ATITD: The Midnight Digs and Stir

The next part of the saga:

Step 2) Obtain Cement and Plaster

My alarm clock worked. Fortunately, it was the 3am-7am stretch in between Saturday and Sundays so very little overall harm done to the rest of my life, just sleep in a little longer.

(Yes, I am crazy enough to pull off these marathon overnights – one gets used to it being on the other side of the pond from the Americans, and I actually like the wee morning hours. They’re peaceful.

My geographic location is also one of the reasons I’m very leery of game mechanics that cause too much group overcommitment to time schedules. I know my personality is hardcore obsessive enough to get greedy and crazy addicted if I don’t watch it all the time and correct it instantly like a bad puppy.

Now and then I consciously do it as a once in a blue moon thing, trading off lack of sleep for profit, but I wouldn’t want to make it a habit EVERY effing week.)

a) Attend Gypsum Dig

Five minutes before 3am (3pm EST to normal people), run over to the scheduled spot in the far west of Egypt in Valley of Kings.

I cut it this close because I was sitting on 9 days of travel time that I didn’t mind burning off on instant travel at Chariot Stops. If one doesn’t have the travel time to burn, factor in at least 15-30 minutes to get to a location, because you’ll be waiting for 3-5 minutes in between Chariot Stops for the free travel option.

These group digs and activities are organized by one of the more famous names in ATITD, Rabble, who hosts these things pretty much out of the kindness of his heart. And for the benefit of the ATITD society as a whole – because without these things, people would reach stuck points and quit (or gather in clique-y groups) and  erode away at the community atmosphere. He’s awesome.

I believe for sandboxes to stabilize into lawfulness, you -need- a few of these benevolent leader types to appear and get people organized as a big group and keep things welcoming for newbies. I hear Ultima Online had some of these, and ATITD also spawns a notable number of them.

(Generosity and respect also feeds forward and back. No doubt if Rabble ever needed help with anything, a ton of people would drop whatever they were doing and rush to help out.

It’s the rare MMO game that manages these sorts of iterated prisoner’s dilemmas that build trust though. Too often, people only face one interaction with each other, and the rational thing is for people to defect for profit and screw the group.

In ATITD, you’ll only pull it off once, then your reputation will be soured for good. And the game is built such that you need to check back in periodically with the group to keep succeeding – you can still solo and meander off as a hermit if you want to, but you’ll get there a lot faster if people don’t hate you and if you accept help from the group now and then. It’s a fantastic balance the game mechanics have set up – seriously incomparable to any other game I’ve encountered so far.)

Sidetrek aside, er yeah, dig. Dig dig dig. This is ATITD’s version of a group-based activity for shared profit, aka a raid? One of them anyhow.

The actual mechanics are kinda boring. Some guy selects a menu option to Dig a Hole. Everyone else stands around the hole, clicks on the hole, and gets one option to Dig Deeper. Stand by and keep clicking it as much as your stats will let you. Endure for however long the dig lasts.

Like most things in ATITD, we can deconstruct it a bit further to find more interesting interrelated connections.

How many times you can click, and how fast, is determined by your stats. Endurance, specifically, for digging.

The stat color changes from black to dark red to bright red per click until you can no longer click when it’s bright red. The speed at which it recovers back to black is based on the numerical value on the right.

The numbers in brackets are your base stats. (Mine suck, I know. You can steadily affect your base stats by working on a myriad multitude of various Tests or minigame activities, which I treat in a fairly laissez-faire manner, nice bonus to have, but not critical. Others actively work on improving them. Your mileage may vary.)

The numbers on the left are your current stats, as affected by a bunch of things that can temporarily move stats up or down. Primarily, through Cooking. Recipes of various ingredients can be concocted for various stat increases – there’s always the tradeoff of lower stats for other things, so the trick is to lower stats you don’t currently need. Cooking requires its own set of extremely long posts to do it justice, so that’s all I shall say about it here. For this specific dig, Rabble makes up his own food for everyone, and people eat from the kitchens as directed. You can also get smaller stat bonuses through smelling Incense (which here is also provided by the dig host), and drinking from Aqueducts and various other stuff.

The shovel you use also has an effect on how effectively you dig – which can range from simple slate shovel technology which breaks a lot in the early game to professionally smithed high quality 9k+ or 9.5k+ shovels that can be given unique names by the player smith.

