The 3 in RuneScape 3: The New Interface System

posted by on 10th August 2013, at 2:21am

RuneScape 3 has been released and the changes made have been substantial enough that I feel a discussion is warranted on them. Over the next couple months I’m going to be discussing the ‘3’ that makes RuneScape 3. Those three things are the New Interface System, the updated website, and the HTML5 rendering engine upgrades. All of these things are typical in the sense of Jagex evolution, some more so than others. This month I’m going to be starting with the New Interface System (NIS).

When the NIS was first announced I was overjoyed to say the least. The existing RuneScape interface had been a discussion point of mine in numerous Informer articles. The interface setup for RuneScape had stayed largely the same since the release of RuneScape 2 back in 2004. We saw minor changes for the launch of RuneScape HD in 2008 and then a colour scheme update in 2011. Overall these changes were minor in that they updated the look and feel rather than the actual functionality. Look and feel is important but it is not as important as the functionality of the interface itself. Needless to say, the game interface was in need of a major overhaul.

Upon first hearing about the project I was skeptical in that the update would be major enough to shift the way the game is played. After watching the first in the series of videos it was apparent that the interface updates would indeed be substantial. I immediately started putting together a list of things that I’d like to see with this update. Some of them actually were a part of the update (customization, a unified scrollbar style, and customizable hotkeys) and some were not (better client-server response times, text DPI scaling, and WASD style movement). Of course being a Premier Club subscriber I was eager to test this new innovation.

In the past Jagex has struggled with community adoption of their new innovations. Going back to when RuneScape HD was released there was a concern that the software rendering mode would disappear, it still exists for the Java client if you can’t run OpenGL. Last year there was an even bigger debacle with the rework of the combat system termed the Evolution of Combat. From the time the first beta hit there was an ever increasing amount of FUD being spread around the community by various stakeholders who didn’t like the change. The public perception war was managed effectively for the RuneScape HD launch. This was not the case with the Evolution of Combat, that perception war ultimately lead to Old School RuneScape being launched. From the beginning it was clear that this was an issue that would need to be handled with care for the NIS.

The community was highly involved with the NIS from two standpoints. First as a RuneScape player with the NIS you are granted an incredible amount of freedom with the way you play RuneScape. If a person wants to play with a fixed window like they have since 2004 that’s possible, if a person wants a RuneScape HD style UI that’s possible as well. Overall a player now has a great amount of control over how their game looks. Jagex also ran a competition during the beta in which players could submit interface designs and the winner would be included in the final release of the game. The winning interface can be found under the preset known as “Social” and works well if you must have a huge selection of chat tabs open at once. During this competition Jagex also featured several runner ups on their Facebook page as well. Overall the community adoption of the NIS has been relatively well received and to my knowledge there haven’t been any protests to abolish this aspect of RuneScape 3.

The NIS has enabled a whole new way of playing RuneScape. To start off with there are now key binds available for almost every action. This means that it’s possible to have an interface in which by default there are no panels visible except for chat and the world map. It’s also allowed for a great separation of player vs. character. As an example one might have all actions related to the player on one side and the actions of the character on the other. For me it’s also enabled a whole new type of interface that can utilize a large 1080p display with an equally as large game area. This opens up a realistic possibility of connecting a computer to a TV screen and actually playing on a big screen. Of course following from this the user interface could easily be extended to a tablet form factor with gestural activations rather than key binds. It’s rumoured that tablets were something Jagex was looking at but decided to not pursue the project.

Overall the NIS has improved the user experience of playing RuneScape. It’s also opened up the game for another 10 years of development using the existing framework. Jagex have managed to do this while maintaining an acceptable level of backwards compatibility with the player base that prefers the older interface styles. This is ultimately a win-win situation for Jagex as it allows for the interface of the game to advance and easily curies favour with that part of the player base. In closing it’s clear to me that the NIS is my favourite part of RuneScape 3.

There’s no better time to be playing RuneScape.

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