Ladies and gentlemen, readers and fellow writers: I have an admission to make. I am a recovering A Tale in the Desert (ATITD) addict. My addiction took many weeks to break - weeks of cold night sweats and evenings of nail biting.

And you think I'm being dramatic.

I first realized my problem in the winter of 2004. My character was one of the leading researchers on botany and the crossbreeding of flowers. We were finally reaching some groundbreaking insights and new, well-bred flower bulbs were in greater demand than ever. I found myself setting an alarm to wake myself up every two hours, so I could get online to fertilize my prized garden.

This behavior went on for two or three weeks. In a blurry haze of disrupted sleep, I clicked hundreds of flowers, and during the day I would mass-produce fertilizer at the alchemy bench. My Excel chart of flowers grew to 363 lines of color-coded information, recording flower bloodlines and appearances, and plans for the future.

I stopped playing ATITD. I logged in only to tend my garden, and logged off as soon as I was finished. The game was no longer a game to me; it was a chore, like doing my laundry or washing dishes. I had a brief revival in the form of the Contest of Seven event, but in the end, my 48-hour quest for first place ended in more burnout (and a spiffy private island). My die had been cast; it was time to quit.

My story is not a strange one to Egypt. In Tale 1, 90% of players who quit did so because of burnout, while the other 10% either found the game too easy, or quit for other reasons.

Tale 1 ran for 18 months, during which about 2 million man-hours were played by between 1,150 and 2,100 accounts. Tale 2 was supposed to last less than one year, but has been running for 16 months so far, with 1.78 million man-hours played over a range of 1,230 and 2,500 accounts, and is not yet near the end. The extension of the game is somewhat frustrating to a lot of players; they were expecting a faster-paced game, and were worried that they'd not have time to research every nook and cranny. Instead, they are suffering the opposite.

Developers Andrew Tepper and Josh M. Yelon have always played an unending balancing act between overwhelming the populace and underestimating it. Technologies that should have taken weeks to unlock have been researched within days. Part of this is also due to the amazingly cooperative community of ATITD; the game's secrets were attacked not by many separate, competing brains, but by a network of intelligent gamers working together. Players set up one of the most informative and helpful fansites on the web, a Wiki maintained in four languages to freely share research, maps and trade information.

Because players were so adept at working together, developers had to up the ante to face the collective public. New research and construction projects were aimed at guilds and communities, requiring large masses of time, resources and manpower. Of course, the stubborn solo community of ATITD would have nothing of it. Soloers conquered Tests made for 49 people, and conquered construction projects that would make guilds shudder. And then, they burned out.

The non-solo community didn't remain unscathed, either. Most players fell prey to one of two scenarios: They either thought they were required to produce everything they needed themselves, instead of trading for it or asking for help, or overzealously pursued one project until it became a chore.

Chichis, a pseudo-celebrity of the ATITD community who first got into the game in April of 2003, was a college student with plenty of time to blow, and immediately entered the hardcore mainstream. "I spent time socializing, brainstorming, and just plain, mindless making stuff." The majority of his time, however, was dedicated to either the Leadership discipline or research.

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