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A Tale in the Desert: A Geek’s Paradise

A Tale in the Desert is indeed a geek’s paradise. It’s an MMORPG that is different than most. MMO players might refer to it as “that crafting game”, but it really is a lot more than just that. Although I have played the game from its inception nearly 8 years ago, when asked what the game is about I still have a difficult time explaining it. ATITD is indeed a crafting game; there is no maiming and killing. It also has a lot of puzzles, and some extremely complicated game systems. The creator of the game, Andrew Tepper, is a mathematician. Part of the challenge of the game is to actually figure out how it works.

That description still doesn’t capture the true nature of the game, and why some people love it. In the following post I will attempt to capture just one of the major aspects of the game that attracts me: the ability to create third party macros to assist with the grinding aspects of the game. Yes, macroing is allowed in ATITD. However, unattended macroing is strictly forbidden, and getting caught will definitely result in a banned account. Also worth mentioning is that one of the most successful players in the game that I know of doesn’t macro at all; players can still be very competitive and not need to use macros in ATITD.

I’ve recently been preparing for the new “shard”, or server that is coming out this month. Unlike other MMO’s, A Tale in the Desert has a beginning, a middle, and an end. ATITD is on its 4th “telling”. A new idea however was introduced by an ATITD game master: sharding. The beginning of a Tale is often more fun for players, and players who start playing the game at the beginning of a tale are more likely to stay throughout its course. So, the idea of creating a second shard of Tale 4 has come into the works, and I intend to play on it.

I started going through my macros as preparation for the new shard, and realized that there were a few I was missing that I wanted to have at my disposal. I decided to start with a Barrel Vise macro. Barrel Vises are used to make barrels, which are used to store wine and beer, which if you drink enough of give your avatar permanent increases in the Perception stat. The most effective way of gaming this is to create lots of barrels so that you can fill them with lots of different kinds of wines. The process of making a barrel on a Barrel Vise is one of the many mini-games within ATITD. I’m not very good at it.

The “official” documentation from the player-maintained wiki is here, but I will quickly explain how this mini-game works. The Barrel Vise interface has four bars: Fuel, Flame, Heat, and Progress. The idea is to add wood as Fuel, which increases the Flame. If the Flame is higher than the Heat, the Heat will grow. If the Heat is above 50%, Progress will be made on the making of the barrel. Finally, if the Flame reaches max, the barrel incinerates, and all materials are lost. Here is a pic of my avatar after a few rounds of building the flame up.

Once the Heat gets up to 50%, it turns red, and Progress begins! It then becomes a game of adding more wood to keep the Flame and Heat high, without letting the Flame get maxed out.

Now for the fun part, the macro. The macro program that I use, and is very popular in the ATITD community is AuotHotKey. AHK also comes with AutoIt’s Window Spy, which is useful for getting screen coordinates for mouse clicks and colors.

I started by getting the blue color of the status bars. Window Spy made that part easy. Next, I found the coordinates of the Fuel bar. The Fuel bar should have two “ticks” or levels of wood if the Flame can jump another tick itself, and one wood if the Flame is already too high and you don’t want it to jump. I simply took an X coordinate reading of the Fuel bar when I added one wood, then again when I added two wood. The next part was the tricky part, measuring how far I wanted the Flame to go before adding two pieces of wood to the Fuel. I took a conservative eyeball measurement after going through a few runs and incinerating a few barrels. The point is almost all the way to the right side of the Flame bar (near where the Flame bar ends in the second screenshot above), but still leaves room for random spikes (Flame increases are a random measurement within a certain unknown range). I then added some code to see if the barrel is done by updating the UI for the Barrel Vise. For humans, determining if a barrel is done is easy; the Progress bar will go all the way to the right and the mini-game will stop. This was hard to measure by reading colors on the bars within AHK. So instead I wrote a couple of lines that look for the “Take” option which also appears when a Barrel Vise has successfully made a barrel. The macro then takes the completed barrel off of the Barrel Vise and into the avatar’s inventory, and starts making another barrel (remember, I want lots and lots!).

