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Adventures in Atys

A MMO veteran of the last decade returns to an older, lesser-known game for one more look. Join me as I explore Ryzom's Atys from a fresh perspective and shed some light on this unique game.

Author: Jianyu

Bushwhacking

Posted by Jianyu Saturday January 30 2010 at 12:30AM
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Yes, bushwhacking. Merriam-Webster defines bushwhacking as "to clear a path through thick woods especially by chopping down bushes and low branches". You may be asking yourself "What does this have to do with Ryzom?", to which I can only remind you that the game's setting is one of a colossal spheroid space-tree.

Reference:

Naturally like any other tree Atys has roots, it has bark, it even has branches, leaves, and moss growing on it. Unlike other trees however, Atys has enough flora growing on it to produce entire jungles. Unfortunately for homins, some of these arborial growths have a nasty penchant for tricking poor clumsy flower shop janitors into chopping up their lady-friends' sadistic dentist boyfriends and feeding them right back to said arborial growths for sustenance.

Ah, the beauty of the natural cycle.

Among the species of Atys's more sentient plant life we find the slaveni:

These large vines are most commonly found in the jungle regions, although some species have been discovered in the forests as well. While not aggressive by nature, the slaveni still poses a danger to any creature which it deems threatening. The primary method of defense for the slaveni comes in a two-fold attack. First the slaveni will rapidly increase the growth rate of its roots, pushing them out of the ground and coiling around its attacker's limbs. Having immobilized the attacker the slaveni will then proceed to detach its razor-sharp leaves, which it will fire in a projectile fashion. Should the attacker manage to break free of its trappings and reach the central vine, the slaveni will resort to aggressive rotations of its body at high speeds, creating a powerful whip-like effect.

Thankfully homins have developed a variety of means by which to neutralize and harvest the slaveni plant.

 

Homins practiced in the magical disciplines who have not yet learned the more specialized spells of the civilizations will find they achieve the best results through the rot spell.

While the secrets of the Kami are not yet wholly understood, some homins believe the spell functions by channeling the sap to create and accelerate the growth of plants. It is thought that the biological agents which increase the rate of decay are then transferred into the desired plant species, resulting in immediate atrophy.

Though ineffective against animals and the kitin threat, plants are significantly vulnerable to this technique.

 

 

 

Of course, standard weaponry is always an option for those who prefer it. While the density of the slaveni vine makes it resistant to blunt trauma, piercing and slashing weapons will cause noticeable damage.

A series of well-executed attacks will soon neutralize the slaveni, which can then be dissected and quartered.

 

Being native to the jungle I have found myself often clearing out large patches of these vines. It is important to note that slaveni in close proximity to one another will produce chemical signals warning the others in the event of a threat. Although this chemical does not carry far before dissipating, the slaveni roots will not regenerate the vine until all other vines in a patch have been destroyed. For this reason homins seeking to hunt slaveni are advised to bring a companion, as they will find their options limited after exhasuting the safer, sparsely-placed vines.

With Rikutatis preoccupied by weekend visitors and my creative mind in need of its own slaveni-like regeneration, I will be turning to an alternate subject in my next entry or two. I've asked a couple of friends of mine - all of whom are familiar enough with MMOs but have widely differing tastes - to give Ryzom a try. After an unspecified duration, they will write down their thoughts and observations about the game, which I will present here, unedited.

My hope is that in doing so I can provide additional windows into the style of the game and encourage those who find themselves connecting with the experiences of current players to pick up a trial and see for themselves, which is after all, one of the primary goals of this blog.

I'm sure you folks on the Ryzom team who are reading this will also find the information of use - thanks for the link on twitter, guys, and keep up the great work!

The Trouble with Progression

Posted by Jianyu Thursday January 28 2010 at 2:30AM
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Today began quietly as I settled into my room after classes and booted up my computer. The first question on my mind was "How is Ryzom going to surprise me next?". Being a rhetorical question, I had to settle on my back-up: "What do I want to do today?". There is something to be said about the implications of that question, particularly applied to the MMO genre, but I'll get into that later.

Before the play can begin, the stage must be set, so allow me to recount today's Adventure in Atys by lifting the curtain on a serene summer night. The dank air carries with it the sounds of the jungle: the low growling of a slumbering ragus - her belly stuffed with her day's hunt; and the faint fluttering of winged seeds as they drift carelessly to the ground. Boisterous chirping rises from unseen insects beneath the thick mist, and beyond the swaying trees and the canopies above is the sky: a deep ocean of indigo littered with the lights of distant worlds, all dwarfed by a near and familiar planet.

This vivid image of Atys may be hard to grasp by those who have never visited the living planet, but I am certain those who have experienced it for themselves will agree: the preceding paragraph describes the sights and sounds of Atys far more accurately than any screenshot could.

Its a shame that so many of the people who brought Ryzom to life are no longer working on it. The level of detail birthed by the vision and inspiration of the game's developers is at worst astounding. To play the game and embrace the concepts that drive it means to open your eyes to more than just the numbers that define how strong you are. It means to begin to notice the world around you, to see tiny elements of ambiance everywhere you look - things you wouldn't ever think are important to a video game, but add such vibrancy and life that to be without them suddenly leaves you wanting. It is impossible to turn your camera anywhere on Atys and not notice this. It could be the birds flying in the sky, or insects crawling on the ground. The clicking croaks of pond frogs signals you towards a colorful family jumping its way in and out of the mud; sound cues are just as important, and everything in the game produces some sort of sound.

If you have a surround sound system, you're in for a fantastic experience.

Having taken a moment to appreciate the atmosphere, I proceeded to begin working on my swordsmanship. Not long into the hunt however I suddenly had a change of plans. After a brief period of correspondence through mail, I caught reader and new player Rikutatus online. Unlike yours truly, Riku chose to begin his life on the mainland in the desert region, home to the Fyros. Though we were separated by great distance and even greater beasts, luck came in the form of generous members of Phaedra's Tears (Joneyentee, Thaella, and yesterday's Tyneetryk - featured above - among them) who were planning a trek from the forests to the jungles, which would pass through the desert and pick up Rikutatus on the way.

Rikutatis poses for the blog

Eager to get to spend more time with other homins I anxiously awaited word of their arrival, upon which receiving I quickly teleported to Zora to greet everyone. After settling in and making pacts with the local Kami and Karavan shrines, discussion turned to what the trekking team would tackle next. The decision was made to make a return trip to the desert, allowing me the opportunity to finally explore another ecosystem.

After a long but relatively predator-free journey to the jungle outskirts, we came upon the cave that led to Fyros territory. The first thing I noticed after crossing through was that the desert is very, very bright.

The difference between the environments was so distinct that I had to let my eyes adjust. Having done just that, we set out to cross the dunes...

...we saw fascinating new creatures...

...and ran beside gorgeous vistas...

...and as the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, there stood our destination. Beyond the hill, nestled in the shadow of the cliff rests Pyr, capital city of the Fyros civlization.

After a brief respite and some conversation in the streets of the city, Rikutatis and I bid farewell to our guides, and Ryzom further broke away from what I have come to expect as the norm in MMORPGs.

I would ask my readers who play more conventional MMORPGs such as WoW. EQ2, or LoTRO, in particular those who have max level characters and have been playing for at least this long, to think back on the last 3 or 4 months. In that period of time, how often have you thought about going into forgotten newbie zones and giving players just starting out a set of upgrades, some money, and offered to escort them halfway across the continent to meet their friends? How often have you seen or heard of other players doing that?

I'm not asking this sarcastically, I am in fact genuinely interested to know because in my experience, the level of overall community interaction in Ryzom seems far and above anything I've experienced since EverQuest 1. Its such a jarring change in attitude that it begs the question: why?

There are very likely tens or hundreds of possible answers to that, but the one I would like to explore is, as you may have already guessed, progression-oriented gameplay. Not that there is anything wrong with progression, mind you. I have no intention of demonizing this type of game design, and in fact I often embrace it. Regardless of your position however, it is an undeniable fact that the core design of your game will influence every other element no matter how convoluted, player behaviors certainly included amongst them.

