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A Tale in the Desert

The Daily Grind: Does founder's syndrome hurt MMOs?

A Tale in the Desert, EVE Online, Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

EVE Online
Founder's syndrome -- defined by Wikipedia as "a difficulty faced by many organizations where one or more founders maintain disproportionate power and influence following the effective initial establishment of the project" -- is not limited to just organizations. Sandbox gamers might recognize it as something that can affect their virtual worlds as well. For example, there's a long-standing debate among EVE Online fans as to whether or not it's possible for newcomers to ever truly catch up and compete on the same level as those who've been dominating the game and accruing money and power for over a decade. Sometimes, the people who get to the sandbox first keep control of all the toys.

Antique sandbox A Tale in the Desert attempted to dodge this problem by resetting the game in its entirety after each "tale" plays out. Veteran players might keep their network of contacts and their real-world knowledge of the game, but their in-game material wealth and characters must be started from scratch, allowing newcomers a better chance of competing with them. Of course, it might be hard for modern themepark fans to accept such a solution!

What do you think -- is founder's syndrome a problem in the MMOs you play? How would you solve the problem?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

A Tale in the Desert is under new management

A Tale in the Desert, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play

After years of inactivity on the A Tale in the Desert front, you might be forgiven from not noticing that the title changed hands last month. That's OK, we didn't see it before now either.

Citing preoccupation with another project, eGenesis has handed over management and development of A Tale in the Desert to Pluribus Games. The upside to this transition for gamers is two-fold: The new owners have made the game free for the time being and are preparing to start up the next iteration of the story, Tale VII.

"EGenesis has been overwhelmed with their newest project, Dragon's Tale, and has not been able to devote the time needed to ATitD. It is our belief that we will be able to greatly improve the game for you, our customers," Pluribus announced.

[Thanks to Alan for the tip!]

MMO Family: What exactly is a kid-friendly MMO?

A Tale in the Desert, Flyff, Opinion, Kids, Wizard101, Star Wars: The Old Republic, MMO Family, Family, Clone Wars Adventures, Miscellaneous

MMO Family  What exactly is a kidfriendly MMO
Recently, Massively's Jef Reahard seemed to revisit his inner-child with his Why I Play article on Clone Wars Adventures and a Daily Grind of a similar topic. He summed up perfectly why CWA, a kid-friendly MMO, is a lot of fun for grown-ups too. There are actually many MMOs that are marketed toward a younger audience but are fun and challenging enough to entertain adults. Meanwhile, there are plenty of kids who have no problem holding their own in "grown-up" MMOs.

So what exactly makes an MMO kid-friendly? It might not be as easy to define as we think.

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Choose My Adventure: Saying goodbye to A Tale in the Desert

Historical, A Tale in the Desert, Opinion, Choose My Adventure, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

Choose My Adventure  Saying goodbye to A Tale in the Desert
Last week, you advised me to branch out and explore, and that turned out to be the perfect choice, particularly because this is my final article on A Tale in the Desert for Choose My Adventure. I admit that it caught me off guard, and my six-week stint went a lot more quickly than I expected.

But before I say goodbye, I have some final highlights from my travels, and I have some overall impressions to share before I turn things over to Eliot next week.

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Choose My Adventure: My tale in the desert takes an unexpected turn

Historical, Polls, A Tale in the Desert, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Choose My Adventure, Sandbox

Choose My Adventure  My Tale in the Desert takes an unexpected turn
Last week, you voted for me to try my hand at making a sculpture in A Tale in the Desert, and I rolled up my sleeves to start the process of rotting flax, spinning twine into rope, and weaving linen. And then my sunny days in the desert were trumped by about two feet of snow. Thanks to the blizzard this past weekend, my opportunity to play was truncated, and while I'm frantically trying to wrap up my sculpture, I wasn't able to finish it in time for this week's column.

Fortunately, I still have plenty to report.

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Choose My Adventure: Learning the ropes in A Tale in the Desert

Historical, Polls, A Tale in the Desert, Opinion, Hands-On, Choose My Adventure, Sandbox

Choose My Adventure  Learning the ropes in A Tale in the Desert
So there I was, running through the desert on a personal crusade to find a far away pyramid. I heard that it granted an automatic free level, and who wouldn't want that? The only question was whether I'd run out of interest before I reached it because travel in A Tale in the Desert is challenging, to say the least.

