On being ___-Poor, and Failblogging GW2 Raids

Found an interesting quote from Belghast musing about Pay-2-Win that I want to spin off a discussion on:

“The cycle of what makes an MMO has been right or wrong built on this illusion of a meritocracy.  The general idea being, that if you work hard and get really good… you can have the best items in the game for your efforts.  The problem with this is that it in itself has always been a lie.”

Of course it’s a lie. It’s a lie in the real world too.

Of course it’s not an outright falsehood either. In general, meritocracy principles can hold true for a decent amount of cases, assuming a relatively even or flat social/environmental context (same workplace, same game/guild, whatever.)

But then you have cases where the starting point is completely different (say someone living in poverty as opposed to a rich man’s son, or someone still struggling with the game’s control scheme as opposed to someone who has played that genre of game for twenty years)…

Plus a hefty helping of RNG and social opportunity (which can also be greased with the addition of $$$, which is, after all, a medium of exchange, a symbolic promising of favors or services owed.)

Maybe you win the lottery or you get a phenomenally lucky drop that has everyone else curse your ancestors because of how unthinkably small that 0.01% chance was.

Maybe you’ve cultivated a vast social network to call on to help you out or the number of people willing to help you out are only three folks: “me, myself and I.”

Maybe you earn enough every month that $500 is disposable income to you and can be dropped on a game or even thrown away or gambled with for fun, or $500 is what your entire family has to live on for that month.

I guess what really puzzles me are the people who believe the meritocracy thing wholesale.

Wake up and smell the roses, thorns and all. Even in the days of subscription games, it was more about extending the length of time someone played said game, so that they would continue subscribing.

It would be far less upsetting to acknowledge that some games are built to give advantages who are more rich in a certain category (be it in skill, time, money, or just plain good fortune – or at least, not a really truly “cursed” account) and then to choose to play or not play said game according to what one prefers.

If one is time-poor, it would be a very silly state of affairs to go play hardcore subscription games that are set up under the assumption that players are going to keep playing for 3-5+ years (*cough* Eve Online *cough* A Tale in the Desert *cough* etc.) where progress is measured over the course of months. Go look for games that offer instant payoffs like super-fast leveling, or loot shower pinatas, and so on.

If one is money-poor, or at least not willing to spend significant amounts of money to be equivalent to or have a leg up on other players, then avoiding games that reward that kind of thing is probably best.

(Or at least, if one chooses to play it for a while, to remember that one will usually be a second-class citizen and do a bit of research on the status of said second-class citizens to see if one is ok playing a game like that. Some games are better at this than others, eg. I hated SWTOR’s treatment of free players, while I found Trove to be perfectly playable on a free basis as long as one was a bit patient about progress.)

If one is skill-poor, then a truly meritocratic game pitched at the level of a hardcore player is probably going to be a frustrating nightmare. (I can’t help but think of stuff like a new player stumbling into GW2’s PvP game mode and getting their butt kicked, or Dark Souls type games, for example.) Games with adjustable difficulty levels or RNG chances to win stuff that improves one’s stats will probably be more one’s cup of tea.

Such is life.

If one is willing to put a little bit of effort into improving any of these ___-poor situations (at the tradeoff of not having the time for something else), then hey, one might see progress, even if it’s slower than one hopes.

Take me as an example. I am pretty much a “social network-poor” player.

I’m liable to get really grumpy about games that presume endgame progress should rely on a bevy of other people, all linked in various social networks. It’s probably one of the many reasons why I naturally loathe raids.

Someone like Belghast, on the other hand, probably has no goddamn problem getting invited to a bevy of raids, whenever the want strikes his fancy.

I draw the line at Twitter. I draw the line at using a microphone. This knocks me out of a considerable number of socializer networks. I’d be at serious odds with myself if I went against my core and put on a socializing mask though, so it is how it is.

I’m never going to find running GW2 dungeons and fractals in a group FUN in capital letters – I’m just not wired that way. I grin and bear it when I want to see new content or the reward at the end, is about it.

Over a long period of exposure time, I can just about get -comfortable- with a set of names and voices that the group experience is no longer unpleasant, and even maybe, somewhat nice. Mind you, that time period is measured in the months and years.

But I do have to acknowledge that even though I’m naturally not good at this kind of social network formation, a patient investment of time and effort over three years has led to me having a mediocre amount of connections, possibly even a little more than your average newbie player who just joined the game.


Such is life. Not entirely meritocratic, not entirely RNG.

