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Choose My Adventure: Learning the ropes in A Tale in the Desert

Karen Bryan

So there I was, running through the desert on a personal crusade to find a far away pyramid. I heard that it granted an automatic free level, and who wouldn't want that? The only question was whether I'd run out of interest before I reached it because travel in A Tale in the Desert is challenging, to say the least.

I really like the world of ATITD so far, and yet there are things about it that really make me grumpy. And it's usually the things I like the most about the game that also cause me grief. While I failed to find that pyramid, I did learn quite a bit this past week in game.

Egypt: The baseball game

The pace of A Tale in the Desert is different from that of many MMOs; to me, it feels a lot like playing a game of baseball. For long stretches of time, it's quiet, but that can change in an instant when all of a sudden there's a flurry of activity. In game, I can spend a long time harvesting and seeing hardly any sign of another player, and in an instant, someone will announce an event and clumps of players will come from all over to participate. A player who's looking for constant entertainment from an MMO might not find this appealing, but I like the slow lifestyle of the game because it brings an unpredictability and a feeling that the players, not the developers, are the ones in control of what happens.

The tug, pull, and sprawl of a sandbox

I've traveled around some of the other areas of Egypt, and I feel I made the right choice in building my home in River Plains. The only problem is that everything's so spread out, and for a fairly green player like I am, someone who doesn't have the ability to run faster or travel by airship, it's a challenge to move from one part of River Plains to another.

When you combine that with the many branches of activity that a sandbox game offers, it becomes a little frustrating. During one session, I spent a good part of my playtime running down the road along the river to meet up with a couple of players who needed signatures for their initiation. We got together, chatted a bit, compared achievements, and signed petitions. Eventually, I headed home because I needed to grow a mountain of flax for various projects, so I put my head down and made the arduous trip back. Not more than a minute or two after I started planting, there was a call for volunteers to vote on a newly constructed garden. "It's only a little bit south of U Thought," said the player. Unfortunately, my home is pretty far from the University of Thought, and running there would take yet another chunk of my playtime. I really like the social side of the game, but until I can speed up my travel, I have to either pass on many of these social opportunities or accept the fact that much of my time in-game will be spent running. If you have hours of free time at your disposal, that's one thing, but if your play sessions are limited to an hour at a time and a third of it is spent running around, it's not insignificant.

Choose My Adventure  Learning the ropes in A Tale in the Desert
Levels vs. tests

Back during A Tale in the Desert III, a leveling system was added. So far for me, leveling has been slow (see the running story above), but I'm not really focused on leveling as much as I am about just enjoying some of the fun and quirky tests. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not paying enough attention to levels, and so I spent a good 20 minutes running to meet up with a player who had a flock of ibis land near his home. On my goal chart, I had completed the first test of the human body, which unlocked six new challenges. I assumed that meant I could do all of them, or at the very least, the next one in the row, which was the test of the safari.

According to the description, it says to use your mind and body to capture seven species of Egyptian wildlife; I had to capture and release four of them. Well, 20 minutes later, I was face to face with a giant pink ibis, only to discover that I couldn't capture him because I wasn't high enough in level, something the goal tree neglected to mention. This also hampered my ability to progress in the principle of Harmony, which you selected for me last week. (I was able to complete the first test, however, which tasked me with introducing myself and meeting various citizens of Egypt.) I'm leaning heavily on the wiki for exactly this reason: There are many things in the game that aren't clearly explained in the UI. I'm OK with not having my hand held through things, but at the same time, it's frustrating to feel like you've wasted time because of a confusing UI. I have to say, though, that flock of ibis was pretty cool.

Let's get physical!

My ibis adventure wasn't a total loss, though. I chatted with the player whose front yard resembled a scene from Hitchcock's famous film, and he offered to teach me some acrobatic moves for my test. What followed was something that will forever make my list of most memorable MMO moments. I had to practice my move while he performed his, and each time he performed a move, I was able to learn a facet of it. The move I was given was a squat, so there I was, squatting up and down, while he put on a display of flips, pushups, and somersaults. I like teaching moments like this; I remember sitting near a zone line in EverQuest, trying to learn Dwarven but only seeing gibberish from the Dwarf who was talking to me. Squatting up and down, looking like Olivia Newton John in a fitness video, definitely takes the cake!

Choose My Adventure  Learning the ropes in A Tale in the Desert
My first guild

You suggested that I go slowly in joining a guild, and I did just that. I joined one guild. I thought about joining a couple of others, but I'm so ingrained into the concept of monogamy when it comes to guild life that I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea of splitting my allegiance. I also had to adjust to the whole process of joining, which basically just involved my clicking a button. I've never been one who believed in a complicated application process with lots of hoop jumping, but there was no screening at all, not even a friendly conversation to introduce myself beforehand. The other thing I noticed is that the same players tended to appear on the list of members for every guild I checked, which makes me question why more than one guild is needed in the first place. I know I sound old and outdated, but for now, I'm happy with the one guild I joined.

Despite my beef with the UI and time-consuming travel, I had a great week in game. The players are extremely friendly, and I'm starting to get to know some of the regulars. I also love the player-made art and sculptures, and that made the long journeys gratifying. And I'm having fun with some of the more unusual tests, like the one that had me running around identifying plants in a certain time limit, or the one that challenged me to complete a player-made course.

Next week, I'm torn between wanting to try my hand at learning art and making a sculpture or diving into the political and legal aspects of the game. So help me decide, and make sure to get your votes in by Friday, February 8th at 12:01 p.m. EST!%Poll-80645%
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.

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