Alex’s Analysis – Let’s See That Again

posted by on 13th January 2018, at 4:14pm

2018, y’all. New year, new beginnings, and new endings.

Runescape’s let out their plans for 2018 and, compared to 2017 with the release of Menaphos and 2016 with Sliske’s Endgame, seems a little underwhelming. I won’t talk about it much, since I know you guys are capable of reading and I’m sure you’ve already given the article a once-over. Basically, we’re getting a clue scroll rework, finishing the Pirate series (yay!), and various other extras and quality-of-life updates. Oh yeah, and the mining/smithing rework is coming out which, in my opinion, feels a little underwhelming when you’ve already maxed the skill (but I’m sure that’s about to change).

Up front: we’re talking about quests! Yay quests!

That means there probably will be spoilers, so I advise not to keep reading unless you have the Quest Cape. Mostly because I’m going to actively be talking about that later on.

So what do I think, quest-wise, for the upcoming year? Well, what stood out for me in the article were the quests. And lack thereof. Pirates finale and a interesting-sounding Murder Mystery quest.

That’s it. Two quests.

For the whole year.

Am I freaking out? No. In fact, I’m glad. I’m glad they didn’t tell us about the entire story of quests coming out for the year because it would just be too distracting for the upcoming months. Rather than opening up to the potential surprises each new month has to offer, you’d end up opening the monthly plans articles only thinking; “Will this be the month the Gnome Finale comes out?” and be either grateful when it does appear or disappointed when it doesn’t.

No, quests need a little element of surprise when they’re released. It’s good they get that built-up anticipation and hype when they’re mentioned in the Behind The Scenes articles, but that will only last so long and kill itself off over a long period of time. Not only that, but expectations for it would reach overwhelming levels as the imagination takes over and culminates, to the highest level of perfection, what the update “could be like”. Which leads to disappointment due to the time and technological limitations the update had to contend with (as well as the story not being as exciting, but that might just be me and my twisted mind).

So yeah. There will still be a bunch of quests coming out. Quests are Runescape’s substance filler. They’ll just be announced later, that’s all.

Of course, I’m still anticipating the next part in the Elder Gods series of quests. We already saw the epic concept art of Bik. More than likely we’ll get another quest like V’s Return where it starts off with one hyped-up character and suddenly becomes a quest for an entirely different race. That’ll appear sooner than you think. … I hope.

So, how about that Pirate Quest finale, huh?

Well, to be honest, it’s been so long since I completed them that I sort of forgot about all that happened. We went to an island somewhere with a brewery and made rum, and we sailed with another pirate learning to be one, and then we went to an island filled with poison gas, and then got stuck on a prison island, and then our house blew up, and… something happened after that?

I actually forgot a lot about it because there had been huge spaces of time between each part. A Clockwork Syringe had a character specially put in the game to remind you all about the plot of the series. In fact, during the Rocking Out quest, I had forgotten entirely who Captain Donnie was and spent ages trying to find him.

… you too, huh? Here.

So the finale’s coming out at long last, and I want to get excited about it, but I honestly can’t. I can’t because I’m no longer familiar with it. Runescape’s changed and updated so much that it’s all become a nostalgic blur in my head. Most of the sprite-work still predate the 2007 style, so when the update does come out, you can bet there will be a graphical update along with it.

Doesn’t that suck?

What can I do about it? Or, perhaps what can the folks at Jagex do about it (because, you know, as a paying customer I’m entitled to everything ever).

I believe the ideal solution is this; once the finale does come out, we also get the ability to replay all the pirate quests.

All of them. No reminder NPC, no cut-scene theater; Actual re-playable quests.

And I’ll tell you why this is the bestest idea in the worlds:

1: Your character, your story.

I’ll start off by dismissing what’s already been done. At the moment, all that’s really happened was we got an NPC to remind us of how the story went. Or maybe a bit of lore in the form of a short story to get us in the mood. The lore is its own story (and always welcome in my books), so let’s talk about these NPCs.

