5 March 2009

Runescape update image general

Many of you will have read Mark Gerhard's newspost last month in which he invited you to ask us questions about the company and our games. The response was fantastic, and thousands of you sent in your questions. Today we are posting the latest installment of RuneScape questions, which have been answered by Paul Gower, myself and Mod Roderick.

A big thank you to everyone that took the time to post a question on the forum or email one in; we have really enjoyed reading your comments, and we hope to run further Q&A sessions in the future.

Read the RuneScape Q&A here.

Mod Mark
Lead Designer - RuneScape

RuneScape Wiki: The following is the forum post:

Following on from Mod MMG and Andrew's Q&A posts, Paul, Mod Mark and Mod Roderick answer some more of your questions.

(Q) Mainiac97 - You should put maps for caves and such on the world map.

(A) Paul - I agree.

(Q) Da usc90 - My concern is that this blurb would make it seem that Jagex is shifting its concerns to the free-to-play population (FTP), rather than paying members. If you continue to upgrade FTP, then what use is there to being a member?

(A) Paul - I wouldn't say the focus is free-to-play rather than members. I'd say the focus is free-to-play AS WELL as members. Don't worry: it'll continue to be more than worthwhile being a member. Members already have a lot more content than free players and we will be continuing to release lots of members-only content.

Mod_Roderick - Attracting more free players to the game can also be an advantage for members. For example, my main skills are Fishing and Cooking, so the more people I have to sell lobsters to, the better.

Mod Mark – It’s easy to forget that most of us started as a free player. The free game needs lots of attention, but it doesn’t mean that we will stop making members’ content – far from it.

(Q) Dark armor14 - Are you planning on making any more changes to Summoning? I would really like to see more popular combat places like the lesser pit in Karamja Volcano, Brimhaven Dungeon and other single-way combat areas open to familiars, as I feel the combat aspect of the skill is grossly neglected.

(A) Paul - I'd also love to see the combat familiars able to be used in more areas. Allowing familiars to fight in a single-way area has some technical difficulties, though. Switching some areas from single-way combat to multicombat is a possibility, but would have a bunch of other gameplay side-effects such as making the areas more dangerous. Since Summoning, most of the new monster training areas are multicombat training areas that are suitable for bringing familiars. We plan to continue in this vein and add more such training areas.

Mod Mark – That will also include adding new and interesting ways of getting charms, like the recent Soul Wars minigame.

(Q) Acejesse13 - Most of the skills end at lower levels than 99, and there is not really any point to raise them any higher.

(A) Paul - We do plan to fill in the gaps for higher level skills over time

Mod Mark – Paul’s right – we all dream of a day where every time I go up a level I get something new and exciting I can do, rather than just doing something better.

(Q)Lalala7324 - Now, for the community tournaments mentioned, will those be combat-based like the Duel Tournaments, or will they be more minigame-based such as Trouble Brewing, Stealing Creation, etc?

(A) Paul - I'm sure we will aim to do a variety of community events. Feedback on the sorts of things you would like to see on this front would be great.

Some of them could be competitive tournaments, some could be other things. Some of what we do could be staff-hosted, while we could also be adding items and features to help players run their own events.

Tell us what you'd like!

(Q) Nokama889 - I think that you should release an Achievement Diary cape.

(A) Mod Mark – The plan with Achievement Diaries is to eventually release a full set of equipment, making up the “Achievement Diary set”. Similar to the Barrows gear, the full set will give you access to some special abilities. It may well be that the final piece of equipment is a cape. So, yes, there will be an Achievement Diary cape but it won’t be like the level 99 capes.

Paul – I would prefer to keep our options open for now. If we ever wanted to put a "very hard level" of achievements into a diary, that could be a much more sudden jump in level requirements than the smoothly increasing level requirements we have on the quest cape.

(Q) Eirikjoh - Will there be new skills by the end of 2010 and are you working on one at the moment?

(A) Paul -Yes

(Q) Kiwi Bahamut - Players like skills. That's what we do in order to do quests or prepare ourselves for pking, etc. Is it possible for the development and programming team to even release a new skill annually? From a player's perspective, it's hard to know how easy or difficult it is to implement a new skill into the game. So is it too much to ask for a new skill every year or so?

(A) Paul - New skills are a lot of work to develop. Recent skills like Summoning and Construction have had more work put into them than any other project. They're the last type of project I'd like to constrain ourselves to a regular release schedule for, as they're important to get right. I feel that Summoning actually got a little rushed to be released for a specific date. Then we spent 3 very hectic months after release trying to get it to be the skill we wanted it to be. Not Ideal!

