blancrarok online

OK. What I will now go on to describe is a very early morning, (or late night, depending on how you look at it,) playing an MMORPG with one of my idols. So it goes without saying that this tale will be painted with more than just a little bias.

That aside, I promise to be as candid and as accurate with all information as possible. I gave it a day or two for the memories to sink in, so the more important facts should have floated to the surface, like the fat in refrigerated soup. Furthermore, there shall be no more mention of soup. Starting now. No soup.


About a year and a half ago, as good as I can remember, I began to play a free online MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game). Of course this was also the time that I had more than just a passing interest in anime, and the sprites were oh so enchanting. Unless you're just reading through this like most students skim through a Classic assigned in English, you would have already guessed I refer to Ragnarok Online. I think it was Riann that put me onto it in the beginning, and my ADSL was quickly running out of uses. So I joined. Having played UO, and seen several other MMORPGs, I was quite impressed, especially considering it was in it's early Beta stages. Of course mostly nothing worked, and the community was more than just a little rustic, but it was a good game to waste time on.


Eventually my ADSL ran out, and a few other things happened, so my tawdry love affair with the game ended. What can I say, it was fun.

Let's skip to about three weeks ago. I was meandering around the tiny scape of the Internet I allow myself to whet my appetite with, and happened upon seeing that Ian had started playing Ragnarok Online, and that it had become free to play again. Of course I hadn't realised it had ever cost anything, and was now stuck on a 56k, but that didn't daunt me. After one day off leeching, and hundreds of megs to go, Trav ended up leeching and burning it for me the next day.


Let's just skip ahead to the inevitable. As well as Ian, Fred from MT also mentioned that he was playing RO. The combined weight of both groups of fans (ignoring the overlap) wreaked havoc on the little server. From a top of 6000 people on at a time, in the end the numbers totaled in the 12000's. The new server-load was just too much. So the inevitable happened. A return to Pay-to-Play.

Of course when I found this out, I sprung to my usual unemployed action, and got Dad to pay for it. Normally this wouldn't work, but he and I had been playing it religiously, so it wasn't much of a shove.

This is going somewhere. Promise.


Because the end is nigh, Ian decides that it's best to go out with one last big bang, and announces to his readers that he will be on for one Last Call. With a few days warning, he announced that he would be on at 2pm on Saturday, the day before the free server goes down, for some fun with the readers.

Of course this translates to 3:30am Sunday morning for me. *Raises arms weakly* Yaay? Of course it was worth the sacrifice. I just planned to get home, and wake up at 2:30. It would have been so easy, had I gotten home before 3. Let's just say a Curry Night and Red Dwarf marathon stood in the way of a perfect plan.

Swilling some awful coffee, (I'm sure the coffee is quite nice, but I hate the stuff,) I booted up and readied myself for a brush with iconoclastic greatness.

OK folks, this is where it gets a little harder to understand, as I'm going to assume you have a wealth of knowledge you more than likely don't. Go here if you want to at least have a slight idea about what I'm going to talk about.

Getting wired, I went straight to to see what Ian's character's name was, as he promised he would. I was not all surprised when it turned out to be a female Magician called Yoichi. I mean who would be?... OK, it was a little suss, but I just figured he could probably avoid too many rampant, foaming fans if he didn't just use a red-haired, male avatar. It also turned out he had set up a webcam, to make it easier at a glance to see where he was, (assuming you had an intimate knowledge of the architecture and scenery, and squinted a little).


Loading up the client, choosing the Chaos server, and activating my own Magician - Kranyx, (the name of my first Wizard from D&D,) I walked a few steps and sat with the only other person at that time waiting for Ian. The day prior, I had set up my save point in Alberta, so I wouldn't have to dick around on the night. A very sensible thing to do.

While the 45 minutes ticked away, more and more fans from different parts of the world filtered in. Of course when I say different parts, the crowd seemed comprised of mostly Americans, Canadians and the British, the bulk fanbase of webcomics. I was a little surprised to find in the end that a few fellow Aussies braved the night and congregated there. Blabbing, and constantly updating the webcam, we waited, baited breath.


2pm came and past. By this time the little group at the fountain joined more fans at the gates of Alberta. Suddenly the webcam sprang to life with images of activity at the console. The soft din of words turned into a torrent of letters, painting the screen with monikers, and delight. Of course this soured a little when everyone realised Ian was above Prontera, a good 3/4ths of the whole map away. Patiently we waited.

