The Evolution of Ragnarok

Launch of the SEA version of Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second. Finally!

2006. Roughly seven years ago, I started my adventure. With an outdated laptop and poor Internet connection, Ragnarok Online was my first real MMORPG. At a time where chat rooms and MSN Messenger was new to me, I had no idea what the world of MMOs held for me as I created a character on one of the most recognized games among online gamers. Truth be told, I was three years late to the party and the land of Rune Midgard had already expanded to include the faraway lands of Amatsu. Nevertheless, it was my numerous adventures in Ragnarok Online that burned the game into my heart– the life I shared in that game with many players whose faces I had never even seen became the baseline for my MMO enjoyment moving forward.

2007. How quickly time passes on the Internet! After just over a year of playing Ragnarok Online, despite never having obtained a transcended character or winning a War of Emporium, the experiences I shared with my guild made it feel as if I had truly lived a long life in the game’s world and would not be able to gain anything further by continuing to play. People had come and gone over time and past memories could no longer be replicated– my leave was almost a regretful one. As fate would have it, Gravity was rolling out a successor to their iconic MMO around that time. When Ragnarok Online 2: The Gate of the World had a stable server running, I had the fortune to work closely with a team who was picking the game apart. As I worked with the community and the developers, it was breathtaking to watch the 2D monsters of Ragnarok Online take form in 3D. After each patch that Gravity would release, there would be a scramble to pick through the new content to see how the game designers were thinking. I distinctly recall walking through some of the maps wondering whether if in a few years the maps would look completely different (a la Payon Town in Ragnarok Online). Unfortunately, the kRO2 service began to give indications of slowing down and eventually scrapped the project in 2010. My own adventures inRagnarok Online 2 ended in 2008 after stepping down as Head GM.

2013. Five years after stepping down from the world of Ragnarok Online 2, I stepped back into it. Gravity decided to completely rebuild the scrapped Gate of the World project and release a new iteration of the failed sequel using a new game engine. Starting in 2012, beta tests began in Korea for Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second. After being aware of the game for months, it was only when an English South East Asian server was opened for beta test that I decided to try the game. As my own tale of Ragnarok brings me to the present day, I decided to write up my thoughts and compare how Midgard has changed over time.

After my friend told me about the SEA English version of Ragnarok Online 2, I was excited enough to register an account right then and there. I downloaded the client, fired up the patcher (which to my dismay was the same clunky inelegant sort that they used in Gate of the World), and got ready for Open Beta Test to commence on December 27th. Despite the servers not being up, I couldn’t resist launching the game (and saw our familiar buddy Hackshield in the corner) to drool over the title screen. To my surprise, they recycled the old Gate of the World title music for it, but severely upgraded the graphics. Imagine my rage then when the OBT was postponed to January 3rd because of high server loads. Now multiply this rage by about 30 after PlayPark decided to place an IP ban on all countries except Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia about a day before OBT started. Thankfully I was able to get past this and was able to get a taste of this new iteration of Ragnarok Online to be able to compare it to its history.

Area: Title Screen

Ragnarok Online BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: The Gate of the World BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second BGM

Graphical Comparison (Thumbnails):

Title screens tend to change over the course of the life cycle of an MMO. Ragnarok Online’s title screen is comprised of a simple backdrop and a login box. Gate of the World took a more artistic approach using a 3D animated background with a login box. At the bottom, logos for Team Mercury and Studio DTDS are visible. Legend of the Second opted to take the simplicity of RO’s title screen and RO2’s animated 3D background to create an elegant, minimalistic title screen to ease the player into the game world. Both iterations of RO2 recycled the same background music, though I feel that all versions capture the feel of the game quite well.

Area: Loading Screen
[No Music]

Graphical Comparison (Thumbnails):

Ragnarok Online had a pretty typical loading screen format– a background image with a progress bar. As a testament to the age of the game, the client does not appear to natively support widescreen resolutions and instead stretches the image to fit the window. Gate of the World took a bit of a different approach as a reflection of its own time period: a time where computer monitors were beginning to be marketed as widescreen. Gate of the World serves a loading screen that does not depend on monitor resolution by placing an animated loading image on a black background. This infamous “roding screen” gained notoriety because of the terrible pun attempting to be made and the implications of “Engrish” that resulted from it. Interestingly, the animated image changed (between a character running, a boat sailing, or a tornado carrying the player) based on the method of transport used to trigger the loading screen. Finally, Legend of the Second opts to go back to a simple loading screen style reminiscent of Ragnarok Online with a background image and progress bar. It is strange to note however that the background image itself does not appear to have been optimized for the predominant wide-screen resolution supported by monitors today.

