Why was Ragnarok online so fun? OVER THE YEARS OF PLAYING MANY MMOS AND MANY OTHER TYPES OF ONLINE GAMES I’VE ALWAYS YEARLY COME BACK TO RAGNAROK ONLINE, ONE DAY I STARTED WONDERING WHY? WHY IS IT THAT I’M DRAWN TO THIS 10+ YEAR OLD GAME EVEN WITH NEW GAMES OUT TODAY SUCH AS WILDSTAR, TERA, ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE, GUILD WARS 2 AND SO ON... NOW A LOT OF THIS MIGHT BE ME USING NOSTALGIA TO EXPLAIN WHY THINGS ARE GOOD OR BAD BUT I DID ASK AROUND OF FORUMS AND PEOPLE DO SEEM TO SHARE MY SENTIMENT OF WHAT MADE RAGNAROK ONLINE WHAT IT IS. I’M ACTUALLY WRITING THIS BECAUSE THERES A SPIRITUAL SEQUEL COMING OUT CALLED TREE OF SAVIOR, AND PEOPLE TOLD ME „HEY YOU SEEM TO GET IT WHY NOT EXPLAIN IT A BIT MORE INDEPTH“ SO I’M GOING TO TRY AND DO JUST THAT. EXCUSE MY WRITING, SPELLING AND OTHER ERRORS I’M NOT A NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKER. NOTE: MOST OF THIS IS PRE-RENEWAL BECAUSE THAT’S THE RO EVERYONE LIKED AND LOVED AND IT MADE RO WHAT RO WAS.
Graphics Isometric View with 2D sprites / 3D Backgrounds
The first thing you see when entering the game obviously. It’s what made Ragnarok online the game it is. It has 2D sprites for most of the interactive objects in the game such as players and monsters. Some trigger objects in the background were 3D. “Less is more” is the name of the game here.
The 2D sprites and 3D backgrounds enabled a very curious thing. The game was grid based and one square could be occupied by any number of objects so you could make a train of monsters and in the end they would at most when you stopped occupy 1-3 squares when attacking you if done correctly. This in combination with AoE skills enabled you to kill massive amounts of monsters at a time. Going for 40 or 50 monsters if you had a tank that could pull them was not uncommon. But I’ll cover this later... To the left we see a an assassin using hide and grimtooth to kill monsters.
Also another advantage of the 2D/3D system was the fact that you could make visually impressive monsters and graphics that stand the test of time with minimal effort. Just have a look at a monster sprite above. As you can see with few frames you got a fluid looking and moving monster. This was done cheaply and very probably quickly. That meant that in almost every area you would find new and unique looking monsters. The only constant in RO was porings. They were obviously a fan favorite and so the poring is pretty much the only monster sprite that got reused for a quite a number of monsters, there was a few others but basically from one part of the world no another there was always new monsters to be encountered with a poring flavor. This also naturally meant that players and their headgear could be designed quickly and cheaply so Ragnarok for its scale had a ton of headgears for customization. It also meant that the anime artstyle that we all love was kept there and to this day Ragnarok Online while looking dated looks nowhere near as dated as Dungeon Siege that also came out in 2002.
The User Interface or Heads-up Display Minimalistic and offered a clear view of the battlefield, you and your friends’ sprites, and the monsters. Only the necessary information was there, unlike modern MMOs which flood you with useless information. Part of this is because Ragnarok Online had no real quest system but it still today looks sleeker compared to more modern ones. It displayed the necessary information in an non-intrusive way. XP, HP, SP, money and skills everything you needed was there in a very compact form. Even when you were in a WoE or PvP situation you didn’t really need anything else.
You all have probably seen these insane WoW UIs filled with every possible information ever during raids. Like the one pictured above. Below we have a picture of a Ragnarok War of Empirum massive battles between players. I think you see the difference. Wow technically could be played with your graphics card shut off. You simply have to watch the numbers and the cooldowns. Positioning while it was important wasn’t SUPER IMPORTANT. Menwhile in Ragnarok the action is actually happening on the screen. You have players moving around, you have spells being cast. You need to watch you positioning VERY CERFULLY. Ragnarok was a grid based game where there was a ton of AREA OF EFFECT buff, traps and spells. Step into a storm gust and you’re frozen. Manage to cast Magnetic Earth and suddenly the enemy can’t pre cast. Step on a mine and die or be sent backwards. Positioning and the actual things happening on the screen where the thing that interested you. Not your user interface filled with tons of data. Also worth mentioning is speaking to NPCs made a huge picture pop up that showed then in 2D instead of the sprite. It was a really nice feature.