I'm personally very fond of progression in the right circumstances. To offer you some perspective, I hold the realm first level 80 Death Knight achievement on my server in WoW. In Age of Conan, I out-leveled the collector's edition experience bonus ring before I could even claim it once obtaining the box after head start. I then proceeded to reach level 80 (the game's level cap for those unfamiliar) before the end of that first calendar week. More recently with the launch of Aion, I spent nearly a week, sleep-deprived, straight grinding until I hit level 40...at which point I finally passed out and if I recall correctly, ran myself off the edge of the abyss with my face.

The point is that I am a relatively hardcore "no-lifer" when it comes to a progression game that I can commit to. If the game is about competition and shiny carrot after shiny carrot to prove just how much extra free time I have, you can bet I'm there with the best of them, and somewhere above-average if not.

Now, the thing about progression is that everything hinges on having another level to gain, another hurdle to jump, another boss to kill, or another piece of loot to farm. Inherently this isn't a bad thing. If anything, its quite clearly one of the most popular forms of gameplay. Its employed by a very significant portion of single player games and is part of what has made World of Warcraft the massive success that it is.

The problem lies in the fact that while progression gameplay makes for really engaging single player games, MMORPGs require a bit more maintenance. There's nothing to complain about with a single player progression-oriented RPG (most japanese RPGs would be considered progression-based, whereas a game like Oblivion is not) unless you generally dislike the style. You get started, you're given progressively more challenging goals, you accomplish those goals, and are rewarded with progressively better equipment / skills until you eventually complete all the available content and subsequently beat the game. The end result is a satisfied gamer who then looks for the next game to occupy their time, and thus the process repeats.

Now lets look at progression in an MMORPG. A player creates his or her character, a process that for most games should give players some sense of freedom and choice. Having decided what their new online persona will be, the player enters the game for the first time. They are immediately beset by questgivers offering them specific tasks which upon completion reward them with experience and often improved equipment. The equation is simple, the player feels that he or she is accomplishing something, and continues to follow this path which offers increasingly difficult tasks with increasingly better rewards.

Eventually our player discovers instanced dungeons. The dungeons present a similar formula in a different package: complete the challenges (bosses), be rewarded (loot/experience). This is where our problems begin: once our player realizes that s/he has obtained or exhausted every meaningful reward, there is no longer any need to complete the challenge. As more and more players reach this same point, the dungeon sees less and less use. Eventually it is forgotten and left unused (save for the occasional alt-gearing), and the development time and expenses used to build the challenge begin to go to waste.

Meanwhile our player has made his/her way to the level cap, and is ready to begin raiding. Now the rewards don't involve experience, and are instead focused solely on loot and, in some cases, bragging rights. Making new raids isn't cheap, and it isn't fast. Because so much time must go into making these raids function, the developers must extend the amount of time before the player exhausts a raid's rewards, which most often comes in the form of loot tables. Now instead of 3 or 4 runs of an instance before getting all the gear, the player finds that s/he is often not getting a single drop in an entire run, and if s/he's lucky enough to see such a drop, there's still the matter of winning the roll (or bid).

The extended usefulness of the raid also manifests itself in lockout timers. While these accomplish the goal of limiting the amount of gear any player can obtain in a given period and reduces the influx of these things into the game, these also hinder the player. Because progression also means that while challenges become harder and loot improves, older content becomes increasingly irrelevant, players will eventually reach a point where the only reason they have to run this older content is either for the fun of it (a problem I will broach shortly), or to help friends. This means that there is a void that must be filled when not raiding, and this void is very often comparatively larger than the amount of time the player actually spends raiding each week.

Still, the game is about progression. Eventually that new raid will open up, and in order to experience it, our player needs the gear from the current raid. So the months go by and our player keeps at it, but the raid never changes. The loot might, and maybe the raid members, but the actual content is the same every time through. Eventually it becomes predictable, boring even. By the time the player has exhausted the loot table, s/he's long exhausted the fun factor, and the raid becomes all carrot and no stick.

Sure the new raid brings new challenges and new gear, but the pattern will ultimately repeat because Content = Time(Money + Resources), and in a genre that lacks definitive endings content is king.

In a game like Ryzom content comes from the design of the world itself. Player interactions are content, exploration is content. crafting is content, and even though the game may not see as many regular updates or as large updates as mainstream MMOs, the content is so cyclical and continues to feed into itself and everything else that it really doesn't matter. Despite how few substantial updates as the game has seen, a large number of players have been playing for years - some since the very beginning. Comparatively, imagine playing World of Warcraft for 5 years without ever having a new raid or dungeon added. Doesn't sound too fun, does it?

That is because progression content is finite. Its all about reaching a goal for the purpose of being able to work towards another goal, ever higher up a ladder that you're climbing faster than is tall because C=T(M+R). Is the new content fun? Sure. Does it keep the game fresh? For the most part, yes. Is it sustainable? At the expense of a lot of other things. Even if you're a casual player who will never reach that point of exhaustion, think about all of the development resources that could go into making your game experience so much more enriching with small details like those in tonight's introductory paragraph.

More importantly, getting back to my earlier question, lets think about the impact this has on player behavior and community growth. When everything hinges on progression, suddenly players need to watch out for themselves and their immediate circle. The game becomes less about interaction and more about "How can I get myself to the next point in progression?". Pressure is placed on the players to spend their time specifically focused on these goals.

Rather than stopping to ask "What can I do today?" the question becomes "What should I do today?", and suddenly the freedom and choice is gone. Its all about climbing to the top of that ladder.

Without these sorts of pressures and pidgeon-holing, players in Ryzom can spend more time doing what they want to do rather than what they need to do. Suddenly it no longer matters that the game has hunting/gathering mechanics instead of questing, because its no longer a grind, its an experience. One that changes every day because all of the game's weight is placed on the immersion and the interaction.

I truly think the industry could benefit from creating a delineation between Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games, and Massively Multiplayer Online Virtual Worlds.

Having thoroughly crammed your heads, I'll conclude tonight by taking things down a notch.

At the end of the evening Rikutatis and I, both being roleplayers, decided to take our first plunge into our character concepts. Both being Zoraï and devout followers of Ma-Duk (who for those that do not know is Ryzom's equivalent of Avatar's Eywa), it was only natural that we would end up discussing our theism at a Kami sanctuary.

Venturing out into the jungle we came upon our destination and sat ourselves to meditate. It was around this time that a yubo wandered up to me and plopped itself at my feet. For the entire duration we were there (a bit over 2 hours) the yubo stayed by my side. It was a totally unexpected and considering the subject of the roleplay, perfectly suited event.

What is even more astonishing however is that after saying our good nights and going our separate ways, the yubo continued to follow me!

It followed me far beyond its normal territory all the way back to the city and continued to stay with me for some time before finally losing interest. While it isn't abnormal for creatures to come up and inspect players, I've never seen or heard of one that didn't immediately run away after doing so. I'm not sure if it was because I was RP-walking rather than my usual run, or because I had unequipped my weapons and made myself less threatening, but needless to say it was a very awesome experience.

It was testament to exactly what Ryzom represents, and why it has given me the inspiration and passion to write this blog.

Ma-Duk Watches Over Us

Meeting People

Posted by Jianyu Wednesday January 27 2010 at 3:17AM
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After spending all of my free time Monday writing up my new player guide, I was happy to be able to log some additional time on Ryzom today. The first thing that greeted me when I logged on was a beautiful sunset, even moreso because the season had changed from spring to summer since I last logged off.

I doubt the difference in colors or flora is very noticeable to those of you who have not (or do not yet) play Ryzom, and to be fair the jungle isn't exactly the best place to view the change of seasons, but that subtlety is the sort of thing that you pick up on as you get involved with the game.

My goal for today was to level my offensive magic skill to 45. This is a milestone for the offensive mage, not just because it means access to the next level of direct damage spells, but also because these spell upgrades mean something that I greatly appreciate, and find lacking in modern games.

I remember playing EverQuest and the sense of awe that came from seeing higher level spellcasters in action. As players reached certain level milestones, their spell casts would gain additional/larger particle effects, so that even when casting the same spell as a level 1 character of the same class, theirs would look far more powerful and impressive.

