Pre-Thanksgiving Roundup: ATITD Genius, Speed, WoW Memories & LFR Drinking

It’s quiet on the blogosphere today, presumably as all you strange people who roast turkeys in November head to the family home. But with WoW’s 8th anniversary just passed, we’ve got a great retrospective. Zubon’s – plus there’s always, always LFR…

  • Aldous the Boozekin has resurfaced, and he’s giving us tips on how to do what he does best – drink. Yep, it’s the LFR Drinking Game 5.0!“You’re zoned in, waiting for the group to fill up, and you have zero healers in the group – drink once for every minute that you’re waiting”
  • Zinn gets nostalgic, giving us a great rundown of his top 5 moments in World of Warcraft“Eventually I would get to know every nook and cranny of this game better than the back of my hand and having to cross long distances now annoys me more than it fills me with wonder, but I can still find places in WoW where I just stroll around and take in the scenery and simple grandness of it all.”
  • Zubon looks at a particularly genius-driven piece of MMO design – the complex social challenge that is A Tale In The Desert’s Test of the Obilisk“Really, I can pass the Test for just 8 cubits? Up goes the obelisk! Oh, you built yours 6 days and 18 hours ago? Sorry about that/sucks to be you. “
  • And Stubborn leads us into the Thanksgiving weekend with a look at how pacing, and gameplay speed, present MMO designers with unique challenges“Overall, a lot of the slower paced activities are actively looked down on by fast-paced players. They equate pacing with skill, when in fact different skills are utilized by different pacings; more visceral skills, like reflexes and accuracy (aim or rotation accuracy), are often more fast-paced skills, whereas tactical strategy is often a slower-paced skill.”

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend – or just a regular weekend!

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Groupthink, Houses and Baby Fat

And finally, at the end of a hell of a week for quality commentary and analysis in the blogosphere, here’s some more great writing and thought for the weekend:

  • Jeromai writes a great, angry post on smug maltreatment of new players in MMOs, particularly focussing on A Tale In The Desert and Glitch“I keep thinking of the Edmund Burke attribution. Paraphrasing, “The only thing necessary for evil to prevail (or triumph, depending on which quote website you ask) is for good men to do nothing.” Should I have spoken up and said something? Was I guilty of passive evil, of allowing something that I thought wrong (the rampant bullying), to continue unchallenged?”
  • Entombed presents a … not entirely serious guide to choosing your Guild Wars 2 profession“You like to envelop yourself in blue flame branding about a greatsword, yelling about encouraging your allies, while actually doing nothing. If something goes wrong, blame it on the warrior for doing no damage. If that doesn’t sound immediately boring, than the guardian may be right for you.”
  • And Ravious is in term-coining mode as he calls high subscriber numbers at an MMO’s launch their “baby fat”“The problem, I feel, has been one of an obese launch followed by a much leaner steady cycle. MMOs are now born with baby fat that will definitely go away. Many bloggers seem to be unaware of this and simply compare launch population to current population in order to announce “fail”.”

I’m away next week, so Johnnie will be presiding over the Pot – although we’ve also got the odd guest post coming. Should be a good week, and I’ll see you all in a week’s time for Absolute MMO Mayhem as Diablo 3 and WoW patches go head-to-head with Guild Wars 2. Looking forward to it.

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Do You Ever Feel You’re Spending Too Much Time Maintaining Your Virtual Life?

Have you ever felt that a sandbox MMO was just too real?

I know I have. Indeed, that’s basically the reason that I quit A Tale In The Desert, one of my favourite MMOs, but one that simply demands too hardcore a gaming lifestyle for me. So today, I was particularly interested to see I’m not the only person who has had this problem.

The Noob Raider outlines the reasons why he is quitting Wurm Online, a game he loves, in a really interesting post that sheds an interesting light on “frontier / crafting” MMOs –

“I should not be worrying about a computer game on my anniversary! I also turned 40 last year and have been experiencing all sorts of “omg what am I doing with my life?” type thoughts since. Then at some point yesterday whilst panicking about being 40, it dawned on me that I had less than 4 months to go before the next birthday! Where on earth has the last 8 months gone?