The Art style Ragnarok Online is what many in the west would refer to as an Anime MMO it has this cutesy Japanese looking art style, everything is made out of sprites and the only way to customize your character was to color the sprite or get a headgear but more on that later. What made Ragnarok attractive to a lot of people was exactly that art style. Anime fans flocked to it. It was their first online anime game. People looked the same (classes) while some would argue it was a lack of customization I would say it simplified things and I’m glad Tree of Savior is sticking to that. Naturally we need to talk about the monsters and the humble poring. Really it’s just a cuter version of a slime from Dragon Quest but boy did it become iconic. It was cute, it was easy to kill and it was found everywhere. And they simply changed to color or added cute wing and they had a new monster or boss. I don’t know who came up with the idea but it was awesome. And the idea was consistent. Low level mobs were cute little fuzzy things. You could usually tell by the look of a monster how strong it was. There was no “Monster levels” above their heads or even HP bars. People in the old days had to use Monster Property/Sense to get the monsters stat. And that skill was limited to the Mage Tree but the party could see it. This made the game a lot more mysterious and encouraged exploration, but also punished it because well you could die and lose XP if you wandered too far or made a wrong corner in a dungeon. The fact that you could sort off tell monsters strength by their looks also made a twist late game were a cute monster would destroy you in 2 seconds. I always remember going down into Payon Dungeon and seeing a cute pantiless catgirl only to get destroyed by it and it’s horde of summoned ninetails. The point is the art style knew a great balance. How to make things scary, how to make things cute and how to make things deceptively cute.
The Classes Every class had a unique sprite. That made a long leap in recognizability of players and what function they served. When I first started playing I went into town and saw all these people. It was clear who was a knight, who was a priest and who was a mage just by one glance. Knights had armor, Mages had robes, Priests had clerical apparel merchants had carts and a big bag, archers had light weight clothes suited for well archery and thiefs looked all thievish. When I was in a dungeon and I saw an acolyte I could ask for a buff. The point is unlike 3D MMOs you knew who was what, look at this WOW picture of armors and you’ll instantly know what I mean. Plus the WoW armors changed every few levels and they all mostly have the same looks. The fact is that the when you’re playing you’re zoomed all the way out in any MMO you naturally want to see the battlefield. What made things worse for 3D MMOs is that recognizability falls off with distance drastically. So you can’t tell who is what and things just become complicated. While you were a novice you could have something to look forward to. These was a lot of class mobility and back tracking. It really enabled a lot of communication between people and made cosmetics stand out even more! You when you could see all the high level classes you might want to change your choice and say hey Hunters are cool but I saw this bard once and he a lot cooler. Maybe I’d become a bard later! Anyways the point was you knew who was what.
Gameplay Fixed drop rate, XP rate and item stats
Now this is by far the biggest difference in my opinion except for the graphics between Ragnarok online and every other MMO out there ever. Now I’m going to have to touch on a lot of points here so please bear with me. While this might seem to be insignificant to some, it’s actually one of the biggest gameplay features in Ragnarok online. While other similar games like let’s say Diablo had totally randomized loot tables with randomized items, other MMOs like WoW had drop tables so damn randomized you couldn’t hunt anything specific in general. You had a chance that something uncommon or common would drop depending on your level there was no control. They also had these silly limitations placed on them because of that system where you wouldn’t get any drops or XP if you were above a certain monsters level. For all intents and purposes all the “grey” monsters 5 levels below you were basically irrelevant, removed gameplay, elements that had no purpose and so were the areas you visited filled with these monsters. Once something was done and you were above it, it was useless and that in my eyes that was a big mistake because it leads to a huge decrease in “class mobility”. To this day a lot of MMOs continue this trend and I fear Tree of Savior might go in this direction too but no info has shown up yet. Basically in a modern MMO you start at point A and go to point B. The designers designed areas and monsters for you to fight. Like a map in Ragnarok Online where it says from “level 1 – 10” after that it’s useless. Anyways on to the main point to make you understand why fixed XP and Loot are great force in this “class mobility”. So whats this “class mobility” I keep talking about. Well it’s the interactions of low level players with high level players and replayability of content in low level areas. In Ragnarok Online as you know monsters have a fixed drop rate with fixed stats on the items. If you kill this thing a certain number of times this will drop. Now what this system enabled was making content relevant to everyone at all levels. A Pupa would drop a Guard  or a Pupa card. While being low drop chances these two items were used by medium/high tier players. Same with a lot of starting area monsters. Fabre cards, Peco Egg Cards, Picky cards and so on, they were cheap alternatives or actually required equipment for some high tier classes. This would lead to high level characters farming in low level areas for items and cards or at least buying them if they were sold for quite a high price because the demand was big. Low level players would get to see the higher classes, they would see high level spells and could if wanted interact with high level players. That would lead new players to this feeling of “I want be that one day” or „I want play that class next“ plus it enabled an economy for new players if they were smart and new prices, naturally this also lead to a lot of stealing and unfair prices but that was also one of the charms of it... If you just started the game and found a Pupa card you could sell it depending on what server you were on for a lot of money by starting players standards. That was very valuable starting money that enabled you to buy items, consumables, travel or simply have the security of money. This made interaction between players a lot more exciting in the lower levels and it made content of low level areas replayable to higher levels. If you farmed low level monsters you would still get the XP and the loot. You were still doing something relevant. Even if your XP meter was moving along 0.01% per Pupa.
