Exclusive Ryzom interview details player wipes and server merges

Ryzom screenshot
If you have been a Ryzom fan as long as I have, you know that the road to Atys has been long and bumpy. Unfortunately, the bumps haven't stopped. Winchgate has just announced that it's planning to merge existing servers and wipe existing characters. That means if you have built characters over these last several years, they will no longer be as they were

Massively interviewed Vianney Lecroart, Ryzom's CTO, to ask about what this means for the game and community, so read on for first the official announcement and then Lecroart's comments.

Ryzom screenshot
Ryzom official press release: A New Beginning

This late summer will mark a major turning point for Ryzom. It has been eight years since Ryzom's launch and since then we have always kept all three worlds and every character. This represents today over 500,000 players. Unfortunately, with the current market and financial environment, we have had to make a difficult, but necessary decision for the continuation of the game of Ryzom.

We will regroup and merge the communities and servers to form one single community, with one server. This will we will clear and reset all characters. Your account (login, password) will remain unchanged. Attention: the names of new characters will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis, so do not wait to recreate your character if you wish a particular name. We know that you have spent a lot of time on your current characters. It is you who has helped keep this game running as long as it has. You are an unbelievable community that other MMO games and players envy. We would not have made ​​this decision if there was an alternative, and we realize that many of you will be disappointed. We ask for your support to make this transition as painless as possible.

Changes in the new world
  • Outposts will no longer give experience catalyzers
  • All subscribed accounts will earn twice the experience of non-subscribed accounts
  • Adjustments of the prices of NPC vendors
  • The WebIg has been improved to allow the easy addition of new applications (which could be encoded by players)
  • New achievement system
Advantages of a new beginning
  • All players will be in the same universe and therefore you will have a more alive, interactive world
  • The price adjustments and reset will restore the value of the dapper and trade
  • You will be able to create multi-national guilds for advantages in online presence
  • You can discover or rediscover Silan and Atys with your (new) friends
  • With everyone starting again from scratch, you will be able to show others what you are capable of and who are the stronger and more skilled Homins of the New Ryzom
  • More Customer Support available during the day and more frequent events
Events before the new beginning

Starting from tonight and until the closing of the old servers, we will implement a series of events that will help you earn "starter packs" on the new server that will facilitate your progress in the game. These events will also give you a way to earn the ability to save the name and looks of your favorite character. Before the closing of the old servers, you will be able to have new experiences, such as having unlimited money, items that you have never owned before, and many other things to discover.

Contest for the launch of the new server

Thanks to SirCotare during his internship at Google Summer of Code, we have a new achievement system. To celebrate this and to give you a chance to familiarize yourself with the new system, we will have a contest that will begin on the opening day of the new server, with the following challenges:
  • The three players with the most achievement points after two weeks (8 October, 2012 at noon GMT)
  • The three players with the most achievement points after three weeks (15 October, 2012 at noon GMT)
  • The three players with the most achievement points after four weeks (22 October, 2012 at noon GMT)
  • The first three players reaching level 250 in any skill
1st prize : an NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 560TI / 480 / 570 graphics card.
2nd prize : an original drawing made with india ink and used for the design of Ryzom
3rd prize: an an unlimited subscription to Ryzom. (Limited to one prize per Ryzom account.)

Schedule
  • From this evening and until the shards closure: a series of events and competitions. Don't miss them!
  • Saturday 22 September: festive evening where players and developers will be present for the last moments of Aniro, Arispotle and Leanon
  • Midnight Saturday 22 September: final in-game countdown and closing of the old shards at midnight
  • Late afternoon, Tuesday, 25 September: opening of the new shard and launching of the achievement contest. Come and discuss on the forum!
Thank you all again for your support and dedication and see you soon!

Ryzom screenshot
Massively: What prompted this switch to one server? Hasn't the switch to a freemium model helped the game?