I have a history of game addiction and it can become fairly all-consuming but I thought I had it under control. Well I kinda did until I started playing Wurm. You see the problem with Wurm, online just about any other game, is that it requires daily maintenance for many things and it just so happens that the aspects that I most love about Wurm are those things that need the most looking after – animals, farming, cooking. If I don’t login for even a day, the animals run out of food, stomp the grass, crops that have been growing for days turn to weed, food rots in their barrels and everything just starts to decay.

Now if I could login for maybe 20 minutes and keep things ticking over then maybe it wouldn’t be a problem but it doesn’t quite work like that. When I login there is such a strong pull to do all the daily ‘chores’ such as tending to the farms, grooming the animals and so on that each session tends to be at least an hour. ”

TNR details a problem that I’m sure more than a few of us have had. In their quest for immersion, sandbox MMOs in particular tend toward the “maintenance problem”. In ATITD, the daily chores of feeding camels and sheep and maintaining my homestead started to become a serious problem when I had to travel for work. But I’ve equally seen these issues in WoW – notably in the great “Valor Point capping” debate of last year.

Have you found that an MMO’s maintainance was simply too much? And how did you deal with it?

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Why Reeds Are Darned Interesting

Be warned: this post might make you want to play another MMO.

Crafting is an eternally popular part of MMORPG play, but for nearly every MMO, it’s a subgame at best – somewhere between a trivial clickfest and a not-terribly-complicated minigame. From time to time, people call for an MMO dedicated to crafting – no combat, no raiding, just Making Things. But could crafting on its own ever be fun? And how would a game like that work?

Well, fortunately, there’s an answer out there already, and it’s A Tale In The Desert (ATITD).

Longtime readers will know I have a soft spot for ATITD – although I don’t have time to play it properly these days, the months I spent playing the unique game of building, advancing and developing in Ancient Egypt were some of the most memorable I’ve had in any MMO. And its tremendously complex, detailed, fascinating crafting mechanics were part of the reason for that (alongside the subtly competitive trading, barter and cooperation of the social game).

Today, Jeromai at Why I Game offers a superbly detailed insight into a completely alternate reality of MMO gaming for most of us, as he delves into the world of Papyrus farming to bring non-ATITD players a glimpse into just what makes ATITD so compelling

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.”

This is a long read, to be sure. And you may be unsure that reeds are worth the effort.

But if you’re interested in game mechanics, in alternate gameplay styles, and in learning more about a game that’s truly unlike anything else out there, I’d recommend giving it your time.

Have you played ATITD? What did you think?

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All Around The MMO World – Weekend Links

Loads of fun, useful and generally readable stuff from the blogosphere from this weekend! Whether you’re hanging on in Wurm, observing TERA in amusement, or could really use a laugh after an awful LFR run, we’ve got something for you:

  • Tobold considers the current “guild size” discussion from a game design point of view“There are other ways, for example in games like A Tale in the Desert. Not only can you be in several guilds in that game, but also everybody can contribute in his own way to the guild’s projects. If the guild needs a huge amount of bricks for a project, for example, everybody can contribute at his own pace.”
  • Avatars of Steel provides some quick tips for Wurmians still avoiding the game’s forums for virus reasons
  • Rohan at Blessing of Kings observes some strange behaviour in TERA, as players proceed to mostly ignore the ingame LFG tool“Because queues are instant, the choice as a Lancer is very binary. You either run the dungeon or you go questing. But maybe after doing a few quests, you’re sort of wavering between continuing questing or going for an instance. Seeing a request for a tank can tip you over to one side, and might even allow you to feel altruistic for helping out an existing group.”
  • And Bravetank offers some more cheering alternative definitions for popular LFG and LFR terminology“In ancient times huntards were esteemed for their wisdom, strategic minds and military prowess. Only the truly gifted could ever hope to reach such heights. If you are called a huntard then you are playing your hunter class flawlessly. Do not be surprised if some people leave the group after calling you this – it is simply that they do not feel deserving enough to be in your company. Forgive them.”

