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.

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: The Clay “Grind”

And now for Clay on a slightly more personal scale.

I’ll also take the opportunity to talk a bit about economies of scale and macros, which are some things that are decidedly uncommon for many regular MMOs.

More Planning for the Raeli Oven Project

Previously, I shared my hopes for working towards the building of my own personal Raeli Oven. Among other things, I’m going to need 3000 Clay Bricks and 20 Clay-Steeped Wool Cloth for that grand project.

Just how much total clay in raw materials is going to be required?

I already have the Wool Cloth, so I just need to soak it in my tubs. This requires:

1 Wool Cloth
10 Clay
20 Water in Jugs

The Jugs themselves are not consumed, just the water, so it’s no biggy. That’s 20 x 10… 200 Clay for the cloth.

12 Wet Clay Bricks are made from 8 Clay and 4 Sand.

This -is- a desert, so sand is essentially free. Just wander over to an area with sand, and pick up as much as you can carry, any time you like.

That makes 3000 Bricks / 12 * 8 Clay = 2000 Clay

In total, 2200 Clay will be needed.


By the way, as previously mentioned, if not for this blog, I really wouldn’t plan as much. I’m more of a go-with-the-flow kind of person, so I would probably just log on, work on making as many Clay Bricks as I possibly could until I got bored, and then proceed to change up activities or log off. Repeat until one day I count 3000 Clay Bricks sitting in my warehouse. Point is, it doesn’t matter if you lean towards being Type A or Type B, it is still possible to play a sandbox in the manner which you enjoy.

However, if you’re more of an obsessive Type A planning sort, A Tale in the Desert will definitely feed your penchant for plans and to-do lists, and you’d probably get there a lot faster than the laid back Type Bs. (The Type Bs would probably enjoy themselves a bit more though and run less risk of burning out.)

Clay Automation

In the usual paradoxical manner of ATITD, if you have an upgraded Raeli Oven, you can actually set it to automatically dredge up clay for you.

Obviously, we don’t have one yet.


The societal shortcut route is always possible in this game. It’s how latecomers to the Tale can catch up. Those that came before had it harder, and their work can make things a lot easier for those coming after. It is always possible to get into a Guild with upgraded Raeli Ovens, earn enough trust to be allowed to operate them, and get your Tiles that way, or Clay, and the guild probably already has a ginormous stockpile of Clay somewhere. Or you could trade for it, etc, etc.

I do have social ties to some very nice veterans that I can always ask for help, but you know, it wouldn’t be as fun. Often, I find I like having those ties for the company, the community, and just reassuring backup that if all else fails, there’s always the guild option and asking for a loan. Continually begging would wear down on one’s social reputation, diminishing trust (it’s all interrelated in this game) and worse, I would always feel so inferior and needy and never learn and improve. That’s one of the things I love in ATITD, coming up with one’s own personal methods for generating resources.

You see, it’s all about those economies of scale again.

With 1 Jug or 10 Jugs, collecting 2200 clay is going to suck pretty hard. You’d have to repeat the “Get Water into Jugs” step too many times and interrupt the process of clay collection.

Typically, players have already made themselves upwards of 100-500 Jugs, depending on how much you can and feel like carrying.

Rummaging around in my warehouses, I eventually locate my Jugs (haha) and find I have 360 to hand, which isn’t too bad. Remember, it’s that whole finding your personal balance point thing again. It’ll take a much longer time investment to create 1000 Jugs rather than 100 Jugs, and only you can decide when enough is enough, or when it isn’t enough.

I pop over to the nearby water source (this is why many players live by the River Nile, and a nearby water source is something new players should bear in mind when looking for a site to call their own) and fill them up.

Quick recap: With 360 Water in Jugs, position oneself over a clay patch, and click on the red clay icon.

“Clunk” goes the sound effect, and 1 Clay pops into your inventory. The icon disappears.  Now you’ll have to move a few steps until the red clay icon appears again, and click once more. Rinse and repeat until you run out of Water in Jugs.

