“One person’s entitlement is someone else’s customer preference.”
…how much are you willing to pay again, in order to not have to share your game with others of a different playstyle preference?
According to Crowfall’s Kickstarter, the answer is a very rough average of $100 per person (specifically for Crowfall’s potential playerbase anyway, though I wonder how much they’ll balk if asked for more money later.)
I also wonder if it’s really a good thing to have zero conflict of player preferences in a game. Where everyone is of the same mind all the time? Does that a community make, or just a cult of groupthink?
Will a constant dose of always good and always happy feelings become boring and stagnant, without an occasional influx of the bad to offer contrast and subsequent renewed appreciation of the good when it does happen? A slot machine is most attractive with unpredictable staggered rewards, after all.
Except that this produces a new problem, in the shape of potential insular silos that may develop and proceed to chase other players (and worse, -new- players) away from the activity they are zealously guarding.
So maybe the next angle of attack is… how can one encourage the naturally forming little communities to interact with each other, communicate and share information, and even intermix or intermingle sufficiently to the point where folks don’t feel hostile towards another group?
Her Harley Quin personality is a matter of personal taste. Again, not the key issue, despite it being a fond target for folks who simply dislike her.
In literature, the literary elementconflict is an inherent incompatibility between the objectives of two or more characters or forces… The literary purpose of conflict is to create tension in the story, making readers more interested by leaving them uncertain which of the characters or forces will prevail.
Without this clarity, we do not have any CONFLICT.
Without conflict, there is no tension. No suspense. And no damn interest in the story.
Players cannot oppose Scarlet’s objectives if we don’t know what she’s up to. We can’t be the villain to her hero (or vice versa) if we have no clue as to her motivations.
We have to stop her! Apparently.
From doing what though? Dunno. Graffiting the landscape? Wait and see, I guess.
And she’s certainly not opposing us, is she?
Despite being supposedly set up as the villain of the Living Story.
After all, who exactly is the protagonist of the Living Story?
Is it us, the players?
We began with pretty much no objective. Our destiny was to be fighting dragons and we defeated Zhaitan (but stupidly forgot to burn or even check on the body.) On to the next dragon, right?
Mysterious things happen and our objective becomes find out what is going on. Obstacles set up in our path mostly involve wading through a sea of red names with no real setbacks and collecting a drip feed of information as the writers felt like giving them to us. Certainly, Scarlet wasn’t actively preventing us from finding out what was going on. She just stands around giggling, being mysterious and telling us it’s all going to plan, toodle-loo.
Somewhere along the line, most players’ objectives have converted to catch and beat the hell out of Scarlet and her minions because they’re bloody annoying.
While admittedly she remains elusive, thanks to deus ex Arenanet, players have been galloping along a wave of success with very little ups-and-downs (innumerable Molten facilities trashed, clone armies of Aetherblades farmed, Queen assassination attempt foiled, more rustbuckets left lying in pieces, giant krait tower strewn about the landscape in even more massive pieces, etc.)
Scarlet’s visible successes appears to be several new factions-of-the-month, a dead Lion’s Arch councilor whom we’d never heard of (promptly replaced by another), the removal of Faren’s clothing, and some homeless quaggans.
We cannot suffer a story setback if we have no clue what she’s gotten away with. She could be building a giant molten toxic twisted steam dragon golem airship in her super-secret base in the Mists for all we know.
After all, she’s gotten away with murder and graduating from three Asuran colleges. In her backstory. Behind-the-scenes. Read the website, thanks.
But without visible setbacks, there is no perceived threat or tension to the storyline.
Nor are we really uncertain which of the characters or forces will prevail here, right?
Game-wise, the player is bound to prevail eventually.
Story-wise, she -could- prevail, except we don’t even know what she’s prevailing over. We’re reaching the end of the story and we still have no bloody clue.
The best villains are those we can empathize with, almost get into their skin and understand. Their motivations are clear.
They may go about achieving their objective using very questionable means, which morally, the heroes are bound to oppose, but most don’t go about what they do for shits and giggles. They have a compelling need to do what they do.
Magneto believes the war of humans vs mutants is inevitable, and that homo superior will eventually win. He’s just hastening the process and defending his kind.
