Choose My Adventure: I've been digging on the homestead...

All the live long day! Sing it with me now...

There really is something to be said for creating your own world. How many of you gamers out there have just ached for a MMO game in which you could truly affect the world instead of rolling along on a predestined path that is the same for everyone? As I delve deeper into Xsyon, that is what I find -- a world where my actions have real meaning. A world where we can change not only the political and economic landscapes but the literal landscape.

For Choose My Adventure this week, you, the Massively readers, decided that I shall work on my architecture skills and place a homestead (thereby allowing me to terraform). This really highlights some of the most unique features of the game. Although I dove into these new tasks with gusto, I now know why olden-day manual laborers sang songs during their work -- there is serious need of brain stimulation during long, monotonous labor. And building a new world from the ground up is seriously a long and slow process. If nothing else, Xsyon is not a game for the instant-gratification crowd. Which is all the better, in my opinion.

For a deeper look at terraforming, crafting, and general life in the Tahoe Basin, build a bridge over the cut and check out where our adventures led this week.

Nomad is an island

Although the initial vote was to start in Secret Cove, I found that you don't really stay in one place long, especially if you don't have a home settled. In order to meet up with some readers, I ran around nine different zones. Did I mention that nothing about this game is quick? Just traveling between encampments took up the lion's share of my game time. About half-way through my journeys, I began traveling through the mountains to try to avoid meeting up with any hostiles. After all, I wasn't bound anywhere and did not want to end up on that isle in the middle of the lake. So I was very grateful for the chance to finally put down roots.

I had hoped that wherever I went would allow me to terraform, but I didn't mind which way the vote went otherwise. However, after seeing how detailed and precise some of these tribe cities are, I have to say I am grateful that I got to place a homestead; there is little room for random creativity and experimentation in many tribes, and I so wanted to experiment! In fact, one tribe I met on my journeys actually showed me a detailed architectural sketch of its encampment. It was impressive not only to see the plans but to watch the tribe's vision become a reality as many tribal members worked together to build the dream.

The second reason to really be grateful for settling down is that running around with no safe zone can lead to losing the shirt off your back -- literally. Currently, the only place where you are safe from being killed by other players is within the boundaries of your own tribal lands. I say "currently" because there is some speculation about whether or not safe zones will be removed after Prelude. I admit that I am unsure as to the answer, but I am in favor of maintaining them, as the game is self-described as a building game not a PvP-griefing game; to maintain a healthy balance of different playstyles, there needs to be some place people can take a breather. But that is a lengthy discussion for a whole other article.

A proper introduction

You can't say you have been properly introduced to an FFA PvP game if you haven't been killed, so I had my first true experience as a Xsyonist this week. It happened innocently enough: I was following along what appeared to be a man-made road (terraforming, so totally interesting, right?) and wandered atop a claimed junk pile. I took a moment to peek out of game to look at the world map that is offered on the site in order to get my bearings a bit. Apparently, I looked very threatening, because two folks jumped out and pummeled me to the dirt in a couple of seconds flat. Then they stripped me bare! Yes, you can be looted of everything, up to what your attacker's bag space and encumbrance allows. Fortunately, they were actually decent folks who thought they were defending their territory, so they gave my things back. Unfortunately, my second experience was not so forgiving. That certainly explains why I saw so many folks out in the wilds wearing nothing but their backpacks and a couple of pouches as they chopped trees and gathered.

The moral? Never, ever tab out of game anywhere but your own homestead. Death is very quick here. And if you do leave your homestead, you might be wise to leave your most treasured possessions home, safely tucked away in a basket.

Home on the range

I did it. As instructed, I placed a totem, marking my territory and netting a small safe zone. Hopefully, now I can keep my clothes! Having the homestead also allowed me a place to store things (storage is of vital importance in this game) so I could get started on some crafting and terraforming. To prepare, I began to gather in earnest. I soon saw why baskets are such a hot commodity -- they are needed for anything that can be placed in your pack. Luckily, raw resources that you gather can be piled in stacks of four on the ground (metal, plastic, leather, grass, etc.). This saves basket space, and you can sort them into usable materials when needed.