Area: Beginner Zone

Ragnarok Online BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: The Gate of the World BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second BGM

Graphical Comparison (Thumbnails):

The beginner areas between the games did not noticeably resemble one another, but provided a similar sort of atmosphere for the character to begin his or her journey. As is typical for MMOs, the starting areas contained low level enemies in a cozy field area. Ragnarok Online utilized  Fabre, Lunatic, Poring, and Drops enemies for the starter area (mobs varied over the years) and played an up-beat bouncy song called One Step Closer. Gate of the World was intent on scrapping Porings as the game’s “mascot” character and attempted to replace them with similar cutesy/squishy characters called Pukuis. As a result, the starter area is populated with Pukuis and a variation of the monster called Puku-Puku (similar to how Drops is a variation of Poring). The background music for Gate of the World‘s starter area is a sort of rushed, yet hopeful tune called Stone Music in the client’s files– a more “realistic” and less “magical” sounding tune than that of Ragnarok Online‘s. Legend of the Second decided to fall back to using Porings, but decided to utilize a new “type” of poring for the starter area: Baby Poring. The area itself is lush and beautiful (more so than the game’s predecessors) and opts for a calm and adventuresome background song. The tune still follows more of a “realism” vein like Gate of the World‘s background music which, while fitting, somewhat loses the “magical” charm that Ragnarok Online’s starter area conveyed.

Area: Prontera

Ragnarok Online BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: The Gate of the World BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second BGM

Graphical Comparison (Thumbnails):

Prontera is a hallmark of the Ragnarok Online series and is immediately recognizable by players as the capital of Rune Midgard. The developers for each iteration of the game were clearly more restrained in the creativity department when creating the map since the original map was so iconic to the game. Odin’s statue was central to the town, rising over a water fountain. Gate of the World decided to ditch the water fountain as a stylistic choice, but overall seemed to capture the “Midgard-like” construction of the buildings quite well. Legend of the Second on the other hand completely abandoned previous rendering techniques and decided to go with a more shiny, polished Prontera. Odin was once again placed atop his fountain but this time rotated so that his back did not face the castle. While visually appealing however, I have to agree with my friend who stated that the entire town looked like “Disney Land.”

Music-wise, it is hard to come up with a “new” track to replace the iconic Theme of Prontera. Ragnarok Online seemed to focus more on its music to help convey its environments’ atomospheres because of its limited graphical nature. It seems that both Gate of the World and Legend of the Second are attempting to go for a more ambient theme for the capital city. While less engaging than the original theme, both tunes succeed in presenting Prontera with a different and more regal atmosphere. Legend of the Second actually recycles a song found in the Gate of the World client called King’s Joy, but with added sound effects such as chirping birds in the background. Oddly enough, it might just be me, but I cannot help but feel that King’s Joy sounds more “Disney” than Gate of the World‘s song.

Area: Kafra Service
[No Music]

Graphical Comparison (Thumbnails):

Kafra Corp. has always been another icon of the Ragnarok Online franchise. “Kafra” employees are maids placed around Ragnarok Online that provide a variety of services such as saving spawn points, opening the player’s storage, and warping players to other towns. In Ragnarok Online, the appearances of the Kafra employees would change depending on the town they were serving. Pictured above are the first Kafra employee that the player encounters in each iteration of the game since there is no counterpart between Ragnarok Online and either Ragnarok Online 2. A notable difference between the way important NPCs are handled in general in the newer games is that such NPCs are talked to in a 3D manner instead of utilizing 2D cut-ins. While “save” and “storage” options are standard in all versions of the Kafra employees, Ragnarok Online 2 removed the Warp feature and created additional NPCs dedicated to teleportation. Gate of the World created “Wing of Wind” soldiers teleporting over short distances while Legend of the Second extended its Kafra service to create “Flying Teleportation Service” employees– Kafra employees who served the same function as “Wing of Wind” soldiers that would fly the character to their destination via broomstick.

