If you go onto the Runescape News site, Oct 23, 2019, you will find a “message” from the new Executive Producer for Runescape, Mod Warden (Ryan). It’s not an overly exciting message; basically him introducing himself and talking about what’s about to come and what sort of plans he has for the game.
As all big changes, it was well received by the community. There were forums posts, reaction videos, Reddit threats- sorry, threads… a whole bunch of stuff.
The primary cause for concern was the monetization angle of the game. People complaining that they were going to screw over RuneScape with unfair pay-to-win features and destroy the whole demographic that RuneScape stood for, which was “being the cheaper MMORPG option out there”. It is a huge expansive game, filled with incredible graphics, involving storylines, quests for months, and activities for years (been playing since 2001 – trust me on this).
… but we are not going to talk about that. Why? Because my fellow writer Tanis already covered it here. Go check it out; it’s a great read.
Instead, I am going to go through the OTHER parts of the letter and give you my analysis on that. Because that is more fun, and I fear that everybody was so distracted when the term “money” was mentioned that they skimmed over the rest.
Alright, let’s go.
He starts off with a nice introduction with some positive energy. He talks about who he is, what he does, why he was hired, and he hopes to be as open and available to us and our feedback as possible.
You will notice in this introduction that, despite his job and involvement, he says nothing about past endeavors to enforce his words. This makes the introduction quick and to the point, relying on detailed explanation and recent events to highlight him in a good way.
Is this a good thing? It can be taken a few ways. It can be taken in the way that he has moved on from the past experiences and is starting with a fresh slate at Jagex, which means he has learned and accepted the improvements from his earlier experiences.
It can also POSSIBLY mean he is hiding a shady past of mistakes and failures and instead goes the “the less you know the better” route.
This might be OK as well, because if this is a combination of the two, then it means he has the drive to do a better job with Jagex than he had ever done before. If he had not learned his lessons prior, there would be a lot of ego jabs like “during my experiences with Bioware…” and “I learned from EA that…” throughout the intro. There is none of that. He mentioned none of his background in his “I’m the new guy” speech, which really risks putting him in a spot of seeming amateurish on first impression. Heck of a gamble to make if you want the player base to take you seriously.
THE DEV STRUCTURE
In this section, he talks about the different development groups of folks and what their focus is centered on. There are a group of core content creators, who are devoted to QUESTS!!! … and other stuff, I guess… QUESTS!
There is the Live Ops Team, who is more on side of microtransactions and time limited events. You can almost tell they are different teams because of how different the feel between serious quests and not-so-serious additions are.
Lastly, he mentions the Core Experience Team, who are all about the game engine and refining the altogether user experience with quality of life stuff. Nothing to look into there; these guys have it tough. Tons and tons of testing in their lives. They deserve respect.
So what’s the significance of this passage? It almost seems a bit strange that the Executive Producer is taking the time to talk about the different teams and what they do in Jagex in a self-introduction and game plan. Do we need to know how the Jagex Team’s content creators are structured?
There are actually two reasons for it. The first, I will get to later, but the second is to provide openness in the letter. He is revealing more things that are behind the scenes that nobody really knows or has thought about, which invites a sense of trust for the reader. He unveils the curtain over the company a bit and shows us all that, at the end of the day, Jagex really is a business made up of a bunch of talented developers and employees. He is creating a sort of vulnerability for Jagex that make us a bit more accepting of it.
Which is good for them, because right after this they talk about the monetization strategies that, I know for a fact, they knew they were going to get harped on. This was a strategy to soften the blow, and it worked fairly well. Not entirely, but one can only try when the whole internet is involved.
Yes, I know, I said I wasn’t going to talk about this, but it’s not what you think.
There is a saying. An audience will only ever remember the beginning and the end of a performance. Think about that one for a bit. Movie-makers exploit that all the time. Epic beginnings, exciting climaxes and finales… and a whole lot of padding and banter in between. Sound familiar? That’s the reason.
This letter is the same thing. The topic of monetization is the game-changer here. It is something critical for them to talk about if they feel the need to even do so, so it needs to be either soft and subtle, or brutal and straightforward. They went brutal this time, saying outright that membership fees “aren’t enough” and even saying that he wants to ensure we understand what it means, which effectively is saying we may be deluded from other events.
And yet, they talk about this important point at the middle of the article, near the end. They added all this padding preceding it, and ended it off with a dynamic call to action (more on that later). In the place that folks will naturally LEAST remember.
That is the first reason to the dev team section I mentioned above. The padding beforehand… for a lack of a better term, BORED us a little bit, making us less wanting to take in the stuff that comes next.
This was strategic. This letter is just covered in bold, calculated strategy. He took a harsh, poorly received topic and presented it to us in both the harshest and gentlest way possible. Like whacking someone on the head with a pillow in a pillow fight to take them down. Effective. Still poorly received, like all pillow smacks, but still very effectively done.
It’s actually quite beautiful. I really like this letter for that.
This last part took me a bit by surprise. The title is actually “Let’s Talk”. Sounds innocent, right?
To foster relations with the player base and to prove he is not hiding anything, he invites us, the players, to send over emails with concerns and complaints about various things and promises that they will all be read and considered, if not personally replied to.
That, right there, takes guts. It’s not just a simple “hey, I’m your friend, ask me anything!”. It’s a challenge. He is DARING us to try to call him out on things. Because when you operate on a super popular site and you publically send out an email that promises to go directly to you, the possibly most influential person in the company, you are going to get every last jerk with a lame idea or a weak complaint hoping to take advantage of it.
They are poison. Toxic. When they complain and the developers read it, it puts pressure and stress on them. A game they are proud of is torn apart and flaws are highlighted, which puts the struggle on to fix it, or correct it, or do something to satisfy these people. Why, you ask? Because they are the loudest.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Say 90% of the playerbase are happy and content, and will not say anything. 3% actually have legitimate constructive feedback and mention it in a couple of well written posts. 5% have bad feedback and are simply misunderstanding something, yet will post maybe 3 messages about it. The remaining 2% will send at least ten messages of hate just because they can.
So, doing the math:
2×10 is 20 bad, 5×3 is 15 dumb, 3×2 is 6 good. That is 6 good out of 41. About 1 in 7. For each piece of nice, constructive, feel-good feedback, they have to read 6 posts of filth.
It is super super demoralizing. Yet, he is going that route. Challenging us. Saying that he can take whatever the internet can throw at him.
This is dangerous, because either he can’t, or he can. And if he CAN… then some scary things are going to start happening to RuneScape.
So what does this all mean? In short, this guy knows how to communicate. He’s not messing around with random words and happy feelings; he is direct and driven in his sentences. People who know how to communicate know how to get people to get things done. Confidence. Perseverance. I got those in this letter.
Is he being truthful? Hard to tell with written word and practiced speeches. Only way to really know is to actually meet the guy. I haven’t done that, personally, but it sounds like quite a few of you did at Runefest. Kindly let me know how that went, alright?
Until next time,