Breathless and aching, I finally reach the end of my journey. Standing on the top of an incline littered with rocks and trees, I look out across the area of Lake Tahoe, surveying the various settlements and signs of life below. Steadying myself, I sit down amongst the grass, recovering my depleted stamina, content and excited about the possibilities of my new virtual life.
After a few minutes have passed, I notice a strange sound. Obscured by the foliage, a small fox has approached my form and started gnawing and clawing. Panicked, I rise to my feet, stumbling. Bereft of ideas I turn tail and run down the hill, fox in hot-pursuit, and baying for blood. Like a cruel reversal of fortune, I am now the weak creature being hunted. My legs pump faster and faster, but my physical fitness fails me. I stop, hands rested upon knees, mouth desperately sucking the atmosphere for air. Within seconds the marauding fox is caught up to me - looking this little creature in the eye I stand resolute, I hope you choke on my entrails you fiend! Welcome to Xsyson Survivor Guy.
In 2012 the world will end. From the debris of the once functioning world will emerge small communities; ragged groups of bearded survivors, all bound together through the sheer determination and endurance. Gone are existing technologies; scraps of information and knowledge are all that remain; only by working with others can the human race begin to claw back to their once prominent place as masters of the Earth.
I am one of Xsyson's surviving pioneers - Mozza, the bearded miscreant, knowing in the ways of Fishing, Logging and Basketry. By the list of attributes just stated, you can tell that I am the Vin Diesel of Lake Tahoe. Wherever hunger and storage is a problem, I will be there; wherever a tree must be felled, I will be there.
Starting life within Xsyson is a difficult task. After sculpting the traditional hairy faced adventurer, players are spawned in a location of their choosing. As was my whim, I opted for the serene sounding Glendale, and after arriving in the location, I have never felt more confused and lost.
Tutorials and helpful guides are possibly something lost in the unknown apocalypse that has afflicted the game world. After choosing a small number of skills and eyeing up one or two YouTube videos whilst installation took place, I still had no real clue how to approach Xsyson. I did know that it was a sandbox game with a penchant for building, and I knew that my nearest frame of reference was A Tale in the Desert - but boy, we ain’t in the desert anymore that's for sure.
For the first couple or so hours playing, I simply wandered around, taking in my new surroundings. Lake Tahoe is an expansive place; the water that occupies the middle of the map is cushioned by varied and vast land masses. My starting point, Glendale, was a rocky but green place filled with woodland and majestic waterfalls. I spent hours travelling up hills, across rivers, and to various burgeoning settlements, taking in the wonder of the game and the vast player creations.
It was at this point in my journey that I came across the obvious and unavoidable. As the game is a sandbox in which players can mould the earth, and further learn recipes to build certain structures, it is only a matter of time before stumbling upon a man-made penis of mud and fire.
Like Lady Liberty itself, I came upon my first Xsyson "John Thomas" when travelling along the coastline. Like a grotesque and yet oddly alluring sight, the sculpture in honour of Man's greatest organ, had a flaming tip - a small campfire, eternally lit at the top. Perhaps this was a comment on the fiery nature of conception? Perhaps a tongue-in-cheek reference to male yeast-infections? Such answers are surely best left to the professionals.
After bounding around the map like a virtual Columbus, I began to take note of the UI that filled the bottom of my screen. Certain needs and wants are allocated by a green bar such as: Health, Stamina, Food, and Drink. I noticed that the latter two were depleted and an unhealthy off-white. I was starving and hungry, and to compliment this, every dozen or so steps my avatar would keel over, grasping at his knees trying to catch enough breath to carry on the journey. I needed some refreshments and nibbles.
Finding my way to the inventory screen, I looked at what tools I had with which to catch a bountiful meal. In my left hand was a small hatchet, in my right a pickaxe, and strapped across my back was a life line - a small brown fishing rod. Stumbling to the nearest water source, which took various sit downs for energy, I began the task of fishing. Or not.
At first I clicked at the water casually, as if it was an Internet hyperlink - this was not the case. Taking a different tact, I waded in waist deep and began process of right-clicking. Nothing happened. This was proving to be trickier than I had imagined. I rolled my fingers across my keyboard and my avatar jumped into an offensive position. It transpired that as my fingers lazily flicked by the "C" key, I had entered combat stance. I was now waist-deep in a river, acting like a combat-fisherman. No scratch that, a thirsty combat fisherman.
