Train Wreck – RuneLabs Stutters with Messy Launch

posted by on 28th January 2015, at 10:00am

RuneLabs was launched last week on January 20th. This much anticipated update was supposed to be the next logical step of Power to the Players. Obviously the launch did not go off without a hitch, but more on that later. First, let me take you through what RuneLabs are and what their purpose is supposed to be. Then we will get into why it’s failing miserably. So strap in and hold on tight because it’s going to be a very bumpy ride.

RuneLabs are a way for players to share their ideas for future content with Jagex and other players. The ultimate goal of RuneLabs is to have player driven development of future content.  This takes power to the players to the next level by allowing players to generate the ideas that we will be voting on. Jagex has high hopes for RuneLabs and has dedicated nearly half of this year’s update schedule to ideas that come from them. Unfortunately, we are already seeing some of the negative consequences of having such an ambitious plan. Now let’s talk about how they work.

How it Works

It’s simple really, just go to your community tab on the website and click on RuneLabs or you can also access them in game as well.  This will take you to RuneLabs main page. Here you can find a tab for an overview, wish list, and submit ideas. The overview has some information on how RuneLabs work.  The wish list is your own personal favourite ideas that you have added to it to help you easily keep track of how they are doing. Finally, the add idea tab is just that – click on it and submit your idea. After the first week a support button will be enabled. This will allow you to click support on ideas that you like. Ideas that receive the most support will be reviewed by Jagex and the best ones of those will then go to a player power poll. The winner of the poll will then go into development and become a new piece of game content. Two important things to know about how Rune Labs work are 1.) there is criteria for any given month, be sure to check what the criteria for that month is; 2.) the support system will be reset every month so ideas that you supported one month will have their support reset the next and you will have to click support again.

The Problems

This update was not ready for release. Once again Jagex overpromised and under delivered. This is not unheard of in the realm of RuneScape, but especially disappointing this time. RuneLabs was released without key features that it needs to be successful. Probably the biggest feature that is missing is a way to search. It is virtually impossible to tell your friends about a great idea that you have and have them go support it because they cannot search for your idea. The only option to guide players to your specific idea is to copy and paste the URL and share it via forums or email.  There are no quick find codes, no search box that you can put text in, and no filters. You can choose to look at ideas in certain categories: combat, quest, or ninja to name a few but that is it. Add to this the fact that there were over 6,000 ideas within the first three days of its release and you can see what a daunting task it would be to find a particular idea and support it. The worst part is Jagex knew this. In Jagex’s audio podcast number 31 titled “RuneLabs” they actually admitted they knew they were releasing this update without key features, however, those features would be a part of RuneLabs by June and no one would remember this anyway by then. Jagex – first impressions are everything and believe me, we will remember. You have damaged the reputation of the product and you should know better. They even went as far as to say that perfect is the enemy of getting something done. Well this is far from perfect and it isn’t even done. So why would Jagex be so hell-bent on releasing an update that they knew was flawed? The answer is the schedule I spoke of before. They want to dedicate nearly half of the year’s updates to RuneLabs which means they have to start getting ideas now just for ideas to start coming into the game by June. I place the blame for this squarely at Mod Mark’s feet. He is the one that over promised at  RuneFest and then again in December in his question and answer live stream. He left his team in a position with no choice but to put an update out that was not ready just to meet his arbitrary timeline.

Another problem with RuneLabs is the lack of moderator oversight. Of course this is a difficult challenge but with that being said, there needs to be better moderation. You can only handle so much stupidity before you finally give up and close out. You may never even get to a good idea that you would support because you are frustrated and feel you are wasting your time. If Jagex can’t handle the sheer volume of ideas posted in RuneLabs that’s fine, try using forum moderators to help you. It’s really annoying when page after page is full of lazy ideas, self-serving ideas, and downright trolling. If they don’t do something about it no one will even look at RuneLabs because players will think it is a big joke. In the 40 or 50 pages that I sampled to do research for this article I came across ideas for things that were already in game like Bando’s armour along with pure troll posts such as the person that posted the full lyrics of “Hotel California” as their idea. If Jagex can’t moderate RuneLabs then let the community do it themselves by adding a down vote button and let us point our fingers and laugh at these idiots.

Now for the Players

I know many of you really care about the health and longevity of this game. I do too, which is why it’s on us to help make RuneLabs successful.  Jagex has really dropped the ball on this but I think those of us that are committed to the future of this game can help. If you are someone who really cares about RuneScape and has an idea, please put it in RuneLabs.  Right now RuneLabs are being dominated by lazy ideas, self-serving ideas, and trolls. We need the people who are committed, thoughtful, and care to change this. Otherwise, smart people will just not look at them and we will be left with really bad ideas that will end up in game. Yes, Jagex has the final say, however we have already seen the lengths they will go to just to try to make good on an unrealistic promise. Here are some tips for you when submitting your idea.

  1. You need an attention grabbing title.
  2. Be concise and allow enough room for Jagex to mould the idea. Don’t put every single tiny detail in your pitch. I have seen some decent ideas that have completely lost it when they went into the detail and left me with no choice but to not support them.
  3. Use proper spelling and grammar. RuneLabs cannot be edited, remember this. I have seen so many posts that look like they should have been written in crayon. We all make mistakes but if you are serious about your idea then treat it with the same respect that you would any professional written document. I would suggest writing it in some format where you have access to spelling and grammar checks, Word for example, and then post it to RuneLabs. I don’t care how good the idea is, if I see run on or incomplete sentences I move on to the next idea.
  4. Think about it. Put some thought and effort into the possible implications this idea would have on the game as a whole. Make sure that it is well thought out and written. This is not a brainstorming session this is a pitch – there is a difference.

Good Ideas

I do want to touch on a few good ideas that I have come across. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to find them because there is no way for you to search for them. In any event, probably the best ideas I have seen have been the most simple. The first one was to add a feature that would allow you to group your quests in a series format instead of alphabetically. This is a brilliant idea both in its usefulness and its simplicity. The second was to add a Fishing skill plot at the Clan Citadel. I think this would be a good skill to add and Citadels are starting to get a little old. They will probably be getting an update sometime in the future so why not add Fishing, especially given the fact that we cook fish on the barbecue already. They wouldn’t even have to add a whole new graphical skill plot they could just add a few bubbles to the avatar pool. That’s just a few examples of good ideas that I have come across. There are good ideas out there.  They are just really hard to find.

In Closing

I want to close with a call to action from our RSBandB community. Back in December Mod Mark was specifically asked if he was worried about the disproportionate impact that streamers and YouTubers could have on RuneLabs. Mod Mark answered by saying basically that’s the way the world works. It’s no different in real life.  If someone has a large audience and can get them to support a particular idea then  that was fine with him.  We can discuss the pros and cons of entering into this new politicized version of RuneScape, however one thing is clear, if that is how the game is going to be played then we need to make sure we are doing what we can for our community. What I mean is the RSBandB community is one of the oldest, most engaged, experienced, and thoughtful communities out there. We can lend our voice and our support to those good ideas of merit. All of us have been around long enough to have seen what bad updates can do and none of us want that to happen again. The best way to keep bad updates out of the game is by supporting good ideas. I have been critical because criticism is deserved, however if Jagex makes some changes and takes the time to fix some of these issues, then there is still the potential for this to work. We must do our part to help ensure the success of this update because at this point it, is up to us.

Happy RuneScaping

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