Did you miss me? I certainly did. As you might have gathered, I’ve been rapidly playing Eden Eternal and studying through the small hours. Leading a guild is a fun task/chore, as I’ve discovered.
I decided to kick back a bit today, and headed over to massively.joystiq.com for some good reading on MMO’s. While surfing the articles and the WoW vs GW2 playerhate I came across this astounding gem of an MMORPG: Ryzom.
For those who haven’t heard of it, Ryzom [aka the Saga of Ryzom], created by a little-known French dev team, is one of the most unique MMOs still standing today. The gameworld is a planet-sized tree, there’s an entire ecosystem built in, and weather that apparently affects the gameplay. Sadly, it seems as if I’ve found it a few years too late: it’s been having money troubles and the playerbase is shrinking. Truely a great pity, because from 4+ hours of research this game looks more complex, more open and more alluring than the megaMMORPG cookie-cutter AAA titles of today. Ryzom reflects a rare spirit of exploration and innovation, a sense that the developers have truly created something unique and not just tried to forge another F2P WoW clone. If only the big bucks were with Ryzom, it could have been a spectacular success.

Nevermind, I’m going to play even if I’m the only person on the server.

I mentioned Ryzom’s gone open source. Much like Cyan’s Myst Online: Uru Live [another great and unique game I intend to play next month], the source code and the assets are up there to download and abuse. Even better: Ryzom ships with it’s own editor that users can use to script their own scenarios. I haven’t explored this feature yet, but it looks like the game actually provides an in-game way, like an NPC, to load up these “adventures” and invite other players to explore them.

It’s a shame that modern MMORPGs are so standard cookie-cutter. On argument is to blame World of Warcraft. Sure, Everquest and Ultima established the systems in most MMORPGs today, but WoW’s popularity is to blame here: it dominated the MMO industry so forcefully that it got other developers aping its mechanics for a guarantee of success. And along came the Korean F2P gamedev scene and viola: cookie cutters … cookie cutters everywhere. Publishers and the relentless drive for the big money brought innovation to a halt, and innovative titles like Ryzom and Myst die because they’re too different from the norm.

That’s true, but only partly. The developers of any MMORPG have a great deal of resources on their hands. Sure, you have to earn money, but what kind of designer are you if you don’t innovate?

The truth is, everybody’s trapped. It takes big bucks to launch an MMORPG these days, and often investors are looking for another WoW-clone. Screw that, devs. Look at Ryzom. Learn from it. Innovate, even if it’s in small and subtle ways [Like EE’s class system]. Your game won’t be remembered because of how similar it was to 1000 other titles: it’ll be remembered by how different it was. Don’t settle for a second-rate clone [because face it, WoW is still the bomb] when you can build a first-rate nextgen MMO of your own design. If you go down, you might as well be damn proud that you made something new. After all, risks are part of all great things in life.