We will continue to release new skills, but releasing a skill every year seems too often to me right now, when there is still quite a lot we can do to improve many of the existing skills. We could probably get some skills with a low number of features out in a short time period, but wouldn't players be disappointed if we released another Firemaking-type skill?

Mod Roderick - It’s worth pointing out that with every update RuneScape becomes a bit more complex. This means that the technical and balancing challenges get harder with each skill that gets added, as well as player expectations increasing.

(Q) Matbob20 - Many over the past year have suggested new guilds like fletching and woodcutting by the Ranging Guild, and a farming guild has at least 500 supporters. What are you going to do about the guilds and how often do you look at our ideas?

(A) Paul - I think the immediate focus guild-wise may be on making some of the older guilds useful again. We already have a Ranging Guild, but it's not the most popular of guilds at the moment. If there are ideas floating around to improve it, they could be interesting.

That's not to say that we won't think about doing a new guild, too. So, yes, player suggestion threads on those topics are of interest to us.

We've always looked at player ideas quite a lot, but just recently we've ramped that up even more.

(Q) Blackkingx - How long will Wilderness Tag be put on hold?

(A) Paul – I would consider the beacon lighting game you can play once you have completed the quest "All Fired Up" to be the evolution of Wilderness Tag. All the original Wilderness Tag really involved was running around the Wilderness lighting beacons!

(Q) Drews Might - One thing that would also be nice to make it so that players receive experience while playing Stealing Creation. That really ruins the game for many players.
Tenn Hunter - Since Stealing Creation’s creation it has massively affected the game and the skills. This leads me to believe skills must be upgraded, or within 1-2 years high skills will be meaningless and not rewarding anymore, making RuneScape useless except for PvP and minigames.

(A) Mod Roderick - One reason Stealing Creation doesn't give XP inside the minigame is to prevent unbalanced XP gain which, as Tenn Hunter points out, would make it too easy to reach a high level. Giving XP through reward items allows a much more balanced XP bonus. The idea is that the XP boost from the reward compensates you for the time spent playing Stealing Creation. This should allow levelling in RuneScape to be more fun. Mod Mark – Minigames like Stealing Creation are designed to be an alternative to your normal everyday training. Hopefully people enjoy them AND gain a decent amount of XP for doing so. That’s certainly the aim when we build them.

(Q) Sir Kilot95 - Could you graphically update parts of RuneScape that just don't fit in with places like Varrock? Draynor, for example.

(A) Mod Roderick - Although we're continually improving the graphics, RuneScape is so large it can take time to update the entire world. You'll usually find that as content is adjusted or improved the associated graphics will also be reworked. When designing new content we consider using existing areas to allow such improvements to be made more often.

(Q) Pyro Bond - It would be wonderful if you could make an official clan database not just a "clan chat", because they just fall apart after a few weeks.
(Q) Kingrandy0 - What kind of future plans are in store for Clans?
(Q) Digory Barns - I would also like to see more updates in the Clan Community, such as POCs and POEs (Player Owned Cities; Player Owned Empire). A new rank in the chat would be nice.
(Q) Lordjay82 - Make stuff for Clans. Clans need stuff to symbolize their status.

(A) Mod Roderick - I'd like more features for both combat- and skill-based clans. Part of the Stealing Creation design was based on the idea that skill clans could ally with combat clans, and the alliance system there allows six clans to enter a game. That's 600 players in a game!

You're right, though, Pyro Bond. As far as the game knows, clans are little more than a chat channel. This means that technically we're still quite limited in what we can do with clans. It would require significant work to be able to have Player Owned Cities or similar clan facilities, although it would certainly add an interesting aspect to the game and be well worth the technical challenge.

(Q) Xeniel6 - There is a lot of mystery and intrigue surrounding the different gods of RuneScape. Perhaps you might know a bit about them?

(A) Paul - As you complete quests you may well start to realise that, with RuneScape gods, all is not as it first seems. I won’t spoil the storylines by explaining the gods here, but I can mention I’m working on a quest involving the Mahjarrat, who take gods rather seriously.

(Q) Shaneekwa27 - Do you (as a company) plan on going on suggestions threads more often and actually giving us feedback on our ideas?

(A) Mod Roderick - As a Content Developer I often read the forums, but giving specific feedback can become tricky. If a JMod supports an idea people often assume that it is going to be implemented. The next thing you know the forums are full of threads wondering why the idea hasn't been used yet, when Jagex "promised" to do it!

Mod Mark – I personally wish I could answer every single good suggestion on the forum – but then there would be no time left to put any of them into the game!

Paul - I do want to comment on suggestions a little more, but it's actually more time consuming for us than you might think. As Rod says we have to be careful that people don't get the wrong idea about what we have written. I've certainly fallen foul of being misinterpreted in the past.

