EDITOR’S NOTE: “DISPATCHES” is a semi-weekly column, written by Red Mendoza (@knightkira on Twitter), where he shares his personal views & opinions regarding the Japanese pop-culture scene in the country, particularly Anime, Cosplay and the Events scene. The views and opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect the views of Anime Pilipinas, its members, partners and colleagues.
So, looks like Level-Up! Games finally announced it. We didn’t see it coming, but frankly… we should have been ready for it.
Ragnarok Online is closing its Philippine servers, and for everyone who are playing or have played the game like myself, it hurts and saddens us to the very core.
Let’s face it: Ragnarok Online was the quintessential online game of the dial-up era. Back when broadband was still reserved for the business community and the rates for the installation of the service are still expensive, Ragnarok Online survived the rigors and the temperaments of the Philippine online landscape.
I guess everyone remembers that you type the word LAG when the game lags, or those emoticons. /lol, /gg /heh /? /!, the guilds and the party play, the boss hunt, the RO Guild siege every Wednesday night and Saturday afternoons, the “pa heal po” and “pa buffs po” you request to an Acolyte or a Priest, or, when you get killed, “Pa Resu (resurrect) po”, or even the first moments you played RO, when you were still a Novice and your only weapon is a dagger.
Those Were The Days
When I was writing the story regarding pRO closing down, all my memories of playing suddenly came back to me, all those months of toiling around my character (which was a Knight, by the way, which explains my social media handles) to a respectable level. I was assisted by a shop owner who became my friend later on because during the time he was playing, I was able to watch him play it.
I was a late bloomer in the RO Universe, though I was thankful for ABS-CBN for getting the broadcast rights of Ragnarok the Animation in 2004 and gave it the ABS-CBN primetime treatment it so deserved, which I will discuss later on. Later on, when I entered college, I really made sure to save at least 100 pesos to buy a 7-day Level-Up! Card and load it up so that I could play it.
Come Siege Night Wednesday and Siege Day Saturday (the other term for “The War of the Emperium” patch), I make it a point to be free on those days to take part in the Action. The Guild Sieges were prime time affairs that could be comparable to the Super Bowl or a Pacquiao fight, the only difference is it is done online in-game.
I was a part of Loki Server’s Virus Guild, and later on, the E.B.A.K. guild, which, despite the quite too risque name, was an acronym for Estrus, Bamboo, Astronix and Kawayan guilds, I actually did a blog post about them in 2005, though in my pre-journo writing style.
When your guild attacks an agit (a castle) from your rival guild, it becomes a unifying force for all the guilds and its allies. Once the sige is successful, your guild owns the agit for at least a few days or longer (depending on how aggressive the other guilds are in claiming it) and gives you the chance to go inside the guild dungeons and fight some monsters and bosses to score rare items.
Ahhh, those were the days.
A Game Changer in the World of Gaming
As I recollect all my memories on my playing days on pRO, I was simply blown away at how pRO changed everyone’s lives, maybe some of you were “cafe addicts” who spent a lot of time and money in a PC shop just to level-up your character. Those who have PC’s on their homes were luckier for they had the privilege of playing the game at their own time and convenience.
It also became a factor in the surge of broadband installations in Metro Manila alone, because when around the time pRO started, dial-up internet was still the preferred choice of connection among households and cafes, and broadband internet was expensive at that time (don’t even get me started on the speed as well).
Some players were ordinary kids and teens who saved their money just to buy top-up cards. Other pRO players were achievers IRL, and some of them lamented on how their grades fell and made them ineligible for honors because of playing pRO.
The opposite happened in my case, I was reviewing for my exams in the PC Shop, checking out pRO games, and I still scored high in a test. Other players were employed professionals, and, yes, cafe shop owners who killed time at the cafe playing pRO. Heck, at one time, you might have been guild mates with the grandchild of a former statesman.
In hindsight, Ragnarok was truly a game changer in the world of gaming. It became the top online game from the time it was launched in 2003, and it also spawned a new breed of pop-culture event, the Gaming convention.
I remembered how the Ragnarok Philippine Championships (now Level-Up! Live) always filled the spaces of the World Trade Center Manila to the rafters, with some gamers staying at the venue as early as 6 or 7pm the day before to camp out for tickets.
