Ragnarok Online. A 3D MMORPG with 2D character sprites. It’s been around for over a decade now, and it still has a pretty large fan base, though most people that play it now don’t do so through official means.
I’ve played iRO since Beta 1. I was known as Prog by most of my in-game friends. At first, I mostly played by myself or with some of my real life friends. This is my story of Ragnarok Online, as inspired by Castle Dragmire/Sasami’s history of RO hacking. A lot of the dates and details are a little fuzzy, but I’ll recall as best I can. It’s a pretty interesting history that I don’t want to be lost.
A lot of my screenshots are scattered across my old computers, and many were lost in an incident with one of my harddrives, but when I feel like looking through them, I’ll add some screenshots to this page.
Back in beta 1, RO was sort of half a game. Cards didn’t do anything. There were only first level jobs. Support was abysmal and rollbacks were many. One of the most interesting things about beta 1 that newer players may not know is that monsters used to do a hell of a lot less damage. In beta 1, in a quick trip to Pyramids level 4, you’d see mid-level acolytes everywhere punching the hell out of Verits, taking 1 damage every hit. In beta one, taking 400 damage from a monster was unheard of, except for maybe bosses. But heck, back then, you could solo a boss.
In beta 1, I played a Swordsman, like most newbies that didn’t know what to be. It was a whole different game back then, because once you were a swordie, that was it. Thats what you were until level 99. The maps were few, and the only cities were Prontera, Morroc, Payon, Alberta, and Geffen. I didn’t play Alpha, but I’m pretty sure the only cities in Alpha were Prontera and Morroc, both of which were vastly different than they currently exist or even how they existed in the betas. The first city that was added was Izlude. I remember it well, because it was a 16MB patch that took forever for me to download on my 56K modem.
Another thing that made the betas pretty different was the fact that they were free. That meant there were lots of foreigners on the International/English server, particularly Thais. It seems horribly mean now, 10 years later, but the Thais were the root of a lot of jokes that the native English speakers had. To current RO players, 555 and kub might not mean a whole lot, but to older RO players, I think we all remember those things far too well.
Character sprites didn’t show any armor back then. I still remember the first time that an armor showed up on my character – a helm. It looked exactly like how I thought it was going to look before I knew that armor didn’t show on the character. I was slightly disappointed back then when I put on my first helm and it didnt change my character’s appearance.
At this time, there were a few major RO fansites. ro.pak0.com was probably the biggest one. Then there was Ragnamart, which was basically the best site for monster/item/class information. There was also Eroite, run by a famous player called Joe the Dude. He’s a major part of RO lore, which is even still evident in the current version of the game.
Joe the Dude was very outspoken about the problems with RO. He regularly emailed Gravity, the makers of the game, with suggestions and complaints. He eventually became so famous that he was harassed wherever he went. He had a lot of good ideas, but Gravity basically ignored him except for one thing – the item Earthworm the Dude that was later added to the game. Gravity named that item after him, and it still exists in the current version of RO.
There was another fansite called Future-Ragnarok.net, but I’ll come back to that one later.
Toward the end of Beta 1, I abandoned my swordie and started focusing on a Thief. I think I was in the 30s when beta 1 ended.
That was basically beta 1. Half-finished, but still fun, and a very obvious predecessor to the current game.
Beta 2 brought about a lot of changes that I already mentioned above. In the beginning, the biggest noticeable changes were the amount of damage, the new maps/monsters/items, and a 5% experience penalty upon death. This was later changed to 1%, probably due to player outcry.
Beta 2 also brought about the most major change in the way people played – 2nd level classes. I was by no means one of the first people to achieve the Assassin class, but I still got there early enough that every time I used Sonic Blow, other players would stop and go “Whoa.”
The shift in the amount of damage that monsters did was the second most major change, because like the new classes, it changed how people played. RO was previously a game that you could play by yourself, but suddenly, that became extremely difficult. Not impossible, as I mostly still played by myself at the time, but it made many players focus more on forming parties. In fact, I guess it’s arguable that this was a more major change than the 2nd level classes.
I think Aldebaran and Glast Heim came out with beta 2. Glast Heim was pretty creepy at first. I don’t think it had dungeons yet, so it was basically just a big, abandoned city with creepy background music and a bunch of Mysts wandering around.
There were a few instances of rollbacks, but the game was still in beta, so I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it was annoying.