Here is the resulting AHK code:

; Barrel Vise macro by Daniels 02/01/2010
; Using 1280, 1024 game res

; The following should stop runaway macros
; ctrl-alt-p and ctrl-alt-r
^!p::Pause
^!r::Reload

; Barrel Vise - Pin window in upper left of screen.  Coordinates are for Guilded barrel vice.  Pin when it is completely empty.
; alt-shift-b to start the macro
!+b::
IfWinExist eGenesis Client
{
	WinActivate
	SetDefaultMouseSpeed, 0

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; COORD VARIABLES ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;
	
	winX := 95 			; Top of window X/Y Coords, used to select and update the pinned window
	winY := 50
	makeX := 95 		;Make button and also Take X/Y Coords
	makeY := 90
	takeAllX := makeX + 20 
	takeAllY := makeY + 5
	stokeX := 170		; Stoke Button X/Y Coords
	stokeY := 230

	barHighX := 194 ; right most edge of the bars
	
	barMaxFlameX := 175 ; Max Flame wanted, do not have 2 wood in Fuel passed this point.  May need to adjust.
	bar1WoodX := 78 	; Coord for determining if at least 1 wood is in Fuel
	bar2WoodX := 85 	; Coord for determining if at least 2 wood is in Fuel
	
	fuelBarY := 170  	; Y Coord for Fuel bar
	flameBarY := 185 	; Y Coord for Flame bar
	heatBarY := 200		; Y Coord for Heat bar
	progressBarY := 218 ; Y Coord for Progress bar
	
;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; MAIN PROGRAM ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

	Loop, 100 ; number of barrels to make
	{
		; Click "Make a barrel"
		MouseClickCoords(winX, winY)
		MouseClickCoords(makeX, makeY)
		
		Loop, 10000 ; Maintain Heat
		{		
			curFuel1 := FindBlue(bar1WoodX, fuelBarY)
			curFuel2 := FindBlue(bar2WoodX, fuelBarY)
			curFlame := FindBlue(barMaxFlameX, flameBarY)

			if (curFlame > 0)
			{					
				if (curFuel1 > 0) ; Add 2 wood
				{
					MouseClickCoords(stokeX, stokeY)							
					MouseClickCoords(stokeX, stokeY)
				}
				else if (curFuel2 > 0) ; Add 1 wood
				{
					MouseClickCoords(stokeX, stokeY)
				}				
			}

			MouseClickCoords(winX, winY)
			ImageSearch, OutputX, OutputY, 15, 80, 60, 105, *50 Take.PNG
			if (ErrorLevel < 1)
			{
				break
			}
		}
		; Unload barrel
		MouseClickCoords(winX, winY)
		sleep 500
		MouseClickCoords(makeX, makeY)
		sleep 500
		MouseClickCoords(takeAllX, takeAllY)
		sleep 500
	}
}

MouseClickCoords(X, Y)
{
	MouseMove, X, Y
	sleep 100
	MouseClick
	sleep 100
}

FindBlue(TX, TY)
{	
	PixelSearch, PX, PY, TX, TY, TX+1, TY+1, 0xFD0606, 55, Fast
	return ErrorLevel
}

I was very happy when this macro made 16 barrels in a row without incinerating even one of them! Now, I will definitely be prepared for mass production of barrels for lots of wine and beer on the new shard. Now if only I could macro making glass, growing vegetables, and probably a slew of other tedious tasks that I am forgetting about. I can now sit back and enjoy the parts of the game that I like without worrying about the prerequisite grinding!

As I mentioned before, one does not need to macro in ATITD in order to be competitive. In fact, one of the most productive and advanced players in the game (the only Sage, I believe, or someone who has passed a certain amount of hard-to-obtain Tests) plays on a Mac and doesn’t macro at all (hi Rob!). For those who would like to use this macro though, see the wiki page where it is hosted for the full macro and documentation on how to use it here. Note that you may have to alter the X and Y coordinates of the macro to suit your operating system and screen resolution.

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Message to Mythic

Below is a post I made on the VN boards in regards to what players want in regards to keeps in Warhammer Online:

Everyone knows that there is currently no incentive to defend a keep or BO right now, other than trying to cap a zone. However, capping a zone is such an involved, and seemingly random thing that this currently does not qualify as an incentive in my opinion. People play this game to RvR, but they also play the game to advance and experience the end game. Put simply, advancement is made by capping zones. The oRvR experience and the VP system are deeply interconnected within the player experience, and I think that this interconnectness needs to be exploited by Mythic to produce a potentially awesome gaming experience.

