This year, Jagex re-released their monthly behind the scenes post, after a hiatus of some months. Without this news post, Jagex relied on twitter hints, forum posts, developer blogs and live Q&A sessions to release the same information, in less detail, without time-specifics.
Many of us questioned Jagex’s decision to remove these player-loved behind the scenes posts, in favour of a more hint-like approach. Jagex’s reasoning: to take the burden off the shoulders of already pressured staff. New Runescape content was to be right the first time, rather than in dire need of improvement from the day of their release. As players, many feared updates would be more irregular; few feared what has turned out to be the biggest problem: hype and unrealistic expectations.
“Aim high, end high” the saying goes. When interpreting the hints Jagex had been releasing over the months without BTS, imaginations have run wild, most players have aimed to the stars and beyond. What the saying omits to mention, is that when you aim high, you always end lower than you aim for. You always end up dissatisfied to some extent, why you had hoped for more.
Think of the Castle Wars update, or rather upgrade, as Jagex would have it. Who hadn’t hoped for more? Jagex had indeed said they would “revolutionize” the game, make right all the wrongs in our favourite minigame - sorry - activity. We are all emotionally invested in the game, we want a certain outcome: we want the best Runescape possible. Of course we had high hopes; of course we fantasized and dreamt of a new Castle War map or two, a balanced team-making system. We thought we were being led to a gingerbread house of Castle Wars goodness, at the end of a sweet trail of short Jagex hints, these iced crumbs implying more than their words state, leading us towards a palace of perfection: Castle Wars: Heaven is Nigh would supplement Runescape: Dungeons of Daemonheim, right? That’s what Jagex is moving towards, right?
An optimist is always the one let down, who needs to remain optimistic. A pessimist, who more than likely calls him a realist, can always be pleasantly surprised, receiving more than expected. Why don’t we just lower our hopes, and recognize that we, the players, always expect more from Jagex than they supply? The green grass of pastures to come constantly allures us to frolic in the fields of future, entices us to stick around as we move out of the Dark Ages and into an Era of Enlightenment (Bloom lighting will quite simply be epic, won’t it?).
No, contrary to what Jagex thought, without Behind the Scenes, there would be even more unreasonable hype and despairing, let down players, whose dreams of idyllically romanticized updates were yet again simply bloated balloons inflated by vivid imagination, overly-ripe and ready to be popped by the pin pricks of reality.
Unreal expectations could possibly be dampened by re-initiating the Behind the Scenes system? Time will tell. Is it in Jagex’s interest to dampen these expectations though? Hype means membership, membership means money, and money means a better game. And that’s what Jagex stands for, “Just about the Gaming experience”, right? I seem to faintly remember some “Java Gaming Experts” they may, of course, have become extinct due to bug-bite related disease though…
A central question here is how well Jagex knows their player-base. Do they know their own game? Do they play their own game? But oh-so-much-more-importantly: do they play their own game like their high level players do? I think we can all answer the last question with a resounding “Obviously not”. And that is the unfortunate thing: when you make content, those who have played the game the most, are the ones who define how the game is played, they are the ones who can utilize every ounce of potential in their game-play: push the limits. These players are the ones who can tell Jagex how to improve their existing content: you don’t want to fix something that isn’t broken, or glue a loose screw.
Tweaks and changes need to be right for the game, which aren’t necessarily what we as players dream of. I know I’m left asking myself where the consistency is though, the devil lies in the details, quality and excellence lies in being thorough. Why do I need to play Castle Wars for at least twice as long as Mobilizing Armies to be ranked on the high scores? With this type of consistency, we just need to collectively turn down our hopes a couple of notches: Wouldn’t it be nice to be pleasantly surprised, rather than constantly let down?