It might be considered a noble prospect to say that I had the discipline to restrain myself from looking at the NIS beta with the intention of seeing RuneScape 3 through the eyes of someone new to it as genuinely as possible. The far more truthful, but infinitely less glamorous truth is that due to being a free player and procrastinating throughout the one week period we had, I just never logged on it until the final countdown ticked down and the servers were about to boot me off.
Why is this important, and why do we care? The most obvious implication is if a number of new players can be attracted into the game to pay and play. If there's enough hoopla generated, people will try it out. If they like it, they'll stay, join a clan, possibly buy membership, some items from Solomon's, etc., becoming a valuable customer. If they're collapsing into tears of frustration after twenty minutes of playing with the interface, well... c.f. the Recent Game Updates forum.
That's only part of it, though. With a game with as long a history as RuneScape, we have accumulated a large collection of players who have "quit." Famous. Last. Words. Because as we all know...
Somewhere in their subconscious, something draws them back. With a huge update like RuneScape 3, surely they will have heard about it. Remember RuneScape gets email addresses for security purposes and the box "Send me newsletters/information" is checked by default, and many players will have never unchecked that box. The influx of emails from old players forgetting their passwords has even been enough to bog down account help recently . So although this is neither the first large update nor (hopefully) the last, and not something that will make or break the game, it is certainly a big opportunity.
Thus, two weeks into the Battle of Lumbridge, and more importantly THE update of the year, RuneScape 3, the question is how well it did. Some parts of it were undoubtedly good, or it was at least evident that the developer's heart was in the right place. Here I'll provide my own grade on how Jagex did.
I've never really played with the sound on in RuneScape. Initially, when I started playing, there were other people (in real life) not too far away, so I had it on mute as to not disturb them. Even when I did get headphones, I ended up putting on music instead and being persistently annoyed every time the RS sound somehow got toggled on. But with RuneScape 3, for some reason I decided to turn it on and try it for a while.
I went to go do one of my favorite things these days-Dungeoneering. I had heard that the combat music was new (having never played properly with the sound on, I alas had no comparison) and people liked it. Sure enough, the couple hours I spent in Dungeoneering were nothing short of amazing. I quite enjoyed the music tracks while hanging out in the Grand Exchange and cooking some tuna as well. There weren't really any issues with skipping or the track stuttering either. It's difficult to put more into words, so instead I'll just say this: turn on the sound and try it sometime!
Logging into RuneScape, the last thing I expected was a cutscene, but there it was. Sure enough, my character hid from sight as two entities were apparently fighting. It became apparent soon enough that these were two gods, Saradomin and Zamorak, about to be engaged in a huge conflict.
When it ended, I found myself in Lumbridge by the lodestone feeling quite disoriented. The lodestone had been moved and the whole area behind Lumbridge castle had turned into a raging battlefield. Sure enough, I and other players were enlisted to help by gathering divine tears (whatever those are, anyway) for the side of our choice.
All of this was quite enjoyable, and I support the decision to force players to watch the cutscene. Lest it not give some idea of what is going on in Lumbridge, it is at least to pique their curiosity.
In terms of my first impression of the graphics, it was like a beautiful painting. Everything was done in remarkable detail and had strong visual appeal. I could see the texture of the battlefield, highly detailed characters, etc., but remember the other characteristic of a painting. The image is static: it does not change.
With so many people there my computer was literally lagging so hard that is was not a smooth, flowing video at all-more like an image. I teleported away (once I had finally figured things out) but one would think Jagex would be better prepared-especially if they were going to force graphics settings up on your computer on login. After several days the battlefield improved and there was a system rigged up to create "instances" if too many people were there.
In other words, if the number of people hit a critical limit, they would be counted as overflow and dumped into an identical copy of the area. People in the different copies would not see each other but this led to more problems...for example being right next to a friend but not being able to see each other. Oh well-it's manageable at this point, I guess.
New User Interface: C
Ideally, any developer visualizes an interface that is user-friendly and easy to understand. But of course, from many hours that most of us may have spent toiling over software, we are familiar that this idea is not often translated into reality.
For example...do you remember what the action bar is? Of course you do! It was the crux of the Evolution of Combat update, which allowed various shortcuts to abilities which gave various effects in combat. It was not limited to combat either-by placing food, prayers, or certain raw items on it, you had an instant hotkey to eat, turn on prayers, or drop items for more efficient powertraining.
I had a slight issue with my action bar when I logged in. More specifically, I could not find it! I asked the people around me, private messaged friends (who were no noobs themselves), and interrogated clanmates to no avail. I even tried Mod Mark's friends chat but they were worse than useless. The next half hour was spent in frustration searching for it until I finally found it in a cold and dark corner, shivering underneath a minimize icon on the status bar. I suppose that was a logical place, but somehow something that basic should have been pointed out better. To sum it up, it was like I had been thrown unexpectedly and involuntarily into another Cryptic Clue Fest. Nothing was really impossible if and when you saw the right way to look at things and solve the puzzle, i.e. working backwards, but initially everything was quite baffling.
Now surely a new/returning player is not even aware of things like the action bar or adrenaline in RuneScape (although they may have familiarity with similar concepts from experience from other games) would have an even more difficult time of it. Even when I did find the action bar, the hotkeys would not work! Eventually I fixed it, but it required some relogging and tinkering.
Yes, they did give a popup with some information, but it only explained the obvious. Click on an icon with a helmet to get information on armor/weapons/etc. Oh really, I would have never guessed!
The dysfunctionality of the action bar (and hotkeys randomly ceasing to function) was just one of a long list of bug fixes. I almost felt sorry when I saw Mod Easty posting a thread with the current fixes...and the ones yesterday, 2 days back, 3 days back... It gives the impression that the product released was more like something still in beta, not a finished product.
There were quite a few positive things though. The ability to resize literally everything, make your own interfaces where you could combine tabs of your choice, and move it around was quite brilliant and done flawlessly (minus a couple small glitches but those were patched quickly). That was explained well in the brief help that was provided, and I commend Jagex for that. Further, Jagex fully explored the potential of hotkeys. When in the [enter to chat] mode, we have the whole keyboard to assign shortcuts to. Jagex not only gave many shortcuts to useful actions like home teleport, but also made them fully customizable.
I was disappointed that several existing issues were not really accommodated. For example in dungeoneering, every floor I need to set my Fire Blast spell to auto-cast. At least a hotkey to do this would have been nice. I also enjoyed having private messages appear outside the chatbox (known as split), and there's currently no option to do so. We can split it off in the box and put it somewhere else on the screen, which I've done, but it's a bit more clunky with the extra space below (to type) and above (for various settings). Maybe we could get an option to hide them?
One thing that I am quite happy with (and I'm sure will be taken for granted in due course) is the option to completely hide game messages. Recall that there is a filter which takes out most of the repetitive messages ('You cut some logs' for the umpteenth time).
Jagex did a reasonable job with RuneScape 3 and the addition of a large-scale world event was an interesting and pleasant surprise (at least to people not too immersed in the spoilers). Not everything about this version of the game is perfect and there are glitches, but that is more or less a persistent fact of reality. Surely they will continue to build on suggestions and improve things in the future to make the game even better, even if the originally was more characteristic of a client still in beta.
If you're considering returning to RuneScape and have been gracious enough to give me your audience for this article, I would definitely encourage you come log in and have a look. Just be prepared to spend half an hour customizing things to make a comfortable layout for yourself, and learn a few new things. I think if you were dissatisfied with how rigid the old game was and you give the new one a fair shot, you may find it much more to your liking. And if you can't find something, just ask around—at this point I'm sure someone will be able to help you out. ;)
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