“It’s not fair!” said Sarah.
“You say that so much. I wonder what your basis for comparison is.” Jareth replied.
‘Tis a quote from the Labyrinth, good movie.
What does it have to do with this article? Well…
Over the past two years or so it has become pretty obvious that Jagex is trying to compete with Big Name Games, all of which have a Client (Guild Wars, EverQuest, Lord of the Rings Online, others I haven’t played). Jagex has specifically said they will not force Runescape to a Client. This statement alone guarantees to me that Runescape will eventually become a client game, but that is another article.
So I’ve been thinking, if Jagex is trying to compete with these games, should we not then compare Runescape to these games? Sounds fair, right? I mean, usually when you compete with someone you have to get as good as them and then surpass it, right? In the gaming world that generally equates to:
Equal Character creation and advancement
If any one of those is too drastically different you are no longer competing with your target. Either you’ve let one slip too far down for you to be able to compete, or one has surpassed your target so much that they can’t compete with you anymore BECAUSE of that ONE thing.
How does this translate with Runescape?
Well let’s see, over the past few years they have been changing the graphics. Recently they have been creating different audio. They have never really had an “Epic Storyline” like most games. Their recent quests have been… subpar in design (execution might be alright). They also haven’t been releasing quests as often as previously, which is something Runescape has always prided themselves on.
Character creation, Runescape has always had a unique way of handling character creation and advancement. This has unfortunately become more general and linear recently though. Playability refers to both the computer-side operation and the in-game ability to play the game well (Note: not easily nor hard, but well).
How do these rack up against one of the games they are tying to compete with? I’ll use a 10-point (10 being perfect and 0 being a total fail) comparison between Runescape EOC-HTML5 (taking the best aspects from each) versus Lord of the Rings Online (I know it is not the best on the market but it is the one I have played the most, second to Runescape).
Graphics-7, The detail on the HTML5 Beta graphics is pretty good.
Audio-5, while the Base Quality of Runescape sounds has increased over the years, I think the Specific Quality has remained the same or decreased. What I mean is, while individual sounds may sound more “real” or “Full” they often don’t fit the scene.
Storyline-5, One of the things I’ve always disliked most about Runescape’s quests (and any game that does this) is the fact the the player is usually played a fool. We’re the hero that saves the world yet we can’t see that this person we’re helping is evil despite the obvious red flags. That is bad storywriting. Runescape has had a few good quest lines over the years, though these have been mostly ignored as of late. Runescape has never had an “Epic Story” unlike most games, though the Mahjarrat series seems to be trying to be made into Runescape’s “Epic Storyline”.
Character Creation and Advancement-9, As I said before, Runescape’s C&A has always been unique. Being able to train certain skills that you like and creating your combat abilities how you like is a great game mechanic that few games use. It is one of the reasons, I believe, Runescape became and stayed popular for a long time. Most games have a linear progression you’re forced to follow, Runescape was different. You could train any skill you like, and then completely switch tracks and do something totally different for a month and have just as much fun.
Playability-5, This is an interesting category to rate for Runescape. In previous years the game ran smoother but things were more difficult to do in game. Now, the game is often laggy but things are exceedingly easy to do. It begs the question; what would you rather have? A smooth, challenging game, or a laggy easy game? I think most would settle for something in the middle. Perhaps a game that runs reliably on most machines, is a bit laggy on lower end machines and a bit smoother on the highest end. Is a good challenge but has a few easy parts for relaxing with.
Lord of the Rings Online
Graphics-9, I’m sure the die-hard Runescape fans will think I’m biased here, but LOTRO’s graphics are spectacular when on high settings. When on low settings they are comparable to something around pre-EOC to current EOC. Due to the Model/Texture type of LOTRO’s 3D models instead of Jagex’s hard pixel models the LOTRO ones have some less detailed graphics on the low settings.
Audio-8, LOTRO’s background music, and specifically ambiance music sounds real and makes you feel like you’re really there. Most of their sound effects fit the scene.
Storyline-8, Admittedly, it is hard for anything to compare to a game that is centered on Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings Trilogy. Because of that I am rating this based off of LOTRO’s other quest lines, not just the Epic Story. The most annoying thing about LOTRO’s quests is that they often have the “Kill X of Y to get Z of N”. But, most games in that genre (Client games) use that quest model. What makes up for it though is that if you actually read the quest stories they make sense and even keep you guessing and draw you in to want more.
Character Creation and Advancement-6, Pretty normal in this category. You advance along a single character level and every character gets the same skills, not a favorite style of mine. You can still customize certain weapons and traits, but actual character building is sadly linear.
Playability-8, Not perfect, but close. Computer-wise, I can (and do!) run the game at max settings and have no problem even in highly congested areas. Game-wise, things are not handed to you on a plate, but most things are not impossibly difficult either. There are a few places that will have you knocking your head against a wall for awhile until you get that “Aha!” moment and then figure it out.
Lord of the Rings Online
Of course these are personal ratings given based off of my experiences with the two games.
“Well they’re different games, you can’t compare them. One uses a client and one a browser!”
Hmm, perhaps valid, though this is the type of game Runescape is trying to compete with so why shouldn’t I compare to it…
City of Steam is still in Beta. It uses a plugin called the Unity player that installs instantly in most browsers.
Graphics-9, Clear and sharp. The Water is especially good looking.
Audio-7, They don’t have a whole lot of ambient background sounds but the background music in the cities is pretty good. The combat sounds are relatively few, but good.
Storyline-6, Kinda hard to rate as I have only played about 25% of them. Most of them are part of the “Epic Storyline” but I haven’t progressed far enough to tell how good that storyline is. Some of the quests are just silly, though not really annoying.
Character Creation and Advancement-6, Sadly it is mostly linear. At certain levels you get a choice between 3 different skills(usually Defensive, AOE, and single target). This gives some variation in builds but again not much.
Playability-8, Pretty well straight forward. Some quests are harder than they should be for their level. As for the computer side, it runs like a gem. No lag whatsoever any time I’ve played it. I even tried playing it while having LOTRO, AOE3, TF2, and Runescape EOC running, COS still performed flawlessly(the others, most notably RS and AOE3 had noticeable system lag). COS has never crashed while I was playing it, though it has crashed when I left it up for an hour idle.
City of Steam
In the End…
So… what should we compare games to?
What they try to compete with?
The things in their Genre?
The things on their platform?
The biggest problem between Runescape and the games I listed as well as others is the lag and choppiness issue. Runescape is too fat. Fat operationally, not necessarily in actual storage space required (though when your browser asks you if you want to allow RSHTML5 to store large amounts of data on your computer you DO have to wonder).
LOTRO is 11.5gigs. I don’t mind large games if they are fun and run well. I played SWTOR and it took nearly 30gigs. Ran perfectly though so it was fine. I think my temp storage files for Runescape are around 1gig.
Now, I will admit that EOC runs better than HTML5, but that should only be because HTML5 isn’t finished yet so they have not yet optimized it.
Bottom line to me (and I believe many others): If the game doesn’t run well, I don’t have fun playing it thus I won’t play it.