The widespread popularity of the recent update “Shattered Hearts” has sent a string of players into a non-combat training frenzy. Players from the outset could be seen scrambling across Varrock and all over Gielenor to seek out the sacred rocks to build up their own private statues, in the hopes of one day completing their very own statue for their player owned home. As each full Varrock Museum build is bound by a one-week time minimum (not dissimilar from “Tears of Guthix”), players are only allowed to receive one replica stone per week.
The limitation on the minigame set up an instant dilemma for many players. Should they commit to finishing the statue without knowing the rewards for full completion? Would the end prize be worth all of the tedium, the brutal labor, and the constant finger-crossing as Runescapers complete those arduous agility laps?
Recently, Jagex provided the answer. In a post on the Runescape Official Forums, it was disclosed that there would be no special reward, aside from the cosmetic benefit of having a lovely statue propped up in the study of your home. Along the way, players would of course earn heaps of experience bonuses, and that alone would make the mini game worth the effort.
The astounding response the community provided was staggering, and shook me to my very core. To paraphrase, the general philosophy was along the lines of: ”That’s it? I thought there’d be more, maybe some sort of boost or bonus. Oh well, back to searching out more rocks.”
In a game where we’ve seen huge revolts from upset players, this update received little more than a frustrated sigh. I am in this group, having finished my fourth statue last week and eagerly working away at collecting more stones. We can account the general acceptance of the update to two key factors:
1. This is not an interruptive update.
2. People are starting to “get it”.
The first conclusion is simple, straightforward, and easy. Players are not forced to engage in the minigame, and can totally bypass the update if they so choose without really interrupting any other component of the game. Unlike a brutal quest challenge that interrupts a player’s ability to claim rights to a nifty cape, or restriction to the venue in which players can happily murder other players, this update is completely independent. Don’t like it? That’s fine, simply find something else to do. No harm, no foul.
The second conclusion is something I hope for, but find ultimately to be quite the ambitious extension. Shattered Hearts, at its core, is the very essence and epitome of some of the simple joys of Runescape. Diversity, balance, and simple goals are all hallmarks here. Players enjoy ALL different skills outside of combat in small tastes, similar to how many of us began playing the game. The materials of choice play no role in the matter, leaving people to explore facets of the game which haven’t been touched upon in ages. Players can achieve their rocky goals through any number of creative means. More importantly, this unique experience is about the journey, not the destination, and allows players to loosen their focus on core grinding.
Similarly, this week's update of the fishing guild is built primarily upon a simple but fun excursion. The Fishing Minigame is not outrageous for experience, nor does it yield rewards worth countless millions. It is, by most accounts, quite a fun and and challenging learning experience, where trial and error is driving people to pick out the right formulations, the correct corrections, and land the biggest fish. All rewards notwithstanding, the minigame is fun for many players, a concept and key focus that perhaps too often we find ourselves straying from.
If fun remains a central theme in future Jagex rewards, rather than slight modifications to improve experience collection rates, or larger loot drops, I'd wager the entire community would continue to benefit with very little pushback.