Minigames are important to RPGs in that they give the game a little more substance in some of the simplest, yet most interesting form possible. It doesn't require all that much extra coding and artwork, and they are repeatable. Or rather, it is possible to fail them. In a game where death pretty much spells failure and do-over, minigames usually allow failure to be a part of the in-game experience.
Ah, but I'm not here to talk about do-overs in minigames. No, that part's pretty obvious. What I do want to talk about is the do-over of the entire minigame itself.
You'll have noticed this if you've been following Runescape news; especially with the new update to Barbarian Assault voted on by the Runefest 2013 "Dragon's Den". And yes, I was there, and physically bore witness to the idea being pitched (see if you can find me in those images they put on the site!). Anyways...
Minigames, bosses in particular, have been getting overhauled. This goes from having their graphics redone to having new mechanics added to the mix. The common favourite is a "hard mode", which challenges higher level players when the normal mode becomes too painfully easy to become worth the effort. With hard mode comes new challenges, greater danger, and a much better drop rate of rewards.
Good thing or bad thing? I say it's good that they're reworking old minigames as opposed to creating new ones, and here's why.
You remember the Nexus? Nah, of course you don't; that minigame didn't last very long. What about the Tai Bwo Wannai cleanup? No? That used to be a fair method of training Woodcutting and making a tidy profit off broodoo masks and red topaz machetes before ivy came along. What about the Shades of Mort'ton and the Flamtaer temple? How hard is that to get going again, even on the dedicated server? How about the Rogues' Den obstacle course? Oh, you're more interested in that fire, huh? Heck, when Soul Wars came out, I even figured that Castle Wars would become obsolete out of game mechanics and interest (I think teams would much rather beat on a big giant boss rather than try to kill a newbie cowering behind 10 barracades).
Yet, these minigames are all there, and they're all sort of cluttering the landscape. Sure, they're worthwhile to try on your own, but the real experience is doing it all in a big giant crowd. With so many minigames out there, the crowd thins out to the more interesting or the more rewarding minigames, leaving the old ones in the dust. Especially with the game undergoing all these crazy big overhauls, they now have the misfortune of being ugly with some fairly primitive mechanics as opposed to what's available.
Now, here's a hypothetical scenario: players are getting bored of Runescape. They are wandering around Runescape, looking at all the available options, and they want something exciting to do. Because there are so many old, boring minigames out there, they are left with indecision and frustration.
We have three options here to make the game better in this regard:
Option 1: remove the obsolete minigames and make the rewards somewhat easily available. It's taking out game content that nobody ever uses and otherwise cleans up the landscape. This will help concentrate players to what remains and give them the benefit of not having to do so many things for rewards they want. Not a bad idea, except only having 3 or 4 minigames left would get boring quickly.
Option 2: add more minigames, expand the world, and keep the players attention off them. With so many minigames out there, Runescape wouldn't get boring, right? Alas, then we have too much choice. So many activities that the player's mind gets cluttered and now they really don't know what to do.
Option 3: improve the existing minigames, utilize the familiar mechanics to keep player-made strategies viable, and add new hard-mode and rewards. Suddenly what was obsolete is exciting again. Best of all, it's not actually adding anything new to the scape, so players don't have to be distracted by a whole new set of minigames that will become obsolete again within the month.
So that's what they're doing. Taking something that was once fun and making it fresh again, updating it to be inline with the rest of the game. Quality is always better than quantity, after all. I, for one, would much rather play one very good game rather than a hundred mediocre ones. Much better use of my time. I'm sure you would all agree, right?
Until next time,
This was originally posted as an Informer Runescape