Improvements or Evolution?

posted by on 20th August 2011, at 5:02pm

Those of you who have known me for many years probably know that I am adamantly against the theory of evolution. So you’re probably wondering about my title. No, this has absolutely nothing to do with religion or science. Don’t close this page yet.

Over the past few…well, more like over the past year, Jagex has been doing quite a few minor graphical improvements and geographical redesigning. I admit, many of these do look a bit better than what they were. But I can also admit that all (or at least most) of them were not required.


Yea, I said they were not required. Why? Only a few of them increased the efficiency of an area. To be honest some actually inhibited the efficiency. Now, you might be thinking, “Well graphics aren’t really there to change efficiency, they’re just there for looks.” and this is true! Or should be true most of the time. Graphics are usually only there for cosmetic purposes. In RuneScape, most people either don’t stay an area long enough to bother looking at the scenery or they’re doing something so important they don’t have the time to look at the scenery. There is also a large portion which may be staying in an area for a longtime either Fletching at a bank, chopping trees, or fishing which will set their character to the task and then alt-tab to another window. Thus either a.) they don’t care about the scenery and would rather watch a YouTube video, or b.) they have something more important to do such as studying, researching, or talking with friends on Skype or another VOIP/IM/video calling program.

Taking these facts that most people don’t care too much about the environment’s cosmetics into account, why bother ‘wasting’ time on improving the graphics of the environment? Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but many of the graphical changes not only to the environment but also to items and characters make it seem much more like a client game. What’s a client game? I’m pretty sure everyone knows the name and the games but may have never connected the two. A Client Game is a game which requires you to download a client to play it and it can only be played online. Guild Wars, World of Warcraft, Ever Quest, Lord of the Rings Online, and even Steam games like Team Fortress or Alien Swarm are all client games.

The update which really caught my eye about this was the Clan Camp one. The trees to me look much like trees I’ve seen in Lord of the Rings online and Flyff. Though trees in both of those games were larger, the general ‘look’ of them were very similar. The Draynor update had the same trees, which wasn’t too much of a surprise since Jagex is flaunting them as the ‘newest’ thing (if you know what I mean). With the Draynor update I noticed the houses slightly resembled buildings from client games I’ve played. No where near as good, mind you, because they still had quite a bit of RuneScape cartoonynish to them. But still, they were alike.

Now, you may think I’m comparing apples to oranges here. But I think it’s more of an observation of watching an orange turn into an apple. Think about it. Until about 3 years ago Jagex wasn’t all that focused on changing the graphics of RuneScape. They were more focused on giving quality content. After the HD update they’ve been fairly focused on updating graphics in this area or that area.

Let’s look at the word Evolution in a dictionary for a moment:
1. a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development, as in social or economic structure or institutions.
2. a gradual development, esp to a more complex form
3. an exercise carried out in accordance with a set procedure or plan

Jagex has been doing quite a few small and some large changes that point toward turning RuneScape into a Client Game. The Graphics are one of the major points. But smaller points are things like giving sounds to more actions and areas (client games tend to always have ambient sounds as it helps keep a certain mood). Having four types of chat (Public, Private, Friends, and Clan) is another, though not altogether too strange as there are quite a few games with multiple chat channels.

I think two of the biggest things aside from the Graphics changes are Clans and Dungeoneering.

Jagex did not officially support clans until a few years ago. They knew they existed weren’t really against them, but they didn’t support them either. Aside from minigames and the Shield of Arrav and Hero’s quests, everything was pretty much aimed at solo players. Today they’re making more and more content which requires multiple people to complete. The Clan Camp and Clan Citadels were a huge leap into the world of Clan Support and are both things which most Client Games have, officially recognized clans and real clan houses/properties. That’s not to say supporting clans is 100% proof that they’re turning into a client game, however, it is very strange since for years they have not officially supported clans. The fairly sudden change seems odd.

