It's here! The Mining and Smithing rework has finally made it to the live game. After six years of talking and eighteen months of development, we can finally play the rework. There is so much to say about this update I hardly know where to begin. I am in awe of what Jagex has done with this update and it shows what they can achieve when they put their minds to it, take their time and get just enough feedback from players at just the right points in the process. The way this update came together and the mere scope of the project is really reassuring that Jagex can do big things. The fact that there was no game breaking bugs or rollback bugs in an update of this scale shows that we can have confidence in Jagex and their flagship game RuneScape 3. The Mining and Smithing rework is too big to just do a mechanical overview here, although we will be touching on the fundamental mechanics that changed. Instead, this month lets celebrate the success of the update while talking about how it has fundamentally changed the game for the better.
Mining and Smithing are some of the oldest skills in the game. To completely overhaul these skills took both imagination and guts. In fact, calling them reworks doesn't quite do it justice. Mining and Smithing are essentially new skills. They have also provided a road map for how to do this in the future. The Mining and Smithing rework is the gold standard going forward as Shane would say. The reasons for this are simple but it took a project of this size to really give the J-mods the space they needed to make significant changes. For example let's take a look at what I would call a governing principle going forward with other skill reworks, which is the active vs. passive gameplay balance. This is the first time skills have been developed with this in mind. We've seen some work in this regard around the edges last year with Deep Sea Fishing but nothing like this. Players finally have a meaningful choice between playing actively and playing a more laid back afk style. The xp rates are all relative to what kind of effort you put in. The stamina mechanic in Mining and the heat mechanic in Smithing are good examples of this principle. Another important principle is allowing skilling to become a truly viable way to make gp in the game now.
RuneScape has been oriented towards combat as the main way to make gp for a long time now. The Mining and Smithing rework has changed that in a few ways. First and foremost resources like ore and bars have been removed from the drop table. This is hugely important because without taking this step, skillers could never keep up with the number of resources coming into the game through combat. This step took courage from the devs and Jagex as a whole. The combat-oriented players were not going to want to take their medicine but Jagex actually stood their ground and made a very important adjustment to the game. This step even went as far as to rebalance bosses that were completely off by way of their resource output. Telos should never have produced 50 million gp an hour and that has been reduced with the removal of ores and bars from the drop table. Hopefully, this will be encouraged more in the future and more skilling resources will be removed from more drop tables. I would love to see herbs only coming in from Farming and logs coming in from Woodcutting, etc. This move also ensures that Mining and Smithing will be worth the effort in the future because the only way these items come in is if someone makes them. The market is in flux right now and there are massive amounts of resources sitting on the GE and in banks but in the future, those will be used up.
Smiths can now make Masterwork Armor. This armor takes a long time to smith and is quite an involved process. This is a really good thing though. It's top tier armor that actually comes from skilling, who would have thought? The masterwork armor should be viable long into the future ensuring smiths have a way to make decent money. On the other side, there are new high-level ores for miners. The top tier ores can bring a pretty penny too because they are used in the process of making masterwork armor. All the new high-level ore have new secondaries as well. Coal took a hit but it was a good trade off because each ore has a new and different secondary. These only come in through mining so it keeps the whole thing balanced nicely.
One of the defining aspects of the Mining and Smithing rework was how well Jagex used the player's feedback. This doesn't always happen at Jagex. It seems like in many cases the community doesn't even know what it wants or even worse its design by a committee by the community. That didn't happen this time. At first, players were given a choice between a high-level rework or a ground-up full rework. That was the right time to solicit that feedback. Of course, we choose the full rework. Then when Jagex had an idea of what to do they showed everyone the design docs and voted again. This time players were not impressed and didn't want the initial concept. Once again this was just the right moment for feedback. Nevermind the fact that most of that design doc is in the final version that we have now and love. Then Jagex did something they don't usually do and didn't say anything until it was time for the first beta. The first Mining and Smithing beta was the best beta I've ever seen Jagex do. It was limited in scope and size and really let players give real feedback without having too many idiots running around just goofing off. Once again we didn't get updates on the rework constantly and they weren't asking players to develop it or anything. It wasn't until the second beta when players again could participate in the beta and give feedback. This was the right time and just the right amount of cooperation between Jagex and the player base.
