ATITD: Papyrus Power

I’ve been trying to find an interesting angle in order to talk about Papyrus. Trying to describe why someone would stay in place for 1-2 hours on the same activity clicking 500 times an hour seemed extremely boring. I normally put on music or a video on the other screen to make growing papyrus more enjoyable.

Then I realized my “veteran” blinders were on. I’d mastered how to deal with Papyrus and was only looking at it from that angle.

In truth, Papyrus is a uniquely ATITD resource. Its learning curve is front-loaded. It’s a resource that can pose several challenges to newbies, with their only out social interaction with more veteran ATITD players. It gives some needed tension, suspense and excitement to new players as they work at learning and mastering the art of growing and managing it.

And even veterans have to engage in social interaction, thanks to the properties of Papyrus (henceforth shortened to “papy” in ATITD parlance), to the point that they’ve developed an unspoken culture of “expected polite behavior” around papy planting.

And yet, there’s still some unknown (or left unsaid by true pros) about papyrus, which opens up a gap for even new or intermediate players like myself to develop their own alternative growing strategies that may work better than the methods used by some older players who have never bothered to think outside of the box and continued to grow the way they are used to.

Challenge #1 – How do I get Papyrus Seeds?

Papyrus is not a naturally occurring resource. Way back at the start of every Tale, says the wiki, is the only time papy shows up ‘naturally’ along the banks of the Nile.

Personally, I suspect they are actually hand-seeded by ATITD staff, GMs or world-builders who have access to spawn the seeds, until such point where they see enough players have collected sufficient papyrus to begin the entire papy distribution cycle.

If you happened to have missed collecting enough of these “ancestor” stalks of papyrus, you would have to wait for those that did to dry the papyrus properly for seeds, grow enough papyrus to dry again properly for seeds until they had enough spare seeds to give away.

For a short time, there is a “haves” and “have nots” division, but this is quickly mitigated by the social culture that has evolved around papy. Drying papyrus properly yields plenty of extra seeds, and players will cheerfully give away small starter sets of 15-30 seeds to other players who need them to get started.

This seems to have stemmed from a sort of reciprocal altruism. As mentioned before, ATITD is a social game and over the long-term, there are plenty of opportunities to keep interacting with each other. If I help you with this, you might be more liable to feel friendly towards me and aid me in some other aspect of the game later.

And there’s the “what if I were in their shoes” scenario – every Tale, everything resets. In the next Tale, maybe you have papyrus at the start of the game and I don’t. I wouldn’t want to be stranded without seeds the entire Tale either. And the cost to me is practically zero because the seeds rain down like manna from heavens if you have sufficient papyrus and take the trouble to dry them properly.

(Once I graduated out of newbiehood and learned all about the papy cycle, I’ll confess to now being one of those ‘hardcore’ individuals who make it a point to scour the Nile at the beginning of the Telling until I have at least 20-40 Papyrus. Mostly from paranoia and control-freakiness. I don’t like the feeling of being dependent on another, and I rather start the cycle off and dispense seeds than vice versa. Others couldn’t be bothered because it’s so easy to get seeds from friends anyway.)

Challenge #2 – Drying Them Properly, What Does That Entail?

A spiritual pilgrimage up to the top of the highest mountain to cleanse yourself properly… Ok, ok, I kid. But not about the altitude.

Drying papy at sea level (or rather Nile river level where almost everybody lives) yields a grand total of zero seeds.

Choosing convenience means you trade off the ability to propagate more papy. As long as you remember to check your seed stocks, you can still get away with it now and then and only go up to that high mountain when you need more seeds. But yes, this means papyrus is one of those resources where you can screw yourself out of the ability to plant any more if you make a mistake.

And when we say high mountain, we mean HIGH mountain. This one is decent.

At least for the first few times drying papyrus, as you’re trying to maximize seed yield. The higher the better.

Common newbie mistake is to go up a small hill like this one and think it’s enough. It’s not. Our concept of altitude as shaped by other MMOs makes our judgement a little off.

Until you hike up mountains like this one in ATITD and realize just how high things can go.

