One of the first things I noticed about Runescape’s new site layout is it’s familiarity to MMORPG’s sites. Now, you might think, “Well uhh, considering Runescape IS an MMORPG it kinda should resemble others, shouldn’t it?” And that is s true, to some extent.
Here is a small list of some of the most popular games which Jagex seems to be competing with.
Any of those sound familiar? They should. Most likely you’ve played at least one of them if not all. Now, look at each of those sites and look at Runescape’s. You might notice a few things.
The first thing I noticed was that all of them, save for World of Warcraft (WoW), had an easily distinguished language selection. Is this a big deal? Nah, not really, considering everyone wants as many people as possible to view their site. I did think it was kind of interesting that WoW chose to have their language selection down in the bottom right hand corner. It made me think their stance was, “If you don’t speak English, you probably shouldn’t play.” Granted, I doubt that is their thoughts and I’m sure they probably even have non-English worlds like many other MMORPGs do. I just thought it interesting that they don’t value language selection as highly as other MMOs, yet they are still one of the largest MMOs out there.
Three of the five sites have log in areas that are immediately noticeable. Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO) and Guild Wars are the two which do not. The majority of the time this really is not necessary, but a player should always be able to find where to log in easily.
All the sites have an easily distinguished navigation bar (nav bar) or information bar.
Runescape’s nav bar is at the top of the page, just below the top bar.
LotRO’s is at the top right of the page immediately below the language selection.
World of Warcraft’s is on the left under the logo.
EverQuest’s is in the center below the logo.
Guild Wars is like Runescape’s because it is directly below the top bar.
All of these are placed well, except that LotRO’s real information bar is on the page after the Community Link. However the first thing you see after going to that page is the navigation bar, so it’s not much of an issue.
Good Navigation Bar placement is essential to an efficient site. Why? Because the majority of visits are going to be from people not looking for the news, but instead looking for a service on the site such as Forums, High scores/Leader Boards, Support, or the like. This is why you rarely see the Navigation Bar under the latest news feed.
Perhaps one of the most sought after utilities is the Game Manual/Game Guide/Wiki. LotRO and Guild Wars host their own official player run Wiki. EverQuest and WoW run their own manuals/guides. Runescape’s new site operates like LotRO and GuildWars in that though it hosts the official wiki, the players run it, for the most part. Jagex will be the only ones able to edit some of the pages. The bad thing about a game hosted but player run wiki is that it must be filled by the players. These players can not copy anything from the game’s manual because the manual doesn’t exist. Thus they must gather all the information by hand. This is annoying because the game knows the information in the first place, so why make the players have to get it?
Four of these sites have a large ‘Latest News Media’ that catches your eye, as soon as it loads. For Runescape this is the flash background that makes up the majority of their page. For WoW and EverQuest these are more reasonably sized slideshow style images. Not only does this style tend to load faster and lag less, they also take up considerably less page space while still relaying just as much information. GuildWars doesn’t have quite as much initial bling bling in their news media, but it is still effective. A single, large, image across the primary viewing area informs readers of the newest update. Scrolling down a little shows you their slideshow style media which is slightly smaller than WoW’s and EverQuest’s.
Moving on to News Articles, scrolling down on the pages of all the sites you’ll notice links to the most recent articles with a few lines or a paragraph from the article. Easily allowing you to choose whether you want to read the article or don’t actually need to.
Unfortunately as of the writing of this Runescape has not updated their site with the new layout so I don’t know if their news articles will follow the same suit. I imagine they will. If they don’t and they only have more videos and screenshots below the main News Media area then that will be bad. It will give the idea that, “The game is still in beta…BUT! Watch these COOL videos and look at these AWESOME screenshots while you wait.”
You might have noticed all of the sites I was looking at were for client games. Something wrong with client games? Nope! In fact I love playing client games and have had the pleasure of playing two of the ones I mentioned. The problem comes when you look at the facts. Runescape’s new site is (effectively) identical to those I listed. Now I admit this could just be because it is a fairly effective gaming site layout but there’s also the possibility of it furthering Runescape’s transition to a client game.
Yes, I brought that idea up again. The hard fact of life is that Runescape is headed in that direction, despite what Jagex says. Of course they haven’t said anything on the matter so it doesn’t really matter if we take into account what they did(not) say or not. It would be an interesting read if Jagex or a JMod ever posted about this topic.
One of the primary reasons Runescape did well in its early years was the fact that it combined simple game play with effective graphics and good playability. You’re probably wondering why I chose those adjectives to describe Runescape. Here’s why:
Simple Game Play – It didn’t take long for a player to realize how simple it was to equip a weapon and attack something. Eating food made sense to replenish hit points. Clicking to walk and arrow keys to look around were simple tasks that anyone could do and would know to do. A host full of other things such as chopping a tree, receiving logs, and using them on a tinderbox to start a fire was realistic enough to make sense yet fantasy enough to be done easily in a fantasy world.
Effective Graphics – This may be a bone of contention but is worthy of address. Runescapes graphics weren’t as good as today’s but you have to remember that was 10 years ago! For the time, Runescape’s were pretty good for being in a browser. Not only did they look good, but they also loaded fast. Loading the Runescape game back then, even on computers deemed ‘slow’ at the time was fast. By no means instant, but they were faster than Runescape loads today on computers with decent specs.
Good Playability – Basically, Runescape was fun, even for the non-heavy gamer. You could be a business man that plays 30 minutes a night and have just as much fun as the kid who spends the whole day playing. Why? Because Runecape didn’t require ‘1337 skillz’ and so could be played after a long day at the office. It also had its own unique degree of challenge which made you think so as to not get bored, yet not so much to get you frustrated.
So, what’s the big change? Well you’ve probably already guessed it, or rather them.
Gameplay – Nowadays the content is aimed at those who are geared perfectly. This requires you to play by certain requirements unless you want to have to work harder.
Graphics – Let’s face it, even today Runescape’s graphics are not very good when compared to other games, specifically client games. These higher grade (though nowhere near the highest grade) graphics slow down load times and can cause lag even on decent machines and connections. Because these graphics are contained in a browser instead of a client, they lag where the same graphics (or better) would not lag on the same machine when used in a client game.
Playability – You’re not going to come home from a long day at the office and then go kill Jad. Not likely to kill the Corporeal beast or Nomad either after that. A goblin? Sure. A mithril dragon? Ehhh, probably not. Of course most of you who are reading this have been gaming since you were 13 so it’s more natural than driving and you might just go do those things I just mentioned which most people would not do. It is hard to give an accurate comparison because gaming is so much a part of our generation today. We can do many things in many games where our parents (or older friends) who play games, but did not grow up with them, could not. Runescape nowadays is either very easy, or very challenging. There are very few places in the middle. This significantly reduces playability.
Going back to my title, obviously many people do still like Runescape. Though it will be interesting to see how the loss of 98% of the bots (which would equate to, I don’t know, 50% of subscriptions and 75% of all accounts?) will affect Runescape. If Jagex does make Runescape a client game they will undoubtedly lose a fair amount of members though they will gain a few if they increase the game performance to fit a client game.