April SKOTM Signup

posted by Fred Bot on 25 March 2017 at 00:00

Signup for the new Skill of The Month has started! The skill this month is: Hunter. Please signup at http://www.rsbandb.com/skotm, you will need a valid forum account to signup. Signups close on the first day of the month. The competitions begin as soon as signups close.

The March competition continues until April 1st.

Earlier this month Nintendo launched its most ambitious gaming platform to date, Nintendo Switch. Switch has débuted to favorable reviews and sales have been nothing short of impressive. Does this mean Nintendo is back? Have they shaken off the disappointment of the Wii U or is this another Dreamcast where the initial results looked good only to be eclipsed shortly after by the PS2? Many questions remain about Switch and its future. That being said I felt I owed it to Nintendo for all the joy they've brought me in my life, and to take a look at Switch and share my feelings about it.

Let’s begin by talking about what the Nintendo Switch is. It’s a home console and a mobile gaming device. I have to admit I was skeptical that Nintendo could pull this off, but they have exceeded my expectations. That doesn't mean it doesn't have weaknesses, but more on those later. The fact that you can be playing a game at home on your TV and then just undock the Switch and continue playing where you left off while on the road is revolutionary. It’s one of those things where I'm not sure we knew we wanted it until someone invented it. It’s unique and definitely carves out a specific niche in the gaming market for itself. Now let’s take a look at the hardware in Switch.

To start with, Switch is powered by an Nvidia customized Tegra processor. It’s reported to be the same one that was in the Nvidia Shield. It contains 32 GB of internal memory (some will be taken up by the system), and can take up to a 2TB micro SD card. Its max resolution is 1920x1080 in TV mode while in mobile mode its 1280x720, and has a 6.2 inch multi touch screen. It also contains wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4.1 in TV mode and an additional adapter can be added for a wired LAN connection. The battery is listed to last up to six hours, however games like Zelda Breath of the Wild reduce that nearly in half to a mere three hours. Finally it has straight up USB terminals for charging and docking which is really nice. You can find all of this at http://www.ign.com/wikis/nintendo-Switch/Nintendo_Switch_Hardware_Specs.

The hardware shows the line that Nintendo tried to straddle. It’s not easy to develop a device that is both a home console and a mobile device. Obviously on the home console side its much less powerful than an Xbox One or a PS4, however you can't pick up those consoles and continue playing in a car, etc. Furthermore Nintendo has never been regarded as a powerhouse in the hardware department. For the most part Nintendo games aren't spectacles of their graphical prowess. Nintendo has always focused on its gameplay and art style to compensate for what it lacks in power and Switch is no different. With that being said Switch does hold its own. It does have the same chip as the NVidia Shield and the games that were able to be ported to that device are pretty impressive.

Not everyone has been impressed though and Switch has run into some criticism. One thing critics do point to is its resolution. With TVs moving more and more towards 4K having a new system come out with 720p is a little perplexing. To this I say yes but its 720p in mobile not in TV where its 1080p. I know 1080 isn't 4K but I think it’s acceptable. 720P does seem low for mobile when you consider many cell phones are 1080p today, however that new cell phone is twice the price of a Switch and its screen is a big reason. The truth is Nintendo made a calculated decision to go with 720p in order to keep price down and I believe it was the right call. Switch has also faced some criticism for its relatively small internal memory. This is a valid point. While you can use up to a 2TB micro SD card it is an additional expense. Of course some critics have called it under-powered but I don't agree for the reasons I listed above. Finally there is a valid criticism of the joy-cons. They seem to not be very ergonomic and flat out hard to use for some people. Most reviewers I've seen on YouTube like boogie 9288, angry joe, IGN, and Linus Tech Tips have all preferred the pro controller over the joy-cons. Of course, that adds an additional charge.

Does all this mean Switch is a mixed bag? No not really. I think people that are buying Switch know what to expect. The numbers don't lie, its being reported by IGN and The Know that Switch is the best-selling console in Nintendo’s history and could even match the original Wii which is the best-selling console ever with 101 million units sold. In fact demand is so high scalpers are getting twice the retail price and Nintendo has said they will be doubling production. What remains to be seen is if the sales will continue to be this strong in the future. One thing that can't be discounted is what I call the Zelda effect. The Switch launched with a pretty limited games library, however one game it did have was Zelda Breath of the Wild. It’s hard to overestimate the critical acclaim this game is getting. Right now well after the launch it still has a 97 rating on Meta Critic. Gamers may be reluctant to buy a particular console just for one game, but if they ever did it would be in this case. The success of the initial launch has encouraged other game developers to begin stating they would be developing games for the Switch, so that limited library will be getting a whole lot bigger in the coming months.

All and all Switch has breathed some much needed life into a beloved company. I grew up with Nintendo and I'm glad Switch is doing well for them. Yes, they have been eclipsed over the recent decade by their competitors but it’s hard not to root for the company that made Super Mario Bros and Zelda so near and dear to our hearts. Next month I'll be taking a look at whatever Jagex decides to surprise us with next. Until next time, Happy RuneScaping.