Hannibal Lecter is a super-intelligent and urbane sociopath who likes the taste of human flesh and doesn’t have moral compunctions against ridding the world of stupid and rude people.
To bring it back to Guild Wars examples, Vizier Khilbron sank an entire nation. Why? To stop the charr invasion. For his god and for power and eternal lichdom.
As for his god, Abaddon, well, nevermind that he’s a murdering psychopath, he’s been -betrayed- and -backstabbed- by those dirty Five Human Gods and chucked into a plane of eternal Torment, so -of course- he wants revenge.
Minister Caudecus is wise and beloved by his supporters, especially among the nobility. He’s just politically opposed to Queen Jennah’s decisions and enough of a human supremacist to prefer dealing with cutthroat bandits than with charr.
Ajax Anvilburn, on the other hand, is a charr supremacist who can’t let go of the war either.
Kudu is researching Elder Dragons. Important research that can’t be disrupted or delayed for such minor things like moral qualms regarding the use of lesser species to accumulate further knowledge.
Mad King Thorn wants OUT. (And a joke that kills you.)
Bloody Prince Thorn wants OUT and to show daddy who’s boss.
Scarlet has no such motivation made clear, beyond apparently keeping one step ahead of the players and laughing at them. Her primary purpose appears to be trolling people. We call that a childish griefer, not a compelling villain.
Oh, and fusing seemingly random things together, I suppose. For research purposes. Because this somehow holds the key to… what? Leylines of magical energy? Did she get cheated by Zommoros once upon a time? Did she fuse her brain with an asura?
Maybe she found some really good weed when she looked into the Eternal Alchemy.
An odd sort of ennui has come over me lately. I have, quite literally, more than a hundred games I could be playing at any given moment – some of them MMOs, and some of them singleplayer ones. But none of them appear to match or fulfill this restless craving desire that has woken within me.
I’m normally quite good at matching specific games to specific needs. I had a strategic and mild tactical urge a couple days back, so several hundred turns of Civilization V and some dickering around with Total War: Shogun 2 it was. I went through a bout or two of casual games when I just needed a short gaming spurt. But recently, I have developed a growingly insatiable desire for a game that can inspire a story to be written about what happens while playing it.
Moreover, I’m hoping for something more than a developer-created narrative, the same old linear things that every player of the game sees, be it in the same or different order. Writing about how Vault Dweller X pops out of their vault and saves/nukes Megaton and ignores/saves Dad and massacres post-apocalyptic wildlife of every shape and size is… well, been there, done that. Obviously there has to be some developer input, even Dwarf Fortress establishes setting and what you’ll be dealing with (dwarves!), but I guess I’m grasping for emergence. Something that surprises the player, and perhaps even surprises the developer. Something that doesn’t happen in every other player’s game.
And I want it in a different game from the above examples.
Oh, I tried Dwarf Fortress. It’s certainly intricate and complex, but it takes way too much time to learn and play. My one serious attempt ended up with one and a half seasons of uneventful thriving, before another season of flooding and drowning because my enthusiastic approach to irrigation sent a dwarf digging an open tunnel into the side of a river, which, judging by the volume of water which emerged, was about the size of the Thames. One year later, of endlessly digging deep deep reservoirs just ahead of the rising waters to stave off inevitable fate, I gave up.
I’m not especially keen on multiplayer competition, which rather rules out things like Neptune’s Pride, Solium Infernum, Eve Online and the like. I don’t really need the additional complication of real people and their emotional needs/drives messing up any storylines. Imaginary characters, be they computer-controlled or me-controlled, do just fine.
I was looking at roguelikes as a potential source of story fodder, but as much as I like Angband for its simplicity and games like TOME and ADOM (they might be going under different names like JADE and what not by now), they have the dungeon crawl structure. Have town, have dungeon, dive deep, kill stuff, level up, sell stuff, eat food, try not to die by all manner of different things, fail at that goal, admire gravestone, try again.