Moving a few steps can be done in two ways:

  1. Click a spot to move there, aka click-to-move.
  2. Minimizing chat channels, then using the arrow keys (not WASD) to move left, right, up, down.

Pop quiz for the math inclined. How many clicks (and key presses) is it going to take to collect 2200 Clay?

Frankly, I don’t know. I’m really poor at math. And Diablo, this game is not.

But it -is- hardcore, in its own way.

It’s a sandbox. You COULD choose to manually click your way to 2200 Clay. No one will stop you. (Though they may point and laugh.)

(Just kidding.)

On The Care and Feeding of Macros

One of my most favorite things about ATITD besides the nice, welcoming community with a small-town feel reminiscent of MUDs, is that the use of macros are legally allowed.

The only thing that is illegal is UNATTENDED macro’ing. If a GM or staff member catches you unable to respond and your character busy botting away, then you’re looking at a ban. There goes your character, your sub and your everything, permadeath essentially. Who says ATITD isn’t hardcore? Moral of the story: Sit and look at your screen and be able to respond and all will be well.

Macros are something that all players should try giving a go with. It’s like a minigame of its own, sitting there planning out your scripted moves, testing, re-testing, until sweet success, stuff works as desired and all that prior time and effort invested will save you time and make it more convenient for you later on. (Sound like the rest of ATITD to you? Yep.)

I have the fondest, nostalgic memories about doing similar things with the MUD I used to play. Some MUDs ban the use of macros and scripts, but mine was always okay with them. So I’d sit and play around with speedwalks (a quick list of n, e, s, w directions to quickly move from place to place), aliases (shortcut abbreviations expanding out to whole word commands), macros and triggers. I was supremely competitive at the time, and found that all this stuff gave me a significant edge over those who didn’t use such things, and won plenty of contests as a result. These things are not just plug-and-play add-ons though, the user is also important in identifying the things that are best shortcutted, customizing all the inputs so that it becomes second nature and knowing how and when best to use the tools.

In many of those old MUD contests, they’d test your knowledge of the quirks, trivia and lore of the MUD too, and that’s not something macros can help with. You yourself the player must have the knowledge and the skill. The machine, the macros, are your tools. I coined my own term for this interrelationship of human input and macro response to produce results quicker than most people can conceive or attain – I called it “cyborging” and it’s an exceptional experience. For me, it hit a flow state very quickly, and all those expressions of “How the fuck?” “Wow” “Goddamn, you’re good” just added egoistical icing on top. Until the burn out, but that’s another tale.

So, back to ATITD. Can we macro clay?

You betcha. In the community spirit of ATITD, people come together to help each other out, and many exceptionally skilled people (far far better mathematicians and programmers than I) have written things for others to use. Macro scripts and even whole programs or macro engines specifically for ATITD. Convinced that ATITD is hardcore yet?

There’s plenty to pick and choose from. As these blog posts progress, I’ll show you the ones I like to use. Who knows, maybe it’ll be helpful for a new player looking for tips, because a lot of this stuff is NOT obvious at all. When I first started playing ATITD as a newbie, I remember feeling absolutely amazed, out of my league, and unable to conceive just how other players were so gosh-darned productive. Even now, I observe a lot of people logging in, trying out the game, encountering stuck points, and then giving up and disappearing for good without making the leap to a level they can be comfortable at and contribute to the community.

I had the good fortune of meeting some very nice veterans every Telling I played and joining guilds where I could observe how better players play. Plenty of wiki reading, people watching and experimentation paved the way for me to talk about this. Fair warning: I am by no means as skilled as most of the veterans in this game, I’m probably not as efficient as it’s possible to be, but I’d like to share all the same.

Do bear in mind the central theme of ATITD – “finding your own balance point,” what works for me may not work for you or someone else, but it’s nice to see what other people are doing and learn from them and find what works for you.

Sorry. Clay now, I promise. I’m fond of the first program I used way back in Tale 4. Rogarian’s R-Cubed. (Yes, you can truly attain fame in this game, this sandbox gives plenty of opportunities for people to specialize, shine, and put their names on things. Like programs. Are you tired of me saying this word yet? Hardcore.)

