A quiet week by all regards but we run through the patch notes and the content showcase for War’s Retreat otherwise known as the PvM hub. Plus thoughts on expanding the max guild and the frequency of updates in RuneScape.
It's been about two months since Farming and Herblore to 120 came out, yet I still play it every day that I log into RuneScape. I don't play it because I really need those skills maxed at 120, or because I really need to make money. No, that's not how I play the game; I am not even being efficient about the way I play most likely. I do my daily Farming checks because that's fun to me. Before you think that Shane has officially brainwashed me: I don't think Farming is suddenly the best skill out there, but that doesn't take away that the new content that was released with the 120 Farming update is enticing and a reason for me to log into the game.
This post is not about 120 Farming though. I want to once more emphasize that it is two months since the big Farming and Herblore update came out, and I am still playing with it every day! For fun nevertheless! When it comes to RuneScape updates, there are very few updates that can match that. What is certain though, is that the updates in the last year or so have been much better on that front. Looking back at 2019, we did not get as many content updates as the years before. The Big Summer Update Drought of 2019 (I declare that name is canon now) is known by all of course, but even the rest of the months only really had (at most) one major update in them.
On first glance, people might say that Jagex is choosing quality over quantity. In a sense, that is right, but I don't think quality is necessarily the right way to describe it. I would instead say that Jagex is getting smarter with their resources. They are achieving more (more engagement, more player satisfaction, what have you) with less updates. If we look at content updates further back, we see that much of the content released into RuneScape is "dead content" within a week. Much content was only enticing because of the rewards, and getting all the rewards only takes a finite amount of time. In many cases, the content was made more and more grindy or dependent on chance just to stretch out the time it took players to finish the content, hopefully having a new update ready to go when that happens. Not surprisingly, this isn't a very successful strategy.
It seems that Jagex has finally seen the light, because even though some of the recent content does contain some form of grinding mechanic (e.g. collecting the beans in the Player-Owned Farm or folding bars for Trimmed Masterwork), I haven't experienced them as such. What is an important factor is how suited these activities are for a casual player. It is easy to set ten minutes aside to check on my farm, because I can just teleport there and do my thing, which is very different from having to gear up to do an Elite Dungeon for example.
This is where the secret of this new strategy lies. There will always be players in RuneScape who aim to complete all the content, and do so as quickly as possible after an update comes out. There is just no way that a company like Jagex can pump out enough updates to keep these people busy. Due to their increased engagement with the game, they are probably the loudest group on the different social media as well, but they are also the minority. The majority of RuneScape players are much more casual players, perhaps with only limited free time besides their day job. The new update strategy of releasing updates that are just... nice to play, without necessarily focusing on keep-busy mechanics, favours these players. This makes a lot of sense, since it is near impossible to keep players that will keep running out of content anyway happy. Jagex decided to cut their losses, and focus on a group that is not only much easier to appease, but also potentially much larger, especially considering a hypothetical influx of casual players on mobile.
So how exactly are the updates smart? I have not figured out yet what makes the new updates click so well, but the most likely explanation is that Jagex is just designing fun content and gameplay mechanics, and making the rest flow out of that. A year ago, in this post, I wrote that this is the most effective way of building fun games, and the updates we got in the last year are proof of exactly that. By reducing the number of updates, more time can be spent on the creative process and the design behind the mechanics you interact with. While both the Mining and Smithing rework and the Farming and Herblore expansion were substantial, this investment seems to have paid off more than using that time to build several smaller updates to be forgotten about already. Other updates, such as Yak Track, achieve the same effect of engagement at a relatively cheap implementation cost.
Does that mean there is no room for smaller updates any more? No, I think there needs to be a mix. In the end, when I play a longer game session, I don't just sit around the farm patch all day waiting for my herbs to grow. I fall back on the massive amount of content that has accrued in the game over the past two decades (well, almost...). Quests, even as a one-off piece of content, still add a layer of depth to the world that makes it so enjoyable to play in. In the end though, those are not really the reasons that make you login in the first place. This is why the strategy of having these "hero updates" sounds like a great approach to me, and I recommend you listen to this Nibble to see what Shane and Tanis had in mind when I asked them about how they would distribute the hero updates throughout 2020 if they could.
We're seeing less content updates coming into RuneScape, but each update is one to be excited about, because it will bring joy for weeks. The slowdown of the update cadence is - paradoxically - something that excites me rather than the opposite. I hope you will all join me in that excitement, and instead of complain when there is yet another patch week, find consolation in the fact that the time is well spent on building content that will keep you entertained for weeks. Besides, don't you have a ranch to run anyway?
