Ryzom finally free

Ryzom has finally been liberated. It took just 4 years but I never would have thought it would finally happen!

European Retail box for The Saga of Ryzom.
Image via Wikipedia

Do you still remember Ryzom? the MMORPG that was closing back in 2006, was attempted to have its source liberated by the Free Software enthusiasts, got taken over by another company, which subsequently bankrypted and the whole thing stalled? Well it seems that finally, 4 years after the original suggestion was made, Ryzom has been released into the wild as a pure Affero GPL3 Free Software, assets and everything. Exciting!

I just got an email announcing this and even though it took a helluva long time to get this through, it’s nevertheless better than never. Since I’ve covered this subjects twice in the Division by Zer0 already, I thought I should at least announce this exciting development and finally close this chapter of the saga.

I am extremely glad that this has finally happened. I’m very interested if the liberation of the code will manage to re-energize a game which has been practically on life-support for the past 4 years (and wasn’t doing very well before that anyway). I’m interested to see if the first completely free software game which can arguably be called to be of commercial quality, will manage to make any kind of effect in the MMORPG area.

Now that the doors are open, it can be extended in ways that were never considered or followed due to cost constraints. The community can finally start fixing the bugs and then add custom content which can quickly be improved upon and replicated elsewhere.The Affero GPL license will make certain that the improvement made on the game and the code will be shared back to the community for all to enjoy.

The biggest problem is naturally that the game’s code and graphics will be quite dated by now as the game was initially released in 2004 and commercial development seems to have stopped since 2006. The good thing is that it’s now free nature will not require it to compete for price with the big commercial games and the bazaar development it will follow should hopefully allow it to challenge them for content. Still, the huge delay of 4 years and the understandable death of its community in this time will be very hard to recover.

Lets try it out and hope for the best.

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Ryzom extinction

Do you remember approximately one year ago when the Ryzom MMORPG was going bankrupt and a group of fans started a movement to buy the Ryzom assets that were being liquidized, and subsequently release them under the GPL (I even blogged about it here)? There was quite a number of donation promises coming in as well, with the FSF also promising (if I remember correctly) 50.000€  if the Free Ryzom movement was granted the assets. In the end there were about €200k promised in donations which is quite impressive if you think about it.

Well, even if you didn’t see it or don’t remember it, the end result was that a third company, Gameforge, bought the assets instead (after convincing the judge that they would be more capable on keeping a larger number of the workforce employed no less) and the Free Ryzom movement was put on hold (they did try to keep it going but it didn’t take off it seems).

To tell the truth, I was very curious on how a company could buy Ryzom which had already proved to have failed commercially and what they were planning to do with it. More importantly, how were they going to use this failing business to keep the previous employees working.

Well, it seems that they couldn’t. I just received a message from the Ryzom.org mailing list that they informed me that not only had the Gameforge France (the subsidiary that took over) had closed down 7 short months after taking over, but has also left their employees unpaid for quite some time and hasn’t even payed the first liquidator what they owed them.

Now, If you remember, the whole reason why Gameforge was granted the assets over the Free Ryzom movement was that the judge assumed that a corporate entity would be better suited to take care for the well being of the game and its supporting personnel than a rag tag bunch of hippies (or at least, that’s what I assume he thought). Does anyone else see the irony here? You can be damn certain that if Ryzom had gone free, not only would have the developers probably be better off, but the whole world would have benefited from the buyout. You can also be certain that the liquidator would have received a larger amount of money than they did now.

Currently, Gameforge Germany (the original company that has taken over, now that Gameforge France has liquidated) has shut down the game servers and many fear they will shut down the forums as well, leaving the remaining players no venue for information. This is actually the main reason why the announcement was sent to everyone who has registered in the past, so that the remaining player might be informed.

The actual time line of the situation is this:

  • January 2007 : Gameforge takes over Ryzom, creating Gameforge France.
  • August  2007  : Gameforge France stops paying its creditors, starting
    the shutdown procedure. The employees haven’t been paid since June.
  • October 2007  : Gameforge France enters the liquidation procedure
    (public announcement). Unlike the first liquidation, the judge
    immediately shuts down the company and fires all the employees.
  • Nov-Dec 2007  : Issues in the procedure (see below) arise and add
    further delay to an already lengthy process.
  • January 2008  : Gameforge Germany announces it will soon shutdown the
    game servers.
  • February 2008 : The game servers are shutdown.

Now it seems that the previous free Ryzom movement is still waiting for the second liquidation to complete before they take any further actions. This might take a while as the situation has become even more complex by the gross mishandling of the situation by Gameforge. Nevertheless, once that is complete, hopefully, there will be another chance the acquire Ryzom and release it under the GPL and hopefully with a lower price tag as well.