Vianney Lecroart: There was a very large number of reasons behind our decision to merge servers. While the "freemium" model helped a lot by introducing new players to the game, it was still unfortunately not enough to achieve the goals we had set. We had to make this difficult decision to ensure the continuity of the game. Merging the servers provides a number of positive benefits, however:
  • Fewer servers means a lot less expenses
  • Less management overhead
  • More players playing together makes the world feel more alive and entertaining
  • Multilingual server
  • The combined events team will be able to do more frequent and better quality events
  • The combined customer support team will be able to provide better customer service
  • It provides an excellent opportunity to do some re-balancing of the game
How do you think the players will take the news?

We are sure that there will be a number of people that will not like it, but hopefully a lot will like what the reset will bring to the game! While a number of veteran players will be set back, a large number of new players have had a hard time to competing with these established players due to the large differences in equipment and skills. When it was clear that we had to choose between a server merge or no Ryzom at all, the choice was easy. We hope and trust that our players will understand and support our decision.

It will be very hard for a long time player to re-roll his or her character after years of writing stories and playing the game. Is it not possible to merge the server while keeping all of the characters as they are now?

We investigated the possibilities of keeping the characters, but we encountered some very difficult technical issues that make this impossible. Our players have invested many, many hours in their characters, their armor, and their guilds. It will not be easy to say goodbye to those things. However, some other things, like craft recipes, friendships, and the knowledge of how to play the game are permanent. This will help with the transition. Furthermore, a new start can often give new insights and lead you to new and unexpected directions. One of the problems we will have the opportunity to address with resetting the servers is the problem with the value of "dappers," the money in Ryzom.

Ever since the start of Ryzom in 2004, there have been some issues in the economy that make the dappers effectively worthless. There are some settings related to the economy that make the dappers too easy to obtain, and the only way to fix this is to reset everything. Since we are merging the server, there is no better time to do this. So yes, it will be difficult for our long-time players, but you have to keep in mind that the roleplaying will continue and that the re-roll of a character will mean a renewing experience that can be shared with all the newcomers. All our players will have a really unique opportunity to re-experience Ryzom at the same level as their friends and to create the future together.

Have you considered other forms of monetization like microtransactions or a cash shop? After all, specially designed mounts would probably sell very well!

Real free-to-play games are designed from scratch with specific strategies and gameplay systems to make players want to buy things. Ryzom was never developed for this, and we don't want to do follow this direction. Actually, the game is free-to-play; the only limitation will be that when you reach the level 125, you won't gain any experience anymore, but you still will be able to play indefinitely. To lift that limitation, there is the subscription of 7.95 EUR (or 10.95 USD) per month, which is one of the lowest on the market!

Won't the consolidation of international communities lead to customer service issues? For example, what will the official server language be now?

On the contrary, we'll have more CSR people in the game, and often our CSRs can speak more than one language, so they'll be able to help people faster and handle more problems. There will be no single official language on the new server. Players will be able to request support in the same way they did before. There will be universe (global) channels for English, French, German, Spanish, and Russian so people can ask for help from other players in their own language. For the local channels, all languages will be mixed. Some adjustment will be needed for sure, but we are confident that our CSR team will be able to handle the transition. There will be more of them online at one time than is the case now.

Why doesn't a game like Ryzom get more attention? Do you think the playerbase has changed over the years, or does the game need to be modernized or made easier?

The MMORPG industry is very tough. New MMOs are released every month. There is a lot of money is spent on advertising when an MMO is released, and unfortunately, we don't have the means to compete with them. What we do know is that when we ask our players what they all love more than other MMORPGs, they tell us it is the unique Ryzom community. Our players are perhaps more mature than average and make the game very friendly and nice to play. We really think our community will accept this move to help us achieve an even better and more fun Ryzom world.

We'd like to thank Vianny for taking the time answer our questions. What do you think? Will this announcement affect how or if you will play the game?

This article was originally published on Massively.