Okay, so I know some of you probably just fell out of your chairs at the thought that the above title was actually written by me, Jason. So while you are getting back into your chair I will explain a little.
Jagex is not evil. Many of us players may think that though because of the updates over the past few years. When you think about it though, Jagex has gone through a lot of back-end changes. These are things we never, or rarely ever, hear about. The thing is, they still affect us.
What are some of these changes?
Change of CEO
In October of 2007 Geoff Iddison replaced Constant Tedder, Jagex’s first CEO. He was previously PayPal’s European CEO. In January 2009 Iddison resigned and Mark Gerhard replaced him as CEO. Gerhard was previously Jagex’s CTO.
One of the most notable things about this change was that it marked a stark change in Quest releases per year. Not counting the Quests from DeviousMUD and Classic(which Constant Tedder was responsible for), there were 48 quests released during Tedder’s 2004 to late 2007 tenure as RuneScape 2’s CEO.
Iddison was responsible for 18 between October 2007 and January 2009.
Gerhard has so far been responsible for 39 between January 2009 and right now, January 2014.
Tedder: 12 Quests per year on average.
Iddison: 13.8 Quests per year on average.
Gerhard: 7.8 Quests per year on average.
Now, I am not saying MMG is responsible for the 40% decrease in quests. There were many other factors, some of which I will talk about later. However this must be noted as a point in history. The change of CEOs, which could be considered rapid, definitely had an impact on RuneScape. I think the loss of Constant Tedder specifically is of importance as he is one of the first members of Jagex, one of the ones who built RuneScape.
Change of Investors
Until 2005, Jagex and RuneScape were entirely self-funded and owned by the owner-developer brothers Andrew and Paul Gower. I am not sure if Constant Tedder was part of the ownership at this time. In October 2005 IVP, or legally known as Insight Venture Partners, invested in Jagex up to a 35% interest. This act is not surprising as Jagex and RuneScape were a very profitable and successful venture and it made sense for investment corporations to invest in it.
In December of 2010 The Raine Group and Spectrum Equity Investors invested in Jagex as well. At this same time IVP raised their investment to 55%, which is a controlling interest. Most notably, Andrew Gower, Paul Gower, and Constant Tedder left the board of directors at this time. Thus the creators no longer had control over the direction of RuneScape.
This, I believe, is why we see RuneScape begin to change so drastically after 2010. The creators no longer had an influence in the future of their work and investors, who primarily want money, took over the control. Now it should be noted that the investors, though having control, do not make the day-to-day and content decisions. That is up to the CEO, Lead Developers, and Department Heads. However the investors can still pressure the aforementioned staff, leading/forcing them to make certain decisions(I.E. the more prominent and constant attempts to get players’ to spend more). Premium, Squeal of Fortune, RuneCoins, and to some extent Bonds are all derived at least in part from this.
Severe War against Bots
I do not really think I need to go into the War on Bots in depth. One thing that should be mentioned, however, is that while yes, Jagex did get subscriptions from the bots, they had to refund the cost of those that had used fraudulent cards and the like. Many bots were paid for with stolen credit cards. When the credit card companies noticed this fraudulent use they revoked the transactions and Jagex had to return the funds. After a while this began to hurt Jagex’s financial reliability and quite a few financial institutions threatened Jagex with not doing business with them due to the massive amount of fraudulent transactions.
You can imagine the trouble if no bank or credit card company will do business with you. Thankfully this never fully happened, however the threat of it forced Jagex to do the anti-bot measures we have experienced over the years. Some were ineffective, some were effective but too restrictive for the players, and otherwise we have seen work. The two releases of the bot-nuking system seem to have had the most effect against bots and gold farmers. The effect of Bonds is still highly disputed, but that is a topic for another article.
Back in your chair now?
The past few years have been very rough.
Active player counts have gone up and down (mostly down, due to bots being mostly removed).
The updates have been all over the place – Quests, Monsters, Graphics, Gear, Music, Bosses, Skills, Minigames, Interface, Combat, Cosmetics, Microtransactions. If you have ever seen it in a computer game, chances are Jagex has added it over the past few years.
Whether ‘now is the Best time to be playing RuneScape’ or ‘2006 to 2009 was the Golden Age’ can’t be truthfully stated by one person because it is a matter of personal opinion and playstyle. Many players like the current game, and just as many prefer the old style. Both are good in their own rights, neither can fairly be stated as ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other. Any such statements are a matter of personal preference, playstyle, and thought. I preferred the game before many of the modern things were added, but others like the game better as it is now. Is one game better or worse? That, in reality, can only be answered by the one asking it, and then only for themselves.
There is one undeniable truth, though, and that is that Jagex has added so many things that other games are popular for – Raiding, Competition, Graphics, Challenge, even Pay to Win – and yet they remain less popular than they once were. Why? I mean, if other games are popular because they each do one of these things well, why is RuneScape not popular when it has all of them?
Have you ever heard that old adage, “Jack of all trades, master of none?” Most games are really good in a few areas and passable in others. Think of your favorite game, which two things is it best known for? What two things is it worst at? Are both of those things about the same? Not likely, otherwise one would not be the best and the other would not be the worst.
Jagex has tried to do too many things recently. Mod Mark even admitted this in a recent video, which I was happy to hear. Not that they are doing too much, but that they know they tried to do too much.
If it came down to it I would much rather see one awesomely amazing piece of content every month or couple of months than constant stuff every few weeks that is, quite frankly, ‘bleh’. RuneScape has IMMENSE potential, if only they would make use of it. Most notably is RuneScape’s quest system. Where most games have a ‘Go here to kill X of Y to get Z of N and bring them to Peggy.’, RuneScape has an advanced system which could literally make you trek all over the world – and never kill a thing. Where most games’ quests take minutes, RuneScape’s could take hours or even days – all while having fun!
Alright, let’s bring this around for a landing…
With the changes of leadership also came changes of focus. Constant Tedder and the Gower Brothers were the creators. Mark Gerhard and IVP are just operators.
You see, Creators have this thing called a ‘Vision’. They cannot described it to you exactly or tell you how exactly to make it, but they know what it is and what it is not. They know what is needed and what is not, because it is their creation. They just… know. The original staff had a vision for RuneScape, this vision was their focus.
The current leadership does not have the same vision and thus do not have the same focus. They cannot, because it is not their creation. This is not, however, to say that they cannot have a good vision for the game. They could, they can, they should! The problem is they do not currently.
Stop trying to make RuneScape something.
Instead, develop what it already is.
Jagex wants to provide a great game. They want to produce great content. They want to have a great community. They want to have a great atmosphere. I believe this based on things I have seen and heard lately. Does this change my views on recent updates? No. I have said before and reiterate now, I don’t like nor think many of the recent updates have been to RuneScape’s benefit. However, I do believe Jagex wants to do the right things.
Jagex is not evil, they have just lost their focus.