We need incentive to defend keeps, and I think that incentive should be focused on the VP system. Such a solution could also solve another problem with Warhammer: the VP system currently does not appeal to players. This system in its current, seemingly obscure and random form, is just not tangible to us. Right now, the only realistic way to cap a zone is to win scenarios. When enough VP’s are accumulated from winning scenarios, we quickly take the keeps and hope we have enough VP’s to cap when we are done. This “rush” to take keeps in a zone does not create keep defense. There is also currently no reason to defend a keep unless you are really close to capping a zone from winning scenarios. So, Mythic should shift the focus from scenario wins, to success in oRvR to solve both problems in one blow. The system of static VP’s from keeps and maybe BO’s has to go.

Here are a couple of ideas that could be applied, perhaps with some modifications (the VP system is very complex, and I am far from understanding its complexities). Neither of the two ideas are original, but within this context they could work to help make this game really great:

Idea #1: If a keep is captured by a realm, and/or possibly only when claimed by a guild, it will slowly trickle in VP’s for that realm. When a keep is taken back by the enemy realm, those VP’s are lost, including the accumulated VP’s (or maybe VP decay would take care of this, but only after a certain amount of time has passed.). So, if a realm can hold a zone for a reasonable time length (maybe 2 days for example), then it should have a higher chance of capping the zone, depending on how well the realm is doing in scenarios. Winning scenarios would still be a factor, but less of one.

Idea #2: Instead of Idea #1, capturing all of the keeps and/or BO’s could result in VP decay being halted. Currently, VP decay is set in place to balance against a sweep of (perhaps lucky) scenario wins, which is good in theory, but from experience it can also be very demoralizing when you’ve worked with your entire realm to cap a zone, and there just aren’t enough quick, back-to-back scenario wins to do it. Perhaps the VP decay system itself needs to be redone, but in the meantime this idea would give a realm incentive to defend taken keeps/BO’s if defending will help cap the zone.

These are not the only ideas that could work. The important thing that I would like to communicate to Mythic as a player who loves this game, but wants it to improve is that they should use the inherited interest of players to cap a zone and advance the game, to increase keep defense and game play in oRvR. This is what the player base wants, and I think Mythic could easily give it to us. Being successful in oRvR should lead to being successful in pushing or defending zones.

Thank you,
BB

Warhammer Online: First Impressions of the Beta

I’ve finally been invited to the CE Beta of Warhammer Online. I’ve played for about a total of three hours within the last two days. As a big fan of Mythic’s previous game, Dark Age of Camelot, I’ve been looking forward to this for a while now. I must say that I am impressed so far with Mythic’s new game, War, but I do have my worries.

First, a little background on my gaming style and experience. I played DAoC for a good three or four years, off and on. I quit around two years ago or so. The PvE in that game was really horrid to me, but the RvR (Realm versus Realm, an in depth form of Player versus Player) in DAoC was the most fun I have ever had in an MMORPG. During the last year I played, I enjoyed the end game “elite” 8v8 RvR. This experience was as much of a rush, if not more of a rush, than any FPS game that I have every played (I’ve played a lot of those too).

Hoewever, DAoC is an old game. It has been around since October 10, 2001. I’ve been playing it since 2002 when the first expansion, Shouded Isle came out. After three to four years of the game, it was time for me to try something else. I tried WoW, Lord of the Rings Online, Guild Wars, Age of Conan, etc. The list goes on. Not a single one of these games ever stood up to the adrenaline rush that I got from DAoC. When Mythic announced Warhammer Online in 2005, I was excited that they would finally produce another game. I have been following it ever since.

Now, onto my first impressions so far. I won’t go into a lot of technical detail, and I’m not going to nick pick about little things that I don’t like. You can read plenty of that on other forums dedicated to Warhammer Online. The Beta is still under NDA as of this writing, so I can’t talk a lot about details anwyay!

