In January, Jagex asked the players which area they would like to see brought into the game next. The Eastern Lands won with a clear plurality. All (or most) of the Eastern Lands content will be created by the players using RuneLabs. The first new feature to come to the Eastern Lands will be... a new Slayer and Combat area. This was followed by a close second Skilling Boss, a boss that would need to be taken down with skills rather than combat.
Previously players would submit ideas to RuneLabs, they would then be upvoted, filtered by Jagex, and finally the top 5 or so ideas would be put to in-game poll. This time that process is entirely different. Jagex states, "Things are going to be a bit different this time around as there will not be a final poll. Whilst we still encourage you to support your favourite ideas to make them more visible, the team will only be picking ideas out that they feel will fit with what they are doing and what is doable in the time available." This is perhaps the best way that RuneLabs has been used thus far.
The RuneScape community is filled with excellent players, community contributors, and all around the majority of them are good people. This, however, does not mean that these people are game designers or should be expected to make decisions that affect wholesale change on the game. Only Jagex knows what the 2016 and beyond roadmap looks like, only Jagex truly know what causes players to spend more time in game, and only Jagex knows what areas of the game need some TLC (due to available metrics). It's for these reasons that allowing players to choose the fate of massive updates can be dangerous, or at the very least have unintended consequences (i.e. Prifddinas causing a vacuum in most of the members worlds).
I fully commend the RuneLabs system for allowing players a platform to have their ideas heard without worry of being shouted down by other players. The official forums can be very noisy and the replies in the suggestions forum are not always useful to the person making the suggestion and Jagex themselves. RuneLabs lets Jagex search for ideas based on type of content with the option of bringing player support totals (up votes) into the equation. This is how many open source projects (Firefox, Chromium, Ubuntu, etc.) guide development on their software.
In January prior to returning to the podcast for this year I conducted a survey of the wider RuneScape community. First, 70% of respondents identified Slayer as their primary way of earning GP and secondly 27% mentioned Slayer as their favourite skill. Extrapolating these results to the wider community tell us why the Slayer and Combat area won the first Eastern Lands poll. The third figure is that while a strong plurality of players agree with the direction Jagex is taking the game, only 19% of those surveyed disagree (strongly or otherwise) with the direction Jagex it taking RuneScape. Put another way, Jagex has a mandate to make wide sweeping decisions regarding RuneScape. Ultimately, putting large content decision making back in the hands of Jagex is an excellent move and still allows for a great deal of player contribution on the cultivating of ideas. It is with this that I say that I am tremendously happy to witness this criteria on RuneLabs.
RuneScape is a game of tremendous lore and tremendous diversity. It's my hope and desire in 2016 to enable our community members (you, the reader) to experience aspects of RuneScape you may not have experienced before. It's easy to understand when someone loves a skill on RuneScape. But, just because a large chunk of the player base loves one skill does not mean that skill should occupy more than 25% of the update time in a given year. There's nothing wrong with Slayer as a skill or using Slayer to make money. I want the Eastern Lands to be something fresh, something we haven't seen before. As a result I've curated three pieces of content I'd appreciate you looking at and ultimately supporting.
Eastern Lands - New Resources by An Edimmu
This idea focuses on adding new high level resources to our existing skills. Can also tie in with the Mining and Smithing Rework
Zen garden (Bonsai Tree) Eastern Lands by Drogon
This would provide an update for four skills: Farming, Construction, Agility, and Prayer. This idea already has a Jagex response.
Tide Pools by Catriona
Tide pools are rocky pools on the shore that fill with seawater and become accessible at low tide. Inside these tide pools would be living creatures and random objects, Fishing, Crafting, and Hunter experience will be gained.
With any luck this type of criteria and skipping the in-game poll will hopefully increase the usefulness of RuneLabs as a whole. Assuming this is successful RuneLabs can ultimately serve as a formal suggestion box for players' ideas. Jagex will then have the option of asking for certain types of suggestions and then the liberty to make their own final decision.