From Atys with love
MMOs change over time; that is in their nature. But we who play those games, the players, change as well over time. I do believe that an MMO only need to be good enough in itself for us to play it – the rest depends on the players’ situation and it may very well be a matter of timing of a game works out for us. Old games may become great choices rather than always expect the good stuff to come from the new and shiny pieces.
The Saga of Ryzom is a game that I have jumped in to multiple times over the years; but it has only been with the most recent visit that I actually headed off past the newbie area. To a large extent that was a matter of timing rather than any severe flaws with the game. This time I have started to explore more of the “real” world of Ryzom and so far I like it.
The world of Ryzom
The game is labeled as a Science Fantasy game – a mix of Science Fiction and Fantasy. The setting certainly have a bit of both and there are certainly intriguing elements. The location is the planet Atys, a world with in many ways is perceived to be alive – it is in constant change and the creature inahbiting the planet do live with these changes.
The playable race is the homins; not suprisingly human-looking. They are divided into four major groups of people – the Zoraïs, Fyros, Trykers and the Matis. Each group has a certain climate area which is their preference and also historically different types of activities which where their prime focus. More on that later.
Life on Atys is not only goverend by the interaction with nature and the environment itself, but also what perhaps could be considered the two major spiritual factions – the Kami and the Karavan. Both of them are creatures/beings with much superior powers to the homin; the Kami draws their magical type powers from the interaction with nature and the Karavan from superior technology usage.
In addition to those there is one other major force in place, which is the Kitins. They seems to be an insectoid race (think the movie Starship Troopers) and most certainly seem to have some hostile intent. The story starts in the aftermath of a major clash with the Kitins – players are refugees trying to get a grip together and the homins are trying to rebuild their lost civilisation.
The environment in Saga of Ryzom has in my mind always been one of its strong points – it feels much more alive than in most other MMOs. Creatures do not just walk around in one spot waiting to be killed or waiting for something to come nearby for them to attack – they actually do other stuff. Herds can move around, they can be curious and walk up to you and sniff you out, they can decide to take a rest and lie down etc. The weather is also changing and there are of course shifts between day and night. There are sounds and sights which makes you wonder – “What was that? What happened there?”. For someone with an exploration mindset I think it provides a great setting.
Starting the game
The starter area is the island Silan which is common for all homin. It is an isolated area, so in the beginning it is the only area a character can access. Once a character leaves Silan they cannot come back. There is no restriction on when one can leave Silan though – it is possible to leave at any time.
Everything starts with the character creation as usual and there is nothing spectacular about Ryzom’s creator. It is fairly similar in what is offered to the bulk of the MMOs out there. I cannot say I have quite come to terms with the character models yet – in the beginning I thought pretty much all of them looked ugly. Nowadays I only think a bunch of them looks ugly.
Choosing the origin of the character can have an impact besides the visual aspects – when leaving the newbie area one will be transported to a capital of choice for one of the major homin groups. While it is possible to choose any of these capitals it will not be easy for a lowbie to travel between the major areas. For crafting the skills available will depend on the area and to not start over it is a bit better/easier to go to the area which corresponds to your homin group.
The last choice you have when you create a character is which starter pack you will use. There is one starter pack for each skill tree branch – Fight, Magic, Craft and Harvest. It is not essential which one to choose, but if you want to focus a bit more on one area it may be a little bit easier to select the appropriate starter pack.
In Silan you will be guided and introduced to the game basics through a set of missions – a number of missions from a representative of each of the major groups of homins, plus also some missions from the Kami and the Karavan. Most of these missions can be done solo, but there are a few which in practice needs a team to complete. But you are not required to complete them, so it will all be up to you.
People seem generally to be friendly though and there seem to be a mix of newbies and veterans creating alts in Silan and the area always had a number of people running around when I was playing there.
The skill system
There are no character levels in Ryzom – the advancement is focused on skills. Instead there are multiple skill trees where one can each xp and and levels in each branch of those trees. There are four different skill trees:
At various places in these trees they split into branches. For example, fight splits into melee and ranged fight and magic splits into offensive and defensive magic. Further up in levels there are more splits into branches. The max level that can be obtained in a path through a skill tree is 250 and xp is earned by using a particular skill successfully. Each new level in a skill tree branch will give 10 skill points to invest in new skills in that skill tree (note not branch). I.e. any new level in the Craft tree will give skill points to invest for skills, but it does not have to be in the same craft branch – as long as it is craft related it is ok.