It’s important to mention that during the entire time I’ve played RO, I had 3 major social experiences in game. My first one happened in Beta 2. Back in that time, the RO client wasn’t that big of a deal to a new computer, but you’d lag pretty hard if you tried to run 2 clients at once on the same computer (in comparison, these days you can run 4 at a time without an issue). However, I had 2 computers sharing my super awesome 56k Internet connection, so I could run two clients, and since RO didn’t use too much bandwidth, it was easily doable.
Remember the Acolytes I mentioned in Beta 1 that used to punch the crap out of monsters while taking only 1 damage? One day when I was bored back in Beta 1, I created a second account (since they were free anyway) and tried to make a Puncholyte. I got bored in the teen levels, probably around level 16, and stopped leveling it.
When Beta 2 rolled around, they did a stat and skill reset. That was serious business. Since you can’t normally reset stats on official RO servers, it was a chance to fix mistakes you knew you made. By the time I even cared to login to my second account, I already realized that a Puncholyte was no longer a viable option since monsters now did so much damage. Instead, I put all of my stats into int and went full support. I went and leveled the Acolyte a little, probably to early 20s.
Beta 2 introduced a very important monster to mid 30s and early 40s leveled characters: Hodes. Two south from Morroc. That map, oh my God. I’ve probably spent a total of 5 or 6 days worth of time on that map during my entire RO life. It’s different now, of course, but that map was *the* map at the time for anyone my level. I’d go on my old computer, login with my Acolyte and just sit there. Then I’d go on my newer computer and play my Thief until I needed HP, at which time I’d just walk over to my Aco and heal myself. This was a decent strategy at the time, even though the SP regeneration algorithm sucked back then (sit down, wait ~5 seconds, regenerate 1 SP, wait ~5 seconds, regen 1 SP, repeat).
One other player happened to notice what I was doing (my characters basically had the same name with different numbers at the end), and started chatting with me. I joined the party he had with his real life friends, which was mostly just a party so they could talk. After being in their party for a while, they started talking about something where they lived, and it turned out that they lived 2 hours north of me in a city that was about 30 minutes from the city where I was going to college in a year or so. We ended up meeting up, and I still see a few of those guys fairly often. I’m going to call those guys the “hi guild.” I’ll explain later.
Interestingly enough, even though I was apparently determined to be a loner in the game, Beta 2 still ended up making me more social. I was the first in my party to make it to a 2nd level job. It was really cool, because I knew exactly how the other people on the server felt, having seen few other cool looking Assassins running all over the place in a land full of 1st level classes.
Our party decided that we wanted to make a guild, which was another new addition of Beta 2. So we all went hunting for Emperiums to create the guild. I forgot if I found one or just ended up buying one, but I eventually came into possession of one. Since I got it, that made me the guild master, so we decided on a name for the guild – “Seraphim.” The only problem was that none of us knew how to actually create the guild. I made a chat room asking for instructions, and that chat went something like this:
Other person: You just type “/guild name”
Me: So if I want to call the guild “hi,” I’d just type /guild hi?
Major note to myself at the time: if you type a command into a chat room rather than the normal chat system, the command still gets recognized by the game. And that was how the “hi” guild came to be.
The Day that RO Changed Forever
Beta 2 ended abruptly one day when the GM got online and told us all that RO would be going down for a few months. This was basically heartbreaking news for me, but there was nothing I could do. RO went down, and that was the end of Beta 2.
Years later I learned what happened that day. A bunch of hackers broke into the Korean RO servers and basically destroyed everything. kRO was where most/all of Gravity’s money came from, so their plan was to gut iRO and turn over all of its resources to kRO.
I guess the damage was already done by then, though. Gravity was apparently struggling to make ends meet, and they were bought out by another company. They were still called Gravity, but they were now owned by a larger company. It’s unfortunate that it happened when it did, because at the time, RO was still basically only 75% finished. The original development team still had plans for the game before it became pay to play, including maps that were twice as large, a real quest system, and a real PvP system. The current PvP system in RO is just a hacked together thing that was added to the game to satisfy the demand for it. You know that building at the top of Izlude? That was originally supposed to be a PvP arena, where real tournaments could be held. There were other plans for the game, but for now, that’s all I can recall.
It’s sad, but those hackers basically ended the real development on RO. All RO has received since that day is more maps, more classes, more monsters, and more items. For that reason, the story from here on out will be a more personal tale of RO history.
