But I couldn't help but wander off the path a bit. Every time I turned around, I was bumping into something that made me wonder A) what it was, and B) how it was made. And as helpful as the wiki is, I needed to search out players who could help teach me faster than any wiki could. Did I succeed in making some connections? And did I rip out my hair over the ripping of grass? Check out the highlights of my past week in A Tale in the Desert.
One of the things I was most looking forward to in my adventure was getting to know the community. From everything I read, this game was special because it had such a tight-knit playerbase, and I wanted to find out what makes it tick. Out in Midland Valley, it was quiet, too quiet, and I knew there had to be pockets of players somewhere. I decided to first check the forums, since that's usually a good place to peruse discussions on common game issues. Strangely, the forum was extremely quiet. Most forum sections hadn't seen any fresh posts in months, and some have been silent for years. The only two forums that saw new posts this year were the tech support forum and the Linux support forum.
Having struck out on the forums, I gave the IRC chat link on the main site a try. There were actually a large number of people hanging around in IRC, so I said a quick hello and explained that I was new to the game and looking to chat with players to learn more. They welcomed me and were very friendly, and said the chat room was comprised of both players and GMs. There was a catch though (why is there always a catch?!). None of them played the game anymore.
They were still helpful in answering a few quick questions, and one even talked about his genome research on flax seed (and how he was disappointed that things hadn't changed from previous tellings). Eventually, though, conversation switched back to non-game chit chat, and while I appreciated the fact that this community of players has basically transcended the game, I needed to get back to finding the active player community.
I had already chatted with several players in my first few days in game, but it did surprise me that there's really no community footprint outside the game, as far as I could tell. Most games have some sort of offline hub where players can talk, whether it's a forum, Reddit, IRC, or a community portal. For ATITD, it seems like it's either the game or nothing.
In any event, I buckled down to focus on the goal you chose for me, which was to learn architecture and build a compound. After much ripping of grass and breaking of stones for blades, I assembled the supplies I needed for tuition and learned the basics of compound construction. Then, another session of grass ripping and board cutting were in order to actually build my first home. So far, nothing seems to come quick in this game, but I'm not complaining. It takes time to gather materials or to get from place to place, but that slow pace helps you really take in the world around you. I just hope it doesn't start to feel grindy after a while.
Despite my failed attempts to locate the community out of game, it's almost impossible not to make connections with other players in game. And it seems like everyone wants to help you. I met a very nice player one evening who tolerated my barrage of questions and gave me advice on where to build my compound. She suggested River Plains, which made sense since that tended to be the hot spot for the ancient Egyptians back in the day. I tracked down the chariots and made the trip over. I expected it to take hours and prepared to log off and come back later, but apparently players have a stored bank of time that they can use to spend on instant travel on the chariots. River Plains is the well-populated settlement I was searching for, and as I made my way around, I was struck by what players have built here. From dancing waters to impressive gardens, I couldn't help but get distracted from my architectural studies.
And while architecture was the main focus for me this week, I did end up traveling to some of the other areas, and I also began my first test of Harmony. I was busy ripping grass when I heard someone ask if anyone was available to sign an initiation petition for another player. I headed over to meet them and help out, and the next thing I know, I'm whisked away to meet other players, who introduced themselves and helped me complete my first Harmony discipline. Meanwhile, I got several helpful tells from players giving me advice on joining guilds and on which tests I should be sure to pick up right away. As players were introducing themselves, I tried to assist by checking their status to read and vote on petitions they had created. Not only did I make a little more progress in the game, but I made some new friends along the way.
From what I've seen so far, I think there are two reasons why the community here is so special. First, because cooperative activities are woven into the gameplay, it nudges players out of the habit of squirreling away and doing everything solo. It also makes players think about the game as a team experience, rather than a competitive existence. Longtime vets were able to help me complete one of my first tests, but at the same time, I was able to help them out by signing their petitions, or voting on their gardens and sculptures. It's a nice give and take, and it leaves everyone feeling like they got something out of the experience.
Second, the monthly subscription helps establish a strong community. It's hard to really see the gradual change in games that have gone free-to-play over the past few years, but I really noticed it when I went from ATITD to a free-to-play game. In ATITD, the overwhelming majority of the players are subscribers, and they're very much invested in the world they've built. In a free-to-play game, the players you encounter -- particularly at the early levels -- are much more likely to be free account holders who are here today and gone tomorrow. I can only imagine the volume of wood planes, bonfires, apiaries, and brick racks that would litter the landscape if the game ever goes free-to-play. The free 24-hour trial is a good opportunity for players to get a feel for things, and it also helps preserve a community where you can log in and recognize names and faces each day.
Now it's time for you to help me pick a direction for next week. I want to move ahead with some of the more social principles, and I'm looking for help on which ones are best for me to work on at my early stage in the game. Also, I plan on taking the leap and joining some guilds, but I don't know whether it's better to start off small and just join one or two, or whether I should go nuts and join as many new-player-friendly guilds as I can. Help me decide my path this week, and remember to get your votes in by Friday, February 1st!%Poll-80388%%Poll-80392%
Join Karen on an adventure of your choosing! She's used to calling the shots, but in this Choose My Adventure, she's putty in your hands and ready to follow your whim. It's up to you to chart her course and join in on the fun! Follow Karen on Twitter for playtimes and updates, and come back each week to decide her fate.