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|Genre(s)||MMORPG Fantasy, Science Fiction|
|Distribution||CD, DVD, HTTP download, BitTorrent|
Ryzom, also known as The Saga of Ryzom, is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Ryzom is labeled as Science-Fantasy by the creators due to storyline elements that are typically found in both science fiction and fantasy genres. Originally developed by Nevrax, the game is now owned and operated by Winch Gate Property, Ltd.
The game is complex, and it incorporates many realistic effects, including changing weather and seasons. Computer controlled entities ('mobs') display complex behaviors, and animals will e.g. graze in herds or hunt in packs. The game play is flexible (often referred to as sandbox), and instead of character classes, it has a unique system for character abilities that allows players to construct custom actions like spells or attacks in detail. Ryzom also contains Ryzom Ring, a scenario editor that lets players design their own areas that can be uploaded and played on the official server.
Nevrax originally distributed the client software, NeL, as free software using the GPL, but in 2010 both client and server software was made available under the AGPL, with binaries available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and GNU/Linux. The artistic work is available under a Creative Commons license. The game is free to play on the official servers, but a paid subscription is required for characters to advance beyond level 125.
The independent French studio Nevrax began development of Ryzom in 2000. The game launched in September 2004 under the name 'The Saga of Ryzom' and received little attention at the time. In August 2006, the name was simplified to 'Ryzom' for marketing purposes. The game did not become a commercial success, and on November 20, 2006, Nevrax announced that it would enter receivership sometime in December, and, on November 21, confirmed that “Nevrax as a corporate entity will probably cease to exist in a few weeks” and announced that “several companies and/or individuals are actively engaged in negotiations to take over Ryzom”.
In response, the Free Ryzom Campaign was launched in order to gather enough funds from donations from the community to purchase Ryzom and release the game as free software. On December 14, the Free Software Foundation pledged a donation of sixty thousand dollars.
On December 21, 2006, Nevrax SARL was eventually sold to the owners of Gameforge AG, a German company specialized in webbrowser games, who started up GameForge France SARL as a 'sister company' and transferred all the rights. Less than a year later, Gameforge France had filed for bankruptcy. As GameForge had not fully paid for the Nevrax assets, these were returned to the original liquidator.
Since 2009, Ryzom has been owned and run by Cyprus-based Winch Gate Property Ltd. Winch Gate announced their intention of reinstating paid subscriptions. Currently, the game can be played for free with a limitation on character level. On May 6, 2010, Winch Gate announced the full release of source code and artwork, and a partnership with the Free Software Foundation to host a repository of the game's artistic assets. Ryzom offers a portal for open source development of their GPL licensed engine NeL, on which the game Ryzom is based.
Major content updates
After initial release, several updates were released as Chapters, providing new features and content. The first update, titled Changing Times, featured the addition of a merchants system in which players could sell their crafted items using vendors. It also revamped several of the game's key systems, including prospecting and harvesting. Chapter Two: Open Conflict was released in three parts with the first being on December 13, 2004 and third on January 13, 2005. Major features included the addition of the encyclopedia system and the addition of player mounts., Chapter Three: Outposts was released on December 19, 2005. Major features included the introductions of PvP outposts as well as major changes to the game's fame system.
An update called the New Player Experience was released on June 15, 2006. It replaced the beginning area with an area called The Ruins of Silan, which provided more tutorial material for beginners. 
An expansion called Ryzom Ring was released on October 3, 2006, offering players the ability to create their own content in the form of scenarios. It provides a scenario editor where players can design content, and subsequently upload it to the game's main servers. Other players may then access the player-created areas through terminals located in each race's capital city.
The game takes place on the planet Atys. Unlike normal planets, Atys is an enormous tree large enough to sustain an atmosphere and multiple ecosystems on its surface and within immense networks of branches and roots.
The various creatures in Ryzom have differing AI based upon their species that allows them to perform many realistic behaviors, such as migration and movement as a herd. Carnivores, for example, will attack specific other animals for food, and certain animals hunt in packs.
The game also features changing seasons and weather. Weather effects include rain, snow, and wind. Tied to the season and weather changes are the movements of animals and availability of harvestable materials. For example, a certain type of sap may only be harvested during spring rains and be unattainable during other seasons or weather conditions. Weather conditions can change minute by minute. Each game season (spring, summer, fall, and winter) lasts four realtime days.
Player characters come from one of four distinct humanoid races, collectively called “homins”. The 'Matis' are a proud and noble race of forest dwellers. They have mastered the art that is a fusion of botany and genetic manipulation, and consequently they have constructed their kingdom and castles from massive trees grown for that very purpose. The 'Tryker' are a fiercely independent and fun-loving race of lake dwellers. They build large floating cities on their lakes, and networks of wind-powered water pumps around them. The 'Zoraï' are a spiritual and tranquil race of jungle dwellers. They build their temple-cities within naturally fortified areas of the jungle. Finally, the 'Fyros' are a tough and obstinate race of desert dwellers. They have mastered much fire technology, which they like to build into their weapons and architecture.