Closed Beta/Next Free Beta/Pay to Play
When iRO announced they were coming back, I didn’t even care that they were charging $10 and that it would be a closed beta. I was just incredibly happy to have my favorite game back. During the down time, I’d burned the entire BGM folder to CDs and regularly listened to it. I think this was around when I finally got high-speed cable Internet as well.
Closed Beta was basically the same as Beta 2, except for one slight problem: all of our accounts were wiped. I was pretty mad at the time that I’d done all of that work to get to the Assassin class only to have it wiped, but at the time, I didn’t know what had happened to kRO. Our accounts were wiped because our servers were turned into kRO servers.
Another problem was that since the accounts were wiped and it was now pay to play, I didn’t have a 2nd account to run my heal slave Acolyte from, even if I felt like recreating it. I had to do it the old-fashioned way. The guys from the hi guild got together and we eventually recreated the guild (and we still called it “hi” since it was now a running inside joke that we had the best and friendliest guild name on the server).
I also decided to make an Acolyte as a spare character just for fun. I wouldn’t have the luxury of a reset, so I had to make due with whatever crappy stats I had, and I still couldn’t use it as a heal slave since I only had one account and couldn’t login to two characters on the same account from different computers.
I’m pretty sure the closed beta started in December, lasted a few months until we had to pay again, and then lasted again until May or June. After that time, the game went free play again for a while, but by then, we knew the free play wouldn’t last long before the game was actually pay to play for good at a monthly rate. Honestly, most of that time is a blur in my mind of what actually happened in game, which is why I’m lumping it all together under the same title, because I can’t remember exactly when it happened.
Remember the fansites I mentioned from Beta 1? Now comes the story of why I brought my personal RO history into this recollection. My favorite fansite was Future-RO, which fans called FuRO. It was run by a guy named DarkPhoenix. I didn’t really have a favorite fansite until FuRO started doing its group hunt meetups. Every once in a while, DarkPhoenix would post a meeting place near a dungeon on the site, and hundreds of people would show up, and they’d all go beat the crap out of the dungeon with the end goal of killing the boss.
The first meetup was right outside of the Pyramids with the goal of beating Osiris. I don’t remember how it went, because I’m pretty sure I missed it or only caught the tail end of it.
The second meetup was the one that changed my entire RO life. DarkPhoenix posted that we’d all meet in Geffen with the goal of going down into Geffen Dungeon to beat Doppelganger. Hundreds of people showed up, and certain people made parties and then advertised those parties to targeted level players (since parties could only share experience within a 5 or 10 level range or whatever it was at the time). It just so happened that my assassin was very near the level of DarkPhoenix’s assassin, and he was in the party that I joined. That hunt was a disaster, because only archers/hunters and mages/wizards could hit the strongest monsters in that dungeon. At the time, elemental weapons were still pretty rare. We didn’t kill Doppelganger, but DarkPhoenix and I did start talking and became friends.
Around this time, before the Geffen hunt and after, I had started focusing more intently on my Acolyte. I was in the 40s, which as anyone that played an Acolyte at that time knows, was a pain the ass. It was incredibly hard to get into a party, because any monsters worth fighting for a party did so much damage that battle classes had to be healed a lot, which Acos simply weren’t capable of because of the crummy SP regen algorithm. I eventually gave up, and just started putting stats into strength so I could power my way to the priest class.
Then came the FuRO hidden temple/labyrinth maze hunt. It’s the last FuRO hunt that I remember, so it was probably the last one that happened, but it went out with a bang for me. We were going after Baphomet, of course. I was an Assassin in the high 60s, so I was basically useless against one of the strongest bosses in the game. What’s more, the way hidden temple is structured made for a very bad FuRO group hunt. People got lost like crazy, and since every section of that map was tiny, even when we found Baphomet, in such a small space, it was utter madness. But, I had two things going for me. There were priests casting Sanctuary all over the damn place, and Wizards were doing heavy damage right before they were getting killed off. I’m pretty sure the only thing I did to Baphomet was to tank him for a few seconds and get a few critical hits in, but miraculously, when he went down, I got the MVP. And that was the only time I’ve ever MVPed Baphomet in iRO or on any real RO server. In fact, I’m not sure if I ever MVPed another boss on iRO ever again.
