A Tale in the DesertAugust 11th, 2010 at 16:51
So with a recommendation from Tobold, and the fact that I’ve been hearing a LOT about this game recently, I decided to try out A Tale in the Desert.
The basic idea is that it’s an MMO with no combat whatsoever, set in ancient Egypt, entirely focused on gathering and crafting. Much of the game can be played solo, but many of the projects are so large that it’s in your best interest to cooperate with other players to build things that everyone can use.
At first, I found the camera controls to be very frustrating. I could not rotate the camera however I wanted to, I could only rotate left and right and zoom in and out. The tilt of the camera is determined entirely by how zoomed in you are (mostly 3/4 view but it tilts to look up when you zoom in closer to allow you to see the horizon and the sky), though there are several special modes for different purposes, like a camera that’s positioned directly overhead looking down in a birds-eye view. The camera only rotates when you move the mouse to the edges of the screen, but you can use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out. I still find myself wishing that I could right-click drag the camera around.
The movement is also largely limited to mouse control, clicking where you want your character to go, clicking on things to interact with them, clicking on your character to open a menu with various actions.
When I started to think of the camera controls less as “MMO” and more as “The Sims” I had much less trouble. I wouldn’t be complaining about the lack of WASD controls in The Sims.
In fact, the more I play this game, the more I think, it’s just like The Sims, except that it’s online! Wait, there was such a thing as Sims Online. It sucked. Why is this game so addicting when Sims Online was so awful?
I think it boils down to crafting. In Sims Online, you did not painstakingly craft your house brick by brick, board by board. You merely purchased house expansions, purchased furniture to put it in, went off to earn more money with which to purchase more items.
In ATitD, there is no money. If I want a bathtub in my house, I’m going to be crafting it out of bricks made from mud and sand I collect from the pond outside my house, mixed with straw I created by picking grass and then leaving it out to dry. If I want to make a piece of linen cloth, I have to go through a lengthy process involving growing the flax from seeds, soaking it in water, separating out the fibers in one machine, using another machine to spin it into thread, then using a third machine to weave it into cloth.
After finishing the tutorial, which taught me the basics of how to make bricks, boards, and twine, I decided I was tired of seeing all of the area nearby cluttered with random buildings and machines that people had built and then abandoned, and set off to find a nice spot I could call home. I wandered north up the Sinai area, looking for a nice spot near water that had clay deposits nearby along with plenty of trees and other plants. After walking up half the zone along the river, I started to lose hope, as all of the places I found already had compounds build in them. I started following the road inland, and spotted a dot of blue (water) with a bit of brown (clay) nearby, in the middle of a mountainous area. I climbed up the mountain and discovered a sheltered little valley with plenty of everything I need, with trees, water, sand, dirt, mud, silt, clay, and a variety of other plants nearby. And best of all, I had it all to myself, as there was no sign of any other buildings nearby. There was another compound near the road on the other side of the mountain, but I only discovered that later when I went looking for thorns for my flax comb. In my perfect little valley, none of the plants have thorns.
And so I am building everything I am capable of building in this little valley, though I shall soon need to venture out in order to see what new things I can learn how to build now that I have qualified for Level 2 by building my house. I’ll have to stop by all of the schools and make a list of all the items I need to bring them. First on my list, 200 Firebricks. I just finished building my True Kiln last night out of firebricks made in a flimsier kiln made out of normal bricks. I have been making firebricks while I wait for my thread to finish spinning so I can make some cloth in my new loom.
This game fills me with the feeling of “just one more quest!” just like a normal MMO, while also somehow capturing the feeling of “just one more day” in The Sims. Except without all those pesky hunger and social etc bars that constantly need refilling.