2013: What's Coming and What's Going
Every new year should start with a resolution. Here at Jagex, our resolution for 2013 is a big one: to look back over the huge, game-spanning changes that we made last year, look at what we did right and where we could have improved, and to lay out our plan for 2013 so you guys are involved from the start.
Back in 2009 when I first laid out my plans for the game and the company, I pledged that we would start talking to you guys, and keep you in the loop after a decade of secrecy. For the first time ever, we started talking about some of the projects we were working on and the type of stuff we wanted to do for the community. Looking back over the past four years, I think we can say we have made a ton of progress in our communications. Recent initiatives like the live streams have been really well received and - from your feedback - it sounds like you'd like to see more of these happen. Nevertheless, I know that we can be far clearer and more consistent in how we talk to you, and this is going to be a big focus in 2013.
Like the rest of the team, I read the forums, and talk to players in game (in my case, on a personal account) to really get a sense of your thoughts and feelings. While some of you were really happy and others didn't feel too strongly either way, there were others of you who felt angry, ignored, and - at times – even confused by Jagex’s decision making. We’ve not always explained ourselves well, nor listened to you well enough, and for that I’d like to apologise. Communications around topics like micro-payments were especially weak, and many of you were understandably frustrated.
We intend to do more dev blogs and live Q&As to clearly set out the issues facing us and then get your feedback directly. We’ll continue Behind the Scene videos and also announce game updates earlier, as we want you to be as excited as we are about the year to come, and to give us your thoughts and ideas as early as possible.
Bots & Gold Farmers
On average, we ban over 1,000 player accounts every day for botting, and delete tons more illegitimate trial accounts. However, our work is not done so long as botting remains a frustration for us all.
Our anti-bot tech improvements launched in 2012 are a massive step forward, not just for us, but for the industry as a whole. It's put us well ahead of the technology used by bot developers. However, our communications around the launch of Botany Bay didn’t reflect that we needed to roll this technology out gradually, since permanently banning accounts requires systems which are absolutely fool-proof. Botany Bay has not yet made full use of our new anti-bot systems, but we are looking forward to rolling them out. I’m thrilled to see the success that BotWatch has already had against bots and gold farmers.
We do know for a fact there are far fewer players botting now in game than there were back in 2011. However, what’s enraging is that this improvement has been undermined by the sizable increase in gold farming bots. So, in 2013, we will also be adding a parallel strategy to specifically target gold farmers and related illicit RWT activities. We’ll be talking more about this soon.
The Squeal of Fortune (and, to a lesser extent, Solomon’s General Store) has always been a heated topic of discussion. I won’t sugar-coat this: these additions were - and are - vital for growing RuneScape. They allowed us to double the size of RuneScape’s team and keep up the near-weekly game updates. Also, we've put the money we've earned from these back into RuneScape technology and infrastructure, with the focus on tackling lag, improving audio and graphical quality. You'll see these big investments really coming into play in 2013.
What's more, although not everyone likes micro-payments, some of you appreciate the additional choice and customisation options they offer.
However, we can do better. At times in 2012, it felt like the SoF and SGS releases dominated our release schedule and news feed, and that some of the content just didn't feel like RuneScape. The team is certainly moving towards a better balance as time has gone on: I hope you'll agree that our more recent micro-payment updates are more in tune with the wider game, and that we've not released a micro-payment update on a week with no other content.
Looking back, we definitely had too many promotions and giveaways in 2012. Though we carefully balanced the Squeal of Fortune, promotions like Sizzling Summer gave away too much. I think we got the Festive Aura & Winter Weekends about right, though. In 2013 we will be more cautious: these events should feel special and bring the community together, so we'll make them less frequent, more fun and ensure that they don't undermine your hard-earned achievements.
Evolution of Combat
It was Albert Einstein who said “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” The Evolution of Combat was new territory for all of us - a massive change to the core of the game, plus a re-balance of almost all combat gear and monsters. Keeping the game fresh for years to come means trying new things; overall I’m proud of the updated combat system and truly believe it's a change for the better in the long run.
The EoC beta (another first for RuneScape) had well over 4 months of your feedback, with huge amounts of balancing and revision of the content. However, looking back this was clearly still not enough for such a big update. Despite the beta it’s clear we didn’t fully appreciate the extent to which everyone would have to adapt to the new gameplay.
Like any key part of the game, we will continue to refine the EoC for you. We have a team of developers dedicated to listening to your feedback and making the on-going improvements required.
Two months in, we’re glad to see you mastering the combat system and enjoying its exciting improvements. However, we appreciate it hasn’t been an easy transition for everyone and I apologise for that; we still have work to do, and we have learned the need to be even more careful and responsive in the future.
Reflecting on the game updates of 2012, we’re pretty happy: Daily Challenges, the Runespan, Bonfires, Social Slayer and the Big Chinchompa added fresher, more social ways to go about skilling. The Queen Black Dragon, monster & dungeon reworks, potion flasks and Player-Owned Ports added loads more to do at high levels. Quests also played a very positive part, with awesome storytelling and voice acting.
We are very keen on making 2013 your year. This means giving you what you want: meaningful quests, new dungeons, epic events and new skills. It also means making improvements to existing content and technical improvements to the game, making it smoother and better looking than ever before. But crucially, 2013 is about ensuring that your hard-earned legacy is respected – everything you've done and worked so hard to achieve will remain as amazing and relevant as it has ever been.
I don’t believe we’ve ever actually thanked our members for helping us to make RuneScape into the incredible game it is today, not to mention providing a completely free game for millions of players. So, a very big ‘thank you’ to our members from myself, the RS team and the free community.
Lastly, I want to say thank you for playing RuneScape! Our purpose and passion is to advance this game for you! Your feedback - and your criticism - is what helps us to confidently take the game into 2013 and beyond, so please keep it coming!
As always, have fun!
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