ATITD: A Little More Alloy Conversations (and Mines)

To recap, I was just a few steps shy of making my very own Raeli Oven. Over the last two days, in between City of Heroes huffiness, I got a lot of progress in. Nothing like having a less favored thing to do to cure procrastination.

Step 1) Obtain 25 Moon Steel Sheeting (and a bit of copper wire)

Alloys. Lots and lots of calculation, followed by alloy making. Each Moon Steel Sheeting is made from 8 Moon Steel. 1 Moon Steel is made from an alloy of:

One can’t just multiply directly the materials required, we have to take into account crystallization success. Assuming I only accept 70% crystallization success and higher, each batch will give me 7 Moon Steel or higher. I aim to produce to 210 Moon Steel (a little extra to keep in stock never hurts.) So the total is 30x. I will need 210 Steel, 90 Brass and 90 Pewter.

Each one of those suckers is an alloy in themselves. So MORE alloy calculations follow.

For Steel:

Assume we accept 75% crystallization and higher,  each will yield 5+ steel. We will need 42 x of the above, in total, 294 Iron, and 42 Tin.

For Brass:

Accepting 66% crystallization, each yields 5+ brass. We need 18 x of the above, 126 Copper and 18 Tin.

For Pewter:

Accepting 66% crystallization, each yields 6+ pewter. We need 15x of the above, 105 Iron, 60 Antimony and 15 Brass. (Hey look, another alloy snuck in. 15 brass means 21 more copper, and 3 more tin.)

Totaling up everything, that eventually added up to 399 Iron, 147 Copper, 63 Tin, and 60 Antimony.

To my surprise, I had all that metal already standing by in my metal warehouse. I was a bit afraid that I’d have to go look up a public mine location for antimony and cart ore back to smelt, but apparently I already did that a while ago. It would leave me a bit short on copper, but I could always mine more later.

So 1-2 hours of furious alloy making later (to the accompaniment of the Bastion soundtrack courtesy of the Humble Bundle V), I was sitting on 222 some Moon Steel and some spare odds and ends of the other alloys. I have to confess that I found this staring at white circles on a black background changing positions a lot more relaxing and enjoyable than the repeated tries I had of the City of Heroes Magisterium trial – for one, I was having incremental success and accumulating my way towards a goal and for another, I was alone – so grind really is in the eye of the beholder.

On went the forges, and I made some extra charcoal to load them up while waiting, since the alloy making had drained my charcoal stocks.

Clink clink clink went the Moon Steel as they got hammered into Sheeting, and then I threw on the copper to extrude into copper wire. (I did accidentally turn off one forge before I remembered I had yet to make them, so oops, 40 charcoal wasted turning it back on again.)

Optional) Mine Copper While Waiting

Since I had to wait for the forges, I got some copper mining done.

This Telling, I was fortunate enough to have unknowingly placed my compound very near to both an iron and a copper vein.  It’s the most convenient lack-of-running-required I’ve ever had with mines of the two most commonly needed metals.

Mining has changed since Tale 5 and 6. When I first joined in Tale 4, mining was an activity best left to macros.

Mines used to look like this. A pile of poo with seven crystals within. Depending on the type of metal you were trying to mine out, you had to click on the correct crystal for that metal type. This could be anything from “the odd crystal out,” “the least blue crystal,” “the least saturated crystal,” “the most yellow hued crystal” etc.

If I recall correctly, iron used to be the odd crystal out. This sounds easy and quite okay to do manually. Until you realize that computer color vision and human color vision are worlds apart. Computers use RGB and HSV to determine color. What looks least blue to humans, may not be the same thing to a computer which is calculating it based on the lowest B value, for example.

And you get things like the above picture. I -think- the odd crystal out in the mine above is the top left one, but it’s so close, it’s impossible to tell. Players were using color pickers to help them differentiate between colors (not even the color picker is helping me on that mine above, to be honest.)

And it was a short step from there to fully automated mining with macros that analyzed the crystals for you – just help the macro to mark the pixel locations of the seven crystals as seen on your screen.

Mines also used to break, and require repairs that cost increasingly expensive amounts of leather. This influenced player behavior accordingly, making fewer mines public, and causing them to drop lots of spare mines along an entire vein or metal patch, hogging the all the resources so that they didn’t have to paid absurd amounts of leather just working on one mine. Freeloaders were not welcome, because there was a cost to be paid in leather, and the mine got more and more expensive to use. There was much drama about mines.

The new mines don’t break. They cost comparatively more now, but they don’t break. One simple game design change, and player behavior adapts in response. Now more people are open to making their mines available for public use, and there’s less need to litter an entire row of mines along a vein, one for each guild, clique and individual person who can afford a mine to use for themselves.

I placed my mines to make it convenient for myself, but left them open to public use, since I’m settled very near the Chariot Stop of my region.