Another example is that if we point out flaws in a suggestion, some people can get offended that Jagex has dismissed their entire point of view out of hand, when in fact we are not always dismissing the entire idea, just asking people to consider taking into account various issues to improve their suggestion.

(Q) Callum2a - What is your stand on players making RuneScape videos? Do you believe that it is a good way for players to express their creativity and individuality? And do you think it brings the RuneScape Community closer together?

(A) Mod Roderick - I love watching player-made RuneScape videos. Some are very amusing, and show RuneScape player culture in a way we can't express in the game without breaking the "fourth wall".

It's certainly nice to see player's interpretations of the RuneScape world, particularly with obscure subjects.

As a Content Developer, videos can also be a great resource. They allow you to look back in time to when an update was launched, and see exactly how players responded to new content. It’s especially useful for assessing content which no longer exists, such as holiday events.

(Q) Johnnyharris1 - Do you write the script and story line for the game as you go along or is it all planned out?

(A) Mod Roderick - There's a lot of back-story and RuneScape history which is not yet revealed in the game, but there's still freedom to create individual storylines for each quest series. The actual dialogue tends to be written while a quest is being made, though sometimes short sections of chat will be written earlier to help the developer get a better understanding of the characters involved.

Mod Mark – There are parts of storylines that Paul wrote years ago, before I was even with the company (wow, that’s 6 years now!), that we’re not even close to talking about yet. Plotlines like the Stone of Jas have been talked about ever since I started here, and it was only in “While Guthix Sleeps” that we started to talk about it seriously. Of course, several people noticed the spoilers that existed in the game beforehand, but there was nothing established as fact until the launch of that quest. Then, of course, there’s the big Z...

(Q) Onionhead02 - Is there any chance of a RuneScape train and railway system?

(A) Mod Roderick - Dwarves, being experts in technical things, do have something similar to trains: steam-powered mine carts.

Mod Mark – In fact, they did build a train with the goblins!

(Q) Wilmslow - What high level are you working on?

(A) Mod Roderick - I'm currently planning an update to Prayer. As you can imagine, anything which has an impact on combat has to be very carefully considered. It can't be created in haste, so this is at a very early stage of development.

(Q) Wilmslow - Are you working on other ways to make accounts unique such as races/classes/tribes or such?

(A) Mod Mark - No, not at the moment. Experiencing life as a monkey or a goblin or even a penguin tends to be restricted to specific quests and areas – RuneScape wasn’t really built with other races in mind, and it’s technically difficult to do with the tools we have available. We have been considering special minigame environments where you could play different beasts or creatures, though, so it’s not an impossibility in the future. I would certainly love to be able to play a bear. Bears rule.

(Q) Fitzcairn - Zaros's return has been hinted at for a long time now. Will it be achieved this year?

(A) Mod Mark - Zaros likes to remain mysterious about such things, and isn’t likely to let even us know when he intends to return. However, a select team of developers led by Paul is trying to find out :)

(Q) Freak Nerd01 - Can we make a dragon pickaxe?

(A) Mod Mark - Dragon pickaxes will be released in the future. I can’t really say anything more than that, but it did come up in discussion this week, so we haven’t forgotten about it and we DO have a plan.

(Q) Heavenlyevil - How often do you intend on releasing Development Diaries?

(A) Mod Mark - Whenever the developers feel like they have something to say. Think of them like a blog – you’d post on a blog if you felt like you had something you wanted to share. DD’s will be the same.

(Q) Darth Stefan - Will there be a second God Wars?

(A) Mod Mark - We have strong ideas for another high level dungeon, but it’s not likely to be another God Wars...ah, hang on...are you asking me if there will be another actual war of the gods? I’d say that was very likely, especially with the return of Z being talked about so much and Guthix still fast asleep. They do like to take matters into their own hands.

(Q) Fitzcairn - Could we please tie up some loose ends on quest story lines before we start whole new story lines?

(A) Mod Mark - Yes, and we are doing so. You may have noticed that more quests focus on unresolved issues rather than starting new ones. We will still be producing new storylines, but not as frequently as we did before. Even the matter of how Vargas got turned into a yeti will be revealed this year!

(Q) Amaradicana - The physical size of your character should increase slightly according to max level.

(A) Mod Mark - Nice idea but tough to do. In RuneScape, everything is modelled on a standard human frame, both male and female. If you started to play around with that frame to allow for things like an expanding belly or bigger muscles, the work changing ALL the worn objects in the game would be astronomical. I’d prefer to use our resources to produce new quality content that everyone would enjoy. I can’t deny that it would be fun to see and use, but in terms of the bigger picture, there are many other things I would rather do with our time.

