Ragnarok: The Beginning of a New Game Revolution
In the last year or so, the Philippine gaming scene has changed considerably. Quite a number of people are into console gaming, with some even owning more than one gaming machine. Most popular game consoles are the personal computer and the Sony PlayStation (One or Two, take your pick). Of course, there’s still the Xbox, the Gam eBoy series, the Game Cube and even the “older” consoles to consider.
PC gaming would probably still come on top. It’s easily accessible, as the machine is more than a tool for work. Games are readily available and offer a wide range in various genres. This does not include the emulators for even older gaming consoles like SNES, Game Boy and even PlayStation! PCs can also be upgraded easily to accommodate the higher system requirements of newer games.
Probably the biggest breakthrough was the arrival of the massively multi- player online role-playing game (MMORPG) Ragnarok to the Philippine shores (as of this writing, the first locally developed PC role playing game Anito has been released). Gamers have taken fancy to it, and it has attracted people who don’t really care much for games except play Solitare.
So what, pray tell, is Ragnarok? Before we delve into the game itself, let’s explore the roots, so to speak, of the game.
To those inclined to reading classics, Ragnarok is “the ultimate cataclysmic battle between Norse gods and the forces of evil, in which the old gods would perish and a new peace would come” (Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2003). In Norse mythology, the gods and goddesses are divided into two groups: The Aesir and Vanir. This is excluding the Giants who came first. The Vanir gods were considered the “old timers” and were overthrown by the Aesir. It is also believed that the gods and goddesses each had their purpose and work, much like that of the Greek and Roman myths.
The Norse world is a circular disk, the center of which is a concentric circle surrounded by sea. This central portion is Midgard, the home of men. Across the sea is the home of the giants, Jotunheim, also known as Utgard. The gods' home lies above Midgard in Asgard. Hell lies below Midgard in Niflheim.
Unlike the gods and goddesses of Greek and Roman mythology, those of the Norse myths are not immortal in the sense that they will live forever. There will come a time when they and the world will die because of the evil actions of the god Loki, who is said to be a god through adoption only. Loki is really a giant, or a Jotnar, one of the said enemies of the Aesir, and it will be the Jotnar who will find the giants at Ragnarok and bring about the end of the world.
Ragnarok through the times
Ragnarok has been used and mentioned over and over in other literary works, either as an adaptation of the Norse myth or just the use of the name.
Marvel Comics has (subject is singular since it’s a company) their own adaptation of the Norse myth. In the August 1962 issue of the Journey into Mystery comics, Dr. Donald Blake made an appearance. He found a walking stick with an inscription that claimed it was the hammer of Thor, thus giving its bearer the same power as that of the god. Blake can transform himself from his frail, weak self and into the powerful Thor. This series was initially written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Jack Kirby. Later, other Norse mythology characters would appear, like Loki, Baldur, Sif and even Odin.
Ragnarok also plays a role in the popular Final Fantasy VIII game as the giant airship used as a major transportation. In Culture Crash Comics, it was used as a name of a giant bird whose appearance was revered by the residents of Featherwoods (Cat’s Trail, Issue 5).
Hitting the Philippine shores shortly after the release of Oz World (a 3D virtual world chat software), Ragnarok Online has rapidly become popular and is probably among the most played PC game in the country nowadays. Through Ragnarok, Filipinos have discovered the joy of online gaming.
Ragnarok Online is based on the best-selling Korean comic book Ragnarok, by Myung Jin Lee. Partly inspired by Norse mythology and Japanese anime, the game is set in a fantasy world called Midgard, where gods, monsters, and humans are locked in an eternal battle. The author himself was involved in the creation of the online game, and has become very popular in other countries especially Taiwan, Thailand, and Japan.
With the mention of “network games,” what usually comes to mind would probably be: Counterstrike, War Craft, and Command and Conquer, and you would usually be limited to the PCs connected to your LAN. Ragnarok has allowed a player with a PC and Internet connection to play with another person located miles away, form groups and make new friends.
