I shared an article a week ago on why was Ragnarok Online so Much Fun, written by Ramona Smith and it is one of the best written article I have read on Ragnarok Online. This time, I am writing the opposite, why Ragnarok Online failed. As a website dedicated to Tree of Savior (a highly acclaimed successor of Ragnarok Online) game, I will try my best to be as neutral as possible.
I still remember the day I started playing Ragnarok Online in Penril server. I was one of the earlier birds to obtain a Ragnarok Online CD, yes we use CD back then to install games in 2003. Updating the game on 1 Mbps line took forever but it was worth every minute of it. Ragnarok Online started out exactly the way Ramona Smith explained in her article, with all the newbie training grounds, exploring and venturing into unknown maps.
I started out as a Thief, I raised VIT and STR. Travelling from Morroc to Prontera took me a couple hours, because I kept dying, largely because I know nothing about the game. I remember talking to people in Prontera and introducing myself as a Morrocian. I learnt new grinding grounds and Kafra warps from the first few conversation. The game was immersive, instead of going shopping with my parents 15 KM away from my home, I decided to shop in Prontera market instead, trading my way to get a Damascus, the best dagger the weapon shop was selling at the time. Like many other players, I was addicted to the game. Of course, I made new characters, joined events, hunted MVP and joined WOE. Ragnarok Online was indeed a pleasant experience … until the bots came in.
The OpenKore RO botting project is a botting program started in November 2003. It did not take long for the first bot to appear in the servers. At that time, I believe the GMs were new to the bots, while they were figuring out how to deal with them, the bots plagued over the server. It was fun to bully bots in the beginning but a week afterwards, the same person would appear in blue aura in the PvP arenas. Underdog guilds quickly gained the upper hand from botting and risen out of nowhere to compete with larger guilds in WoE. Larger guild leaders had no choice but to level their guilds with bots as well.
After a while, the GM decided to took action and banned many botting accounts. However, with every bot deleted, two bots were made. It was too late, botting in the server became a norm. Only a handful of players actually grind by hand, the rest were bots. Eventually the bots took over the entire server. The server would show 3000 players, but everyone knew only about 100 were real players.
Eventually the GMs caved in, accepting the fact that if they delete all the bots in their server, they would lose the business and the franchise.
Pay to Win
Fast forward to 2007, developers ran out of ideas for the Ragnarok Online franchise but profit must still be made from the game. So Kafra shop was introduced into the server, turning RO franchise into a cash cow. It was fine at first, with decent items being introduced in many servers, but soon it got out of hand in some servers. Godly items that were introduced at exorbitant prices, some up to hundreds of US dollars.
Some servers even completely disabled the possibility of MVP cards dropping and is selling only one MVP cards each week on Kafra shop. This forces players to stop MVP hunting entirely and to rely on the weekly Kafra shop for MVP cards.
The introduction of Kafra shop changed the dynamics of the game entirely. Suddenly players become tougher to kill because of the “Special Potions” that restores full HP, rendering support classes useless.
Ragnarok Online Renewal
Shortly after Pay to Win (aka Kafra Shop), GRAVITY introduced RO Renewal in 2009 to put the nail in the coffin for Ragnarok Online. Everything the original creator had built in 2002 was all thrown away with this update. A few of the key updates are:
- Level up linearly instead of exponentially
- Fixed skill casting time and cannot be affected by DEX
- Completely nerfed mage and buffed melee characters
- Character performance become more gear dependent
- 1 hit kill most monsters most of the time
- MVP becomes a joke. MVPs used to be respected and require a party and a strategy to kill
The Renewal update was an update to support the Kafra Shop and making players more dependent on buying equipment from Kafra shop. With this update in place, Ragnarok Online turned from a pioneer of its niche to become a follower of other MMORPGs.
Ragnarok Online 2
When Ragnarok Online 2 came out, I was excited. I tested the game and found that it was one of the worst experience ever. Years later, I bumped into this quote:
Can any game be worse than Ragnarok Online 2?
Plus, Korea’s Ragnarok Online 2 is closed down in 2013. Do I need to explain any further than this?
A lot of people think that GRAVITY KR was the ones to manage all Ragnarok Online published in countries around the world. That is not true. Companies (publishers) from different parts of the world bought the franchise and were licensd to publish the game in their respective countries. The publishers reserve the right to govern the game in whatever fashion they like, not GRAVITY KR.
Publisher plays a huge role when it comes to MMORPGs. Many servers that failed do not have a dedicated game master or manpower to fix in-game bugs. As a gamer, I find this to be a disturbing fact. While many publishers are motivated by profit, many private publishers have started their own Ragnarok Online private servers, motivated by passion. Some of these private server owners are passionate in the game and at the same time earning money from it. Patch are updated and bug gets fixed. Overall, private servers give a better experience compared to the official publishers. However, this is all illegal of course, but I’ve never once heard of a new regarding a Ragnarok Online publisher going after these private servers. This goes to show how responsible Ragnarok Online publishers are with their game.
The Truth in 2002
The truth is, Ragnarok Online was not as successful as we thought it was. In the beginning in 2002, the developer’s computers in GRAVITY KR were hacked by a bunch of non-Korea hackers. GRAVITY KR lost everything that they have built. The server software, AEGIS was leaked numerous times and was emulated as eAthena, this explains why there are countless amounts of RO private servers.
When GRAVITY KR lost everything and was almost at the brink of filing bankruptcy, Samsung Electronics saved GRAVITY. At the same time was also the departure of most of the development team including Kim Hakkyu. The new development team had to work from a copy of iRO, this explains why bugs and high latency continued to haunt Ragnarok Online for the years to come. The truth is, Ragnarok Online failed right at the beginning of its launch in 2002. This explains why Ragnarok Online had become unplayable with every update since 2003.
As a closing, I’d like to point out again that I am a huge fan of Ragnarok Online, seeing the images and listening to the musics from SoundTEMP gives me nostalgic moments reminiscent of the old days in Ragnarok Online. RO will forever be one of the best games that I have played during my childhood years.
Image Source: Mastering & Baphomet