Enjoyed those posts? Please consider sharing them!

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Logitech G110 Review – great gaming keyboard?

It’s hard to get truly excited about keyboards, when the world is full of things like iPads and 3D cinema and Felicia Day. That hasn’t deterred Logitech, though, who have pulled out all the stops to design a keyboard that’s actually worth getting excited about. If standard keyboards are vendor trash, the G110 Gaming Keyboard is pure purple and bind-on-pickup.

The idea – as with Logitech’s other gaming keyboards – is to provide a keyboard which does far more than simply enable you to type “lols nub l2p” into party chat. The G110 has a whole host of other features, all firmly designed with gamers in mind.

The keyboard itself is adequate, if not spectacular. The keys are nicely weighted without feeling heavy and cumbersome, and the boards sits well under the palms. The available tilt angle is minimal, but the keyboard does come with a detachable wrist-rest which snaps snugly onto the bottom of the board for those of us who are a bit lazy with our typing postures. For a keyboard which boasts so many features, the G110 is admirably compact, measuring just 50cm wide by 19cm deep ( 23cm with the wrist-rest attached).

The G110 keyboard

The flagship feature of the G110 is the bank of additional keys to the left of the main keyboard. There are twelve keys, positioned in three blocks of four keys each, but Logitech’s clever use of custom modifier keys and profiles allows for far more than just twelve additional buttons. Three small modifier buttons sit just above the bank of custom keys, allowing the user to change to a different set of keybindings with a single press. Software supplied with the board enables each key to perform a variety of functions, some of which are admirably specific. A key can be configured to mimic a standard keypress, of course, but can just as easily mimic a complex key combination. Sick of having to break your fingers trying to press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+J to trigger that once-in-a-blue-moon ability? Just set that combination as the action for one of the custom keys, and your poor phalanges will be safe from harm. Even better, the custom keys can trigger a sequence of keypresses, rendering a regular sequence of key presses down to a single tap. I set one of the custom keys to type “/afk” – a simple shortcut, but one which saved a lot of time.

For extra credit, the G110 will even allow keypress sequences to be recorded with specific lengths of time between each keypress. That’s potentially dangerous levels of automation for some of the more dictatorial MMOs – using automation like this could theoretically get you banned in WoW – but for something like A Tale In The Desert (where automation macros are actually encouraged) it’s a killer feature.

The software will automatically detect installations of many popular games – on our test machine both World Of Warcraft and Dungeons & Dragons Online were detected – and will create profiles for each one. This allows you to switch the entire set of keybindings and macros contextually, depending on the game. You can create additional profiles, of course, for whatever purpose you like. Many of the popular games are additionally supported with direct keybindings to popular actions – the World Of Warcraft profile, for example, allows you to assign the action “send my pet into defensive mode” to a custom key. The keyboard will then interface directly and issue that command. No need for keybindings or macros – the keyboard software takes care of it all.

If that’s not enough to impress your friends, the keyboard also provides a bit of eye-candy in the form of the backlighting on each key. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but it’s not actually eye-bleedingly ostentatious – and if, like us, you tend to do your gaming in a gloomy room late at night it does actually help to easily identify the keys. Yes, you can pick the colour.

The keyboard provides a handful of USB ports, and also contains an entire in-built USB-audio card. That means you can attach a microphone headset directly to the keyboard. It’s a nice touch, especially when combined with the separate mute button to affect only the headset audio.

At the right-hand side of the keyboard is a standard set of media control and playback buttons, including one of my favourite little touches: the volume control. Rather than the usual “+” and “-” buttons, the volume is controlled by a scrollable wheel. It’s a much more natural way of controlling volume, and once you’ve tried it you won’t want to go back.

