Sorry for the wall of text.
Over the last couple of years I have played the MMO Ryzom. It has closed and re-opened 3 times now, and every time the same players return, along with some fresh faces.
I did a podcast for the game, much like the one I do now, although with less listeners. I am playing it again, will play it more, and will probably pick up the podcast again as well.
Let’s see how Ryzom is essentially “hardcore.” (For the sake of argument, it will be allowed to mean “harder.” )
a) Ryzom has no classes. Anyone can do anything. You gain XP and when you level, say level 40 in fight, you will get 10 points. You can spend those points on heal, fighting, crafting or harvesting. You can be a healer that fights and crafts. The max for each tree is 250. There are many many trees. In combat, for example, there is “close combat” that gets into “hand to hand” or “daggers.” Someone did some nerd math on the forums there once and found that it would take someone (playing a LOT) around 9 years to max all of them out.
b) There is a death penalty. If you die, anyone that can heal for anything can rez you, being that you are just “knocked out.” If you respawn, you get a rez sickness that gives you a (sometimes) extreme death XP debt. You have to work that off until you can start gaining again.
c) There is instant travel, in the form of teleportation, but you must visit the teleporters to gain a ticket. You can buy a ticket, but once you use it it is gone. I have stuck myself in the wilderness many times because I forgot to bring my tickets.
d) You must “trek” everywhere. If you have a mount and (up to) 3 packers (think pack mules) and you want to move them, you cannot teleport them. You must WALk to the other lands. It’s not easy, we assemble treks all the time to move packers and mounts and to get new players their teleport tickets.
e) A mount requires fuel. A mount (or packer) can hold 1 or 2 bales, but eats them as they need to. If you run out of “fuel”, the packer or mount can walk, albeit very slowly, but will not run again until more fule is added.
f) There are NO missions or quests. There are a few on the starter island, (much to the dismay of some players) and maybe a dozen or so on the Mainland. After that, no one tells you where to go or what to do. Many players find this awesome and many find it boring.
g) All items, including that uber sword of uberness, rot away. There is no repairing. Being that the planet of Atys is a giant rootball in space (sound silly, lol, but it’s cool ) everything goes away at some point.
h) There is no “raiding.” There are equivalents to “overland mobs” but other than that, there is no raiding. Massive groups will take on named mobs occasionally, but mainly groups are for helping levelling.
i) Not sure if this works or not for my example, but PvP is limited, but fantastic. Basically, there are Outposts owned by guilds. Another guild can declare on the guild that owns the outpost, and can attack the outpost. The outpost can be defended by NON guilded players, so many guilds ask for help or gain sympathy with outsiders and gain troops. I fought in a few just for fun, but pretty quickly my podcast was attacked as being for one religion over the other. The politics in Ryzom get CRAZY. Also, outposts can be defended by NPC troops. There is dueling, as well.
I am missing SO much, but here are some cool things about it:
1) A player with several 250 levels can play with a lower level player. There are so many trees to level, that a player says “Hey, I’ll do magic, I’m level 35.” and the other player says “Ok, I haven’t levelled my healing, it’s only 35. Let’s go.” There is not level gap, or elitism.
2) Treks foster community. Sometimes we just organize sight-seeing treks. New players can come along and have fun, too.
3) There is no “loot greed.” Any new player can be outfitted pretty quickly if they ask around. Basic gear is easy, and since anyone can craft and harvest, armor and weapons are not as important as in any game. There are pieces of incredible armor or weapons, but they, like anything else, rot away eventually.
4) You actually get off your mount and walk around with it. No, it cannot be named, but it, along with your packers, can die.
5) Everyone has the same storage space: bags are not an issue. A player can keep up to 3 packers in a cities stables, and place items inside the packers storage space. The packers will live forever inside the stables, but once moved they start to eat. Many players use their packers as “bank space” but many feel bad (myself) leaving them inside the stables all the time.
Some interesting, “ehh?” things:
The lore is fantastic.
The “universe” chat is a global chat, but is policed for non Q and A items. For “looser” talk, you use the /region channel, which is basically the area you are in. There is also a /say channel, representing the local area, and /tells are explained with lore, being that the game is a blend of strange fantasy and sci-fi.
The graphics are beautiful, very stylized, and very French. Awesome LOOKING game, and has held out over the years amazingly well. (Today’s) Lower end systems can run it grand.
There is no jumping. That’s right, no jump. No space bar. Sounds strange, but when the game is made for a certain dynamic, it works well.
There is swimming, but no free swimming. The water (and especially underwater) is SO beautiful, but you cannot go under. Just swim on the top.
The mobs have fantastic AI: they migrate, change during seasons, and have calls and actions dependant on each other. There are prey animals and predator animals. Sometimes a kill will be enough of a distraction for you to get by unharmed. I have seen some examples of this in VG, which is odd being that I haven’t seen it in many other games at all.
Now, those are some of the basics. Essentially, Ryzom is a world of danger and live-for-yourself. If you don’t know what you are doing, you can not only die but die a lot. Let’s look at how VG, if made more “hardcore” using Ryzom as an example, would or would not work.
A) Vanguard is popular with raiders. Raiders are very vocal, and play a LOT. Vanguard, even made “hardcore” would not do away with raiding, loot lust and elite attitudes. (Notice I am not saying that all raiders are this way.) Many players think that raiding does for MMO’s what PvP does: creates a hostile environment of “me competing against you.” Some players like this “competition”, others do not. Ryzom has more of an attitude of “You are new, but let me help you anyway.” Raiding is an activity for a group and it’s expected line-up, not for just dropping someone in on.
