We’ve not seen much from the Ninja Team around the end of 2019. They seemed to have slowly been dwindling their updates to a couple of so minor things and, for a while, vanished entirely for a short while. Now, the Game Updates are excitedly referring to them with their latest rounds of fixes, no longer keeping their posts drowned in the big giant forum post that advertises weekly updates.
So what is the Ninja Team? No, it’s not a team of assassins sent by the folks at Jagex to sneak into and remove trouble players in their own IRL homes as they sleep at night (pphh… sleep…). That would be silly. No, instead they are a group of developers and programmers whose primary job is to mess around with Runescape game code Game-Jam style and make cool things happen!
What kinds of cool things? Mainly quality-of-life updates. Better UI interfaces (make-X was a game-changer), fixing nonsense points (I’ll miss being able to stack cannons), and the occasional OH-MY-GOSH-THAT-MAKES-THIS-SO-MUCH-EASIER update. You know, patch notes, except stuff you probably would actually care about. Need more space to store compost in the tool leprechaun? Does the fishing platform’s deposit net have an annoying obstacle you can’t surge through in the way? Send it over to them and they’ll probably maybe take care of it!
Wait, though, what makes them stand apart from the rest of the development team? Specifically, the fact that they work on these Quality of Life updates rather than generate whole new content in the form of skills, mini-games, and QUESTS! You’ll probably get an extra character interaction or two from the ninja team; they’re not about creation, but instead modification. Fine-tuning things. If content developers were statue-carving chisels, they would be the sandpaper finishers.
You get the idea.
They get a cool name and their own spot on the weekly updates section because their updates are usually a lot more pertinent to the every-day Runescapian player. Quite often fixes entail spelling corrections, graphical tweaks, and repairing quest content. Their stuff is more, “Lots of players are experiencing this when they do that, so how can we help make that easier to do this?”
Quick and simple.
Except it’s not. There’s a lot of decision-making behind the scenes. What do the players actually need? What is worth the time and effort to do? Most importantly, will it break the game? For a small team like them, this can be a very arduous planning process. They have to research into the player-base, pinpoint the trouble-points through thousands of feedback messages and subtle hints, and ultimately determine what actually needs to be done to make Runescape a better experience for all.
So, what are they going to do to help this process?
They are going to let us tell them what to do by their new “Dojo” feature (https://rs.game/ninja). It’s basically a sub-site with the ability for us to submit ideas specifically to their team. Then they pick the best or most commonly requested ones and… they do them. Game-jam style.
Quick and simple.
Now, in theory this is a splendid idea. Players get to pitch their ideas to the ninja team and they effectively get to collaborate to get Runescape into the perfect game that everybody likes. Thing is, this is something I have seen done so many times before. Game developers trying their best to listen to their player-base and appease them as much as possible. Everybody working together in harmony.
The thing, though, is that players usually have no idea what they want. Or more specifically, they do not think of the repercussions of what the changes they want may have on the overall game.
For example, say one of the suggestions is to boost base player damage by 10% so that there’s less waiting while fighting stuff. Sounds simple. Unfortunately, this simple change would make several of the main bosses in the game many many times easier, causing the prices for many of the higher tier weapons to drop due to availability. Then said players more easily obtain those weapons, their DPS becomes huge, and then they too start fighting these bosses and getting these drops. And just like that, tier 92 is no longer anything special; Jagex content creators have to come out with new bosses that drop tier 95 weapons super rarely and difficultly, and the other bosses become obsolete and fairly dead content (poor King Black Dragon), and the cycle renews.
But the ninja team is better than that. They’re pros. They don’t just obey the player-base blindly and think “oh, that’s a cool idea, let’s do that right now!”. They know these sorts of repercussions and have the long arduous discussions nevertheless. In fact, this decision-making is usually why much of their updates often take so long to do; coding the game really doesn’t take that much time. Although, at this point, I imagine Runescape has so much source code that these guys are just absolute gurus at this point.
To conclude, don’t underestimate the ninja team. They’ve been doing this for a good long time. They deserve this recognition because they really contribute a lot to the game. They work just as hard, if not harder,
Until next time,