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AGC: Milko Berset, R²

Jon Wood Posted:
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R²: Interview and Demo from AGC

Milko Berset showed off the Ryzom Ring (R²) to Jon Wood

While on the floor at the Austin Game Conference, I had a chance to stop by the Nevrax booth to talk to Milko Berset about the new soon-to-be-launched expansion for their MMORPG, The Saga of Ryzom. The expansion, which is unique for an MMO, is titled The Ryzom Ring, and it really does put the power in the hands of the player.

Before heading to my meeting with Milko, I knew that Ryzom Ring was going to give the players the ability to make their own adventures and quests by providing them with the game’s toolset. What I wasn’t sure about was how well this would work. We’ve all seen editors before, and more often than not, they’re complex and time-consuming. I can remember learning the old DOOM editors. By today’s standards they were pretty simple but back then it took me ages to master the program so that I could make levels that would actually… you know, run. Same with the editor for Neverwinter Nights. That was a headache. I think that’s more or less what I was expecting when I walked in for my preview of Ryzom Ring. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The editor was nothing like the clunky toolset I was expecting. Quite the opposite, in fact. Right from the get-go, I was surprised at how easy it all seemed, and how intuitive the user interface actually was. As I watched Milko navigate his way through, I had absolutely no problem seeing and understanding everything that he was doing.

I suppose I should talk a little bit about the program itself. Ryzom Ring provides what feels like a limitless set of options in terms of setting. You choose from one of 200 different maps, each one with different points of entry for the characters. On top of that, at any given time, you can select the season and weather-type. This can go a long way in terms of storytelling and setting a mood.

Once you’ve selected a location for the adventure, the process of populating the world begins. The program offers a number of different basic setting objects that can be placed. Everything from trees, houses, streetlamps, and the like to even more complex mood-setters like birds flying overhead or tiny flies buzzing around a rotting corpse (my personal favorite). These objects can be placed anywhere and can be easily rotated and moved to the user’s taste.

I was especially impressed by the multitude of options available to the user when placing NPCs or monsters. You really can get them to do just about anything you want. You can give them basic dialogue, quests, movement paths, patrol areas and more. You can have them move or spawn when players walk through a certain area, open an object, complete a quest or something similar. It really feels as though there’s an option for whatever you want to be able to do.

In the past, I’ve worked with toolsets that were very difficult to change mid-stream. Meaning, if I assign a certain name to an NPC, something as simple as changing that name would result in my having to go back through the entire program, and manually alter each and every instance of that character within the quest. This program is intelligent enough to recognize the change, and adapt it automatically throughout the adventure. It’s a small touch, but something that shows Nevrax’s commitment to making this a tool that all of their payers can comfortably and easily use.

The last thing I wanted to talk about was something that Milko called “Dungeon Master Mode”. You see, the adventure creator doesn’t have to be a passive participant in their completed adventure. Instead, Dungeon Master Mode allows the creator to take an active role in the way that the adventure plays out. He/She can inhabit NPCs, monsters and the like, to make on-the-fly changes and decisions while players are mid-quest. I think “Dungeon Master Mode” is certainly an appropriate title for this ability, as it can give the feeling of a pen and paper dungeon master, adapting to player choices on-the-fly. After all, who hasn’t wished they could have their own, personal DM while playing an MMORPG?

All in all, I will be very interested to see how Ryzom’s fans receive this new expansion. It’s certainly piqued this gamer’s interest.

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Jon Wood