Too good and not good enough

Screenshot anime Aho-Girl

I have written 36000 words, and have nothing to show. Story of my life.

I am talking about my NaNoWriMo writing, but it appears to me that this may have a wider application for myself and others.

I am ahead of the official schedule with my NaNovel: Currently at over 36000 words. This is pretty much as expected, I estimated about 2000 words a day on this project. I also write some other even more unofficial fiction. I have been blessed thus far to not have serious Repetitive Stress Injury to my wrist, as I often had in my early years. I even have had some repetitive typing work at my day job (this is the first November in quite a while that I am not having my vacation) and still can type mostly without pain, so that is good. But as expected in the dreaded Week 3, misgivings about the project rise up.

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Problem number one is that the story is not very good. I just today read a thread on the NaNoWriMo Adventure forum, “Who is your favorite character” in your own story. And I realized that none of them were. The main character is certainly an unusual hero: The only known Player Character from when the the world was a game, he used to be one of the top non-Pay-to-Win players and has extensive lore and meta-knowledge of how the world works, which should make him quite powerful if he can survive the racism, fear and hatred as a scary-looking barbarian in a homogeneous society that sees itself as the only possible civilization.

But this fellow does not really have any passion. He is not looking to get back to the real world to his family. He is not trying to protect his true love or find some precious person who is lost somewhere in the wide world. Actually he rather likes this world, and his main concern is to stay alive. Which is somewhat harder in a world of warring states, roaming bandits, supernatural monsters, wandering swordsmen and superpowered monks. Still, a quietly worried Swede is not really the way to keep readers on the edge of their chair, I suspect. He may be relatable, but so is your neighbor and your Facebook friends.

***

So far, so bad. The other problem is that the book is not bad enough to throw caution to the winds and do the NaNoWriMo “quantity over quality” thing. And by that I mean throwing in pirates and ninjas in places where they don’t belong. Or the Traveling Spade of Death that goes from book to book, possessing people to murder named characters. Or Belinda the Chicken of Death. If all you want is the word count and a text that is recognizably English (or some other known language), then Not Taking Your Book Seriously is definitely the way to go. But by and large, at this stretch of my life, I don’t start that kind of book in the first place.

In a way, this is the story of my life, and probably many other lives. It is certainly unique, but not good enough to stand out in a good way, and not bad enough to throw caution to the winds and go hitchhiking in Caucasus with a backpack of chocolate-filled gold coins. And so we keep slogging through, even when we have come to 36000 out of 50 000 words and can dimly see the end in the distance, and suspect that it will be unremarkable just like the path there was unremarkable.

Age of Wushu – not for loners

Screenshot game Age of Wushu

As much as I’d like to explore in some depth a game based on the rich lore and practice of Taoism, I’m running into a couple serious problems. Not technical, but social.

I have played Age of Wushu for some days, and probably will for some more days. But I think my conclusion is pretty clear: This is not a game for me, unfortunately. The freedom and depth of this game is really amazing, but it is based entirely on cooperation with other players. Except for the tutorial, the game quickly becomes hard to play without friends.

To take the most famous example, you need to buy food from other players. The game has a hunger variable so after some days without food your health will go down the drain. But there are no shops selling food. There are shops that look like they would sell food, like a tea house or a pancake vendor. They don’t actually sell food to players. Only players sell food to players.

I worked around this by taking the Farmer and Chef life skills. You can have any and all collection skills, but only one production skill. So by choosing Chef, that character can not be a blacksmith or tailor or craftswoman or poison maker or herbalist (the latter being what I would otherwise have preferred, as the closest to alchemist which is a habitual interest for me). Well, at least I have steamed buns. Except after eating those for a couple days, I am told that my character “has no appetite for this food”. I can still eat them to keep from starving, but they will no longer take me to the higher levels of nutrition where one recovers health and strength at normal speed.

I can get round this (for now at least) by making more expensive foods, many of which also have positive side effects. However, I am told that if you send your steamed buns to another player, they will eat them with good appetite. And if they make steamed buns for you, you can also eat them. The point is, the game goes out of its way to make you depend on other players.

 

***

Speaking of non-combat skills (always one of my main interests in RPGs), these too depend on each other for all beyond the most basic products. You cannot make high-end products with only raw materials (which you can gather yourself). You also need products from other production skills, and you can only have one of these per character (and only one character per account). Some players get around this by making alts (alternate characters) on a different account and mail the goods to each other. It works, but it is kind of cumbersome. And anyway, you need other people as customers, at the very least. There isn’t really a game economy except for the players. Well, you can sell stuff but usually at a loss or at best around break-even.

***

Age of Wushu is a PvP game, Player versus Player. You can attack another player’s character at any time and fight them to the death.  It is not exclusively PvP, very few games are. You can hunt animals and fight computer-generated bandits. But you won’t get much, if any, Experience from this. Experience is the raw resource that you gradually over time turn into Cultivation points, which you can use to improve your stats and skills. Basically, your growth depends on a reasonable supply of EXP, which you can’t get on your own. As a new player, if you get into a fight with a more experienced player, you will definitely lose. You get no EXP for that, and lose some silver and take some damage to your equipment. So you can only advance fast if you have friends who stun or damage your opponents so much that you can finish him off.

An alternate way to make progress in the game is through instances, which are replayable scenarios (somewhat like raids in western games). These also require teams. This gets you Experience and useful loot. But again, not if you’re a loner who relies only on yourself. I guess this is an example of the Oriental mindset, individualism is strongly discouraged.

The game is somewhat sparsely populated these days. Certainly not deserted, but very far from crowded. Also as a game with open PvP (you can fight anyone anywhere, pretty much) it does not necessarily attract the most friendly and helpful community. That said, I am told some guilds have a pretty strong cohesion and joining guilds looks fairly easy. But it might be a good idea to try to play this game with a few friends you already know.

Age of Wushu is a very deep game with unique and interesting game mechanics (no levels, many non-combat and support abilities, you can keep improving by expanding your skill set) but it is not a good game for people who like to play alone and at their own pace. That means people such as me.

Of course, Real Life is even more so. Without other people I would not have food here either, let alone electricity and the Internet. But generally I don’t need to approach them in person about it, which is one of the wonderful things about the current version of Real Life. Instead of asking people, you can find almost anything on the Net, including reviews of games that are past their best-before date. ^_^;