Landmark: The Next Step

That mithril pick and rubicite axe arrived sooner than I’d expected.

Landmark is called a “social building game,” and at this stage of closed Beta, where the floodgates haven’t -quite- opened their way to allowing in bored griefers, many people are still in a civil and cooperative communal mindset.

(Though I hear some people are trying – digging holes around people with excavators, kind of pointless when the “victim” can grappling hook out or evac to safety or even log out and switch servers as a last resort or following people mining all the ore before the other can get to it, a shared node system wouldn’t work here, I guess, so I’d jump servers as a solution, methinks.)

Being in a nomadic frame of mind and needing heartwood to build the stations on my claim before I could settle in, I thought to pop by and surprise visit an MMO blogger and chop trees along the way.

The easiest one to track down was Syl (#totallynotstalking), mostly because she helpfully included a picture of her claim location on her blog , with nearby Portal Spire as easy point of reference – and provided server and island in there too.

Besides, her Twitter said she needed dirt, and I had tons of it from OCD mining.

Trouble is, I hit 360ms ping on EU servers.

The pause time between actions is noticeable. Not completely unplayable, but not that great either.

It’s fine to visit with, or engage in very solitary and slow wood-chopping or mining, but it does feel more molasses-like than usual. (And I hit 220ms on US servers, so lesser of two evils, really. I’m not sure if I can still play Landmark once hostile monsters and/or PvP is introduced, if optimization doesn’t happen.)

After randomly visiting a bunch of claims near the Portal Spire in slow motion fashion. and grumbling to oneself about how lucky Syl is to have a public works guy right on her doorstep (no loadscreens required,) I finally tracked the place in the screenshot down. (Fun self-created explorer minigame, though.)

Syl wasn’t home.

Bah.

From prior WvW experience, EU prime time happens right after SEA prime time, so I figured it’ll only be a matter of time. MMO bloggers being all excitable about Beta launches and all that.

I didn’t quite want to wait around in a 360ms world though, so I popped out and switched to a US server. Confidence, since it was turning out to be home. It was kind of fun to walk around the same area and see how different the same map was, due to the presence of different players.

Syl’s mountaintop was unclaimed in Confidence, but stumbling down a steep mountain into a valley, I came across a moss-covered fort.

mossfort

The owner was home.

As I walked up to check out the place, he came right up, said hi, and offered a Mithril Pick and Rubicite Axe completely unasked for.

I love those generous-minded sandbox veterans.

I was a bit puzzled at how he was willing to give away the top tier pick and axe, but as it turns out, after more closely reading the forums, these items have a random quality assigned to them when first crafted. And it’s a pretty wide quality range. Truly obsessive individuals end up randomly rolling more than a few times for the really good stuff, I suspect, and end up with a surplus of didn’t-quite-make-the-cuts.

And since it’s not (yet) possible to salvage the items for any return of materials, the only options left are hoard ’em, trash ’em, or give ’em away. Which makes newbies pretty lucky if they socialize with an older player.

I do enjoy observing veterans at work in these crafting sandboxes. You learn so much from what they are doing.

In A Tale in the Desert, I picked up by osmosis (just hanging out around more experienced players) things like scaling up the number of machines operating at one time in order to give higher returns, where to put various buildings for more synergy and efficiency without having to run around, and so on.

theboard

This fellow had a most intriguing board.

My goodness, it was like he had a premade set of voxel paintbrushes to work with.

“You mean it’s possible to get shapes like -that-?” was the thought that ran through my mind. “I gotta look into this building thing more. I need those frickin’ building tools.”

So that was next on the agenda after the Syl visit was complete.

Run around, mine tons of tungsten, finish the set of building tools. Good thing I set a claim in a Tier 3 desert, so I did that while at home, so to speak.

Conclusion: This voxel building thing has promise.

Lots of it.

And as of right now, Landmark is the only place you can do in it.

Obligatory home claim screenshot. Feel free to friend me (Jeromai) or stop by to visit (Confidence - Tor)
Obligatory home claim screenshot. Feel free to friend me (Jeromai) or stop by to visit @Confidence – Tor.

It’s an ugly misshapen sort-of arch.