I’m rather tired of the survival theme. I don’t own Arma II, I think it’s too expensive at the moment, they’re relentlessly cashing in on DayZ and I’ve no real interest in trying it out as yet. Survival + other people. It’s no doubt interesting, but it doesn’t match the current desire. Minecraft is okay, but it’s missing the element of surprise/story/other NPC interaction. It boils down to a lone survivor story again, eking out an existence, Robinson-Crusoe-like, building an immense fortification of creativity out of what is present in nature. Terraria was more of a gear grind. Unreal World is way too lethal, unless you know certain loopholes for trading useless bits of wood to villagers, I tend to starve to death before managing to hunt or trap anything. And the story again is survival-based, don’t starve, don’t die of thirst, build a fancy house, profit, till you die.
I had an almost got-the-feeling-I-wanted moment while playing Civilization V, as I marched four units of mechanized infantry and a giant death robot down the continent wiping up the last holdout Korean civilization.
I was playing Bismarck and the German Empire, espousing the social policies of Liberty, Honor, Order, Rationalism and Commerce. I envisioned this as a expansionist, liberal (in terms of whatever other races or cultures were annexed into the Empire) civ, but focused on science/technology and merchantilism as a means of maintaining power and autarky, having both a very militaristic and honor-based tradition and a nationalistic pride. In other words, join our Empire and prosper. Work hard and see, you will reap the rewards of our science, our art and culture and great people. If you are foolish enough not to want to join the Great German Empire, then we will not hesitate to move in our advanced troops and -make- you join, by removing your foolish, rude, leaders.
The Korean leader had been previously both insulting and kept denouncing me at every opportunity, despite my obvious dominance of that particular game, and so, after I finished a Tech victory, then a Diplomatic one (by virtue of saving and reloading just before winning), I decided it was time for a military Dominance victory, declared war and moved in the troops. For the heck of it, since I had the tech, and since I was convinced there must be a Steam achievement for it, I made a nuke or two and dropped it on top of the capital, Seoul, and the southern Korean city of Pyongyang – it wasn’t easy finding a safe place I could bomb without nuking my own troops in the vicinity.
And as I moved the umpteen bomber in from neighboring cities and aircraft carriers, softening up the Korean cities for my infantry to march in and annex, fragments of an almost Harry Turtledove Worldwar scenario came to my mind.
I envisioned a Korean girl, writing by candlelight in the darkness, to the distant sounds of bombs shelling other city districts, wondering to her diary about why these strange German invaders had come. Of her telling her diary about the massive mech she saw on the horizon, and the tiny APCs around its feet, dwarfed by the giant, grim uniformed men with sophisticated rifles moving like ants in a long disciplined line.
I imagined a young German soldier, wrapped in protective gear and breathing mask, looking about him in dismay at the wreckage of Pyongyang, the irradiated fallout having destroyed practically any resistance or indeed, any semblance of hope, in the starved shambles of the city.
He tells himself that in a few years, maybe five, not more than ten, certainly, the city, having come under the Great German Empire, will be better for it. It will be richer, more prosperous, linked to trade routes, it will have all the benefits of science and technology, it will have happy hardworking workers, “Arbeit macht frei.”
After all, centuries later, the Polynesian peoples and the ancient Germanic peoples have long intermixed on the mother continent, and the pointless warring between the Chinese and the Americans on this continent have finally ceased by virtue of both coming under the banner of the German republic, two, three decades later, all the cities are happy, productive contributers to greater society.
But a theoretical better future is hard to believe in, when you are afraid to walk now, in the fields glowing with ash and the Geiger counters crackling crazily, and thin skeletal Koreans with dirty or burned faces eye you warily, or even hostilely. He wants to help, but he doesn’t know how.
And a decade or so later, perhaps the same Korean girl, or another, writes about how the strange alien Germans, having occupied Pyongyang and brought it under the rule, move in a fleet of workers in just as orderly a fashion as the army marched in. Equipped with uncomprehensible technology in trucks and suits, they clean out every trace of the fallout that they themselves inflicted.
In fact, they run the risk of contaminating themselves with radiation sickness, but they shrug it off as their duty to the Fatherland, which Pyongyang is now part of. With typical German efficiency, they install modern farms and roads, and motor off, leaving the city on its way to recovery. Perhaps the Germans are not so bad after all…
…Meanwhile, the ring around Seoul tightens. The naval blockade has been there for years. No news gets out from the capital.