Few games invest in this detail, choosing only to represent spell upgrades with increased damage. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm personally very bored with my level 80 warlock casting the same shadowbolts he was casting at level 1 (WoW). Its even more disappointing considering that particle systems are not particularly time-consuming or difficult to work with once implemented. I say this with a degree of experience as someone who worked extensively with the particle systems in Neverwinter Nights 2's toolkit, as well as Second Life.

Really, if all I cared about were the numbers, I'd play a pen and paper or MUD. Part of the attraction of MMORPGs is the added visual aspect, and I am very pleased to say that Ryzom embraces this by offering spells which have more and more impressive visuals every few ranks. But I digress...

With my goal in mind, I set out to find a suitable hunt, which at my skill meant the mektoub watering hole. For your viewing pleasure, I've provided a reference of precisely what a pack of grazing mektoubs looks like:

Adorable critters, aren't they?

No, not really. They are more akin to runaway trolleys of death. To be a successful hunter in Ryzom, you need to understand that no two species are alike, even ones of equivalent levels. Not only are there different behaviors in terms of aggressiveness or assists, but there are also differences in health, armor, damage, resistances, and pretty much everything else you can think of. The offset to this is that because experience gains are determined by the amount of damage dealt leading up to a creature's death, those that take longer to kill also award more experience than less sturdy critters. As for Mektoubs? Well, they have a lot of health, they deal a lot of damage, and what else? I'll let you guess. Here's a hint: mektoubs are the mount of choice for the homins of Atys.

This means that they run very fast.

You can see how that might be problematic for a mage.

After suffering a few deaths, I decided that the Mektoubs may not be the best hunt for me, and set out to find a new camp. After wandering for a short while, I came upon a small hovel inhabited by a pack of yubos. Yubos are Ryzom's equivalent to the giant rats of EverQuest or the leets of Anarchy Online. Though like any creature on Atys they cover a wide range of levels, these adorable little scamps are the first creatures new homins will encounter, and boy do they have personality!

Just about every creature in Ryzom has a wide variety of animations to accompany their diverse behaviors. If you happen to notice something coming towards you with an eye icon (which identifies that the creature is targeting you) next to its name, don't run away just yet (unless you know it wants to take a bite out of you!). If it isn't a predator or assisting one of its siblings, chances are its just checking you out. Stand around for awhile and observe it; most creatures will show their curiosity by sniffing you or some other subtle animation. In the case of yubos, it isn't uncommon for one to urinate on your foot before scampering away.

Probably to tell all of his adorable forest friends not to mess with his newly-marked territory.

Perhaps its because of this behavior that I didn't feel quite so guilty as I unleashed a storm of acid spells on every living thing in the immediate vicinity.

A plan which in retrospect may not have been so wise. You see, I wasn't the only thing interested in collecting yubo meat today. I was given my first taste of Ryzom's predator-prey interactions when I realized that I was encroaching on the hunting grounds of some prime javings - javings being nasty aerial creatures that have a habit of disarming your weapons, which in Ryzom means manually re-equipping afterwards.

Although difficult, the javings also proved to be a worthwhile hunt, and I spent the next hour cautiously hunting both yubo and javing, occasionally having to make a quick escape during moments of carelessness, when the javings would ambush me with a re-pop. Despite this challenge, I was able to reach my goal for the day, and it was around this time that I noticed my regional chat tab had a new message.

To my surprise, there was actually another homin inhabiting that area of the jungle! Even more surprising was that he was asking about me. I'm not sure if that was due to having read my blog or guide, or just having seen me on /who, but we got to talking and eventually I was invited to work on my defensive magic by healing this strange new homin.

Returning to Zora, I met up with the first player I would see since leaving the Ruins of Silan:

Ghuiss

Ghuiss suggested we make our way to an area of the jungle known as the Void. Not being familiar at all with anything beyond my current region and eager to see new things, I happily agreed to go wherever he wanted and do my duty of pretending I could do meaningful healing with my low ranking spells. With our plan in mind, the two of us set off for our destination.

I would like to say that our journey was one of beautiful vistas and exotic creatures, and to a certain extent it was...but rather than a gorgeous sunset that screamed "adventure", Atys felt it more appropriate to throw a raging storm our way. Not that there's anything wrong with a good storm, in fact Ryzom features some of the most impressive weather I've seen in any game.

Unfortunately the screenshot cannot do justice to just how intense these storms can feel. Not only does the sky become dark and littered with lightning, nor does the rain come in a torrential downpour, but the game has the added element of the wind, which is often left out in rendered storms. Particularly with less sturdy flora like palm trees, the game creates a sense of strong wind by causing leaves to blow violently and tree trunks to bend ominously. Really impressive stuff, and I'm excited to see what winter brings.

Before settling on our hunt, my companion led me down into the Prime Roots, deep below the bark of Atys. The Prime Roots are, admittedly, something of an obsession for me. Ever since seeing initial screenshots back when I started following the game in 2003, I knew that I wanted to spend a lot of time there. You see, bioluminescence is something of an obsession of mine and well...

Disappointingly we didn't travel any deeper than the entrance, but that is likely for the best, as everything I've been told speaks of the Prime Roots as a highly dangerous region that challenges even the most experienced players. True though that may be, all I see through that cave is a forest of lights amidst infinite darkness, and I want to see more. Some day...some day...

Returning to the surface, we began our hunt. For the most part Ghuiss did all the hard work while I stood back spamming a heal that barely moved his health bar, but I like to pretend I was useful. While I might not have gotten the sense that I was highly contributing, I did get to see something I've been waiting for: one of the advanced elemental spells available to higher skilled offensive magicians. In particular, electricity.

Again this is the sort of thing that must be seen in action to truly appreciate, but ah well...perhaps one of these days I will get around to making clips to accompany my entries?

After some time practicing my skills with healing, my companion and I bid our farewells and he left to turn in for the night. I however still had plans. Having not had the chance to do so earlier, I returned to Zora to train my coveted new spells. Excited to see the improved effects, I began to test them out on the creatures just outside the city gates when it hit me - my magic amplifiers were too low to benefit these spells!

For those who haven't yet read my guide, magic amplifiers are the weapons equipped by mages in Ryzom. While they don't have any damage properties on their own, they help to focus spells by decreasing casting times and improving power. Due to the nuances in crafting, amplifiers come with varying degrees of benefits for the varying types of spells (some amplifiers may have better bonuses for healing magic than they do for nuking).

Needing to find a new pair, I did the first thing I could think of by going back to my knowledge of the game from 2004, and visited the weapons merchant. I was a bit surprised when I found that there were no players selling goods through him, and he was only selling basic quality NPC weapons. Knowing that without effective amplifiers soloing would be out of the question for me, I turned to the Universe channel and asked for anyone available to craft a set. Tyneetryk was quick to respond, and she was soon in Zora with a newly crafted pair of higher quality amplifiers to help me on my way.

I spoke with her for awhile afterwards, learning that the reason for the lack of player sales on vendors was due to the community's attitude towards equipment. According to her, because the only real non-player generated expenses in the game are teleportation pacts, mounts, and other relatively cheap and/or frivolous things, there isn't so much emphasis placed on the trade of currency. Particularly because these expenses can be funded by selling excess goods directly to NPCs. Instead players work to help each other simply for the sake of doing so; although as I understand it there is a degree of guild and faction loyalty later in the game, which is to be expected.

I have to admit this was refreshing to hear, having returned to other older games in the past only to find that the economy had inflated to ridiculous proportions that new players can not hope to accommodate. While it does add a degree of reliance upon socialization and the good will of other players, I feel that this attitude from the community is healthy for the game, and helps to introduce new players to the interdependence that the game revolves around early on. While not being able to obtain a necessary upgrade to use higher abilities so readily may mean the game is less "pick up and go", Ryzom doesn't really seem to be about rushing your way to anything anyway, and so the types of players that the game would retain shouldn't find this to be detrimental.

New amplifiers in (or perhaps over) hand, I returned to the yubos from earlier to put my new skills to the test. As I worked my way towards higher magical proficiency, I noticed the universe channel growing active with questions from newer players. Not wanting to shy from the commitment I've made to help the game grow, I got involved in helping them get situated, and in the process learned that some had already read my guide or blog and been encouraged to pick up the game in doing so.

