Can it end? Will it end? Will we care?
These are three very important questions about Runescape's quests. The game will turn thirteen this January, meaning that it will be old enough to play itself, and during that time it's amassed a fairly complex set of story lines, all with varying degrees of connection. As is to be expected with such a long-runner, especially one that's seen enough changes in its direction and staff to fill several other developers, not everything has gone as planned. Some threads were cut too early, others too late, and some are still very loose.
Can it end?
This is the ambitious one, as it deals with the inevitable question of "what next"? Simply put, many of the conflicts that these quests deal with are at the core of Runescape's identity. To resolve them is to finish a chapter that has determined the course of the game for more than twelve years and, in story, has picked up enough momentum to last for twelve more. The strongest example of such an unresolvable plot is the conflict between Saradomin and Zamorak: they're no longer the gods, but they are the two that dominate the storyline through the age old battle between order and chaos. And now that the god wars themselves have started up again, there's a very real chance of one or both losing their power, if they survive at all.
So how is it unresolvable? They still have their influence. It's no longer about individuals, but ideals. The death of one or both gods will not equate to the deaths of their ideologies: Guthix is proof enough of that.
Will it end?
The second question is more realistic, in the sense that it deals with schedules and real-world details. Months, if not years, can pass between quest installments, and they've only recently started wrapping them up at all. Quests have outlived their creators, and often times it feels like they're concluded solely for the sake of concluding them: disappointing as that may be, finishing them quickly and moving on, while saving any loose ends for future storylines may be preferable to leaving them unresolved indefinitely. Bear in mind that we used to complain that they started too many stories without finishing them.
Will we care?
The important one, and one that encompasses both sides of the phrase "Too little, too late". The first is the lighter "too little" half: many conclusions come after years of buildup. We the community have had more than enough time to cover every possible interpretation of the lore, plot, and rewards. We've been completely invested in the plot that whole time. It's very likely that we've come up with the ideal quest, simply because we know what we want to play. Nothing they produce can live up to our expectations.
The darker, "too late" side is that we may not care about the ending by the time we get to it. We've seen it built up for years with no end in sight, and by the time it comes, everyone and everything has moved on. Much like the dragon items from Birthright of the Dwarves, it's not necessarily a bad update, but it's certainly one that would have been appreciated far more a few years ago: to get these items, you must prove that they'll be useless to you.
Where does that leave us?
Eagerly awaiting the end, because it wouldn't be the first time they've surprised us.