I talked to DarkPhoenix a little, but I don’t remember too much about our interactions during that hunt except that I think we hung out after it was over. I say this because I think that’s when I logged out of my Assassin and into my Acolyte to talk, and that’s when he learned I had an Acolyte. He was in the low 60s (I just remember that my Assassin was stronger), and my Aco was in the high 40s by then, so there were basically just a few levels separating us until we could party and share experience.
I became a Priest after hitting job level 40 (which of course, was a total noob move, but most of us were dimwits about that kind of stuff at the time since I was so effing hard to get to job level 40 in the first place). See, Priests had the SP regen skill that mages had, but Acos didn’t. The SP regen algorithm was so bad that it made most of us Acos make terrible job class decisions just so we could get a skill that made our SP regeneration not miserable.
I don’t think Glast Heim originally had dungeons, but it did by this point, and I spent a lot of time using Turn Undead against the various monsters there to level my Priest. That skill was basically like a hack to me. Most undead monsters were super slow, so even though I had to cast TU a few times before it worked, it wasn’t very difficult as long as I didn’t run into any other monsters in the meantime. And to make things even better, the undead monsters in GH dungeons gave a ridiculous amount of experience because at the level I was at, if I was a battle class, there’s no way I could’ve been fighting those monsters, but since I didn’t have to touch them, I could kill those higher level monsters.
Not that my goal was to be able to share with DarkPhoenix, because at the time, I was sure he had a lot better things to do than to hang around with me, but as it turned out, he was just a regular nerd that was just as addicted to the game as I was, and he didn’t have a regular party. We could share by that time, and since I was a priest, I was actually useful, and thus began the Prog and Phoe duo. I don’t remember how long we had that party going, but once we did, we were basically inseparable. It was probably for half a year or so. Mostly, it was just the two of us, but Phoe was somewhat of an RO celebrity since he ran a popular official fansite, so he knew lots of people, and occasionally, some of those other people would join us.
I even met a girl named Julie on iRO that I’m pretty sure I could’ve Internet dated if I wanted to. Kind of glad I didn’t, though. Unrelated side note: I love the name “Julie.” No relation to her though.
This was my second major RO social experience – the mods of Future-RO – DarkPhoenix, b0bdrakken, Arokh, and Terra. I am currently Facebook friends with Arokh and Terra and regularly write random comments to them, and I occasionally talk to b0b on AIM, but I haven’t spoken to Phoe since 2005 or 2006.
We were always hanging out trying to level or get a item that one of us wanted. We probably hunted Deviruchis for a week or more to get him the Evil Wing headgear. My hi guild friends by that time had either stopped playing or were far too low to party with us, but I still could talk to them in guild chat.
My first experience with private servers came around this time. Back then, RO private servers either ran the real Aegis software, which the official servers used (I have no idea how that got into the hands of the private server community or how it leaked from Gravity), or they used an emulator. There were a few back then, but eAthena existed in its earliest forums, as well as others like Dark Weiss. The emulators were basically shit. You could play on them, but it felt like a poor simulation of the real game. The problem with the Aegis servers, however, was that Aegis was very fickle, ridiculously resource expensive, and very hard to set up.
When an Aegis server crashed, it basically took 30 minutes to come back up. The login server, character server, and map servers had to load in full, in order, and it took forever. The computer it ran on was useless to do anything else on, because no matter what, the software used 100% CPU. And if you had a decent CPU with hyperthreading and tried to set affinity for the Aegis processes all to one of the virtual cores (or however hyperthreading worked; it’s been too long) and then ran the RO client and set affinity for its process to the other virtual core, you couldn’t login because the server software was retarded. Remember those server components I mentioned earlier that had to load? They were all just blank, white windows. Whether or not they were working was a guessing game for the admin. It all also required a Microsoft SQL backend.
How do I know all of this? Well, that’s a later story, but the gist of it is that I *may* have tried to make an Aegis server myself at one point.
Anyway, during this time, I found out about a private RO server called evilRO. I was blown away that this existed. Rates were multiplied by 50. I didn’t even care that it was free; I just wanted to be able to get to level 99 to see what it was like. And I did, eventually. It was the first time I got to level 99, but that server was painful. It was an Aegis server, just like all of the good private servers were, so it was constantly going down, and then taking 30 minutes or more to come back up. Sometimes, the admin would just leave it off for whatever reason. Toward the end of the server’s life, when it was up, it was laggy as hell.
Playing on that server was an eye opener. It felt like a victory, albeit a small victory, to have finally felt level 99.
