Monday, 28 May 2007

Sharkith the incompetent

Who is Sharkith?

The simple answer is that Sharkith is a character who exists in a game called Dark Age of Camelot on a server called Prydwen (renamed Dyvet). In short he is composed of pixels, a digital fragment, a database entry. He is an Elf Nightshade of the realm of Hibernia. He is mine. Actually he isn't mine. His skinny ass belongs to GOA the company I was payed to play the game. At the end of the day he is a digital signal located in a server somewhere in Paris (I didn’t really know any of this at the time). He is just pixels right?

I started him sitting in a rented house in Sheffield. We had just moved from London. I was delighted to finally start playing a game I had wanted to play for over six months. I had first seen the game at a friends house in Belfast. I was amazed that people could play together from all over the world and I liked the format of the game. It looked like it was more than just pixels. More than just beating the game and playing against a predictable AI.

I bought it along with the most recent expansion Trials of Atlantis. From the outset was I going to choose Albion or Hibernia. Hibernia was underpopulated. I liked the thought of the underdog and so I went for Hibernia. The problem was not many of the classes really caught my eye. In the end I went for the Nightshade. I suspected I might be playing alone and well a Nightshade seemed to be a good choice. I could not have been more wrong.

Sharkith and I got to know each other over the next few weeks as I played the game. The move to Sheffield was not easy, I found myself in the house alone frequently. We had to travel to London every other week. When I went to work I felt alone, I was given things to do that I didn’t like and work had little direction. Gradually I spent more and more time with Sharkith. Our relationship was not at all amorous (in case you get any ideas) after all he was just pixels.

The most important thing to remember at this point is that Sharkith was a Nightshade. He was not a very competent Nightshade in fact the adventure into the new world for Sharkith and myself was going decidedly poorly. Mythic describe the Nightshade as a “..sneaky assassin that has the ability to move about unseen, attack using deadly backstab combat styles, as well as limited magical ability.“ Thats the most recent description. Back then they had words like 'devastating' attacks and 'dispatching foes quickly whilst slinking away unseen'. Sharkith could do none of these things. He was more or less limited to a small blue spell to 'pull' monsters and kill them.

I was also having trouble with the content of the game. Apart from not really seeing the point of it. It was a source of constant frustration. After realising that most of the characters standing about looking bored were not really people but 'Non-player Characters' (NPC's ). I noticed that I could get the odd quest from them. For the first few weeks this involved running up and down along side a place called Lough Derg. Killing the odd monster and running away from many more. Water beetles became a constant plague on Sharkith and 'Clik' their evil boss was the cource of many beatings for the inept Nightshade. The quests did not really involve interaction just simply running through a script and following instructions in Sharkith's journal.

The instructions in the Journal were often opaque in the extreme. "Go to the west of x and kill the wandering wolf". Where was X? Often I would have a good idea but then when I got there there was no stupid wolf. Then to make matters worse night time would come and a bunch of evil looking monsters (mobs) would appear all around the poor gimp and he would get destroyed. Often finding himself miles away from the place where the quest was supposed to be. It was like someone had decided to single Sharkith out for some wicked joke almost everytime he was forced to do something. I often closed the game down in those first few weeks only to find myself logging back in because at the end of the day I don't quit anything. I never give up.

Other sources of frustration were learning how the world behaved around Sharkith. Some Mobs just destroyed him instantaneously others he could destroy instantaneously. Forced to log off after one particularly frustrating session I looked closer at the manual and discovered that the mobs had a colour code. 'Purple' = instant death, 'red' = death, 'orange' virually always = death, Yellow = frequently death and blue I could just about manage. That helped.

Gradually though through those first few weeks I began to learn more and more of the game. I conducted some searches on the internet and found a few sites where I could get information on quests and rewards. Through the use of these sites and a print out of zone maps with the locations of all the 'Mobs' I gradually figured out the 'content'. It was still a chore though and I was still frequently banging the table in frustration. I was often asking what it was about the game I actually liked.

It was after a few weeks into the game that I bumped into the first player controlled character by the name of Sky he was from a guild called the Marsh Horde. He invited me to a place called Muire Tomb where we grouped and things went superbly. I learned more about the game (after figuring out how to group properly) in a few hours than I had done in over a week. It was a lot of fun and I started to go to Muire tomb a lot more over the next few weeks. It wasn't long until I was in the Marsh Horde and people were explaining to me how to send a message to the guild. My first message was 'Hi'. That was my shortest ever message in Dark Age of Camelot.

Going back to Muire Tomb brought me in contact with quite a few different people. Some nice some not so nice. I began to realise that I should avoid some people and just stick with those who where nice. The new guild were brilliant in many respects and they helped me figure out the game world. The frustration of the game was still there but a large part of that was from incompetence and learning how to adapt to a completely different game format.

Then something happened that transformed my experience. My friend from Belfast joined the game in the form of Aithne a ranger.

Who is Sharkith?

At this stage of the story the simple answer is he was initially a series of empty pixels. A source of frustration and anger.

Yet the pixels only existed in relation to me, my life and what was happening to me. They only had meaning for me initally and then slowly as I got to know others in the growing world around me they developed a meaning for others. I realised that how I behaved in Murie Tomb when some people were rude had an affect on how Sharkith was seen by those people. I was frequently called 'noob' sometimes as a joke sometimes with venom. Finally, it was a very proud moment when I was invited to the Marsh Horde, even though at that time they would have taken anybody. Sharkith had a new identity now he was the member of a guild and a very nice guild at that!

With Aithne entering the game things where about to take on new meaning....

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