Reminder NPCs take away from the experience a bit because they’re challenging you to remember all that happened. They’ll summarize all that happened, using keywords and character names to hopefully toggle a few memories. It’s not really bad, but it could be so much better. It’s like getting a lecture rather than hands-on experience. It’s unreliable because of the listener. Maybe they have decade-long photographic memories, or maybe they just can’t remember anything that happened two weeks ago no matter how much they try.

Now, you’re probably asking; Alex 43, why not just watch a Youtube video of a play-through of the quest? Answer: Because it’s not my story. It’s not my character going around and interacting with players. Simply put, replaying quests allows me to once again put my character in the story. To explore the puzzles and get to know them once again.

It’s the same difference as comparing reading a book yourself and having a nine-year-old with a lisp read it to you without letting you look. When you read a book yourself, you’re not really analyzing the words. You’re getting in key points as you skim over the pages, and by envisioning them, the world sort of takes place in your mind. When it’s read to you, you’re too busy translating the words and trying to keep up with their sentences that the effect is diminished or even altogether lost.

Your character is the physical representation of you in this world. It is the thing you are most attuned to and familiar with. It is through their interactions do you control the world around you, and that helps attach you to the world. This is what makes these quests your story when you play them through. This exploration, discovery, and interaction. You should never ever use an online guide because it detaches you from this immersion because you suddenly become omniscient and the story no longer becomes yours.

If you’re not familiar with this sort of mindset… well, then perhaps you should read more books. Fiction especially; they exercise creativity more than recollection.

2: The familiarity.

Anybody remember the quest called TokTz-Ket-Dill? In this quest, you went virtually everywhere within the TzHaar city, interacting with everyone and all-around exploring. It was the quest that sort of took you on a tour throughout the city and their lore. I did this quest right when it came out, and it served its purpose splendidly.

When the Elder Kiln quest came out, the entire TzHaar underground got a hard-core graphical update. It was expanded many times larger, each of the creatures now look super-different, and there’s a whole different sort of societal presence among them (the Ga’al). During that quest, you only really went to two new locations; the hatchery and the Fight Kiln.

And that was it. I was left exploring the city blindly.

Now, on the surface that’s fine; exploring new places is a great thing to do. However, I had to take everything I got from TokTz-Ket-Dill and figure out how to translate it back into the new graphical rework. I had to find where that elder mine was so I could talk with those guys during Brink of Extinction, I had to rediscover how to enter the Fight Cave, and I even no longer recognized the TokTz-Ket-Dill when it appeared again during the Fight Kiln. I had to discard everything I learned during that quest because it was no longer up to date.

I had to discard one of the stories because it no longer was familiar to me. I should never have to discard what I got from a quest. Ever.

3: The Continuity.

Runescape’s not like a book series where, when the next one comes out, you could just watch them all again to get caught up in the stories. It’s a game. If I want to replay a quest series just to see how it all went, I’d have to create a whole new character and train them up. And even then, all that training would take so long that it wouldn’t be a continuous reminder of the series. There would be so much happening in between that we’d just end up back at square one where I forget the story when I start the next one.

That’s why I want to pressure quest replay-ability on “main” characters; so that because they already have the stats to have completed all the quests beforehand, they can do the quests again in their sequential order, one right after the other, without that lull in between. The story stays not only fresh, but complete, because we do not transition or distract ourselves away from it.

4: The Lengthening

The finale quests that we had gotten as of late have been… short. Overwhelmingly short. All that hype build-up and excitement, and two hours later… it’s done. That’s it. The whole series, the whole wait; all for those two hours. Quest finales aren’t the final “books” in a series; they’re more like the last chapter in a single book that you have to wait years for to finally read. Do you do that? Read a book one chapter at a time with a six-month break in between? I’m pretty sure you don’t.