And let’s not forget the fact that a fixed drop rate basically gave you a meaningful grocery list. You knew what items you needed, you knew where to get them. You went out there and you knew what you had to do. It was a really good time waster and the game knew how to make grind seem fun. The combination of this fixed drop rate, fixed Base XP and fixed JobXP gave rise to content replayability and farming different areas. Like I mentioned before Modern MMOs are all about hand holding while RO was an explorative sandbox type of game. So you had basically 4 types of farming spots. And then these was a mix of these depending on the area. • • • •
Great Base XP, Okay Job XP, No worthwhile moneymaking loot, No Good low chance drops Great Job XP, Okay Base XP, No worthwhile moneymaking loot, No Good low chance drops Really good low drop chance loot, no money making loot, okay Job XP and Base XP Tons of good money making loot, okay JobXP and BaseXP but no good low drop chance loot.
This system also forced you to think. How fast am I killing this monster/s? What is my hourly XP average? What is my gold average? How efficient is this area compared to others? The game had depth and a lot of things needed to be considered and explored, if you were in a high level area and you were a VIT character there was always the question of how much am I spending on healing and how much am I earning . To level in this high level area I have to spend on healing compared to a safer place so whats my balance? In modern MMOs this never comes up because healing items are always highly limited to prevent “spam” and most monster combat is at most 5-10 vs 1 and maybe at most 5 levels higher then your character while in RO by dragging creeps around you could easily end up in a 40 vs 1 situation if you weren’t careful and these would be like monsters 20 levels higher the you. In a modern MMO the designers design 2~3 areas for your level range and later maybe just one. They hand hold you with quests give you gear to progress while you kill monsters for irrelevant quest aka “Bring me 5 Wolf Hairs and you get these boots” and then the funny thing is only every 3rd wolf drops “wolf hair”. But what this system does it is it eliminates the class mobility seen in RO. Content becomes irrelevant and obsolete as you complete it because even if you haven’t completed that one boots quest you know that in the next area you will find another one just like that. This leads to a lack of replayability and it also leads to predictability because you’ve seen this formula a thousand times. At high levels it makes high level characters never want go to the starting areas ever again. They have no benefit from that area, no XP, no Money making, no Gear, basically NOTHING. What RO did was tell you: “Hey NPCs sell basic gear, want better gear HUNT FOR IT. Where? Heres the map and what drops what.” You were encouraged to go out to the wilderness and hunt and survive. And after your adventure was complete your gear while not visible would show were you have been. Kind of like Monster Hunter really. Now naturally this system is more grind prone and it also user unfriendly if these is no interface in game to tell you what drops what or where to go while this leads to more social interactions it also leads to confusion on the new players side and that’s something new MMO makers want to avoid AT ALL COSTS. Gaming is for everyone and it’s a fun experience with quick rewards and no work. Ro eventually solved this by having websites where you could easily alt+tab to them to see things. So this area became at first was a huge mountain to climb but after a while the community developed to fix things and then later an actual map ingame was made. So basically the combination of NPCs selling okayish items but nowhere near as good the dropped ones, the fact that fixed loot and XP gave you things to hunt and the fact that even if you came home with nothing you still maybe got money and you could buy the thing you wanted on the market. All this lead to more communication between players, more replayability and more incentive to make grind actually fun. Honestly to this day RO is the only game where I can just go into the wild and grind. I don’t care about quests or anything and it’s still damn fun!
Now this is a low point for Ragnarok online and it’s mostly because the game was made such a long time ago. As you probably know Ragnarok Online had a dedicated class just for well marketing and later crafting. They had a great idea together with it and thats the DC/OC system where you could sell loot for more and buy NPC items for less. If you wanted to play and make money effectively a merchant at least with OC/DC maxed was a mandatory thing. While a very interesting class on paper they in my opinion were just a hassle. Slow to level, requiring totally irrelevant stats for combat to craft. People mostly leveled these classes by leeching XP hidden somewhere on a map from a leeching party. Anyone that played Ragnarok online knows what a horrible market system it had. First at in the beginning you had to basically leave your PC on with the merchant to sell things while you weren’t there. Then the fact that each shop can only contain a certain number of items was a huge limit to the economy want to sell more items? Make another account with another merchant. Then the fact that items had weight so you actually had to have that too to sell them. Then the fact that there was literally no search system. Then the fact that there was multiple markets spots around the server. Then the fact that people would some stores anywhere on the map. The list goes on and on… You had to click and visit each store individually and that could take around like from 2~20 minutes to do if the server was populated. Basically RO had a horrible outdated market system and I know we’ll get a normal auction house in Tree of Savior. Thank god for that too. I mean look at that picture. In some cases it was so full you couldn’t even click to move! But still this was one of the charms of RO and it’s probably nostalgia speaking here. It’s interesting to note that a lot of Korean MMOs suffered from this too. Maple story is a popular example but there was a lot more.