Thanks to you guys for that. I really mean it, it's encouraging to know that there are people already getting things out of what I'm trying to do. Remember you're always welcome to shoot me a PM or in-game mail if you've got any questions!

The discussions in the universe channel also led me to begin talking with another more experienced player, who ultimately came out to my little hunting camp, intent on teaching me how to more effectively hunt as a magician.

Frivolous

Frivolous was kind enough to teach me about the advanced behaviors of certain creatures on the mainland. In particular she introduced me to the methods used in identifying which plants are safe to attack, versus which will be assisted by friends. This was particularly important as a character attacking from range, as plants are immobile and will often trade their damaging attacks for spells to root you in place. Not only does this mean I take less damage overall, but less interrupts as well, making plants far more efficient targets than fauna.

She also introduced me to what seem to be the primary catalysts for the game's faction war, coincidentally known as catalysts. When activated, catalysts provide double experience gains for skills up to a level matching the quality of the catalyst. Unlike experience buffs that last for a limited duration, catalysts are consumed on each kill depending on the amount of experience gained. This reduces the pressure to grind as fast as possible for the duration of a buff, which is a nice touch.

As I understand it, these catalysts are produced by outposts, which are controlled by guilds loyal to either the Karavan or Kami faction. Outpost control is determined by PvP, and I'm sure I'll come to understand the system in more detail as I experience the game further.

All in all, today was highly productive, and was my first introduction to the veteran community of Ryzom as well as some of the advanced systems of the game. It was great to have my initial concerns of the game being sparsely populated put at ease, and to witness first-hand just how friendly, courteous, and helpful members of the community can be...though I've been told that the Kami/Karavan conflict can be fairly bitter.

My interest in the game only deepens as I get to experience more. Recent releases have all been about presenting a glorified version of the gameplay during the starting levels, only to end up with shallow and redundant gameplay later on. Ryzom is different in that it presents the basics of the game from the very beginning as they are, and only serves to grow deeper and more challenging as characters grow.

This is the first night in half a decade where I truly anticipate the next time I log on to a game.

Getting Started in Ryzom

Posted by Jianyu Monday January 25 2010 at 10:29PM
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As promised, today's entry will be a guide to getting set up in Ryzom. Due to the nature of the game and my own newness, it will be impossible for me to cover everything, however I will try to make this as extensive as possible in order to cut down potential confusion. So without further adieu...

 

Getting Started in


 

Table of Contents

[1] What is Ryzom?

     [1a] Why This Game is Unique

     [1b] Who is Ryzom's Target Audience?

     [1c] Atys, the Living Planet

     [1d] The Four Civilizations

     [1e] The Kami and The Karavan

[2] Getting Started

     [2a] Downloading the Game

     [2b] Creating an Account

     [2c] Configuration

[3] Character Creation

[4] The Interface

[5] How to Play

     [5a] The Basics

     [5b] The Ruins of Silan

     [5c] The Four Skill Trees

     [5d] Enemy 'Conning' System

     [5e] Building Actions

[6] The Mainland

[7] Tips & Tricks

[8] Useful Links


 

[1] What is Ryzom?

Ryzom is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Developed by french studio Nevrax, the game launched in mid-September 2004 as "The Saga of Ryzom", the game boasted a sandbox environment influenced by its players. For a variety of reasons (notably a confusing initial design, a patch that many players disliked, poor release of the Ryzom Ring, and the successive releases of EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft) the game did not acquire a strong following. After Nevrax entered into receivership, the game changed hands until finally being shut down in October 2007.

In August 2008, new owners of the game returned the servers to life. Since that time the game has seen small developments and improvements, as well as some new external features. The game continues to survive, nurtured by the passion of its players and development team.

 

[1a] Why This Game is Unique

Ryzom is unique in the MMORPG market for a number of reasons. The most apparent to anyone looking at the game will be the setting; rather than a traditional fantasy or science fiction, Ryzom introduces races, creatures, and environments that are completely alien. This is both daunting and liberating, as players are expected to forget the comforts of the stories they are familiar with and embrace completely new concepts.

The game features an open-ended character development system. Player progression is not determined by a predefined class or profession, but rather by the choices the player makes in developing their skill trees. Players may choose to specialize in fighting, magic, crafting, or foraging; but to experience the game to its fullest, most will explore all four. These initial specializations divide further as a player gains skill levels, for example fighting will divide into melee and ranged fighting; melee fighting will divide into one-handed, two-handed, and close-combat specializations, and those specializations will split further into their respective weapons. There is no limit to how many skills a player can master, although mastering them all would surely be a challenge.

In addition to the skill trees, players are able to design their own skills and spells through the use of stanzas. By combining attack properties such as damage type or area of effect with costs and limits, players can effectively customize their skills to suit their play style. This is explained further in section 5e.

The game also sets itself apart through the design of its world. Atys is a planet in constant change; not only does the game cycle through the seasons, but creatures will migrate, resources will shift, and outposts will change hands. Daily life will change for players as well as the game hinges on interdependency. With the economy and the story in constant flux, a life on Atys is an ever-evolving one.


[1b] Who is Ryzom's Target Audience?

While the game may appeal to a variety of players, there is little question that in this day, Ryzom is targeted at roleplayers seeking an immersing sandbox experience. With its complex world design and free-form gameplay, as well as the ability for players to create and 'DM' their own instanced scenarios (not covered in this guide), the game should appeal to anyone looking for a deep and engaging MMORPG where imagination takes precedence over progression and status.

Ryzom also sees heavy roleplaying support from its owners, allowing players to embed themselves in the ongoing storyline of the game.

While I would not discourage anyone from trying the game, consider it fair warning that players interested in traditional treadmill games with pre-written storylines and large amounts of solo play will not find it here. An open mind and desire to experience something new will be the key to finding your enjoyment in Ryzom.

 

[1c] Atys, the Living Planet

In the far reaches of space in an unknown galaxy, a lush green planet teems with life. This planet is not like those we know; it is not formed of rocks, minerals, and ore. Instead, the planet is a singular organic entity - a gargantuan tree, growing ever-outward. On the bark of this tree live the Homins, the people of Atys not unlike humans. In the skies above are the canopies; gargantuan branches extending far into the horizon. Below are the Prime Roots, the cavernous dark filled with the planet's riches. Homins must not explore too deep, lest they breach the core and incite the ferocious Kitins within.

The playable area of Atys is divided into five distinct geographical regions. On the planet's bark are the forests, the desert, the lake-lands, and the jungles. Each region is home to a native Homin civilization. Also open for exploration  are the Prime Roots, where Atys's greatest challenges and treasures await.

 

[1d] The Four Civilizations

Players of Ryzom may choose to create a character in any of the four civilizations: Fyros, Matis, Tryker, or Zoraï. Each civilization has its own distinct culture reflected not only in their cities, but also the armor and weapons they create.

View a trailer introducing the four civilizations.

Fyros, Masters of Fire

Determined, loyal, and fierce, the Fyros have built their kingdom in the harsh deserts and consider themselves to be the protectors of the fertile regions of Atys. Their society rests on a strict code of honor and the common goal of finding and eradicating the dreaded Great Dragon of legend.

Apart from striving for social dominance and the restoration of their Empire, the Fyros have taken it upon themselves to protect the environment from the ravages of fire. These masters of flame also aspire to further develop their already extensive knowledge of the fabrication of fire-toughened tools and weaponry.

Matis, Lords of the Bark

Beautiful and powerful, the Matis are both a romantic and conquering race. The Matis seek to rebuild their majestic kingdom, a legend of the ancient lands, but their own intrigues consume all their energy as each family vies for the crown. As proud heirs of an ancient monarchy, they staunchly believe that just as every particle of the universe has a function, every homin must strive for his or her true place in society - even if it means conquering other civilizations to attain it.

Well versed in botany, as well as genetic manipulation, the Matis have taken root in the forested areas of the new lands, where they are able to find every living essence needed for their experimentation. The Matisian villages are sculpted into majestic trees and their strange and wonderful gardens are a marvel to behold.