Interestingly, the majority of the Kafra employees from Ragnarok Online have been remastered in 3D form for Legend of the Second, (images at the bottom gallery) but the blonde-haired Kafra Milenia is the first encountered Kafra in the game. This is likely a tribute to the first Kafra encountered to Gate of the World, Kafra Shelphy Adriana. When comparing the character models, it is very obvious that Milenia is derived from Shelphy Adriana, right down to the bonnet and the bunny logos on her shoulders. Even in Gate of the World, it appeared that this “bunny logo” was to become the symbol for Kafra Corp. and has been carried over to Legend of the Second. Interestingly, Milenia does not carry a gun like Shelphy Adrina, something that suggests that the world of Gate of the World might have been a more hostile place.

Area: Izlude

Ragnarok Online BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second BGM

Graphical Comparison (Thumbnails):

Izlude town was a somewhat industrial satellite town South of Prontera. While Gate of the World had no counterpart map, Legend of the Second opted to entirely change the layout of Izlude while retaining the “lived-in” atmosphere of the original. The textures of the buildings have been modified to match the shiny portrayal of Prontera. Ragnarok Online 2‘s music for Izlude is also a lot more ambient and moody (a recurring theme in the game’s soundtrack) compared to the original’s upbeat song, Everlasting Wanderers. In the SEA version of the game at least, it appears that “Izlude” was localized as “Izurud.”

Area: Payon Forest

Ragnarok Online BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second BGM

Graphical Comparison (Thumbnails):

The town of Payon was completely removed from Legend of the Second, instead remembered only by its surrounding forest. In both iterations, the “forest” contains somewhat similar mobs while retaining a lush atmosphere next to a body of water. Legend of the Second‘s Payon Forest ultimately goes on to lead to other places instead of serving as bridge from Payon to Alberta. Though there is no Payon Town, there is camp near the middle with a few NPCs to talk to. In the case of this map, the background music is rather ambient in both versions of the game, giving a rather peaceful atmosphere. Legend of the Second‘s track for Payon Forest however transitions into a much more menacing tune to reflect its map, despite starting out calm like Ragnarok Online’s Peaceful Forest track.

Area: Payon Dungeon / Ruins

Ragnarok Online BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second BGM

Graphical Comparison (Thumbnails):

While in different areas, the ruined buildings of Payon are clearly a crossover between the two games. In the original Ragnarok Online, a dark haunted map full of abandoned buildings, Nine-Tails, and Sohee mobs was found on the fourth floor of Payon Cave. In Legend of the Second, this area is actually found South of the Payon “camp” and is noted on the map as “Payon Ruins.” While not pictured above, Sobbing Sohee enemies were found deeper into the ruins (image in bottom gallery). While Ragnarok Online‘s background music for this area was filled with a sense of urgency and panic, Legend of the Second again takes a more ambient approach by cutting out instrumentation all together, giving a haunted feel for the area.

Area: Alberta

Ragnarok Online BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second BGM

Graphical Comparison (Thumbnails):

Alberta retains its identity as a port-town in both iterations of Ragnarok Online. In fact, the conversion of the map to full 3D in Legend of the Second actually portrayed the original rather well. While I personally still find it sort of out of place, the “Disney” shading of the buildings fits Alberta’s style a lot better than Prontera’s I would say. Music-wise however both presentations are completely different– while the original Theme of Alberta has an upbeat, bustling mood to it, the new background music has a much more delicate and luxurious tune. Since Legend of the Second no longer has a Merchant job class like the original, this new atmosphere may be an attempt to portray the town’s “merchant roots.” Interestingly, the new theme for Alberta is recycled from Gate of the World but was never heard anywhere. In the old client, there were a number of songs that bore the names of NPCs but were unused. The new “theme” of Alberta is actually a reuse of the song Averro Reinhold, named after a tavern owner of the same name in Hodemimes.

Area: Sograt Desert

Ragnarok Online BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second BGM

Graphical Comparison (Thumbnails):

Sograt Desert is also known as “Morroc Fields” in Ragnarok Online as it borders the desert city of Morroc. During the Renewal arc of the MMO, Morroc suffered severe damage when Satan Morroc was awakened. Even then however, portions of Sograt Desert appeared to depict long buried ruins in parts of the map, which are once again found in Legend of the Second‘s version of the desert. In this new iteration however, the desert is more linear and serves as an intermediate to the as-of-yet final map, “Blessed Road.” While there is no Morroc present, a similar sort of camp as the Payon camp mentioned above was present in the area. Interestingly, I also feel that some of the ruins appear to look like portions of the old Morroc, but I am not sure which timeline Legend of the Second is following right now. Music-wise, both presentations are fairly similar albeit with the usual differences between the two games– Ragnarok Online‘s tune is more upbeat while Legend of the Second’s is more serious and akin to the background music playing in Ragnarok Online‘s “ruined” Morroc.