There are no restrictions on how much you can improve – if you can put in the time and effort you could get every branch up to 250. That effort involved will be the limiting factor. So there are no completely wrong choices, but there can still be bad and good choices on what skills to learn.
The skills themselves are also a quite interesting part. Ryzom allows you to customise your skills – create your own skills essentially. Each skill consists of multiple skill elements called stanzas. The positive effects of a skill need to be balanced with some counterpart effects. Say that you have a melee skill that increases the damage you deal, which is fine in itself. But you want to also add some other bonuses, for example improve the chance of the attack actually being successful and perhaps add a bleed (damage over time) or a number of other various other effects. As long as you have learned those particular stanza you can build a new skill with these properties. But you also need to add some counterparts, e.g. consume some of your health or more of the power used for non-default attacks.
Modifying skills can be done pretty much at any time as long as you have learned the required stanzas and there is no cost involved. Does a skill not work out quite for you? You can modify it on the spot and try out some new options directly. This is quite a flexible system and it applies to all of the skill trees.
Which skills are available to use at any given time depends on the items equipped to some extent. This mainly separates combat and non-combat activities; you can use melee and magic at the same time (although not optimal), but cannot craft or harvest while in combat. It is a nice system and from the looks of it, SquareEnix seem to have adopted this idea in Final Fantasy XIV.
With skill points yopu can also improve your characteristics max value as well as regeneration speed.
Fans of games like pre-NGE Star Wars Galaxies and Horizons will probably feel right at home with the crafting and harvesting part in Ryzom. It is a fairly intricate system and gives a lot to play around with.
To craft items one first of all need to have the appropriate skills to craft items of a certain type, e.g. armour. Then one also need to know the crafting plan for the specific type of item, e.g. boots. All this can be obtained though skill points. There is also a tool needed for each type of crafting – that can be bought from a vendor.
Then there are resources needed. There is no exact match needed here, only an appropriate type of materal. For example, if I want to craft a set of gloves I need four types of resources:
- Armor Clip
Any resource that fulfills the properties for Lining for example will be ok to use. In the example shown here below I can use both a trunk from a Mektou as well as some moss to use for the lining part. However, exactly which resources are used will affect the properties of the item. Resources harvested from different areas or looted from various herbivores, carnivores, avians etc will have different effects on the properties of the item.
Each resource also have two type of quality associated with them. One is the quality level which is a numeric value 1-250. The lowest quality level of all the resources used to craft an item will set the max possible quality level the item can get. As far as I understand it, the quality level will affect if you can use the item and when it will be most efficient in relation to your skill level and also in the case of combat the “level” of the mob. But I may have missed some things here also.
Resources also have a quality grade and at least harvested resources have the grades Basic, Fine, Choice, Excellent and Supreme. As far as I understand it, the grade will affect the stats/properties of the item and a higher grade will be better. I believe it also will affect the amount of xp gained when crafting. There is also a notion of items which have regular, medium and high quality – higher quality needs more resources and I also think is more stringent on the grade of resources necessary. But I am not quite there yet in understanding and playing around with these parts.
All in all it provides what seems to be a quite versatile system, which empowers the crafter to make quite unique items and still provide some flexibility in improving the crafting skills. I have quite enjoyed playing around with it so far.
The harvesting system in Ryzom adds a few more elements compared to most other harvesting systems – in most cases there is not really much more than “click on a item and wait to harvest it”. Again I believe it is something old fans of pre-NGE Star Wars Galaxies would enjoy.
There are a few locations where harvesting is a bit similar to other, more simplistic games with harvesting nodes directly visible. These are generally trash nodes though and more useful for simple leveling of skills rather than collecting quality resources. These are exceptions. For most real harvesting, you have to find the resources first. There two types of skills that may be involved here, deposit tracking and prospecting for raw material – both part of the more general prospecting skill type.
Deposit tracking is pretty much the initial scan of a large area to check if there are any resources nearby. It will show a distance continously, but not a direction. So while it does not directly mark the spot for a resource, it is still fairly easy to locate a spot with a resource.
The next step is prospecting for raw material. This is the act of uncovering a resource node and this skill works on a much smaller area than deposit tracking. But if you know through the tracking that you are next to a resource, prospecting can uncover it. Since resources have different grades (see the crafting section) the specific skills you use will affect whether you will uncover certain resources.
The customisation of skills comes into play here also. With different stanzas you can affect distances, angles, which quality grades of resources you want to find, types of resources you want to find etc. There is a lot to play around with here, adjusting the search for resources.