Something like that, anyhow.
Vanilla Civilization V unfortunately seems to have very little AI sophistication. Everyone is cheerfully friendly all the time, unless you decide to move in on them. Then again, remembering previous Civ games past, I don’t think having aggressive cheating AI swamp my spearmen with knights running from an endless faucet is terribly fun or interesting either, you end up militarizing to defend against the zerg and either you die or you win and annex their city and now that you have such a massive army anyway…
There’s not much room for a narrative to go after that. All hail the king of the world, or Ozymandias.
Problem is, I’m also moderately tired of combat as conflict resolution. (Or rather, relentless slaughter masquerading as combat as conflict resolution.)
This knocks out an immense number of games. Every MMO that has quests and combat, well, kill that to solve this problem. Kill 5 or 10 or 15 or 500 of that to solve that other problem. Sorry, kill is such a vulgar word. Let’s call it, “defeat.” *coughs*
Doesn’t change much, alas.
I dabbled a bit with Hunters 2 on the iPad. It’s a pretty slick-looking game, somewhat reminiscent of X-COM. I could also play X-COM, which I have on Steam, but turn-based tactics is not feeding the exact need. So a Blood Bowl league story format and such are right out too. For now, anyway.
What’s left? I don’t know. Fallen London’s random resolution and grindy style isn’t cutting it either. It just feels like I’m clicking on a button and waiting for a result to show up. Repeat x 10 to get anywhere.
It’s gotten to the point where I’ve moved away from computer gaming and gone back to idly browsing through tabletop RPGs from RPGnow, and combing through solo roleplaying blogs, wondering if I need to go back to the Mythic Game Master Emulator to get what I’m looking for. I’ve found a few intriguing ideas, but am still trying to put things together in my head. If it gets to a form that can actually be articulated, I’ll be certain to share.
Clay is an interesting resource in A Tale in the Desert, seemingly simple at first glance, but with a lot of hidden depth and interlinked relationships that can be talked about.
Basic Steps for Obtaining Clay
1) Find an area with clay. It looks like dried cracked earth, often near water.
When standing on top of clay, a red clay icon will appear in the upper left corner.
2) Have Water in Jugs in your inventory (created by going to water and filling a clay Jug)
3) Click on the red clay icon. Voila, 1 Clay gathered! (and perhaps a piece of Flint if you’re lucky.)
Did you spot the chicken and egg problem yet?
You need a jug made of clay to get clay.
A Virtual History of Clay
To make things even more interesting, at the start of every new Telling in Egypt, all players start with a blank slate. No skills, no technologies, no property, nothing.
In order for players to create clay Jugs, most crucially, they need to be able to build a Pottery Wheel to spin Clay into Wet Clay Jugs.
One can learn to make Pottery Wheels by learning the Pottery skill from a School in Egypt, who will request a payment of 10 Clay to teach it to you.
Once your head stops reeling from the paradox, rest assured there is a way out of this. If you try to learn the Pottery skill without 10 Clay in your possession, the School will take pity on you and give you a single clay Jug. (My precious!)
This only happens once for each character.
There is no fooling the game by getting rid of your Jug and asking again. There is no such thing as making lots of throwaway alts to accumulate multiple free Jugs because the rules of ATITD state that you can only have one free trial account ever. I suppose you -could- pay $14 a month for each paid alt you decide to have, but that would be a really silly way to get Jugs.
With this single Jug, you can patiently accumulate 10 Clay by walking to water, filling the jug, walking to clay, collecting 1 clay, and walking back to water to refill the jug and repeat.
And then you can build Pottery Wheels!
In theory. Because what they neglect to tell you is that the materials list for Pottery Wheels is as follows:
Most of the materials are not inconceivably hard to get, though leather is a comparative rare resource in the early game. Leather is a bottleneck for the individual, limiting the number of pottery wheels they might want to make then.
But there is one more hidden bottleneck for the entirety of Egypt. Flystones are made on Rock Saws, which in turn can only be created when the Technology of Stonecutting is available.