Skill and Stat System In order to explain about the skill and stat system I need to explain a bit for about the classes. The skill system in Ragnarok online was based on Classes and JobXP. What made it unique compared to a lot of other MMOs out there is you started as blank slate. A novice that had “limitless potential” a Tabula Rasa . You could grow into whatever you wanted. As a novice you couldn’t even sit down before you had leveled a few job levels. You were literally new to the game. The game told you : “Hey! Look at the skills you get when you level up and you’ll see what things you can do ingame”. Sit to regenerate more SP/HP, use emotions to communicate, make chat rooms, party up with people and use storage. It’s a very nice non hand-holding way of introducing people to the basic functions of the game. People aren’t stupid but most new games don’t agree. They tell you USE WASD to move or left click to move. I as a 13 year old kid sat down and right away I got it. Click on the ground to move, click on monsters to attack, right click to rotate the camera. Like I said people aren’t stupid and Ragnarok respected that. As you know there were 6 starting classes in Ragnarok : Swordsman, Mage, Archer, Merchant, Thief, Acolyte Each of then in turn could turn into 2 more classes and then they continued to evolve and specialize. The 2-1 classes were basically extensions of the first basic class. Mage turns into a Wizard gets more awesome spells. Easy to understand right? Now what made RO so unique was the second set of classes (2-2) that changed your play style basically flipping it a 180°. Things like The Sage, a class thats based on a mage that purely supports his team mates with really interesting game changing spells( a class that evolves from a purely magic DPS starting class). Making your allies weapons change element, making certain elements in an AOE stronger, making a field of water where special Water Only spells could be cast such as the highly damaging Water Ball. Basically all the 2nd classes somewhat deviated from the first obvious class they were made from. Acolyte->Priest make sense bigger heals and such but when you turn into a Monk you suddenly become the class that deals the most single target damage in the game, and thats a class made from a poor supporting Acolyte! The classes were really inventive and creative and offered tons of customization.
Stats System Now that I explained the class system, time to speak about the stats. Stats in Ragnarok Online where one of the biggest customization options available to you. While your class defined who you where and what you basically did the stats expanded upon that and enabled you to build different kinds of builds in conjunction to your skills. Todays modern day MMOs usually auto-stat you, hand-holding you so you can’t make any mistakes but you also don’t have any customization. In Ragnarok Online this was different. The game did tell you as a mage you needed Intelligence and Dexterity and some Vitality based on your gear and hints in the flavor text but you were free to do whatever you wanted. There was a freedom not seen in todays modern MMOs. Want to build a Wizard that goes out there and attacks people with his staff fast? No problem level strength and agility and you’re on your way to becoming a pretty unique wizard! The same was the case for most classes. In fact some of the second classes gave you just that option. You could build a battle sage and go around smacking people with your books if you so desire. The stats were what made RO one of the things it was a sandbox game. The freedom of a sandbox where you could at first ruin your character if you had no idea what you were doing but then learn from the mistake and change to play totally differently. Almost every class in the game had at least 2-3 reliable builds some more useful then others but they were there. Priest could opt to go DEX instead of VIT to become fast casting buff machines but at the expense of HP and Armor or you could level your luck and go take on the undead with the Turn Undead skill. There was some really nice things to go with the stats in terms of bonuses and gimmicks you got. Agility characters had high evasion but low HP and they played this game of is my FLEE high enough for this area to level in effectively. While Vitality characters had bonus pure damage reduction that enabled them to get hit by lower level monsters for only 1 HP. It was this difference in play style that made Ragnarok online feel different then your run of the mill MMO. There is usually no high evasion characters in modern MMOs they simply don’t work with their heal systems and automatic stat allocation plus the fact that most of them don’t even have a chance of you missing the monster, there is no glass canons that could cast incredibly powerful spells AoE in the blink of an eye. The combination of Rangarok having allocating stats with the fact that you had things like evasion chance (FLEE) and hit chance (HIT) mean that all non-spell casting characters had to at least have some point in dexterity to actually hit their opponents. Stats are one of the major things I liked about RO and I think most people too. Simply the freedom of a sandbox where you could explore and play in. Not everyone wants to make the min/maxed ultimate