Rescaping the Future

posted by on 29th September 2019, at 3:23am

Jagex has had many different approaches to designing RuneScape. They focused on what they called “unfinished business” last year. They’ve tried a power to the player’s strategy one year, so on and so on. Once again, they appear to be switching gears and trying another new approach, they are calling “remasters”. They announced this in the first episode of Design Diaries. It is a pretty ambitious project and has more merit than you might realize at first. I know we are all probably getting tired of remakes, reboots, and relaunches from everything from movies to video games, but in this case, it may be exactly what RuneScape 3 needs. This month let’s take a look at what Jagex means by the term “remaster”, and what we will be getting out of it and what we will be sacrificing in order to make it a reality.

When Jagex talks about doing remasters, it’s important to define what exactly they are talking about. Remasters could include graphical reworks, removal of dead content, bringing older content up to modern standards, managing XP curves just to mention a few. The way in which it was explained made you think of areas in the game being remastered but it could also be applied to much more. The mining and smithing rework is really more of a remaster according to what was shared in the Design Diaries video. It would be like rebuilding a classic car versus just giving it a nice paint job. A remaster actually would rebuild the motor, transmission, drive-train, interior, and an awesome paint job.

The example Mods Timbo and Osbourne used was God Wars Dungeon 1. If this was remastered you would be looking at a graphical modernization on both the surface and dungeon and new boss mechanics to bring them up to more modern standards. They would also be looking to make the content more relevant by creating new rewards or reworking existing ones by giving them a special niche. They would be taking a look at quest that may need some patches or fixes, and those are just a few examples. Another example would be to look at Lumbridge. It’s iconic to RuneScape but it looks it’s age. They would be looking to make it look modern and perhaps if they had the analytics to back it up maybe remove the prayer nexus because it’s not used or re-imagine how it works to make it more enticing to players. This is one area where they would be able to work on the early game experience as well. The possibilities would be endless but what else would we be gaining from remasters.

On a recent livestream Mod Osbourne stated he would love to start the game over from scratch. It’s no wonder then why he would be pushing for remasters. In many ways that is what remasters would be doing. It is recreating the game in pieces instead of all at once. One of the benefits to this is that from a technical side they could fix years of technical debt or what we know as spaghetti code. Cireon wrote an excellent article describing what technical debt is in his article Untangling Spaghetti Code. This may help in reducing the number of bugs that seem to come in with updates these days and give them a clean slate from which to work on in the future. This would be a huge step forward, but it’s not all we would be getting out of remasters.

Arguably, the most important thing we get out of remasters is modernization of the game. There are many places in the game world where it feels like you have wandered into a much older game. This is true when it comes to the look of some areas but also with training methods mechanics. One of the best updates we’ve seen in years was the mining and smithing rework. It was outdated in its mechanics and training methods. It has been brought into a modern era with the changes that were made to both skills, and this would be a part of remasters. Remasters can also help the early game. They can, of course, make that first entrance in Gielinor look amazing and simplify the new player experience by reducing the amount of clutter in the early game. It could also draw out the learning curve making players less likely to be frustrated in the early game and quit. Of course, there would be an opportunity cost associated with remasters though.

Players will have to be willing to let the weekly update cycle go. There will not be the resources available to do weekly updates in the way we think of them today. It is also important to note that medium and large size updates would slow down. Remasters themselves would be taking on this space. That is not to say there wouldn’t be any new content but it would slow down significantly. That would be the price for this strategy.

There is much more to gain from remasters than to lose. In many ways it’s something the players have been asking for. I’ve seen many posts on various platforms talking about stopping weekly updates in order to fix broken aspects of the game. Remasters would serve this goal. As for giving up weekly updates, well we are already there. The truth is no developer can give their players the quality of update we want on that short of a cycle. It was possible when RuneScape looked like a glorified 8-bit game, but that is not where we are at nor is it where the players have guided Jagex. Remasters would give us much more in the long run than what we would be giving up in the short term. That is as long as Jagex sticks to this approach. There will most likely be a vocal minority that wants new content with weekly updates. This is a debate worth having, but Jagex needs to let the debate happen before having any knee jerk reaction to it.

Remasters may be exactly what the game needs at this time. The game needs to be remade and this is a way to do that. There will be a price, but it is one that is worth paying. My advice to Jagex is to let the inevitable debate happen and have faith that the majority of players will be on board for this. If faith is something they just can’t do then look at the evidence provided by the mining and smithing rework. It was essentially a remaster and people absolutely loved it. Until next month, Happy RuneScaping.

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