I really like the world of ATITD so far, and yet there are things about it that really make me grumpy. And it's usually the things I like the most about the game that also cause me grief. While I failed to find that pyramid, I did learn quite a bit this past week in game.

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Choose My Adventure: My tale in the desert begins

Historical, Polls, A Tale in the Desert, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Opinion, Massively Meta, Choose My Adventure

Choose My Adventure  My tale in the desert begins
Last week's Choose My Adventure poll was a real nail-biter! There were four games that were all within a few votes of each other. In the end, the winner by five votes was A Tale in the Desert, and I'm thrilled to be able to write about this game for my turn at CMA.

As much as I like elves and orcs, I'm ready for obelisks, pyramids, and plenty of sand. I created my character over the weekend and began my path to citizenship. Did I make it through, or did flax farming get the better of me? Help me plan my course!

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One Shots: Woodland critters

Galleries, Screenshots, A Tale in the Desert, EverQuest II, MMO Industry, Opinion, Massively Meta, One Shots, RIFT, TERA, Miscellaneous

One Shots
TERA isn't quite two weeks old, but it's already offering up some spectacular views. Kromic on the Dragonfall server paused while riding on his mount to take this shot. He writes in,
While doing some exploring on my trusty steed in TERA, I found a great view of the capital city Velika.
His screenshot is just after the cut, along with three more images of woodland critters doing their duty to spice up our MMO scenery.

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MMObility: The argument for a time-limited server

Screenshots, A Tale in the Desert, Business Models, Culture, PvP, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, MMORTS, MMObility

Travian banner
If there is one thing we MMO gamers love about our favorite games, it's the fact that they go on almost forever. Even when we log off, the virtual worlds we inhabit exist without us. Players continue to adventure, craft and explore the game world as we sleep. It's exciting, and it separates MMOs from the rest of the gaming flock. But what if the world ended? What if the ending of the world was part of the gameplay, an understood happening that marked not only the end of one chapter but the fresh beginning of another?

Time-limited servers end, just as I described. While I have not seen the mechanic much in "standard" MMOs, only appearing really in a handful of titles like A Tale in the Desert, there are quite a few MMORTS titles that use it. In fact, some of the most popular MMORTS games out there use time limits in their games. It would seem that many players enjoy the occasional destruction or closing of their worlds.

Would the mechanic work for other games? How can mobile gaming benefit from the short-term servers?

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The Game Archaeologist seals up 2011

A Tale in the Desert, Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest, Lineage, Meridian 59, PlanetSide, Shadowbane, Everquest Online Adventures, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

Guild Wars 2
You know what I love about the end of each year? The lists. Man, but I'm a sucker for lists, especially when they come in "best of" varieties. In the lull between Christmas and New Year's, there typically isn't a lot happening in the world of entertainment, so it's a good time to look back before we head forward.

And so it is for The Game Archaeologist. 2011 marks the second year I've been doing this column, and it's been one of my personal favorite series to write. Every week I'm learning more and more about the history of the MMO genre, and I'm encouraged to see just how much passion and interest there are for the titles that started it all and got us to where we are today.

So before we head into 2012, let's take one last glimpse back at the road we've traveled. If you've missed out on any of these columns or want to revisit your favorite classic MMO, I've compiled a huge list of everything I talked about this year, from histories to interviews to player stories. There's also a special request for you (yes, you) at the end of this column, so do me a favor and hit that jump!

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The Game Archaeologist and the Classic MMOs in November

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, A Tale in the Desert, Anarchy Online, Star Wars Galaxies, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, The Game Archaeologist, Sandbox

Anarchy Online
It's seemed like every time I turned around in November, a spritely old-timer of an MMO was showing that it wasn't quite out of the running just yet. I mean, heck, we actually got word of a big change to Battleground Europe, prompting millions to throw their hands up and exclaim, "World War II Online is still actually online? Holy donkeys!"