Tryker, Children of the Wind

Shorter of statue than the other homin races, the Tryker have retained their flighty and carefree nature despite the events of the past. Excellent explorers and inventors, as well as experts in wind technology, the Tryker have built their new civilization in marvelous floating cities of the lakelands, dreaming of a world without the burdens of tyranny or intolerance.

In their penchant for conservationism, the Tryker have also developed the technique of water purification, and they continue to look on water not only for its biological value but seek to use it for energetic ends.

Zoraï, Keepers of the Wild

Often feared by other civilizations, the Zoraï are mystics from the dark jungles who zealously serve the living planet and quest to cleanse the Goo. In their search for spiritual enlightenment, the Zoraï have grown close to the mysterious Kami, whom they regard as higher disciples of Ma-Duk. They proudly wear the Kami mask of kinship, which is genetically bonded to their faces, distinguishing them from other homins.

Masters in the manipulation of electrical and magnetic fields, the Zoraï take advantage of these forces in the fabrication of their weaponry and buildings. Structured around magnificent temple-cities, the Zoraï not only seek to restore the glory of their former dynasty but are also keen to promote spiritual awareness throughout the newfound lands.

 

[1e] The Kami and The Karavan

Mysterious and powerful, the Kami and the Karavan are held in awe, if not venerated, by all of the homin civilizations. These beings possess intimate knowledge of the world and are considered the ultimate authorities on the arts of magic and technology - when they choose to share that knowledge.

The Kami are the guardians of plant life and the organic balance of the world and are responsible for teaching homins the art of magic.

The Karavan are masters of unknown technology with devastating powers and spread the holy word of the Goddess Jena.

For many centuries these two forces have kept their distance, observing one another in a cold war, joining together only to push back the Kitin.

Read more about the Karavan

Read more about the Kami



[2] Getting Started

[2a] Downloading the Game

Ryzom can be downloaded by visiting the game's website at Ryzom.com. Players have the option to download Ryzom directly, through a torrent, or through a mirror. After downloading, simply run the installation setup and follow the prompts, and you'll be ready to launch the game!

 

[2b] Creating an Account

Accounts can be registered at secure.ryzom.com/signup/. No credit card is necessary, and the game is free to try for 21 days. The trial has no artificial restrictions placed on it, and players may experience the full game during their trial period. After registering, players will need to confirm their accounts through the e-mail provided before logging in.

 

[2c] Configuration

After launching the game, players will be presented with a login screen. From here they may access the Game Configuration settings.

Once the configuration page has loaded, you may change your resolution, graphical and sound settings, as well as access debugging options should you find them necessary.


 

[3] Character Creation

[Jianyu's Helpful Hints: Click the play arrow in the lower-left corner during character creation to animate your future Homin! Each civilization and gender has its own unique animation cycle.]

After logging in (which, by the way, must be done with your username in lowercase), players will be taken to a windowed version of the character select screen. To create a new character, select an empty slot and click on the 'Create New' button in the lower-right corner.

You'll then be taken to character creation, where you can begin to make your Homin. You may first choose your civilization and gender. Afterwards, you will be able to customize your body shape.

As you can see, the sliders can go to moderate extremes. Some changes are more noticeable on certain races or genders than others, but every player will be able to create an avatar between the realms of husky, slim, and muscular as they see fit.

Facial customization is also possible. Although the basic shape of the head cannot be altered (save for the chin), the facial features may be reshaped or repositioned.

Players may also select from a variety of hairstyles and colors, as well as eye color and tattoos. There are additional hairstyles and tattoos that can be purchased from stylists on the mainland for varying costs. If you would like to view all the options before deciding on a character, you may do so via the dressing room at BallisticMystix.net. You may also view the various armor types, qualities, and colors here; note that there is no restriction to equipping another civilization's armors or weapons. Also note that the only elements of your character's appearance that can be changed after creation are hairstyle and color, as well as tattoos. You may not reshape your character.

Before completing creation, players must select an action specialization. Here you may choose additional focus in fighting, magic, foraging, or crafting. The abilities granted by these specializations can still be trained individually, but not every player will want to train those specific abilities at all, so consider this when selecting your actions.

Once you've finished customizing your Homin, click the 'Finish' button in the lower-right. You will be prompted to select your server (there are three, each representing a language/region - Arispotle is the English server) as well as your default movement keys (these can be changed once in-game), and finally your name, which must be one word and can contain no special characters.

Having done all of this, you are ready to begin your own adventures in Atys!


 

[4] The Interface

[Jianyu's Helpful Hints: If using a wide screen monitor, you will need to set your aspect ratio individually from the screen resolution. You can do this by going into system -> game configuration -> graphics -> general. Set the ratio to Auto using the drop-down menu, and it will adjust the image to the appropriate resolution.]

An important element of any MMORPG, Ryzom's interface is relatively simple, but there are some hidden windows and controls that aren't readily noticeable. First, let's take a look at the core interface:

For a larger image, click here.

The interface windows are as marked:

A] Character Status - Here you can see your name, current title, as well as your pools. The red pool is your health, the green pool is the sap used to cast spells, purple is the action used to perform combat actions, and blue is the focus used to prospect, forage, and craft. In the upper-right corner is the PvP flagging button.

B] Target Status - When you've selected a target, their name, health, and difficulty will be displayed here. More on this in section 5d.

C] Mission Log - You can track the status of your missions through this window. The objectives are displayed at the bottom in white, and will grey out as you complete them in the case of multiple-objective missions.

D] Chat Window - This is your means of communicating with other players. By default there are 5 tabs here: Around (vicinity chat), Region (each ecosystem is divided into a number of regions, which are seamless from one another), Universe (a game-wide channel that is meant to be used only for requesting help / asking questions), Sys. Info (your combat log, etc.), and User (pretty much every tab's incoming messages put together, save for Sys. Info). Joining a team will also cause the team chat tab to appear.

E] Main Menu - Here you can access a variety of additional windows including your personal stats, inventory, friends list, and more.

F] Radar - This allows you to see creatures, players, and resource nodes as blips. When on a mission in the starting areas, a pink arrow at the edge of the radar will guide you to your objective, and the distance will be displayed in meters below. You may also right click the radar and choose from waypoints you have created, and the guide arrow will lead you there.

G] Action Bar - Here you can access your skills and perform actions. You can also right click an empty hotkey (or an existing action) to edit/create a skill of your own. More on this in section 5e.

     G1] Main Hand - Clicking on this will allow you to set your main hand weapon or tool.

     G2] Off Hand - Clicking on this will allow you to set an off hand weapon or shield.

Now that we've explored the basics of the interface, let's take a look at some of the additional tools available.

First we have the system menu, accessed from the main menu:

From here you can go into your game configuration and touch up some additional graphical or interface settings, set your keybindings, open additional windows, or more. You'll also see there is an MP3 player option. While Ryzom does not feature any looping music, you may choose to load up tracks for your own listening pleasure. Note that if you are running in full screen, it will be necessary to alt+tab out to the file selection window after choosing to open tracks.

Opening the key bindings window will show a number of additional options that the game does not normally present. The first, and perhaps most important, is the ability to toggle between dodging or parrying attacks via Shift+D by default. In addition, make note of your sit key, as sitting will help to speed up your regeneration. You will also find that you can raise and lower your camera's default position by holding CTRL and pressing either 9 (to raise) or 3 (to lower) on the numpad. This is particularly useful when taking screenshots. One more keybinding to note is the "Front Selection Enemies" key under Actions. This is similar to tab-targeting in other games, and is bound to the space key by default. You may wish to change this for comfort, as hitting tab out of reflex will start cycling through your previous tells if left default!

The other important menu item is the communications button.

From here you can open your contact list, containing friends and ignored players. You will not be able to add players to either list unless they are currently online. You can also check your current fame (or faction/reputation) with varying inhabitants of Atys, check your in-game mail, or visit web resources for the game. While the web button won't open a traditional browser, it will allow you access to forums, news, and profiles relating to the game. Finally you will be able to access your animals, which will include your mounts and pack animals.

The last element of the interface is certainly not the least. The map will allow you to see your position in the world, various respawn points, as well as any markers you have placed.

