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A History of Korean Gaming

Table of Contents

Part 1

Part 2

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그라비티 Gravity

Founded:

1994 (Team Gravity)
1998 (Gravity Software)
April 20, 2000 (Gravity)

Status:

active (owned by GungHo)

Key People:

:
Founder, CEO (until April 2002), CTO (until September 2002)
:
Founder, Chairman (until Sep 2005)
정병곤 Jeong Byeonggon:
CEO (Apr 16 - Sep 2002)
:
CEO (Sep 16 - Nov 2002)
:
CEO (Nov 2002 - Sep 2004)
:
CEO (Sep 2004 - Mar 2005)
:
CEO (Mar 30, 2005 - Sep 21, 2005)
:
CEO, Chairman (Sep 12, 2005 - Jun 2008)
:
CEO (Jun 10, 2008 - Mar 2011)
Ohno Toshiro:
Co-CEO (Apr 2009 - Mar 2011)
박현철 Park Hyunchul:
CEO (Mar 2011 - present)

Website:

www.gravity.co.kr


Gravity's story begins with the indie Artcraft Team, which split into two groups after the creation of Lychnis. Part of the team stayed stayed Softmax' development team, while Kim Hakkyu and others went on to form Team Gravity1, first to team up with S&T Entertainment for Lars the Wanderer, before establishing Gravity Software as an independent company. The developer continued to team up with other companies frequently, be it Namil Soft, Orange Soft or Sonnori2.

In April 2000, the company was rebooted as Gravity (dropping "Software"), with Amuse World's Kim Jeongryul as investor and chairman on board3. In this configuration Gravity went on to create the worldwide hit MMORPG Ragnarok, but even during the initial promotion, the alliance started to crackle. On April 16th, 2002 Kim Hakkyu resigned as CEO to "concentrate on game development as game designer"4, but on September 10th the same year he left the company, stating general exhaustion with the job as his reason5.

In the wake of Kim Hakgyu's leave followed wild news and quotes about heavy differences between the former CEO and Kim Jeongryul. The chairman was quoted attacking Kim Hakkyu as unreliable and a traitor, while Kim Hakkyu reportedly claimed about much verbal abuse6. It is hard to decide how trustworthy all of these reports were, fact is that Gravity sued Kim Hakkyu for taking his own stock share of 14.35% with him, which he later sold legally through a 3rd party agent7.

From then on the company started to change CEOs like other people change their pants. Kim Jeongryul in the end came out as the winner in this whole dispute, as he continued being celebrated as the sole reason for the whole success of Ragnarok Online8.

In 2005 Gravity went on a shopping spree, acquiring both the former RTS specialist Trigger Soft (May 4th)9 and the mobile solutions and games developer Neo Cyon (November 16th)10.

But business remained tumultous. Late in August 2005, Kim Jeongryul sold his 52.4% percent of stocks to the Japanese company EZER, affiliated with the Soft Bank group11. (This was considered by some as an act of treason, as Ragnarok was often praised as the most popular product of Korean culture in Japan). He cut his ties to the company fast, too, as he skipped a public appearance at a company promotion event on September 8th on very short notice11. Minority shareholders protested against the deal and against Softbank, as the soon to be introduced new policies seemed to facilitate not the good of Gravity, but Soft Bank and another of its affiliates, GungHo (provider of Ragnarok Online in Japan)12.

Early in 2006 Gravity put up misappropriation charges over 9,000,000,000 won (ca. 8 million US dollar) against Kim Jeongryul14, who was soon to make his comeback with the new company Cykan Entertainment. He eventually paid back the company, but still claimed Soft Bank double crossed him15. The name of Yun Ungjin, who was Gravity's CEO at the time of transition, was also dragged into the affair, which lead him to sue the company for libel16. In 2008, majority ownership changed to GungHo, but otherwise much more quiet times began for Gravity.