Sometimes it’s who-you-know, sometimes it’s what-you-know, or how-much-you-have, and sometimes, despite having ample amounts of all the above, life takes a dump on you anyway, or vice versa, you catch a fortunate lucky break.

Sonja over at Soultamer Gaming has been musing about the concept of “failblogging” or “failgaming,” that is, documenting the trials and tribulations of those who feel they just aren’t good at the games in question.

I think there are a couple of interesting branches of thinking in that concept that are worth mulling over.

To do that, let me tell a little story about how I’ve been busy failing at GW2 raids.

(Why yes, I’m kinda on-break from GW2 and still doing dailies and attending raid sessions a minimum of twice a week. I think many other people would call this level of activity “actively playing a game.” *sheepishly guilty look*)

One session is a weekly training raid with TTS.

It’s a really silly scramble to get home from work on time, being three hours transposed, but I like attending because in the OCE timeslot, it’s become a pool of generally the same 20-30 individuals that get distributed out to two or three raid groups.

The names are familiar, there’s a general baseline level of semi-competency, and it still has a bit of that random spice element because it’s not the same fixed group of ten people all the frickin’ time.

It’s a training raid, so there’s a relaxed understanding that successful kills may not happen, people are still learning (possibly on different classes or trying different builds or just plain new to the specific raid boss) and since it’s TTS, whoever’s leading is usually quite okay with explaining in excruciating detail any mechanics for new people – which I usually appreciate, even if I’m not new, because my learning style happens to be pretty slow and require excruciating details, each step mastered sequentially before I can perform adequately.

Because it’s a training raid, one pretty much is not likely to get a successful kill. Someone might slack on the proper foods, or be using non-min-maxed gear, or just be nervous and inexperienced and screw things up continually, whatever.

The other session is a scheduled ‘normal’ guild raid with a fixed, preset raid team.

I had to join a new up-and-coming recruiting guild for this, and well, it’s been essentially the guild leader throwing interested-in-raiding guild members with similar timezone schedules and the appropriate classes into a group of ten and giving a non-gentle shove now and then to prod people and hope/pray that the group gels from stranger PUG status to regular team.

Bit of a lottery, in other words, with some roster edits over time to fix the more egregious problems, like someone persistently never showing up.

So despite raiding many many hours, there was a long time where I couldn’t score a single Vale Guardian kill.

Utter fucking failure.

And to add salt to the wound, every now and then on Reddit, some super tight-knit uberguild would post videos of less-than-10-man kills or funky class build kills.

So… the big question is… does this mean that I suck? That I have no skill? That I’m “bad” at the game and should crawl under a rock to die of shame somewhere?

(Reread the Belghast discussion at the top of this post.)

It’s never just one thing to blame. And here I’ll quote an ancient Greek:

“An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.” -Epictetus

Truth is, I do think I needed some of the initial failed raids as learning practice.

Every raid I did, I absorbed a little bit more about the fight. You get used to the patterns and timing just a little more. You figure out that when the Vale Guardian swerves suddenly, the blue circles that teleport are about to come up and so you’ve already begun moving away in preparation.

It stops being one giant blur of light and color and chaotic explosions wherein you’re panicking because THINGS are happening and your health is dropping and what phase is this and what am I supposed to DO here again?!

And when I started chafing at the slow pace of progress because I’d internalized most of the VG fight, I decided I was competent at VG enough to offer myself up as a LFG PUG, and just like freaking that, at the very start of the week, I filled for a largely competent and organized guild group, didn’t make a complete utter fool of myself, and VG died.

Just like that.

Lucky break? Maybe. But I did have to open myself up to the opportunity (ie. feel brave enough to post a LFR, make the time for it) and be not-horrible enough to be passable.

And then it was back to a lot more weeks of failing VG while watching one’s groups struggle and wondering if there was anything more to be done on one’s part.

The regular guild team got reshuffled around a little, removing those that never showed their faces, and adding a few newer members of varying skill levels, including a very handy leader with social connections to a second large guild so that he could fill from that one as well.

(Our raid team is currently half-first guild and half-second guild, one third TTS, more or less. Kinda funny, but effective. I think a number of us all belong to multiple guilds anyway.)

One or two more VG kills happened, after an uncountable number of failed attempts, one with the TTS training raid, one with new reshuffled guild team.

This month, thankfully, people have been sort of moving on to Gorseval.

Last week, I fought him for the very first time. I was busy trying to warn my guild team of this, and they kinda just oh, handwaved it away with a super-brief explanation, which led to me trying to read Gorseval guides in one screen while trying to figure out what to do on the actual client itself.