Recycled Content
By the time Gravity scrapped the Gate of the World project and decided to transition to a more polished engine, a large amount of the budget had already made its way to the failed MMO. Perhaps most notably, Gravity was excited to tout the fact that Yoko Kanno was scoring the game’s soundtrack, with at least 80 songs contained within the files of the Gate of the World client. Even at the time of Gate of the World‘s beta, only a handful of songs were used and many found their way to Legend of the Second, be it in pristine form or remixed with one another to create blended tracks. Understandably, a number of other objects and concepts from the original sequel were carried over to Legend of the Second, but are almost unrecognizable in the game’s new rendering engine and atmosphere. A few of the more easily identifiable carry-overs are listed below:

Quest Bulletin Boards:


The quest bulletin boards from Gate of the World are once again present in Legend of the Second. It looks like the model was pretty much taken without any modifications– I would chalk up the more polished look of it to the new Gamebryo engine and the shaders used in Legend of the Second.

Blue Tents:


I noticed these blue tents in the Payon campsite in Legend of the Second. These tents actually used to belong to the “Cattleya,” a class of NPCs who seemed to serve as healers. The blue tents would serve as the respawn point for players if they died on a field map and could also restore the characters’ HP. Some Cattleya in towns additionally would have the ability to teach new job skills– the only way new skills could be learned at the time of release. The symbol at the top and side of the tent was considered to be the symbol representing the Cattleya, as the button to open the NPC function to teach new skills utilized the same symbol. The Cattleya are not present in Legend of the Second, but the symbol remains on top of the tent model. Curiously, the symbol on the side of the tent has been erased and the texture mappings on the model have been altered slightly.

Caped Cats:


Caped Black Cats were mobs in Gate of the World present in the fields surrounding Prontera. They were grouped into different “gangs” with red, blue, and yellow caped members who could be either mages or melee fighters. I first encountered an enlarged version of a Red Cape Black Cat in Izlude while playing Legend of the Second– an apparent NPC. When I got to the Sograt Desert area, there were a few normal-sized caped cat npcs in the camp of the red and blue variety. It appears that the symbol present on their bandanas/capes has been retained.

Potemkin Mobs:


Potemkins were first seen by “Achim’s Farm” in Gate of the World as a generic mob found in the field surrounding Prontera. Their mob was recycled in Legend of the Second in a wasteland towards Alberta. While their models do not appear to have changed, the new Potemkin enemies roll around slightly faster and have the ability to pause for a break.

Creamy/Sandy Mobs:


Creamy was a low level enemy in Ragnarok Online found in various grassy areas. While the original design resembled a butterfly, it appears that Gate of the World planned on introducing a new anthropomorphized design for Creamy. When Legend of the Second attempted to stay more faithful to the original Ragnarok Online, they reused the Gate of the World model for the field boss, Sandial Queen, queen of the Sandy mobs.

Dance Emote:


Gate of the World had some rather odd dancing emotes. The male characters’ dance in particular had some strange moves as if they were marionettes bouncing around on string. While I noticed that the dance emotes in Legend of the Second recycled some of the dance steps from Gate of the World, the majority of the animation has been updated to present a more believable dance. Interestingly however, there are a group of NPCs called the “Graham Circus” present in Prontera and Alberta in Legend of the Second who are standing around utilizing the majority of the old dance steps. Perhaps Gravity realized how silly the old dances looked and figured only circus performers would dance like that.

Village Buildings:


Maple Town in Legend of the Second reused a large portion of the Hodemimes Village map in Legend of the Second, which was the first town that players came across. The unique building style was retained while the surrounding area was replaced with Maple trees instead of a sandy plain. Even the somewhat differently shaped blacksmith’s alcove was reused (though hilariously they chose to glom two of the alcoves together to make a newly shaped building).

