Last week, while commenting on Jagex's recent updates, I glossed over the possibility of the way being paved for RS3. Today I want to expand on my thoughts, and add in a few things I've thought of since. Of course, this being an editorial column, my opinions are just that – my opinions. You are at liberty to disagree with me, should you so choose and say so in the forum thread.
There seems to be a theme behind a lot of the recent interface updates. In general, these have had the effect of reducing the amount of text in the various boxes and adding more pictorial icons. The emotes, for example, have all been replaced by icons. I've seen assorted comments on this ranging from people who love the new icons, to others grumbling about Jagex dumbing down the game for kids who can't read. I think it's a step towards foreign language versions of RuneScape. After all, the less text you have to translate, the easier it is to bring out a foreign language version. Given the large numbers of players in Europe, bringing out French, German, Dutch, Italian or Swedish versions of the game would be a very smart move. Other languages with different character sets, or different text-flow directions would be a whole new ballgame, but most of the European languages shouldn't be too hard to do. Of course expanding into foreign languages adds all sorts of other interesting questions. I expect there would have to be dedicated servers for the different languages – anything else would be too hard to implement. That would also allow them to improve the censor. One of the problems with the current language censor is that it blocks many non-English words which are perfectly decent, while allowing non-English obscenities to flourish. A French language server could have a censor customized for French obscenities, a Dutch one could be customized for Dutch, and so on.
One of the main criticisms of RuneScape that one typically hears from people who play WoW or some of the 2D anime-style games is that the graphics are primitive. Well actually, the word they usually use isn't quite as polite as primitive, but it carries the same sort of meaning. I have to say that these criticisms are justified. Or at least they were. Starting with the Falador makeover a few months ago, Jagex has gradually been improving the quality of both the landscape and the characters. They have said that more races of creatures will be getting makeovers in the future. Do we dare suppose that perhaps this will one day lead to upgrading the appearance of our characters and perhaps giving us more options as to body type and facial characteristics? I'm not going to hold my breath on this one, but I do expect to see it one day.
A lot of the recent game updates and quests have been aimed at mid-level players. Fair enough, there's lots of them and their numbers grow by the day. The Capes of Achievement are a great idea, and reward what is a very substantial achievement. It'll be a while before I'll be eligible for any of them, other than the one for doing all the quests. I'm delighted that Jagex is finally giving some recognition to dedicated questers. Quest points are the one stat that never gets shown on the high scores.
Another thing we've seen lately is the proliferation of mini-games. These are fun for most levels, but are probably more fun for some of the higher levels who've "finished" much of the game and want something to do while keeping in touch with their friends. The social aspect of MMORPGs is often overlooked, but it is there and it is a force that needs to be taken into consideration. Aspects of the game that encourage players to interact with each other give a huge boost to a game's popularity. Most people get into games because a real life friend recommends it, or they see a friend playing the game. There are gamers who play with their parents, and parents who play with their kids. Spouses play. Siblings play. Some play cooperatively, some are more competitive. But the social interaction of the game and their lives is important. Friendships get made online (and through the forums as well). Obviously, one needs to be a little circumspect in dealing with people one only knows through the internet, but the incidence of predators is much lower than the media would have us believe.
All these updates and enhancements are things that could easily be ported to RS3, should such a project ever happen. While I'm no expert on RS Classic, the world and storyline(s) have been developed a great deal in the current version of the game. It is this huge amount of development that makes me think that there will not be an RS3. Look at what's available now. The geography can of course be expanded more or less indefinitely. Just add on a new continent or two. Bring on a moon… Add another dimension along the lines of the Abyss. No problem: you want it, you add it. Real estate is not an issue. The skill set is, however, pretty much complete. I suppose they could add or expand a few more things. Farming could be expanded to include animal husbandry. Mechanical engineering could be added, either as a new skill or as a companion to Smithing. Horseback riding and even glider piloting could also either be new skills or added into Agility. Crafting could be expanded in several directions. None of this, though, is really enough to justify a whole new version of the game. The basic game engine is pretty robust, and has just been upgraded. The storyline is very well developed and continues development through the addition of new quests.
There's not really enough "new" stuff to make RS3 worthwhile. I don't think it would be a good business decision on Jagex’s part to bring out a RS3. I do think that they should bring out a new game, however, but it's got to be a new game, with a new storyline, in a new world. Sure, build on the experience of RS and RS Classic to make a game that is reasonably mature from its first release. Learn from the less than perfect aspects of RS (and there are a few), so that the next game is bigger and even better. Give existing RS players the option to either beta test the new game or get a free membership for the first 6 months or so – that will get you an initial population of players who know how MMORPGs work. Maybe it's time to get out of the pseudo-medieval game world and go for a different thing all together: Space cowboys? Alien races? New planets? I don't know (and if I did, I'd be writing that game, not this editorial). However, I'm sure that deep in the darkest recesses of Jagex Towers in the Soopah Sikkrit Projects Division there are people working on something very new and very cool. I don't think we'll see it this year, but I expect sometime in the next two years to see a brand new game.
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