It has happened: the Evolution of Combat has hit RuneScape with full force. We have been introduced to this daring, new world, a groundbreaking world where nothing is as it was. Now that we have entered this metamorphosis, the future of RuneScape itself, I would like to pause for a moment and look backwards. Even as RuneScape constantly updates itself and bravely plunges itself into the unknown future, we must remember not to forget our roots, our humble beginnings.
For many of us, our humble beginnings started in the fabled Tutorial Island, our character's first adventure. For others, the adventure started with Unstable Foundations, the replacement tutorial. Now, the starting point for new characters is the new Troll Warzone, a tutorial for free players (with their 14-day trial membership) and members alike. Let us put ourselves into the shoes of an inquisitive player who starts playing today. He starts playing because of his summer boredom and his friend's advice, and he soon discovers what this new game entails.
The tutorial starts, the introductory cinematic plays, the controls of the game are slowly given to the player. As he progresses through each stage of the tutorial, he carefully learns about each new skill. What an exciting experience, who knew how thrilling it could be to kill the first Troll general? Each step is carefully laid out and the player should encounter no difficulty in completing the tutorial. Each part is engaging and didactic, a clear difference from my own starting experience of exploration.
What is the next step in this character's journey? He takes a step, and a curious pop-up emerges onto the screen. "Task Complete!" The player now notices his money pouch and notes that he received a fair sum of money for this task. "Cool," he remarks, "I already completed a Task." He rotates his camera to get a better view, and the game declares that the player has completed another Task. More money is added to the player's account, much to his glee.
As he continues playing, he notices a button in the middle of his screen. He hovers over it and a goblin appears to move, prompting him to click it. He is taken to the infamous Squeal of Fortune, and he notes that he may win various prizes. At this time, he is unsure of the meaning of these various prizes, so the money is most enticing to him. This is quite fortunate, for small payments of money are a very common result of this daily reward. How wonderful, the player has earned himself 1,000 Coins! His mouth gapes in amazement and he feels like the richest man on the world.
His first quest is quite painless; indeed, it is fully voiced and the areas enclosed within boxes in the World Map clearly show him where he must go. Hints are readily available, and he completes this easy quest while learning more about the game itself. As a reward, he receives a nice helping of experience, and fireworks begin to fly. He also notices that he has won two more spins, and his face lights up in a smile. Another opportunity to win more money is appreciated, and he wins some unknown items. Then, he wins 5,000 Coins! Today has surely been a good day for him.
His journey continues as he kills some Trolls and levels up his combat skills. He reaches level 5 Defence, Strength, and Attack. He discovers the wonders of the Grand Exchange and is happy to find out that he can immediately afford a set of full Steel, an armor set which had its graphics updated fairly recently. The Keenblade he receives from the tutorial means he has no need for extra weapons. Surely, this is infinitely more convenient than my own experience of endless hours of massacring cows for money. It took a full week before I saved up enough to buy full Adamant, but somehow, the experience was fun.
It's indescribable, really. The new experience for players is thrilling, explicit, and very friendly to casual players. There is immediate gratification due to how easily they may obtain better armor, and this lures them in. Random acts, such as equipping a Bronze piece of equipment, displays the "Task complete!" message and rewards the player with coins. Undoubtedly, this is a better experience. This helps new players, this will bring them more enjoyment than killing cows or getting lost while doing quests. Yet, why do I feel as if I would prefer my own, grueling experience over the new one?
The Evolution of Combat update has made the experience even more far-removed from my own. Adrenaline, special abilities, threshold abilities, and the new animations! Surely, this is better than clicking on a cow, waiting, then frantically eating food.
You see, when my combat stats did not even reach the double digits, I was killed in battle by a ferocious cow. I got lost in vague, unclear quests that did not give out worthy rewards. I had no real way to make money. Tutorial Island was quite challenging for me! It was a terrible experience, but why do I feel as if it were pure, irreplaceable magic?
I thoroughly commend Jagex for their efforts to make the game more approachable. They have undoubtedly succeeded, and I am sure that my cousin, who is currently 9 years old, would absolutely love to play the game if I were to introduce it to him. All this is true, but a small part of me, an illogical, fallacious, stubborn part of me feels that RuneScape, in the process of becoming more modern, is losing some of that precious magic.