Standing in one spot and repeated clicking is a job best suited for macros, not humans (not if they don’t want Repetitive Strain Injury anyhow.) It’s fascinating to see how ingenious the macros are. You -could- just have a macro that clicks on the spot chosen every X number of seconds, but that’s so inelegant.

The trusty R-Cubed macro I use has a second function built in. See that “uncheck for skill” option? Uncheck it.

Now when you start the macro, it’ll ask you to hold ctrl and hover the mouse cursor over the stat. You want to pick out the stat when it is bright red (as shown when the eye color changes to bright red.) So dig dig manually a few times until you’re exhausted, and find the perfect pixel location over the letters for bright redness. Release ctrl when you’ve got it.

Then it’ll ask you to select the location where you want it to click by again holding ctrl and releasing over the correct spot. Pin down the menu (so that it doesn’t disappear when you click on it) for digging as shown in the first dig picture above, and move the mouse cursor to somewhere in the centre of the words. Release ctrl.

See how elegant it is? Now when it detects the bright red color changing (aka you have recovered enough endurance to dig again), it will move the mouse cursor to the spot you have selected, and click the dig option for you.

The same macro can be used for anything that functions similarly, eg. limestone collecting, etc.

Dig participants have it easy. Dig pickers, the other role in the dig, don’t. Once the digs reach a certain threshold, every subsequent dig tosses out the desired items. Cuttable stones and medium stones come up in most digs.

Gypsum and bauxite digs are done in the far west and east of Egypt respectively, after some time of digging a hole in those locations, the hole progresses from primarily throwing out stones to bags of gypsum or lumps of bauxite.

All those items need to be picked up. The role of the dig picker is to keep clicking on them and keep watching your avatar bend awkwardly at the waist picking them over and over and keep clicking on them some more. Everything is pooled at the end to be distributed out evenly to all in the group.

In theory anyway. Depending on the dig, the only people allowed to be pickers may be those most trusted to be able to release their haul again (and not run off or vanish, never to be seen again.) I believe this is more of a concern in the early game, where stones are very valuable, and various members of the population have not yet been established a regular commitment to the game.

By this point in the Telling, pretty much only the cooperative members remain and you’d probably be shooting yourself in the foot by acting up at one of Rabble’s digs anyway. In addition to ruining your rep, being rejected from any further group activities and the population as a whole, there are also Demipharoahs in Egypt now. These are members of the player population elected to the role, which gives the ability to perma-ban seven other players. They normally mediate disputes with lots of discussions, but that smoking gun of “permadeath” is always there as a final solution if the griefing behavior is unresolvable.

(This Telling, after a visit by a group of regular griefers, the population of Egypt also developed a new law amendment to the DP’s powers in the form of the Anti-Griefers Act. Afraid that the usual seven bans per DP might not be sufficient to stop their actions, and realizing banning didn’t solve the problem of being able to take down unsightly property, Egypt gave additional power to the DPs by enabling them to seek out a sort of referendum vote from Egypt as a whole to permaban a particular character. This is one of the powerful features of ATITD – players can make up laws, and have them implemented by developer – though the speed of the development is on the whole very slow for non-critical issues. The griefing was a critical issue.)

It’s interesting to note that things usually never escalate to this point except on rare occasions which give rise to history and gossip. The very possibility of punitive punishment existing is a check that helps society to function cooperatively. (Just as you could be punched or attacked in real life if you insulted or pissed off someone, but it rarely happens per social interaction because both people are aware that the possibility exists and moderate their behavior appropriately.)

There’s an interesting difference between the virtual world and real life though – apparently you can’t give the ability for unlimited punitive action to all people, else you’re simply asking for escalation. Someone is bound to test it out, or go nuts with it because they don’t care, or want to grief. And then someone retaliates back, and voila, nuclear war escalation scenario. Nor can you make the chance of success of punitive action contingent on higher stat or skill, because hello botting, and then FFA PvP gank paradise.

I believe there have been a few cases in ATITD history where a DP went nuts, but I wasn’t there for those. Might be interesting to do some wiki research or ask a veteran what happened in those cases some other time.

