Dev Journal by Jessica Mulligan
Jessica Mulligan explains player controlled content in Ryzom Ring
Editor's Note: The following is a developer journal authored by Jessica Mulligan of Nevrax. It explains player-controlled content in the Ryzom Ring expansion of their game. This is an English-language exclusive.
It is all about the players making a difference, isn’t it?
For years, players of massively-multiplayer online games (MMOs) have been asking – nay, begging – for the ability to actually affect the story and landscape of an MMO world. They want to make a difference by building and running quests, populating new maps with buildings and NPCs and missions, build out Guild spaces with more than just a pre-fab house, have a chance at having their stories integrated into the world’s overall story arc. In short, players want to have some control of how the world is shaped, grows and changes.
Damn near every online game already has these tools in some form; they just restrict them to the developers by making sure that only developers can use them. Sure, some tools require more knowledge to use than the average gamer possesses, such as using a scripting language, but many tools can be easily handed off to players with some simple modifications. Now, that list might look like a lot, but is that really so much to ask for, when most of the tools are already built?
Apparently. What players have been stuck with for the last twenty years is an endless series of mostly static worlds, where the most dramatic change they can effect is to place a house on the terrain somewhere. If you’re lucky, maybe you can buy and place a vendor to sell goods. And as far as having an impact on the storyline… “Take this to Jake the Innkeeper in Foobarville. He will give you a reward. Thank you for your service to Whocaresville. King EatMe will be grateful.” Woo hoo! I’m getting a contact high just thinking about it.
I suppose I shouldn’t be so harsh. For all that they’ve been around for 26+ years, MMOs didn’t really take off big until eight years ago; we are still young as an industry. One should expect a certain amount of calcification to set in before new blood comes along and reinvigorates the industry.
Figure 1: A player browses the various maps and environments in the Ryzom Ring Alpha test.
But… what if things were different? What if a player could actually use an MMO’s world-building and mission-building tools to add new lands and quests? What if Guilds could not just place a house on the game map, but actually populate a new map with the buildings, NPCs and creatures they want there for their private Guild “ranch”? What if the players were given the opportunity to contribute to the backstory and the world, not only as designers, but with a full suite of game master commands to lead groups on those adventures? The collective intelligence and creativity of thousands of players is an order of magnitude or more greater than one small team of developers; what might we see if the player’s have a chance to collaborate with the designers?
Hold on to your hats; we’re about to find out.
Figure 2: A tester modifies an NPC he has placed on a Ryzom Ring map.
Nevrax’s Saga of Ryzom is currently testing the Ryzom Ring, an expansion pack that contains the first phase of these player content tools. With the help of our Saga of Ryzom players, we’re fine-tuning a basic feature set of point-and-click, drag-and-drop tools. When launched in about three months, these tools will allow players to do much of what I described earlier in this article. Any of those features that are not included at launch will be added via regular updates and patches throughout 2006, in consultation with our player base.
Figure 3: Placing creatures on the Ring Alpha test scenario map and then grouping them to move and fight together.
Anyone wanting more detailed information on the design and dungeon-master capabilities of the Ring is urged to check out the articles at http://www.ryzom-ring.com/. What I want to concentrate on is: Just what can happen to the industry here? Will the player-driven content tools of the Ryzom Ring change MMOs as an industry and, if so, how?
I only wish it was this date in 2010; I want to see how this all comes out, :D.
Figure 5: You Are Here. What would you do with a blank Ryzom Ring map and plenty of possibility?
- Jessica Mulligan, Executive Producer, Nevrax
Thank you to Jessica for writing this.
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