No, once each chapter is available after so long, you go back and read it again to reacquaint yourself with it. Or, maybe you wait for the whole thing to be complete and read the whole thing in one go. Either way, by reading the entire book again, you make the final chapter last many times longer. By then, the beginning of the quest series is just as exciting, meaning that you’ve just lengthened the final quest by 5x! And if there was a hard-core graphical update, it’s like an entirely new series of quests! Free content!

Quest replay-ability sounds like the best thing to do for the Pirate Quest. Or even all those other quests that got completed in that same manner. The Vampyre series, the TzHaar series, the Mahjarrat series, the Dwarf series… can you imagine how much more exciting they would’ve been if you could do the entire series from the start again before starting on the final quest? It would be like playing a brand new game altogether! Runescape 4! And 5! And 6!

So why not do it?

Answer: Because… it… is… HARD.

This is where things get technical. Until recently (Dimension of Disaster), quests never were constructed with replay-ability in mind. Once you completed a quest, a whole bunch of triggers were set that stuck with the character both during and after the quest was complete. Sometimes there are multiple possibilities of such triggers for quests with multiple paths like Hazeel Cult and the entire Void Past series. There are a lot of variables that are set, and if you want to do a quest over again, they would have to be reset in such a way that it doesn’t mess with anything else that has already been manipulated. Especially with things that multiple quests manipulate (for example, Fenkenstrain between the Creature of Fenkenstrain quest and The Great Brain Robbery)

Here’s an example: pretend I want to replay While Guthix Sleeps (because who doesn’t?). Well, first it would have to bring back a bunch of the dead characters, which means that the Warriors Guild would need to be re-updated with its door-guard and guildmaster, and the slayer master for Duradel gets replaced. And to what extent; does the slayer guide also get re-updated to show Duradel again? Then a bunch of triggers need to be reset for what happens during the quest (cutscene triggers when entering certain areas).

Then it gets interesting. What about items? I’ve already got a set of Elite Black Knight armor and Dagon’hai Robes. Do they just disappear? If so, then where are they? My inventory? My bank? My Costume Room? And if I get to keep them, then I should not be able to get a new set right away or else their market would crash. Reward items would also need to disappear then, as some of them allow unlimited access throughout the quest area, but what if I already improved them in some way in a post-quest mini-game (eg: Balmung). Or what if I used them already (eg: the coal and runes in Movario’s base)? Should I just not get them again? But what if I actually need to use them (same example)?

How about experience rewards mid-quest? Would I get those again? If so, then they would need to be reset and balanced, making sure it cannot be abused by players who decide it’s more beneficial to replay a quest over and over to train a skill. And what about skill introduction quests like Druidic Ritual (doesn’t really exist anymore, but bear with me)? And if not… is the quest even worth doing? Would anybody even want to play it?

Lots of stuff to look at. Making a quest replayable would take about the same effort as making a whole new quest. And what would you rather have? The ability to play a shiny new quest, or the ability to play a dusty old one? … yup, thought so.

This is not speculation; I was actually told this at RuneFest a few years back. Quest replay-ability just wasn’t going to happen because of the format the quests were built with and the level of difficulty. Then again, I was also told RuneScape Mobile wasn’t going to happen any time soon by the same guy, so who knows?

Either way, if I don’t get a bunch of quests to hype myself up, the thought of being able to replay a few of them is exciting by itself. Heck, this month we’re promised being able to replay Sliske’s Endgame! That’s a great thing, because it means that the concept of quest replay-ability is being exercised. That, and I wanted to finish with Armadyl and didn’t know that if I actually beat him in the foot-race, it was effectively me betraying him. Which is lame; we should’ve just marched together toward it hand-in-hand; I selected him to be my battle buddy, after all. He should’ve been following me around instead of Icthlarin…

Of course, this coming from a guy who was peeved at the final fight just because it took place in an uninteresting pit rather than the potentially dynamic platform where the stone exploded. As a paying customer, I’m not entitled to everything. Just what is available.

And I’ll take it. It’s why I keep playing.

Until next time,

Cheers, cannoneers!

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