This resulted in some really spectacular screwups of the “you are the weakest link” kind.

Plus side, I didn’t fall off an updraft. (THANK YOU, NEW GLIDER LATENCY FIX.)

Plus side plus two, I didn’t screw up a cardinal direction and went consistently to the correct mob I was supposed to be at.

The spectacular fail was not knowing what the hell to actually do with said mob.

I got the idea of slowing it down and preventing it from reaching the main boss mob. So I dutifully applied my sword cripples and kept boggling over why it was moving faster than everyone else’s.

No microphone, so I can’t really communicate while failing at doing this (which is probably grounds for insta-boot from the really hardcore raid guilds.)

Which led to panicked shouting from the other guys going “yo help Jerom’s mob! It’s going in!” “F1!” “F1!” “Don’t zerk!” (huh?) and other assorted chaos.

Oh, and one raid wipe when said mob did manage to go in.

The itty bitty communication problem: to which I finally made the connection when the mob was several millimeters away from entering the raid boss, ie. too late to do anything about it…

Previously, I’d half-heard a garbled hasty one sentence explanation to spam sword and F1. (Thanks, microphone speakers who mumble. If you ever wonder why people might be screwing up, consider that as one possibility.)

My mind heard F1, equated it to the F1 help key, failed to find any context with raiding, and hereby dismissed it while trying to remember the broad strokes of all the Gorseval phases.

One second away from raid wipe, I finally remembered that the default setting for a warrior burst skill was F1 (I have it bound to other keys.)

What they really wanted, and what I really -should- be doing, was spamming immobilizes (not “slows”, thanks, garbled explanation) on the mob, using the sword burst skill Flurry, which is overwritten by another skill if one triggers berserk mode, so don’t trigger berserk mode.

(Which, by the way, is second nature muscle memory when one is trying to squeeze out as much dps as possible out of a burnzerker build.)

There was one more close shave when my fingers just banged that without intending to, but by and large, after one actually understands the principles of what one should really be doing, everything else is just practice at executing correctly.

Holding the soul appropriately got noticeably better in subsequent attempts.

Itty bitty secret: DPS didn’t get better at all, because as a first-timer, I was so unsure about the Gorseval phases and barely able to read animations. that I started to hang onto berserk mode and NOT trigger it about 30 seconds before the souls phase, so that Flurry would be guaranteed up during the time I was visibly performing alone.

We ended that raid with the most successful attempt being about 2% of Gorseval’s health left. (No doubt, some of which I could have contributed more, had I been more comfortable with the fight.)

Further less noticeable to others, but still noticeable to me fails:

I had no idea when to expect Gorseval to do his knockback, even though in theory I knew it was when he raised his left hand and to dodge then. So I kept getting smashed back 80% of the time. (Fortunately, I noted a good half of the raid not being great at this either.)

I had very little idea where appropriate standing positions were, so caught quite a number of huge hits, once or twice which laid me out on the ground and downed (despite having the most forgiving of health pools, aka warrior hp) at a time when others couldn’t rescue me and had to watch from the floor of shame (“what, he’s dead again?”) while the others tried to continue while short on numbers.

And oh, I kept getting egged. Every time we moved Gorseval to the last phase, it was still a bit of a surprise to me and unexpected. Being quite unfamiliar with the last phase patterns, by the time I figured out I should be moving, it was a little too late to do so.

Luckily (or not, if you believe in making your own luck), that same week, the TTS training raid I attended expressed an interest in trying out Gorseval. We found sufficient people interested in that to put together a group, and I heard a MUCH CLEARER, STEPWISE explanation of the fight, positioning and all.

There were a lot more wipes during our attempts, as others were in the same spot I had been in, first time learning the fight, but I found myself getting more accustomed to his phases and kept challenging myself to watch and learn how to dodge his knockdown while left alone in peace and able to focus, so to speak.

We didn’t get tremendous far with that raid. I noticed I wasn’t outputting as much damage on a PS warrior as with a burnzerker, and actually swapped characters midway. Just like that, we managed to push past the dps check that had been previously stymying the group (moral of the story, I evidently still has a ways to go on PS warrior and/or burnzerker OP)

But with only me as burnzerker, Gorseval was still at about 15% health during the last egg phase at best.

This weekend, the guild raid group brought FOUR burnzerkers, one of whom tanked.

You’d think this would immediately result in a kill, but nope, plenty of fails before the successful one.

