With the release of Jagex’s new MMORPG looming over the horizon, many fans are pondering the impact Mechscape will have on the already popular Runescape game. What is Mechscape, and what will be different in this new game? Has the Mechscape project shifted focus away from Runescape, and what will the future of Runescape be with a new baby sister on the way?
Jagex has reportedly been working on a new MMORPG since 2006, codenamed Mechscape. Though made by the same company, Jagex insists that the new, futuristic game will not simply be “Runescape in space.” We are told this is a different game aimed at an older audience. Although a new game may sound refreshing, it will be risky to deviate too far from the features in Runescape that have driven it to success, especially in a sci-fi MMORPG which typically doesn’t retail as well as the medieval settings. So what parts of Runescape can we expect to find in Mechscape, and what lessons has Jagex learned with Runescape?
This is no longer a fledgling family business; it’s a multimillion-dollar company amidst a billion dollar industry. Jagex now has the luxury of nearly a decade of experience under its belt. The technology is also evolving to help meet their ambitions. Ideas that were never implemented in to Runescape for technical reasons may now find its way into Mechscape.
It is possible Mechscape will abandon the “point-and-click” style Runescape employs. The use of hotkeys could make combat, movement, and equipment changes more fluid, and create more dynamic action in the game. This could both reduce the need for AFK training, and balance out the randomness of success with the skills of the player.
A large portion of Runescape is designed around grinding away at skills, and to say it can get dull at times is an understatement. It’s not Jagex’s fault though. Many RPG games suffer from this same model. If Mechscape is to be a game like none other in this market, then will there be a change in how skills are trained? Will there even be skills in Mechscape?
Another big aspect in most MMORPGs is the economy. As players grind away at skills, they accumulate resources that can be traded for goods or currency. The two most common forms of currency seem to be gold pieces or credits, both work in similar fashion. To be fair, Jagex is staffed with game developers, not accountants. It’s inevitable they would receive a crash course in economic theory with a game like Runescape. Over the last eight years, Jagex must be commended on the ability to have a strong player economy inside Runescape, but it hasn’t come without a learning curve. What has Jagex learned about inflation, a common problem in MMORPGs, and how will it be balanced? More importantly, what has Jagex learned in their battle against real world traders? Will we see the same restrictions introduced in Runescape, or do they have a different idea up their sleeve?
One rumor that does have me concerned is the idea of different races in the game. Introducing races usually means characters have unique talents, but limited playing abilities. Perhaps the most important aspect to Runescape is the nonlinear, “sandbox” style of play. All of the players start with the same stats, and none are limited to what they can do in the game. This open-ended style of play allows players more freedom in how they choose to build their character, and Runescape has succeeded in this genre better than any other game. I don’t mind the idea of different races, just don’t let that mean I’m limited to what I can access in the game.
The Relationship Between the Two
Does Mechscape signal the end of Runescape? Jagex has been asked this same question multiple times, always answering no. Runescape has been Jagex’s cash cow for most of this decade. It would be an unwise business decision to abandon their main source of income in place of a game that hasn’t gone through beta testing yet. Just because the Apple Company began making Iphones and Ipods didn’t mean they were forced to stop making computers, they expanded and diversified. The same works for Jagex. We are told Mechscape is not another version of Runescape, so there is no need to close down Runescape, the game Jagex’s name is synonymous with. It’s doubtful they would walk away. The only two scenarios I foresee that could lead to Runescape’s finale are if Jagex sold the game to another company, or players stopped playing.
Here’s another question Jagex routinely hears: Is the Mechscape project diverting resources from Runescape, and therefore affecting updates? Jagex assures us this is not the case. They insist that Mechscape has a separate team dedicated to the project. While this may be true, it could also be deceiving. Although Mechscape may have its own staff, the game itself has yet to generate any revenue. A logical conclusion would be that the majority of Mechscape’s investment costs over the last three years have been financed through Runescape’s profits. The last couple of years have seen an increase in membership price, and an increase in advertisement traffic over the website. Some of these ads have been more flamboyant and intrusive (Does anybody remember the Wolverine ad earlier this year?), which led to complaints forcing Jagex to take them down.
Of course, all of this is only speculation. The only thing we do know about Mechscape is that Jagex is behind it, and in true Jagex fashion they are keeping their cards close to their chest. We aren’t even certain that Mechscape will be the name of the game. There is no known release date, except for soon, but soon in Jagex’s time could mean years. The irony is even though so little is known about the upcoming game, there are already fan sites established. Their current roles have mostly been detective work, locating clues and evidence to find out as much as possible, but some fan sites are already receiving exclusive information directly from Jagex. How will these sites evolve once the game is released? If the game were a flop, what will these fan sites do?
Though Mechscape isn’t directly affecting operations on Runescape, there will be at least some indirect impact until Mechscape sees its own money rolling in the doors. Until then, we are stuck sharing an umbrella. What about after it’s released? As long as players continue buying membership and logging in, there will always be a Runescape. We may have to learn to share our toys though.
There is quite a bit of excitement building over Mechscape though. It’s hard to distinguish the facts from the hype. Though Jagex has been secretive, they have been releasing teasers. The concept art has been stellar to this point. This month, Jagex released an impressive first song from Mechscape. As anticipation grows, so do the expectations. Jagex has always been impressive with their talent and innovation in their current popular game. We’ve seen what Jagex can do with Runescape. How will they handle the future? How will they impress us now?