Coastal/Desert Music:

Ragnarok Online 2: The Gate of the World Hodemimes Coast BGM
Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second Blessed Road BGM

Depending on the area and time of the day, the coast outside of Hodemimes in Gate of the World would play a different background track. One of these coastal songs was reused by Legend of the Second with the vocals removed for the desert map “Blessed Road.” I have to admit that this was a creative reuse– the music does sound more “desert-appropriate” with the vocals gone.

Playable Races:


Perhaps the most exciting new feature of Gate of the World was the fact that the game would include multiple races. Two races were introduced aside from the Norman (human) race– the Ellr and the Dimago to appeal to Asian and Western gamers respectively. The Ellr were short elf-like beings and were far enough along in their development to have a few of their NPCs present in towns. The Dimago however were never seen outside of official artwork, though I have heard that they are present as a throwaway mob in the currently developing kRO2. The newly announced Noel race for Legend of the Second appears however to be a hybrid of the two scrapped races with their horns, weapons, and heights. Though developers confirmed that the Ellr and Dimago were scrapped for good at a launch event for Legend of the Second, when asked whether the Ellr and Dimago were combined to make the Noel, they reportedly answered “yes” with a smile.

Impressions
Any veteran Ragnarok Online player would be excited to see his or her memories recreated in lush 3D. In particular, a part of me also felt attached to Gate of the World so I was eager to see the “payoff” after waiting five years. I have to say, while the game’s graphics are still a tad dated for a 5 year development time, the environment is absolutely visually appealing to look at. The team was very careful to stay faithful to the original monsters and their hard work shows off in their 3D renditions. The game very obviously however is attempting to act “modern” with a more realistic, shiny, and bloom-filled approach, likely to appeal to newer gamers. The combat system is the same as Gate of the World‘s, which is practically the same as World of Warcraft’s. In fact, the combat “feels” about the same as Gate of the World‘s except with a more familiar stat point system (taken from Ragnarok Online). In addition, I am not certain how to feel about the new achievement (Khara) and card systems, which are clearly catered to newer players, though I did like the concept of a “card album” to hold the game’s famous cards.

Finally, another staple of Ragnarok Online always has been its solid atmospheric soundtrack and I feel that Legend of the Second‘s, while different is just as strong as its predecessors’. In particular, Mt. Mjolnir and Izlude’s BGM tracks are absolutely breathtaking and really serve the new game environment well. For someone such as myself whoever who has dabbled in many MMOs at this point though, because Legend of the Second does not present a particularly new gameplay system, I would only play this iteration either for short-lived nostalgia or because a friend would be playing it. For now however, do enjoy the new chapter in the tale of Ragnarok!

 

Images in order from Mt. Mjolnir to Blessed Road:

  • Draco

    FIRST!

    Naw just kidding, but anyways. Yeah I was actually looking forward in trying out the OB for this game then the whole IP ban thing happened and I’m not motivated enough to use a proxy to try this game. Nonetheless, the game looks ok and does seem to be a lot better than Gate of the World. I just hope that they wont abandon this one and see through the development till the end.

    In any event, the nostalgia factor will definitely bring players to the game. And it’ll be up to the devs now to keep everyone’s interest in this game in the long run.

  • Lala

    Wow, great reading and very interesting analysis. Unfortunately, I agree with your final conclusion, RO2 feels like a generic modern MMO with a RO skin, I don’t think it’s a true good sequence to such a traditional game and it survives based solely on the name. Sounds mean, but I want LOTS to die, just so gravity wake up and restart everything again, this time trying to make a game that delivers the RO feel.

    • http://www.KeptAfterClass.Onigiri.us/ Nightmaren

      Thanks for your response, Lala =D

      You’re right– this game pretty much seems to be banking on running off nostalgia… and there is plenty of it! It is definitely fun to see old 2D enemies / concepts in 3D but in my opinion, after that wears off, you are left with a rather generic MMO (especially feel-wise).
      At this point however, I doubt Gravity is willing to go through another redesign– since it was stated that RO1 and LoTS will both be running in parallel, I think they are just trying to appeal to as many players as possible for LoTS (especially modern players who want to see realism and achievements). Just for fun though, I wonder how they can make the experience closer to the original while retaining the mood of the original? Personally, I tend to imagine such a game as something like X-Legend’s Eden Eternal ^^;

  • Frost Cannon

    seems pretty good. I never had a chance to play the original however, I did play a lot of mabinogi untill my account got hacked, after I lost my motivation for mmos. Make it soooo far and then have it blink away in a instance. of course that type of situation happens often in life.