After various shouts for help I was soon on my way to angling heaven. After unequipping my left-hand slot, I simply headed over to the "actions" panel and chose the little icon that resembled bait and a line. I was now catching myself a fulfilling dinner, a green bar was engaged and with excitement I watched it decrease further and further. "You failed to catch anything" well this was an unforeseen hazard. I clicked the fishing icon again. "You failed to catch anything". I moved further downstream and began the process once more.
Ten minutes later, and finally I have a fish in my rucksack. There was no feeling like it. I was a true survivor right now. One question now remained, how do I eat this bad boy? Being an intelligent sort of fellow, I decided that this fish would have to be cooked - surely Sushi wasn't available in such a post-apocalyptic world.
Noticing a camp-fire icon in one of the menus, I decided that this was the best course of action. Equipping my pickaxe, I gathered the 10 pieces of granite that the project needed, and then clicked "build". Within seconds a camp appeared at my feet, right-clicking it I opted to "light fire". I needed a few pieces of flint to get this process going.
After asking around for a few minutes, I was told that flint was to be found at the same place as granite, it was more of a rare occurrence so padding around a hill for a few minutes would be necessary. With this knowledge I set about my task. Within a few minutes I had collected a few pieces of flint - feeling my stomach purr with excitement I ran back to the campfire. Opting again to light the fire I was met by another prerequisite- I needed a blade.
Well what was I to do? I was a lowly, logging, fishing, basketeering, extractor with the tools specific to those tasks. Oh sure I had a pair of sheers in my backpack but apparently this wouldn't do. I was at my wits end, I was filled with water and yet no food. I began to try and equip anything and everything in the hope it was bladed. In a moment of madness and anger I right-clicked the fish in my inventory - in the contextual menu came the command "eat". After several moments of Yosemite Sam ranting, I feasted upon that raw-creature, still fuming about the failed camp fire beneath my feet.
During my initial exploration, I had found a handful of locations which were candidates for settling place. After backtracking for a while, I came across one such place, a high banked valley with a waterfall and river running through the middle - deciding that this place looked safe and idyllic enough; I set about crafting a base for myself.
As mentioned before, Xsyson is a very confusing and daunting game. There are no tutorials other than player-made ones and for the prospective newbie, this fact is very hard to overcome. As I had found a place in which I wished to start operations, I began to spring into action. I began picking grass and stacking them in neat piles. After several moments of guide consulting and help-garnering on the chat channels, I even began cutting down nearby trees. After a short while I had a stockpile that the game Stronghold would be proud of - but now what do I do?
As I searched the UI for different projects, I was stopped by the need to either be within a tribe, or I simply lacked the required tools on offer. My stockpile glistened in the sunlight but went unused, my newly built campfire sat motionless and unlit. What on earth should I do now?
Xsyson is a difficult game, while it is a sandbox, it also lacks any real structure of objectives. The point, as far as I can ascertain, is to create and mould the world. To a solo player, this can be almost impossible without the trading for the right tools.
I was a lowly newcomer, and an idiot at the best of times. I had kept a watchful eye over the chat channels and taken notice of the various tribes recruiting. I needed help and guidance. Within no time I was asking for an organisation to take me, I received a number of messages. Choosing one I started correspondence and we arranged to meet at my idyllic waterfall settlement.
Ten minutes later, in the distance I could see a naked, bearded stranger running towards me. Slightly taken aback, I approached this naked traveller – it was the man I had been in conversation with. “Hi” I fired off. No reply came, and yet he kept striding towards me, baseball bat in one hand, golf club in the other. Taking a few steps back, I noticed another naked fellow running towards my location.
Blinking slightly and worrying about what type of tribe I had agreed to join – the two skin-warriors enclosed around me. Without a sound and with no warning, both opted a combat stance and dashed towards one another. Shuffling towards the water, half stricken with fear, half stricken with interest, I watched as the duo of underpants equipped gladiators worked out their differences. Before long one of them had fallen into death, crushed by the constant thwacks of baseball bat.
I didn’t know whether to cheer or run, instead I clicked on a “thumbs up” emote. The victorious naked man simply walked towards me, raised his golf club and began to hone his driving skills. I slipped away into the afterlife without much fight or excitement. Humiliated and broken, I closed Xsyson. I needed to hit the forums and get some help, that’s for sure.
Join me next week as Xsyson Survivor Guy continues!