killing machine. Some people wanted to experiment with different play styles. Now that I did mention min/max-ing it was both a positive and negative thing with RO. As I mentioned before classes usually had about 2-3 builds you could build. But you had to stick to what was the best in competitive. You knew Apple of Archer gave you +3 DEX and you had to build you stats around that. The fixed drop rate and fixed item stats meant that you had a grocery list of things to get. Things that will fit into your build and make you do as much damage as you possibly could deal. This system was prone to quite some change with patches because in the early days of Rangarok there was no stats or skill resetting so if some new headgear with +4 DEX came out that was a point that could have been put else where and when this happens over a span of multiple items it could become a problem. So while the stat system was not perfect it enabled people to build things like Battle Priests, Battle Sages, Luck based Crit Assassins and Two Handed Knights or VIT based Spear Knights and so on just listing all the possibilities would take half a page. Like I mentioned before modern MMOs don’t simply do this. They auto stat you giving you stats based on what class you were. Others give you technically the option to change your stats with gear but it never really gives you the freedom and the focus RO stats do. In the next paragraph I’ll also speak about Skills and why they ‘re both a limiting force and a very strong customization option. But do know this Modern games really hate stat systems. From Tera, Wildstar, WoW and everyone else in between these stats became numbers that don’t really matter. In the case of WoW they snowballed to massive plus +300 STR numbers that don’t really mean anything. Ragnarok at first, for years kept things simple. Maximum stats for a stat with pure leveling and allocation was 99 you could go above that with gear and some crazy things would happen after you went above 100+ such as instant casting as mages.
What I’m trying to say here is RO kept adding classes and content yet it didn’t scale up the levels like WOW does. Every expansion literally eliminating all the previous content and saying THIS IS THE NEW CONTENT YOU NEED TO PLAY NOW THE OLD CONTENT IS OBSOLETE. This stands in stark contrast with Ragnarok onlines system where new updates and expansion had new items that changed the game but the changes didn’t make you obsolete and that one item you grinded for weeks didn’t suddenly become useless it simply became a little less effective. This system was pretty much fixed with stat and skill resets that enabled people to change their builds after new items came out so the precious stat point could be reallocated to a more optimum configuration aka MIN/MAX. Now things did change for RO renewal came out but let’s look at how Ragnarok introduced a whole new breed of classes improving on the old ones without changing the game in any significant way to make content obsolete. Transcendent Second Classes came and introduced tons of new content, new areas, new bosses it was a full blown expansion to the game. Yet one thing didn’t change. The max level was 99. These new classes had new skills and new gear but gameplay didn’t become obsolete. The new monsters and areas needed the new skills and the new gear to be combated and so after a good 5 or 6 years the good old Fabre with it’s card was still there as relevant as ever with the only +1 VIT card that went into your weapon and the only for any class to get a weapon that had +4 VIT on it. Content didn’t become obsolete like on WoW it expanded on itself. Picture below is a Transcendent class using old ear and a knight using new gear.
At the begning you could pick what stats you’d prefer to use.
Now as you know skills point in Ragnarok Online were limited. You had a certain number of skill points and you got them by leveling your JobXP. Some monsters have better XP then others and that meant you had to decide what you wanted to do first. Get money, get base XP or get job XP. A lot of people wanted to get out of their poor and limited first classes when they saw all the big high tier people running around so they jumped on the JobXP ship. So after you were a level 9 job novice you could advance to one of the basic 6 classes. But then after you were one of the basic six classes and you got to know your class and explored a bit and you naturally wanted to jump to your 2-1 and 2-2 classes. Now that’s were some interesting decision making came in. In Ragnarok online you have an option. Do you want to go right away and become a 2nd class at job level 40 or do you want to wait till job level 50 and potentially bring a whole 9 skill points so basically one almost maxed skill into the second class. For some classes such as an acolyte 50 was basically mandatory. But for some classes it was okay to go with 40. It really depended on how you wanted to play. Can you take the grind for another good 10-15 base levels while you go from level 40 to level 50 job level? Some classes had it easy such as acolytes that were always in demand and did the same jobs as priest but more slowly because of the SP restrains. Other classes had to go out and hunt monsters and stand up to the challenge with the limited skills of a first class alone.
