Choose My Adventure: I fell into a burning ring of Ryzom

Yes, I'm trying to spruce up the header a bit.  Mixed results.
After an intensely close vote, the winner for my destination in this round of Choose My Adventure is Ryzom! And I do mean intensely close; up until the polls closed, it looked very possible that the vote would end in the favor of Lord of the Rings Online or even a straight-up tie. But the readers have spoken, and my destination is set to the world of Atys and its inhabitants. Meanwhile, Johnny Cash handily won the bonus poll, so it's time to spin up song songs by the Man in Black while I write this.

For those of you who don't know what in the world Ryzom is, you can sort of be forgiven. It's one of those games that seems to be uniquely brilliant while managing to fall off the radar altogether, which is a real shame. So this week I'm going to discuss the game in an overarching sense, outline what I'm looking forward to, and of course give everyone a chance to vote on the character that I'll be making for the next six weeks of exploration.

There's an entire story about how this character got here for an official screenshot, I'm sure of it.The Saga of Ryzom (as the game was originally known) launched in September of 2004, giving players a chance to explore a world that might best be described as beautiful and baffling. And it's best to get this out of the way right off the bat: Ryzom was designed, from the ground up, to have a truly staggering number of moving pieces. The game's wildlife behaves according to believable patterns, meaning that herd animals move as a herd, migrate depending on season, and scatter when they detect predators. You can't even learn something as simple as an early melee attack without understanding that the game's entire ability system can be edited, meaning that each "ability" is really just a handful of traits that can be altered to create custom abilities.

Interesting? Definitely. Unique? Certainly. The sort of thing that throws you into the deep end with no explanation of how to start swimming? Yeah, pretty much.

Put simply, this was a game that would have been a challenge to get a handle on no matter when it launched. And to the game's great misfortune, it launched two months before a much more accessible game was launched, which meant that this small indie title fumbled along for quite some time before a mess of near-shutdowns, acquisitions by other companies, and finally its current incarnation under the aegis of Winch Gate Property.

And yet through all of this, the game has remained stunningly beautiful and unique. The fact that you can directly edit your abilities, the fact that you have a realistic and open world to explore, the overall tenor of the game -- none of that has changed. It advertises itself as a roleplayer's world, a fresh new place for you to adventure as you wish, a living world that's different from our own. It's also one of the few games that's native to both the Mac and Linux, and the entire game engine is open source. If you wanted to, you could basically create your own little Ryzom.

Want a private server? Go for it. The developers encourage you to try that out if you have the ability to run it. How unique is that?

My own experiences with Ryzom are constrained to a single set of experiences back forever ago in the free trial. The funny thing is that they were, by and large, very positive experiences, enough to make me wonder why it is I never went any further in the game. Certainly it wasn't a lack of interest in the game as a whole. I think, looking back, it was simply a matter of the scope of the game versus the other things I already had on my plate.

World, how did I get here?Now, however, I'm excited. I'm curious about what sort of things I can create with the game's ability system, about what sort of character I'll make, about what I'll be doing in the world of Atys. And so I'm turning the polls over to you, the readers, as is always the way in these columns. Well, after a little more preamble, anyhow.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game's setting, let me sum up. Characters can be from one of four different civilizations. The Fyros are desert dwellers, serving as the game's "average" humanoid (insomuch as you can have an average in such a setting). The Matis are forest-dwelling masters of botany and biotechnology, making their homes among trees and mastering careful growth. The Trykers are lake-dwellers, building floating homes utilizing wind power. And my personal favorite, the Zorai, are jungle-dwellers wearing genetically bonded tribal masks.

Left to my own devices, I'd probably make a Zorai because man they're cool. But it's not up to me.

The other major choice at character creation is which character "package" you start with. All characters are capable of learning anything as they progress due to the game's tiered leveling system. You start out by leveling just "Magic," for instance, but then it subdivides into "Offensive Magic" and "Defensive Magic," and so on and so forth as you focus on certain skills. However, there are four basic packages for players to start with, each one focusing on a different aspect of gameplay. I intend to explore a bit of everything during my first steps into the game, but my starting package will determine where I excel to begin with.

So go forth and vote! To make it easier to fit in time to play, I've decided the polls will be closing at the start of Saturday, so vote early! And of course, we have another bonus poll. See you next week when the adventure kicks off proper!
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After five months out of the spin, Eliot Lefebvre is back for another round of Choose My Adventure, the game where you decide what the writer is going to do! Check back each Wednesday for a recap of the last week's play, then sound off in the polls and the comments to determine the course of action for the next week!
This article was originally published on Massively.