Games

MoleMole Wars - IBM PC (1994)

MoleMole Wars was just a little demo team Artcraft put together while they were still developing Lychnis. In it, two players controlling weird animals (who return as enemies in Lychnis) have to fight each other in a small sideview arena. The game was freely distributed via newsgroups.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Artcraft

Genre:

Action




Lychnis - IBM PC (June 1994)

In cooperation with Softmax, Artcraft created Lychnis, which is introduced at the Softmax profile.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Softmax
Artcraft

Publisher:

Gametown

Genre:

Platforming




Lars the Wanderer (라스더원더러) / Lars the Wonderer - IBM PC (November 1995), Mobile (April 2002)

Not the greatest day in the world of Lars the Wanderer: His medieval homeland is invaded by tiny yellow smilies in futuristic machines. Fortunately, a more bening visitor from the future has appeared in the king's palace with Mimi, the daughter of the mad scientist who built all the machines. Together the two set out to eliminate the smiley threat, which leads them across the kingdom and even into the future, which looks like it's lifted straight from Mega Man X.

Although Lars the Wanderer is mostly a sidescrolling action platformer, there are a few RPG elements in the form of experience points (strategically banking on levelups is essential, as they completely heal Lars) and a variety of spells to learn. At the beginning of each section, Mimi asks if she should accompany Lars, whereupon she's controlled by a second player. She doesn't have any spells, but attacks enemies from afar with her mighty shotgun. The first half of the levels are strictly linear, only towards the end they become a little more labyrinthine. In between stages the wanderers visit towns where they can chat with villagers and buy supplies, similar to the Wonder Boy in Monster World games.

More than any later Softmax game, the graphics still betray the same sense of aesthetics as Lychnis, although the colors aren't as pastel dominated. Unfortunately, the difficulty curve can be very frustrating and enforces a lot of grinding.

In 2002 Lars became one of the first classic Korean DOS games to be ported to mobile phones, now officially misspelled as "Lars the Wonderer". Divided into three episodes, it introduced a much more elaborate inventory with a seperate screen and more different swords, armors and tools.

Lars the Wanderer (Mobile)

Quick Info:

Developer:

S&T Online (Gravity)

Publisher:

G&M
Samsung

Genre:

Action: Side-Scrolling

Theme:

Parallel Worlds


Lars the Wanderer (IBM PC)

Lars the Wanderer (IBM PC)

Lars the Wanderer (IBM PC)



개미맨 2 (Gaemi Man 2) / Antman 2 - Windows (1998)

Cover

Sometimes it's better to rip-off the best than trying to invent everything anew, and Antman 2 only stole from the very best. Its influences in Metal Slug and Gunstar Heroes are all too obvious. The weapons seem like lifted straight from Treasure's masterpiece (sans the combination mechanic), and the characters can grab enemies, slide around and execute a variety of special moves. The graphics, on the other hand, are more akin to Metal Slug, and just as in that series powerups are gained by saving hostages, although here they are all young women instead of the bearded, half-naked guys in Metal Slug.

While Antman 2 never reaches the genius of any of its role models, it's still an outstanding run 'n gun, and definitely the best of its kind from Korea. It's a bid sad that it drops the other two characters from the first game, instead they're replaced by an ordinary guy with no suit. As a true hommage to arcade run 'n guns, of course 2-player simultaneous gameplay is also featured.

Antman 2 was also published in German speaking countries, following the usual budget model with low print runs, and is thus fairly rare.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Gravity
Namil Soft

Publisher:

SKC

Genre:

Action: Side-Scrolling

Theme:

Cyberpunk
Licensed


Antman 2 (Windows)

Antman 2 (Windows)



Sting (스팅) Windows (December 23, 1998)

Produced by Orange Soft in cooperation with Gravity, this game will be introduced at the Orange Soft profile.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Orange Soft
Gravity

Publisher:

Orange Soft

Genre:

Platforming




Arcturus: The Curse and Loss of Divinity (악튜러스) - Windows (December 14, 2000)

Created in cooperation between Sonnori and Gravity, this game is introduced at the Sonnori profile.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Sonnori
Gravity