Now as I said there was decision making involved. Each class had a big skill tree such as the one a few pages above the Mage/Sage skill tree. There was no way your skill points could cover all the skills. So you had to decide what to level up and what to leave alone. There was numerous builds depending on the play style of the character. And as such it stands in contrast again to the new MMOs found today. WoW and it’s countless clones have you buying skills and basically at the end of it when you have all your skills you get ways to improve the said skills with some form of improvement item or with equipment. You could also have a scenario like Diablo 3 where you basically get all the skills but only a limited amount can be used at any time. To me all these new iterations on the classic skill tree system give the games less diversity and less replayability. Now in the early days of RO to make a new build you had to make a new character, this was a long process because the grind was heavy. A lot of people gave up. Later came resets and they made things easier. But still they needed to be expensive late game to promote traditional building. I liked that fact that a lot of effort was needed to change builds. It made you unique, you stood out as a “Crit Assassin” or “Ice Mage” you used a certain array of spells. It also dictated where you farmed and what you did. If a mage went for lightning spells he could go farm in Izlude dungeon easily if you went some other element you did something else. Naturally a Vitality Spear Knight won’t farm the same spots as a Agility Two-Handed Sword knight. Same with a luck based Crit Assassins. It promoted diversity in my opinion and made the game seem more interesting and personal. As a teenager I always imagined myself as that cool Fire/Soul mage running around throwing down Firewalls, Firebolts, Soul Stirkes and later Meteor Storms. It made you feel special. You picked a specialization for your class. Now there are a few skills I’d like to mention because of how they were designed and how they impacted the game both from a gameplay stand point but much more importantly from a social stand point. As I’ve already said the game had an isometric view and was very clear on the graphical side of things. You could tell who was what. Targeting for the most part was easy if not in a too crowded area.
The Buffing /Healing Skills Unlike most of todays MMOs Ragnarok Online had this HP/SP system where HP and SP regenerated pretty slowly, this means if you’re broke and have no friends be ready for a lot of down time. This meant for most classes they had 3 options. One was the money option – Buy potions, consumables One was the build option – Go for FLEE builds or Kill things before they get close One was the social option – Party up with a support class.
Now no one likes downtime right? Well for all it’s bad sides it did promote one thing Social interaction. When you were sitting there with no HP/SP what did you do? You tried to talk to the people around you because honestly there was nothing else to do. And in RO this meant that low level characters would usually party by necessity or simply because of boredom faced with a lot of “downtime”. Then after the party was over maybe they’d keep in touch? Maybe they would make contact again and they would party again. The synergy between DPS, Tank and Support classes meant that down time was reduced and introduced social features into the game. It forced you to party up with people because with them you’d progress faster but you’d also communicate. Maybe become friends, form a guild? There was a lot of options for social interaction. There was even marriage between different gendered characters. Now the buffing healing spells all provided something for nothing. You could regenerate HP based on a few SP points with the Heal Skill. You could buff your allies by literally the equivalent of 10 - 20 base levels of stat points for like 150 SP! This really kicked the party gear into action. Now compare that to most modern buffs that so called Support classes provide. They heal ,they dispel, they maybe slow the enemy. There is nothing radical and there is nothing short duration in the new MMOs. Buff classes are expected to fight together with the DPS classes. Now in RO Bless, Agi Up provided you with a stunning +10 STR, DEX & INT and +12 AGI this is huge. (Max leveled stats was 99 so that’s a huge buff overall a buff that thanks to the scaling stats every 10 levels, stays relevant from level 1 to level 99!) It literally meant you could go on take on monsters that you would usually go farm 10 levels from your current level. There was no penalty in Ragnarok Online for going for monsters stronger or weaker then you. They all gave static XP and loot. Not to mention that with AGI UP you have an incredible increase in movement speed by 25% basically, the equivalent of a mount in game! The support classes in Ragnarok online were something to behold. The sage/priest could double your weapon damage against a certain array of opponent by changing it’s element, the sage could buff you even more with a field that gave you more damage if you had an elemental weapon or an elemental armor card this literally gave you up to 250% damage increase in some cases against certain enemies. Who wouldn’t want to party up with that kind of improvement? Basically form the Bard that sang to give you +180%XP, + 25% Maximum HP, 30% Faster Cast & 50% Less Delay, +20% ASPD to the Priest that buffed and healed you and enabled you to survive monsters many levels above your standard. The buffers in this game were crazy good and unlike other games there we just that. They were poor at combat but in a party they became crazy good! The buffs were also very short lasting so it gave the buffing classes something to do while your DPS and Tanks went around mobed and killed monsters.
