Thursday, November 09, 2006

Building a Bigger Obelisk

So it's finally done! We have completed our Very Large Obelisks in ATitD and cancelled our accounts. A good number of players in the game probably think that we're jerks for making them larger than we need to (your obelisk only has to be 1 size larger than the current largest to pass the test), but we didn't build them to please the rest of the player-base. We built them to leave our lasting mark upon the desert. It took a lot of work to gather the materials for these monstrosities. Not only the sweat and time of making thousands of bricks and hundreds of linen, but I also spent many hours negotiating trades throughout the desert to acquire all the rest. All told it took 2 canvas, 8 rope, 528 cut stone, 44 medium quartz, 624 crushed eggshells, 120 candles, 686 slate, 871 dried flax, 402 linen, 335 flint, 2184 clay, 3120 boards and 31,080 bricks to build both of these obelisks!

But, aside from the obelisks, we left no mark upon the land. All of our compounds were stripped and demolished, our copper mine made public, and we even left 4 huge chests full of thousands of unused goods open to anyone who passes by (if you're interested, they're right by the obelisks, just a short jog south of the Cradle of the Sun chariot stop, though they've likely been looted by now).

No you may wonder why people would be annoyed at us? It's because anyone else after us who wants to pass the test of the Obelisk in our region, now has to build it much bigger than they would if we had built ours the minimum size we needed, rather than going for overkill (both obelisks were size 120, and I think the cut stone one is probably the largest of its type in all of Egypt).

Since the obelisk test is determined by what region you're in, many regions have tried to implement 'obelisk queues', where everyone signs up and obediently stands in line, waiting their turn to build. This reminds me of a time way back when, in the Asheron's Call beta, when I went to a dungeon to attempt to acquire some armor (I forget if it was a quest or I had just heard about it). I fight my way into the depths, nearly avoiding death at several points, finally reaching the last room, eager and nervous about facing my foe, when lo and behold, there's a group of ~10 players standing around, waiting for the spawn. They tell me there's a line, and that I'm welcome to grab a place in it. I stand around for a bit, consider trying to just snag the armor and ignore their carefully organized plans, but, in the end, I simply left. And soon after, I quit the beta and never played Asheron's Call again. I see this sort of over-cooperativeness as one of the downfalls of ATitD, as it leads to stagnation and boredom.

In this game, there really is no conflict. And without conflict, you don't have an interesting story. There are occasional games and contests that you can play against other players, but they're only available at certain times, and often, only a few players actually participate. There's no external threat, and really, no internal threat either. The biggest problem is having people build near you and crowd your space. In other tellings, Teppy (the game designer), had a 'stranger' come into the land who brought with him various issues that created conflict. But, in this telling, this external force hasnt appeared yet, and the knowledgable player-base is simply tearing through all of the technology, completing tasks at a record pace.

Anyway, it seems that the obleisk queue system has been pretty much abandoned in every region by now. And I feel no loss. But I'm not an unreasonably mean guy. If another player had announced in regional chat that they were building a size 92 obelisk and waiting to pass their test, I wouldn't have screwed them over by building my size 120 obelisk before their test was done (your obelisk has to remain the largest in the region for an hour).

In my mind, these obelisks are both a mounument to our time spent in the desert, and a challenge to those who come after us: Build a bigger obelisk... if you can!

No comments: