Alex’s Analysis – Dead or Alive

posted by on 15th August 2013, at 2:45pm

Hey, y’all. This month, I want to talk about something that I’ve seen come up many times, in-game and out. Many times, it is spoken without proper justification, and many times, I have no idea where the people making the claim are coming from or what they’re trying to prove.

Is Runescape “dying” or “dead”?

In short, my answer is no. Debate it as you will, call me a suck-up, point and laugh, but I stand by my justifications.

First off, what constitutes a game as being “dead”? There are a few ways this can be interpreted.

For those of you who grew up in the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis era, this usually happens to a game when you insert the cartridge into the machine and, no matter how much blowing dust out or rubbing alcohol you drench it with, the game simply will not play on the machine. It’s a dead cartridge. There’s no fun to be had from it (unless you actually find blowing into game cartridges to be fun, to which I may want to suggest you buy a pack of cards and reconsider your personal values).

In Runescape’s case, the game works on pretty well any browser, and with the shift into HTML5 and WebGL, it’s only a matter of time before it appears on mobile. And if, for whatever reason, it doesn’t, you can simply download the in-game client which is almost a given to work. And it works on any OS. And there’s no blowing into the cartridge or cleaning with rubbing alcohol. And once you log in and start playing, then it’s simply a case of making your character go somewhere and find something to do. There is fun to have.

So that can’t be true…

Another case of a game being dead is loss of personal interest. You played it, it was fun for a while, but then the game’s been done to death, every single last cutscene the game has to offer has been pasted onto Youtube, and nothing you do in the game hasn’t already been done in world-record time. You’ve played the game, finished all the quests, gotten all your levels to their max, and you’ve performed that golden dragon emote nearly a thousand times now. There’s nothing left to do in the game. Nothing to do now but wait for the next one or move onto the next. And if you let enough time pass, there will be a moment where you can start playing it again, perhaps start over from scratch, and it’ll become fun all over again. Nostalgia.

Many games have been through this, and even the best of games will go through this. Even gigantic games like World of Warcraft, Minecraft, Starcraft, and any other games with the word “craft” in it. Sometimes it lasts a few days, sometimes weeks, and sometimes years.

In this case, I don’t know if the word “dead” should be used to describe it, because the whole concept of “being dead” is that there’s no coming back. Done, remembered, and left alone forever. Maybe it’s more like giving a game “vacation time”, as it’s been played so much that both it and the player need a break from it.

This one sounds a lot more plausible to me as being the basis where players argue that the game is dead to them, as even I have had times where I played Runescape so much I stopped for several weeks before logging on again. Even still, I again argue that you really can’t call a game “dead” when all you’re doing is taking a break from it. And in Runescape’s case, it’s not like you can pawn the game off or donate it to a friend. Runescape’s always available provided you have an internet connection and a fairly decent computer, and in this day and age… well, that’s almost a mandatory living requirement now, isn’t it?

To top this one, Runescape’s always updating. Sometimes so dynamically that the entire world changes, as what’s been highlighted in Runescape 3’s concept. If it was simply a game that was bought and forgot by its developers, I can see it getting boring quickly. But almost once a week, something in Runescape changes, and it keeps the game new and interesting.

So nobody can stop a loss of personal interest, but the storywriters, developers, designers, and… yeah, pretty much the entire crew of Jagex are working very hard to slow the loss down and speed up the return.

Extending from loss of personal interest is loss of social interest. We, as a player-based community, govern a large chunk of the full player base. Runescape is one of those games where it’s a lot more fun playing and interacting with other people, or else it would be a single player game with “multiplayer capabilities” rather than a full on MMORPG.

Loss of social interest is what happens when so many players lose personal interest in the game that a large number of them quit. With fewer players in the game, it’s not quite as appealing. Grand Exchange prices for resources and rares go up and much of your friends list stays red for so long you wonder if you can just remove half of them. In fact, I’ll bet this is what makes players think the game is dead; none of their friends play anymore, and it’s a bit harder to delete old names than it is to add new ones.

This is called “moving on”. Runescape’s been around for almost 13 years now. When many players started playing, I imagine they are either in elementary school or junior high. 6 years later, half of Runescape’s life-time, if they are even still interested in the game, they enter college, university, or take on a job; a life of responsibility. This is why many of your friends in your list don’t log on anymore; they’ve moved on. Runescape’s not dead to them; they just no longer have as much time, if any, to play it. So you can’t call it dying because it’s something that comes naturally in our lifetime. If anything, you could even call this “advancing”.

Lastly, calling it dead when the community itself dies. By that, I mean that there are too many “noobs” or whatever, and the community no longer appears to be as mature as it once was.

This one’s a bit tricky. Many people started playing when Runescape was still new and fresh. Now, there’s just so much the game has to offer that it’s almost become intimidating, and it gets harder for the game to attract new players, still in the same audience, while still trying to appear to the old-timer players who are now much more mature and almost expect more from the game. A delicate balance.

The issue with this one is that it’s a lot easier for a game like Runescape to appeal towards players it already has rather than try to invite in new ones, and I think the content managers at Jagex have done a phenomenal job of balancing that. Not only do they add new content and have opened up more flexibility with the community (including Runescape Classic and Runescape OS for us nostalgics), but they also spare no expense at making sure Runescape is easy to get into and begin playing. Case and point: Free-To-Play. The perfect game demo. What have they done recently with Free-To-Play? Updated some of the quests, expanded the play area into Taverley and Burthrope which a much more in-depth plot, allow F2P players to train members-only skills to level 5 (again, game demo)…

And did I forget to mention the big shiny button on the home page saying “PLAY FREE NOW!”. Try it. Clear your cache and go to A big giant “PLAY FREE NOW”. Simple and brilliant! If you ask “what’s Runescape”, then you explore the site. Or if you just want to play it, then you click the big shiny button and BOOM, you’re starting the game up. Create username and password, add a couple of pieces of personal information that is much easier to do when buying something online with your Mastercard, and you’re playing a game! Oh my gosh! It’s even easier to do than getting a game on Steam!

Going back on track, I really don’t think the community is falling apart. There are still many Runescape fansites out there, including a full Runescape Wiki, and the forums are as jam packed as ever. I log on and still find lots of players in the Grand Exchange, chatting up a storm and organizing events. With the clan system, citadels, and stuff in place, there’s a lot more of that kind of thing going on because a player doesn’t need to bring up a website just to build a clan.

But… yeah, it’s diminishing a bit, I’ll agree, because many people are “moving on” and not as many of those kinds of devoted people join to keep up with the times. Important figures of the past like Zezima and Bluerose13x (hah, as though anyone remembers that one) are now comically used, if not forgotten, like old celebrities. They were famous for having the highest level skills at the time for a while (or in some eyes, as no-lifers). Now, so many people have completionist stats that it’s no longer impressive, so we look to players doing incredible things “with” the game. Woox16’s boss fights, Excl’s competitions, and just about every other good Runescape machinima maker out there.

Regardless, because people are “moving on”, I refuse to call this “dying”. We’re just so focused on what and whom we’ve lost that we don’t pay any regards to the fresh blood out there just waiting to make a name for themselves.

So… yeah. Runescape’s not dying. It’s going through some tough times, but it’s still going pretty strong. If you think it is dying or already dead, I can only imagine you’re thinking very negatively, and advise you reconsider the term or else I will not be able to respect your opinion unless it’s properly justified.

Until next time,

Cheers, cannoneers!

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