Publisher:

Wizard Soft

Genre:

RPG

Theme:

Fantasy




Ragnarok Online (라그나로크온라인) - Windows (November 1, 2001 [open beta]; August 3, 2002)

Ragnarok Online was the last Gravity game that was developed with participation of company founder Kim Hakgyu before he left the company to create Granado Espada with IMC games. Loosely based on a comic book series by Lee Myungjin (Eojjeonji...Jeonyeok), the game uses a 2.5D Engine similar to Arcturus, but this time for an MMORPG. Ragnarok is the original global mega hit among Korean MMORPGs. Available in 66 countries, Gravity claims the game is played by 40 million people world wide17. The game definitely is the main source for Gravity's success and chairman Kim Jeongryul's fame, not least thanks to extensive advertisement and merchandising. There is a Ragnarok Trading Card Game (which spawned an online version by Zeonix & Yahoo! Korea), dozens of mobile spin-offs (see below), countless Guidebooks, comics and Ragnarok-themed lifestyle books, and even an anime series made in Japan, where Ragnarok is ridiculously popular.

The constant popularity is even more astonishing considering the fact that since its original commercialization, the game remained on a monthly subscription basis until April 6th, 2011, when Gravity and Gung-Ho switched to a free-to-play model with optional VIP membership19.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Gravity

Publisher:

Gravity

Genre:

MMORPG

Theme:

Fantasy
Licensed


Ragnarok Online (Windows)

Ragnarok Online (Windows)



ROSE Online (로즈온라인) - Windows (September 15, 2004 [open beta]; January 20, 2005)

Originally under the working title Seven Hearts (세븐하츠)20. Trigger Soft was working on the cutesy, free-to-play MMORPG when the developer was bought by Gravity. ROSE Online (ROSE is short for "Rush On Seven Episodes," whatever that's supposed to mean) also became their last game before the team was disbanded. Servers were shut off April 25th, 2007.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Trigger Soft
Gravity

Publisher:

Gravity

Genre:

MMORPG

Theme:

Fantasy


ROSE Online (Windows)



Requiem Online (레퀴엠 온라인) - Windows (July 21, 2007 [open beta]; October 2007)

Poster

Advertised as an "Hardcore MMORPG", Requiem introduced a surprisingly dark tone from Gravity after the more casual and cartoony Ragnarok and ROSE Online, presenting an edgy Sword&Sorcery world with a strong horror vibe.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Gravity

Publisher:

NHN (Hangame)

Genre:

MMORPG

Theme:

Dark Fantasy


Requiem (Windows)

Requiem (Windows)



라그나로크 온라인 2: 세계의 문 (Ragnarok Online 2: Segye-ui Mun) / Ragnarok Online 2: The Gate of The World - Windows (May 28, 2007 [open beta])

라그나로크 온라인 2: 레전드 오브 세컨드 (Ragnarok Online 2: Legend of the Second) - Windows (February 22, 2012 [open beta])

Gravity didn't wait too long to start work on a followup to their cash cow franchise. Ragnarok Online 2 was first introduced to the public at Tokyo Game Show 200521, but it took two more years before the game was freely playable in an Open Beta22. This lasted until August 2nd, 2010, when Gravity decided they'd have to go back to the drawing board and closed the service for another period of active development23. The open beta phase of the new Ragnarok 2 starts February 22nd, 2012.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Gravity

Publisher:

Gravity

Genre:

MMORPG

Theme:

Fantasy
Licensed


Ragnarok Online 2 (Windows, 2012)

Ragnarok Online 2 (Windows, 2012)



Pucca Racing: World Bike Tour (뿌까레이싱) - Windows (August 2, 2007 [open beta]; September 20, 2007)

Artwork

Pucca is Korea's answer to Hello Kitty: A character designed for the sole purpose of maximum merchandising. Gravity's fun racer based on the franchise is the company's only non-RPG with a lifespan to speak of - it lasted until June 21, 2010.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Gravity

Publisher:

