Interview of Matthieu Mauduit

Q : Could you tell us a bit about yourself ?

Hey ! My name is Matthieu Mauduit, I'm 25 and I'm the lead level designer for Ryzom.

Q : How long have you been working for Nevrax and on the Ryzom project ?

I have been working at Nevrax for 2 years. I started as a contract game designer, creating building maps. Then I worked in the 3D team, checking the maps and the collisions and I finally developped the level design tools used to place scenery, creatures and NPCs on the maps.

Q : What is level design exactly ?

We set up the environment, creatures, NPCs and missions in the game. In fact, we are putting all the game elements together. We balance the difficulty, content and create a mood for each area. Level design is the convergence of the work of all the teams : we are using the models created by the 3D team, the rules of the game design, our own in-house tools as well as the A.I. managing creatures and NPCs.

Q : How many people are working on level design ?

We have a team of 3 persons : Marco Schnittger, Christophe Monnerot and myself. This may look like a small team for such a big project, but this is what we wanted. We worked together to create our tools and we implemented all the game systems into the first territory.

Now that all these tools are pretty much finished, the team will get bigger so that we can add all the content to the game before the release.

Q : What's your typical day like ?

Team work. This is pretty much what we do every day at Nevrax. We have to coordinate the tasks of all the team so that eveything runs smooth. We work with the game design team who creates rules and key elements for each continent. We then have to integrate these elements into the game to create a region of the world. I have to make sure that we have all the required elements and information at our disposal. If we have a new server version, I get it and check that everything works fine with it. I also spend a lot of time with the coders in order to solve the daily issues.

Q : What will be the size of the Ryzom universe at launch ?

The planet Atys is divided into 11 continents. Some of them are just huge, they are the cradle of each civilization, and others are very remote. Each continent has its own ecosystem (forest, jungle, desert, lakes, underground...). Beyond the world size (anyone can create huge and empty maps), variety and uniqueness are the true strenght of Ryzom. Each place has its own mood, be it an oasis in a desert or a forest of giant trees, each will have unique features. I am really pleased with what we created as the atmosphere of each place also changes with the time of the day or the season. This gives a lot of diversity and each area looks different with each play session.

Q : What are you currently working on ?

We are currently integrating the first missions for each career into the game. These missions will help new players to become familiar with the game systems as well as giving a few directions about the world of Ryzom.

We have some important milestones before reaching the first version of Ryzom. Mapping and scenery for the continents are almost finished, and the fauna and flora are also settled.

The next big step will be the addition of the tribes and the missions that go with them. The A.I allows us to create behaviours that have never been seen in any MMORPG so far. The Matis hunter will spend his day stalking in the woods, but you will find him in a tavern in the evening before going home at sunset. Each NPC will have its own life. This is very time consuming for us, as we have to create missions and background for each one. Of course, all of these elements will be available to the players, depending on their actions, their guild and their rank in the society. And I think this is what will make Ryzom so attractive.

Q : What kind of problems do you usually come across ?

Testing the numerous missions is our main problem currently, there are so many objects, dialogues and NPCs to check...

Q : What is your best memory about the developement of Ryzom ?

When we had the first version of the A.I. service. I went to the place where the creatures which we added through the world editor were supposed to be. And this is the first time our creatures were moving around in Ryzom ! They were walking in herds, seeking food, sleeping, and even fighting (which wasn't planned by the way ;). After one year of hard work, all the efforts of our teams had turned into a reality on the screen. I told to myself that our game was really going to be promising.

Q : The worst one ?

I would say one of those days I spent looking for the source of a crash (which was usually a simple typo ;).

Q : Anything you would like to add ?

We are all longing for Ryzom ! We want to play the game and I think (I am a hardcore MMORPG player) that Ryzom will bring all that the players have long been waiting for. A MMORPG is not only a video game. We create the universe of Ryzom, but only the players will bring it to life. So... see you soon on Atys :).