Boundless: Adventures in Arbitrage, Alts and Alien Planets

Boundless continues to mesmerize.

It’s a queer little community inside a virtual world containing >50 microworlds or planets. Online concurrent player counts are in the 150-300 range. It reminds me a great deal of A Tale in the Desert (ATITD), in that it is a Dunbar’s Number gathering of stable social groups, interacting to form a microcosm of civilization.

It’s small enough that global chat is persistent and -saved-, even when one is not logged-in, something I’ve only seen in ATITD (or Discord.)

For most MMO players, the lack of the -massive- where player populations are concerned may be a deal breaker, but I find these numbers just right for virtual worlds where each player can occupy land area (and in Boundless’ case, a -massive- amount of space for certain obsessive builder types).

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This building was so huge, it couldn’t fit into one screenshot.

Having worlds teeming with too many players would mean locust issues, areas spawned camped or resources constantly emptied out and so on.

Just like ATITD, I am sure there will be social drama from time to time when players enroach (be it knowingly or unwittingly) on each other’s territory or personal building space (the size of which may differ dramatically from player to player.)

Personally, I am not much of a builder, and I figure I can build to my heart’s content in other games (creative mode Minecraft comes to mind, and I hear some people keep begging for one in Boundless too. Since it’s a buy to play game, who knows, maybe someday.)

So I have been carefully avoiding over-committing and over-investing build-wise into my stuff. My camps and home bases are small and set up near big cities, so that I can shamelessly use whatever amenities are available.

I figure this will make packing up and moving nomadically much easier, because there appears to be the potential for some massive obsessive builder types (with potentially large egos) in this game conflicting over land area rights. Me, I am super allergic to drama.

Conversely, I know -exactly- what compels me about Boundless.

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So MANY portals. Portals everywhere.

The portal concept is inspired. It is like several dozen Minecraft servers all linked up with the most elaborate waypointing and teleporting system ever. It is a maze of player made nodes and links. It holds the promise of so many valuable secrets for an explorer who bothers to grok its paths, dead ends from players who stopped playing and left their portals un-fueled included.

It is sending my inner mapper, so long left dormant since my MUD days, into paroxysms of glee.

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The reward for doing so is both beautiful screenshots, to memorialize and bear witness to the homes and efforts of the builder types who do reside in this special microworld,  as well as knowledge and “secrets” that the explorer in me is keen to exploit for personal profit.

Doubtless, the profit is small potatoes, compared to what the established veterans are earning per hour, hence the continued existence of such niches for newbies to exploit. They simply aren’t worth the bother for the older players.

But for a newbie who is finding the experience of criss-crossing the worlds new and novel, unlocking map regions to boot, and going crazy with screenshots, the act of identifying a valuable resource that is selling for X amount in one place while another place is willing to buy at X + Y amount is basically a player-made adventure in arbitrage.

First, I have to find the resource, comparing prices across worlds, mostly diving in and out portals and evaluating which quantity is worth the effort. Then I set out on a self-given quest to locate the shop selling the resource, either diving in and out portals again looking for one that brings me as close as possible to the waypoint you can set, or giving up and hurling myself cross-country at a sprint directly toward the marker.

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This is either supposed to be a candle-like flame… or it is someone’s gigantic e-peen.

Finally, inventory stuffed full of the resource, I zoom back to the portal hub and gleefully offload it at the other shop who didn’t want to make the trip themselves and were willing to pay a premium for the delivery service. The Y amount is small, but it’s enough for a newbie to afford stuff they want to buy to make leveling life and progression easier.

My personal goals, for example, are more exploratory and hunter/gather-y in nature. I want to make it to T5 & T6 planets as fast as possible. I want to be able to check out exoplanets. I eventually want to try out a group hunt and/or get enough power/skills/weapons to solo medium tier meteorites comfortably.

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And caving. And screenshotting everything.

At the same time, I’m not morally opposed to gathering whatever resources older players want to buy so that I can earn some extra coin. Whatever resources are left over, I can also utilize back at home base camp for my dinky little crafting machines and the slower process of unlocking crafting progression for my crafter alt.