The map itself is not highly detailed, as players are expected to learn the lay of the land for themselves. It will however provide reference points for navigation, and allow you to add markers for resource nodes, teleportation shrines, and other odds and ends. In order to place a marker, right click the map and then choose to place either where your cursor currently is on the map, or in your current location. You can then name the marker, as well as set a category to help keep things organized. The time of day, month, year, season, and weather are all displayed at the top of the map.

While there are additional features to the interface, they are relatively straightforward, and should not require additional explanation.


[5] How to Play

This next section will, to the best of my ability, address how to jump into the game and begin playing. Keep in mind that, aside from a couple of tutorials,most information in this section is subjective. It is only meant to springboard you into discovering the depth of the game for yourself, and avoid as many new player frustrations as possible.

 

[5a] The Basics

There are a couple of basics that new players should know before beginning to play Ryzom: the meaning behind the stats, the way weapons function, how to heal up, and the consequences of death.

Statistics

Players will focus on 8 primary statistics in Ryzom. Each pool has two related statistics, one controlling the maximum of that pool, and the other determining the regeneration rate.

Constitution determines your maximum HP (or hit/health points). There are many dangers in Atys, and a high constitution is needed to survive them. Not only will wildlife pose a threat, but harvesting resources can result in dire consequences for those who are not gentle with their harvest. It is also used to determine the quality level of armor a player can wear. Higher quality armors will require a higher constitution score. Similarly, heavier armors will require more constitution than lighter armors of the same quality level.

Metabolism determines the regeneration rate of your HP.

Constitution and metabolism, being useful to nearly all skill trees, can be trained at any of the skill trainers.

[Juanyi's Helpful Hints: Because skills in crafting, harvesting, and magic are proportionally more expensive than those in fighting, many players choose to use their fighting skill points on HP upgrades, and save their other points for their respective skills]

Intelligence is a magic-user's lifeblood, as it dictates the maximum amount of sap (or mana, for those more familiar with the term) a player has. Sap is used to channel the magic of Atys, and more powerful spells require more sap to be cast. Intelligence also determines the quality of magic amplifiers that can be worn.

Wisdom determines the regeneration rate of your sap. Both intelligence and wisdom can only be trained at a magic trainer.

Strength is to fighters as intelligence is to casters, as every special attack performed will drain a player of his or her stamina, which strength increases. Strength is also needed to equip better quality weapons.

Balance determines the regeneration rate of your stamina. Both strength and stamina can only be trained at a fighter trainer.

Dexterity fuels the focus pool, which crafters use to construct their goods and foragers require to prospect and harvest.

Will determines the regeneration rate of your focus. Both dexterity and will can be trained at either a crafting or foraging trainer.

Weaponry

Ryzom places a degree of importance on upgrading your weaponry that is not normally encountered in games. While you are able to perform any attack or cast any spell that you please, you will only receive the benefits from your equipped weapon if it is of a high enough quality in relation to the action's level. As an example, you will not receive casting speed or damage bonuses when casting Acid Damage 2 with quality 10 amplifiers, but quality 15 amplifiers will work just fine. If a weapon is too low to augment a skill, you will receive notice each time you use that skill.

Healing

The healing system in the game is a little unorthodox. In traditional games players can supplement their regeneration rates with food or healing spells. While the game does have healing spells available, these can only be used to heal other players. Instead players need to train in special "Self Heal" abilities. These exist for each of the four pools, and share the same 3 minute cooldown. Each level of training in these self heals increases the amount healed by 100. Of course if you're stingy with your skill points, you can always sit down and regenerate the old fashioned way.

Death

As with most games, a character dies when his health reaches 0. Should you die in Ryzom, you have two options. The first is to await a resurrection - this can be done by any player with a healing spell. Rather than a traditional resurrection spell, a player only needs to heal you back to consciousness. The other is to choose to respawn at a resurrection shrine. After dying, a window containing the game map and a respawn button will appear. If you've visited additional shrines in your travels you will have the option to select the shrine you would like to revive at; these look like glowing blue circles. You have about five minutes to be revived before you will automatically be forced to respawn.

The death penalty in Ryzom comes in the form of an experience debt. After dying, you will need to pay off your debt by gaining any type of experience through normal means. The higher your overall skill totals, the more experience must be paid. On average this can be cleared up in a few kills of even-level creatures. [Jianyu's Helpful Hints: Due to the value of crafting materials, its best to avoid crafting if you have any outstanding experience debt.]

 

[5b] The Ruins of Silan

New characters will begin as refugees on an island called the Ruins of Silan. Without pageantry of any kind, you are dropped into the Rangers' Camp with little more than starting weapons and the clothes on your back. In front of you will be Chiang the Strong, whom you will need to talk to in order to continue your starting mission. Due to the nature of the game, even seasoned MMO veterans will want to read every possible dialogue and pop-up. Not only will this introduce you to the world, but it will also teach you important basics about the game.

Shortly after meeting with Chiang, you'll be sent to meet with one of the four racial leaders; one for each skill tree. They will each offer a series of missions that award substantial experience and good starting equipment. If you intend to train in all four skills, I advise completing each mission from each trainer alongside the others, as they will often intersect and require you to go to the same region or defeat the same enemies. If you would like to see a full guide for these missions, there is an excellent write-up on the Ryzom forums. Note that some missions will require teamwork, in which case you'd be best suited to ask for assistance in the Universe channel. Some players keep well-geared and high-skilled alts on Silan specifically to help new players.

It is possible to train your skills to upwards of 60 in Silan, although you may leave the island at any time you wish. There is no requirement to train or complete any quests, but the mainland is a more challenging place and new players will benefit from the lessons on the starting island. In order to travel to the mainland, speak with Chiang the Strong. Note that you must not be on the initial mission given upon logging in for the first time in order to accept his quest to leave the island. Also note that you cannot return to Silan after leaving.


[5c] The Four Skill Trees

There are four primary skills in Ryzom: fighting, magic, crafting, and foraging. Players are not restricted from training in any amount of these, although as more skill levels are gained, the trees branch out to become more and more specific. Mastering every skill would be quite a feat, but most players will still choose to dabble in all four fields to some extent. In order to gain experience in a specific skill, you will need to use the relevant ability. As an example, offensive magic experience is gained by casting offensive magic spells, while defensive magic experience is gained by healing or casting defensive spells.

Each time you gain a skill level, you will be awarded 10 points for use at that skill's trainer. These points can then be used to purchase new abilities, stanzas, or upgrades to your statistics. Be aware that some skills have prerequisites in order to be learned; you can view these in-game by opening your action window ('B' key by default) and clicking on the skill tree in question. The abilities trainable from that tree will be located in a panel to the right, and you can right-click those to view their prerequisites.

Fighting

The standard form of combat in Ryzom, the fighting tree encompasses both melee and ranged weaponry. Basic attacks consist of bonuses to damage or accuracy, although these can be combined into a single attack for a higher cost. As your training continues, you will be able to select from a variety of additional stanzas that will allow you to add special creature damage bonuses to attacks, create conditional attacks based on parries/dodges, add area damage, and other improvements. Fighting trainers can also teach players taunt and defensive skills.

Fighters in Atys will want to equip themselves with medium or heavy armors. Medium armors are more suited for offensive roles, due to the cost penalties inflicted by heavy armor.

Magic

Delivered to Hominkind by the mysterious Kami, the magic tree allows a player dominion over a wide variety of skills. Whether it is to harness destructive elements or heal their allies, a player who follows the path of magic will find himself discovering new and more powerful ways to tackle the challenges of Atys. Much like fighting, magic users will discover that as their training continues, they are able to create more varied spells, adding elements such as cone, chain, or area effect properties, among other things.

A principal lesson of magic is that not all creatures on Atys share the same weaknesses. The acid spell which is given to new players is highly effective against normal wildlife, but plant life and the Kitin are not greatly affected by it. Players will need to discover the rot spell to fight the living plants, and the cold spell to combat the Kitin menace. Additional elements will open up further into the magician's training as well.

In order to most effectively use spells, players will need to equip their magic amplifiers. Amplifiers will often have varying properties that increase the damage and casting speeds of affliction, elemental, and beneficial magics. It is important to inspect amplifiers to see which will suit your purposes best.

