MMOs, especially indies, can leap from owner to owner and server to server quite easily. It's not unusual to say the least. Ryzom has been through more of these changes than I care to recall, but the core game and long list of veteran characters have remained -- that is, until the developer announced that, along with the merge, characters would be wiped. Players flipped out. The forums were filled with intense conversations, and even non-players were astonished.
Consider the Darkfall announcement by contrast. Some Darkfall players are apparently looking forward to the character wipe. But Ryzom is not a FFA PvP title. Roleplayers are very happy in Ryzom; I am one of them. Luckily the developers tweaked the decision, and now I have been playing on my old character, back in the world of Atys.
Was the decision a good one? I think so. the island of Silan, a sort of newbie tutorial island that actually does such a good job that I wish it were recreated on the "mainland" as well. Alas, Ryzom is not a linear themepark type of title, so the linear and lore-riffic questlines that are found on the island would not translate to the rest of the world that well. Sure, there are quests in the standard Ryzom experience, but they are fewer and less important. Players generally make their own way.
So, there I was on the island with all of these other returning players. I had all of my skills and my original name but wasn't sure whether that was intended. Part of the problem I had with the merge was how confusing the process was. I read a lot of bits of news and announcements during the week, but the finer details of this event were lost even on me. Did other veteran players start off on the island and have to decide whether to stay or to take off for the mainland immediately? I asked in game and found out that every player, new or veteran, starts off on the island. When we want to, we can leave.
"To me, what makes a truly great sandbox is the presence of as many options as possible, even if many of those options are linear."
Does this mean that the merge was successful? For now, yes, in my opinion. The main issue with even a successful wipe is the fact that the playerbase gets right back to where it was before the wipe. The economy can sink back down into the depths, players will quickly climb to previous levels and find themselves back in cliques and isolated groups, and soon, the thrill of having every character jammed into a small area rubs off. This all could happen with time.
Winch Gate decided against the wipe, but I think the game would have survived. The fact is that just the merge alone would have breathed new life into the game. There simply are not enough paying players to justify keeping three servers open, but the merge has justified the existence of the game.
"Seeing the developer talk about the merge as some sort of good thing makes many of us cringe until we see just how wonderful it is to have Atys bustling and full once again."
Is a merge ever good news? Some players argue that, no, a merge can never be seen as anything but evidence of a dying game. Even if that merge were such evidence, how long do we expect these worlds to last? Like us, these fantastical places must pass on. Even though the merge could be seen as a sign that things are dramatically slowing for my favorite cosmic rootball, I prefer to see it as an older human slowly settling into a nice chair by the fire.
The night's not over yet, and there are stories yet to tell.
I admit that I feel a bit better about all of this because my older character was saved. I was not excited at all to start a brand-new character, especially after trying so many new characters over the years. Still, I would have rolled another one if I needed to. Even though I visit Atys in a casual fashion, I cannot stay away. And even though the world has recently grown much smaller, it's still there. It's still waiting to be explored with fellow Homins, new faces who use foreign words. Perhaps the merge wasn't such a bad idea after all.
Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!