My very first impression upon logging in was that the complaints about Warhammer’s graphics are juvenile complaints, and unfounded. The graphics are not as complex or realistic as Age of Conan, but they are not as bad as a lot of the leaked videos from closed beta. I mean, think about it. Why would Mythic spend a lot of time implementing the graphics of their game for the closed beta. It would be a waste of time. Instead, they focused on the mechanics, and the larger picture during their early closed beta. Because of that they were able to make some large changes to the game based on the beta community’s feedback. For example, the beta community complained that the RvR instances were too beneficial compared to the open battlefields. The open battlefields were more fun, and were the reason people loved RvR in DAoC. Mythic listened to the beta community, and changed the rules of the game to emphasize open battlefields more so than they had originally planned. Good for Mythic.

The game is actually quite fun early on. Leveling up is very easy, perhaps to easy, at least in the early stages. The game is very intuitively designed, and you don’t feel like you are fighting the game for control of your character (bumping into invisible walls, slow response time, stuff that you get used to in Age of Conan). There are bugs, of course (this is still beta), but the game runs smooth overall.

To me, the graphics look more like Lord of the Rings than they do World of Warcraft, which the game has been compared to constantly. The colors are bright and contrasted, which I think is where people draw the similarity to WoW. Overall though, the game feels nothing like WoW to play. It doesn’t feel like LOTRO either though. The game has its own unique feel.

I haven’t been able to do too much RvR yet. The instanced battlegrounds start really early. I was able to play one of the maps two or three times. It was fun, but I could tell that it would get boring after a few too many hours of doing the same instance (or even multiple instances). Just like any instanced PvP game like Guild Wars, AoC, or WoW, instanced PvP is never very fun for long. I’ve been aching to try the open field RvR. I went in once, got killed a few times by slightly higher level enemies, and decided that I needed to level up and get some gear so that I could kill some of these jerks. Back to the PvE (which isn’t necessary; you can get good gear from RvR too. I just hate not being able to kill someone that didn’t have much life left because I can’t hit them!)

The Public Quests, which you can read about on blogs and news releases, are really ground breaking as far as PvE in MMORPG’s. Even as a solo player, it makes you feel like you are a part of a larger world, truly an MMO experience. In fact, the game’s atmosphere and storyline just feels rich, even though I know nothing about the Warhammer IP. Compared to Age of Conan, War’s theme is incredibly immersing, even if you are not a fan of the table top game.

The only worry is that the game is too fun early on. AoC was very fun early on, and it had no soul to it all. Just like Las Vegas, all glitz and glamor, and no substance. I fear that War may not have enough content to keep the game interesting. Of course, I have not gotten very far in the game, so I don’t know. I am only up to Teir 1. Still, I can’t help wonder if the game will fail to offer substantial depth over the long haul. There are only 40 levels, and it didn’t seem difficult to get from 1 to 7 in a couple of hours. Leveling isn’t everything, but if it is too easy, people reach end game too quickly. Perhaps Mythic wants this because their end game is awesome. That is my hope, but I am not naive enough to believe that will be the case. Yet.

If you are into MMORPG’s, and you are looking for a good game, or you have heard that War is not worth trying because it “is WoW 2.0”, don’t believe the rumor mill and give it a shot when it releases. I will update this probably when the game is released. In the meantime, hope you get into the beta!

Warhammer Loses 4 Classes and 4 Capital Cities

That’s right.  If you haven’t read it by now, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is losing 4 careers (Choppa, Ironbreaker, Black Guard, and the Knights of the Blazing Sun) and 4 of the 6 Capital Cities.  I was personally planning on playing one of the two canceled classes, but releasing an unfinished game like Funcom did with Age of Conan is just not the right think to do.  Regarding the canceled cities, a quote from Mark Jacobs  promises that they will be implemented after release, which is a relief for me.  I prefer RvR to have more options, rather than a bottleneck zerg between only 1 pair of Capital Cities.

As for the lost classes, the developers seemed reluctant to say that they would be added later, and actually said that they probably won’t be added any time soon after release at the very least.  I suppose that I will be playing some other tank class; there are still plenty of options in the game.

You can read more about this announcement from EA Mythic, and participate in the community’s voice by heading over to this thread on Warhammer Alliance.