As you all know, I was once an avid Ragnarok Online player. I know I revisit the topic a lot, but people have the tendency to keep a special place in their hearts for their “firsts.” In my case, Ragnarok Online was my first MMO… ever. Especially for some of us online-regulars, you might be able to see the significance of such a thing. Perhaps my memories of the game are romanticized by now, but never have I had such a great time on an MMO since then.
…But enough about that. As you may know, there are a number of different softwares available to run a Ragnarok Online server. The Aegis and eAthena softwares are the most prominent, with the exclusion of Freya which is now defunct. While the three emulators all have a purpose to run Ragnarok Online, they take different spins on their approaches, namely with the way customizations are handled. For my purposes, I will briefly discuss the Freya and Aegis emulators before talking about eAthena, which is undoubtedly the most popular one today.
When I first started playing Ragnarok Online on EuphRO, I recall that it ran the Freya emulator. Now, I’m not really in a position to fully discuss the pros and cons about Freya because quite frankly, I did not know anything about the game back then… I think I recall a /botcheck command included by default, which was a nice touch but I also heard that it did not work very well. I’m not even sure if eAthena was around at the time as I know that EuphRO was using Freya because it was free rather than the disputed Aegis. At any rate, Freya was a fairly wide-used emulator at the time and I believe that the efforts of its team is worth noting. On April 26, 2007, the Freya project was discontinued and the developers passed the torch to the eAthena community.
The Freya Emulator project has been discontinued. The forums/mantis bug tracker no longer exist. The SVN repository however is still available here:
Thanks to all the developers making the Freya project possible, including Yor, MagicalTux, Proximus, Mikeyboy, and the rest. May Freya live on in our memories.
– Tsuyuki, Head Administrator of the Freya Project
All the while developers were feverishly working on other Ragnarok Online emulators, there was one that readily existed, and matched almost exactly with the official Ragnarok Online software. Aegis was a server software created by Hakkyu Kim for Gravity Corporation, the developers of Ragnarok Online. Why is that significant? Because Aegis was eventually leaked to the community by several teams who had compromised official Gravity computers. Thus, apart from the occasional missing SQL entry, Aegis was identical to the official software, meaning those with the software could easily run a server with all the features the official servers contained.
If the community is in possession of the actual server software, everything is all set, right? Well actually, Gravity makes regular revisions to its software to add more game functionality or content; These are the “episodes” that are released on a regular basis. In addition to that, many server owners were afraid of the legal repercussions associated with using private software as the legality of the code was a grey area. Also, I understand that it was difficult to add too much custom content, at least at the time and the process could be much simpler on a server emulator built from scratch. As a result, other software emulation developers sought to create a better emulator- one that was much more efficient than the sloppy Aeigis code.
Eventually, the focus shifted onto eAthena. The eAthena software was coded in C++ and was built with user friendliness in mind. The emulator comes with a multitude of custom commands, along with the [now] staple @autoloot and @autotrade commands to enhance playing experience. Needless to say, eAthena’s customizeable structure attracted a lot of users, and ultimately map developers, spriters, and other modifiers to make available different customizations for people to add to their servers. As a result, eAthena is the most widespread emulator for private Ragnarok Online servers, with regular updates to accommodate the ever changing official Korean servers.
eAthena did a good job… the first software anyone goes to for Ragnarok Online servers. But do you think its possible to have done too much off a good job? No offense to the developers, but I truly wish they hadn’t touched a few things as I feel they are altering the gameplay.
Let’s start from the top. Server owners are interested in attracting people; As a result, they must (reasonably) cater to the players. Players are interested in becoming better than others with minimal effort… at least most of them are. Emulators are supposed to provide a gameplay environment similar to the official game, with customizations for events or to fix problems the official servers refuse to fix. Now, players enjoy the idea of super high experience rates, @autoloot (items go directly to inventory when monster is killed), @go (teleport to another town), and dual clienting (running two client instances at the same time). While these aspects do not reproduce official game play, this is what [most] players want and server owners enable these features to keep them interested. In turn, the player population is interested in supporting the server by donating to aid server costs. In order to encourage donators, most server owners offer incentives such as custom items or normal items with enhanced stats, giving the donator an advantage over normal players. Thus, the vicious cycle of gameplay-affecting customizations turns, resulting in a game that is by name Ragnarok Online, but must clearly be something different.
As such, I prefer the only other available alternative, Aegis, whenever I look for a server. Even so, Aegis tends to be outdated as binaries must be taken through Gravity computers for it to be incorporated into private servers. eAthena has done a great job, and is very secure and stable, but its simplicity can also be viewed as a negative aspect. eAthena is so easy to set up in fact, that even a 10 year old can simply download the software and run the *.bat file to have a fully functional Ragnarok Online server. As a result, there are so many Ragnarok Online servers, making it difficult to tell which ones are reputable and which ones are there just for their owners’ egos.
The staggering amount of customizations found on servers is my main gripe whenever I search for a Ragnarok Online server to play on, and is my main obstacle from starting the game again. Sure, I can go play on the official servers, but I also feel the need to express my disappointment at the extent such features have altered gameplay. If servers did not have such features, newcomers will be able to experience the game as it was intended; Unfortunately, I don’t think private servers cater to newcomers anymore, as there is declining interest in Ragnarok Online’s “outdated graphics.” Instead, the private server scene is a disarray of players server-hopping from one place to another and desperately trying to level back up at light speed. The game is not supposed to be about leveling, the game is not supposed to be easy. The basis of an MMO is the interaction between people and team effort, and with such features, this basis is being lost.