January is here and we eagerly await the first updates of 2020. One of these will be the incoming PvM Hub (War’s Retreat) and in a little while Archaeology will arrive. What we’re going to do instead of talking about these updates is imagine we are transplanted forward in time 1 year. We’ll have a look at what an ideal 2020 would contain and how the game has improved over the next year.
Archaeology was the first skill in 4 years since Invention to be released. It is a skill that provides lore for the lore hounds, has a gathering side, has a processing side, and brought new mechanics into game. The skill while initially scheduled to ship in January launched in early April before Easter. Archaeology is this decades Dungeoneering, some love it, some hate it, but it broke the mould entirely. The skill ultimately succeeded in getting the players ready for the next quest, Desperate Measures.
The Anachronia / Fossil Island storyline was left hanging last year with no follow up to Desperate Times. In talking with Mod Osborne last year he revealed that there was going to be a quest launched following Anachronia. That was Desperate Measures and it continued the Kerapac storyline moving us closer to a confrontation with the Elder Gods. There was one problem though, it looked like we were headed for another multi-year arc similar to Sliske’s Sixth Age arc.
Through community feedback it was decided that the Elder God story arc would end in early 2021. At RuneFest 2019 we were teased the city of Senntisten quest and an Azzanadra quest. The storylines of both of these were altered slightly to point to a finale in 2021. 2020 shaped up to be the most impactful year for narrative since 2013.
While most enjoy the big and flashy lights of splendid releases such as Archaeology or narrative focused quests, there was also a focus on remasters. The remaster was made with updates such as the Mining and Smithing rework on the large end or on the more conventional end, the Clue Scroll overhaul. We saw three big updates that fell into the remaster category in 2020. They were the Managing Miscellanea rework, the Karamja rework, and a God Wars Dungeon rework.
The blueprint was set with content like the Player Owned Farm and Ranch Out of Time. it is possible to have content that can be checked on daily or somewhat regularly and not have it be a grind. The revamped Managing Miscellanea kept the hands off approach valid if players wanted but added mechanics that reward engaging more regularly than every 2 weeks. This remaster also brought new rewards for Farming, Woodcutting, Herblore, Fishing, and of course Mining. Aside a graphical rework, this was the update that provided a final use for Stone Spirits.
The Karamja rework was primarily a graphical rework alongside quality of life updates to Tai Bwo Wannai clean up, Shilo Village, and Herblore Habitat. This graphical rework was worked on in conjunction with a third party graphical studio resulting in visuals similar to that of Anachronia. Finally, a long side this, the long awaited continuation of the Karamja storyline continued in what could only be described as a traditional RuneScape quest.
2020 also saw the quests doubled from 2019’s paltry 3. We saw 3 epics in the form of Desperate Measures, City of Senntisten, and the Azzanadra quest. We then saw three smaller quests being the Karamja quest, a fall harvest quest, and the next in the Elemental Workshop series. The community struggled for at least a week before a guide could be crafted to the newest in the Elemental Workshop series.
After delivering on most of the RuneFest 2019 keynote promises, the second half of the year came. The previous grand survey showed that there would be interest for Ranged and Magic “Smithing” type updates. Most of the mechanics in Woodcutting, Runecrafting, Fletching, and Crafting were fine compared to those of Mining and Smithing. As a result it was just decided to add on high level equipment to Fletching and Crafting while leaning on Woodcutting and Runecrafting.
With the arrival of Mod Warden from Blizzard, community events took an increased presence in 2020. For Easter while taking part in the Hunter, Farming, and Archaeology skills you received increased holiday event tokens to unlock a series of 5 Easter themed cosmetics. The beach returned with a new limited set of activities in the summer allowing you to participate at the beach for full token credit or elsewhere in the game at a slower rate. Christmas followed a similar suit bringing back Santa, unique Christmas themed events, and a boat load of cosmetics to customize our character’s appearance.
2019 was tumultuous for micro-transactions and changes were indeed on the horizon in 2020. After the successful Yak Track event at the tail end of 2019 we saw 4 Premier Pass events go off in 2020 without a hitch. In November we also the premium currencies of RuneCoins, Loyalty Points, and Oddments all unified under the Oddment banner. As a result players now can gather currency in-game to buy premium cosmetics, services (action bars, presets, bank slots), and the former loyalty rewards.
And there’s one more thing… Treasure Hunter no longer exists. XP Lamps and Bonus XP can now be bought directly with Oddments, a scaling limit is also in place based on your level. From time to time there are flash sales featuring more powerful lamps (celebration, smouldering, etc.) but these are limited as well. Gnome Chests are a new addition where time limited cosmetics can be found along side cosmetic items geared towards the headlining update of the month. These chests can be opened by purchasing keys with Oddments.