Once a resource has been uncovered, it is time for the extraction part – getting the resources from the node. Extraction skills have three basic elements
These govern how fast you extraction actions are performed, how much material you can gain in each action and the quality level you can get. You can make adjustments here through customisation of your extraction skills. There are a few parameters that affect the extraction process itself for a node:
- Extraction time available
- Node content
- Node life
- Node stability
- Kami tolerance
When you start extracing resources from a node there is a time limit (extraction time) on how long you can work on this node. Node content shows how much material is availble from this node. Node life indicates time before the node will collapse, which can happen before all resources are extracted. The node stability indicate when there may be an explosion which can harm you (but you can continue to extract if you are still alive). Finally Kami tolerance indicates how much more the Kami can put up with harvesters disturbing/hurting the environment. It is supposedly not a good thing for any harvester in the area of that one is exhausted.
There is also a set of actions called careplanning which are actions to help nodes to recover/restore and which is used at the same point as the extraction woul be used.
Again, the harvesting part seems to be an intricate system with lots of parameters to play around with. While there is a lot of elements that can be tweaked and tuned here, it is still pretty straightforward to use I think. It is not necessary to understand all the details to use it though. I certainly can not claim to understand all of it yet, but I am eager to learn more.
One thing that I discovered which I used on Silan was that you can create your own landmark indicators. So if I found a certain type of resource I created a mark for the location and filed that under forage->type of resource. Then it was quite easy to find that spot again if I needed to go there.
Similar to many other MMOs, Saga of Ryzom has its share of missions (i.e. quests for you fantasy focused people out there). But the game itself do not seem to be mission-driven though. As with most other modern MMOs there is an indicator next to an NPC if he/she can provide missions or is part of a mission step. It is quite toned down though – you will not see a city look like a Christmas tree of mission indicators when you walk in there. In fact, the mission indicators do not actually show until you are fairly close to the NPC. I think this is a quite nice feature – you can still have the ease of the indicators but will still not be disturbed seeing a lot of them in the vicinity. They do still show on the mini-map even if you do not see them directly from your location.
To me the quests seem extra rewards and a bit of help in exploring the world of Atys, but not essential for progression. I quite like that. Maybe there will be more important elements to pick up here later – I imagine that if I want to gain fame with any of the factions I would have to do some tasks for them, for example.
The missions in the starter area Silan give soem good rewards and xp, so it is probably good to do a bunch of those – at least the first time.
Locating the necessary area/NPC/target for a mission have various levels of clues. For some missions you pretty much get an indicator exactly where to go (typically for a specific NPC), sometimes just the general area to look in and sometimes less than that (find NPC X who may be wandering around somewhere in this zone). Sometimes not all necessary information is part of the mission step description – one has to have read and remembered what was said in in the dialog with the mission NPC.
For the newbie missions in Silan there are guides to be found that can help on a few locations. After that, one probably have to check with fellow players if there is a need for additional info.
Cost of play
Saga of Ryzom is a subscription-based game. But the subscription fee is lower than for other subscription-based MMOs, roughly 2/3:s of what most other games charge. There is a free trial which lasts for 21 days, which can be plenty of time to explore both the newbie area and start some main land exploration.
I really like the create landmark faeature which allows me to set a marker on the map for a specific location and then file that undera chosen category. Great way of keeping track of various locations which are outside of the mission indicators or other general area indicators available.
There is a death penalty if you die – you incure a certain xp debt and have to respawn and a nearby respawn location, unless a fellow player resurrects you. All xp earned, regardless of type, will go to paying the debt before any new xp can be earned. All characteristic values (hp, sap, strength, focus) will be at 0 and start recover when respawning. It can take some time to get back to full health. Sitting down increases the recovery rate.
There is only one world for each language that Saga of Ryzom is available in. Thus if you want to play with the English-speaking crowd you go to the Arispotle server, regardless of which time zone you are located in. I quite like that and game chat certainly shows that there are people from all over the world playing the game.
Some readers may have noticed that I have not said much about the combat itself. It is there, it works, nothing spectacular.
Saga of Ryzom has a scenario editor to create user-created content, the Ryzom Ring. I have not played around with that one yet this time. More to come at some point later.
I know there is PvP in the game; duels, free-for-all arena and some factional PvP at least. I have not tried it yet and have not been bothered by it while not trying.
For me, Saga of Ryzom is a neat game which fills a spot which other MMOs I play now do not quite cover. In the past month or so I have perhaps spent a few hours per week there. There is no ambition from my side to spend all my time in Ryzom – or any other MMO for that matter.
My main character is called Sente and is a Matis, if you want to say hi at some point.