DarkPhoenix and I were still doing our normal thing, since evilRO was down most of the time anyway. Then came the turning point of that generation of my RO life. There was a hacking frenzy, and bad shit happened to DarkPhoenix. Someone kept logging into his account. He’d login to kick them off. They’d login to kick him off. I wish I remembered the specifics, but I do remember that whatever was going on, there was nothing he could do to stop it. Whatever the hack was, Gravity had to fix it, and they weren’t very fast.
He lost his rare items from that, and Gravity wouldn’t do anything about it. He became angry with them, understandably so, and decided to quit iRO. He posted a message on FuRO’s homepage about leaving, and said something along the lines of “Thanks from all of us here at Future-RO,” with a list of all of the mods, and then my name at the end. It’s the only time I was ever mentioned on Fu-RO’s homepage, and it was then that I realized had Gravity not betrayed Phoe, I probably would’ve become a mod on Fu-RO, which is the closest I’ve probably ever come to being Internet famous.
I didn’t get that chance though, because when Phoe left, he closed down parts of Fu-RO, Gravity removed his site from the official fansites list, and Fu-RO slowly died. b0b had some of Fu-RO’s backups and eventually acquired the domain name after years and years (Phoe wanted the site to die and kept renewing the domain just so no one could use it for the name), but he never did anything with it past building out an initial site layout.
Phoe quit iRO, but he was game to play on a private server. The problem though, was that private servers sprung up as fast as they shut down, and most were a waste of time, as I’ve already mentioned. Many of my hi guild friends had given up on iRO by this time too, and we all joined different private servers that others of us had found. One of them, strangely enough, Julie was a GM on. We played on that one for a while, but it died just like all of the others did.
This was probably around the last time that the hiRO guys and I all played on the same server. Many of them stopped played, or started playing on servers I didn’t bother with. Some time passed where I didn’t play at all. 2-2 classes were being tested at the time. I don’t remember if they were implemented yet in the official servers, but they were in most of the good private servers.
I found a server that I joined by myself. It was a really good server. No lag, decent uptime, worked well. I don’t remember the name, but I only need to remember 2 things from that server. It was the first time I played a Rogue, and that was the first time I joined a guild other than the hi guild on iRO.
The guild’s name? Oshima. This was my 3rd and final major social experience on RO.
Oshima was just a bunch of guys and girls that were decently good at RO. For whatever reason, though, we completely dominated that server. I had never done War of Emperium before, didn’t have too much experience with the Rogue class, yet I still managed to beat the crap out of people. Half of us weren’t even that high leveled.
What made Oshima different was that our guild went beyond the game. While everyone else was hanging out in the server’s IRC channel, we all idled in our own #oshima channel. When that server died, we stayed together and moved to another server. We didn’t dominate as hard, but we still did well.
At some point after the death of the server where I met the Oshima guys, we decided that all of the private servers were really getting annoying, so we wanted our own server that we could control. I’m not sure of the legality of all of this, so I won’t say that I made a private server. I’ll only say that I had a hand in helping the person that did make it to understand how to make it.
The backend of Aegis was a nightmare. As I already explained, Aegis was just a terrible load of shit to deal with, but if you wanted the real RO gameplay experience, you had to use it. It was a very valuable experience, because I learned a lot about MS SQL (which I later forgot), and a lot about what gravity was doing wrong.
A mantra we all believed in at that point could basically be summed up by something I’d read on a forum post: “The RO private server community was making greater strides with the game than Gravity was.” We were all sick of Gravity. No one wanted to deal with them. They were just an awful company that made terrible decision and had terrible support.
hiRO came up, and it miraculously worked. It was incredibly hard to maintain, though, because of the beastliness of Aegis. I recall one time that I went through every single map’s monster spawn list and reduced the number of monsters so that the map server would load faster. It did, but it wasn’t worth the trouble. We all played around with it for a few weeks before calling it quits. The hi guild, DarkPhoenix, and Oshima were all in on it. It was pretty cool to have everyone in one place, but it just wasn’t doable. No wonder Gravity couldn’t run RO correctly – their software was shit.
The mantra was still true, though. eAthena was getting better and better.
After hiRO died, I played a few other private servers with the Oshima guys before becoming disinterested with RO. This was the first time I quit RO with the intention of quitting, but it was actually the beginning of what I now call my ongoing RO hiatus, since I never seem to completely rid myself of that game.