I say this not as a smash against raiding, but to show what a “harder” server might or might not do. VG would not lose the raiding.
B) Vanguard would do away with instant travel, and only allow boats, horses, and walking. Flying mounts would be allowed, I would imagine. But who gets the flying mounts? High level raiders, unless I am mistaken. Again, raiders are not in the business of taking their time to get to a raid, many have said so on these forums. Many raiders just want to get in and get to the action. Of course, many love roleplaying and taking their time.
A hardcore ruleset would not be so popular with “raiders,” meaning players that are in the game to raid, mostly. They would quickly grow frustrated with the travel times, and would just park their characters where they need to, resulting in crowded areas and bickering over mobs, more so than usual.
C) Vanguard would have tougher levelling. Some would love this, and many would not. Many players see the lower levels as “boring” and would hate the drag, and many would see it as an exciting challenge.
D) Mobs would be tougher. Again, some would love it. I imagine players would just adapt and burn through many smaller mobs instead of taking time with a larger one. Already players AoE (no, it’s not AE! lol ) many mobs at once.
E) Crafted items would have harsher repair costs: I would love to see this, visiting a blacksmith to get repairs. Truth is, a sword or shield would eventually become non-repairable, like in Ryzom, but it would take years, so that would not be an issue or “immersion breaker.”
I am missing, again, a million things, being that I am just winging this.
Essentially, I think a “hardcore” ruleset server would be popular with a much smaller group of players. Ryzom has been around for years following this model, and has had to shut down 3 times. Even now, the population is small, spread over 3 servers: 1 English, 1 German and 1 French. There has been no development, (other than the Ryzom Ring, a “danger room” type “make your own scenario” editor that is amazing, but limited right now. I used it for movie sets) and no expansion since the game came out.
I have been very,very involved in both games and in both communities. It is my belief that Vanguard, while being a “tough” game does not retain the players that it does because of how “tough” it is. I think it keeps the players and gains new ones because of it’s uniqueness. Ryzom gets coverage from many bloggers, podcasters and gaming sites but none of them play it. Ryzom owes all of it’s (small amount of ) fame to the fact that it is unique, not hard. And, many would say, it is one of the “hardest” games out there.
Players generally want boundaries. How else can one gain fame and fortune in a world without rules as to what is “elite” or “the best?”
Raiders, especially, have to have those rules and boundaries or their prizes and titles mean nothing. That’s the argument: it is not fair (according to those players) that the guy over there has something I have, and he didn’t “work” for it. In Ryzom, every thing is up for grabs for everyone.
Sorry to ramble, but to me it’s like that old line my Father would feed me: “If you think you have it tough, go live in poorest Africa for a while.” I would challenge many players to go try Ryzom to see the difference between REAL hardcore and what they think would BE hardcore. Tougher mobs and longer travel are not hardcore, they are just a small part of the picture.
In Ryzom, the hardcore comes from the fact that there is no elite loot, or Mega Boss. Everyone is just trying to survive. It’s a grand feeling, related to the feeling of community that would be fostered within a Vg “hardcore” server, I believe. But the VG server would have it’s share of bored players, aggrivated players and players that do the exact same thing they do on a “regular” server, which defeats the point of a “special ruleset server.” Also, by evidence, players do not make the choices to use “hardcore” type rules even though they CAN in Vanguard. In Ryzom, there is no choice and the game will remain small and a niche game because of that. I know many, many bloggers, gamers and podcasters that love the game, but get tired of the lack of boundaries, missions, and loot. Those staples of the MMO world are popular and reoccuring for a reason. A “hardcore” VG ruleset server would simply be:
a) Longer travel times.
b) Harder mobs
c) Less experience per kill or quest turn-in.
d) No special items like XP pots.
(and some that I think would be needed
e) More extreme repair costs, or an interaction between players to get repairs
f) No flying mounts. Speedy travel is speedy travel. “Immersion” is not the issue with Riftways: It’s the instant travel. Flying over all the landscape is not somehow more “hardcore” than just teleporting to it.
g) No raiding. Raiding inside a dungeon for 6 nights a week involves the same creatures, areas, and strategies as it did the week before. Also, it is an insulated world. I like raiding, but not find that playing inside the same area, able to kill the same mob over and over has anything to do with “hardcore.” Is raiding hard? Of course.
h) Forced local chat, only. No tells. Yes, tells can be explained easily in a world of magic, but again, the issue with the chat channel is the instant communication and the instant answers one can get. Letter writing a must.
I am in now way saying that Vanguard, as it is, is bad. We all know how I feel about it. It’s uniqueness and it’s variety of activities are what draws new players here and retains old ones, not the fact that it is “hard.” In my opinion, Ryzom is basically a “hardcore” server, and it, along with many other games like EVE and Lineage have existed for years and are not as popular as many games. EVE survives because of it’s “carebear” activities, something the developer has been struggling with lately, not for the PvP or the “hardcore” activities like being a pirate. (Also, it’s a great game!)
A hardcore server would be grand, and I would roll on it in a second, but by no means do I think that it would be nearly as popular as the “regular” game. Exisiting “hardcore” games are out there, what makes anyone think they would to a VG server?
Ryzom, being wonderfully unique with an incredible back story, fantastic art and awesome MOB AI, is still not that popular, and I think never will be. It really IS that hardcore, which is not that popular.
Vanguard is awesome the way it is: a very very unique game with something for everyone. Ryzom is too much of an extreme.
PS: Sorry for the long post.
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