The reason why we go up as high as possible, for the first few precious handfuls of papyrus, is because papy seed yield is random. On this moderately middling sandy mountain that I use on a casual basis because it’s nearest to my home compound and gives decent (but not maximized) seed yield, I got an average of 0-56 seeds per 20 Papyrus dried.

56 seeds is great, of course, but Murphy’s Law being what it is, getting 0-4 seeds on your only handful of 20 Papyrus might not be what you want to see at first. Once you get more stocks built up, then it’s easier to get more careless about things.

You also have the choice of drying papy in two things. A Drying Rack or a Flax Hammock. Drying racks are cheaper to build (18 boards), but take longer to dry papyrus (22 minutes for a max load of 20.) Flax hammocks are more expensive (8 boards, 4 rope, 2 canvas), but papy drying time is 4 minutes.

I’m a distinctly impatient sort, so I make it a point to get flax hammocks up as soon as possible to dry papy.

One of the things you’ll find that some people do is to build drying equipment on the commonly used highest points of the region, and then setting their permissions to allow anyone to use them. (The rationale: It isn’t being used 24/7 by me, why not?) A huge collection of stuff will typically accompany a good drying spot, and it’s perfectly ok to ask the region to point you to the coordinates of such spots. Some players will have such information in their /info as well.

There are also some who don’t bother with opening their permissions, or want to keep their things for themselves (rationale: it’s their materials cost after all, and they can leave their stuff in there and come back later) and seeing their equipment hogging the highest point can be mildly annoying.

On a very micro-scale, this demonstrates the conflict in ATITD, which is all about conflict between player philosophies rather than combat against NPCs. Share for the public good or keep resources for yourself?

By late into the Telling, there’s usually publicly available drying equipment up on that mountain peak. Earlier on in the Tale, bring your own materials to build some, in case you get up there and find no usable equipment. Walking to and fro would be a pain.

Challenge #3 – How Do I Grow Papyrus?

Papyrus doesn’t grow just anywhere. Officially, papy is grown along the banks of the Nile by sowing seeds along the shore about 100-150 coordinates south of where you want it to come up.

(The seeds float downstream towards the mouth of the river, which is in the northern part of the Egypt map. Yes, the ATITD map does resemble real world Egypt in broad strokes, the Red Sea and Sinai is where you’d expect it to be, etc.)

This ties papy growth to a geographical location. If you live along the eastern side of Egypt in Sinai or along the Red Sea or in the land-locked deserts to the west, you’d have to make a special trip to the Nile in order to grow papyrus. Or trade for it with someone who lives closer by the Nile and likes growing papy (the first is easy to find, the second not so much.)

To spread out the papyrus along the shore, the common recommendation is to plant a seed every 5-10 coordinates as you run north (approaching the point where the first papy will start growing.)

10 minutes after the seed sowing, the papyrus from that seed will spring up. Since the planting is staggered, there is a slight lag time between one seed growing and the next, and depending on your camera angle, you may actually observe the papy sprouting up and covering the shoreline with yellow flowers. Personally, I find it a beautiful sight.

The Culture That Evolved Around Papyrus

What’s not so beautiful is the fact that any Tutankhamun, Darius or Hatshepsut can come by and take your papy by clicking on it. As you can imagine, the community very quickly evolved a sociological solution to this dilemma as set up by the game’s rules of papyrus. It is generally considered rude and crass to take someone else’s papyrus. It’s a big warning splashed all over the wiki that any papyrus found not at the very start of the Telling comes from some players’ seeds.

Culture-wise, many players will also announce their papyrus growing in regional chat. There are a couple reasons for this. One is to announce your intentions, so that you don’t inadvertently overlap with anyone else currently in the midst of growing.  You also get to sort of ‘book’ the area that you say you’re growing in for the duration, and it gives you backup corroboration in chat later should you catch some classless guy stealing your papy making you have to call him/her out on it over regional. The only thing is you’ll often have to put up with jokes from players who will insinuate they will steal your papy over regional. 🙂

On the other hand, some players also don’t announce their papyrus growing. Rationale: why would you want to tell people where you’re doing something and make it easy for them to know where exactly to rob you? Or just the whole non-exhibitionistic factor, why do I have to announce my movements to everybody on regional? Disadvantage: Some players may intepret the lack of announcement as an indication that the grown papy is a free for all – some people do forget or miss spots of their papyrus after growing and while some players will never touch it, others will clean it up so as not to waste it.