New RuneSpan rewards: Is unstable essence over-powered? A discussion on courage versus laziness when it comes to game design and balancing. And further discussion on the Master Quest Cape!

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The Future of My Favorite Cape

posted by Col ton on 23 March 2017 at 22:46 | Discuss on our Forums

From the very first days I spent in Gielinor, I knew that quests were something special to me. I started with Cook’s Assistant and Imp Catcher as so many before me had, but it took some time before I laid eyes on the cape of my desire. A beautiful blue compass symbol lay upon it starkly contrasted by a pure white background. The cape was marvelous and I had to have it. As the gears continued to churn deep inside my mind, the emote for the cape began. The player rising in the air majestically with the compass rotating above them in the sky. It seemed almost angelic the way I saw that tiny, pixelated character float. I can still see it now…

No, this article is not about this, the Quest Point Cape, although it was my first love. Nearly 10 years later, in July of 2015, rumours began to spread of a new iteration of this item. A harder to get, lore-based achievement worthy of the adventuring endgame, initially called the Quest Point Master Cape (and eventually renamed the Master Quest Cape, here referred to as MQC). The list of requirements was and still is immense. Hours of grinding, high level requirements, achievements that only the dedicated would achieve, this was the Holy Grail. I was in love all over again.

I began on the list of announced requirements almost immediately, and spent the next 7 months of free time away from college classes fulfilling every last line. Not long after the cape was actually released in early 2016, the cape was mine. And I was proud.

And yet today, although I’m maxed now, the MQC no longer graces my character’s back for one reason: I don’t have it anymore. The cape which I worked so hard for and wanted so badly is no longer in my possession and, although it frustrates me, the lack of it is not enough on its own to sway me from my current path. The requirement which took the cape from me ultimately was the most recent at the time of my writing this, the Nex Angel of Death lore requirements.

Yes, I had completed all previous lore requirements for the cape that involved PvM content. My reasoning for doing so was the fact that most of these requirements were easily done solo. The only challenging PvM lore to collect before Angel of Death was honestly the original Nex lore book, which required a player take part in a special item drop from the monster and I was lucky enough to have gotten the book during a mass a couple years before the MQC was even spoken of.

I have gone through my stages with PvM. Originally, I did no more than questing and my general adventuring goals necessitated. I fought lesser demons, green dragons, and the like, but that was about the extent. Once EOC released, however, I changed my tune. God Wars was now content I could do. I even took on the Kalphite King and, at my peak of interest in bossing, I killed Araxxor over 300 times in 2 weeks to assemble a weapon (after bad RNG) and sell it not long after release of the spider. This PvM overdose, however, led to me completely ditching the hobby. I flipped a switch from there and became a skiller who quested, did elite clues, and only killed monsters when required (as I had already achieved max combat and 99 Slayer).

As much as this may sound like it, I’m not trying to excuse my having not played Nex Angel of Death, I’m merely offering a background as to how much experience I have had with bossing in the past. This requirement is a sort of straw that broke the camel’s back for me. The MQC is not a PvM cape. It’s a lore cape. I can excuse solo bosses because they are easy to practice and repeat at one’s volition, very much in line with the play style of a quest-oriented player. Even some group bosses are ok as long as massing is a viable method of achieving the lore required. However, even in a mass the player seeking the lore drops needs to be in the top 8 damage-dealing survivors in order to obtain the loot. This means that, at least theoretically, even many kills at a 20-man mass could never actually yield the drops for a lore-focused player who may not be completely up to date on the try-hard strategies that suffuse the top-tier of elite PvM.

Fixing this one requirement is not going to solve the issue, though. The problem goes deeper, to the fact that lore being distributed as a monster drop is a long-accepted method of transfer and is just part of the game at this point. But why? As was pointed out on the most recent RSBANDBUpdate! it’s easy. It allows content developers to just toss the lore they wrote for a piece of content into a drop table and allow the player to seek it out. I don’t think things should or have to be this way, however. Lore deserves more than just to be relegated to a drop table, and although it may require a slight bit more development, I think there are better ways of going about distributing it.

One method common to many lore books is quite easy to guess; you find the book on a bookshelf or somewhere in the environment. Lore can also be obtained through talking with an NPC or getting a lore tome by doing the same. Might this be boring? Yes. Might it also be boring to kill 1000 ripper demons for 4 lore books that are seemingly inconsequential to the larger story narrative? Exceedingly so. What sense of achievement is these in simply adding something that takes a long time, even if it requires no actual skill? I would argue very little, and would argue further that a challenge that actually does require some skill in the completion of it to require lore is more fulfilling. Yes, I hear you yelling, “but Colton, high level PvM like Nex Angel of Death IS a task which requires skill!” To which I reply that this type of skill is one that is very different from that traditionally associated with the questing player archetype. In place of fast-paced tests of reflexes and combative skill, the quester is adept at puzzles, riddles, and logical deduction exercises. This is the kind of skill that should be tested when placing a requirement behind the obtaining of a piece of lore.

