Jagex hosted a total of six live Q&A sessions about various things relating to Runescape. While these discussions were very enlightening about future content, these sessions did much more than that. These Q&As gave us an unprecedented look at how Jagex functions as a company and provided much insight about how and why they decided to do the things they have. Alongside such exciting topics such as the soon to be released Evolution of Combat and Future content plans, Jagex provided us with a rare look at how they operate, where they are presently putting their priorities, and clarified their stance on micro-payments and bots. In case you missed out on watching the Q&As (though they are available on RS’ Youtube channel to watch at any time), here are five personal observations based on facts and statements directly from the Q&A sessions and recent news posts:
1. Mod MMG is Thoroughly in Control
There’s no doubt that Jagex’s CEO, Mark Gehard, is a hands-on participant in much of Runescape’s affairs. He’s not just a figurehead or the guy that signs the checks. MMG has made it clear that Runescape is going in the direction he and the rest of the developers want it to. He specifically addressed a question about the investors from American-owned IVP, and he flat out refuses that they have any involvement or say in what game content is produced and were not who spurred micro-payments into the game. He said this with 100% conviction, and throughout the entire Q&A series, he was calm, relaxed, and always had an answer to even the most difficult questions.
Perhaps MMG’s most unabashed quality in these Q&As is that he delivers his plans and knowledge about Runescape affairs in a frank, matter-of-fact way. He never shied away from answering a question, and even let a few things out of the bag about future never before mentioned updates (even if they were possibly intentional), such as an update package they are billing as “Runescape 3″ without batting an eye. He also was behind the HTML 5 reveal last month.
He also has zero tolerance for rule breakers. Earlier in the year, he made it a point to publicly name many of the high level players involved in a bug that was abused in the Duel Arena and came up with the original idea behind Botany Bay. He puts absolutely no spin on any of his answers, even if he knew they were going to be unpopular. He’s a man that’s not afraid to take heat, and that’s why he’s thoroughly in control.
2. Jagex Knows Thy Enemy
Jagex made their stance on bots and the users of macros perfectly clear; to the point that no one can continue to argue they like their presence in the game or their income from paying for membership. Throughout the year they have made news of their lawsuits against gold farmers and bot programmers, and they pledged their continuance of doing so.
In the Bot Q&A, MMG states that the measures currently being implemented in game will take down the last two bot makers, and even called the bot creators out by name. When Mod Mark asked if they were on first name terms, MMG went on to say “Well, they will be with our lawyers … and hopefully the police soon.”. Bottom line is, you don’t dump all the resources that Jagex has into these measures and legal fees if they wanted bots to remain in the game in any way.
3. Mod Mark is the Mastermind and Gatekeeper of All Content.
Mod Mark, Runescape’s lead Content Creator, is absolutely fascinating to watch in the Q&As because he is ALWAYS coming up with new ideas for future game content. He has a way of bouncing from thought to thought that is very apparent when you listen to him speak, yet sometime would pull something completely out of thin air. He alone could probably come up with enough content for many years of Runescape. It’s not just new ideas, however. He elaborates on some of his plans like where he’d like to see each skill go to become more complete, along as to how to fix many issues each may have.
I think it’s safe to say the majority of in-game projects either come from Mod Mark himself or are enhanced by him in same way. While he said he doesn’t have a whole list of ideas on paper, he did say he has a list of a few major things he’d like to get done in the foreseeable future. During the last Q&A about the future of Runescape, he even spouts off a few of failed ideas, or ideas that he once would of like to have done, including an island inhabited of lizard people. Hard to believe he started out in Customer Service and now creates and approves any and all ideas about game content.
4. Content is Created by Less People than You Think, and in Even Less Time
MMG made it clear that micropayments have allowed them to grow their Runescape team from 80 members a year ago to what it is presently. It’s hard to think of Jagex as a small game studio, but it’s important to remember that only 130 people develop all of Runescape. Of those people only 23 are content developers. So that’s an idea from one of those 23 brains, then pushing it through to artists, to computer modelers, to programmers, to QA testers and then launch that idea every three out of four weeks a month. This of this next time you whine about why a bug or a graphical glitch isn’t fixed the next week, let alone why quest series or major content can take months to finish.
Mod Mark and his team have no shortage of ideas or things to do what they truly lack is the time to do them. The last Q&A had questions about all kinds of incomplete or desired content, but Mark tried to make his point that there’s more pressing and interesting projects that the content team’s time would be better spent on. We’d like to think they have updates in reserve and ready to roll in advance, but that simply isn’t the case. MMG stated that the content forecasting is only 3-4 months down the road, with even a vague idea of major projects being planned little more than a year in advance. When you think of it like that, it’s really kind of amazing how they keep the game’s updates rolling out like they do.
5. The Official Forums are Essential to Runescape’s Development
One of the Mods in a Q&A claimed Runescape’s official forums are among the most active of any in the world. I have reason to believe that may be true, and surely as far as a computer game’s official forums, this is probably the case. Throughout the sessions they also state the important role they play in Runescape’s development. During the Evolution of Combat session, one of the designers said the first hour of his day is spent reading though the EoC’s section on the forums. Mod Mark credited that many ideas for updates and content have come from player suggestions. Nearly all of the forum topics are read by a Jagex Mod and even if they aren’t responded to by a mod, they assured that most are indeed read.
Having as active a forum as Runescape has ensures that the creators get constant feedback (albeit normally more bad than good) from players. While Jagex has a history of bending due to negative postings, recently they have taken the stance of reasoning and responding to players to help them understand why they do certain things. In my opinion, Jagex is probably THE most open and community oriented game studios around. When you factor in their Twitter, Facebook, and forums combined, they have a communication infrastructure like no other gaming company. Throw these Q&As into the mix, and they become shining examples of what other game players want their developer to be like.
If the Q&A sessions told us anything about Jagex, it’s their devotion to responding and communicating with their player base. That was their primary goal with this project, and I believe they did an amazing job with clearing up any misconceptions or rumors that may have existed. Hopefully going forward Jagex will continue to give their players the chance to gain insight about Runescape and their unique game studio.