Sorry, distracted again. Back to the dig. Dig dig. Dig. Pick pick pick pick pick. Rabble’s digs last for an hour. Long enough to accumulate a hefty load of materials to be shared out, short enough to not have everyone turn into a quivering wreck. In some parts of the early game, people do digs to be entirely donated for research, or half-and-half, and some last longer or shorter, it’s all up to the dig host.

In theory, pickers could also skim off from their haul before they pool everything in one place. It would have to be fairly subtle, since it would be very obvious if there is a lower than usual number of materials to go around. And they would have to live with that on their conscience. I have no idea if that sort of secretive cheating does exist, I don’t pick or host digs. Depending on how optimistically or pessimistically you view human society, you can make your own guesses. Personally, given the amount of clicking and picking per hour involved, I wouldn’t sweat it if they got a higher cut out of it.

Everyone lines up in a neat little line at the end of the dig. The dig host goes down the line, giving out the stones and other items to each person. (Most will track who was present at the start of the dig by asking attendees to open up a chat window with them at the start.)

b) Attend Bauxite Dig

Same as before. Just a change of locations. Singing of “Diggy Diggy Hole” is optional.

c) Attend Cement Stir

Another best-done-in-a-group activity (though I was -almost- getting there on my duo, some better stats or another person would have done it), Cement is made from a Clinker Vat filled with 10 Bauxite, 10 Gypsum (hence the digs above) and 800 Clinker (practically free to the point of troublesome when smelting metal ore with Masonry unlocked on your character.)

Strength and endurance are the stats required for stirring. Each stir increments the “doneness” of the Cement a certain percentage points up to 100% when it is done. Each stir has to be made within a given time interval that ranges from 1min 54 seconds at the beginning, to as short as 10-11 seconds as the Cement nears completion.

Tradeoffs yet again. The more people the merrier applies to an extent, since each character can contribute more stirs. But you also have to stir for each person who wants cement done, which does take up time.

In Rabble’s case, he has the leading and organization of these things down pat. It’s a marvel to watch in action. A raid could not be neater. 5 Clinker Vats in a row. Warehouses filled with free Clinker at the back. Bring your own gypsum and bauxite – limited to 50 per person, for one round of stirring. He provides the fuel and water for the Vats to function because he’s that generously awesome.

Open a chat with him when you arrive, and he assigns you a turn number. For every round, the person whose turn number it is goes down the vats in sequence, loading up the 10 bauxite, 10 gypsum and 800 Clinker per Vat.

Everyone else, having eaten the free food to boost strength and endurance stats, crowds around each Vat in turn, stirring like madmen and clicking the option whenever possible.

Because there’s enough people, there is no need to regulate stirs per person. Smaller groups must give sufficient time in between stirs for each person’s stats to recover to keep up the stirs within the time interval dictated by the Clinker Vat. With this number of people, the stirs progress very fast per vat.

There’s just more vats to do, since everyone wants as much cement as possible, and best to efficiently stir more for everyone since we’re all here anyway.

It all progresses with military clockwork precision. A little over an hour and twenty minutes later, everyone goes home with 500 Cement to their name (a lot more than most of us loners have ever seen in one place, let alone owned, as one of the participants commented.)

Not every cement stir or dig goes this well. Nor a City of Heroes Incarnate trial for that matter. A masterful leader makes this sort of thing possible, and a pleasure to attend. They’re just few and far between. If you find one of these selfless folks, remember to thank and acknowledge them (or hug them) every now and then.

Never take them for granted, it’s so easy for these masters of cat herding to get tired or burn out from the thankless task.


2 thoughts on “ATITD: The Midnight Digs and Stir

  1. dataferret says:

    I’m always intrigued by reputation systems in game. Does ATITD support alts? Or are players tied to their single character so that if you want to continue playing at all, be nice?

  2. Jeromai says:

    ATITD supports paid alts. Each character is a $13.99 a month investment. You can only have one trial account ever, and it lasts only 24 hours of logged-in time.

    It’s also quite a fair bit of time invested to get each character up levels and train skills and technologies and pass Tests and so on.

    So essentially yes, you are tied to your character(s) and there are many many times you need other people to help you progress throughout the game. There’s a lot of incentive to be nice.

    (Nice doesn’t preclude being competitive though.)

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