This is not a keyboard for a casual gamer, nor is it a keyboard for those who like instant results. In order to make the most of this board, you’re going to have to take the time to train yourself to use it properly. You’ll need to think about the optimum assignment of keybindings for each game, and you’ll probably still find yourself using the same keybindings for your core abilities as you always have. Where this keyboard really excels is its extraordinary amount of customisation. You can tailor the G110 to do almost anything you need it to do. There are other gaming keyboards, some of which have more bells and whistles, and some of which have even more keys. If you’re looking for a workhorse gaming keyboard, though, which will improve your game and give you an astonishingly flexible setup, the G110 is a solid contender. While it’s not the cheapest of keyboards, it won’t bruise your pocket as much as some of its competitors, and the potential benefit is well worth the investment.

Buy the Logitech G110 Gaming Keyboard from Amazon.com ($64.99)

Buy the Logitech G110 Gaming Keyboard from Amazon.co.uk (£48.99)

Main Logitech site

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A Tale In The Desert TL:DR – Glassmaking

Welcome back for another A Tale In The Desert infostravaganza. Why, no, that wasn’t a word three minutes ago. Now it is.

I was originally intending to write a bit about the wonders of Cooking and how bloody complicated it is, but since starting that post, I’ve played with some other things in ATITD, and come across the Wikified horror that is… Glassmaking.

So, with no further ado, if you’ve been staring at the Wiki entry for Glassmaking and wondering if you need to buy some graph paper, here’s what you need to know.

Before I start – I will be referencing a LOT of things that you can look up in the Wiki. Rather than link them all – anything that’s capitalised below you can look up in the ATITD Wiki.

You’ll be making glass on a Glazier’s Bench, and your first job is, yes, to make some glass.

(This is Tale In The Desert. Pre-made glass is for the ATITD equivalent of carebears. We make our glass from sand, dammit!)

So. Glass. You’ll need Sand. Not too tricky.

You’ll also need Lime. That’s made from Limestone in a Firepit. And here we drop down one of ATITD’s rabbit holes. See, for the Firepit you’re going to need to build it, then you’re going to need to get your Carving to 1 to make Tinder, then you’re going to need 200 wood each time you want to use the Firepit (no more, no less) plus Tinder, plus some Flint to spark it, plus the Limestone you want to make into Lime. To get the Limestone, you’re going to need a Mallet and a Chisel, and to do it with any speed you’ll need a Heavy Mallet (for which you’ll need someone with Carving 3 for the handle, plus some lead and a Casting Box for the Handle) and a Lead Chisel (more Lead, plus a Forge, either Student’s or Master’s). Oh, and you’ll need to find some Limestone to dig up – ask in your region’s channel or check the Wiki.

You’ll need to check the Firepit page to get details on how much limestone makes how much lime. If you don’t want to spend time Stoking your pit (and I can’t be bothered with that) you’re looking at 13 Lime for 96 Limestone.

For the final ingredient, you need to consider what you eventually want to make. You’re either going to want Soda (which you get free with your Limestone – hurrah!) or Potash, depending on what you want to make – see the Glass Making page. (You might also want to make Jewel Glass, but that’s waaay more advanced than where I’ve gotten to).

Quick cheat – for Glass Rods, Blades and Pipes you want Soda Glass. For Sheet Glass, Glass Jars and Wine Bottles you want Normal Glass, which needs Potash.

Soda Glass? 1 Lime, 2 Soda, 10 Sand for one glass. Normal Glass? 1 Lime, 2 Potash, 10 Sand. Oh, and if you’re using a new Glazier’s Bench, you’ll need to budget for 20 more glass than you think you’ll need. Why? You’ll find out below.

(If you’re making Sheet Glass and you’ve not done it before, budget at least ANOTHER 20 glass on top of that).

Potash

I just mentioned it and moved on – that must mean it’s simple, right?

No.

TO make Potash, you need to:

Grow either Flax or Leeks – Flax is much more efficient.

Rot the flax, then dry it. You can only dry 10 at a time on a Drying Rack, so make lots of them.

Burn the dried flax in a Firepit – see above. You need 100 Flax to make 11 Ash, which is the product.

Take the Ash and make it into Potash by boiling it in a Kettle. You only need Jugs of Water and Wood here. However, it takes about 15 mins per kettle for 5, so you need either lots of kettles or lots of time.

And now you have potash!