But it was made with no prior reading or watching of any guides or tutorials, just trial-and-error learning with all the building tools available.

workinprogress

I hit a self-learning limit with this guy’s (lack of) beady black eyes, so next sandbox goal, watch and read all the available building tutorials on the Landmark Wikia.

I won’t spoil it for any of you here, but I do suggest watching at least the basic ones once you’ve got experimentation out of your system.

There are some fairly unintuitive keyboard commands that I would -not- have known about, without watching them.

I think I hit one of them accidentally, yielding a fairly awkward voxel size range, and could have used the other when trying to make the pathetic little arch.

Ah well, so it goes. It’s a learning process.

And the fun of these sandbox crafting games (at least for me) is the stuff that’s unique to the game in question, that learning curve of devouring information and applying it, until one groks all the systems in play.

And so it begins:
And so it begins: learning about voxel sizes.

The only thing that I can’t quite shake off though: I feel like I’m learning how to be a 3D graphics artist for SOE, working free-of-charge. On my leisure time.

(Though granted, they’re probably eyeing other folks’ creations that are much less amateur-ish than mine.)

What am I getting in return here? Bragging rights? Showing off pretty screenshots to my friends? Maybe possibly a trickle of Station Cash if another player decides they like the stuff I make – and presumably only a very small percentage of real artisans will achieve that level of demand?

I don’t quite feel that way in Minecraft, where all block creations are exchanging about freely and exist on maps that one can save, whereas I just keep feeling a big corporate specter of “we own everything you’re making here” looming over me in Landmark.

User-generated content may be a bit of a double-edged sword. Players entertaining other players, selling and trading with them, while big brother takes a cut because one chose to do it with the tools that big brother made.

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GW2: Coda

To be continued...

This time, Ravious and Bhagpuss have beat me to it with their thoughts on the Living Story’s end. (For Season 1, that is.)

As much as I’ve been wanting to say something about the story since the Escape turned into a Battle that led us to an Aftermath in the wreckage of Lion’s Arch, the truth is that I feel that there isn’t much to discuss, nor much to talk about.

That is not to say that I don’t like the story.

Since the Queen’s Jubilee, as the story writers have started to find their stride, and as the boring talking heads have metamorphed into cinematic cutscenes, discounting the odd miss here and there, on the whole…

I have been… content.

It’s an MMO. It’s never going to be fine literature.

The plot pacing improved, ever so slightly. We started to learn more crucial clues and actually understand whatever point the writers were trying to tell us, rather than get strung along with cryptic words and empty promises.

The focus on likable characters and conversational dialogue and humor has been the highlight, as far as I’m concerned, as it seems to be where our crop of GW2 writers shine the most. So it makes more sense to concentrate on that as a strong point.

I find the consequence and impact of the Living Story has been made more meaningful and lasting since the Kessex Hill and Lion’s Arch changes, though I especially appreciate the forewarning so that we can actually spend time recording and documenting how it was before and appreciate the changes better without having to rely on exceedingly faulty memories. A flashback system would be good here, and I think we’re seeing some of the beginnings of that through items or NPCs that play certain cutscenes for us.

If you read the forums and Reddit, it can oftentimes be a cesspool of negativity and criticism where the Living Story has been concerned, full of conviction that such-and-such is lore inappropriate, or that they could write the story better, or that such and such plot point or clue should have best been included so that everything makes more sense. (Sometimes, they’re even right.)

I guess, I’m finding it hard to make topics like that into a point of discussion anymore. Ultimately, it seems to boil down to opinion and preference. I like this. I don’t like that. You like something else. You hate this thing over here. The writers in charge of the story like this other thing.

We’re still going to end up with the story the writers decide they want to tell us.

At the moment, I enjoyed the quiet little interlude at the Dead End Bar, for the most part. Though some of the laughter seemed forced, we got a little conversation time with all our Living Story NPCs, developing their character slightly further, and even had a new character introduced.

I still didn’t understand the whole plot point that included Scarlet in it, especially this crazy little doozy here:

currentsofwhatsit

Leylines are currents? Wha? That doesn’t explain anything, just sounds like a hocus-pocus hand wave.

