Over the past few years, we have seen several iterations of the “do the thing, get the stuff” system. There was the achievement system work, there was Yak Track, and now there is the new daily challenge system (you’re reading the article now!).
Daily challenges can be a powerful tool. In a game like RuneScape, there is always too much to do. In many ways, the player is left to their own devices to decide what their goal is for the day. This can lead to choice paralysis, and not really feeling like anything at all. It’s also hard to log in and set a goal for that single game session. “Get 1M Summoning experience” just isn’t that fun of a reason to log in for, if your overall goal is to get about 100M experience. By giving you daily challenges, Jagex narrows down the choices for you, and cuts them down into bite size pieces. No, you didn’t get 120 Summoning today, but at least you can log off feeling you have achieved something. If you do enough of these tiny steps, eventually you will make it to your larger goals!
Daily challenges can also be dangerous. Instead of giving you a goal when you want to play, completing the daily challenges every day can be the goal for logging in by itself. This is how players can quickly burn out on a game. In the old daily challenge system, if you missed a day, you worked a bit harder the next day to catch up. In the new system, that still works (unless this day happens to be Tuesday), but it’s going to cost you Vis Wax. So you better log in every day if you want to get all the rewards on that weekly track!
This immediately opens up the question: how do you reward highly active players while not making casual players miss out? I think this is the wrong question to ask, because it assumes that highly active players must be rewarded. A player who logs in daily to do their reaper and daily sinkholes and what have you will already be progressing faster than somebody who can only scrape together a few hours to play on the weekend, so why exaggerate that difference? The reason a casual player doesn’t feel like missing out as much, is because the game isn’t waving it in that player’s face. I often get other players telling me about the drops they get left and right, and how much money they’re making every week, and it gets me a bit envious at times, but it all comes down to the fact that these other players get as much game time in a single day as I get in an entire week!
The new daily challenge system does exactly what I warn about in the paragraph above: show exactly what you’re missing out on by not logging in every day. I don’t even get an opportunity to work a bit harder on the days I can log in to catch up with the people who do have a schedule that allows for daily RuneScape sessions without spending Vis Wax. The problem isn’t too hard to solve either: instead of requiring every daily challenge to be completed, require only 2 out of 3 to be completed every day. Casual players can either spend a bit less every day doing just the two tasks, or even skip entire days and do the full three on other days. Very active players can still get the extra XP from finishing more task, or have a choice of tasks, skipping the more annoying ones.
Overall, the system is a net positive for many players if you look at the rewards specifically. If you are in a similar situation like me, where you had it fine tuned so you had exactly five non-maxed skills, meaning you could force a daily in a certain skill by only doing that one every day, the new system may not work as well for you. For most other people, the system is comparable to the system before, with more rewards than offer for completing most tasks each week. The tasks are also shorter, meaning they are without a doubt very doable on RS Mobile as well (that’s not a coincidence). It just runs the risk of pulling people in daily with goodies, which is a recipe for disaster. It may make the engagement statistics look great in the short term, but remember: people really enjoyed the first Yak Tracks as well, and those are becoming more and more disliked with each new track coming around.
I hope Jagex doesn’t close the door on improvements to this system. Choice and flexibility isn’t a bad thing. It is important to look at long term damage you are doing by altering the players’ behaviours instead of mercilessly driving short term metrics up. The timing of this update, right after four months of high octane content releases, seems like it may not be entirely a coincidence, but what is gained by pushing players even deeper into the looming RuneScape burnout. We should always remember: player retention and long term business success is a marathon, not a sprint.