Yes, alt. Skill points are limited in number per level, and it seems to be common consensus that one character is not able to unlock everything, so it is best to have different specialized characters.

Boundless appears to belong to that quizzical subset of virtual worlds we don’t see much any more. You’re expected to have alts to get anywhere. Pull out the right tool for the right job. This reminds me a great deal of the ancient MUD I played. It was simply accepted that X character could not do a particular thing, pull out your Y character to do that, your X character is for doing this other thing instead. It’s another minor nostalgia kick.

It’s been a week since I started playing Boundless, and a lot has gotten done. One is beginning to dip one’s toes out of the newbie zone and into a more mid-tier realm of play.

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Even more portals. This one appears to be like a train-like series of portals with “stations” at each T5 or T6 planet, and thoughtfully placed so that you can run straight through. Not having enough atmospheric protection for a particular planet means an almost blinding overlay effect obscuring one’s view and a suffocation meter. Needless to say, it is not easy finding an exit in those conditions, so straight paths are awesome.

Each time I put enough skill points into gaining atmospheric protection for a T4, T5 or T6 world, I’ve gone dashing through portals to check it out. The mobs there are pretty lethal and my generalist character with insufficient combat skills and inadequate tier weapons cannot cope.

Still, Boundless is a -sandbox- game, so instead I’ve just endeavored to stay out of the aggro range of the scary mobs, harvested some stuff and did the Minecraft thing of drilling a mineshaft under one’s feet straight down into the earth. There are, thankfully, no mobs there for now.

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Still doable with cheaper not-so-top-tier tools from player shops.

Instead, I’ve simply lifted the Minecraft branch mining technique and dropped it wholesale into Boundless. A little looking up of resource depths and doing the grid search in the right place has yielded decent amounts of silver, gold, titanium and even the odd rough diamonds.

It’s still probably small potatoes to the established players. The forums are full of concerned veterans worried for the welfare and interest level of newbies who are limited to much less efficient means of resource gain.

Apparently, they have ludicrously enchanted levels of 3×3 AoE tools that mine at super fast speeds and power, so they basically can go through the earth like a bulldozer and dredge up vast quantities in super short periods of time. And then they have regen bombs that can be thrown to regenerate the world and do it all over again.

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Their bases are factories of sheer industry.

Whatever. One will get there when we get there. The journey is more than half the fun.

Case in point, I checked out my first exoworld the other day. These are short-term planets that appear in the sky for limited periods of time (a week or so) and contain resources that can’t be found elsewhere. Usually special block colors among other things. A lot are T7 planets, meant for the elder game players, but conveniently, this new one was only T4, and more accessible to new players. It was also, delightfully, an Aus server planet, so I didn’t have to worry about potentially bad ping.

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Traveling to one involves crafting a warp conduit to place on a totem tool. Then you point the totem at the planet in the sky (this one a -crazily- fast ricocheting planet that rebounded around the screen) and hold down left mouse button to mark a landing site.

After which, you craft some cheap warp conduit bricks, stack them on top of each other to create essentially a temporary “portal” or warp gate, and agree to paying the coin cost for warping there – the cost of which depends on the distance traveled.

The cost was about 9-10 times more than usual warp travel on the same planet, and I wasn’t at all sure I knew how to make any profit off it (aka what to keep or who to sell to – I still don’t) but heck, it was an adventure and I could make a gathering run to afford it.

So I went.

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Took plenty of screenshots.

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Funny story I read on the forums. A more established player had apparently taken two other newbie players along for the exoworld adventure, except that they managed to somehow put their landing site on top of some “redwoods,” upon which one newbie promptly fell to their death. I assume these are the kinds of trees the player was talking about.
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It’s fascinating how the colors change with the light. The sun was very yellow on this exoworld so blocks weren’t really showing any true colors when one was there, one had to look at one’s inventory and the block descriptor to see what color it really was.
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I continue to be astoundingly impressed by the concept of showing other planets in the sky. You can literally see the impacts of player builds on the planet from adjacent planets. (The long straight roads are obvious, for example.)

Made off with some purple gleam (colored glowing blocks) and some other colored blocks that are just going to languish in my chests for the time being.

But it was fun.