I’ve done it both ways. There’s no right nor wrong.

There also seems to have evolved an understanding that papyrus found in lakes and ponds away from the Nile is generally free for the taking (as long as no one has announced their growing papy currently, in which case you give them a while to see if they come by to pick it up later.) For some reason, few people ever do pick up their papy from lakes and ponds.

I believe this is because most people either don’t truly understand papy growing – and thus do not realize that some of it may filter off into lakes and ponds, or they’re just too lazy to make the walk and are content with trading off not needing to walk a distance for low papy yields. Probably the former.

The Secret Undercurrent of Individual Player Knowledge

There was a point in a past Tale where I observed the habits of certain players and realized they were growing across a ‘dead region’ (a spot which filters any seeds sown there into a lake or pond east or west of the Nile) and were only picking up papy from the shoreline. Call me evil, but I took to planting an alt in the nearby lake that was getting a good third or half of their papy yield and siphoning it all off every time they announced they were growing. 😛 Secretly. No one was ever the wiser.

I -could- have just sent the players a tell and told them why they weren’t having as great papy yields as they could be, and shown them where to look. But why should I? It’s not my fault that they were unobservant. Where is my benefit from sharing that sort of high-level game knowledge to someone who doesn’t have the skill to return valuable tips back to me?

Instead, I chose to be a little subversive, and give myself a little sneaky adrenaline thrill, by swiping the papyrus from under their noses and scanning the horizon very very carefully in case any player names showed up, in which case I’d figuratively shove all the yellow flowers behind my back, and start whistling innocently – who me? Not doing anything, just harvesting wood and herbs… No one ever did, but that’s besides the point. 🙂

And that’s the undercurrent of ATITD, the part that I think few talk about openly. Player culture and society are not cast-in-stone game design rules. It benefits most people to be seen to be following the unsaid social rules, just like in the real world. Openly deviant behavior is usually not profitable, and can be punishable by social sanction. But I do not believe I am the only person to independently figure out that there is always a certain amount of flexible give to ”rules,” especially since there are plenty more competitive and political players than I hanging about in this game.

It’s rude to build stuff near other people’s compounds, but some people do. It’s rude to hog or monopolize resources, but you bet some people do, especially in the name of competition. It’s rude to ignore queues for obelisks and what not, but some people couldn’t care less about some other people’s made up rules (which, undercurrent again, may be made expressedly for the unsaid purpose of getting themselves ahead) and do it anyway. I’ve seen political animals and drama queens take over guilds made ostensibly for the good of helping others, but secretly siphon away resources for their own personal profit.

It all happens. ATITD isn’t some communal crafting paradise, which is what newbies tend to think on viewing the game at a surface level. It is a microcosm of human society. The bad parts, as well as the good. And the other thing you’ll find out is that there aren’t good people and bad people, they’re one and the same, sometimes they’ll do self-serving things, and sometimes, they’ll do very selfless things.

For myself, I’ve always been a “Knowledge is power” type of game player. I’ve always prided myself on knowing secret knowledge others don’t. That’s my edge to get ahead. Naturally I will hold back from sharing all I know to everyone. As an intermediate sort of player, I share and trade my insights with players I see as veterans and having knowledge that can benefit me. That’s gotten me an inroad more than once into a guild in-group where more secrets are shared than in public and mutual beneficial learning can take place. At the same time, I like training promising newbies, those who are actively learning and ask questions and don’t expect to be hand fed everything.

Others find their own edges. A lot more people are more social than I. Being cheerful, friendly or funny company can get you into a guild as well. But I digress badly, let’s get back to papy.

