Jagex has always been the victim of the swinging pendulum known as the RuneScape community. There are days where the community loves Jagex and there are days where the community absolutely loathes Jagex. Keeping the pendulum in balance results in harmony for both sides. Here at Informer and Update we would like to believe that we aim to keep the pendulum in the middle. But more importantly, if that pendulum swings too far to the loathsome side, that’s bad news for Jagex. That happened in 2017, even though it may not have been fully warranted.
2018 needs to be a year of victories for Jagex. The importance of a victory is that it builds morale within the company and builds trust within the community. Jagex is well on their way to accomplishing this: Aura Bag, Clue Scroll Overhaul, Deep Sea Fishing, and Pieces of Hate. These are bread and butter updates that benefit the community and in large part were released without issue. This is important not only for these updates but the updates we will see later in the year and in 2019. Remember this as the First Act.
Remember back to the day when a Behind the Scenes news post was a luxury. One of the first regular Behind the Scenes news posts was for Desert Month when the Desert Treasure quest was released. After that it become common occurrence to have a Behind the Scenes or Month Ahead news posting. After that we moved up to “Week Ahead” videos for a while and then back to a Month Ahead post as we have right now. As a player of RuneScape I would love no more than to be surprised with each update that arrives to the game. Unfortunately that’s not possible anymore, the hype that can be built from Month Ahead videos and posts, live streams, and revealing tweets is too valuable.
This is not to suggest that abandoning these videos would be a good idea in 2018. I would like it but that’s just me in my own desires to make certain segments of the community suffer and for myself to be happy and surprised each week. It would also make producing Update and Informer a lot harder. All in all it’s probably something that we can’t go back to at this point. The point of this discussion is that with a little bit of hard work, Jagex can get the community back to a point where surprise updates would be tenable. If we were at a point where surprise updates were tenable Jagex would be able to do a lot more with their current release and communication strategy. For example, Jagex would be able to make updates to combat (such as removing primary materials from drops) with greater ease.
To get to this point, building trust and morale is the first step as we’ve seen so far in 2018. The Second Act is to engage in large community based design (i.e. Prifddinas). We see this so far happening with the Mining & Smithing rework as well as the upcoming Player Owned Farm update. Jagex has been incredibly open with these updates and their designs while still maintaining creative control over and not letting them fall to the mob. If these two updates are executed successfully Jagex will have successfully tested and implemented a new development strategy without telling players.
Why is this important? Every major idea in the Mining & Smithing rework and Player Owned Farm will be run through a JMod before being prototyped and brought into existence. Gone will be the days of a blank cheque given to the community in the form of a RuneLabs idea and Jagex being forced to create whatever was listed (i.e. Waterfall fishing). Jagex presents a general direction that they want to go (update Mining & Smithing) and they take in all the community input and discard ideas that don’t fit within their general design. What’s effectively happening here is that Jagex has the final design and objectives that they want to accomplish which is great. But what’s happening is the community submits the ideas, Jagex takes the great ones, massages ones that need work, and discards the crazy. That’s called player driven design without a blank cheque.
To recap, morale and trust has been building within Jagex and the community. If the Mining & Smithing rework along with the Player Owned Farm are successful (by a metric that Jagex is free to allow the community to set blindly), Jagex will have unencumbered themselves from the era of RuneLabs and Power to the Players (Player Power). So what does this mean? This means that for the Third Act Jagex is free to do whatever they want, that may have been completely unimaginable in 2017. And what may this be? Well, this could very well be removing primary drop materials from NPC drop tables while seeking input from the community. Jagex would state their end objective: removal of primary skill drops from NPCs and bosses. The community would offer suggestions which creatures to target first as well as their replacements (both items in-game currently and new items that have similar value). And what does Jagex do if a crazy idea comes in? Throw it away! What if a decent idea comes in but needs work? Adapt it to their vision! What if the perfect idea comes in? Use it as is! Everything accepted must conform to Jagex’s grand design and players must be lead to a point of acceptance by utilizing their feedback.
What does our Fourth Act look like, the climax? Well, the climax in this adventure results from Jagex hitting the marks mentioned and at the tail end of 2018 starting on a surprise update. The idea behind this is that Jagex will have learned a great deal about the community in 2018 to the point where they can read what’s going on better than ever before. If need be Jagex can solicit ideas in general for their surprise update by occasionally asking pointed questions. Before RuneScape High Detail came out in the summer of 2008 Jagex began updating in-game graphical assets and asking players about the specifications of their computers. These two things tipped me off on the podcast back then that something was coming that was going to change RuneScape, then we got RuneScape High Detail. Prior to the teasers being released not many guessed this. This is the kind of pointed questioning that could be used. At the end this would culminate in the release of a large update on the scale of Construction or Prifddinas that’s a complete surprise to players, and the majority (vocal or not) would enjoy it.
The conclusion (Act 5) is harmonious. If all goes as planned, Jagex will have gone from a case of having effectively zero community trust to pulling off some of the biggest updates in game history in the span of 18 months. Jagex will have a boat load of new metrics in house that they can use to develop game content for the next 2 years (or more). Jagex will know how to position an update and how to ask for feedback on building it. The community will trust Jagex more than they do today and way more than they did in 2017 (but not absolutely). The players (in majority, silent or not) will get the updates that they want. The players will have a closer relationship with Jagex as a result of this collaboration. At the end of the day, this could be very transformational for the game development industry.