So, it begun like any other day. I was down in the Warforge, doing my usual grinding and shamefully slow attempts at raising my archaeology skill.
Sorry to say, but after solving all the mysteries and discovering all the lore, there wasn't much left to the skill. Now, it was a slow and steady grind to get to level 120, which would accomplish very little in the ways of questing. It was a shame.
Then, suddenly my screen went dark. An update. I shrugged; probably another ninja update. What sorts of fixes will they do today?
A... a new digsite? With more lore? And stuff! And artifacts?! And quests?!?! And DRAGONKIN?!?!?!
WOOHOO! New digsite! I dropped my super expensive Mattock of Time and Space onto a noob archaeologist who's now too dead to sue, and I gunned it out of the Warforge!
I sprinted all across the entire Runescape land because teleportation TAKES TOO LONG!
And then I got to the coastline and I SWAM for Anachronia because the boat TAKES TOO DARN LONG!
And then I got there and I got to Mr. Mordaut and he said "Welcome" and I said "SHADDUP AND LET ME HAVE ALL THE LORE!" and he was all "DAT WAE, BOY!", and I was THERE!
At long last! Something new and exciting! Something different to do with the skill! What immense wonder and discovery awaited?! I started work right away!
Anyways, enough about me, let's talk about my analysis!
Orthen is not a skill-saving site that supplements the usual grind that is the Archaeology skill. All it does is add content and beautiful visualizations to the already existing skill. Basically a campaign DLC add-on to a game, except in Runescape's case, it's free. It is a level 90+ digsite, meaning it's much more advanced than the Warforge, and to even dream of completing everything it has to offer, you gotta be wearing that 120-master skill-cape.
That is, unless you wanna just potion yourself up 3 levels and do everything from level 117 like a psycho. Yes, there are Archaeology potions now, and the embargo for bonus EXP has lifted, meaning you could theoretically get level 120 now without ever doing any excavating (but why oh why would you do that?). Awesome stuff, and about time too! Once you get to level 110, you need that boost to help see your way through the final stretch. You have to practically get 2x your current amount of exp on top of what you already have, and with so little extra content in between, it becomes a real chore.
That's what Orthen's for. It's high-level content and extra, very hard to get extras like potion tablets and journal entries help to provide the extra incentive to aid more casual players into trying their hardest to achieve that milestone. Archaeology is an important skill for that sort of thing purely because of both how easy it is and how rewarding it is from a gameplay perspective.
Yeah. I said archaeology is one of the more rewarding skills out there, and I stand by it, and here's why:
The Runescape Economy is immense. If you have a billion coins, you are "quite well off" at this point. Nowadays a billion coins can't even net you Runescape's most top-tier weapon. As a consequence, only the select few crazy-devoted players who are willing to work the system, learn the bosses, and get extraordinarily lucky will ever achieve that. It's not something a simple, casual player can really hope to achieve unless they step up and devote their very lives to the craft.
And devoting one's life to playing video games? Not as appealing as it once was now that I'm a proper adult. Mostly.
That's where quests come into play. Runescape's formula for quests differs because rarely do quests offer monetary gain for completion. You do it for two things; gains and lore. You can do each quest only once per character, with the exception of a few repeatable quests for some very good reasons, and doing them usually nets you a bumper boost in experience over cash flow. You don't quest to get rich unless it's to unlock something that will make you rich on its own, like the God Wars dungeons. And quests are great because you don't really need any real skill to complete them; you just need good stats and some persistence. Perfect for a casual gamer.
Archaeology is, by my point of view, the "lore skill". A skill that is entirely about unlocking lore and learning and discovering things. This is also the same thing that quests do; it provides lore in the way that it tells a story to the player. It entertains, flushing out the world around them and turning Runescape into more than just a bare-bones RPG. You get to know characters and personalities, learn incentives, and maybe even start rooting for something (go, Ilujanka!). It is a page in the book, and at the end of each sentence, the player wants to know what comes next. What happens next in the series, and if they can go back in time and learn the incentives, perhaps even predict it themselves for a super-satisfying payoff when they, as they say, "called it". If you've ever read a book in your life, you know what I'm talking about. If not, then I strongly recommend you remedy this atrocious flaw about yourself, you crazy, psychotic noobcake.
Getting cash is hard and tedious, and not super rewarding when you know that some players have just an obscene amount of it. Lore, though, is something everybody can obtain on equal ground, and thus, it serves as a perfectly satisfying reward for training such an easy and straightforward AFKable skill like Archaeology. Here's hoping that the good folks at Jagex don't just stop at Orthen; I'd love to see a few more digsites in the upcoming future.