Challenge #4 – Optimal Efficient Growth

So here’s the thing about ATITD. No one really knows for sure how the real game mechanics work unless you come up with theories and do lots of experiments to corroborate or disprove them and those that stand the test of time are generally accepted as fact and proceed to be common knowledge. (And the ‘you’ that come up with the theories are usually the math or programmer people that can think like a computer.)

Papyrus yield can go all the way up to 20 papyrus to 1  seed, according to the wiki. Reasonably good, achievable yields range from 5:1 – 12: 1. And the yields may differ according to the time of day.

But is the wiki right?

I don’t know. I have my doubts about the time of day hypothesis. But I certainly couldn’t be arsed to do multiple tests at specific times of day and calculate the averages in a spreadsheet to support or disprove that theory – so, that’s still open for anybody to work on if they so choose! Beuller?

Certainly my anecdotal experience with papyrus growing has gotten ranges of 5:1 – 8:1 along the Nile, so that matches up.

And here’s another theory. My pet theory, which I haven’t bothered to prove or disprove, but I believe in general, papy yields seem to decrease the further north you go. Or at least, when I was living way down in the south of Egypt in a previous Telling, I was getting 8:1 – 10:1 yields of papyrus. In another Telling, I lived in the middle of Egypt and got 5:1 – 8:1 yields. And in this Telling, I live up near the nothern part of Egypt and got colossally bad yields of 2:1 – 3:1 papyrus, going up to 5:1 if I searched all manner of lakes and ponds.

Now this could simply be an artifact of how the regions are laid out, and people tending to plant papyrus along the Nile near to where they stay. One thing is for sure, there are good areas to plant papyrus, and areas that aren’t. And only experimentation will tell you more and help you decide where you prefer planting it.

If you’re planting along the Nile, it is generally convenient to find an area with land bridges that will help you easily cross to both sides to pick (as papy grows on both sides of the river), that gives decent yields, and has few to no ‘dead spots’ where you’ll find no papyrus growing along the shore (having drifted inland to a lake or pond.)

If you do encounter a ‘dead spot,’ consider taking the time to wander 100-300 coordinates east or west of the Nile to check ponds and lakes and see where the papyrus has gone. They tend to turn up in the same area. If it’s just one big lake or pond, consider if it’s worth the tradeoff to walk there later and go round to pick up the inland papy. If it’s a lot of small ponds that look like an archipelago or are difficult to run to, then you’ll have to decide if you want to keep growing in that place and whether you’ll put up with the running inconvenience to maximize yield, or write off those inland papy.

If you run two accounts like me, (or just have a friend, like I don’t,) it is also possible to have one character along the shores of the Nile, and another character sweeping up the inland papyrus. Or one character on either side of the Nile shore.

For three people papy growing for the really sociable, it’s easy to have one person keep planting the seeds and two people running up and down the river shore on either side to hoover up papyrus.

And here’s your secret reward for reading all the way to the end. This was something I just discovered this Tale, after deciding that I wasn’t going to put up with the crappy yields of my home region (the papyrus was going to ponds and lakes everywhere, it was insane. I could barely track down where most of them had gone.)

The method is slightly adapted from the one I learnt from a guild, “power papy” – which is to park a character in one coordinate location and have it drop papyrus every 5-10 seconds, and have other characters stay 100-150 coordinates north from the seeding spot to keep picking papy. This method negates the necessity of too much running up and down the Nile, but you need multiple characters for this.

In fact, I was trying to learn and master “power papying” with my two alts when I stumbled by accident onto something with much much better yields.

The alternate method to growing papyrus is to take advantage of the ‘dead spots.’

You know the papyrus will go to a pond or lake from that dead spot. Drop seeds on the dead spot every 10 seconds or so. Find that pond or lake. And the papyrus will have grown in a happy circular ring around it. No river bridge crossing back and forthing required.

This is probably very location dependent. My best suggestion without outright giving away the coordinates to the lake I’m using (though you could try finding it from the featured image and my happy personal prejudice that south Egypt is the place to be when growing papy) is to find a dead spot that filters it all to a very very big lake, no stray papy along the Nile, no other ponds nearby.