(Some person has taken advantage of that by erecting a personal warehouse right behind the mine. I’m not terribly fond of the eyesore, it’s very near to where I flax and within sight of all my compounds. Still debating if I should contact the person to talk it over. I find it a bit rude and presumptuous to building that there when you don’t even own the mine in question. If I turned the mining rights off, a fat lot of good the warehouse would do you then. I wouldn’t be that vindictive, but yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me. Most people are fine making multiple runs to get and convert all the ore they mined to more portable metal. My gyration cell is sitting there in the background, available for public use, allowing them to turn 1495 ore to 150 metal as long as they bring 50 charcoal per run.

Not to mention, no one has visited it to clear it of the ore lately, which means it’s just junk trash sitting there on the off chance they maybe might want some later and come by to get it. What the hell, why hoard it in ore form, just convert it to metal and -take- it with you. It’s also COPPER, the most common metal, there’s veins criss-crossing everywhere, why not just make your own mine nearer to where you live?

On the other hand, I’m not fond of drama and it is relatively small stuff not to be sweated over, they may have thought it within the boundaries of the Chariot Stop and thus fair game and common use ground. Living near the Chariot Stop has all kinds of potential eyesore disadvantages and territory issues that my hermit self is not entirely used to, along with all the bonuses of short runs to anywhere. We’ll see.)

The new mines pop up a big set of crystals as above. More complex metals may have more than eight crystals too.

The crystals can differ in a number of ways. By their color, by their main body shape, by the shape of their base, by the additional crystals sticking into the main body, etc.

The more common metals are easier to mine. So in this case, there are only two factors to look at for copper. The main body shape and their color.  (Base shape, and additional top crystals remain the same.)

One must select a set of three or more crystals that are either ALL THE SAME or ALL DIFFERENT with regards to the above factors, to successfully mine some ore.

So if you take a look at the cyan crystals 2, 4 and 6… they are all the same color and all three have different body shapes. 2 is round, 4 is a triangular fin, and 6 has four lumps sticking out of it like a primitive hand. These are a valid set and will yield ore.

3, 7 and 8 also work. They are the same grey color and the same primitive hand body shape.

1, 4 and 5 is also fine. Different colors, same triangular fin body shape.

5, 6 and 7 would not work. Though they are different colors, 6 and 7 share the same shape, but 5 does not. They must be all the same or all different for each factor.

Continual successful set formations per layout appear to yield increasingly more ore on average, and if you use the same crystal seven times successfully when forming sets, the crystal breaks and the mine yields some gems that differ per region. (Gem mining is best done with sand mines for least factors to consider when set making.)

When stuck, or all possible sets formed, click on the mine and “Work the Mine” to get a new layout with new crystals.

This new method of mining favors the human ability to see and make patterns a little more over the power of computers to repetitively click. It’s quite fun and relaxing a minigame if done in the proper mood, with an easy metal. It also can be a small group activity, as multiple people can attempt to form sets together.

Of course, never underestimate player ingenuity in cyborging with the help of computers.

Players have developed two methods of mining with computer help. One is to brute force all the solutions. Cegaiel’s Autohotkey macro does this in-game.

If your brain hurts thinking about stone combinations, and you don’t mind being slow and steady, you can let the macro take a whack at every possible stone combination there is. The macro asks you to select all the stone locations by middle-mouse button clicking, assigning each pixel location to stone 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.

Then the macro bangs away, hitting stones 1, 2 and 3. Then 1, 2 and 4. 125. 126. 127. 128.

Then 134, 135, 136, 137, 138. Then 145, 146, 147, 148, on and on, until it finishes with 678.

If it hits a valid set, you get ore.

If it hits an invalid set (and there will be lots when you’re brute forcing), it automatically detects the pop up that announces your error in picking an invalid set, and hits the OK to close it for you.

The whole thing clicks with precision at a much faster pace than you can as a human, so it can generate a tolerable amount of ore over time. Not as fast as an intelligent human operator would be, but a lot less taxing on the brain when you don’t want to think.

Method number 2 is to solve for all possible valid combinations out of game with a third-party tool. Then you just follow and click the correct combinations.

Docsaintly’s Stonecrusher is the premiere tool for the job. It takes a bit more work to set up the mine layout, so it is most useful for the really complicated metals where you want to maximize yield, but the whole layout looks like a massive pain to even see any patterns, let alone all of them.

Taking the above mine layout as an example, one would enter in all the stone attributes. Let A be the color of the stones. 1, 3 and 8 are grey, so let’s call them G. 2, 4, 6 are blue, so B. And 5 is red, R.

Let B be the shape of the stones. 1, 4, 5 are Triangular. 2 is a Circle. (Technically, sphere, but hell, it’s my naming convention.) 3, 6, 7, 8 are Hands (beats calling it misshapen sphere with four spikey lumps on top).

One Calculate button later, all the valid combinations are displayed for you to click. Just remember which stone is which number.

Multiple ways to manage the same task. That’s the beauty of A Tale in the Desert.

ATITD: Kilns, Forges, Ovens and Alloys

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.