Sunday, 16 June 2013

Fighting Inertia: The Need For Osrs-Exclusive Content

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"Man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward." - Maxwell Maltz

Content updates to Old School RuneScape (colloquially known as 07Scape) has been an issue that many of us have voiced our opinions on. Some want additional content like the God Wars Dungeon added to these servers, while others have gone so far as to suggest that these servers should remain untouched. They feel that even quality-of-life patches would result in a slippery slope and would effectively defeat the purpose of the OSRS game, even though the first group believes such minor changes wouldn't have much of an effect. However, there is a golden opportunity here for brand new content completely exclusive to OSRS. Sure, we have the 2007 Easter event to look forward to, but that is a copy of the same one RuneScape had back then anyway. Other than that, and other miscellaneous game aspects that have since been removed or reworked from the main game, there's really not much in the way of game content that's unique to OSRS.

RuneScape has changed considerably over the years. In the olden days you had to grind skills considerably just to be able to do one of the more complicated quests, only to be met with a rather lackluster story most of the time. With the advent of The World Wakes though, Jagex has changed its focus so you will no longer be required to train any boring skills JUST to get a quest over with so you can completely immerse yourself in the quest's storyline immediately. I love this kind of model as it sets RuneScape apart from traditional RPGs such as Final Fantasy and Pokémon. However, this only applies to the current version of the game. Old School RuneScape, which Jagex launched a little less than a month ago, remains somewhat stagnant. While Jagex has kept true to their word about having regular content polls, these polls only deal with trivial things such as F2P-styled servers, the removal of unidentified herbs, and the inclusion of the God Wars Dungeon. For this game to succeed in the long term, however, I believe that there must be content that is exclusive to OSRS.

When we play other games, like say . . . Pokémon, there comes a point where we've done most, if not all there is to do in the game. We might have beaten the Elite 4, completed the National Pokédex, and so on and so forth, but what else is there to do after that? This is usually the part where people put the game down and move onto something else, and the same goes for RuneScape. There are many people on this board who've played the game in short bursts and generally took extended breaks before coming back in full swing. However OSRS doesn't have that much of a "pull" factor for returning veterans outside of the large community and nostalgic value. A game's community, whilst important to its growth, is not as important as the game itself. If OSRS remains stagnant, the community will eventually disintegrate and OSRS will have failed as an experiment.

Great. You've completed your National Pokédex. Now what?

What brings older players back to the game is nostalgia, but what keeps older players in the game are updates. This was true of me. The Evolution of Combat beta, the Noticeboard, quests, graphical reworks . . . ALL of this kept me around because I wanted to see which direction RuneScape would go in, only to eventually leave because of a lack of interest in the game or mounting real-life obligations. I've gone through this "cycle" for as long as I've been playing RuneScape and so have many other people. Updates are for this reason crucial to keep the game growing, introducing fresh features that will attract a newer audience. Most if not all of us who are currently on OSRS been playing the game since 2007 (maybe earlier). At the moment OSRS has NO way of attracting new players outside of being a window to RuneScape's past, and even then you have to subscribe to play it. Why then should a new player pay $8 to try OSRS when the current version of the game is available to all free of charge, has most if not all of the same content and more? RuneScape in 2007 was not as noob friendly compared to RuneScape in 2013.

Let's play a guessing game. Which game is free and which game do you have to pay money for?

Now herein lies the dilemma. We have a community that has grown to distrust Jagex (and for good reason too), but we can't completely blame Jagex for RuneScape's shortcomings. RuneScape's community mostly consists of a bunch of spoiled, cynical, brats who do nothing but complain all the time. We've got to be without a doubt one of THE WORST communities a games studio like Jagex has to work with. Back in 2007, we constantly complained about how the graphics sucked, and in July 2008 when Jagex launched RuneScape HD - guess what happened? We complained because "it doesn't feel like RuneScape anymore" or for some idiotic reason like that. This happens every time Jagex does something we ask of them, and it's become so commonplace it's almost instinctive.

We need to realize that these content polls are an opportunity to take OSRS to greater heights. For example, the game could be made to parallel 2013-RuneScape and as a result there are so many possibilities with the benefit of hindsight. Unfinished quest storylines, like the Myreque, Zaros, Elf, and Goblin ones can be taken into new directions. Perhaps Ivan Strom could truly be Vanstrom Klause, Zaros's allegiance could be discovered, and he could be so wicked that he makes Zamorak look like a puppy. Ariawyn could be a traitor to the Elven resistance, maybe the Dorgeshuun tribe is not as friendly as we thought it was. A new minigame could be added, hell . . . even a new skill! These content polls open up a whole new realm of possibilities that haven't been seen before in the original RuneScape.

On another note, I just love the mentality that some of these people have when it comes down to updates for OSRS. If we let one pass, then it'll result in a slippery slope and before you know it, we've got EoC back on our hands? Exclusive content updates will obviously be met with extreme criticism and because of this, they'll have to pass community polls for them to begin development. Let's say they do pass the polls, Jagex is going to have to make sure that they don't interfere with anything that's important to players (such as clanning/PKing, skilling, and the economy). They'd also have to put these proposed updates through stringent testing and also make sure that they have many checks and balances in order to make sure that these updates wouldn't be abused in some way, shape, or form. With this bound to happen, why shouldn't there be exclusive content updates?

This is a matter that will always be fiercely debated, however they are essential to the growth of the game. Jagex's history with customer relations has been rather turbulent, but with the advent of OSRS, they've finally started listening to us and seem to be keeping their word. Without exclusive content this game will remain stagnant, many players will just get bored and quit. In the short few weeks that OSRS has been around, people have gotten skill and quest capes which in the past took months to get. With such progress being made in leaps and bounds, it's only a matter of time before someone "completes" OSRS. Part of the fun of playing back in 2007 was going on the RuneScape homepage and seeing whether or not there was a news post about an update. These days, that sort of thrill is no longer present. If 07Scape is to flourish and prosper, exclusive content updates are an absolute necessity.