Finally, the Mining and Smithing rework was a success because Jagex took their time and did things right. They didn't rush and they methodically went through and dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't'. There were no game breaking bugs, nor were there any rollback bugs. The size and scope of this update is like nothing I've ever seen. From drop tables to new ore to new mechanics and even messing with the bank, they did it correctly. It's amazing to me they were able to do that and those guys seriously threw down the gauntlet to the other teams. This is what can be done when they want to. This is what we should demand and expect and we should always give them the room they need to work. Mod Jack is a proven badass and whatever Jagex has to do to keep him they better do.
To be honest I expected this update to be good but I had no idea it could ever be this good. I really hate to use this phrase but it's true they made skilling great again. This needs to be the blueprint going forward. Balanced input and feedback by the community along with thoughtful and well-done betas and the guts to think outside the box and not be cowed by groups of vocal players. Jagex you have done a great thing for us here and you've raised the bar. Now as players we need to recognize if this is the kind of update we want we have to be more patient. That's not the kind of thing that can come out weekly or even monthly for that matter. I for one am willing to ease up on my expectations and let Jagex work. Like it or not they have earned our praise and support. Until next time, Happy RuneScaping.
We’re back for 2019 and RuneScape is coming in hot with the Mining and Smithing rework. We run through ALL the mechanics, and then some. We cap it off with a discussion of how to learn from this update going forward applying it to the rest of 2019.
A special episode where we discuss our passion for science and technology. We start close to home and work our way through the cosmos. Then a discussion on some important computer science issues and the future of green energy and electric cars.
2019 is here!
2018 was certainly an adventure for all of those playing RuneScape. This month for in a bit of a treat we have a collection of articles from 2018 that highlight what we covered in 2018 and where RuneScape went. But first, let's have a look at December.
David got us going early on in the month with a quick chat about full manual and spell book swap. Full manual combat is something of a mystery at times but with spell book swap a player can take their combat to another level. December also saw the launch of the highly acclaimed expansion of Alchemical Onyx jewellery which Tanis covered. Grace of the Elves, Ingenuity of Humans, and Passage of the Abyss made for an Alchemical Christmas changing RuneScape yet again. David was also back for round 2 with a personal story of teaching someone the ropes of PvM. He taught RSBANDBUpdate! producer and guest host, Tyco Elf, how to kill Solak. Also included are some general tips for teaching friends to PvM. 2018 was showcased of course by RuneFest and at RuneFest we saw and heard a collection of RuneScape's newest music tracks. This and the general improvement of in-game music has caused Cireon to exclaim, 2018: the year to turn your game music on. Included are audio soundbites so turn your speakers on for this one! As with any December we have a RuneScape Christmas event or in the case of this year, a holiday quest. This year saw the release of Violet is Blue, a charming winter quest which Alex Analyzes in Alex's Analysis - Violet and Non-Violent. Continuing with the Christmas theme I wrote about how even in our own little community, Christmas traditions have formed. These traditions warm the hearts of all involved and are something we hope for every year when Christmas comes to RSBANDB. Finally in our final article for 2018, Cireon talks about designing a game for everyone and the challenges this provides to Jagex.
As I mentioned we also wanted to highlight some of our articles from 2018. Everyone was asked to chose their own favourite article and one favourite from another writer. Here we go:
It is impossible to make everyone happy. This is one of the core truths of designing a game. Unless you are designing the game for a single player, I suppose. I don't recommend it: it's not a good business model. Of course the larger your game's player base, the more different opinions you have to deal with. Luckily, for most games, the players can be roughly categorised. As is usually the case, categorisation is never perfect, but it is a helpful tool in discussing game mechanics.
