Let me take you down Memory Lane for a moment.
My first ever MMORPG experience was a sweet find: I'd been a gamer for some time back then (circa 2004). My first games were on dual floppy disk (no hard drive) Sperry computers that my School had bought in 1985. Well, now that I was an Internet geek in the day and age of an exploding Internet culture, I decided it was time to try and find a game online for once. After some searching around on Google I stumbled across this title called "The Saga of Ryzom" that was in "Open Beta" testing phase"; which meant and this is key: it was free!
Sweet! So I signed up for the open beta from my home internet connection, which in Australia is pretty pathetic, and started downloading the client. Whoa! Nifty! I remember reading though the Terms of Service (TOS) and seeing a section there that said, in essence, they were not responsible for anyone that loses their job, friends, family, from addiction to their game. Or something along those lines, right!
"Wow, they're actually warning people of possible gamer addiction in the TOS. Am I sure I want to do this?" I thought.
So, I started playing my first ever MMOG, The Saga of Ryzom in August 2004. It was fantastic. It has a beautiful world that is still hard pressed to be beaten in today's graphical intensive gamer environments. The environment "moves" in a wonderfully relaxing way, and the ambience noises it makes only add to draw you in to the whole game experience. The only game that I've found that was better was a game called Final Fantasy XIV. Both the worlds are so lovely, they really make the gaming experience elevated. But the pure ambience of the Ryzom world is something I've yet to find better.
I actually did quit my job during the time I was playing Ryzom. Mainly due to dissatisfaction with my employer, a large Australian tel-co, and not because I’d become a slavering addict to their world… though it was close.
The community of Ryzom was one of the best I've ever seen in all the games I've played since, and the game itself was going along strongly in the pre-World of Warcraft world where MMO's were still niche. It was probably my most favourite time gaming ever, up to that point. It still rates as one of my top 5 gamer experiences of all time.
My first character was made during the beta, and back then I hadn't decided on a perma-name for myself. Dyg is what I called him (pronounced "Dig"). He was a desert dweller or known as a "Fyros" in the Ryzom world. There are four races in Ryzom; the desert dwelling Fyros, the forest-kin Matis, the lake-dwellers called Tryker, and lastly but not leastly the jungle culture called Zoraï.
After the beta had closed I found that I was not allowed to sign up for the opening of the game, since I was in Australia. We miss out on a lot of stuff like that here. However, as soon as I got my chance to sign up with a digital download, I was still unable to bring my beta character forward. This is where I first chose the name "Oscarian" for my gamer name.
For the final release I chose a Matis character because, well, the girl toons are hawt! I'm not one of those males who plays a female toon just because they "like something nice to look at" while they play, however. Apparently it has something to do with getting free stuffs as well. I know one guy who went through an entire pregnancy and birth of her (his) child, all the while convincing the members of our guild, Pegasus Foundation that he was indeed a lady. He only told me his secret after I had left Ryzom, and it was years later that the rest of the crew found out. Pretty impressive acting eh? He never once chatted on voice chat with us and, well, now we know why.
I played Ryzom constantly for about 8-14 hours per day, on average, during those early pre-WoW days. After WoW came out we lost about half our population, which was a damn shame. People in Ryzom get famous because there is no restriction on one player being not able to talk to another in a separate faction. We all spoke in our given region, and we all got to know each other.
There was no PVP in those early days, just devastating PVE. When I say devastating PVE I mean the type of monsters/mobs that can kill you, but are not high enough level to give you any XP. That's the game world of Ryzom. So players were forced, in that regard, to band together and solve the problem of level grinding by grouping together.
Many a night I spent in near to full groups grinding out "just one more" level. "Just one more" even became a catch-phrase for us. I asked the devs to include it in the emoticons, but alas to no avail. We ground mobs like it was nobody’s business and it was so much fun! Just so much fun, and by today’s standard no one would agree.
For a first MMO Gamer experience, it was superb. Something that made gaming worthwhile. I have played many MMO's since, all because of the positive experience I had first, at the start.
Ryzom is the reason I now choose games based on whether or not they have a decent crafting mechanism in-game. Personally, I'm not interested in making money from mere trading. Grinder-crafting is okay, but only if your stuff is worth something to the vendor. Why do games make it so hard for a crafter to earn a living right? I mean, I gain levels in my chosen skill, why shouldn't that skill be worth something to a vendor. Take that one simple concept, then allow your vendors to sell the stuff you sell to them on to the player-base (which can be done in Ryzom) and voila, you suddenly find there's no need for an auction house. If I ever make my own MMOG, I'll be following the Ryzom model for crafting and for selling to the player, thanks very much. It just works, so if it ain't broke, why fix it right?
If you're truly looking for a game that is not a “WoW-clone” then start with a game that was around since before WoW existed. Ryzom might be just the game you've been looking for to refresh that long lost spirit of enjoyment in today's MMORPG market. Give it a whirl, there's a free trial, so what have you got to lose? I mean, it's free! You don't have to purchase the full client once you decide to subscribe. It's a pay to play model, so you pay $10.95 USD every month, and no up-front fees, you get a digital download, and plus the free trial. Where can you possibly go wrong with that?
I believe Ryzom is a game with talent. I believe that with the proper understanding of how the community works - a very important aspect of the game for reasons stated above - that there's a chance, even an off chance, that you might find the game of your dreams, not on the desk of a future “dev” design, but rather in the past of something that is solid, and tried, and yes, even true for the entertainment aspect of today's adult gamer.
You might be pleasantly surprised.