I kinda preferred the Reddit explanation, the drill disrupted the leylines somehow, and that alerts a jungle dragon that happens to sleeping close to one of them, nomming away at his midnight snack.

Some other people hated all the lovey-dovey talk.

Well, that’s life. You get bits you like and bits you hate. Some parts you understand, and some you don’t.

The overall theme of the hints seems to be pushing us towards Maguuma and the jungle for the next season, anyhow, what with talk of the bandits in the Brisban Wildlands (encamped so cozily in a fortress guarding an exit deeper into the wilderness), and more stuff with the sylvari (the racial prejudice after the disaster being a nice echo to the real world, I thought.)

And well, we’ll see where and how things develop from there.

I trust that ArenaNet has learned some lessons about pacing out the story from the first season, and I am generally content to see where the story takes us.

Other people whine bitterly that they want a new expansion. I sit around thinking that what they want is really a new class, a new race, a new (permanent) zone or maybe a new (persistent) story. All of those can be requested without having to have an expansion.

I dunno, maybe it’s my City of Heroes non-World of Warcraft background showing again. We got regular Issues and updates that gave us new and interesting things, whereas the expansions CoH had never seemed to do much except split the playerbase further across many zones (albeit the new archetypes and new stories were fun) and WoW expansions to me just mean an ever-increasing max level and gear tiers that everyone races to, invalidating all old content in the process.

And here we come to the crux of why I feel it’s pointless trying to turn these things into a conversation point:

All these MMOs are different games.

Different people prefer different things.

We choose MMOs that give us these different things. If people like how WoW does things, they probably have already gone back to WoW. (Or ought to, instead of trying to make all other games resemble WoW.)

It’s been 1.5 years. To me, Guild Wars 2 has already matured. I find very little need for hype or insecurity concerning how the game plays.

I don’t think we have “a large shard of sandbox in a themepark.

For better or worse, what we have is a mutable themepark (with a veneer of sandbox in the leveling game and in the lateral progression options – which I like, mind you) that is determined to change with the passage of time.

And I’m okay with that.

I like that, actually.

I’m happy with enough freedom of choice that I don’t feel obliged to spend every logged-in hour working towards the next tier of gear, or having giant signposts telling me “HERE IS WHERE YOU GO NEXT, everything else is NOT YOUR LEVEL and NOT WORTH YOUR TIME.”

I don’t want to be playing a holy trinity game where my role boils down to TANK THIS NOW TAUNT TAUNT TAUNT -or- HEAL YOUR LIL TITTIES OUT -or- MOAR DPS. If you failed, it very well could be your stats and gear not being up to the challenge, GO GRIND MOAR to get exponentially better at the game.

I’m okay with MOAR DPS, MOAR BUFFS, DODGE YOU FOOL, MOVE CORRECTLY and even occasionally, OH MY GOD I HAVE TO ACTUALLY THINK AND READ / SWITCH MY SKILLS and USE THE CORRECT ONES TO COUNTER THE ENCOUNTER. (Though more of the latter, in a solo setting, would be preferred. GW1 background showing…)

Where GW2 is concerned, I’m happy to not be in a complete sandbox where you have to make your own story, make your own bloody house from materials piece by piece, level your skills percentage point by decimal percentage point, and then lose it all when some bugger comes over the horizon and ganks you in FFA PvP.

There are other games for that.

(Some of ’em I like – A Tale in the Desert, Don’t Starve and Minecraft all come to mind, and others that I’m not so keen on – Wurm Online, Darkfall Online, Eve Online, fer instance.)

I am perfectly okay to log in and think, “Hmm, what do I feel like doing today?”

Ok, today I’ll do some dungeons – cue the LFG tool because I lack friends who get the urge for dungeoneering at the same time I get these odd whims.

Or today I’ll do a raid – log into TTS Teamspeak and see what they’re up to.

Or today I’ll WvW – see if my guilds are running anything / log into Tarnished Coast Mumble.

Or today I’ll be a hermit and wander some of my favorite mid or high-level zones solo, hunting every mob in sight and collecting every node because I find it incredibly appealing and fun to hit these little waypoints of achievement/collection/loot get/mini-dings.