Actually Making The Glass

Ok, you’ve got your glass ingredients, finally. (It’s no coincidence that everyone’s trading for Potash right now). It’s time to start the glassmaking.

Now, if you look at the Wiki section on glassmaking, it looks pretty frightening. There’s maths. There’s formulae. There’s coefficients.

Don’t worry. It’s actually pretty simple. Every glazier’s bench has two numbers attatched to it – the UP number, which is the total amount it’ll heat up after you add two pieces of charcoal (it’ll do that over time) and the DOWN number, which is the amount it’ll cool down every time “tick” after it’s stopped heating up.

Your job is to get the bench to the right temperature by balancing UP and DOWN. Too hot and your work fails, too cold and… your work fails.

Let’s get going. Job #1 is to figure out your up and down numbers. Get a piece of paper, then add 2 charcoal to your bench – don’t worry that it doesn’t have anything in it yet. Watch it like a hawk. Record the highest temperature it gets to, then record the NEXT temperature it gets to after that, and the one after that.

The highest temperature is your UP temperature. The DOWN temperature, by contrast, is the difference between that and the next temperature it hit. That should be the same as the difference between that temperature and the final one – in other words, it should have cooled down in even steps of the same drop.

Right, let’s get glassmaking.

First step is to melt your glass. Make sure you have enough materials for your glass near at hand – you may need to go fetch some sand.

Add 2 charcoal and wait for the heat to rise. Now add another two. Wait for it to rise again, and add another two. That’s 3 sets of charcoal so far. Add another two every time the temperature rises for the next two rises, meaning you should have put 10 charcoal into your bench. Now wait for it to get REALLY hot.

When the temperature’s above 3200 degrees, choose “Melt Materials” from the glazier’s bench menu. Repeat if you need to go get more sand, until you have enough glass in your bench to make what you need to make, plus 20 additional glass, which apparently the bench needs for, you know, some reason.

Making Stuff With The Glass

After all that, it’s time to actually Make Some Stuff. This, after all the faffery, is actually kinda easy, graphs and charts nonwithstanding.

If you’ve already got a hot bench, wait for it to cool below 2400 degrees. (If you’re starting from cold, do what you did to heat it up for melting glass, but only use 4 lots of charcoal).

When the temperature drops below 2400, click the button to start making whatever it is you want. Now, when the temperature drops below 2300 degrees, add 2 charcoal ONCE ONLY. Watch the temperature slowly rise. Wait for it to fall again. As soon as it starts falling again, add another 2 charcoal. Repeat.

The temperature will, on average, slowly drop off. If you’re only making a few things, that won’t be a problem. Otherwise, don’t start any products after the temperature drops below 1700. As soon as that happens (and you’re not currently making anything), add 2 charcoal, wait for the temperature to rise, then add another 2 charcoal. Now wait for the temperature to fall – it should spike above 2400 degrees again, so you’ll then have to wait for it to go below 2400, and start the process again.

That’s all there is to it! Unless you’re making Sheet Glass, that is. If you’re making Sheet Glass, you need to know that, much like making flint blades, there’s a Sheet Glass skill. Most of the time at first you’ll get nothing when you make sheet glass, because your character will break it. But persevere – after about 20-30 attempts, you should start making decent amounts of sheet glass.

Do you have any other glassmaking tips?

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TL:DR – A Tale In The Desert's Cooking Skill, Part 1

OK, so some time ago I promised a TLDR (which, in case you didn’t know, stands for “Too Long: Didn’t Read”) on Cooking as a subject in A Tale in the Desert.

Wow, that’s a big, big topic.

Cooking sounds attractive in Tale because it’s one of the few ways to raise your stats, and higher stats mitigate some of the limitations and frustrations in the game. Higher Strength means you can carry more weight, higher Dexterity means more bulk, higher Speed means you run faster, and so on. (As we’ll see next time, some of these stats are more effective than others, so caveat cook-or).

So what’ll you need to get started on cooking? Well, you’ll need the skill Cooking, you’ll need something to cook, and you’ll need something to cook it with or on.

