Last week I logged in to RuneScape, having merely given the latest news from Jagex a cursory glance: "…new, more user-friendly player interfaces…" Hmm. That's nice, I like friendly. Waitaminnit! Where's my 'Run' button? What's all this orange text nonsense? Is it Halloween already? And what's that noise? Did my cats catch a bird or something?
It seems I wasn't the only one to find myself lost, judging from the deluge of messages in the forums and the pm's I got from my friends. The orange text on the stats window met with almost universal opprobrium. However, I have to give the blokes at Jagex Towers credit for the speed with which they tidied up the tools page, put the run button where it's easy to find and making it big enough to click on, and reverted to that nice easy to read sunshine yellow on the stats page. This week it's all looking much nicer and more player friendly again.
Some of the sounds I'm not quite sure about. The waves lapping lazily on the beaches is quite relaxing, but I feel rather cruel chopping away at a tree that's full of birds cheerfully singing away (some of the bird species would seem to be indigenous to RuneScape, as I've not heard birdcalls like that before). More sound does expand the playing experience, but sometimes in close quarters battle with multiple players and opponents, there's rather more noise going on than is helpful.
The free Lumbridge Teleport is a very useful addition, as is a bank in Lumbridge for those who haven't got at least part way through Recipe for Disaster. It makes Lumbridge a more useful town, instead of somewhere for players to be reincarnated when they die.
For me, the best part so far is the ability to operate teleportation jewellery while still wearing it. If, like me, you are an inveterate user of amulets of glory or rings of dueling, being able to use them when your inventory is full of absolutely vital stuff you don't want to drop is a huge improvement.
Now it's October and there's a new “Behind the Scenes”. Promising all sorts of good things to come in the next few weeks. Time is flying – I must be having fun!
Two things struck me in particular: magic wardrobes (no lions or witches need apply) and treasure chests, and the “Capes of Achievement”. The magic wardrobes and treasure chests are a very neat idea. Just as the bookcases in your house will hold almost all your books and the workshops can house most of your tools, the magic wardrobes will store all your spare clothing and the treasure chests give you a place to keep all sorts of other toys and goodies. This has two effects: it makes your house a little more useful and frees up some precious bank space. Does that mean that in a future update we'll be able to store food we have made as well as basic cooking equipment and supplies in our larders and kitchens? How about adding a still room, as in most medieval castles and manor houses, so we'd have a place to keep our herbs and potion ingredients? That would free up two or three rows in most Herbologists' banks!
The Capes of Achievement sound really cool. Getting to 99 in any stat is a huge achievement so it's good to see Jagex recognising that and giving us a visible bragging item for getting there. I especially like the idea of finally having something to recognise the completion of all quests…not only because I'm only 4 quest points away from qualifying for it, but also because there's not really much other recognition of Power Questing – sure there are things that you can only wield or wear after you've done a particular quest, but that's about it. According to the web site, the capes will be available to players who've done all the released quests, but what will happen when a new quest is released? Will you be unable to wear your cape till you've done it? It’s also a bit of a moving target. With a couple of new quests being released every month it won't take long to get quite a ways behind. At time of writing, there are 111 quests for a total of 227 quest points, and while most of them are not that difficult, there are a few tough ones out there.
Of course, one of the questions being asked on the forums is: Are these updates a test run for “RS3”? I'd say probably not – it's much more likely that is being developed separately, if it's being developed at all. It would also almost certainly run on a different engine. I think the updates we've been seeing lately are part of both Jagex’s long term commitment to RuneScape, as well as an effort to keep established players interested in the game. Lessons learned in the implementation of the new player interfaces will probably find their way into RS3, if there ever is such a product – it would be utter foolishness on Jagex’s part not to incorporate the aspects of RS that work well into any new game, regardless of the scenario or plot. The things they've learned between RS1 and RS2, in terms of making the game more playable and giving players a good gaming experience are mostly things like storage of items, more options on customizing the appearance of one's character, better ways of using items, better ways of moving around the world, etc. All of these things are scenario-independent and thus can be used in the design of any game. Whatever Jagex turns out next, whether it's a direct sequel to RuneScape or a whole new game, it will benefit tremendously from the things they're doing right here and right now in RuneScape. All they need to do is remember to stay away from the orange typeface!
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