Shopping Tech Trees

posted by on 28th September 2018, at 12:00pm | Discuss Article

The quest point shop, a way to finally spend those hard earned quest points on some cool quest related rewards. The shop consolidates some of the existing rewards, such as finding Philipe Carnillean every 50 quest points, adds mystery dice every 25 quest points, and adds reward tracks.

Now I could talk about how the UI has some serious problems such as it not matching the rest of the game, or about the introduction of treasure trial items from an unrelated source, but in the end these are not massively impactful on the game. Instead, I want to zoom in on the reward tracks, since they are based on a system that could very well lift RuneScape to the next level.

The reward tracks allow you to spend quest points towards one of the three tracks: the pet track, the armour & weapon track, and the hub track. Each track consists of six unlocks, costing 25 quest points each. With the maximum quest points at 399 currently, that means you can only unlock 15 out of 18 unlocks. This means you need to pick which one is more important than the other, even if you have a quest point cape.

Tech tree systems like these have been tried in RuneScape before: the upgrading of the Ring of Kinship and the Dwarven and Goblin technologies in Invention are just two such examples. Seren spells were another try to create player specialisations. None of these have been very successful, since there is very much a single “right” way to do things in-game when it comes to maximising effectiveness.

In my opinion, the quest point shop reward tracks are the first real successful implementation of a tech tree system in RuneScape. Let’s talk about what is important in the tech tree systems, and why reward tracks get them right:

There should be no wrong choices. This sounds like a straightforward observation, but it is not as easy as it seems. RuneScape has several situations where making a wrong choice will make you unable to play the game. If your ability bar setup is just bad, you won’t get past even some of the easier bosses. Guild Wars 2 is an example that gets this right: you can choose abilities, but they are only tangentially important to your DPS capabilities. You can min-max with the right choices, but you are not punished for choosing something else. This can be compared to the three combat styles in RuneScape: melee, magic, and ranged. With magic you will on average get a bit more DPS, but the game does not become unplayable if ranged is your favourite combat style instead. This is why the rule should be that there are no wrong choices, even though some choices may be better than others.

None of the rewards in the quest point shop are required to complete all quests, and none of the rewards are such that they are an absolute no-brainer.

The choices should be meaningful. If a choice doesn’t impact your ability to play the game, there might as well not be a choice. There is however more to this: choices should be at least semi-permanent. Choosing a spellbook for magic is maybe a meaningful choice in the moment before going on a PvM trip, but in the larger picture, it is incredibly easy to switch spellbooks as you go.

The quest point shop has choices that each impact your questing differently. Some things will be more important to a certain than others. The choice is also sticky for at least a week, which I think it a bit short, but there is some penalty for switching at least.

You should not be able to get everything. This may be controversial, and it also depends in the context. In case of the invention tech trees, players always end up with all the technologies in the end. This means there is no need for exchange, no way to really develop your character in a specific way. Sure, there is still choice in which technology you get first, but in RuneScape the assumption is that people go for completing everything, so in the end, it doesn’t matter that much.

In the quest point shop, you cannot get all the rewards. There aren’t enough quest points in the game. This means different bonuses for everybody, which makes things more interesting. I think they could have gone even further with this by increasing the reward price, but that is spoken by a quest cape holder. Given the rate at which new quests are released these days, maybe the current setup is fine.

So, meaningful choices that matter that you can’t all just get. That is really the trick for technology trees. That is all nice, but why should we care? For the longest time, it has been my believe that we should move away from the situation where every maxed player is practically identical. RuneScape doesn’t have a class system, so everybody is just awesome at everything. This does nothing to encourage group play. While PvM has roles such as tanks, there is nothing besides skill that makes one player better at it than another. By introducing meaningful choices that matter that aren’t all obtainable, that could change.

Let me give a simple example: magic spells. Imagine that you didn’t have access to all spells, but had to pick. Maybe at level 1 you pick between air, water, earth, and fire strike (rebalanced to all do the same damage). The air strike is just a start of a branch in the tree that contains a lot of air-related spells. You could specialise in fire magic and become a true pyromancer, or become a jack of all trades. Earth magic might contain more nature-y magic such as bones to bananas, while water magic could contain the healing spells.

Not only would systems like this allow players to take on different roles in combat, minigames, or even skilling groups, it would also allow players to “role-play” their character in different ways. Is your character wearing massive armour swinging heavy weapons around, or do they rather use light armour so they can dance around with dual wielding weapons? You don’t even need a formal class system to allow for many interesting builds to arise.

Sadly, we didn’t see this system introduced with EoC, where abilities would have been the perfect start. I deem it unlikely that a system such as this will be introduced on a large scale in the foreseeable future, but at least the quest point shop is there to show that it is possible for players to be differently specialised.


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