At first, the crowd swarmed over the the Docks, assuming Ian would take the ferry from Izlude to Alberta. Of course when he passed into the fringes of the Morroc desert, we knew we were dead wrong, and swarmed back to the gate. Of course by now, non-Ian related PCs were starting to ask annoying and repeated questions.


As Ian grew closer, someone claiming to have had correspondence with him said that they decided we all convene in the Inn. I did notice he was in the "Official" Mac Hall guild, so I tarried over to have a look. Once inside, I decided it would be an awful place to hold the panel, and promptly left. The camera only swings 10 degrees indoors, so everyone would have to crush into the corner to see all of the dialogue.

Once again outside, I grew tired of all of the blather from fans and the general public, and left the front gate to await Ian outside. Of course, in a trademark lack of luck and timing, Ian had entered Alberta during the time it took for me to load outside. After glancing at the webcam to realise this, I hurried back in, and joined the train that pushed straight into, you guessed it, the Inn.

As Ian fled into the corner, and the crowd crushed around him, an assemblance of order was created by several key people, and the forum went underway. Despite the crush of questions right from the get-go, Ian kept a cool head, and slowly but surely got around to answering questions. As people realised this, the room quieted down, albeit buttsex was shouted more than a few times, and it came to a steady kind of order.

Eventually, the more serious members of the public, (myself included,) asked some rather pertinent and inspired questions, and after those people ran dry, as well as one or two nonsense queries, the time came to decide where to go from here.


This is where a few of the fans may have been a little surprised, as Ian more or less relinquished control of this to the more seasoned players. He made no false pretense of knowing where a group of such a diverse build should go, and just let everyone else come to some sort of decision. Not that a very good one was come to to begin with.

This is where the number of fans started to thin out. It was decided that we all go to the Sunken Ship to begin with. Personally I knew, due to reading a lot of supplemental material, that it cost a fare to actually get there, and that the spawn rate was small, and the creatures weren't too strong. For all the fans that had made Novices to be able to be present today, as they either didn't play before now or played on the Loki server instead, the 150Z fare was too high.


Once saved and inside, the mob swarmed through, picking off the Ghosts and Hydras encountered. When we reached the main antechamber, very few people had died, and there was next to no resistance. Very quickly, it was decided that we should go elsewhere. After a short discussion, and me manning my Soul Strike to pick off any Ghosts that had ill-desires towards our group, it was agreed upon that we go to Payon and kill in the Caves.

I fell behind the mob in this instance, and took a wrong turn, barely surviving a few Poison Spores and a lag pocket. So I came to my senses, and went and paid for a Teleport directly there from Alberta. After reestablishing my save, and working my way down to the second level, a few of the faster members patiently waited for Ian, who announced his arrival with a single exclamation in the chat room we had set up.


As the Payon Caves were a good deal more dangerous and high-spawning than the ship was, we decided to form up into a party. The same charge in and kill everything wouldn't work well enough here. That, and the recommended level for the lower levels was well over Ian's Yoichi. Thus a party was formed. It filled almost instantly. So I took it upon myself to form and head the second party. Of course, all this meant was I was pretty much equal to anyone in the party, but I got nagged to add people all the time. Go figure.

The first Cave run was... unsuccessful. The Knights that were used as blockade runners left the slower characters behind, and most of the Mages needed to stop and recover their Skill Points. This included myself and Ian. Of course this happened in the middle of Level 3, so after a few Munaks, the numbers thinned substantially. I managed to Soul Strike and draw a Munak that was gunning for Ian, killing it as it dealt my dying blow. Of course this was like taking one knife for Caesar, because he also died mere seconds later.

Some blathering and regeneration a little ways down from the throng of normal players waiting to go back into the Caves followed. A few extra questions, a few tall tales, but mostly blather. Of course Ian seemed to be off doing something else (I think there was mention of a phone call). Eventually it was decided that once more we delve into the depths of the Caves.


This time we did a lot better. The Knights were more organised, and with a few helpful utterances of "move, move, move" we mostly made it down to Level 4. Once more, the Knights were instrumental: using Provoke, and then the Mages delivered some killing blows. Me and my stupid being helpful saved an Acolyte from a Skeleton and got myself killed. After a few minutes, Ian joined the growing group of die-ees. This may've been the third run down, I'm not sure. I was getting pretty tired by now, and suffered my second caffeine hit.