In a way, I think these older MMOs get a free pass to escape the craziness of having to compete with more modern titles, and as such, they're more confident in their position and freer to pursue whatever is best for the game. You know, instead of trying to ape World of Warcraft (which probably aped them first in the great circle of apes).

So what's been going on with our favorite classic MMOs last month? Let's cast our UltraVision™ back on the events of November to see what's been up with four games and their communities.

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A Tale in the Desert VI begins tomorrow

Historical, A Tale in the Desert, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, Sandbox

Screenshot -- A Tale in the Desert
A Tale in the Desert V is coming to a close, and of course that means that A Tale in the Desert VI is just over the horizon. For the uninitiated, this means that the current arc of events will be coming to an end and players will be starting from scratch. However, that doesn't mean that all was for naught.

Though the players themselves have to start anew, the achievements of Tale 5 remain in place. Players succeeded in building four new monuments, which will lead to four new Tests designed by the team's Oracles for Tale 6. The new Tale goes live at noon EST tomorrow, December 3rd, so you have one more night to prepare yourselves before another unique Tale begins. To get in on the action yourself, just head on over to the game's official site.

The Game Archaeologist spins A Tale in the Desert: A talk with Teppy

Fantasy, Historical, A Tale in the Desert, Interviews, The Game Archaeologist, Sandbox, Crafting

A Tale in the Desert
I have to say, I have nothing but admiration for lone wolf-style developers who decide to pish-posh giant studio teams and massive budgets and jump into the game-making mosh pit anyway. Andrew "Teppy" Tepper is one of these visionaries who had an idea for a unique MMO and took it to fruition. I mean, most of us come up with "totally tubular" notions for online games, but how many of us make it happen? Outside of a couple of doodles on a Post-It, that is.

In our second week covering the fascinating sandbox world of A Tale in the Desert, The Game Archaeologist had the pleasure of sitting down with Teppy to get his perspective on how one man bootstrapped his way into the MMO world. He also dishes on the team's next MMO project, which we'll be talking more about on Massively later this week.

So what's it like to create the ultimate sandbox in Egypt of all places? Teppy, take it away!

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The Game Archaeologist spins A Tale in the Desert: The highlights

Fantasy, A Tale in the Desert, Culture, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous, Sandbox, Crafting

A Tale in the Desert
Readers of the ever-so-humble Game Archaeologist will recall that earlier this year I had the opportunity to exchange informative words with Dr. Richard Bartle, the creator of MUD. Since he was -- and is -- a highly opinionated designer, I asked him what he thought was the most innovative MMO from the last decade. The answer was short and succinct.

"A Tale in the Desert, he replied, then added: "Note that 'innovative' doesn't necessarily mean 'successful.'"

Right there is the crux of ATITD's unique position in the MMO industry. Instead of storming down a path well-traveled, it took a machete and made its own trail -- a trail down which few have followed. As Jef recently noted in Some Assembly Required, it is an "odd duck" of a game, skewing as far away from combat as possible to focus on two often-neglected aspects of MMOs: crafting and politics. Even though its population has pegged it as an eternally niche game, it's proven that constant fighting isn't the only thing that can draw an online community together.

This week we're going to look at some of the more unique features of this innovative yet diminutive MMO, which began telling its tale back in 2003.

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Some Assembly Required: Is the sandbox dead?

Fantasy, Sci-Fi, A Tale in the Desert, Darkfall, EVE Online, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Ryzom, Wurm Online, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, Free-to-Play, Dawntide, Xsyon, Post-Apocalyptic, Perpetuum, Miscellaneous, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox, Crafting

Some Assembly Required - header with plans
Let's face it, folks, 2011 has been a fairly bad year for sandbox MMORPGs. Whether we're talking about the premature (and, ahem, forced) demise of Star Wars Galaxies, EVE Online's public relations disasters and its capitulation to the cash-shop-in-a-sub-based game fad, or Earthrise's rough launch, there hasn't been a lot to celebrate for fans of non-linear MMO gameplay in quite a while.

I've even had several friends ask me point blank: Is the sandbox dead? The short answer is not just no, but hell no. Join me after the cut for a few bright spots as we look to the future, take stock of the present, and try to forget about the past.

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