All of the story up until this point happened while I was in high school or the summer before I went to college. When I got to college, I didn’t have a job for my first year basically just so I could adjust and focus on school.
The problem with”focusing on school,” however, is that in college, I found out you only really need to focus a day (or rarely two) before the exam or assignment was due, so I had a lot of downtime. So I decided that as far as constant entertainment went for a college student with no job, $10/month really couldn’t be beaten, so I once again gave Gravity my money to be able to play on my old iRO account again.
I made a Rogue with my spare time. I don’t know why, since I already had an assassin, but that’s what I did.
Phoe had apparently started playing iRO again, and ran a pretty popular guild called Resurrection. We were pretty distant at this point, but he still invited my Rogue into the guild. I joined the guild’s forums, but he was at a completely different place in his RO life, so iRO with his guild wasn’t very fun. I went off on my own and made a wizard. I still posted on his guild’s forums a bit, but that was basically the last I spoke to him. I tried to talk to him about letting b0b reopen Fu-RO, but he would completely ignore me if I said anything with the word “FuRO” in it. I don’t know why he was so set on making sure FuRO was dead, but that was that.
I should preface this with the fact that my assassin was level 74 at that point, and I no longer played it. My wizard also got to level 74 before I quite iRO again. My wizard was the most legit character I had made on iRO, because by then, I actually knew how to build characters from all of the testing and tweaking I had done on private servers.
A very interesting thing happened on iRO that go-round. There was an incident when a GM sent a broadcast across the server about how insecure the server was. Players immediately realized that someone had “hacked” the server and that the GM that was broadcasting was not really a GM.
Very few people would realize what was going on at that time, but because I had a hand in hiRO, I knew what was happening. In the backend of Aegis, there was a list of default GM accounts. Let’s say that one of them was “Ragnarok.” In the backend, the default GM accounts were all lower case, so it would say “ragnarok,” but an account named “Ragnarok” would still be a GM account because the backend wasn’t case sensitive. The account database, however, was case sensitive, so you could make accounts called Ragnarok, ragnarok, rAGNaROk, ragnaroK, etc and they’d all be GM accounts because the backend didn’t care about the case. Gravity had made a critical mistake in that regard.
This “hacker,” as people though s/he was, didn’t do anything malicious. They just basically warned the server about how poor Gravity’s security was, which I guess was pretty true. Gravity made some BS announcement about it later, and they changed the account server to not allow people to make accounts by those names anymore.
Eventually, iRO got old. Level 74 was just a really boring level for some reason, as it seemed I kept getting tired of characters around then.
Back to Oshima
All of the Oshima guild still idled in our old IRC channel, even though we’d mostly stopped playing. As I was getting tired of iRO again though, I found out that some of them had started on a new private server. This one was an eAthena server, and it actually worked. Apparently, eAthena had been viable for a little while by that point. It wasn’t perfect, and I could still tell the difference, but holy crap, eAthena changed everything. It was much more stable. Or maybe it wasn’t, I don’t know, but the only reason I can’t remember for sure was because when it crashed, you restarted the server’s services and it just went right back up. There was far less downtime and it was far easier for the server admins to run, but there’s no telling if it could’ve supported the thousands of users iRO’s Aegis servers had, so I won’t compare them at this point.
This was probably around the time when I started making all of my characters on private servers girls instead of guys. In most cases, the girl sprites looked cooler, and, as you’d probably expect, most of the people playing were nicer to other players that they thought had boobs. I didn’t try to take advantage of that, but I have a feeling that it didn’t hurt at times.
This private server had 5x rates. They were the lowest rates I’d ever played on a private server, which made it feel more legit, but it also felt like the biggest waste of time. On other private servers, you got to level 99, got tired of that character, made another one, and then the server died. That was the basic cycle. On this one, it felt like we were working toward having everything taken away from us just a little bit slower than usual. Interestingly enough though, the eAthena private servers seemed to stick around longer. They still died, but now it was mostly due to disinterest from the admins or lack of funds rather than disgust with running it.
I don’t remember how long we played on those low rate private servers, but they were mostly worth playing on cause I got to talk to my friends no matter if I was playing with them or by myself. We still did pretty well in War of Emperium, but there were better players on that server, and I was never really that great at PvP.
I played a few other private servers during this time. Some with real life friends, some by myself. On one of them, I made a Magnus Exorcismus Priest that basically dominated one of the MVP maps.