Using this method amuses me greatly because it’s so opposite from the commonly accepted method of growing papy. Imagine my initial horror when I used the spot and realized there was none, no, absolutely nil papy along the Nile above where I dropped seeds. “OMG, where did it all go?!” And then I found where they all went, and my jaw dropped at the resultant yield.

With two characters, one dropping seeds every 20-30 seconds (manually, because I’m too lazy to turn on a laptop and macro it, though it is a prime opportunity for macro’ing) and the other running loops around the big lake, I easily get yields of 400-500 papyrus under an hour, with efficiency yields of 14:1 – 18:1. (Yes, it is a fantastic little lake.)

And I just did a one character experiment in which I planted along the Nile for 10 minutes and ran to the lake to collect for 10 minutes and back to the spot again. Yields were 179 papy from 10 seeds, 102 papy from 7 seeds, 145 papy from 8 seeds for the three rounds which took ~25 minutes each. Phenomenal yields, I love it, I’ve never gotten anything as good using the Nile river shoreline.

Tradeoff though, you have to run to the spot. And it’s really far from my home compound. But I don’t really care. I love the yield. It upsets my psyche deeply to get miserable yields. I’ll put up with the run.

On Aquaculture

Lately, there’s been one more layer of complexity to papyrus. In Tale 4, the players voted to support a radical son of Pharoah named Sami (an event/storyline NPC played by staff) over the traditional son Wahim. In so doing, they gave up all the monuments and potential for player-created new Tests for Tale 5, but traded it for the chance to propose and create 7 new skills and technologies for that next Telling.

One of those new technologies, which made it into Tale 5 and carried over to Tale 6, was Aquaculture.

Aquaculture by Nchanter

Our grandparents pass down stories from their grandparents, and so on down the generations of a promised technology from one of the first Pharaohs that would have allowed the growth of papyrus away from the Nile. That promise was never fulfilled. We hope that our modern scientists will be able to, at long last, fulfill this promise. By researching Aquaculture the citizen of Egypt would be able to plant papyrus in buildings at home, either in tubs upgradeable through addition of materials and substances once a citizen has learned the technology from a university, or via a new building made available upon the research of Aquaculture. In exchange for not having to trek to the Nile to plant and gather papyrus, the folk of Egypt acknowledge that they may have to accept a smaller yield of papyrus from each handful of seeds.

Now it is possible to grow papyrus from papyrus tanks at home, once Aquaculture is researched and you pick it up from a university and you make said papyrus tanks which are rather costly.

These tanks aren’t mine, I just took a picture of them to illustrate. I might make my own some day, but the glass cost makes my head spin. (And I’m convinced I get more excellent yields by normal growing.)

The only thing is, the tanks produces Sterile papyrus, as opposed to the Fertile papyrus that grows along the Nile. Sterile papyrus produces no seeds whatsoever.

In other words, it’s a good option that uses up excess seeds, with the tradeoff that it takes longer to grow in the tanks and the tanks being costly in the first place, while not devaluing overmuch the original method of papyrus growing – which is faster but requires active work, and yields seeds. A sort of “Papyrus Automation.” (We will touch more on Automation in later ATITD posts as I work towards those machines.)

In closing, I’d just like to say, ATITD is not the sort of game that is a thrill a minute. (Realm of the Mad God is like its polar opposite. I like balance. You may have noticed.) It’s a more cerebral long term game. And yes, that means there are intervals of waiting and boredom that are best shored up with something external like music or a video on the other screen.

Once you master papyrus, all that’s left is the execution, and the execution is not exceedingly exciting, it’s just click to run around and left or right click on papyrus to pick it up. Over and over. Some people have tried writing macros for detecting the yellow of the flower and automatically clicking, but I haven’t found one that works well yet. I’d like to.

Long term games are not normally my kind of game, especially one with long periods of boredom or doing nothing or relying on set time intervals that strongly suggest I need an alarm clock to play the game properly. But I put up with ATITD’s little quirks because I was curious about all the unique mechanics, and the community and game itself has grown on me. Like a fungus.

But a tasty one.

(I guess I can cover Mushrooms in yet another post later!)

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