The Skill Itself

To get Cooking, which you can get from any School of Worship, you need 100 each of Garlic, Cabbage, Onions, Leeks and Carrots. To grow those, you’re going to need seeds.

Now, if you visit a University of Worship (and have a paid account), you’ll get a random pack of 4 seeds for one of those vegetables. No problem, you might think, I’ll just multiply those seeds like I can multiply flax seeds, then trade for the other ones.

Not so fast. Multiplying seeds is fiendishly complex and so far at this point in Tale 5, no-one knows how to do it, or at least they’re not telling. From my experience, trading for seeds is likely to be a dead loss for anything other than other seeds, although that will probably depend on your region’s culture. So, how the hell do you get seeds?

You visit each and every University of Worship, and hope for the best. There are 7 regions in Egypt in Tale 5, and most of them are connected by chariot routes (see this handy page for lists of available chariot routes, all of which are now open). To use a chariot, you’ll need offline travel time, probably a few days’ worth of it. Alternatively, you could run, but that’ll take you the best part of a real-world day.

With any luck you’ll get enough seeds. You might not. In that case, trade 4 seeds of one type for 4 seeds of your missing type, and hope. This might take a while.

Vegetable Growing

Now you’ve got to grow your veg.

To do that, the most important thing you’ll need is water, and lots of it, which you gather in jugs. That means you’ll need, at minimum, about 20 jugs, which you create with clay using the Pottery skill on a Pottery Wheel. Getting all that lot together’s outside the scope of this guide (read the relevant entries on the Wiki), but one important point is that you’ll need leather and stones to create a pottery wheel. To get them, either ask if anyone will give you those things in trade chat (or trade for them, although my experience is that ATITD players are more likely to offer simple things as gifts than want to trade for low-level goods, and all this stuff counts as very low-level) or just use some public pottery wheels and kilms, or ones belonging to your guild. (Note: Being in a guild will REALLY help you as a new player, or indeed as any player – things like furnaces and mines, which you’ll need in a minute, are a real pig to build yourself). There’s a list of public buildings on the wiki and individual region pages like Sinai’s will often have details on buildings not on that list.

So, you’ve gotten clay, made jugs, fired jugs, made more jugs, and generally gotten sick of the word “jugs”? Great. Now it’s time to get sick of the word “vegetable”.

Growing vegetables is, in principle, easy. Plant ’em either in sand or grass (Onions, Leeks and Garlic like sand, the others like grass), then water them each once, and again whenever they grow in size. Make sure to plant them far enough away from each other that you can actually distinguish them when they get large, because the final stage of each plant is VERY large. Finally, they’ll grow large enough you can harvest them, and you’ll get your seed back, and … some vegetables.

How many depends on a number of factors. In general, a yield of above 6 is good, and the simplest way to get to 100 vegetables in that case is just to keep growing them. Occasionally, however, you’ll see very low yields (1 or 2), and at that point, you’ve got a choice.

You can keep growing them that way. Aargh. It’ll take forever, and growing vegetables requires you to stare at the screen constantly. Alternatively, you can try and trade another type of veg for the one you suck at growing. Or you could try and find a way to grow them better. Each vegetable has different conditions that it requires to flourish – again, check the Vegetables page of the wiki for hints on that, which will vary from “travel to the Magic Onion Patch” to “try growing carrots in 4 hours”.

Eventually, you’ll get your 100 vegetables and your cooking skill. And that’s where it gets even more complex.

TO BE CONTINUED SOON. In the meantime – build a Firepit BEFORE you build a kitchen, unless you have access to mutton and oysters already.

Any tips on growing vegetables or getting seeds, or *shudder* building up your pottery equipment solo?

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TL:DR – A Tale In The Desert’s Cooking Skill, Part 1

OK, so some time ago I promised a TLDR (which, in case you didn’t know, stands for “Too Long: Didn’t Read”) on Cooking as a subject in A Tale in the Desert.

Wow, that’s a big, big topic.

Cooking sounds attractive in Tale because it’s one of the few ways to raise your stats, and higher stats mitigate some of the limitations and frustrations in the game. Higher Strength means you can carry more weight, higher Dexterity means more bulk, higher Speed means you run faster, and so on. (As we’ll see next time, some of these stats are more effective than others, so caveat cook-or).