It also became a pop culture phenomenon, with multiple media tie-ins (Remember the song “Chicksilog” from Kamikazee? Yes, it came from the “ROk On” album released in 2007), and even became an advertising tool as well.
Important Media Tie-in
But the most important media tie-in in the history of pRO (and of all of Ragnarok Online) has got to be Ragnarok the Animation, which was produced by Gravity Corp. and animated by G and G Entertainment.
It was an anime that really deviated from the concept of the original manwha created by Lee Myung-jin, and instead focused more on the aspect of the online game which also became a hit in Japan which spurred the commissioning of the anime series.
For anime fans who have watched Sword Art Online or Log Horizon, Ragnarok the Animation is anime that was based on an online game yet did not touch on the aspects of the online game like how SAO is portrayed.
Rather, it centered on a coherent story using Rune-Midgard as the location and some of the RO Jobs as characters not being controlled by players. Interestingly, Ragnarok the Animation really used the game’s settings to make a story that even non-gamers will understand, unlike SAO.
Ragnarok the Animation was first previewed in the 2004 Ragnarok World Championships in Seoul, and, as expected, Level-Up! wanted to exploit the game and translate it into viewers as well as to entice more players to pRO. With LU! holding the rights, it was widely expected that the top network at that time, GMA, was to grab the rights and air it.
But suprisingly, ABS-CBN took the rights and announced it on a press conference together with Level-Up! executives.
And, unexpected for an anime series, ABS-CBN gave it the full tender loving care like it was a “Teleserye”. Cory Vidanes, currently the Head of the flagship network, gave her approval on the anime series, saying at that time that the anime will not only capture the young audience because it tackled universal themes.
Enrico Santos, head of ABS-CBN Synergy, said, “Noong ini-launch ang Meteor Garden, ano sabi nila? Pambata ‘yan. But, what happened? Ganun din sa Marina.”
Full blast promotions ensued, including a trailer launch on, of all shows, TV Patrol (which was anchored solo by Korina Sanchez at that time), plus countless ads and even a program launch on ASAP in October 2004.
Hell they even made a cringe-worthy Tagalog-version music video featuring the Star Circle Quest Top 5 (which included a pre-2NE1 Sandara Park and Hero Angeles) in an equally embarassing cosplay of the lead characters. If only mobile and online on-demand streaming like iWanTV and ABS-CBNmobile were available in 2004, Ragnarok The Animation would’ve been streamed on those platforms as well.
Laudable but Cringe-worthy
They also aired the series at 6:00pm, a first for the network, to make it available to all of the network’s stations nationwide as Level-Up! wanted to spread the Ragnarok fever across the country—a fact that Level-Up! possibly factored in when they chose ABS-CBN as their broadcast partner.
Danny Mandia directed the Tagalog dubbing for the series, with notable voice actors such as Blair Arellano as Roan, Sherwin Revistir as Yuufa, Stella Canete as Takius, Robert Brillantes as Iruga and Frances Makil-Ignacio as Jirtas.
But despite the laudable but cringe-worthy promotion, the series never helped ABS-CBN’s ratings rebound and, worst of all, only proved to the network executives that anime is not a good proposition on primetime despite being aired nationwide at 6pm. (They still tried it with Masked Rider Ryuki and Gundam SEED, until they surrendered the 6pm slot to a talent show.)
But hey, it only proved something: if only ABS-CBN would be convinced again that there is a market for anime as pre-programming for TV Patrol, they will give it the care it deserves to have just like their current teleseryes (which will be the subject of my next column).
ROK’d our World
Now, 12 years has passed since Ragnarok Online first made its way into our shores and changed the way we played, it will finally end its long and colorful journey full of memories.
I bet, when you have read all of what I have written, you will also have the time to reminisce and remember your RO journey as well and share stories from your journey starting from the city of Prontera, to the forests of Payon, the deserts of Morroc, the glitz of Al De Baran, and the hallows of GH, and other worlds as well.
And with that, I say: So long, Philippine Ragnarok Online. You definitely ROK’d our world.
From -KiRa-YaMaTo-, Loki Server, Level 87 AGI Knight. (yes, that was my character name, back when being a Jejemon was not even despised)
The views and opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect the views of Anime Pilipinas, its members, partners, and colleagues. If you have comments or reactions, please email at [email protected].