RuneScape updates are divisive, almost as a rule. Today I want to talk about one category of divisive updates: skilling updates. Last December, we saw the introduction of the Grace of the Elves. This necklace is created using an Alchemical Onyx, and has several benefits if worn during skilling. Among these benefits is that Seren spirits can show up, in a similar way as fire spirits show up during Firemaking. They drop something from the rare drop table when interacted with.
For skillers, this is big. It means that items previously unattainable to them can now be obtained through skilling. No longer are skillers forced into a play style they don't enjoy to have a chance at receiving, say, the Hazelmere Signet Ring. It also makes a small improvement towards making skilling more financially viable, as it is common knowledge that if you want to get rich in RuneScape, you do PvM.
That is where the story shifts. PvMers swim in money because of those rare drop table drops. There was a massive outcry as PvMers saw their monopoly on rare drop table drops evaporate.
The Grace of the Elves is not the only source of controversy of this kind. The Mining & Smithing rework team had to fight hard to make high-level armour made through Smithing on par with high-level drops from bosses, for example. There is an eternal frustration among the skilling community that the PvM community keeps skilling from being truly profitable, from making skilling a play style that is just as viable as smacking bosses with sticks.
If this were happening just because the PvM community wants to stay ahead of skilling, that would be bad. It would be very easy to take this as an opportunity to tell them off, to fight for the skilling community. However, it is important to look at both sides of the argument, so let's think about what the skilling community is asking for: to make skilling as profitable as PvM. Would that be fair?
Combat involves a lot more than just clicking an anvil every minute or so. To effectively profit from bossing, you need to invest time to learn how to defeat a boss efficiently. You need to invest resources in the kills. Finally, you also need to consider one important factor: bossing can kill you. All in all, when you choose to make your money through killing a giant spider or an animated tree, you invest more time and resources and take more risks than what you would get of skilling. Sure, skilling requires you to level up your skills, but so does combat.
Now, if smithing and - say - killing Telos would yield you the exact same gp/h, why would you ever take the hard path from a mechanical standpoint? Bossing being more profitable has the exact same reason as why you can get more experience in the Wilderness: risk.
So... who is right? I think both sides of the arguments have a good case. PvM should be more profitable than skilling from a game design point of view, but that doesn't mean that skilling cannot compete. We have trade-offs when it comes to choosing a training method: do we want to sacrifice some xp/h but have a method that is AFK, or would we rather do something more click intensive to get that 99 in less time? Of course, if something is both afk and the best xp/h, we have a problem (*cough* Seren Stones I am looking at you): the method is overpowered. On the other side of the spectrum, we have underpowered methods. Creating signs with Divination can be a pretty AFK training method, but nobody will recommend you to train Divination that way. Same with using disassembly as a training method past some point: the gp cost is just too high.
Going back to the original discussion, skilling feels like it sits in that same spot: it is less risky and maybe a bit easier, but it is completely impossible to even got close to the gp income you would get from killing Telos back to back. Surely, a balance must be found here, and that can only be achieved if we all accept that there are different playing styles. Of course we all want our own play style to be a bit better than the others, but making everything equally good will at least not make a lot of people unhappy.
The come back to the Grace of the Elves: I believe it is also an update that works for everyone. Sure, maybe the Grace of the Elves could have dropped the price of rare drop table drops, but why would that be a big problem if it makes the game fairer for everyone? Let's not forget: in the end the skillers supply PvMers. If skilling became more profitable, maybe more players will start doing skilling. This will make combat supplies cheaper, and once more increase the profit margins of PvM. To summarise: economics are complicated. Thinking in terms of "more people are getting the drops I depend on, panic sell wands!" is not only short-sighted, but toxic to the wider community.
So, was the combat council right when it pushed back on the armour from the Mining & Smithing rework? Yes! Was the Mining & Smithing Rework team right to keep pushing to make Smithing more viable? Also yes! Because these two teams discussed, they came up with a solution that could work for everyone. All we need is a continued representation of all categories of players so we can have healthy discussions and rational trade-offs to make a good game for everybody who wants to immerse themselves into the world of Gielinor.