(From Maurice's Point of View)
Beginnings of DarkRO
The adventure started when a friend of mine (called Sophie) begged me to make a Ragnarok Online private server. I never played it at the time but was intrigued by the fact that we could have our very own private server at home and for free! So why not? I made a quick one on my machine. Very very basic. Just the basic NPCs, no customization whatsoever. I opened my server to the net and Sophie was able to connect and started messing around with her newly gained GM powers. :P
Needless to say I was a total newbie at the time in RO server making. But with time and under Sophie's influence, I started improving it by adding new NPCs and a few custom items.
Then, in July 2005, I decided to take the challenge one step further and opened the server to the public via ranking sites such as Gamesites200.com and XtremeTop100.com. I used my very old server machine for the job (a AMD 633Mhz Celeron, 256Mb Ram and 20Gb Hard drive). Upon startups, the server would take some time to be up and ready but it was doing a fine job with the current population (very rarely going over 10 players).
While talking with Sophie about a server name, we finally came up with DarkRO, because we wanted something simple and yet that stood out and we loved our slogan: "DarkRO, The Darkside of RO". DarkRO then started as a low rates server with the rates 6/6/6 (which never changed). Some honorary players at the time who greatly contributed to DarkRO's development should be mentioned: Edgardo, Mayela, Deswhitat, Alexander and a few more.
In August, Sophie was so happy to be a GM on a server that she wanted this time to administrate her very own server. Therefore, I decided to open our very first high rate server "DarkRO PK" on her machine with the rates 10k/10k/10k. It didn't have much custom-wise but was satisfying enough to her. Unfortunately, she could only run the server at certain times of the day (due to school, computer being offline/turned off, etc..). It was more a server to mess around with than anything else. Since she was young (around 11 years old) and didn't have that much experience, I was also remotely controlling the server via the net to maintain it. It was really hard at times. After 2 weeks, we decided to close it because the server's availability was just not acceptable.
DarkRO in fun and hard times
Then in September, I ordered a new much more powerful machine (P4 3.6GHz HT at around $2000CAD) and moved the server over. Now, that was a huge change. It would only take one second just to start the server.
This really added more spice to the experience. And then, one day in September, I made a little surprise to Sophie (who was craving for a good high rate server at the time) and reopened DarkRO PK on the same machine than the Low rates this time. It was heavily improved on the custom side: I added tons of very cool NPCs (Wings quests, Naruto Quests and more - some of which were already on the Low Rates), items (more wings and headgears) and palettes. The success was almost immediate. Within one week of existence we would get around 30 players at a time (which was an all-time record for DarkRO).
It stayed this way for a while until more players started to join and with around 50 players, it would start crashing restlessly. What was the problem there? Every server owners should know it by now: Never host a RO server on a Windows machine! XP was just not good at all for the task. Even MySQL would crash at times! That was scary!
So, that's when I finally decided to switch to Linux SuSE 10.0. The difference was unbelievable! NO LAG, NO CRASH and that with 100 players online! :O
Ultimately, that contributed to DarkRO's success by attracting more and more people. Then, with around 150 players online, it would really start lagging badly. The reason was not the machine itself (which was really powerful at the time) but my crappy internet connection. :/
I have a DSL connection with 800Kb/s Upload rate x__x
DarkRO goes dedicated!
Fortunately, around October 2005, I was already working on another extremely challenging project: Custom Star Wars classes. That's when in January 23rd of 2006, DarkRO PK finally moved to a new dedicated host and became DarkRO Force (after a wipe). The rates also changed to 3k/3k/10k instead.
The first few months were pretty hard for me. I had to pay the hosting fees all by myself (we had no donations at the time - actually someone donated $10 and that was it xD). Although the host was pretty cheap at first, I quickly had to upgrade the bandwidth rate (not consumption) to accommodate the increasing population, and upping it to 3Mb/s for example would cost like $200 more per month. That was just scary x.x
However, DarkRO Force became very quickly popular, most of the old PK players moved over to Force. The Custom classes were a huge success. Everyone who were skeptical at first quickly changed their minds: they were not cheesy classes! =P
And within just one or two weeks of existence, we were already reaching 800 players during WoE and 1000 players the week after!
After about 4 months with this host (which easily ate about $5000 of my money), I decided to move Force to a new host. The main differences were that it was a Dual Opteron (way better than the Pentium 4 we had with the previous host) and we could use the full 100Mb/s without paying any extras. And the bill was less than $1000 for a change which was much more interesting all-in-all (about $600USD at first and today it's about $1200USD considering the bandwidth upgrades - consumption this time not rate). One good thing was that donations really started to help out around April. At least I didn't have to pay the full amount all by myself anymore.
When looking back to the old days, it's somewhat incredible to see how far DarkRO went throughout this whole adventure. Today, Force averages 1500 players and goes all the way up to 3000 and sometimes 4000 players during WoE. That... is something I would never have imagined would happen when it all started back in 2005...