The first obvious screwup was the person assigned to break bar duty just couldn’t output enough break bar damage as when the raid leader did it.

Same class, presumably same build, some guidance and training from the leader beforehand –  wherein the whole raid gamely sacrificed their bodies and damaged their gear for the person to get some practice (you die if you’re standing outside the raid area when the raid starts, luckily, repairs are free in GW2 now…)

…somehow, when push came to shove and actual performance in the raid, the output just wasn’t there.

Not blaming, mind you. Considering I don’t even know how to play the class at all, I’m not calling any pot nor kettle black. Just pointing out the facts of what happened.

Raid leader ended up swapping to that role, the other person apologized and said they’d try to practice it out of the raid for future attempts, done. No muss, no fuss.

Second screwup, one of the burnzerkers kept regularly dying during the updraft phase. Said character was being run by a player who has had noticeably poor performances while raiding, whichever class is being played, the damage or healing output generally isn’t quite up to snuff.

Again, not blaming, just pointing out factual observations. In fact, I kinda feel a lot for this player because I feel that they are trying, and trying very hard, but somehow just not making the “aha” connections.

The group offered one or two verbal suggestions for trying to handle the updraft, but didn’t really make a big fuss about it either way. About 45 mins in, said player said they had to leave and left the raid.

I kinda feel a little bad, on an emphatic level, because I can’t help but suspect that their self-esteem might have taken a bit of a beating, or that they got a bit too sensitive about their comparatively poorer performance.

And this is where I kinda want to send a message out to everyone who thinks they are failures because they are screwing up in some fashion and beating themselves up overmuch about it.

Guys, EVERYONE screws up. ESPECIALLY when you are new to doing something or learning something for the first time.

EVENTUALLY it gets better, even if you’re an excruciatingly slow learner, but you gotta have enough thick-skin to not let it get you down overmuch.

What does speed up this nasty process of failing badly, is to self-analyze the reasons for why the screwup is happening, thinking up ways to get around the problem and then testing them out and practicing until -something- sticks.

When said burnzerker left, the raid leader brought in a replacement burnzerker, and my first Gorseval kill was had.

Then it was on to Sabetha.

Geez, really? I hadn’t watched a single video or read a single guide.

Fortunately, there were about three others in the same boat as I, so I wasn’t the only one busy forewarning the others that massive screwups were about to take place.

We had a 15 minute break, during which there was a mad scramble on my part to at least stare at the Dulfy guide and watch a video about 1/5 of the way through (it was so slow I couldn’t last through it.)

Then it was on to actually experiencing the complication of all the phases for realz.

Ok. Fact. When you’re new. It’s super-obvious. The newbies, myself included, were busy hesitating and screwing up bomb throwing phases.

Hell, I’m new and -I- noticed the hesitation on both my and others’ parts.

I’d like to discuss all the different raid bosses’ various phases in more detail in later posts, but suffice to say that Sabetha has an interesting mechanic which requires coordination in teamwork.

One player must stand on a launch pad.

Another player, chosen more or less at random (but I suspect is quasi-controllable via proximity aggro to an add,) is given a bomb.

This second player must a) identify that they have the bomb, b) walk in the correct cardinal direction and c) throw the bomb onto the launch pad that the first player is standing on, using a newly introduced special key… all in about five seconds flat.

Oh, and the first player must a) realize that their designated role/time has arrived, b) walk in the correct cardinal direction and c) have run to and be standing on the launch pad by the time the second player flings the bomb.

d) The first player cannot camp the launch pad for too long because they’ll get fried by AoE attacks.

e) If the pair is unlucky enough to be mid-throw when the rest of the raid group knocks Sabetha down to a health level that triggers an insta-kill wall of flame, and said insta-kill wall of flame happens to randomly choose either of the pair to target, chances of WTF death are quite high.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong.

I am 100% certain I have now developed a reputation for being cardinally challenged, or just slow on the uptake, given the rather desperate yelling from various people for my lil asura to toss it in THIS direction PLEASE.

Truth is, there were quite a few compounding problems that kept adding up to a delay that caused the bomb timer to expire and the phase to be missed.

First problem: Keybinds.

Jeez, after three fucking years, you go and introduce a NEW action key? I’ve already used up all the convenient key locations and burned in muscle memory just so. Not everyone has a Naga mouse with tons of mouse buttons.

There was a lot of experimental shifting of this key position throughout the raid. I’d originally put it on L, which is ok when you’re stuck in a Gorseval egg, but NOT ok when you’re trying to move and throw a bomb in the span of 5 seconds.