Or today I’ll experience the next part of the Living Story, or work on the accompanying achievements. Or today I’ll craft. Or play the TP in a misguided attempt to get rich.

Or today I really have to clean up my inventory and bank because stuff is a colossal mess from all the above activities.

Or all of the above.

I don’t want to -have- to be climbing an endless ladder to feel better than everyone else around me, or feel stuck on a treadmill running in place going nowhere.

Attending a carnival or an amusement park – visiting all the booths and rides at least once and then repeating my favorite mini-games (real world sidetrek: did anyone else like Skee Ball as much as I did in my youth? I’d do a pirate ship ride once, and then use up my entire stack of arcade coins hurling a tiny ball at some targets with points inscribed on ’em) until I’m done for the day or the carnival’s gone – is okay by me.

There’ll be a new carnival or another trip to the amusement park in two weeks.

If you don’t like carnivals, the WoW gym where you can compare your pectorals and how much weight you can bench is over that way.

This World Ain’t Big Enough for the ____ of Us!

Over at Healing The Masses, J3w3l (or Eri, as I’m going to use from now on because it’s a lot easier to type!) has been singing the praises of multiplayer Terraria and what this may imply for sandbox MMO worlds, such as EQNext Landmark.

I’m here to give you the other perspective and the potential pitfalls, in a semi-serious, semi-tongue-in-cheek fashion.

Insufficient Lebensraum / Resources

Of all the things that could plague a sandbox MMO, I worry about this one the most.

The first pioneers get the best locations.

In A Tale in the Desert, areas near the chariot stops for convenient travel later get taken up very quickly. In fact, the crowd is so great that veterans tend to stay a little further away because they know they won’t have space to expand later when all the beginners are off squeezing in their little buildings near each other to form a sort of ghetto.

In my brief time with Wurm Online, anything near the spawn point was over-worked to the point of ludicrousness from the horde of new players zoning in, and I walked for miles and miles finding settlements all over (many seemingly abandoned) and I wouldn’t even dream about peak waterfront property along the coast. This was, of course, on the free server so overpopulation woes would be expected.

Over in Terraria, as the first players, Eri and her friend Grish have taken up the spot that most people in single-player games will build on. On the surface right near the spawn location. (The game’s design encourages this as the guide needs to be housed in a building, and between hostile mobs and his pathfinding AI… let’s just say we want a roof over his head pretty quick.)

They built themselves a massively grand castle.

bigasscastle

(And it just underwent a recent renovation to make it even grander. It’s lovely to behold.)

Now, being that I’m a guest and don’t want to be rude, it makes little sense to try and settle in the same space they’re using. So I looked around, found some real estate near them but off to the west a little and decided to go mostly underground.

If you’re a new settler coming by to the server at this time, your only other option nearby at this point is probably a base in the sky overhead. (The east side is over-taken by corruption.)

Or you’ll have to move a little further off to the west – though you’ll have to contend with a small lake and our sky bridge highway in the vicinity.

I did find two fairly creative buildings – a treehouse and a small obsidian underground lair – in my explorations, but I’m not sure if they were made by the starting pair or natural spawns or by well-equipped visitors popping by.

As for resources, well, suffice to say that you’ll be picking up after our leavings.

I had to do a much deeper and expansive exploration to find copper and lead (iron equivalent) as I’d started a new character. Fortunately, I like exploring and the other two seem more in favor of long highways and tunnels, so I managed to sneak into a niche of going around all the naturally formed caves, breaking vases and grabbing the abandoned ore that the two were no longer interested in after a while via progression.

For anyone coming in now, my suggestion would be to travel along the well-lit areas and venture further out. Just like the other two, I’ve now stopped digging out every last copper and lead ore I see, I only stop for gold and higher.

Chests with equipment in them? Haha. I didn’t see any for a while, until I started venturing into the unexplored caverns.

Luckily, like a number of players, underwater does not seem to be a hit with the two.