Regarding Dungeoneering, most of you probably know I dislike it, however, I’m trying not to let that affect this article. I’m sure the majority of you have played or still play a client game which has some sort of raid/boss/dungeon feature. This is a common thing in client games which originally comes from Dungeons & Dragons (however that is another article). Jagex originally tested the waters of raiding with the God Wars Dungeon. They saw that it was a success so they decided to add a more comprehensive raid system, named ‘Dungeoneering’ and labelled as the 25th skill. It’s debatable as to whether this really is a skill or a minigame as it takes skill to do Dungeoneering but the monsters also play mingames with you. That’s not the point of this paragraph though. Dungeoneering, like most Raid Systems in client games, has you and a team of friends go to an instanced area which requires you to either just fight, just skill (sometimes called crafting in client games), or do a combination of the two. Completing the Raid/Dungeon awards you with points/marks/tokens or another currency which you can use to purchase things outside of the instance. Unlike most raids though, Dungeoneering only allows you two use your skills (you can’t bring any items in with you). Most client game Raid Systems allow you to use anything you bring with you.

The Bottom Line

RuneScape is RuneScape. RuneScape should be depicted as a Scape of Rune, not WoW or Guild Wars. No matter how many ‘High Definition’ or ‘High Quality’ things Jagex adds RuneScape will always be RuneScape. If people want graphics they won’t go to RuneScape, they’ll go to big Client games like Everquest, Lord of the Rings Online, or any number of the hundreds (probably thousands) of others. All that have better graphics than RuneScape. If players want better sounds they’ll go to a game with great sounds or they’ll learn how to make there own sounds and then start working for a game in the sound department.

If Jagex really wants to contend with Client Games then they need to drop the browser and go straight for the client. Trying to beat client games while staying in the restrictive browser will kill RuneScape. Jagex has already kicked out many players by forcing more resource intensive graphics on the players. One reason RuneScape did so well in previous years was not because of their graphics, but because of the versatility. If you had a computer (even a Windows 95 box with hardly any ram) with an internet connection you could play it. Now you need a relatively new computer to be able to play it. I know some of you are thinking, “If you have a 95 you shouldn’t be playing games you should be working to get a new computer.” And while yes, I would suggest getting a new computer, that does not stop the fact that Jagex has lost money due to preventing players from playing under the pretense of trying to get more members. The simple fact, though, is that players will not go to RuneScape for the graphics. They know they can get good graphics from client games. On the flipside, players also know that when RuneScape becomes too fat (or should I say heavy) that their system can’t play it anymore then they can go to other games such as those from Artix Entertainment which are fun, constantly updated, and can reliably run on low system specs.

I will close with this: If Jagex tries to turn RuneScape into a Client Game, whether in a client or a browser, it will fail.

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  • Duke Juker Says:
    21st August 2011, at 3:51pm

    Good article. I have thought about this before and it’s very true what you said. Runescape tries to copy things from other RPGs when really there isn’t much that needs to change. People like the game the way it is. If the players wanted to play a game like WoW or Guild Wars or whatever, they would leave Runescape (not ask for it to change). The only thing that really needs to change is the bot problem as well as perhaps free trading. Aside from this, Runescape is unnecessarily becoming too much like other RPGs out there.

  • Daniel Roese Says:
    25th August 2011, at 3:43am

    Thankyou for the excellent ideas, It was precisely what I was intereste in

  • yeah ok Says:
    1st September 2011, at 6:12pm

    Uhm, even before HD they were updating graphics lots. So I dunno if you want them to lay off most of the graphics crew or something just because you don’t appreciate it.

    + You say God Wars was a testing grounds for a raiding system which lead to Dungeoneering, which isn’t even how DG found its way into RS in the first place
    Kalphite Queen is pretty much God Wars except there is only one boss and you don’t have to kill 40 Kalphites to enter anyways.

  • Tygard Says:
    4th September 2011, at 1:56am

    I personally love the graphics updates. There is so much detail in everything… I’d probably quit if the graphics weren’t up to par with other games. I’m looking forward to our player owned houses getting a graphical update — and possibly more customization options.

    I always play in HD mode cause I have a “newer” computer.. it’s like 5 years old, but runs things well. People who don’t care much for graphics can run things in their low-definition mode… I suppose it’s faster for them and stuff.

    Also, I wouldn’t want them to move to a client because that’s why I play this game: because it’s in a browser! You can access it from anywhere without the need to download it. It seems a bit backwards to move to a client…