Remember Ragnarok Online, from way back in 2002? Yeah, I know you do, because it was awesome. Cool world design, fun classes, sprite-based characters; it was great. You know what else?
It still is.
I have been playing Ragnarok Online off and on for about eight or nine years now; just casual bouts of play interspersed with years of idleness. I played on the official servers for quite some time, but around 2007-08 I became interested in the private server scene. Gabihime and I chose a low rate (5/5/3, for those who care) server called HeRO, and we have basically been there ever since. It’s a great place with awesome GMs, and whenever we feel the urge to go adventuring, that is where we do it.
Not being a particularly hardcore gamer, I have never before had anyone very high level. In fact, I have never really played any other MMORPG for more than an hour or two. For whatever reason, Ragnarok has continued to hold my interest over all these years. Anyway, just last week I decided to log on again and go wander the world. When I logged in, I had the overpowering urge to get my main character, Duriel, to get to level 99 and reborn as an Assassin Cross.
Why elect to do this hard level grinding nine years after the game came out? I’m not really sure myself, but I threw myself into it with a will. In fact, the last game I remember working this hard at playing was probably SRW:OG2.
For the grinding, I spent almost all of my time on one map, killing one type of enemy: Hill Winds. They suck, make irritating noise, mob, and are weak to earth elemental katars. I took my level 97 Assassin there and went to town. Per the experience tables (pre-renewal RO) I earned about 206821199 experience points in the four days I was there. On a 5x server like HeRo that’s base 10660 experience per Hill Wind. With no XP penalties that would already be 19401.69 Hill Winds. Sadly, I did die and received a few 1% penalties, which puts the true total over 20000.
It takes quite a while to kill that many Hill Winds. Many, many hours were taken up staring at that map, grimtoothing those things.
Why did I do it?
This is a difficult question to answer. Partly, I have always wanted to have an Assassin Cross. Partly, I wanted to do it since I have never done it before. Partly, I was just looking for something to devote myself to for a little while.
That last one can be a bit difficult to accept, not because it is very wrong to take time away to do something fun, but rather because it illustrates something about my character: elective devotion. I suspect that I am not the only human with this characteristic. I am able to will myself into devotion, which can be quite a useful trick. It has generated many research papers and stories, allowed many long-distance runs, contributed to a myriad of projects and personal pursuits. It is nevertheless elective, though. I seem to be able to reroute my madcap interest to a degree; it is not an entirely free process, but it can be done.
It is rather like channeling a current: you can get it moving in one direction, but it takes time to establish another major shift along the way. Was this wasted time? Could I have spent it better? Well, I could always have studied, or built something, or spent days cleaning the bathroom. I could have done anything, really. But I wanted to play Ragnarok Online.
So what is the heart of the elective side of elective devotion? Is it purely elective, or purely predetermined? On one hand I want to say that I had a choice in the matter; on the other I must admit it seemed almost a compulsion. Sitting there hour after hour, repeatedly mobbing and gaining XP, getting up for coffee and getting back to work, began to be a real chore. But so are many things that I have found rewarding: translation work, study, memorization, research, annotation among them. The end makes the work worthwhile.
Duriel is an Assassin Cross now. The process of transcending with the Book of Ymir and conversing with the Valkyrie was really engaging; I’ve always liked the mythology of the world, and this big quest did not disappoint me. I’m still playing now, just more casually. There is a lot left to explore and do after all.
What drove me to undertake all that tedious leveling at once, to spend all my free time in a burst of RO activity? I don’t have any answers, even after a few days of reflection. One thing I do know is that I am likely to behave this way in the future, though. With any luck, I can keep enjoying it.
See you in Rune-Midgard!Tags: games, mmorpg, ragnarok online, theory