Playing God: Jagex Making Players Omnipotent?

posted by on 1st June 2013, at 3:56pm

“If men cease to believe that they will one day become gods then they will surely become worms.” –
Henry Miller

In Runescape, we have had an opportunity to become many things. Just a scroll through my bank allows me to see Rickle’s many professions; lumberjack, jester, lawyer, port operator, diplomat, archeologist, spy, sheep herder, slayer of any baddie you can think of, even ruler of his very own kingdom – but with the latest turn of events in Gielinor, Jagex has eluded to a role that may inevitably be that of a god. The player becoming among the likes of Saradomin and Zamorak? It certainly would be a bold direction to take, but what can we expect if this popular assumption comes into fruition? Would we really want to become a god anyway?

With Jagex putting so much emphasis on the gods lately, frankly, it’s been more than a little confusing. If you’re like me and used to Jagex taking baby steps and years to make it to a particular story point, this god business seems like it was green lighted and then sent into overdrive. Between Guthix dying and the new skills and everything else, there’s a lot to take in. Let’s do a run down.

As many of you are aware, at the end of The World Wakes quest, the player is given power and wisdom by the dying Guthix and named a “World Guardian”. The title and these powers aren’t clearly defined, but it is clear that there is a sort of protection that was granted to the player in order to have a sort of protection from the powers of other gods. We see this when Saradomin, who at least in classic Runescape lore is considered the most predominant, revered, and powerful of the lower gods, fails to teleport the player the first time he tries. Right away, we know something big is on the horizon.

Now, Runescape deities are a little different than what we consider real world God(s) to be. Without going into massive detail, real life God(s) are seen as omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient (almighty, always present, and all knowing) . Runescape gods don’t have any of these powers, though we have come to learn that there are actually an unknown amount of “elder gods” that may possess these traits. These lesser “junior” gods that took part in the God Wars are seemingly just powerful beings that have a code that dictates their actions. These god doctrines are clear and distinct from one another. Oddly enough, barring the squabbling desert deities,  there are not any gods that greatly overlap in virtues. Where the player seems to lie presently, whether the actions chosen up to this point reflect this or not, is that we are to keep these powers in balance. On a pure speculatory note, we do seem to get a choice, perhaps down the line, which way we may want to sway that balance. After all, we did get to choose a god to align with after the release of God Emissaries, so it would only make sense that we would want the god we support to gain clout. How we will go about doing this has been hinted at with the naming of at least one of the new skills.

Earlier in May we learned that one of the new skills that will be released this year is called Divination. The word derives from the latin word divinare, meaning “to be inspired by a god”. In a real world practice, it’s much in the fashion of fortune telling, but unlike Ms. Cleo that costs $2.99 a minute to get our fortunes told to us over the phone, divination is more ceremonial and practical than just staring into a crystal ball. There’s many existing practices for predicting the future that fall under this term, such as tarot card reading, interpreting omens,  casting bones or dice, and even something which there is already a level 70 prayer in Runescape – Augury, which is watching bird patterns. While all of this seems odd place in Runescape, there’s one form of divination that could potentially have great use – dowsing, which is using a Y or L-shaped dowsing or divining rod to search for underground water, buried metal or ores, gemstones, oil, or even gravesites. Obviously this could apply quite easily to finding raw materials and other things of use in RS. Speculation is rampant, but no details as to what exactly Divination will be have been released at the time of this writing.

While that’s all well and good, that doesn’t really allow us to become a god in Runescape, just gain knowledge through them. There is, however, another word that is close to divination that would. Divinization is  “the transforming effect of divine grace”. In a literal sense, it means to become more divine, more like God (or a god, in this case), and to take upon a divine nature. While I’m not sure how you could make the two godly D skills play off each other, if Jagex chose to go this route, this would at least be the premise. You would need to almost have the skill become a quest, sort of how Dungeoneering is in that there’s a storyline but you are gaining experience as you go along. But you don’t simply become a god in Runescape through time or experience. In RS there are Mahjarrat that are far powerful than any other mortal creatures and extremely old, but they are not gods. That being said, it would be possible, based on the information we have been given and based on precedent. What we know is that becoming a god hinges on the 12 Elder Artifacts that exist, of which 7 are confirmed to be in Gielinor. In a recent lore Q&A, it was said that even being around these artifacts could grant godhood, but there are some inconsistencies. For example, the player has used the Stone of Jas, which is one of the Elder Artifacts, but this has had no known lasting effect. A sure way proven through history to become a god is to use one of Elder Artifacts against an existing god. Zamorak and now Sliske are considered gods because they gained power by attacking Zaros and Guthix, respectively. What other ways to ascertain godhood beyond this is murky and unproven, and even now what the current status of all the godly beings is confusing. However, it would appear based on lore that it would be possible for the player to eventually become a god.

The premise is a bold one – I can’t think of any other RPG where you can become a god. But imagine playing Runescape in the shoes of Saradomin or Zaros. It would no doubt be immensely different from how the game was originally intended to viewed. Forget the fact that it would skew combat balances and other logistical principles – imagine doing quests. A god doing a quest like One Small Favor or Dragon Slayer – it doesn’t make sense. Jagex is already on a slippery slope of inconsistency by forcing everyone to advance into the Sixth Age whether they played through The World Wakes or not. Even if you did see Guthix killed, if you haven’t done While Guthix Sleeps and Ritual of the Mahjarrat, the plot is lost on you, and all the events that happen in these other quests magically apply without you completing them. I just don’t like the idea of worldwide events based around a quest you may not have done. It ruins your player’s timeline and destroys the entire game’s story. Imagine doing Cook’s Assistant as a supposedly powerful god – the very idea makes me frustrated.

In fact, I think I’d find the entire game extremely boring being a god. I can create mighty weapons with massive amount of power, but I’d level smithing by making steel platebodies. I can call forth hoards of minions to do my bidding, but I’m spending gold charms to make barker toads that I’ll never use to train summoning. Let’s face it, if I’m a god, the game ceases to not only be challenging, but believable in its current state. Forget the completionist cape because becoming a god would be the ultimate buzzkill “end” to playing RS.

Unless Jagex makes some substantial changes to the way Runescape is played, having the player become a god would be a bad idea. It simply doesn’t align with their design approach of being a game that anyone at any level can continue to play week after week. Becoming a god, even though you wouldn’t be immortal or all powerful, would still be too unbalanced to keep the game engaging and challenging. While I love the detail and storyline developing, let’s hope that we stay an adventurer  capable of being deceived and used as a means to continue the advancement of the realm in the role of a world guardian and not a world overlord. My opening quote by Henry Miller states that I am to become worms for thinking like this, and that’s fine by me. I’d rather inch around Gielinor on my belly looking for messy adventure than reign over it in organized boredom.

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