... after the construction rework, mind. That one's been a long time coming.
Until next time,
We discuss the new Orthen digsite including relics, environment, music, and a look into Dragonkin therapeutic rituals. The questions raised include what happens when you transfer a lizard brain into a human and is Anachronia finally complete?
RuneScape has arrived on Steam and we discuss what it means for the future. Also, Clue Scrolls receive ninja attention but the BIGGEST update for us is the surprise launch of INTERFACE SCALING - one of RuneScape’s biggest accessibility features.
RuneScape is on Steam. Steam is the destination for gaming and discoverability. RuneScape is a franchise that has endured for just about 20 years and has seen its share of bumps in the road. Last year a new Warden arrived in town and it was a push lead by RuneScape’s Executive Producer Mod Warden, that brought RuneScape to Steam after 20 years.
Steam is a critical part of the strategy to grow RuneScape. When combined with the mobile launch pending in 2021, the hope is that the game will see an influx of new players or new blood as it has been called. In the past 5 years RuneScape has gone through a period of writing love letters to its fans while focusing on high level content. It was with an update to the first time user experience and mobile interfaces last year we saw that Jagex was serious about attempting to attract new players.
Before looking at what happens next with Steam, we need to go back to an era known as the Miniclip era. The Miniclip era roughly spans from 2004 to 2008 and during this time, RuneScape 2 saw an unprecedented level of growth. The reason that RuneScape was so successful on Miniclip was because it was a game anyone could play in a web browser by way of Java applet. This made it easy to play at school during lunch break or computer class. With ease of access, Miniclip was the website you went to at school, and because of this, RuneScape 2 growth ballooned.
Steam and later mobile need to act as the one two punch today that Miniclip did in the mid 2000s. RuneScape needs an influx of new players. And with this comes a new influx of community builders and content creators. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the current crop but this is how communities evolve. We know from past metrics that a good chunk of players are mid to high level and this has brought some of the best received updates. These are updates like Prifddinas, Telos, and the Elite Dungeon trilogy.
The player base guides development based on data and metrics today, previously by direct vote. A new influx of players will revitalize and re-focus the beginning to mid-range game experience. It happened in the mid-2000s, and it can and should happen again today! It’s also how Jagex will turn the page and move on to the next chapter. It’s been an interesting few years from large expansion style content and back to monthly content updates with hits sprinkled in between. Clue Scroll rework, Deep Sea Fishing, Safe Cracking, the Player Owned Farm, The Needle Skips, Elite Dungeons, and then Anachronia. Then a drought. That’s not to say that there weren’t smaller updates or quality of life fixes in between, but the strategy wasn’t consistent.
Then comes 2020 with the blockbuster launch of the Archaeology skill. Every major release in 2020 has been branded and packaged as such. Steam games thrive on frequent updates and headline releases. What we’re now seeing with RuneScape’s month to month release strategy is exactly what’s required for a game on Steam. Players should bet on an influx of players from Steam holding Jagex to this release cycle. Not only because Steam demands it, but because it’s good for everyone.
What hopefully follows when you combine a Steam influx and the modern release strategy is a collection of content updates in 2021 that supercharge mid-level game experience. RuneScape’s greatest gift to its players is that you’re never really finished with the game. If you get to level 99, you then may want to get to level 120 or chase 200 million xp. There’s many other options as well such as the max, completionist, and trimmed completionist capes. In the end, RuneScape is about the journey and not the goal. If the breadth of mid-level content is increased, when players reach higher levels they’ll automatically be inclined to pursue the breadth of content that already exists at high level.
The big unresolved question out of all of this comes from whether or not Steam will actually bring in new players. The other option is for Steam to serve as a destination primarily for those who already play. If successful with Steam, the same strategy can then be applied to the Android and iOS launches, and later other store fronts. If this strategy proves to be unsuccessful then over time RuneScape will become a more and more insular game focusing on its high level players and die hard fans. This is a viable strategy but it is not a strategy for growth.
And that’s the big elephant in the room that no one is talking about so far. 20 years on RuneScape is positioned for a period of growth not seen since 2005. That should be the story that players should be aware of at the end of the day. This will only be possible if the game releases regular content updates of quality and if Jagex is able to tap these new store fronts for an influx of players over the next year. 2021 will answer what RuneScape stands for at 20 and whether or not our community can still grow.