After signing up for an account (users get 3 free days of game play after sign up), new gamers (or newbies) can immediately go out to Midgard and get their levels up, beat up monsters, and make new friends. However, it would be advisable for newbies to go through the “training” course in order to familiarize themselves with the controls and such, as well as getting an idea of what job they want to get.
There are six first jobs to choose from. New gamers are initially “jobless” at the beginning of the game. They would need to reach a certain level of experience, gain some skills and collect certain items in order to get their first job. These first jobs are Swordsman (close combat specialist and usually the front liners in battle), Thief (specializing in pinpoint attacks and stealth), Archer (good with ranged weapons), Mage (magic wielder with the ability to cast a variety of spells), Merchant (dealers and traders), and Acolyte (spellcaster who uses the powers of the divine).
Upon reaching level 40 (or higher, depending on the job), characters will now level up to its corresponding second job level. Swordsman into Knight, Thief to Assassin, Archer to Hunter, Mage to Wizard, Merchant to Blacksmith, and Acolyte to Priest. Each job, of course has its own requirement and method on how to get it.
Me and the Ragnarok Experience
Ragnarok Online (RO) pretty much has no storyline to follow compared to other RPGs you might be familiar with. Here, your main goal is to increase your level, get the cool stuff to increase your power, have fun with the hack and slash part and increase your level some more. My brother (and my RO mentor) said that most (if not all) MMORPGs have no storylines, it’s the gameplay that makes the game attractive.
Another factor for RO’s popularity is its availability. Installer CDs are given out for free, and sign up is pretty easy. Unlike most MMORPGs abroad, where one must have a credit card and a broadband connection in order to play, Ragnarok here is offered as a prepaid, so gamers don’t have to worry about racking their bills. Game cards are sold in affordable rates, with P50 as the lowest denomination offering 8 hours of gameplay. Plus, it works well with narrowband connections, though players of this connection type may experience lag every now and then.
Graphics wise, RO is very, to put it bluntly, “cute”, which probably is another factor that attracts gamers. Characters are 2D in a 3D environment, and you can switch camera angles. It’s fun to roam and explore the various places even though you have no exact mission to do in Midgard. No blood and gore for this game, where even the monsters can be cute Jello-like creatures called “Porings”. Monsters can even become your pets, so long as you feed them the correct food to capture them. Pokemon on another level? Your call.
For a beginner the game can be quite confusing. There are not much guides that lets you know where to go or what to do unless you go through the training guide. My brother was nice enough to guide me through the first part, or “tanked” me and helped me get my first job. He also gave me cool stuff so as a novice I had slightly higher stats compared to the others.
As a gamer, what probably annoys me the most are the players who get into the game just to chat. It’s kind of hard to chat while trying to kill that monster for more experience points (XP), and then they get mad at you for not replying. Although the chat is one of the attractive functions of RO it does get distracting. Another peeve (and probably everyone else’s) is the “saw saw.” This is when you’re doing your best to kill that tough monster when somebody comes in and delivers the deadly last blow, and to your frustration, he gets the XP. All your hard work for naught.
Then again there are nice players out there who heal you (to restore your health) for free and some others who help you get around. And there are those who would join you for one “quest” be silly during the game, doing nothing but having fun as well. Add that to the thrill of getting your next job level, the game is a cool experience.
Overall, RO has brought a new definition to the word “gaming” here in the Philippines. It has over 4,000 registered gamers, and has quite a huge number of female players compared to that of other network games. And they’re not ashamed to let everyone know that they play the game.
Level-up! Games, the Philippine publisher of Ragnarok online, plans to expand Ragnarok. They recently launched a new server to accommodate the growing number of players. The website also accepts artwork from players to feature and include as transition screens for the game. Toys, figurines, and collectibles are being eyed for release in the near future, as well as the release of the English translation of the comic Ragnarok. #
(Article written for office newletter, The Link)