Another month comes along, time to write for the Tip.It Times, and I find myself at the forefront of the Wilderness & Free Trade affair once more. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock over Christmas, you should be aware by now of the ‘petition then referendum’, also known as the ‘failed excuse for a poll then cover-up’, which Jagex released. Whether or not the poll was originally designed to have no log in, as Jagex says, isn’t the issue. Because the community has clearly spoken: I think we all know what they said.
The community told Jagex, in an overwhelming majority of 90%, that it wants the ‘old Wilderness’ and Free Trade back. A monkey could have figured out what the community wanted much faster than Jagex and their poll did. The referendum closed on the 14th then on the 17th January, they announced the Wilderness and Free Trade would return: in two weeks.
This release date is strange for many reasons. Firstly, this is very unlike Jagex. We know how in recent years they’ve strived to keep update release dates being vague so that if changes need to happen the players won’t be disappointed. The removal of the Behind the Scenes showed that. Although it has returned, for Jagex to make a promise on exactly when this coveted update would happen shows their confidence that it will be ready. They can’t afford to slip up on this one and have last minute bugs. If the 1st February comes and goes without the holy message of ‘System Update’ descending on players, there’d be rioting quicker than you could say ‘WE PAY WE SAY’.
So now all Jagex have to do is making sure it’s done on time and released to a high quality. Bugs won’t be accepted by the community, on such a huge update even I (notorious for giving Jagex the benefit of the doubt) won’t give Jagex a margin for error. This isn’t just another update. Wildy and Free Trade, these things can make or break Runescape for some people. If they mess up with this, it’s not going to be forgiven easily. I’m sure that Jagex understands this too. So, I’m alarmed by the fact that people honestly think Jagex have just started work on recovering the Wilderness & Free Trade. They gave themselves two weeks to do a fairly big overhaul of the trading and PVP system. If you ask me, they need two weeks just dedicated to Quality Assurance if they’re going to get this right. Never mind trying to squeeze a lot of coding, game reworking and testing into two weeks. Heck, Jagex struggle to make bugfixes in that sort of time!
Its obvious Jagex have been preparing this for a long time, probably for months. After starting to learn how to code at University, it’s easier to imagine how truly hard it might be to code such a massive thing. There’s no on and off switch to magically copy and paste the old wilderness onto the new. The system has gone through so many upgrades, both graphically, procedurally and in the back-end. The old code simply can’t be plonked on. Safe minigames that must be moved can’t be picked up out of the wilderness and dumped in the middle of the new 'Gamers Grotto' (not a great name, honestly) at random. There is more coding than meets the eye, in the Wilderness department alone. What about Free Trade? A massive overhaul of how the trading system works, how the Grand Exchange works... not to mention the economic effects that will undoubtedly be the most important Runescape economy incident of 2011. That’s considering that Jagex will look at how the average player will be affected by economy changes, they may well not be interested.
As I’ve just established, the work can’t possibly be done in just 2 weeks. This leads me to the question: What was the point of the poll? Well the answer is simple. Publicity - public relations. What better way to get the community enthused and talking about this update than to give them a choice. Even when the majority of the community supports it, there’s going to be detractors. Myself amongst them. Even if you agree with the overall implementation, you might have finer points that you dislike. For example, you might want Free Trade but if they were threatening to remove the GE, you wouldn’t want it to go either. On these smaller points there’s no overwhelming majority and the community can debate it. Just on our Tip.It forums there’s a 110 page thread, that’s 2,200 posts, encompassing almost everything you can think of in regards to the update.
This being a publicity stunt isn’t an entirely bad thing. We still get the Wilderness & Free Trade back, people who don’t see through the poll get to think they’re being listened to, and Jagex get more people playing the game.
The removal of Free Trade & Wilderness was a defining point of Runescape, an infamous update which, while this might seem a bit melodramatic, won’t be forgotten. The return of these things conjures up many ideas, of giving gifts to friends, staking, standing in banks for trading and, most of all, RWT. I think that we have to be confident in Jagex for this one issue. They think that they can handle an increase in RWT (not a return, RWT never left – it was just reduced) either through new systems to prevent bots or through ways at getting at the RWT providers in the first place.
What exactly is going to happen on the momentous occasion of 1st February is still up in the air, we’re just lucky that we’ll find out very soon. I think everyone is eager to see it, whether they want them back or not.