Ryzom also differentiates itself from other games by how its affliction spells function. Damage over time effects, crowd control spells, and similar abilities are meant moreso for group play than for soloing, as these spells must be maintained by the caster through channeling. Movement or other action will cancel these spells, but a focused magician will be able to turn the tide of battle for his team.

Crafting

Crafting is the core of Ryzom's economy. Every weapon or piece of armor or jewelry that holds any meaningful value is the product of the hard-working crafters of Atys. Starting out, players will have a melee armor crafting tool and one or two recipes depending on their chosen specialization at creation. With these simple patterns, basic armor pieces can be created and provide the skill points necessary to branch out into additional types of crafting (which require additional crafting tools), as well as to acquire stanzas that will, for example, allow a crafter to create an item with a bonus to one of the four pools. While initially crafters will only be offered the patterns for their civilization's styles, it is possible to make the journey into the other regions to learn patterns not native to their people.

Crafted items are, of course, reliant upon the materials that are used in their creation. Materials in Ryzom come in a variety of qualities, colors, and with differing statistics. Understanding how these are calculated to determine the final product is part of the path to becoming a truly great artisan. Materials can be acquired either by quartering them from creatures, foraging for them from resources nodes, or purchasing them from other players.

Foraging

Homins whose heart belongs in the wild will find themselves at home with foraging. There are two primary methods to foraging in Atys. The first is to do so from exposed nodes near the beginning outpost on the starting island, and the primary cities on the mainland. These materials are crude and while make for good experience gain at lower levels, are nowhere near comparable to the materials that can be found via the second method of harvesting: prospecting.

Using the prospecting skill players can journey out into the wild, track down an area rich in resources, and bring the nodes up from beneath the ground to be harvested. Because they are initially hidden, it takes a degree of patience and learning to become a skilled prospector. As you grow in foraging, you will be able to purchase skills such as deposit tracking, which will help you to locate nearby resource deposits. Once activating this tracking ability, green text at the bottom of your screen will inform you of the distance to the nearest deposit. You must then follow the continuing hints given by these messages to locate the nodes, at which point you may begin prospecting.

Don't be discouraged if you find yourself having difficulty locating the precise location of a node. As you train, you will eventually be able to increase the range and radius of your prospecting. In addition, you can learn to track or prospect only for a certain quality or type of material. Prospected nodes have the benefit of returning the focus used to forage to the player upon completion of their harvest, as well as awarding additional experience when compared to exposed nodes.

When harvesting it is important to keep an eye on the status of your node.

The first meter represents the time remaining on the node. When this meter is exhausted, the node will disappear, and you will need to prospect for another. The second meter shows the quantity of resources still remaining in the node. At earlier levels you will only be able to prospect for one or two materials per node, but increased training will allow you to extract higher qualities faster.

The third meter represents the life of the node. There are two forms of extracting materials - harmful and gentle. Harmful extraction is trained earlier, but risks exhausting the life of the node more quickly. It is possible for the node's life to deplete before the timer runs out. Harmful extraction also risks depleting the fourth meter, which represents the node's stability. If this meter reaches zero, the node will explode in either an immediate area-effect damage, or will release toxic gases that will reduce your health for as long as you stand in them. While this may add a sense of urgency to your harvest, it will not exhaust the node itself.

The final bar represents the Kami tolerance for foraging in a given region. As protectors of the balance of Atys, the Kami do not look kindly upon the wanton extraction of natural resources. Should this meter reach zero...well, you have been warned.

Foraging can become a group activity, as players are able to learn skills that will allow them to prevent the depletion of these varying meters while another player harvests, thereby increasing the potential quality and quantity of the extracted resources. Keep in mind however that continuous harvesting of a single resource will eventually deplete that resource, and you will need to give the planet some time to heal before you can harvest from that location again.

 

[5d] Enemy 'Conning' System

Crucial to a life of adventure is the ability to understand the relative difficulty of the dangerous creatures around you. In order to do this, you must look at your target window after selecting a creature.

There are some obvious things to point out here. You have the name of the creature, the health bar, but what exactly do those numbers mean? Well, the number in the circle represents the level of the creature. A level 8 suckling capryni might make a good hunt for a level 3 fighter, but not so much for one at level 25. Generally the number of stars above its creatures head are meaningless, as is the color of the circle the level number is in - these are only general representations of level that help to identify creatures who are too high for you to see their specific levels.

Some creatures in Atys are identified specifically as team level challenges. By mousing over the circle containing the creature's level, it will inform you if this is the case.

There is no method by which to tell if a creature is aggressive or social, save for doing so by old fashioned trial and error. Embrace the bountiful life on Atys, and learn for yourself just what kinds of odd creatures inhabit it!

 

[5e] Building Actions

Ryzom's most unique feature by far is the ability to build and customize your own actions, be they crafting, harvesting, or combat related. This is done through the game's stanza system, which is a balancing act of skill elements with costs. To understand how this works, we must first look at the interface for creating a skill. To do this, either right click an existing skill and choose to edit it, or right click an empty hotbutton to create a new action.

Here you can see I am beginning to create an acid spell. I've done this by first selecting the offensive missile spell blueprint, and then by clicking the "add option" button, adding elemental acid damage. I can now select the degree of damage I wish to apply. I've decided to go for my highest trained damage with Acid 4. Because of this, I now have an action cost of 40 that I must make up for by adding credits before I can learn the action.

Here is a list of some credits I have available to me. For the most part they consist of additional casting time, range, or sap, although I could also learn to add, for example, a health cost. The more a credit impacts my spell, the more value I will get for applying it. In order to make up the 40 points needed, I will add the Sap 10 credit worth 25, the Range 5 credit worth 5, as well as a casting time credit higher in the list of options that will cover the last 10. The final skill formula will look like this:

I can now see the details of my action such as the success rate, cast duration, sap consumption, and range, and I am able to confirm the action, though I may wish to name it before doing so. The stanza system can be used to create a variety of abilities, such as specifying a type of material in a prospecting action or adding an area effect property to a spell. With increased training you will learn additional options and credits, and these can be combined to create new formulas that may not have been available otherwise, for example you may choose to edit a lower damage spell with a higher sap cost, in exchange for increased range or reduced casting time. Your character's abilities are ultimately in your own hands!


 

[6] The Mainland

Having reached a comfortable level of training in the ruins of Silan, you've decided to take the plunge and journey onwards to the mainland. Now your life as a Homin truly begins. The mainland offers a diverse array of challenges that you as a player will need to grow and learn to face. The missions available to you now will no longer supplement your experience gains or reward you with improved equipment; you will need to meet other Homins and learn to hunt for your living.

That is not to say that Ryzom has no traditional quests or missions after Silan. There are in fact a variety of tasks that can be completed for the inhabitants of Atys, but these are mostly to generate currency, or in the case of rites, to earn cubes of amber that will teach you about the lore of the world. Do not expect to be led through a quest progression that will support your leveling needs.

The reward of the game is not in reaching the highest skill levels, but in immersing yourself in the experience Atys offers. Take in the sights and sounds, observe the creature behaviors, and learn to be a part of a virtual world rather than just another toon on a leveling treadmill. Take risks and explore, and you will find the rewards are greater than any shiny boss loots.


 

[7] Tips and Tricks

  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Not only is it important to watch for aggressive predators, but you will find that simple features in the geography become invaluable guides when navigating Atys.
  • Make liberal use of map markers. Once you've stumbled upon a resource node, jot it down! You may find yourself looking for those exact resources for your crafting later on.
  • Want to zoom your camera out further? Go into your Ryzom folder, open the client.cfg file through notepad (or word processing program of your choice), and add this line:
    CameraDistMax = 50.0000000000;
  • When placing an item up for sale to players through an NPC, make note of the mark-up percentage. You're free to set this as high as you see fit, and you don't even have to collect the money if it sells - it will be deposited right into your inventory.
  • If space is running low, consider investing in a Mektoub Packer. These beasts of burden will hold large quantities for you, and make for excellent traveling companions, but be wary of predators looking to make a snack out of your four-legged friend.
  • If you need help with something, ask! Ryzom's community is very friendly, open, and helpful, and the game is truly set up to encourage interaction.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment. Many enemies in the game have different properties; if your slashing weapons aren't effective, try swapping out for piercing!
  • Stop and breathe. Atys is a beautiful place, enjoy your time there!

