If you have been playing Runescape recently, you have probably heard of the new popular kids on the Jagex playground. Cloaking themselves in an appropriate yet mysterious name, the Ninja Team, you may not know who they are but they have played a hand in many fantastic mini and not-so-mini updates here recently. They led the charge in the recent Dungeoneering playability updates where they came out of the shadows to fix a lot of annoying things with the skill. While they have been around for a long time, the Ninja Team is just now getting their due as a much appreciated and player loved group of Jagex’s staff.
What makes this team ninjas? Like the black clad assassins they are named after, the team works behind the scenes and makes minor improvements and playability fixes that might go unnoticed by a majority of the players. It could be days or weeks until you use some aspect of the game they worked on before you go “hey, this is better than I remember!” Ninja Team members work in a small group and are well-rounded individuals that have skills and knowledge in a lot of different areas of development so that they can tackle fixes on their own as much as possible. You can think of the weekly updates listed under the Tweaks and Fixes section of the Runescape forums as ninja updates, so really their handy work has been taking place for a long time before their recent rise to fame.
Why these folks are getting so much love right now has a lot to do how they select what to work on. A large majority of what they do comes from suggestions from players. If you spend any time on the RS forums, their Twitter Feed, or Runescape’s subReddit, you’ve no doubt seen all the “Ninja Requests” that are there. With Jagex spending more and more time looking at these social media sites and giving more opportunities for the player base to pitch ideas at them, they have a large pool of projects for them to pick from. With Power to the Players being such a big thing right now people are feeling even more vocal about what they dislike or what they find annoying. When so many people are able to put their two cents in it seems like a ninja’s work is never done.
But player suggestions aren’t anything new, and tweaks and fixes have existed for years, so there has to be more to the Ninja’s spike in popularity. After all, the term “ninja” has been thrown around when referring to hidden updates not only in RS but other MMOs for years. If you look in the past, there was very little mention of a Ninja Team even existing until fairly recently. It was assumed that the development team kind of picked up fixes to do along the side of regular content whenever they got the chance – and this could have very well been the case for some time. I couldn’t find any real proof of the team existing until they were mentioned in November 2013 when the team and their members were reviled in a Behind the Scenes video where they released several player requested community updates all at once. Since that time they have continued to be sprinkled through news posts and BTS videos.
With all of that in mind, probably the biggest reason that the Ninjas are being so active and visible is to bring parts of the game up to speed with current content. Let’s face it. A lot of Runscape is OLD – like over a decade old. Not just graphically but programming-wise there’s a lot of room to improve aspects of the game. With the release of areas like Ashdale and more complicated mechanics like the attack abilities it is easy to see just how far Jagex has come even in the past few years with their current programming system. Take some of the recent Dungeoneering changes for example. That content is just a few years old, but there’s plenty of areas that they were able improve on. A personal favorite of mine is the spike traps room. The action and animation took entirely too long, the spikes used to stay hidden, and most annoyingly, after a solid 5 second action you could fail it. Was it broken? No, just annoying. It was a perfect thing for the ninja team to take a look at to improve to make player’s lives just that much easier.
So here’s to you, Ninja Team. Thank you for all of the great updates you’ve cranked out for… however long you’ve existed. I’m glad to see that you’re finally getting the credit that you deserve. Enjoy your time in the limelight at least for a moment before slinking back into the shadows.