There are many types of puzzles and riddles already in the game, especially utilized in the clue scroll system. One of my first requests would be to send the player on a mini-clue scroll of sorts that would be unique to that content in order to obtain a scroll or book containing the desired information. If instead of killing the newest iteration of Nex, the player instead could encounter a scrap of paper around the bossing area that contained a clue about the history and background of this creature. Drawing on the player’s knowledge of Nex’s background, the player would be guided to search Freneskae for another memory crystal. After hunting down the crystal, it must be removed by putting together an item from the environment, or perhaps solving a complex sliding puzzle. Whatever the mechanism, the player should be tested at their ability to glean clues from their environment and from prior knowledge obtained during quests.

Placing these pieces of lore behind a different sort of wall creates a whole new perception that the player will take on lore in general. In this system, lore doesn’t play second-fiddle to high-value PvM drops. It is given a special, more hidden attention. Less people will have it outright because they were just killing a monster and got “some dumb book” and this perceived rarity will actually encourage adventurous types to seek out this content, not just grind a mob so they can file the tome onto a bookshelf in their POH, never even opening it to learn the tales that may lie within.

Will any of this actually happen? I highly doubt it. But I do hope that Jagex will realize before it’s too late that PvM as a mechanism of locking away lore is not going to encourage questers to become bossers or bossers to become interested in lore. All it does is discourage questers and continue to engender a feeling of apathy by the bossing community at what the lore of the game actually means. Save the lore.

RuneScape's Next Golden Age

posted by Mr Bistro on 20 March 2017 at 14:33 | Discuss on our Forums

Is RuneScape about to enter another golden era in it’s lifespan? The question seems ridiculous when considering what the game once was back in 2007. That version was so popular it became the base for a whole new equally or more so successful game that Jagex has made that is not their own core platform. I am not an old school RS player and I have been beginning to ask myself why I didn’t give that version of RS a longer try. Here is the method to my madness by making such an outrageous statement.

Currently at low traffic time periods there are still 70 thousand accounts online on RS3 alone, with old school boasting 45 thousand online. There is a sight that has been holding onto numbers like this here. It’s really a fantastic tool that shows that the game has been on a relative uptrend for the last three years with this quarter being it’s highest for online user average since January 2013. That is reassuring to hear as an MMO is only as strong as it’s player base. Recently I have noticed that the two versions of the game have created a sort of divide between players and I am beginning to think there is no harm in that. Each community is very strong and passionate about the version they play. I notice this a lot with my friends playing old school RuneScape and it reminds me of times when all I wanted to do was talk about the game and felt accomplished at every 99 I received.

RuneScape 3 has this as well, however it seems that the game is in a transition to 120 that will be long and pretty controversial for players but genuinely well received. RS3 now seems more of a get loner thing to do on the side that is enjoyable. A game where getting together with friends is not as important. It’s a game where the story has become a big deal and that is what old school lacks.

Outside of RuneScape and it’s forums, the community seems to be thriving. I speak mostly for Old School RuneScape for this as Twitch has been an integral part of it’s success. There are so many people live streaming this game and it’s rather high on the list for streamed games on Twitch. I don’t have much more to say on this one as streaming is not really my thing, but it still points towards another gold rush for Jagex.

Jagex is starting to correct and remove mistakes and dead content. Even going as far as to remove the Java client entirely. Either updating quests or being willing to remove a whole portion of the map i.e. “Camelot”. Jagex has shown that they are tweaking their game and removing what is not cared about, updating what is broken, and starting to make reasons to return to areas of the game that had long since been forgotten. This is a healthy move and trimming some excess fat from the game can only mean better quality releases down the road.

The update style has returned! Each month I have been growing more and more worried that Jagex will say to much about what they plan to do. I have yet to be disappointed. The update style harks back to days of old where we got surprise updates for some really cool things that were not massive in scope but really played a role in the game. The most famous update like this in the past I remember were the extreme potions and the surge spells for magic. But now we are getting these again. The most recent one that I have been really happy with was the Lumbridge crater reskin. There was not really much point to this but it makes a world of a difference. It shows that players like these kind of updates when it ranked so high in anticipated releases.

So when it comes down to it, this is what Jagex has started doing since the end of 2016, and it has proven to be working really well. Old School RS is holding a steady pace and RS 3 is finally getting some color in it’s face again. The updates are being done right. Every year should be a year of surprises. The massive updates that loom should be advertised as expansions to the game. And Jagex should stake the reigns from the players a little more like they have and do what they do best. RuneScape as a whole is a quirky game and the more that Jagex embraces this fact and helps it by giving the game it’s good old updates that it used to have the better. Thanks everyone and happy gaming.