Anyways, tiring slightly of the Caves, we decided to go hunt the Wandering Wolf, a mini-boss of an area two down from Payon. Of course here we stayed for a good while as minutes into arrival, Ian went away to, what I assume was eat and do all of those icky human things. This gave a lot of the other gamers an opportunity to do things like eat, (it was breakfast time here,) and other various things. Of course, this was only for so long.

During and after the time Ian said he would return, we mostly milled around and blathered again. There were far too many cracks about the Great Ian being displeased with us, and there was many an animal sacrifice made in his name. Mostly by me and my trusty Soul Strike. I was tired, and the annoying yapping those idiots made got to me as the time here approached lunch time. Of course, I also used Fireball to kill the mobs the Knights accumulated, for what I can guess, the weaker characters to kill. But they were so damn annoying I just had to FB them to death.

After sleep-deprived insanity set in, I declared myself the substitute Ian, and just kept saying "noted" every now and then. This of course, gleaned from the panel, was his most oft uttered phrase. A little while after Wolf-flesh scented the air, Ian decided to return, explaining that his absence was because his brother just happened to have his birthday today. Which may have explained why when he returned to his terminal, there was a good few minutes spent on AIM.

Anyway, I ran off with a Knight to hunt for the Wandering Wolf, but plans change quickly, being dragged back to the group by Riann, (who played a little during this whole ordeal as a female Acolyte named Nulani,) to invite someone else to the party. I was starting to think this was pointless, because I was yet to coordinate with the primary group once. Once there, the primary group was reformed, as the member that had created it had long left, as well as others where the time was too late. This is where some more fun began.


We hiked into the desert from Payon, and descended into the dungeon affectionately named Ant Hell. It makes me wonder if the Koreans were actually being funny, or if it was a misspell: another victim of the terrible Engrish. Some of us dived straight in, while I believe others (including Ian) dashed off to Izlude or Prontera to set their save, but as you will note later, this became pointless.

Our numbers were even more sparse by now, and my fellow Aussies had all but left me alone. Luckily Ant Hell isn't exactly hard. The only issue is the Farmiliars, which are quick and aggressive and hamper spellcasters. But I ended up finding that the Mages commonly covered each other when it came time for one to spawn. The camaraderie was building rather strong by now.


So down in the second level, in a cosy little circle, we set about making extinct as many Ants and Vitatas and Farmiliars as humanly possible. With both hands blazing, Ian and I smote a good deal of the enemies, the speed of my casting outpacing most of the Thieves and Swordman that had come along for the jaunt, and Ian's distinctive Frost Diver and Fire Bolt warding off most takers.


This ensued for a good while, painted with the continual death of an Archer, which went on to cement that we had been joined by a Priest who was happily resurrecting anyone that just happened to die. This of course, happened to me twice and Ian once. We both had the folly of attacking Gierths, and those bloody little Dwarves used their since bloody little shovels to pummel to the Pearly Gates. Of course the little justice is that they died as we died. Mr. Priest brought us back of course.

So gradually, people were going to bed, or leaving for some other important tasks. This unfortunately included myself, being ushered off to bed by my brother, and what turns out to be a viral infection in my throat. Luckily it seems I didn't miss much. From what I read, they left from Ant Hell, and went hunting the Angelring near Izlude. From there it was a final gathering in town, and the inevitable departure of Ian.


So that's it. From the experience one main fact shone above all others. That Ian is a perfectly well-adjusted man that has remained humble after his rise to Internet fame. He's amiable, patient and easygoing. Without having to pay thousands of dollars to travel to a Con, I was glad I had the opportunity to find this out. The loss of sleep was well worth it. I feel as if I have more to strive for just from meeting him. I swear this isn't just some doe-eyed, pink shaded interpretation for a slavering fanboy.


Also it seems that Ian wants to now continue afresh and join the Pay-for-Play community. From the little shindig, he remembered why he enjoyed the experience so much. Who knows? It may end up as a permanent event.

My only regret is that I didn't document more of it. The four screenshots and my memories are the only keepsakes I bring back from it, but that might just be enough.

*tips my hat* Here's to you Ian. It was a pleasure.



blancmange Copyright 2002 Chris Schlatter and Mark Stoffels. All Rights Reserved.