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Ragnarok Online Developer Journal #2
Head of Development Team One Minsoo Lee Discusses Localization
Minsoo Lee is head of development team 1 where all future Ragnarok game plans and management decisions are made. He has been working in the department since 2002 and his goal in 2005 is expanding the world of Ragnarok Online starting with the Schwaltzwald Republic update.
Ragnarok Online is an MMORPG which became instantly popular with cute, anime-like characters and a unique community system. Since its original creation in South Korea three years ago, Ragnarok has been introduced to a total of 39 countries. Currently the development team is focusing on the world expansion, which is based on the original story of Ragnarok Online, and also reflects the main trend of user community, which should keep users interested in the game.
Ragnarok Online has been translated into many different languages for users throughout the world. Not only that, the development team has updated many globally themed maps, based on the culture and folklore of countries where the game has been published. Today, we are going to reveal some anecdotes related to the localization project.
Many updates, including major ones, are regularly being made each week in Korean Ragnarok Online. The development team is collecting various materials, which cover animation, movies, newspapers, cultural reference of different countries, and historical research that is necessary to introduce diverse elements to the game. The ultimate goal of being a developer is to satisfy users needs, and this kind of research is important. At the same time, by doing research, developers can easily catch up with cultural trends at the time of the updates.
In Juno, the capital city of Schwaltzwald Republic, there is an NPC named “Le Morpheus”. The name was made after Morpheus, a character from the movie “The Matrix” which became a hot trend in 2002. In the movie, ‘Morpheus’ tells ‘Neo’, who is another hero of the movie, that he can move to a different world if he takes either a red or blue pill. Interestingly, this has a thread of connection with a Korean folklore about an evil ghost staying in the bathroom and offering red or blue toilet paper. Also, for Ragnarok Online, the red and blue pill can also be translated as Red and Blue Herb, the basic restoration items. So the story from the movie was parodied in-game as users can move to a different world by taking either a Red or Blue Herb. This is an ideal example as the combined reflection of cultural trends and a national folklore that can be found in game.
The development team made every object on the Ayothaya maps very accessible for users so they can take screenshots, as though they are traveling Thailand in the real world. Making objects closely accessible like that is twice as hard, when compared to normal updates, especially considering that Ragarok Online is based on 3D backgrounds and 2D graphics. However, the development team expected users would love taking screenshots in front of the lying Buddha and while sitting on the King’s throne. Thus, the project was carried out.
However, they did not expect the raging objections from Thailand users. Since Thailand is a Buddhist country and ruled by a king and everyone is quite religious, they could not accept the fact that anybody could just go up on a statue of Buddha or on the King’s throne. Of course it was fun for Korean users but it was totally absurd for Thai users. So the development team had to take the update back and make the backgrounds just like the other normal maps which users are not allowed to access closely.
Through Amatsu, the Japanese localization update, Ragnarok Online recaptured an ancient Japanese village surrounded with snowy cherry blossom trees. The update also includes the ‘Legendary Tree’, based on a Japanese folklore. The four popular NPCs were modeled after Japanese animation and game characters, and their interesting dialogues were derived from folklores, animations and games.
For Indian maps, the development team excluded bull-like monster designs since India worships cattle. Also, for Chinese maps they made their best effort to create beautiful, red backgrounds and objects since Chinese people believe the color red brings good luck. After all, localization projects that require great understanding of other countries’ culture and emotions are definitely not easy to do.
As a developer, I always think of the game day and night. When I had to serve in the army for a month in the past, I wrote game idea proposals to the company instead of writing letters to my parents. Another developer under me also proudly submitted his game proposals while in the army. His wallet got fatter not long after coming back.
Being a developer is great in the sense that you can make your dream come true, but conversely there is no personal life. However, seeing users in the real world being happy and excited while playing Ragnarok Online compensates the downside.
I thank users for supporting Ragnarok Online, and I feel honored to have done a developer journal with the mmorpg.com, since its forums are my favorite source of research. Your users’ ideas, especially ‘Suggestions’ and ‘Prontera Town Square’ opinions, serve as a good reference for further updates.
I hope your users will continue to support Ragnarok Online and other Gravity games to come.
- Minsoo Lee, the head of the development team one