Harinezumi (harinezumi) wrote,

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Back from the (un)dead

So I've just come off of four days of the most intense gaming I've had in recent memory, and man am I frustrated, pissed off, and depressed. For those not into RO, here's some background info: for a couple of months now I've been playing a Korean-developed massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG) called Ragnarok Online (RO for short). It's got pretty decent gameplay and interface, but its main two advantages are that its art is obviously manga-inspired (and incredibly cute) and that a large number of my friends are playing it. At any rate, I've been playing it since early May when it's been in free beta (one that was significantly more stable and polished than many other games' final pay versions) and enjoyed it enough to sign up for 3 months when it went pay at the start of June.

Now here's what happened in the last few days. Turns out that the servers running the English version of the game have incredibly poor security. Some rumors claim that the login/password for the main database was admin/1234 and all the game and customer data was stored in plain text. It comes as no surprise, then, that some otmorozok successfully cracked into the system, gave himself full admin privileges, and wrecked havoc with the game and its economy. What came as a shock was the fact that he obtained a full list of user names and passwords for all the players, saved it to a text file and sent it to a few trusted friends. Which, on the Internet, means that in a couple of hours it was out in the wild, being distributed over p2p networks and posted on the Web. Obviously chaos ensued, and Gravity (the company that runs and develops the game) had no choice but to roll back the game a couple of days to erase the damage the hackers created. Up to this point everything looks fairly reasonable. Although RO's security was unseemly lax, systems get cracked all the time, the fault clearly lay with the cracker, and Gravity's decision to do a rollback was perfectly reasonable.

What followed that decision, though, was a complete disaster. Without having completely addressed the problem of leaked logins/passwords, Gravity announced that to compensate the players for the two lost days, they would double the experience rewards and item drop rates for all the monsters in the game between 4pm Saturday and 11:59pm Tuesday. They explicitly stated that they've got the crack under control and they would not do another rollback. Hearing that, I, cyfis, alternakittyn, and arcticfox (along with thousands of other players, I'm sure) did the only thing any obsessive gamer would do in such a situation: we leveled like there was no tomorrow. I personally have dropped everything I was doing, and did nothing but level, eat, and sleep (about 4 hours a night on average) for the duration of the doubling (except for going to work on Tuesday, of course). The plan was to get as much playing time in as possible, and then recover for the rest of the week, knowing that more than a week's progress has been made over the weekend.

I personally gained about 10 levels (which is a lot in the midgame) and made the class transition from Swordsman to Knight (about the most tedious part of the entire game) as well as leveled my Merchant up through the mid-40's (the most tedious part of the game), and cyfis made even better progress. Then, as we were just about ready to wind down, congratulate ourselves on progress made and resume our regular lives, we get an announcement from Gravity: the game is getting rolled back to the state it was in on the 19th, causing us to lose all the xp and treasure we've gained over the weekend and then some, followed by another 5-day period of x2 experience and treasure drops. On reading that, my hands just dropped from the keyboard, and I sat there for a few minutes, jaw loose and eyes staring in disbelief. This was eventually followed by a period of watching the utter chaos that consumed the game's major cities and enjoying my Knight while I still had her (mmm, going to Glastheim when you don't care how many times you die or how many potions and grapes you consume...), and a mourning/bitching session with cyfis, alternakittyn, and arcticfox.

The final decision was: taking a brief break (there's apartment-hunting to do for alternakittyn and arcticfox, and resume quotas to fill for me), picking up the pieces, and resuming play once we've recovered, though probably not at the weekend's breakneck pace. I definitely think that the major blame for the incident lies with the cracker(s): this was about as black-hat a crack as they get. All the kids sitting around in Prontera and parroting the rant from pak0 about Gravity not giving two shits about English RO can go perform feats of anatomically impossible autocopulation, though. Systems get cracked all the time, no matter how good their security policy, and English RO has less than 10,000 users, as opposed to the Japanese or Korean versions (hundreds of thousands of players), so it's perfectly reasonable that Gravity devotes more resources to developing those.

What Gravity is responsible for, though, is their dismal failure to communicate. None of this would have happened (and I would have ended up trusting them a lot more) if they did not explicitly state that there will not be another rollback, or at least informed us immediately as soon as having to do a rollback became a possibility. One of the appealing things about MMORPGs is the feeling that you always know where you stand, that once you've gained a level or found a rare item, there's nothing anyone can do to take that away from you. It's a very attractive alternative to the constant uncertainty of the real world. This means that anything that shatters this illusion of control and predictability removes a major component of motivation to keep on playing the game. For all I know, all the people who are leaving the game in disgust after these events will create such an imbalance in the economy that Gravity will feel it's necessary to do another rollback. Which poses a very real-life question within the context of the game: if there's a good chance that all my actions will end up not yielding any results, why bother?

I guess in the end my answer is that what attracts me to RO isn't just the addictive leveling component of just about any CRPG, but the aesthetic and social ones. My swordie looks damn cute with cat ears on (yes, I finally got the Kitty Band over the weekend, which is probably the thing whose loss I'll mourn the most), and so does cyfis's (I find it incredibly amusing that the character I play is female while hers is male). The whole world looks stunningly beautiful, and character designs for players and monsters rock in general. Moreover it's rather fun to see what personae your friends adapt in-game, and to go around leveling with them, trading healing items, saving each other from mobs of monsters, and bitching about bots or rude players. Barring a total disintegration of the game's social dynamic and an extreme upsurge in bot use, I think I'll keep on playing for a while yet.

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    HELLLOOOOOOOO SEATTLE! Finally made the move, now I just need to acquire a bed and a job, not necessarily in that order.

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    Meme yoinked from kjpepper ( Click here to post your own answers for this meme.) ✓ I miss somebody right now.…

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