far far better mathematicians and programmers than I) have written things for others to use. Macro scripts and even whole programs or macro engines specifically for ATITD. Convinced that ATITD is hardcore yet?

There’s plenty to pick and choose from. As these blog posts progress, I’ll show you the ones I like to use. Who knows, maybe it’ll be helpful for a new player looking for tips, because a lot of this stuff is NOT obvious at all. When I first started playing ATITD as a newbie, I remember feeling absolutely amazed, out of my league, and unable to conceive just how other players were so gosh-darned productive. Even now, I observe a lot of people logging in, trying out the game, encountering stuck points, and then giving up and disappearing for good without making the leap to a level they can be comfortable at and contribute to the community.

I had the good fortune of meeting some very nice veterans every Telling I played and joining guilds where I could observe how better players play. Plenty of wiki reading, people watching and experimentation paved the way for me to talk about this. Fair warning: I am by no means as skilled as most of the veterans in this game, I’m probably not as efficient as it’s possible to be, but I’d like to share all the same.

Do bear in mind the central theme of ATITD – “finding your own balance point,” what works for me may not work for you or someone else, but it’s nice to see what other people are doing and learn from them and find what works for you.

Sorry. Clay now, I promise. I’m fond of the first program I used way back in Tale 4. Rogarian’s R-Cubed. (Yes, you can truly attain fame in this game, this sandbox gives plenty of opportunities for people to specialize, shine, and put their names on things. Like programs. Are you tired of me saying this word yet? Hardcore.)

It’s very simple to use. Still gives you plenty of control – I’m not fond of full automation, I find it either has a tendency to break or you get so bored of watching the program play the game for you that you either ask yourself what’s the point of me being in the picture, or you walk away from the computer… don’t come crying to me later if you get banned then.

And R-Cubed will stop the moment you alt-tab away from the active window, so it has honesty built into its very core. You -will- be looking at the screen and at the game (unless you walk off AFK, but see above.)

It’s fun to see how ingenious players can get, by analyzing how each macro or program works. R-Cubed looks for the clay icon (or grass, or slate) by periodically checking the color of a pixel on your screen, location and color selected by the player. When you start the macro, hit ctrl and your mouse cursor turns into a cross and acts as a color picker.

Move the mouse cursor over to the red clay icon, check the eye to make sure the pixel color is something unique to the clay icon, and not the surroundings, and release ctrl. That’s it.

R-Cubed checks, and whenever it sees dark red (in this case), it moves your mouse cursor over the icon and left-clicks for you. Clunk, 1 Clay collected.

What it doesn’t do, is move your character for you. But it’s good, in this way, you have more options!

  1. You can opt to move yourself. Just click to run to the start of the clay patch, and your character will move slowly to that spot, picking up clay thanks to R-Cubed as they move.
  2. If you’re like me and crave a bit of twitch every now and then, or want fine control over the way you move, you can minimize your chat channels and use the arrow keys to move up and down, left and around, in circles and in stripes on your clay patch amusing yourself while R-Cubed does all the grunt work of getting clay.
  3. Or you can layer a second macro program with R-Cubed that will actually move your character about.

There’s nothing as boring as repetition, so I actually use all three options for the sake of variety.

In the case of the third option, I make use of my Logitech G25 keyboard because it’s quick and easy and I need an excuse to use it).

But one can always find another macro program that will press up (or left) for a set number of seconds, and then down (or right) for a set number of seconds, and repeat X times, or a program that clicks a location on the screen for you, or whatever. Personal choice and all. It often isn’t worth the trouble unless you really think you need to spend hours on obtaining Clay.

I actively regulate the amount of interactivity I have with ATITD tasks. I believe it’s part of the efficiency/finding your own balance point game. Fully automating it takes away the fun for me because I like some twitch and some input every now and then. For others, they may enjoy looking at the end result of their work in scripting the macro, but I still think it gets boring after just passively watching your character pick up the 300th piece of clay.

So I went back to clicking with the mouse every 5 seconds or so to indicate where my character should run and meditatively listening to the *chunk* *chunk* *chunk* of Clay being picked up and reading public chatter on various chat channels. (And taking screenshots and composing this blog post in my head while my hands were occupied.)

40 minutes of idle clicking later, I have my 2200 Clay.

Again, if I weren’t blog posting, I’d would honestly break gathering up into chunks so that it doesn’t feel too much like a marathon. 5-10 minutes of one activity, do something else, putter about, switch up the variety, and then go back to it.

It just makes it really hard to organize or write a blog post about how you’ve partially done 8 different things. :)

On “Grinding”

I believe there is no such thing as “grind” as long as you are aware of your own feelings and reactions and honest with yourself.

1) Are you taking any pleasure in the -present- activity you are doing? (Not looking forward to what you’ll feel when you reach the end, but actively, what you’re doing, do you like it?)

If you’re neutral, or just tolerating it, that’s a warning sign. Do ask yourself if the long-term gain will be worth it or if you might regret it later. And be on the lookout for emotional progress to…

Actively loathing is bad. Stop, stop now, before it’s too late and you ruin the activity for yourself for good. Take a break, go do something else. Come back only when you can honestly answer yes to the question, being neutral isn’t good enough once you’ve ever started hating the activity before.

2) Whenever you start feeling bored with the repetition, even though you do think the activity still has its positive sides, stop and do something else. Don’t ever try to ‘work’ through it or push yourself through a bad spot. It doesn’t work. Burnout lurks behind that self-rationalizing corner. It’s a game, it’s not meant to be a chore or an obligation.