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AGC Game Update

Laura Genender Posted:
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From AGC – Andrew Tepper discussess ATITDII

While at the Austin Gaming Conference I met with Andrew Tepper, the mastermind behind A Tale in the Desert (ATITD) and upcoming Alvin Maker, based on the books by Orson Scott Card. “Teppy” and I talked about the present condition of ATITD and what was in store for the game in the near future.

A Tale in the Desert is one of the few MMOs that has a start and an end. The game can be won — or lost, depending on the actions of the players. Players must work together to complete the Monument of Architecture, Art, Body, Conflict, Leadership, Thought, and Worship. Each monument requires the help of many people of varying ranks in their respected discipline. If all the monuments are not constructed before time is up, players lose.

Whether the game is lost or won, once it is over it starts again. Each cycle is called a Tale, and Egypt is currently in its second Tale. 39 out of the 49 tests have been released; all are coded except the Test of Fountains.

The monuments have another effect on Egypt — each monument team had to come up with a new test to be used in the next tale. With seven out of the eight player created tests already in the game, Andrew Tepper is very happy about how the system is working out. He describes most of the tests as “excellent.”

Lately, though, a lot of Tepper’s energy has been put into preparations for Tale 3. While a lot of ATITD’s content is played by ear, so to speak, Andrew is trying to get as much ready for the next tale as possible. For example, while at the small but extremely interesting Ludium conference, Andrew and a group of six others came up with new ideas for the marriage test in ATITD.

In Tales 1 and 2, marriage was an easy test to pass, but you could not be divorced and your spouse had some very intrusive powers. Not only did they have access to all of your private buildings, including storage, but if you were not online they could log into your character via a built in menu. Marry the wrong person and you could end up in the middle of the desert with an inventory full of concrete and no travel time.

In Tale 3, divorce will be an option, but marriage will be a harder test to pass. Not only do you have to get married, but you have to be one of the best couples in Egypt. The formula is “# of weeks married * (# of tests you passed while married + # of tests your spouse passed while married).” Spouses will still share private buildings, be able to log in as each other, and will be able to teleport to each other.

Another important aspect of Tale 3 will be reusable events. Throughout Tale 1 and 2 all events had to be triggered and compiled by hand. To rerun the same event, hours of coding would have to be checked and relearned. This meant less events than Tepper would have wished for, as events always brought in flocks of immigrants.

For Tale 3, Andrew is working on a control panel to configure and start events. For example, the control panel can be used to trigger different food festivals. Options in the control can decide what type of event it is: a mutton festival, a watermelon festival, a meat festival, a vegetable festival, etc. While this means that many of the events will have the same format, at least there will be more events! This tool will be usable by the event team.

Other than that, there wasn’t much that “Teppy” could tell me. ATITD is largely coded by ear; “I get an idea, I develop it, and it’s in the game.”

Thank you to Laura and Teppy for doing this.

If you have any comments, please leave them in this comment thread.


Laura Genender