(Quick terminology explanation: Skills are paid for and learnt by individuals. You bring the fee, pay it, get the Skill from a School. Technologies are meant to be paid for by groups and by the community of Egypt as a whole. Once it is paid for, it is unlocked for any individual to freely request from the University where it was unlocked.)
Since Technologies are a global unlock, the payment sum is often exorbitant when looked at from an individual’s perspective. Therein lies one of the major conflicts in a so-called combat-less game. The Good for the Self versus the Good of All. Work to benefit yourself, or work for the community’s improvement?
In the case of Stonecutting, among other things, 200 Flint is required.
But but…Flint has only a ~10% chance of dropping when clay is collected!
With a single clay Jug, let me assure you, trying to obtain Flint is not at all fun. One has to continually stop to get water per clay you dig up, and you probably won’t even strike Flint most of the time.
Of course, there is no requirement that 200 Flint must be collected by a single person. Ideally, if 200 people just took the effort to dig up 1 Flint and contribute it to the same University, the agony would be spread out through division of labor.
Anyone who’s ever tried to organize a raid or even a pick-up group in MMOs can probably see the futility of that line of thinking a mile away. Cat herding, anyone?
Well… maybe if 20 people took the effort to dig up 10 Flint and contribute it, we might get somewhere!
Pretty much something like that happens. The slider between Self and Public Good hovers back and forth, trying to come to some sort of balance point, some equilibrium – if less people contribute as a whole, then more dedicated players end up working harder to get the Technologies unlocked. Which may lead to drama – implosions by people who feel put upon, tantrums by those who feel left out or locked away from a resource, etc.
Things are further complicated because each local region in Egypt has their own University. Region pride, as well as selfish convenience in having less distance to run, means that people would much rather have the Technology unlocked at THEIR local University. So effort overlaps, and inefficiencies abound, and lots of entertaining chatter happens on public channels.
But never underestimate player creativity. There is another social solution to the thorny Flint problem. It’s the single jug that makes it a pain, right? So we’ll go get multiple jugs!
Hang on, isn’t that why we wanted Pottery Wheels in the first place? Where ever can you find more jugs?
Remember, each player has a single jug.
So can you convince another player to give (loan) you their one and only jug?
(In order to get Flint more easily, so ultimately down the road, everyone can get jugs more easily.)
Conversely, what if he logs off and -never comes back?- Your jug (your only present means to get clay and flint for yourself) would be GONE.
No one said this was an easy solution, mind you.
Different players try this with varying degrees of success. If you’re in an established guild with members that all know and trust each other, then you’d most likely be able to pool your jugs together without fear of loss. Name recognition, charisma and dependable reputation becomes important in building up to folks being willing to loan the stuff out. In general, it ends up possible for a few people to get 5 to 8 or so jugs together, while taking down names so as to reunite singular jug with owner later.
And they end up being the ones to still painfully, if less so, dig out the Flint required for Stonecutting, required for Rock Saws, required for Flystones, required for Pottery Wheels, required for Jugs of clay.
Public Works for the Public Good
Another example of player ingenuity stems from the leather bottleneck of Pottery Wheels.
1 Pottery Wheel takes 1 minute to spin 1 Jug from 1 Clay.
In the early game, normal non-fanatically-hardcore individuals can realistically afford to make zero or one or two Pottery Wheels. Give or take a couple.
It’s going to take a really long time to spin 100 Jugs from two dinky little wheels. It’s simple economies of scale.
This arrangement would be much better:
And if you were really ambitious, this:
Pottery wheels don’t break from overuse. And you aren’t going to need to spin jugs 24/7 either. So what if we put the first few Pottery Wheels together and made them a public shared resource?
Thus were various regional Public Works born – a group of individuals deciding to come together and altruistically create equipment and machines for anyone to use.
Mind you, the balance between self and public interest is happening all the time, and reaches equilibrium differently in different individuals. Some prefer their own fleet of wheels which is always available when they need it, instead of having to wait their turn if the wheels are in use. Some will contribute some materials for the public wheels, and keep back some materials for their own private personal ones. Some will give all they own to the creation of public facilities. There is no one right answer for all, just the right answer for yourself.