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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 August 2006, 07:22 GMT 08:22 UK
Game tools put players in charge
By Mark Ward
Technology Correspondent, BBC News website

Screenshot from Saga of Ryzom, Nevrax
Ryzom combines Science-fictional and fantasy elements
Gamers are getting the chance to take over and run a portion of an online role-playing world.

French game maker Nevrax is releasing tools that let players craft and run their own sophisticated scenarios set in the Ryzom game world.

The scenario creation kit can be used to create quests for other players to complete and, once written, edited and uploaded, will become part of the larger game that anyone can play.

Creators of scenarios can either choose

to adventure through the setting of their own devising or act as an overseer and make it more or less difficult for any player or group passing through it.

God game

The Saga of Ryzom is an online game set in a world that fuses science-fiction with more well-known fantasy elements. Players can be one of four humanoid races and venture round the game world of Planet Atys which has been torn apart by an apocalyptical war headed by smart insects called Kitins.

Like many other online role-playing games those who venture around the world gain experience by battling hostile creatures and gaining loot and completing a variety of tasks they are set by computer controlled characters.

The Ryzom Ring scenario creation kit is a free add-on for the game.

Screenshot of scenario creation system, Nevrax
The tool lets creators set up complicated interactions
"It's about getting the tools to the players to make their own content inside the game," said Nevrax director Francois "Milko" Berset.

Mr Berset said no programming expertise was needed to create scenarios as all the elements for a customised adventure were usable via a series of mouse-driven menus.

Using this system, scenario creators can pick their terrain, dress it with appropriate flora and fauna and then set up a complicated series of events, triggers and items for those that play the setting.

To start with, a set of 200 empty maps has been created for scenario designers to use as the base for their creations but Mr Berset said more would be available soon.

In a demonstration for the BBC News website, Mr Berset showed how to create a quest involving an attack on a bandit camp that acted as a distraction so a player could liberate some useful supplies. The actions of the central player determined whether the camp was attacked head on or if the attackers took advantage of terrain to outflank the bandits.

Tool time

Everything from the aggression levels of hostile creatures to when to schedule rain can be set up via the scenario creation kit. Adventure-writers can set traps for players, schedule events so hostile creatures attack when certain conditions are met or chain events so when one element of the scenario is finished the next stage opens up.

Concept art from Saga of Ryzom, Nevrax
Planet Atys is home to many strange beasts
Mr Berset said scenario writers could join other players as they adventure in the customised map. Alternatively they could act as an overseer and tweak events if players struggled to defeat hostiles, missed clues or otherwise struggled to complete the section.

"The tools are completely integrated into the game," said Mr Berset.

Once scenarios are completed they can be uploaded so others can try them out. Each scenario can support about 50 concurrent players and up to 200 computer controlled monsters or humanoids.

In some respects the player-created scenarios will act like the "instances" - or standalone adventure sections of other online games such as World of Warcraft.

Nevrax is working on a system that will try to stop players using custom-built scenarios as a training ground to make their characters very powerful so they have an easier time in the larger game world. Nevrax hopes the final system will encourage players to spend time in both places.

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