Philippine Ragnarok Online: Thoughts from a Former Midgard Soldier
The eve of Valentine’s Day was a time of ending when Level Up! Games announced on its site that after almost 12 years of existence, Ragnarok Online one of the most popular and perhaps the most influential MMORPG in the Philippines will shut its servers down on the last day of March this year. I strongly believe that most of the people who still care for the game more or less had seen this coming even so, I still shake my head as I write this and thinking that day has really come.
For the most part, Ragnarok has lost its huge chunk of fans and players all over the country for the past couple of years (myself included) but there still remain a number of loyal souls still protecting Midgard and scamming innocent newbies aimlessly wondering around Prontera Fields (like pretending to fight with them against a Creamy then bail as soon as their first attack hits).
It’s been more than a decade and I still remember visiting the town of Prontera for the first time with all the players taking up every cell on the map selling their different merchandise, characters showing off and spamming different spells and you barely navigating the place while the iconic blade mouse icon is clicking all sorts of shops, NPC’s and that accidental warp portal. (Don’t be ashamed we all went to Glast Heim by mistake with a level lower 25. Damn! I mean–ampota!)
The Time Before Ragnarok Online (B.R.O.)
In a world where games like Dark Ages (1999), Lineage (1998) and Diablo 2 (2000) are the industry’s favorites, in a sea of such known games and other RPGs be it F2P servers or not–MMORPG was never that known in the country. At the time first person shooters like Half-Life, Team Fortress and of course Counter Strike overpowered the gaming community here in the Philippines, the market is too preoccupied for a new sensation. Even so, Ragnarok came into town.
Copies of the game [Ragnarok] were handed out to patrons of this computer shop that I always went to and told us that a free trial of their new game is available. I mean, a free copy of the game and they will pay for the rental of the computer why not, right?
Long story short, from the cute 2D sprites moving around a 3D world and the whole job system, battle mechanics and the abundance of skills your character have down to the lags and obnoxious people you meet in the world, the game sold itself to me almost effortlessly and despite poor internet connection (hello ISP BONANZA) this was my daily activity after all school work is done (or probably not, sorry mom).
Changes and Eventual Demise
What made Ragnarok what it was and how it gained its fame is the charm it had and how timely it arrived in the Philippines. LAN gaming was getting a bit stale (at least for me it was) and Ragnarok completely went away with the idea of “new” and ran away with it. Sure, connecting to a server with 20,000+ people on it with a 28 kbps is a pain but it’s still new experience for a lot of Filipino players and the relief you get when it finally connected your player into the world is always priceless. (Of course you get disconnected anyway after a few minutes but it’s still fun).
It’s always sad to see something like this to happen. People start losing their jobs with no clear guarantee of the future. Ragnarok knew that it was the best game in the country a little while after it was released and the changes it made are things they had to go through. Because of the very same popularity they owned, dozens of online games spawned left and right developing their own product to fame. What became of this? It pushed Ragnarok to take different courses and along the way, they changed so much that it removed itself from reasons which made them successful in the first place.
March 31st Closing
In reality Ragnarok did not inherently do a lot of things wrong but the market or the industry has changed so significantly that it became challenging to keep up and manage to have a solid number of new players as they failed even more over the years to cater their core audience. People wonder that such a thing happen to video games but they have to remember that if you get away from the factors which made you number 1 in the first place, people stop playing and much like in television–when no one watches things get cancelled…
On a personal note and in a perfect world, I would still go back to Ragnarok in a heartbeat. It was a big part of my childhood and even though I anticipated this to happen at some point, seeing the reality of it all feels like I’m leaving a very important part of me behind. I will remember fondly how I managed to spend countless of hours just talking to friends while listening to the lullabies of Prontera’s signature background music. It was the perfect game that was never meant to be anything but itself. I choose to see the game as it was before and not what it had become today.
When I close my eyes, I can perfectly see my monk along the streets of Prontera–staying still because every merchant is blocking the way. The former glory of this game will forever remain in my young, addicted and 3rd grader heart…
Ever yours, A former soldier of Midgard
Kimani Franco copyright 02-16-2015