So what’ll you need to get started on cooking? Well, you’ll need the skill Cooking, you’ll need something to cook, and you’ll need something to cook it with or on.

The Skill Itself

To get Cooking, which you can get from any School of Worship, you need 100 each of Garlic, Cabbage, Onions, Leeks and Carrots. To grow those, you’re going to need seeds.

Now, if you visit a University of Worship (and have a paid account), you’ll get a random pack of 4 seeds for one of those vegetables. No problem, you might think, I’ll just multiply those seeds like I can multiply flax seeds, then trade for the other ones.

Not so fast. Multiplying seeds is fiendishly complex and so far at this point in Tale 5, no-one knows how to do it, or at least they’re not telling. From my experience, trading for seeds is likely to be a dead loss for anything other than other seeds, although that will probably depend on your region’s culture. So, how the hell do you get seeds?

You visit each and every University of Worship, and hope for the best. There are 7 regions in Egypt in Tale 5, and most of them are connected by chariot routes (see this handy page for lists of available chariot routes, all of which are now open). To use a chariot, you’ll need offline travel time, probably a few days’ worth of it. Alternatively, you could run, but that’ll take you the best part of a real-world day.

With any luck you’ll get enough seeds. You might not. In that case, trade 4 seeds of one type for 4 seeds of your missing type, and hope. This might take a while.

Vegetable Growing

Now you’ve got to grow your veg.

To do that, the most important thing you’ll need is water, and lots of it, which you gather in jugs. That means you’ll need, at minimum, about 20 jugs, which you create with clay using the Pottery skill on a Pottery Wheel. Getting all that lot together’s outside the scope of this guide (read the relevant entries on the Wiki), but one important point is that you’ll need leather and stones to create a pottery wheel. To get them, either ask if anyone will give you those things in trade chat (or trade for them, although my experience is that ATITD players are more likely to offer simple things as gifts than want to trade for low-level goods, and all this stuff counts as very low-level) or just use some public pottery wheels and kilms, or ones belonging to your guild. (Note: Being in a guild will REALLY help you as a new player, or indeed as any player – things like furnaces and mines, which you’ll need in a minute, are a real pig to build yourself). There’s a list of public buildings on the wiki and individual region pages like Sinai’s will often have details on buildings not on that list.

So, you’ve gotten clay, made jugs, fired jugs, made more jugs, and generally gotten sick of the word “jugs”? Great. Now it’s time to get sick of the word “vegetable”.

Growing vegetables is, in principle, easy. Plant ’em either in sand or grass (Onions, Leeks and Garlic like sand, the others like grass), then water them each once, and again whenever they grow in size. Make sure to plant them far enough away from each other that you can actually distinguish them when they get large, because the final stage of each plant is VERY large. Finally, they’ll grow large enough you can harvest them, and you’ll get your seed back, and … some vegetables.

How many depends on a number of factors. In general, a yield of above 6 is good, and the simplest way to get to 100 vegetables in that case is just to keep growing them. Occasionally, however, you’ll see very low yields (1 or 2), and at that point, you’ve got a choice.

You can keep growing them that way. Aargh. It’ll take forever, and growing vegetables requires you to stare at the screen constantly. Alternatively, you can try and trade another type of veg for the one you suck at growing. Or you could try and find a way to grow them better. Each vegetable has different conditions that it requires to flourish – again, check the Vegetables page of the wiki for hints on that, which will vary from “travel to the Magic Onion Patch” to “try growing carrots in 4 hours”.

Eventually, you’ll get your 100 vegetables and your cooking skill. And that’s where it gets even more complex.

TO BE CONTINUED SOON. In the meantime – build a Firepit BEFORE you build a kitchen, unless you have access to mutton and oysters already.

Any tips on growing vegetables or getting seeds, or *shudder* building up your pottery equipment solo?

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TL:DR : A Tale In The Desert: Bricks, grass, and other annoying things.

