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!)