A Tale in the Desert Interview; Controversy

October 25th, 2004 by Crusader has posted an interview with Andrew Tepper, lead designer for the MMORPG A Tale in the Desert, about the first month of the game’s Second Telling. New tests and technologies available for players are discussed; new interviews will be conducted each month to determine how the game is progressing.

Slashdot mentioned an incident from earlier this month in the game where a trader harassed female players at a GM-run event. Grimwell Online posted an essay by a player frustrated with the incident; more detail can also be found at the Wiki entry.

Tepper posted a comment on Slashdot to explain the character’s behavior:

To a new player, ATITD can seem like a game about building “stuff.” You build your camp, your compound, your character. If you play a long time, or play smart, you can excel in all of that. But the real challenge is that it’s a game about building a perfect society, and that is *hard*. It’s hard in RL, and if I’m doing my job correctly it should be hard in the game.

Along comes a foreign trader, with shiny new goods, and an attitude that’s totaly offensive, totally out of line with the culture that has developed in our Ancient Egypt. Would you trade with him? Would you put aside your morals, if it meant you’d get an advantage that many people don’t have? In real-life, would you patronize a store that had a “no jews allowed” policy? What if they had *really* good prices? Would you do it and hope nobody saw? Maybe feel guilty?

The best books, movies, television – can provoke a range of emotions. I like books that make me feel happy, enraged, triumphant, guilty, enlightened, sad. I want to have all of those emotions available in an MMO, and emotions occur in players, not characters.

So, to create emotions you have to do things to characters that the people behind them will react to. The only question is how hard is it ok to push? So hard that the person kills themself? Of course not. Did this event push too hard? Certainly for some people it did.

I’ll continue to make it hard to build this perfect society. If that means we trade subscriber counts for a more memorable, challenging experience, I’m confortable with that. After all, if I were optimizing for subscriber counts, I’d have done a combat based game. Hell, if I were optimizing for money, I’d have been a lawyer!

I can see the point that it’s difficult to challenge players in a community-oriented game without disrupting said community, but I can also sympathize with those players who were offended by this specific event. Feel free to discuss your feelings on the matter in the comments below.

A Tale in the Desert is free for 20 hours of culmulative play; after which there’s a subscription fee.

Finally, the British newspaper The Guardian posted a brief review of ATITD last month.

One Response to “A Tale in the Desert Interview; Controversy”

  1. salsadoom Says:

    I don’t know. This whole thing is just lame as hell. The people that are complaining seriously need to STFU and go somewhere else. “Oh oh,” they go, “I’ve been offended — so everything and everyone must change their ways to suit mine!”.

    Some peoples obnoxious politically correct nonsense really makes my blood boil. I don’t even play ATITD and I’m annoyed at this whiners.


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