The first thing I did after placing my totem was to whip out my shovel (make sure it is in your right hand and that your left is empty, same for other tools you wield) and start digging. I dug holes, I filled holes, I smoothed the ground, and I made tall pillars. I reveled in making physical changes to the world around me, as small a patch as it was. Warning: Once you terraform, you have destroyed any resources that were on that patch of land before that. Ergo, terraforming your junk pile is a very bad idea! Unfortunately, getting a flat surface is not the easiest of tasks and takes quite a bit of practice and patience.

Speaking of changing the landscape, I should note that resources can also be depleted, as I found after gathering grass from one spot: Before long, the patch of ground was bare. Griefers are also making their presence known, some by running throughout the world chopping down the trees and apparently destroying the wood so no one can use it and others by digging inescapable holes in starter areas to catch new players and then killing them.

Crafting

As for crafting, the basic concept is pretty simple -- select your recipe, right click the tools and components in your pack to add into the crafting window, and click craft. The only "difficulty" comes when you're trying to hold all the different components for the different things you are making, as weight adds up fast. That is for crafting the other professions. Then there is architecture.

So far for architecture, there is nothing that you craft within your pack. Instead, architects only place structure projects (which appear as ghost outlines) out on the land. This makes sense, of course, seeing as whipping a large spiked log wall out of your backpack is pretty unrealistic. Not only that, but each piece of architecture takes significantly more materials than any player can carry in her pack due to encumbrance. By placing projects, tribes can share the building responsibility; anyone with permissions in the tribe can then add materials until the project is completed. Projects can also be finished over time. This is especially helpful when you have a small group -- or just yourself -- trying to haul logs or create bricks. The only actual crafting involved is for whoever is the lucky one who can click craft when all materials are added.

Although all the materials needed by architects to construct items come from the other professions, architects can access the other professions. Any player can make anything from any profession if she has enough skill and has the recipe, and any skill can be raised simply through using it. So if you wanted to change your skills from what you chose at character creation, you don't have to reroll -- simply practice the new skills. The only difference is that skills chosen at character creation start at 25 points, whereas all others start at 5.

It is very interesting -- and by interesting, I mean a moment of exhilaration followed by frustration -- to place walls and structures. Players have difficulty building on slopes, so the land has to be relatively smooth. Hello, terraforming! There is a work-around, however -- you just need to build on a flatter piece of land and then move the project. Here is where I hope Xsyon improves: The mechanic for moving your architecture projects is horrific. You only get a few choices following a specific predetermined axis (forward, back, side, and 90-degree angles only, no 45-degree angles), and the move feature auto-shuts after just one click! Rarely, you can eke out two to four clicks to move something, but for the most part, I had to click the project, click move, click one arrow, and then do it all over again. And again. When you need to move something a significant distance (like four feet), this really wears on you. My wrist seriously ached after placing just a few walls here and there.

Survival tip

Other than the ones mentioned earlier, there is one significant tip I want to offer this week -- determining direction. One of the first things you need to understand when traveling in the Tahoe Basin is how to get your bearings and find that person willing to trade with you. Xsyon has no in-game map, no minimaps, and no compass. The only things you have to direct you are the coordinates listed at the bottom of your UI. The first number represents what zone you are in, the second is your position relative to East and West, the third denotes North and South, while the fourth is elevation. The important key to remember is that when you're traveling East and North, the numbers will get higher, whereas traveling West and South makes the numbers decrease. Oh, and clouds always move north.
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Strap yourself in for the ride of (six weeks of) your life! Where are you going? Well, that's entirely up to you, the Massively readers, to decide -- the where, the what, and the how are all directed by you. The who is MJ Guthrie! For the duration of Choose My Adventure, her virtual life is in your hands! Join MJ in-game and on-site to be a part of the adventure and watch the story unfold.
This article was originally published on Massively.