I’ve been praising sandbox MMOs before and it slowly dawned on me that I should put my money where my mouth is and resub to Ryzom. I always knew I would, so why not now? I activated my account, patched the client to 1.5 and logged in. And there my character stood, in the same place as I left her. Wearing her focus gear, pick in hand, with the two mektoub packers who spawned with her filled to the brim with gear and materials. No one in my guild was online, so I ran around Dyron for a bit, gathering some stray materials while trying to remember how I had configured my skills and stanzas. Then I logged out, since I mostly felt confused and didn’t have a proper reason to play.
Instead I turned back to Final Fantasy XI, since I’ve been meaning to play it for what seems like ages. I wasn’t sure when the free play time that came with the box ran out, but it turned out I still had a few days to go before billing kicks in, so I patched it up and got comfy in the sofa, 360 controller in hand. And just like my character in Ryzom, my tarutaru was still where I left him – near the fishers’ guild in Windurst, where I had logged out after doing a bit of fishing. I took a stroll down to the Auction House, cleared out old sales that ran out several weeks ago, then I sat down near the gate to the East Sarutabaruta plains. I was confused, alone and had no idea what I had been doing when I stopped playing. So I logged out.
I am not a huge fan of quest based MMOs, I prefer a sandbox to play around in. But quests are not always a bad thing, they only become bad when it is the only real activity the game actually offers. It’s not all clear cut, it’s not black and white. A perfect mix between a wide open world, such as Ryzom’s dangerous wilderness, and some form of quest driven play, is probably what I would have needed today. If I knew that I could do what I felt like, including hitting up a quest hub for a quick infusion of cash or a sense of direction for a few hours, I would have spent the whole evening in Atys or in Vana’diel. Now I spent it in Blood Bowl instead, pitting my Skaven team against a friend’s Orcs. The ball needs to go in the end zone to score a point. The team with the most points at the end of the match wins. Easy and clear.
I am glad that my Ryzom account is active again, absolutely. Seeing Windurst gave me a sense of happy nostalgia, just like returning to Dyron Oasis felt like coming home. I look forward to digging around in those two sandboxes. But if I don’t figure out exactly what to do, where to go, or what project to immerse myself in, I have a feeling that the MMO burnout will come much faster than I’d want it to.
September brings both Fallen Earth and Aion. Two completely different games, but both have peaked my interest. Let’s see if the sandboxes of old can stand up against the roller coasters of the near future.