It’s very simple to use. Still gives you plenty of control – I’m not fond of full automation, I find it either has a tendency to break or you get so bored of watching the program play the game for you that you either ask yourself what’s the point of me being in the picture, or you walk away from the computer… don’t come crying to me later if you get banned then.

And R-Cubed will stop the moment you alt-tab away from the active window, so it has honesty built into its very core. You -will- be looking at the screen and at the game (unless you walk off AFK, but see above.)

It’s fun to see how ingenious players can get, by analyzing how each macro or program works. R-Cubed looks for the clay icon (or grass, or slate) by periodically checking the color of a pixel on your screen, location and color selected by the player. When you start the macro, hit ctrl and your mouse cursor turns into a cross and acts as a color picker.

Move the mouse cursor over to the red clay icon, check the eye to make sure the pixel color is something unique to the clay icon, and not the surroundings, and release ctrl. That’s it.

R-Cubed checks, and whenever it sees dark red (in this case), it moves your mouse cursor over the icon and left-clicks for you. Clunk, 1 Clay collected.

What it doesn’t do, is move your character for you. But it’s good, in this way, you have more options!

  1. You can opt to move yourself. Just click to run to the start of the clay patch, and your character will move slowly to that spot, picking up clay thanks to R-Cubed as they move.
  2. If you’re like me and crave a bit of twitch every now and then, or want fine control over the way you move, you can minimize your chat channels and use the arrow keys to move up and down, left and around, in circles and in stripes on your clay patch amusing yourself while R-Cubed does all the grunt work of getting clay.
  3. Or you can layer a second macro program with R-Cubed that will actually move your character about.

There’s nothing as boring as repetition, so I actually use all three options for the sake of variety.

In the case of the third option, I make use of my Logitech G25 keyboard because it’s quick and easy and I need an excuse to use it).

But one can always find another macro program that will press up (or left) for a set number of seconds, and then down (or right) for a set number of seconds, and repeat X times, or a program that clicks a location on the screen for you, or whatever. Personal choice and all. It often isn’t worth the trouble unless you really think you need to spend hours on obtaining Clay.

I actively regulate the amount of interactivity I have with ATITD tasks. I believe it’s part of the efficiency/finding your own balance point game. Fully automating it takes away the fun for me because I like some twitch and some input every now and then. For others, they may enjoy looking at the end result of their work in scripting the macro, but I still think it gets boring after just passively watching your character pick up the 300th piece of clay.

So I went back to clicking with the mouse every 5 seconds or so to indicate where my character should run and meditatively listening to the *chunk* *chunk* *chunk* of Clay being picked up and reading public chatter on various chat channels. (And taking screenshots and composing this blog post in my head while my hands were occupied.)

40 minutes of idle clicking later, I have my 2200 Clay.

Again, if I weren’t blog posting, I’d would honestly break gathering up into chunks so that it doesn’t feel too much like a marathon. 5-10 minutes of one activity, do something else, putter about, switch up the variety, and then go back to it.

It just makes it really hard to organize or write a blog post about how you’ve partially done 8 different things. 🙂

On “Grinding”

I believe there is no such thing as “grind” as long as you are aware of your own feelings and reactions and honest with yourself.

1) Are you taking any pleasure in the -present- activity you are doing? (Not looking forward to what you’ll feel when you reach the end, but actively, what you’re doing, do you like it?)

If you’re neutral, or just tolerating it, that’s a warning sign. Do ask yourself if the long-term gain will be worth it or if you might regret it later. And be on the lookout for emotional progress to…

Actively loathing is bad. Stop, stop now, before it’s too late and you ruin the activity for yourself for good. Take a break, go do something else. Come back only when you can honestly answer yes to the question, being neutral isn’t good enough once you’ve ever started hating the activity before.

2) Whenever you start feeling bored with the repetition, even though you do think the activity still has its positive sides, stop and do something else. Don’t ever try to ‘work’ through it or push yourself through a bad spot. It doesn’t work. Burnout lurks behind that self-rationalizing corner. It’s a game, it’s not meant to be a chore or an obligation.