However this whole situation irks me to no end.I just hope that no other “suitor” comes in and tries to take over Ryzom only to park it somewhere never to be seen again. I hope the judge will understand this time that giving the game to its own players who actually want to see it succeed instead of a random corporate entity with the only worry being it’s bottom line, is the better choice.

Let’s wait and see what happens. You check out the original announcement here

Free Ryzom

Now this is damn interesting.

Μια προσπάθεια γίνεται αυτή τη στιγμή ώστε το MMORPG Ryzom να περάσει σε μία άδεια ελεύθερου λογισμικού.

Διαβάζοντας λίγα πράγματα περι του θέματος, φαίνεται οτι το Ryzom είναι ένα αρκετα ενδιαφέρον παιχνίδι όσον αφορά τον τρόπο που λειτουργει. Αναφέρω 2 πράγματα.

  1. Ο κόσμος είναι συνεχώς μεταβαλόμενος, αλλα όχι απλά με την πρόσθεση περισσότερων περιοχών όπως είναι κοινό για την πλειοψηφία των MMORPG. Αντιθέτως, τα πανίδα και χλωρίδα έχει εμπλουτιστεί με τεχνητή νοημοσύνη. Τα ίδια τα ζώα και τα φυτά δουλέβουν μέσω του οικοσυστήματος και έχουν φυσικούς εχθρούς καθώς και φυσικές άμυνες. Σαν αποτέλεσμα, το περιβάλλον μεταβάλεται καθώς, πχ ένα δάσος επεκτείνεται μέσω της νέας βλάστησης και ολόκληρα κοπαδια ζώων αποδημούν σε άλλες, πιο εύκρατες περιοχές για το είδος τους.
    Ακόμα και εποχές έχει, που επηρρεάζουν τα είδη των ζώων που είναι ενεργά και κατά προέκταση των υλικών που μπορείς να βρείς.
  2. Δεν έχει το κλασσικό στυλάκι του D&D με τα levels και τα classes που είναι κοινό στα MMORPG. Χρησιμοποιεί κάτι παρόμοιο με το Dungeon Siege όπου όλοι οι νέοι χαρακτήρες ξεκινάνε με 4 βασικές ικανότητες και καθώς τις χρησιμοποιούν αυτές βελτιώνονται και ο παίχτης αποκτά την δυνατότητα να ειδικευτεί. Αυτό έχει σαν αποτέλεσμα οτι ο κάθε χαρακτήρας έχει πραγματική ελευθερία ως προς τον τρόπο που θα λειτουργεί μιας και οι ικανότητες όχι μόνο μπορούν να συνδυαστούν αλλά σου δίνουν κάτι σαν υπο-δυνατότητες που μπορείς να συνδυάσεις για να κάνεις κάτι προσωπικά βολικό.

Anyway, εχει δημιουργηθεί μια κίνηση γύρω απο αυτό που αυτή τη στιγμή προσπαθεί να μαζέψει “όρκους βοήθειας”. Αυτό σημαίνει οτι υπόσχεσαι ένα ποσό, το οποίο θα χρησιμοποιηθεί ωστε να αγοραστεί ο κώδικας του προγράμματος, όταν γίνει η ρευστοποίηση της εταιρίας. Μετά αυτός ο κώδικας θα μεταφεργεί στο GPL.
Αυτό είναι σημαντικό σε πολλά επίπεδα. Κυρίως θα μπει στο ελεύθερο λογισμικό ένας αρκετα μεγάλος όγκος κώδικα για MMORPG και ακόμα καλυτερα μεγάλος όγκος απο Γραφικά και Ήχο, κάτι στο οποίο το ελεύθερο λογισμικό υστερεί.
Δεύτερον, όλοι ξέρουν οτι τα παιχνίδια ελεύθερου λογισμικόυ δεν συγκρίνονται σε ικανότητες με τα υπερθήρια των κλασσικών εταιριών. Το Ryzom θα μπορέσει να δώσει μια επιλογή σε όσους δεν θέλουν να είναι κλειδωμένοι με ένα συγκεκριμένο διανομέα και ίσως κάνει ορισμένες εταιρίες να ξανασκεφτούν το πόσο βιώσιμο είναι το όλο θέμα.
Τέλος, το Ryzom θα επιζήσει άσχετα με το πόσοι παίχτες υπάρχουν. Τα Open Source προγράμματα ποτέ δεν πεθάινουν, κυρίως γιατι εαν ο developer χρεωκοπήσει δεν παίρνει μαζί του και τον κώδικα.
Έχω ήδη υποσχεθεί 100€ σε περίπτωση που κερδηθεί η δημοπρασία και ελπίζω να βοηθήσουν κι’αλλοι. Πιστεύω οτι αξίζει τον κόπο να ρίξετε μια ματιά.