Gravity

Genre:

Racing

Theme:

Licensed


Pucca Racing (Windows)

Pucca Racing (Windows)



W Baseball (W 베이스볼) - Windows (August 23, 2007)

Artwork

Like most online sports games in Korea, W Baseball was extremely short-lived, despite featuring Korea's most popular discipline, Baseball. Service ended on June 25, 2008, less than a year after its inception.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Gravity

Publisher:

NHN (Hangame)

Genre:

Sports


W Baseball (Windows)

W Baseball (Windows)



Body Check Online (바디첵온라인) - Windows (August 29, 2007)

Poster

Released a week after W Baseball, the more serious yet arcade-styled ice hockey sim Body Check Online didn't last much longer. The end came on September 1, 2008.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Gravity

Publisher:

Gravity

Genre:

Sports


Body Check Online (Windows)

Body Check Online (Windows)



Ragnarok DS (라그나로크 DS) - NDS (June 25, 2009)

Cover

For anyone who loves the grindfest of an MMO but doesn't want to play with other people (although there is a special dungeon that can be tackled by up to three players teaming up through WiFi), Gravity brought Ragnarok to the DS as a predominantly single player experience. Or was it Gung-Ho? Western sources, first and foremost Wikipedia, are very keen on stressing the "fact" that Gung-Ho developed the game, while Gravity's homepage clearly lists the game as the Korean company's own creation. Either way the game, which was localized into English by Xseed, hasn't been received well.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Gravity?
GungHo?

Publisher:

Gravity

Genre:

Action-RPG

Theme:

Fantasy
Licensed


Ragnarok DS (NDS)


Dragon Saga (드래곤사가) - Windows (May 24, 2012 [open beta])

Dragon Saga was another "casual" Fantasy MMORPG by Gravity, although apparently it was not very successful. Even a crossover with Ragnarok Online that introduced several iconic creatures from Gravity's biggest hit24 couldn't save the game from being shut down on July 24, 2013, exactly 14 months after it entered open beta status. In November 2013, smartphone game developer Funnygloo announced that it would bring back the game on mobile devices, though25.

Poster

Quick Info:

Developer:

Gravity

Publisher:

Gravity

Genre:

MMORPG

Theme:

Fantasy


Dragon Saga (Windows)

Dragon Saga (Windows)



Mobile Games - (2002-present)

Ragnarok Scarlet Poster

Gravity started putting out mobile versions of classic Korean PC games like Lars the Wanderer, first Ragnarok spin-offs and several original titles by contracting the independent developer Mobile Nature in 2002. The exact circumstances are unknown, but eventually Mobile Nature became Gravity Mobile. When Gravity bought into Neo Cyon in 2005, however, all mobile developments were relocated there. Recently Neo Cyon also entered the smartphone app market with the Japanese iPhone version of the Action RPG Ragnarok Violet.

Ragnarok Violet (iOS)

Ragnarok Violet (iOS)

Ragnarok Violet (iOS)



References
1. Kyunghyang Games 12/01/2003
2. About Gravity (archived)
3. iNews 2/4/2005
4. Game Meca 4/17/2002
5. iNews 9/13/2002
6. http://micro21.new21.net/zbxe6/?mid=freeboard&listStyle=webzine&sort_index=readed_count&order_type=asc&page=7&document_srl=39092
7. Kyunghyang Games 12/01/2003
8. iNews 2/4/2005
9. Naver News 5/4/2005
10. eDaily News 11/16/2005
11. ETNews 9/1/2005
12. This Is Game 9/8/2005
13. Financial Times 11/17/2006
14. Hankyung 1/23/2006
15. Inven 8/29/2006
16. Nocut News 11/12/2005
17. Gravity Official Homepage
19. Gravity Official Homepage
20. Game Dong-A 7/14/2004
21. Oh My News 9/9/2005
22. MUD4U 5/28/2007
23. Gameshot 2/28/2012
24. Gameshot 7/19/2012
25. Game Today 11/13/2013


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