Eventually, those private servers died, and I was done with RO for a while. Well, that is, until I found out that there was another official English RO server opening for the European market called euRO. They had an open beta, so I figured I might as well try it out since it was free anyway.
euRO was worlds better than iRO. Their in game support was great. You could find GMs sitting around and message them if you had issues. Their site had player ladders with the top leveled players, the top leveled players of certain classes – all things that had been missing from iRO but that private servers had for years.
I made an Assassin again. I wasn’t the top by any means, but I remember being somewhere on that Assassin ladder. It might’ve been the top 20, it might’ve been the top 50. I forgot how long the ladder was.
I may have done so well in my short stint on euRO due to my love of the Elder Willow forest music. There’s a map southwest of Prontera that used to have Elder Willows and Savage Bebes. Elder Willows are fine for leveling in your late 20s and early 30s, but I wasn’t there for that. I loved the music in that map so much that stayed there with my thief from my 20s all the way to my 40s. I don’t remember exactly how far, but I know that I was almost an assassin by then, and my experience gain from the Elders was abysmal. But thanks to that music, I was able to mostly avoid the Hode map that had been the bane of my level 35-55 characters’ existences.
I happened to run across a few people I had played iRO with years before, and we made a guild called Pillar of Autumn. That lasted until euRO went pay to play, at which point, my Assassin was level 74. That cursed level that I could never pass up on an official server.
Beyond euRO, my RO days turned very, very casual. I played for a month at a time maybe once or a twice a year on private servers. The most memorable one was ArdentRO, then EarthboundRO. By this time, any private server that was worth playing on had a max character level of 255 and max stat levels of 150+. Of course, this was always doable on eAthena private servers, but it just wasn’t always turned on. ArdentRO was also the first eAthena server I played on that felt like a 100% authentic Aegis server. The only reason I knew it was eAthena was because they admins mentioned that it was on the server’s website or in game or something.
Again, I don’t know how eAthena handled thousands of users since most of the servers I played on had less than a thousand users, but it worked worlds better than Aegis. At that point, I began to wonder if Gravity had ever considered moving over to eAthena on the official servers, but iRO was mostly dead then anyway. Well, by “dead,” I mean a shadow of its former self. They even have free official servers to play on now, and they let you pay to change your characters gender, server, and name – things that players had wanted for years, but Gravity didn’t implement until very few people cared anymore.
Ever since euRO, I haven’t made anything other than Hunters as my main character on private servers. Hunters are the easiest to solo with, and that’s mostly what I do since my RO stints are so short lived. I really miss the social aspect of that game, because I made some very lasting friendships and had a lot of fun in game with my online and real life friends.
iRO yet again
One day when I was bored after writing everything above this section, b0b (one of the guys from FuRO that I still talk to) messaged me after reading this giant wall of text, and started talking about how different iRO was. So I configured a “WarpPortal” account (blatant ripoff of Blizzard’s Battle.net) and attached my old iRO accounts to it. Lo and behold, my characters were still there. I tried out some of the new stuff, particularly the new quest system, which makes iRO a lot easier and less tedious, but there’s still a lot of grinding to do. It’s essentially a sort of “hacked-in” version of World of Warcraft’s questing system, which Gravity completely ripped off for Ragnarok Online II. You can tell the questing system doesn’t really belong in the original RO because it’s so repetitive, but in retrospect, I guess that does fit in well with the repetitive nature of the game.
I’m pretty sure I made a new character or two, but I honestly don’t remember. My stint on iRO was short-lived, but I did enjoy playing for a short time with b0b, though it was mostly by myself. The nature of the game is a lot different now, as you can actually level up much faster because of the quests. It almost seems illegitimate to me as an older player, but I think it was probably the best move for Gravity. They lost their original player-base years ago, and to attract the random gamer or old player back, they really have to compete with the plethora of private servers out there, because who really wants to spend a week trying to get from level 70 to level 71?
Ragnarok Online II
Speaking of ROII, I played that for a couple days when it came out. It was basically a visually laggier version of WoW. The questing system, the fighting system, the items, the screen setup and controls…all of it is basically WoW. They didn’t even really try to make it different. The game really lost all of its charm, and though it was cool to see some of the old monsters and classes re-imagined in 3D, there was nothing special about the game. That doesn’t really say a lot about Gravity, since they spent years making and remaking the game.
That is basically my history of Ragnarok Online.