The Ragnarok Online rogue server community is in uproar this week as Ragnarok’s Korean developer and publisher, Gravity Co., has filed at least one lawsuit and appears to be cracking down on its longstanding rogue server community.
Ragnarok, readers will recall, launched way back in 2002 in Korea and 2003 in North America, but in the last two decades, it’s sunsetted in many parts of the world. To date, the company maintains servers in Korea and North America, though the version of the game running, Renewal, was a bit like an NGE for the game, meaning classic fans have nowhere to go if they want that original experience – apart from rogue servers, anyway. In fact, it turns out there are kind of a lot of rogue servers for Ragnarok, and Gravity has largely turned a blind eye to them over their long span.
Two weeks ago, Gravity announced that it is “taking action” against what it characterized as “illegal private servers,” warning players that such servers might be misusing their data and inviting gamers to “report any private servers that [they] come across” along with “any relevant information that may assist in the investigation.”
“Gravity Interactive and all official global partners of Ragnarok Online are taking action against illegal private servers. With the cooperation of official and private agencies, we are looking into private servers and taking measures in accordance with relevant laws and regulations. An illegal private game server is defined as a game server which uses protected copyrighted works and intellectual property without license or proper agreement from the legally recognized owner. This damages future development of the official game as private servers siphon revenues away from the rights holders. […] Globally Gravity, Gravity Interactive, and other partners are pursuing a vigorous defense of their rights and ownership of the Ragnarok IP. There are 7 lawsuits against illegal private servers in North America, and in addition, half a dozen or more legal actions world wide.”
In fact, at least one such “action” is already underway. According to a copy of the core complaint provided to MassivelyOP, Gravity Co. is attempting to sue Novaro LLC, Manuel Ruiz, and 10 unnamed individuals it says are responsible for a “pirated counterfeit version” of Ragnarok called Nova Ragnarok (NovaRO). The lawsuit alleges that Novaro has represented itself as Gravity and its employees, using Gravity’s trademark, and has “gained profits by selling unauthorized game items to the users.” It asks the California courts to declare that Novaro and its workers infringed Gravity’s trademarks and copyrights, block Novaro from continuing operation, and award Gravity damages and suit costs.
We note here that the NovaRO website is still up and running as we type this with over 2300 players, and quite noticeably it includes links to a market and a purchasing page where players can buy “Nova Points” for real money and then spend them at the in-game shop. It’s reasonable to conclude, based on the verbiage in the lawsuit, that this unabashed attempt to profit from emulated servers pushed Gravity to action after so many years of allowing these servers to continue. It’s also possible that Gravity wants to reduce competition for the new games built within the Ragnarok franchise in the last few years.
However, as our tipster noted, since Gravity announced a full-scale assault on all rogue servers, some of the lower-key classic emulators have also taken moves to protect themselves, even if they weren’t attempting to profit from the game. At least one major pserver closed outright, while others have reduced their public profile and changed their names. Gravity is also apparently mass-reporting emulation streamers and has caused bans, including some perfectly innocent community members.
Unfortunately, this particular MMORPG game preservation situation doesn’t seem like one easily solved with petitions.