This is 2020 and the transformation of RuneScape 3 into a more modern and accessible game is underway. Granted we just had a glimpse of what 2020 could look like, there are more reasons than not to be optimistic. From Mod Osborne’s new content strategy to Mod Warden’s new approach and the drive from Mod MIC’s team to modernize monetization in RuneScape, things are changing.
PS: It probably also goes without saying that we’ll see some progress on mobile this year. I would expect an iOS beta at some point this year for mobile and a full commercial launch at or around RuneFest. (Fingers crossed)
We have our take on the Treasure Hunter exploit, analyze actions taken by Jagex, and speculate as to the reasoning behind the news post detailing actions taken. The Jmods look back at 19 years of RuneScape and we talk about their highs and regrets.
Normally at this time of month we recap what was talked about during the last month, but today we're going to talk about the last year! As has become tradition we have asked our writers and dear editor for their favourite articles and they delivered.
Going in alphabetical order we'll be starting with Alex. Alex is our resident quester and story teller, Anachronia is laden with Dragonkin relics, his favourite personal article was A Dragonkin Story. It covers lore of the Dragonkin and some predictions on where this race may go in the future. His favourite article written by someone else comes from Cireon in the form of Untangling Spaghetti Code because in addition to other factors it was very relevant to Alex's own personal growth as a programmer.
Speaking of Cireon, his favourite article written by a peer came from Tanis. RuneScape's Road to Accessibility highlights where the game has been, what it does well, and what it can do better in terms of accessibility. As we saw with Alex, this list wouldn't be complete without letting the writers talk about their own work. Cireon's own personal favourite is Hunting My Own Treasures where he details forgoing Treasure Hunter and finding your own value in game!
David has built his reputation on being one who knows PvM but as with all things in life, balance is key. He chose to feature Alex's A Dragonkin Story because of his love for epic quests and appreciation of lore. Personally though for him, it comes back to Elite Dungeon 3 - High Highs and Low Lows because on the whole it's a balanced piece, reflects the content well, and a great deal of research went into the article.
2019 was a joy and filled with many great updates from my perspective but the two closest to my heart were 120 Farming and 120 Herblore. Because of this my favourite article written by someone else is David's 120 Herblore and Farming Isn't a Game Changer - And That's Okay, it also happens to be Tanis' favourite by a peer as well. All too often players get worked up if an update doesn't change what they see as important or the high level crowd doesn't get new toys -- that was the main criticism of 120 Herblore; David explained why this is not a problem, both Tanis and myself agree with this. My own personal favourite is Jagex'x 2019 Victory Strategy because it's still relevant today, notes were hit on this with major content releases in 2019, and it hammers home my successful content mantra, "This is RuneScape 3." And last but certainly not least, Tanis' own personal favourite was his RuneScape's Road to Accessibility piece. This piece has been highlighted by Cireon already, Tanis feels this was his most in depth ever on this subject and it provides a springboard to move forward on the accessibility front.
A roundup of 2019's articles wouldn't be complete without hearing from the editor himself. So here's what King Kulla had to say:
My pick for Informer article of the year for 2019 comes from Cireon, entitled "The Missing Filter". In the article, Cireon details the importance of communication for a company like Jagex, and how it can be easy to tell if someone else is failing to communicate, but a very difficult trait to recognize of yourself. For example, rather than being concise with expectations of upcoming updates, Jagex can share explorations too early on livestreams, or meander off topic in the newsposts. In effect, they are losing control of their message, and this can cause confusion and anger from the playerbase over a change of plans or cancelled update. For an insight into how Jagex could have a better communications vision going into 2020, check out Cireon's "The Missing Filter", and indeed all the other writers' articles on Informer as we step into a new decade of RSBANDB.
Before we get on the happy trail that is 2020 and begin excavating remains in a couple months or so, I'll just mention the year wrap up that Update did. We had a fantastic 2019 in Review podcast where we covered combat, skilling, and best update of the year plus controversies and live streams. Give this one a listen if you want to hear about 2019 and how good the Mining and Smithing rework is.
Patreon supporters can also listen to our latest monthly bit, A Decade of RuneScape. Earth and David joined Tanis and myself to look at the decade that started off with Dungeoneering, saw EoC, the introduction of micro transactions, and the evolution of RuneScape to what it is today. Not many out there can say they've been there for that, so give this a listen!
We'll be back in early February with a review of January's articles!