Rebecca and I have been playing A Tale In The Desert a fair bit recently, and enjoying the hell out of it – it’s incredibly deep and complicated, and there’s always something to learn. Unfortunately, that something often seems to be the tremendously complicated skill that you need to learn before completing the construction you just ground out 2000 bricks for, and now need Something You Can’t Get from Somewhere Bloody Miles Away.

(“Miles”, in ATITD terms, does not mean “one five-minute flight away”. We spent an hour and a half running to get to our local tarpit at one point.)

So, over the next few days we’ll feature a few quick guides to some of the things we’ve tried to build and tripped over the complexities of. (Hopefully this will also serve as a bit of an insight into Tale In The Desert for those who don’t play it yet).

Grass looks to be about the most annoying minigame ever. You need to click the “pick” icon, then step a couple of steps forward, then click the “pick” icon again, step forward… And you’ll need a few hundred grass most of the time.

There are a few tips that speed things up, however:

  • You get straw as a biproduct of processing rotten flax for a loom as well as by drying grass. Since you’ll need All Of Teh Twine In Teh World later on, this is a pretty valid alternate way to make straw.
  • You only need to pick a few hundred grass total before you can set your character to pick it offline. Once you can do that, you’ll basically never need to pick grass again, since one overnight stretch will net you 800 or so grass.
  • Gathering grass doesn’t stop you moving. So, click somewhere on the horizon across a load of grass, and then just click the grass icon whenever it comes up.
  • Alternatively, and in my opinion even quicker, you can simply hold down one of the arrow keys with the chat minimised, and you’ll walk in that direction. Now just stick your mouse over the place where the grass icon comes up, and click when it appears. With a bit of practise you can do this without even looking at the screen.
  • Annoyingly, there appear to be no good fully automated grass-growing macros, probably because it takes less time to get offline grass growing than it does to write the macro.

Bricks are a bit of a PITA to make too. The essential problems with bricks are that they’re very heavy, they require a mixture of ingredients, and they’re made in brick racks, which appear to be made from rotten balsa wood lightly dusted with sulfuric acid, and break into a thousand pieces any time you, another player, or a nearby sheep look at them funny.

  • The key to your brickbuilding process is your brickrack building process. Brick racks can break any time after they’ve been used 5 times – there’s a 1 in 6 chance for any use after the sixth that the’ll break. In my experience, it’s best to assume they’ll break after six uses, and make sure you’ve got enough boards in your inventory to create brickracks equal to your intended number of bricks over 36 (6 bricks per rack and 6 uses per rack). For simplicity, that’s your intended number of bricks divided by 9 in boards.
  • You should definitely use hotkeys for brick creation. Minimise chat, then hold down B and swipe your cursor over your brickracks to fill all the ones within range. Swipe with T to pick up dried bricks.
  • How many brick racks should you create at once? That’s definitely determined by how many you can reach – from experience, if your avatar stands in the middle of 20 racks, you can reach all of them without moving. Any more and you’ll have to move to fill them, which will really slow you down. 20 racks will let you create 120 bricks a time, which isn’t too bad – replace any broken brick racks as soon as you can.
  • My Top Protip Evar on brick production: Build a chest in your house. Half-fill that chest with brick supplies. Then create your brick racks within access distance of that chest. Drop bricks in when you finish them and take supplies out as you need to. IMO, this halves your production time.

Other Stuff that might be useful:

  • Boats look like they might be awesome. However, simple ferry boats can only cross very small rivers. Unless your region has learned how to make advanced ferries (ask in chat), it’s not worth the endless schlep to get tar.
  • If you build structures like distaffs outside, they’ll gradually degrade. Structure repair’s a bit of a pain to learn, so you’re apt to end up with broken buildings and wasted materials. Build ’em inside your house if at all possible.
  • Travel between regions is actually pretty quick and easy using a Chariot Stop. There’s a list of open routes available on the wiki. If you want to trade for more advanced or rarer materials, a quick bit of travel may be just the ticket.

So that’s it for now. Any tips we’ve missed for simple gathering? Tomorrow, either cooking or sheep. I haven’t decided.

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