I wandered over to the East Ocean, struggled with trying to learn the new changes to the biome, made a makeshift survival elevator down into the water to get easier access to the bottom without drowning by being too gung-ho, and discovered it doubled up rather nicely as a shark trap. Rampant OCD farming for a while yielded a Diving Helmet and Jellyfish Necklace. (Fortunately, mob spawned resources are forever.)

Eventually, I made it over to the West Ocean to find that there were still two water chests left there – one with a Breathing Reed and one with Flippers inside! So now I have Diving Gear. New niche: Underwater Warrior Extraordinaire.

If you’re looking for those items, you’re now outta luck when it comes to the oceans. Maybe you’ll find a water chest randomly while digging underground.

As for the dungeon, I’m sure a good part of it has been picked over, as I dared (screamingly underleveled) into the place with them for a time until I got insta-gibbed.

World Progresses At Speed of Fastest Player

Which brings me right to my next point. Both of them had 400hp and were decked out in many shiny objects. I was waffling at around 140hp and had lead items then.

Out of pure screaming survival, I rapidly revised my goals (which were originally to explore and progress up the tiers and slowly read the wiki to catch up on changes) and did not protest when they found Muramasa in a chest and chucked it at me, because OMG, a sword that can kill things in here! (A nice sword at that.)

After which, it was an easy slippery slope to accepting the extra life crystals that were thrown at me, then picking over what seemed to be the ‘donation room’ chests to grab a better pickaxe, the first hit of demonite ore, and spare shadow armor, which immediately catapulted me several tiers ahead and expanded my exploration range much more rapidly.

donationroom

If you’re coming in now, help yourself to the stuff in the chests here. We three have been overloading it with things. I now keep finding life crystals, which I no longer need!

Last night, I got another free upgrade courtesy of Grish, who threw Palladium stuff at me. (Palladium, what the hell is palladium? Some wiki-ing later revealed it to be hardmode stuff, apparently.)

That promptly extended my range downward and I ventured into Hell to find it pretty darned survivable, as long as one didn’t try to take a bath in lava. So now I’m amusing myself collecting hellstone… for fun, I guess.

hellforgesgensandmore

It’s not like we have a shortage of hellforges here.

(Also in the background, two obsidian generators that off the scale for anything I would ever make, and a large sign pointing out the west highway.)

This is something a lot of sandbox MMO players are going to have to come to terms with. There is very little point reinventing the wheel.

In A Tale in the Desert, the first pioneers suffer through some exceedingly tedious grind with primitive technology, and proceed to unlock much better technology for all players to come.

The bottlenecks that are designed in place can be quickly overcome by making use of communal public resources, or becoming friends with a veteran player, who will usually not mind chucking resources like leather, papyrus seeds, better flax seeds to get a new player coming in late to the Telling started with a much easier time.

If you try to solo it all, you’ll probably drop out after a month or two, tops.

Obnoxious people will now proceed to throw the ‘this is a -multiplayer- game, after all’ line in your face.

As a solo-preferring player, I’d just say that one needs to be open to social interaction and opportunities that arise and adjust your niche accordingly, and use the presence of other players and communal resources as desired to get over humps that are designed into the experience.

You’re never going to come in cold and be just as good as the vet player who’s played since Day 1. Be patient with yourself, adjust your expectations, work your way through the wiki in sections, learning one aspect of the game at a time.

I started one Telling as a complete noob, and ended up sharing the resources of a nice guild that befriended a newbie. With that experience, I began another Telling solo and worked my way through that, learning additional aspects of the game. Which made the Telling after that a very easy powergamer start – I was now an intermediate-level player and probably could claim some vet-hood (but not as much as the players who had been around for all the time.)

Player Creativity May Affect Experience

Back in Terraria, I have to confess that I would never build the structures I’m seeing the pair create. They’re of a scale that is quite beyond me.

I tend to just build ugly functional rectangles.

undergroundfarmexperiment

(Underground farm experiment in perpetual state of under construction)

In a single-player game of Terraria once, the most creative thing I probably did was to balance my wood tower on top of a single door. Because the idea struck me on a whim and looked highly amusing.

In Minecraft, if I manage to make a two or three floor rectangular cottage with corresponding mine shafts and a rail line highway, that’s already a big accomplishment for me. I tend to just tunnel into a stone wall and set up operations there. Decorative architecture? Large bases? Expansive castles? Not at all likely to happen.

