Balancing the Scales

posted by on 25th August 2020, at 11:54pm | Discuss Article

This month I am excited to talk about a long-overdue feature that could be coming to RuneScape very soon. There is a new interface-scaling beta going on right now. This is a feature that many of us have encountered in other games and we always wondered if RuneScape would ever get it. The reasons for interface scaling are numerous and cover everything from accessibility to increasingly higher resolution TVs and monitors. This month we’ll take a look at the interface-scaling beta and how interface scaling can do so much for so many.

Interface scaling was something I remember Jagex talking about years ago, at least for as long as I’ve been co-hosting RSBANDBUpdate! with Shane. It would come up on a live stream and Shane and I would talk about how great it is in Star Trek Online (STO) and ponder the possibilities in RuneScape. That changed with a live stream where the new Mod Warden specifically said interface scaling was something he wanted to do. This caught me by surprise because we had always been told it would be too big of a project. They always said that it would need engine work and it wasn’t on any schedule or even backlog for that matter. I still wasn’t holding my breath. That is until a few weeks ago when I was shocked to see there was an interface scaling beta launching. That’s right, Mod Warden didn’t just say it, he did it.

The biggest reason interface scaling is coming now is the prevalence of 4k resolution. This was a feature reserved for enthusiasts and people that had larger budgets only a few years ago. The availability of 4k televisions and computer monitors has lined up with the Xbox X, ever-increasing capability of PCs and the upcoming PlayStation 5. As people have adopted 4k more and more, one thing keeps coming up is that text on 4k screens is very small and difficult to read. That’s where interface scaling can play a big role, as it lets you resize the global interface giving you the ability to make it proportionate to the screen. In other words, this is an important feature because going forward it will be a standard in the industry. Jagex would need to spend resources on this one way or another so it looks like the decision was made to if not get ahead of it then at least not get left behind by everyone else. That being said, technology as a rising tide lifts all effects in the world of accessibility.

Interface scaling was something I encountered for the first time on STO. I was taken aback that I could just increase the size of my interface to help me see it better. I was thankful to Shane for introducing me to the game and at the time, STO’s accessibility was some of the best in the business. I bring this up because STO’s interface scaling far predated 4k screens. This means that STO did have an eye on accessibility. This brings us to the second major reason why Jagex is trying interface scaling and that accessibility.

RuneScape has managed to become an accessible game. Jagex has had success making an update that is for everyone, which in turn also has an impact on accessibility. For example, the sky-boxes weren’t brought in as an accessibility update, but they have been tremendously helpful for the visually impaired. Interface scaling is a similar situation; it’s an accessibility update, however, the need for the accessibility change was prompted by better resolution making things harder to see for sighted people as well as the visually impaired. Mod Warden spoke about having to get out his reading glasses when he was on a 4k monitor. This is telling not just from the 4k resolution angle but that Mod Warden seems to be aware of RuneScape’s vast age demographic. Even if there are more people in their 20’s than their 40’s playing RuneScape when you add the over 40’s together it makes for a large portion of the players. Of course, not everyone suffers from diminishing sight from age but a significant proportion does. RuneScape is also a worldwide game where there are many more people dealing with sight loss due to a host of non-related illnesses like diabetes. In this regard, Jagex is positioning itself perfectly for its aging player base and its reputation of being an accessible game.

At the end of the day, it comes down to one question: does it even work? I’m happy to say it does. After spending some time in the beta, I’ve found it to exceed my expectations. That doesn’t mean there aren’t bugs or glitches or something here or there is a little off. What it does mean however is someone like me who is legally blind can turn off the screen magnifier and still see the text on the interface. Let that soak in. That is something that I’ve never done in 13 years of playing RuneScape. So yes, it works very well, however we all know there no free lunch. The cost comes in the size of the field of view on your screen. Bigger interface equals less space overall. This is my normal entry fee to RuneScape anyway so it is not much of a barrier to me. I mention it because it could be hard to get used to for some players.

Jagex is making a big change with interface scaling. It’s a great time to do it and it’s easily one of the most requested accessibility updates. The beta has proved it works and it just needs to be polished. This is a huge win for all players and that is what makes Jagex stand out. They just need to realize that you can market accessibility. It matters to a lot of people out there. Until next month, Happy RuneScaping.

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posted by on 29th July 2020, at 2:15am | Discuss Article
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posted by on 20th March 2020, at 3:54am | Discuss Article
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posted by on 21st February 2020, at 3:31pm | Discuss Article
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