Alex’s Analysis – Running out of Room

posted by on 25th July 2015, at 1:47am | Discuss Article

The Runescape universe expands each week with new updates, tweaks, and fixes. Most of them go under the guise that a new problem has arisen, or that a character has “learned their lesson” or something. Gives the characters personality and lets us get a bit more immersed into the game environment instead of getting a pop-up saying the boss you’re about to fight now has 3000 more hitpoints than usual.

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When new areas were created, there was usually an excuse there too. Either the place had been recently explored, a landslide had cleared, islands had risen from low tides and volcanic activity, a freak storm blew away the landscape revealing a new area, etc. It’s interesting because you want to see “what the freak storm could’ve dug up”, or “what did this explorer see”? Somebody directly tells you they created a new ice landscape, you look at it, nod in approval at their art skill, and move on.

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We hardly see that anymore now. Have you noticed that? You enter brand new areas via portals and dungeoneering doorways. We explore whole new worlds instead of undiscovered aspects of the old one. Everything’s now either in the clouds, in space, or underground. Very rarely do we get new parts of land to casually wander. And when something does get added into the game, it’s either in an empty, out-of-the-way space or something gets moved over to make way.

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It makes me feel like Runescape, or the land of Gielinor, is now… complete. That we’ve explored all it has to offer, and now we have to start branching off away from the world for new discovery. There are full pictures of the world map now without any black spaces. You can randomly point to just about anywhere on the map now and a quest or NPC or something would be affiliated with that location. And with the right preparation and requirements, you can go there.

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Now, I’m not complaining or anything about expanding into new worlds. Mazcab is beautiful. Seriously, props to the designers and audio guys; they pumped out a wicked new world. I am looking very forward to more worlds just like this. Since it’s not supposed to be a part of Runescape, one can create an almost entirely alien world. And that’s perfectly fine. In fact, I encourage this sort of thing, because it helps give the game substance. Not just a single landmass anymore; we’re exploring whole different worlds now!

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And stuff is happening! Holiday events, new quests, continuation of an epic storyline regarding Gods and divine creatures. Buildings and cities are getting broken (not code-wise), well-known characters are getting killed, and there’s the real and true threat of world-wide annihilation. Stuff is just plain bloomin’ HAPPENING! It’s AWESOME!

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What I’m having a bit of trouble with is this:

New content is always being added to the game. Weekly, even. However, without expansion to accommodate it, things just start getting a bit… cramped. Stuff gets moved around to accommodate for new stuff, new stuff starts getting in the way of old stuff, and sometimes entire areas get a whole makeover to the extent you no longer know where anything is. Too much stuff in one place. What’s worse is when the stuff doesn’t match the theme of the location and you’re left without an explanation because you weren’t there when it was added.

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Look at Lumbridge for example. In Old School, it’s a simple little village with a Duke. Basic low-level stuff to get a feel for the game with. Gives new players an impression of the sort of environment that the rest of the world is like, and it invites them in. You wander around, find a trail, and decide to see where it goes. Nothing to distract you except the odd talkable and fightable NPC, who may or may not offer you a quest.

Now look at Runescape 3’s version. They’ve got this big combat arena now to help new players. They’ve also got a random monkey village around a couple of giant thrones next to a giant crater one could guess was the result of a nuke caked around the remnants of a swampland and a spread of divination wisps around a village where you can visit Death himself from a portal next to a travelling witch. A 30 second walk to the west, then there’s also this big random tower just south of Falador that no longer contributes to anything in-game next to a great big recruitment camp just outside the city border within throwing distance to a white knight incursion effort. All of which you can, by some means, directly teleport to.

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How do you explain all that to a newer player who’s entering the world for the first time after they’ve had their first-impressions in-game created on a random island in the middle of the ocean that you only ever return to for a single quest and boss, only to immediately get thrust into a war against humans and trolls? It’s chaotic! It’s not a show of “look at all that’s going on!”, it’s a show of “what the heck is going on?!” And the worst part is when you can’t examine or interact with any of it. No clues, no hints, no idea.

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Creating new spaces is a good thing. A healthy thing. It helps players separate events into a much more manageable state and series of explanations by giving them something physical to relate them to. With extra space to run around, it also gives them a bit more time to sort of absorb their surroundings and think about what they’re doing. If everything’s condensed, not only is it confusing, but because we can get anywhere so quickly, the game becomes more of a “rush-rush get stuff done right away so we can do other stuff” sort of ordeal.

For example, Town A is trying to rebuild after a God ravaged it. Simple, and you think you know exactly how you can resolve this issue (by rebuilding stuff), so you go do it. Then there’s a forest B that’s haunted by some revenant spirits. Also simple, and there may be even one way to resolve the issue. Oh, what’s this? Some Town C in the south is threatened by an active volcano?! Well, there’s only one volcano on the whole island, so we know exactly where that problem is going on. What’s more, this isn’t the town the God ravaged; that was Town A, so we don’t have to worry about rebuilding anything! Yet.

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Now take Varrock; the city where everything happens. There’s a demon threatening to destroy the town, and a couple of rogue gangs that stole a priceless artifact from the museum, but a mahjarrat wants to take over first by sending a zombie army, and you have to resolve that by finding said artifact, but it won’t work on the demon; you need a special sword for that guy, and there are monkeys advertising scimitars and the queen wants you to grow a garden, and- … see where I’m going with this? In fact, an entire alternate reality quest was actually created to highlight and condense all this stuff into a single, uber quest (becoming yet another thing to do).

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I love updates. Always something new to do. But when they mess with the stuff I’m already familiar with, it gets confusing. And when there’s a hundred different things on the screen at once, I don’t know where to look anymore. It gets a bit frustrating, because it almost taunts a veteran like me. That I should know all this stuff, but don’t anymore. And if you’re new… well, good luck making sense of it all. Basically, there’s a bunch of Gods and they all want to be the best at stuff, and your character kind of does too, and… yeah.

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Keep it simple. Expand a bit. Explain a few things. And please; get rid of those gosh darn monkeys in Lumbridge!

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Until next time,

Cheers, cannoneers!