All armchair writers, event coordinators, live events planners and quest developers can now put their money where their collective loud mouths lie thanks to Nevrax’s upcoming free expansion to The Saga of Ryzom entitled simply The Ring. Combining powerful tools with easy to use controls and menus, we will finally able to prove just how good we are and how much better we are than “those lousy devs!”
This all sounds very vague so let me go into some of the details of The Ring’s impressive power and options. Players build what I’m going to call “events”, because the power is there to do so much more then just simple tasks or quests. The initial choice to select from over 200 pre-built landmasses is given to the player and then you’re transported to your barren zone and can start simply dragging and dropping 3D characters and models into the landscape all through the game’s engine. This is wonderful because what you see really is what you get since it’s the same game for editing and playing The Ring. You are not restricted to a single landmass, however. You are free to transport players through a whole slew of areas, each with their own distinct look and items and characters populating it. This enables would be Armchair Quest Writers to really create scenarios on a grand scale!
As you set up different NPC’s, for example, you can customize their look and appearance. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can then give them some dialog to say, or instructions to give, or a story to tell. Really, the options are really only limited by your imagination. You can then have this NPC stand in place, or wander a pre-set path, or wander around a pre-determined area. All of this is accomplished through very simple clicks of the mouse and an extremely intuitive drag and drop interface. Want two NPC’s to wander, simply use the copy and paste options. There’s even a comprehensive “Undo” function available for when you inevitably make a mistake and want to revert back.
Triggers play a key point in these events. A trigger will “fire” when a certain condition has been met. For example, this could be as simple as having a player move to a certain area, kill a certain creature, or remove a special item from a chest. These triggers can be any number of various options, from advancing the quest to launching the attack of 80 computer controlled bandits!
I really mean it when I say the scenarios are virtually limitless. There are certain limits, however, on the number of items and characters you can create for your scenario. However, with 100 objects and 100 NPC’s available to create per area, you’re still able to create some very complex and detailed landscapes.
In the demo we were shown, a scenario had already been created for us to play through. It started with talking to a certain computer-controlled character who informed us that some bandits had stolen a caravan of alcohol and were keeping it in their camp. We were to take a group of computer controlled soldiers to the camp and get that booze back! We then transported to a new area and, after talking to the group leaders, we were given two options: we could either lead a full frontal assault on the camp or we could sneak around up the cliff and around the back of the camp while our soldiers attacked and created a distraction—allowing us to get the booze. After making our decision to play it stealthy, we were told to get into position. Once we were up on the hill overlooking the camp, the signal was automatically given to our men to charge into the camp against the unsuspecting bandits. The bandits, obviously, charged back and we were able to run in and open a few crates and get our alcohol back. Meanwhile, the slaughter was on-going in the camp and we high-tailed it out of the carnage. A quick transport back to our original location, and the surviving members of the raid joined us in a drunken celebration. Victory was ours!
Now, this is just a small sample of what you can do. However, things don’t always go as planned and any developer will tell you that the players will always surprise you. Any pen &paper roleplayer will tell you that a good dungeon master can make all the difference in any scenario and that’s what The Ring gives you the option to do. The dungeon master can adjust the scenario as it’s running by spawning more monsters or firing some triggers or any number of options. By simply setting up a few triggers before hand, the DM can fire them as needed to keep players on their toes or to simply turn the story in a completely different direction.
Each scenario is run from a player’s computer, so the person running the scenario must be logged in at the time in order for others to participate. Nevrax will also give players the option of storing these scenarios on their servers for a small fee, which allow greater flexibility for running these events. When running a scenario, the DM can set the number of players and also a start time. These are then posted in towns and on Nevrax’s website, allowing all players to participate in events. Once the scenario is over, players can then rate the experience, which will tell other players just which scenarios are the most fun. In addition, players can keep tabs on the designers who seem to be able to walk-the-walk about how good their events are.
As is often the case in MMO’s, players will likely wonder about reward. “Why do something if I don’t get uber loot or phat XP?” To prevent exploitation, players are not given experience during the events and the uber loot is only what is put up as a reward by other players. Instead, players are reward for their time and are awarded points which they can use spend on items and consumable or on “catalyzed experience”, which basically generates more experience while outside of the Ring for a certain time.
If it sounds like I’ve been gushing, it’s because I am. I was completely blown away by the power and flexibility of the system and even as I sat in the room running through a demo, the wheels were already turning on what I could do and create. What Nevrax is doing with The Ring is nothing short of revolutionary for the Massively-Multiplayer genre. The power and ease of use of the tools will allow virtually anyone to finally put their money (or time, in this case, since The Ring is a free expansion) where their mouth is. For all the armchair quest writers out there, with the Saga of Ryzom and The Ring expansion, you can finally have your cake and eat it, too.