WARP - Now a skill that was exclusive to the acolyte class and it’s tree had a huge social impact and a small economic benefit for the acolyte class. Before all the new MMOs had instanced dungeons that the party would enter instantly together, before raids, before instance matchmaking there was the humble warp skill. As an Acolyte you could level up the warp skill and you had the freedom to set up basically 1-3 Memo points where you could instantly travel almost wherever in the world with the use of a blue gemstone. This enabled everyone to travel there before the portal closed after you entered it last. It was a huge thing. You could from town get instantly to your favorite farming or leveling spot. You could get your guild or party to a dungeon fast. You saved everyone time and money. And it was done by players not by NPCs. It gave power to the players. It gave the acolyte class the monopolies on fast travel anywhere in the world where they have been. This promoted social interactions, this promoted partying and it promoted class mobility because the higher tier people could mingle in towns with low tier people and still get to their farming spots fast. It was an ingenious idea that allowed mobility and some moneymaking for the priests that are usually pretty poor because of their limited farming abilities. It also was a silly way for new players to explore since they’d go into the warps and end up somewhere silly and very probably deadly. I remember once going into these things even as an experienced player and getting surprised.
Hocus Pocus / Abracadabra
Now this was a really interesting skill and something I honestly never saw anywhere else except in Rangarok online. So in RO the Sage class could if they wanted go the Hocus Pocus build. Your sage was basically made just to do this one skill. It has some incredible skill requirements whooping 36 skill points just for prerequisites and then another 10 to max the skill out! So 46 skill points total! It have you no room for anything and all the prerequisites had to be kept at a very low level making them extremely ineffective. This one was all or nothing. And in rangarok that means a lot of grind and help from other people. Not to mention it costs 2 yellow gemstones to cast! With the Power Cords song it still took one Yellow Gemstone and for quite some time the only way to get these was to farm them from monsters. Basically for a Sage to consistently use this skill you had to have a whole logistic division supporting you. But once you had the skill boy oh boy did you steal the show. This skill basically enabled the sage to cast a random spell from all the spells ingame . You could find yourself casting some MVP skills you could find yourself with useless skills like Auto Counter. Anyways the goal of this fancy skill was this. The skill had certain skill that could be only unlocked with it’s use. Skill such as instantly killing yourself, going down to 1 HP/SP, giving yourself an orc head, turning any monster into a poring, spawning a monster like a dead branch. And the two most important ones TAMING A MONSTER or TURNING A RANDOM MONSTER INTO A RANDOM MVP. Now taming a monster might now sound like something special you have to consider that some taming items had like a 0.01% chance of being dropped from really high level monsters you simply had to hunt in a party. Or like a 5% chance on MVPs. You can see how these kind of tamed monster eggs could be sold for A LOT OF MONEY. Naturally you had to have these monsters present to tame them an ever grater challenge with strong monsters. The other was is self-explanatory. RO was an open world where there was no instances and no raids. Raids bosses or MVPs or whatever you want to call them were basically free for alls. The party or guild that gets there first gets the thing. So within populate servers there was tons of guilds competing for this very hard to come by resource. An expensive way was to well use the hocus pocus skill and make your own MVPs. The hilarious thing was this could be done in the newbie areas or maybe someone decided to set up a lot of shops somewhere. Well this like dead branch use usually resulted in scenes like these. Tons of dead and/or angry people. But it was also insane fun.
Since Ragnarok Online was sprite based game it was really hard to change the outfit based on the armor you have. There was quite a great number of classes too, so editing the sprites would have been very costly and probably not very productive endeavor. So what did the developers do? They used headgear as a major cosmetics point. Ragnarok online was unique in the fact that it had so many cosmetics that looked so unique and at the same time didn’t obscure your class. It was still clear who you were. But it was also clear what cosmetic you had on. They also became status symbols. If you saw someone wearing a Bao Bao you knew this guy had 50 heroic emblems. Something that was only dropped by 2 bosses in the game! So that means he killed them at least quite a few times or perhaps he was really rich? He also had to convince the people he killed the MVPs with to give him he emblems. The point is there was a ton of cosmetics in RO and they served a great purpose and were popular among everyone. Some were dropped by monsters some had really elaborate quests where you’d have to get obscure items. My biggest suggestion and probably the only thing I can really suggest to the Tree of Savior developers is this. Follow the VALVE example. Look and analyze at what they did to TF2 and Dota 2. You could make your game available to everyone with a free to play model yet still get tons of money from only cosmetic items. Dota 2 has a whole 0% of gameplay changing elements for sale. Crowd source your headgears, perhaps let them also design the weapons and shields, maybe even sprites for cosmetic clothes. I’m sure people would pay money to insert a gem or something into a Shield or Weapon or Armor to make it look different. You have two most creative and artistic nations in the world at your disposal Korea and Japan. Just look at the things people do on Pixiv or the incredibly detailed and colorful Naver webmanhwa. Imagine if these great artist were to design something in your game for a % share of the cosmetics sales? People on “private servers” designed cosmetics by themselves and sold them for real money. Imagine what could have been done by professional artists and managed by your company.