N was at least reachable with my thumb, but in practice, fairly awkward.

Fortunately, the raid took a break for an hour, and that was sufficient time for me to play with the pre-raid boss trash NPCs which teach you the mechanics and settle on a slightly more comfortable alt+Q position.

It’s still not ideal, I’m still feeling a split second of awkwardness – one keypress would be better, but I’m really sans key locations here.

Also, I don’t play an engineer or an elementalist and my AoE targeting skills are not exactly the most honed… Awkward? Yes. Do I know what 800 range is, and how far I need to run before I can throw it? No.

The solution, unfortunately, takes time. Work out proper keybinds and practice throwing grenades or the like to a certain spot until it’s burned into muscle memory.

Second problem: Yes, cardinal directions are an issue.

The devious evil of this fight is that it forces you to spin around the boss in an anti-clockwise fashion every so often. This is a pretty good recipe for becoming completely disoriented as to which way is which.

Checking the minimap is seconds you’re not actually looking at the fight, which means a painful AoE of some kind might land on you, and if you’re not checking the minimap, you’re probably not running in the correct direction.

I was half formulating a theory of trying to identify the correct locations visually. North has a red banner and a pact soldier in a cage. South has a leyline rift up in the branches. West faces towards some leafy trees (but so does North) and East has some ship-like nets/rigging.

Actually learning it and being able to react appropriately though, is going to take quite a few more playthroughs.

Especially since the pattern for the launchpads is specific, but a little weird (S, W, N, E – so clockwise, and then S, N, W, E, according to dulfy, which ain’t clockwise) and before you know it, I’ve lost track of exactly which phase we’re in right now.

Third problem: There’s a shit ton of other things to be focusing on, at the exact same time.

Just before we called the raid, I grandiosely screwed up two bombs in a row because I’d dropped into a dps-y zen state of maximizing skill rotations.

Our particular chronomancer was rather noticeably excellent, and I found myself realizing that I was catching nigh perma-quickness and immense amounts of alacrity, which does ridiculous things to how fast a burnzerker can fire off fire fields from the bow.

I’d taken to focusing on trying to hug this precious mesmer as closely as possible, so that I could keep feeding myself this alacrity drug… actually receiving the bomb was the furthest thing on my mind, and a rather unwelcome interruption to my dps happy place.

So yeah, 1.5-2 seconds to realize one has the bomb, 2 seconds to run there, less than one second to target and toss to the correct location… nope, ain’t happening. Esppecially not with extra OCE/SEA latency delaying both the voice chat and visuals.

One has to expect and predict and be ready to move with OCE/SEA latency, and that kind of prediction is just lacking when you’re not familiar with the patterns.

Oh, and each 25% of her hp, Sabetha summons a slightly different mini-boss to deal with, all with different mechanics, and if you can’t kill ’em fast enough, you get to contend with the mini-boss nearly dead but still spewing their deadly stuff, while Sabetha comes back and does her crazy flame-wall thing so that you have to keep running in a circle while focusing on doing all mechanics correctly (and oh, actually kill the mini-boss.)

The 4th mini-boss can be kinda nuts. Among other things, he dumps turrets that shoot little firebolts in all sorts of directions.


One member of our group was super-hyped seeing this.

I kinda envy people like that. I don’t know how to find this sort of thing “fun” or thrilling or exhilarating.

When I get to a stage like this, I’m in straight up focused reaction mode, not feeling a thing, just moving like mad to stay out of the bad stuff, and shit, there’s a lot of bad stuff.

Also, in the back of my mind, problem-solving mode is always on, and all I can think is: it was a strategic mistake to let things get this out of control. Someone should have been on turret control duty. If no one is assigned to it, I’m going to try and do that next time and keep the number of those things down and see how that goes. Hrm, I’m a burnzerker, maybe I can position my fire field to hit Sabetha, and a turret simultaneously? Geez, gonna be tough, but can try it…

… before you know it, I’ll probably miss another bomb because I’m too busy trying to keep track of something else.

Nothing for it but time, repeated practice and creative problem-solving though.


ATITD: Papyrus Power

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

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

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

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

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

Challenge #1 – How do I get Papyrus Seeds?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenge #3 – How Do I Grow Papyrus?

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

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

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

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

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

The Culture That Evolved Around Papyrus

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret Undercurrent of Individual Player Knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenge #4 – Optimal Efficient Growth

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

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

But is the wiki right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Aquaculture

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

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

Aquaculture by Nchanter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But a tasty one.

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