In a multiplayer world, -I- benefit from seeing the structures other players create. They’re a lot more beautiful than I would be able to make, I get to wander and explore and get creative inspirational ideas that I would never have come up with on my own.

Other players, however, would have to contend with my corresponding lower aesthetic sense impacting on their designs.

Differing Player Goals

Which brings us to how player goals may end up clashing in a sandbox MMO and lead to either compromises or drama.

Eri’s friend, Grish, is a veteran Terraria player. He runs around being very familiar with everything, and his goal appears to be to finally beat the hardmode bosses with the benefit of extra hands in multiplayer. Progress is dizzyingly rapid as a result. Goals clash: I compromise by inwardly shrugging and saying thank you whenever the next set of equipment I don’t even recognize is thrown at me. I can always learn at my own pace in a single-player world another time.

Eri seems to be a big decorator. The castle is her baby. A very lovely looking place it is too. Her appreciation of aesthetics is evident. Also, expansive highways tunnels for convenience. She’s taming the wilderness one straight line at a time. Goals clash: I’m just guessing, but she probably winces every time she walks past the eyesore that is my permanently-under-construction no-time-for-decorating-yet base, or the many torches I dot around the place because I’m blind as a bat and prefer all the places I go to be clearly lit up. 🙂

needmoarlight

The problem with turtles is that they can’t see worth beans.

In this case, I’m a guest. I just try not to be too annoying and go with the flow of whatever the plan seems to be.

In a sandbox MMO, what this has a tendency to promote is each person (or group of players) spreading out far enough away from another to develop their own homestead the way they like it and do their best to live and let live. Until some idiot builds too close to them – whereupon the drama starts.

Take home message: Remember plenty of lebensraum. If you’re a designer, try to make the world large enough for many players to settle in with sufficient resources not to end up fighting over them (unless that’s what you want players to do.)

Property and land ownership and access rights are going to be very important to get right, including what players are able to do with aesthetic eyesores (especially those that are abandoned.) In A Tale in the Desert, the player-arrived solution is to allow other players to remove them after a certain number of days have passed if the owner has quit the game. In Wurm Online, they appear to be left to rot slowly, I’m not sure. In Terraria, anyone can modify anything apparently, which involves a fair amount of trust and compromise.

If you’re a player, try to settle sufficiently far from other players if at all possible. One potential problem, of course, is that one’s idea of ‘sufficiently far’ is never really accurate when one is new to a game. The room needed for expansion can always end up surprisingly large.

And finally, let us not forget the griefers.

I am sure there are worlds in Terraria where friendships have been broken because some guy’s idea of fun is to go around being destructive and troll-y. Even while not trying to, we run into opportunities for potential problems.

In the earlier days of starting out, I had a bad habit of finding uneven holes to fall into, or wooden platforms that weren’t level and thus inadvertently cause a precipitous encounter with gravity and the ground. It’s not hard to extrapolate to intentional pitfall traps from there.

endoftheline

There’s always the risk that each others’ aesthetic designs overwrite or annoy one’s fellow players, and from there, it’s an easy step to intentionally trying to be offensive via trying to destroy another player’s creations or create an ugly eyesore.

In Terraria (and presumably Minecraft), the host can always boot with extreme prejudice someone being a pain.

In an MMO, rules are going to have to be built into the design as to how players can end up affecting each other, and what recourse players have if they feel someone is griefing or harassing them. Be it griefing them back or killing them (a la Eve Online and other FFA PvP MMOs of that ilk), or clear and strong land claim and property ownership rights, or being able to vote out a non-cooperating player, or having a few people with the power of enforcement and authority to turn to, etc. And when the final stage of taking it to the GMs is appropriate.

Emergent Properties and the Right Attitude

After all that, you may ask, why would anyone bother playing a sandbox in multiplayer?

I’d suggest that one should play it for what you can’t get in a singleplayer game. The opportunity for emergence that arises between player interactions and the opportunity to be social..