 

[8] Useful Links


 

The Return to Atys

Posted by Jianyu Monday January 25 2010 at 3:58AM
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So there I was two days ago, sitting at my desk, staring blankly at my monitor. My mind is struggling to find something to feed my insatiable addiction for online gaming, but nothing can give me the fix I need. Why not? Well, maybe I should start by introducing myself:

Hello, my name is Jianyu, and I'm an MMOholic.

That's right, I'm not ashamed to say it! I was introduced to the genre over a decade ago with a little gem of a game called EverQuest. Since those first days of patching for eight hours on my dial-up modem (and a whole 64 megabytes of RAM!), I don't think I've spent more than a day or two without logging onto some online game, even when I didn't want to.

Now, 10+ years is quite awhile to be playing a single genre of games. Like many people, I was always interested to see what new things were being introduced, and over the course of the years I had gotten my greedy mitts on nearly every major MMORPG release. Of course, I had some personal tastes that kept me from enjoying certain games. Still, I found some gems and had a good few games that lasted me for a number of years each.

Fun as those games may have been, I began to notice something in recent years: developers were beginning to whittle away at what made massively multiplayer online games "massive". Player interdependency, open world exploration, the sense of your avatar having some sort of permanence and impact, all being slowly chipped away with each successive release. The infamous "New Game Enhancements" for Star Wars Galaxies is a prime example.

Not that there's anything wrong with some of these instance-heavy, gear/token-grind oriented games. To be fair, World of Warcraft (which, before Wrath of the Lich King, still had more of a first-gen MMO feel to it) is still a relatively fun and interesting game...in the same sense that an arcade game is fun. I maintain my subscription because I will still log on for a few hours a night, work my way through the current raiding content, and then log off while I wait for the next raid night or for the timer to expire. Its a temporary fun.

Well, I don't want temporary fun. I remember when MMORPGs were open-ended enough that I could log on and do something different every day. I remember when I was meeting new people not because I was just going to run a dungeon with them and then drop the group, but because the world thrived upon people meeting other people. The games were, quite literally, made healthier by it. These games entertained me for years at a time, rather than just weeks or months.

Well...that's some introduction. Back to our story, then?

So there I was sitting at my desk, bored out of my wits. The last few months had been pretty exhausting on my gaming habits; after losing interest in Wrath of the Lich King, I set my sights on Aion. 6 months of building and preparing a legion with the core members of my long-time WoW guild went to waste when, 2 weeks into the game's release, I realized it was too shallow for me, and I wasn't being engaged the way I wanted. I had gone back to WoW (after swearing it off completely) for some months afterward, and when the fun of maxing out my old main wore off, I turned to EverQuest 2 to do the same. The process wasn't very different: go to dungeon x, acquire tokens/shards/armor currency, repeat with dungeon y, so on and so forth until I could no longer progress further until the next expansion (or patch).

Like I said, boring. For me, anyway.

I began to go through my usual MMO-boredom ritual. Scan the MMORPG.com forums, read up on a few games I've played in the last couple of years, talk to old friends still playing said games, and look longingly over my display of boxes.

And there, like a ray of hope, was a forgotten game that I had bought back in 2004, only to drop it shortly after as EQ2 and WoW approached:

The Saga of Ryzom or, as it's known now, simply "Ryzom". I didn't really remember much; some basic things about the game sure: the skill tree system, the implementation of seasons and weather, the creature AI...and the bad things too: the confusing interface, the lack of introduction, the frustrating enemy 'con' system. I also found it pretty difficult to immerse myself in the alien world, but I figured after my recent obsession with James Cameron's Avatar (yes, I know everyone is comparing their game of choice to the movie, but for the sake of discussion, I'm only thinking in terms of the themes of a living planet and nature v. technology) it might be time to give the game another try. What could it hurt?

The download only took me about 20 minutes on my shoddy campus internet, and after a small patch I was fixing up my graphics settings and creating a character. I decided I'd go ahead and roll a Zorai (my previous favorite being the Matis), and after toying around with the structure of my mask and struggling to figure out an appropriate name, soon found myself rerolling because a) the structure of my mask didn't work properly with the tattoos I would eventually buy (there's some additional tattoo/hair offerings once you hit the mainland) and b) 'Makulei', while a nice tribal-sounding name, apparently didn't fit the Zorai culture. Seems like Chinese names are the way to go with those guys. Being the stickler for proper naming convention that I am, I worked out a new character, and thus Jianyu was born.

It took some time to get my bearings. The game was already different enough from other MMORPGs - it didn't help that it was also different from how I had remembered. There were some settings that needed to be changed (in particular, aspect ratio must be set individually from screen resolution -- you can get this number by dividing your width by your height if you aren't on a 16:9 monitor), some keys to be rebound, and a whole new starting island to explore.

It wasn't long before I was comfortably performing tasks for the various skill trainers. Comfortably being a relative term here; the game has a learning curve. Reading every bit of information the game gives you, from starting island NPCs and pop-up hints alike, is a must for even the most grizzled MMO veterans. Even that information couldn't prepare me for the necessary experimentation in learning the best ways to harvest for the materials I needed, figuring out which enemies are aggressive or social, or building my own skills and spells.

This, to me, was refreshing. After playing so many "new player friendly" games that made me feel like I was being patronized and kept on a leash for my first levels, I finally felt like a true newbie again. Hell, I still am a newbie with a great deal more to learn and explore, but the starting island did give me the lessons I need to survive.

It also gave me quite a bit of good starting equipment, though some of it required me to complete team-oriented tasks. Thankfully the (somewhat small) community is quite friendly, and some players even have dedicated alts which they keep on the island to help new players out. If you intend to complete all the quests on the island (and I highly recommend you do), be sure to make good use of the Universe channel and look for some help.

So after training my skills to what I felt would be a comfortable level (at least 30 in each major skill I intended to pursue - melee fighting, offensive magic, armor crafting, and foraging), I decided to depart for the mainland. Having never had the opportunity to see the region for myself, I chose to start in the jungles native to my civilization (race), in our capital city of Zora.

I'm not yet sure if it's due to the low population, or because the jungles are pretty much the back woods of Atys, but I found I was the only player there. That does not mean it felt dead; quite the opposite, all the NPCs and creatures do a great job to make the world feel alive even without other players. In fact, I soon found myself enjoying the serenity of hunting in an untamed wild, with only the sounds and sights of nature to keep me company.

Though some might see it as simple grinding, I found myself appreciating the immersion that went into the hunt. Learning to navigate by simple things like the formation of trees or the placement of herds, figuring out (often the hard way) just what my next action would bring about, and really having to explore to find the appropriate prey for my skill level.

As night approached and a storm rolled in, I was able to see just how much life there was to Atys. Golden lights lit up the ground as the sun set, and when the night was at its darkest, predators began to grow bolder and attack not only myself, but their prey of choice.

It was a captivating moment, but also a somber one. As I reflected on how much I had matured in my gaming style over the years and how I was finally feeling that old spark, I couldn't help but think of how unnoticed the game has gone, and how many ideas the old development team held that had gone unrealized. I thought to myself of ways that I could contribute to helping the game grow, even if only a little bit, and ultimately decided that I would begin this blog.

So, dear readers, whoever you may be, I offer you this: every night or so I will update this blog. Sometimes the entries will be succinct, and sometimes they will be long and rambling, but I will present my adventures in Atys for as long as I feel there is some value in them. It is my hope that by writing this here on MMORPG.com rather than a private site, I can generate some greater exposure for the game. In addition to retelling my daily journeys, I will also try my best to provide tips and hints, as well answer reader questions (you can post them in the article comments).

I don't expect to make any converts overnight, and of course the game isn't everyone's taste, but if you've never had the opportunity to play Ryzom before or never really "got into it" but are still curious, then I invite you to come back and see what tomorrow brings. Perhaps, one day, you'll join Hominkind.

(Oh, and tomorrow brings a guide for newbies / getting started. I figure I'll get the essentials out of the way first!)

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