Animating virtual worlds: Emergence and ecological animation of Ryzom’s living world of Atys

Paul Manning


Ryzom is a long-running (from 2004–present) science fantasy MMORPG (henceforth MMO) set in the science fantasy game world of the planet Atys, an entirely organic “rootball” teeming with alien life forms. The most oft-cited distinctive properties of Ryzom in the MMO world is the way creates not only an immersive sense of “worldness”, but a living, breathing, organic world. The game world is not only a richly animated “world” like all MMOs, but the aggregate of these animations also produce a sense of life, a “living world”. Following Silvio (2010) in particular, I ask how and when the properties of animation — understood in the narrow sense as a medium or media form — can produce a broader sense of “animacy” (Chen, 2012), a lively affect of “animatedness”: how and when animation (movement) is read as life; how an animated world becomes a living world. Specifically, why is it that in the animated world of Ryzom, as in animated cartoons, the animation of animality is central to this transition from animation to life: why the reading of animated “movement-as-life tends to settle on cartoon animals”. The “immersive” feeling of Atys as a ‘living world’ is displayed in the “emergent” animation of animals, particularly the ways that animals interact via “ecological” algorithms of predation and mutual care. animations which players explore as part of the emergent living worldness of Atys.


Ecology, Virtual Worlds, Emergence, Animals, Animation

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