You can get emergence from NPCs in a single player sandbox, and you can talk to them if you want to, but they’re unlikely to return meaningful conversation 🙂

When two self-interested parties interact, one has the opportunity to choose cooperative, selfish, altruistic or indifferent behaviors.

Depending on one’s viewpoint and goals, this can lead to welcome or unwelcome results. (Someone acting in altruistic fashion may not always be welcome by someone wanting to be left alone. Someone being indifferent can be taken as a massive affront by someone with the expectation of more friendly behavior. It’s not always easy to cooperate at a skill level that matches the other and having a shared goal is often a prerequisite. Selfish behavior can benefit oneself at the expense of others, which may be the primary goal of the individual in question.)

I think it’s important to have the right attitude and expectations that all this can and will happen at different times, between different players when one plays a multiplayer sandbox, so that one isn’t surprised or disappointed when it does. It’s never paradise or utopia. It’s humans, and they bring with them heaven, hell and ordinary earth wherever they go.

notquiteheaven

If this is heaven, there are many holes in it now.

(Aka the effect of player depredation on a limited resource. Most of the building was gone by the time I arrived. I took apart a few more bricks to find out what they were. And added the tunnel to hide from harpies and collect both cloud and rain blocks. I also mined out the gold. Still silver left!)

The actions of one may also randomly impact on the landscape and others around them, which leads to unpredictable occurrences.

One can look upon them as problems / crises or opportunities to take advantage of or tell stories or laugh about.

The recent castle renovations in Terraria have necessitated a moving of the combat arena over to the west. Right on top of my house, in fact, which has now been dubbed ‘the hobbit hole.’

arena

Did I mention that I would never build something so expansive on my own? They took the opportunity to enlarge and prettify it, which is very awesome because I get to use it without expending any effort at all.

It is also really conveniently nearby. I am a very lazy person and hate walking, so all amenities close by is great. I’m big on functionality.

In the process, a water tank/reservoir was set up on top of it to create a waterfall effect. Except… there was a leak.

I was fairly deep underground digging out my glowing mushroom farm at the time, when I saw water cascade into the tunnel just a few blocks away from the farm. (Thankfully, it wasn’t connected.)

Mildly amused and relieved at the close call, I call out: Hey, there’s a leak.

Oops, comes the reply. Will fix it.

Turns out one side was a block shorter than the other.

Chuckling to myself that this exchange was something that wouldn’t happen if not in multiplayer, I finish the farm and in truly lazy fashion, use my magic mirror to port back home, barely one screen away…

Whereupon I discover that I am effectively ‘snowed in.’

frontdoor2

It’s around this point where I just crack up and die laughing because the juxtaposition of the turtle looking at his front door with that expression is priceless.

The back door was also ankle-deep in water, so opening either door would not have been the wisest maneuver. (I did, of course, eventually open the back and have to bail out some water. They came in handy for watering waterleafs later, Silver lining, laziness to walk and all that.)

This would so not totally happen when playing alone.

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!)

ATITD: Next Goal, Four “Easy” Levels

Since Tale 3, A Tale in the Desert also sports a leveling system. Apparently the structure and guided objectives lent a sense of progress and retained players for far longer than they stuck around for a level-less system, so that was that, one more deathblow to a no-levels paradise some people may dream of.

One of the disadvantages of levels is also present in ATITD. You have to earn enough levels to “unlock” certain things (skills, machinery or activities) that you may want to use.

While there’s the social alternative as a s solution for some of it (there have been a few itinerant blacksmiths wandering around as level 0 peasants, they simply borrow/use someone else’s already constructed anvil and tools – which they would not be able to build), ultimately, it’s not terribly practical.

The good news is that though there are 70 maximum levels, past level 42, there is no more in-game significance (skills or technology or tests unlocked) to them. It’s sort of like Guild Wars’ Hall of Monuments – you can reach 50 points, but only 30 give you only any tangible benefit besides a cool title.

Furthermore, when you check the levels and skills pages of the wiki, levels which give any real practical benefit are the lower levels and top off around 29-32. At level 29, is the last level of Cooking (assuming you had any interest in that activity) and at level 32, Detonation, a technology which uses explosives to make gravel quickly in a detonation pit – but one can always make gravel without the risk of blowing oneself up by hitting stones with a sledgehammer.