Now another choice made by the developers because the game was sprite based. How to you express and communicate quickly? By using emotions, but typing them in chat was kind of hard to do fast and these chat emotions can sometimes fail to conveying the feeling they should express. So the developers opted for a great design choice the Ragnarok style emotions. A simple little speech bubble above your character that displayed a face or some text to convey what you really wanted to say.
Now in todays new MMOs they always use these 3D animated emotions. These are not meant for combat, they’re not meant to actually be useful in my opinion. They are there for fun and supposed social interaction. But they really fail at it. So far I’ve been disappointed with every 3D emotions system made. If you’re in combat things are too messy with tons of effects and general stuff going on you will never see someone use emotions in these 3D MMOs in combat. Like I said earlier these kind of emotions are intended for a close look at your character where you can see a clear face. These kind of emotions make sense in games like The Sims, Dark Souls or if you’re making some movie about your game where you can zoom in on the face. But in general use they FAIL MISERABLY.
This is where RO emotions were really awesome. They conveyed your feeling, your needs and emotions with cute emoticons. All that at the press of two buttons! This could be done while farming, leveling in PVP or in WoE. Not to mention these can be used for cross language barrier communication… They hands down beat every other MMO communication system. And I’m really happy to see them back in ToS! Not only back but improved and an amazingly improved chat system where you see the other persons face with gear!
The World Map, Towns and Dungeons
technical limitations. Back in the 2002 not a lot of people had the idea or for that fact the actual hardware to make realistically looking open ended worlds. So what they did was basically make puzzle map like the one on top showing the RO world many games did this one of the probably most famous examples Half Life 1 with it’s many LOADING points. The world or Ragnarok was divided into sectors and players could enter these sectors and exit them in only a few spots on the said map basically these were just like the warp skill but stationary and always functioning. They would take you from one map to the other. Now this again might not seems so significant I mean whats the big deal separate maps or open world who cares right? Well no… The BIG THING was these were self-contained maps. Separate from others each had its own little eco system of monsters and NPCs and they were free to all players to enter and leave as they wished. It was truly open. There were no channels on servers, there was no separation of the populace. It was like EVE Online they basically did the same EXACT thing with sectors. Everyone was online at the same time on the same server, no separation at all. The capital Prontera was there and everyone who went there was actually there. People weren’t divided or scattered. When you went to a dungeon they used the exact same system. When you entered Payon Dungeon or the Culverts as a fresh new First Class you’d see other people the same as you fighting the same monsters as you. You could see all the skills they used you could see everyone and you never had the feeling of being alone somewhere. This was a HUGE Social interaction feature. Parties could be made on the spot, you saw a struggling Acolyte and you’d say “Hey want party up even XP share?” and he would very probably have no good reason to refuse.
Even if you didn’t talk you’d still do things more effectively and waste less money. This also enabled the higher classes to come and go into newbie areas and to help out people. Often there would be big parties going down to hunt the MVP at the end of the dungeon and there would be tons of newbies farming the first level of the said dungeon. Priests or Sages would come and give you buffs such as Bless, Agi or maybe a generous sage would give you an elemental weapon for a whopping 30 minutes that would basically increase you damage from 50-100% on the said creeps. Not to mention the pure fact of seeing really high level people moving around as a group. Class Mobility! Now all of the above made RO feel like really populated game. But this design also did something else. The developers weren’t stuck up like the new MMO developers in this SINGULAR path. The world was big it was HUGE and you could explore it all from level 1. No level restrictions, no NPCs telling you HEY MAN YOU’RE TO LOW LEVEL TO GO HERE. You were free to go anywhere and explore. The early game was really designed that way. Now this is an old MMO these is no mounts for every class there is no flying mounts that can make you go places. There was three ways of going from distant point A to point B. • Paying for the Teleport Kafra service • Asking a priest for a warp point if he had it • Walking Now the first one was obviously pretty expensive for a new player who just started the game, the second one was probably not even know to the new player and even if it was he’d probably be REALLY careful about entering one of these. And the third one was how it was basically designed to be done. The game was designed with exploration in mind. You could literally walk from Izlude to Hugel and then back to Comodo on the other side of the world. On the way you’d meet new monsters, you’d see new things, maybe meet some NPCs. Watch the landscape change from forest green to desert to volcanic rock. When I first started the game I had no idea you could actually use the kafra warp service. So I literally walked from Payon to Geffen just to become a mage. I still to this day remember that walk and the wonders I saw. From the wolves to the small cute bunny Lunatics to the awesome looking Rockers with their Violins to that one Vocal that I had no idea about. I wonder okay so all these guys before this guy were peaceful. What did I do to provoke this guy? This is what MMOs should be about. Going into a new world with new people exploring things, discovering, getting to know things. But all the new MMOS really kill that feeling with the hand holding chain quests that never seem to stop. By the time they let go of your hand you turned form the panel on the top to the panel on the bottom.