(Q) Freemason13 - I would also like to know if Jagex has any intention of increasing the number of inventory spaces in current use.

(A) Mod Mark - We just did via the Summoning skill.

(Q) Manblood222- Can you change the environment to suit seasons?

(A) Mod Mark - We would love to! Many areas of the game use snow/desert effects, so weather and seasons are a possibility for the future.

(Q) The Taunter2 - Will you bring back Tales from the Tavern?

(A) Mod Mark - We always intended to allow players to submit stories to us. We replaced the Tales from the Tavern with aspects like the role-playing forums, the Postbag to the Hedge and the Gallery pages. All those aspects seem quite popular and are well used by our players (we certainly still receive lots of submissions) and we enjoy reading them. Quite a few end up being emailed around the team for us to read and be inspired by.

(Q) Tyky95 - How much better is a dragon axe compared to rune? Is the dragon axe really worth having?

(A) Mod Mark - Yes! I chatted to our balancing department about this today and learnt the following:

Dragon axes are approximately 5 to 10% better than rune axes. This depends entirely on what sort of tree you are hitting and what your current Woodcutting level is, but it’s roughly 5-10% better. Having a better axe means more logs and therefore more xp. The nice thing about dragon axes is that they are rare enough to hold their trade values – this means you can be relatively safe in the knowledge that you can buy one and resell it. Any extra logs you did get from using it would more than pay for any money you might lose from a shifting resell price, assuming you used it efficiently while you were trying it out.

Mod Roderick – Even if you only notice a small difference between two tools, over time the difference will really add up. It's always pleasing to find threads which discuss such issues, where people take the effort to test items and publish their findings on the forums.

(Q) Byzantine279 - will you be updating combat magic to be more in line with the power of the rest of the combat skills, or "downdating" them, or neither?

(A) Mod Mark - It’s an interesting comment, that one. Many people think it’s both overpowered AND underpowered at the same time! The forums are full of this argument. It’s a very tricky subject, given the shifting cost of runes after the introduction of infinite supplies in the store, the creation of the blood rune altar and, of course, the ability to hit multiple targets at once. Mages do on average spend more on their attacks, but they can often attack from range, incurring little costs on things like potions and food that melee users rely on. Rangers can often pick their ammunition up again, which of course mages cannot do, so it’s not all about the damage per minute arguments that tend to dominate many discussions. Combat Magic often has uses in multiplayer games that melee users or rangers simply cannot do. We know that tactics and uses for spells can change, and so it is not out of the question to make changes in the future. We’re also aware that we haven’t released any new Magic gear or spells for a while, and so we certainly want to.

(Q) Owenus - The museum boss: he talks about an expedition to Morytania. Then there is the barge that the digsite workers are building. I hope that you do something with these.

(A) Mod Mark – Yes, we will! The plans for that particular expansion have been discussed again recently. It’s quite a big project that will need lots of work, so we just need to find the right time to do it.

(Q) G0dz Pe Ka - Can you make a minigame or a new combat style in which skill of the person playing the character and not the character itself is taken into effect, like you implement the key board into the game, where you can block or something.

(A) Mod Mark – I’ve been thinking about that sort of content for a while – we even considered a sort of “Rune Olympics” where players could compete against each other. Some events would be based on your character’s skills, some on your own skills. It’s a possibility, that’s for sure.

Mod Roderick - While using the keyboard for "twitch" gameplay is enjoyable, it's important that players aren't disadvantaged by technical issues such as lag. It would be awesome to have a more direct effect on the results of combat; for someone who's concentrating on the game to perform better than someone who's also watching TV. We would need to ensure that this didn't make the game unfair, though, and telling the difference between an unresponsive player and lag is rather tricky.

(Q) Winning444 - Are there any plans for the elven city of Prifddinas?

(A) Mod Mark - Ah, the elf storyline. This one is a personal favourite of mine, but the quests have become so big that the next one would likely be near the size of the recent “While Guthix Sleeps” quest. We tried to release a smaller elf quest (Roving Elves) in the past, but the response was overwhelmingly negative purely because it wasn’t big enough. So we won’t do another elf quest until we have the resources to do it. But we will do one. Honestly.

(Q) Pepper Coco - Can you change the amount of xp needed to get to 99 by lowering it?

(A) Mod Mark – No, sorry, we can’t do that. Naturally, as the game progresses you might find that things get easier to train (it wasn’t that long ago that Prayer had no Ectofuntus or player altars for people to use, and it was *much* slower), so maybe you’ll get there a little faster, but certainly we wouldn’t change the xp you need to get there.