Further extra stuff is nice to have, but not mission critical. (In Tale 4, I targeted level 28 for Silkworm Farming, but I note in Tale 5 and Tale 6, they have cut the requirement down to level 19, even easier to achieve.)

In a way, this is also good, because higher levels are also exponentially harder to achieve in ATITD. I believe only one person has ever reached the maximum level before a Telling ended.

Levels are gained as follows:

  • 1 for Citizenship
  • 1 for each of the seven Principles of the disciplines. (7)
  • 1 for each Test principle (49)
  • 1 for each Title prefix change (7) (Student of… through Oracle of…). Note that this does not mean one level per test passed.
  • 1 for each extra Oracleship you receive (6)

That’s essentially from easiest to hardest. Citizenship is the ATITD tutorial, basically. The first seven initiations (or principles of the disciplines – Architecture, Art & Music, Body, Harmony, Leadership, Thought and Worship) start out easy and get a little bit trickier.

Test Principles range in difficulty, but are the primary way to get levels. Doing Principles simply mean fulfilling a list of tasks that introduce you to the Test, and are usually a partial demonstration of what the Test is about. This qualifies you for a level.

For more challenged-inclined folks, they can aim to pass the Test itself. This usually involves significantly more effort, competition with others, and possibly long-term time investment. If they do pass the Test, and if the Test gives them a change of prefix title, then they get a level. If not, they just get the prestige and satisfaction of having passed it.

Title prefixes are changed by passing 1-7 Tests in a particular discipline. Passing all seven in one discipline means you become an Oracle of that discipline. Naturally, not easy.

And if you have an extra Oracleship, comes the final bonus levels. (I don’t even want to consider how much effort that would be.)

Fortunately, I have much lower aspirations. I will quite happily settle for around the lvl 29-32 mark eventually. Since I took a couple months off, my characters were lvl 16 and 18 respectively, and that’s still slightly too low to unlock several skills and techs and tests and I want.

Amidst the horde of panels indicating “yet-to-do” Principles, each of which is worth one level if I can conceivably complete them (and some are distinctly not easy to), I noted a few that were.

The Thought Principles of the Venery, the Pathmaker, and the Bijou (whose principles I had yet to get from the University in the screenshot below), along with the Harmony Principle of Reason.

The Discipline of Thought is all about minigame puzzles. Minigame puzzles that involve Thought (naturally) and that are player-created, player-solved and rated.

Like all good sandboxes, ATITD offers a number of different ways to get the same principle done. After all, what is the point of shoddy puzzles built by people who just want the level, and aren’t interested in making a good puzzle to pass the Test with?

So you can:

1) Build the puzzle, following the suggested principles list

and then a) Have 7 people do the puzzle and judge it, ie. give it a rating

or b) If you cannot wait or attract 7 people to have any interest in it, you could also tear it down

Naturally, tearing it down wastes the materials, and means you cannot pass the Test since you don’t have a puzzle any more, but if you’re looking for just the level off the Principles, it is an option – essentially “spending” or “paying” the materials cost without the aggravation of waiting for people’s judgments.

Or you can 2) Play and solve 3 recent winning puzzles.

These are Test passing puzzles that win weekly based on the best aggregated player rating. These are guaranteed to be at least somewhat good or hard puzzles, representative of what Egypt thinks is a “good” puzzle for that particular Test.

That second option is what I’m aiming for.

Because spending the time and materials to build these things is not particularly what I want to do, nor do I have present plans to pass any Thought Tests (I would have to build them later if I did). Take the Venery as an example:

That’s:

for the minimum size Venery with 7 lockboxes. Not as bad as a Raeli Oven, but still, quite a lot of gems to cut, and costly when you consider I’ll have to do it twice for my two characters. I’ll do it for a Test pass, but not for a level. And a level is what we’re aiming for here.

So a quick check of the ATITD System log for the last 28 days or so of Test Passes, a quick ctrl+F “Find” of the keywords Venery, Pathmaker and Bijou, and I had my target locations to trek to for the most recent winning puzzles.