Interacting benevolently with all four homin cultures, but hostile towards each other, were two additional and far more advanced races: the magical Kami and the technological Karavan. The Kami are depicted as elusive, chaotic, playful, and highly protective of Atys, while the Karavan are more secretive and have never been shown outside their environmental suits or far from their machinery. The Matis, and to a lesser extent, the Tryker, cultures tend to ally with the Karvan, while the Zoraï and Fyros tend to side with the Kami.
In the game year 2481, the homin races were decimated when the hostile, insect-like Kitins were accidentally released from their home deep within Atys's root system. Surviving refugees from all four homin cultures began working together in 2485 to rebuild a single, mixed society in relatively remote areas. Soon came the added threat of the “Goo,” a spreading infestation that renders areas uninhabitable and drives wildlife mad with rage. At release, the game year was 2525.
New characters come from one of the four homin races, and start out as refugees, they are scattered survivors of the kitin invasion who have somehow managed to make it to an area called the Ruins of Silan. This area, which is not connected to the rest of Atys, contains a variety of animals, as well as various traders and trainers, and representatives for the cultures in the game. There are several NPCs providing missions, including four whose missions act as tutorials in the four skill areas (fighting, magic, crafting, and foraging).
When a character decides to, he or she may choose to travel (teleport) to the main world (called the mainland, and must choose one of the four homin capitals to travel to. This decision can not be reversed, and although it is possible to travel between capitals, the journey is long and dangerous, even for experienced characters.
The background story is developed through "events".
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Each character gains levels independently in the fields of weapon-oriented fighting, magic, crafting, and harvesting simply by performing appropriate acts (killing enemies with a sword for fighting, assembling jewelry for crafting, etc.) Each level gained in one of these fields awards the character 10 skill points that can be spent on new abilities specific to that field, spent on general character improvements, or simply saved.
As a character progresses in levels, the skills get more refined. For instance, a starting character casting spells will acquire points in the skill called "magic". After level 20, points are accumulated in either "offensive magic" or "defensive magic", and e.g. attack spells will add points to the former, while healing spells add to the latter category. At later levels, these are also split, allowing higher level characters to specialize.
All abilities are built of components called stanzas. Each stanza defines one of the ability's effects, costs, or usage restrictions. Players may assemble actions out of any legal combination of stanzas their character knows. For example, if a player wanted to make an attack that strikes all enemies which are engaged in melee with a circular weapon swing, causes extra damage, and also leaves its victims bleeding, he would assemble the Circular Attack stanza, an Increase Damage stanza, and a Bleed stanza. (He would then have to add enough credit and restriction stanzas to balance the beneficial effects, such as a high Stamina cost to perform the action, or a moderate cost but the limitation that it can only be used after parrying an enemy blow).
Components for crafting can come from the corpses of killed animals or from hidden resource deposits scattered throughout Atys. Different ingredients provide varying benefits to different characteristics of the finished object. For example, when crafting a mace, using a certain kind of animal bone for the head may produce a hard-hitting but slow weapon, while using a particular wood may produce a weapon that is fast and gives a large bonus to parrying enemy attacks, but causes less damage. Further complicating things is the fact that any ingredient may occur in one of five classes and with a quality from 1 to 250, all of which affect the attributes of the final product.
Harvesting is a complex and sometimes team-oriented procedure. The player must first locate the desired materials using prospecting skills, as resources give no visible sign of their presence. If he does not have teammates to aid him, he may need to balance his work between extracting the resource and treating the extraction site to prevent it from collapsing prematurely or exploding. The site's location and the harvester's own skill levels both affect the maximum possible quality of the extracted resource.
Player vs. Player
In general, player characters are not allowed to attack other player characters or peaceful non-player characters. The exception is specifically marked zones, either smaller areas, like the PvP arena in the starting region, or larger regions, like the "Prime Roots" of Atys. It is also possible to engage other players in one-on-one combat (duels), this requires acceptance by both combatants.
The game client is available for Windows, GNU/Linux, and Mac, and can be downloaded from the official web site. The game requires registration, but can be played without a subscription, but with a restriction of character level. Each account may have up to five different characters. The different Ryzom servers use the same game world, but are differentiated by player language, with English, French, or German being selected when starting the game.
From the start, the client software, referred to as NeL, for the Nevrax Library, was released as free software under the GPL. As of May 6, 2010, the entire software base, including client, server, and associated tools, was made available under the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL), and current development uses a community-based open source model. A 13Gb archive containing all textures and effects, 3D models, animations, characters and clothing (but not music or sounds) was released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) license. The commercial ongoing game-world data (story plots, quests, maps, lore, etc.) is not available for download, so as not to disrupt the fan-base. Also, in order to combat cheating, connecting to official servers with unofficial client builds is prohibited.
Reception and Awards
Initial reception was ranging from great to mediocre. GameZone rated Ryzom at 8.1, highlighted the innovative skill system, and called Ryzom a "fun game that has some very innovative features", with "good graphics, and great gameplay and concept". GameSpot also acknowledged the novel skill system and friendly community, but rated the game at 5.6 (mediocre), being unfinished and needlessly complex.
After the separate starter area was introduced in 2006, this was seen as a great improvement, and "one of the better starter areas I have seen in some time in an MMO". In a recent re-review, MMORPG.com rates the game at 7.25/10 (average), lauding the visual appeal, complexity, and helpful community, but lamenting the relatively low number of players.
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