Gielinor Gazette: August 2020
Hello and welcome to the August edition of the Gielinor Gazette! We know it's September. A long bank holiday weekend combined with the Jagex-wide LevelUp conference (which saw all Jagex Mods take days off to focus on learning and development) meant that we quickly ran out of August! Don't fret though - the September edition is still on the way!
This month Mod MikeD will be continuing his discussion about the game's roadmap and future, we present a new way for you to make content suggestions, and we introduce you to three more new J-Mods!
Don't forget that each month's Gazette is accompanied with a monthly leadership livestream. Join us at on www.twitch.tv/OldSchoolRS at 17:00 BST on Thursday September 3rd. If you happen to be reading this in the future and the livestream has already happened, you can find the recording on our YouTube channel.
Update: It's now the future. Here's the stream VOD:
Hey everyone! I'm back with my second article for the Gielinor Gazette (you can catch my previous one in in July's edition here). As before, I'm here to give you regular insight into what everybody in Old School is doing behind the scenes. And if anyone has a cooler name for my section, I'm down for a change!
Old School's 2020/21 H1 Roadmap
Last time I talked about the game's roadmap for 2020 and how it has changed from our initial plans. Since then we've been able to refine the roadmap and offer a bit more detail. You'll notice terms like 'Med' or 'Mini'. That means we've planned in the capacity available to work on content at that time, but haven't yet totally decided what exactly will be worked on. It goes without saying that things on the roadmap will also be blogged and polled. It looks like there's a lot on there, and there is - which is exciting! It means that you'll be seeing more blogs, polls, and updates than ever. I know historically there have been concerns about content coming quickly, and a tendency to assume that this means it's rushed. I just want to assure you that we will NOT rush this stuff. As our team grows, so does our ability to work on multiple projects. If something isn't feeling up to scratch, then we'll delay it rather than force it out.
An Ideal Roadmap
In last month's blog I also offered some insight into what an ideal roadmap might look once the Old School team expands to where I think it needs to be. The great news is that we're getting closer and closer to making that a reality. We announced three new hires in last month's Gazette, there's three new hires in this month's issue AND I fully expect us to announce more hires next month! The game is growing and our team is growing.
One of my motivations for outlining roadmaps last month was to clearly explain the delays to Clans and Group Ironman. Now that's done, I think we'd all benefit from taking a step back and explaining why we need a roadmap in the first place and how it helps define our goals as a game and a studio.
What We Want To Achieve
You've been playing RuneScape for nearly 20 years, and we want you to play for 20 more!
We want to build a world that you love. A world that you can't stay away from, and one you're compelled to play alongside your friends. To do this we know that we need to deliver great new regular content, to fix and tweak older content, to invest in growing our teams, to improve our tech infrastructure and to stay aligned with all the things that makes Old School great.
Old School is a subscription-based MMORPG and it will always remain that way. Yes, you might point to Bonds, but we really see them as a means of getting subscription time in the hands of players who might lack the real-world resources to otherwise afford it. What we ultimately mean by 'subscription-based' is that there's no cash-shop offerings like cosmetics, in-game resources, XP, time-saving mechanics, or anything else you might think of.
That won't ever change. Without a cash-shop (or any desire to add one) it means that our business goals become really simple. We want more players and more members!
And that takes us to my vision. For mobile's release we coined the phrase 'Old School Anywhere'. I want to go further. I want 'Old School Everywhere'!
Getting Old School Everywhere
I see a future with Old School front-and-centre on online game stores. It'll be available on other platforms and consoles. There'll be game worlds based in other locations. And it'll be available in different languages!
We see it like this - there are pockets of potential players everywhere around us. Potential players who play exclusively using Steam, or get their dose of daily gaming on the sofa with their consoles. We want more happy members who love the game and shout about Old School from the rooftops!
Those are lofty ambitions. Indeed, some are seriously huge undertakings. There's some major secret projects already in the works... but there's more we can do in the meantime. We've been working hard on leveling up our marketing game, and we're continuing to explore short-form competitive styles of play which offer something new like Leagues and Deadman.
There are other opportunities, too. We have great relationships with a lot of industry partners who can help us reach new people.
Prime Gaming and Old School
I'm now going to talk about partnerships, and please do hear me out. Working with the likes of Prime Gaming is a must-do for many of the biggest games on the planet. Prime Gaming has an audience in the hundreds of millions. They can expose their massive audience to the games and studios that they work with, but they don't do this out of the goodness of their heart. It needs to be mutually beneficial, and here's how it works:
Let's take a hypothetical game, which we'll call Game A. Game A is going to work with Prime Gaming and offer 'Loot' for Prime Gaming subscribers to claim. Prime Gaming and Game A agree to advertise the 'Loot' to their respective audiences. Game A points their players to Prime Gaming, and Prime Gaming points their viewers and creators to the game. It's a win-win.
These games might offer 'Loot' in the form of things like cosmetics, or in-game experience or resources. Other games embark on long campaigns in which they offer rare weapons and armours, cosmetic skins and in-game currencies.
Our game doesn't work like other games, and it's something we're very proud of. We were always resolved to never offer things like XP or resources. Sure, XP rates might be a bit faster now than with Old School's launch in 2013, and some elements of gameplay are streamlined, but we're proud to call ourselves a tough 'old school' MMORPG.
That said, we can't shy away from the fact that in July of last year we wanted to see how you'd feel about us adding cosmetics through things like Prime Gaming. We said we'd make them available to everybody, we ensured that the stuff we offered was in keeping with the game, and there wasn't anything purple or obnoxiously branded. And, well, you know what happened next... it went to the poll and you had your say. And what a say it was! You voted in your thousands. The cosmetics failed quite spectacularly and we ended the poll early (the first and only time in Old School's history this has happened). We tried to find out if you'd want that kind of partnership, and you didn't want it. We won't repeat it. We therefore added cosmetics to the list of things we won't offer.
Here's the tough part and where this ramble is taking us.
We still want to reach the huge number of potential players that partners like Prime Gaming could offer us. We're trying to figure out what a good partnership means for not only for us but also for you.
We've already done a few partnerships that offered membership. They're great for bringing in new players, but we know you have valid concerns about things like bots and world crowding when free membership is up for grabs. We haven't ignored these thoughts! Since the last batch of free membership, we've increased the size of our anti-cheating team and worked closely with Amazon to improve verification methods. Next time we're going to shorten the membership amount we offer, which we expect will prevent the bots from making as much progress as they have in the past.
We want to shift away from solely giving out membership, however - partly in order to listen to your concerns about world crowding and bots, but also because the more stuff we can offer through Prime Gaming the better.
So when we returned to the drawing board we asked ourselves: "What can we offer that would appeal to both you, our existing players, and any prospective new players?"
We think we've figured it out. Rather than give items or resources or anything detrimental to our long-term goals, we want to focus on events and experiences which don't directly affect the game worlds or your game accounts.
So here's what we're going to be offering:
This one is quite self-explanatory! Claim the 'Loot' and grab membership.
This is something brand new, so bear with me whilst I explain. We're working with Prime Gaming to host a Last Man Standing event which will run for the duration of the offer, with a Grand Finale to be held on Saturday November 14th that will see 24 players invited to compete for membership prizes. Qualifying for the Finale is as easy as playing on any Last Man Standing game world and claiming the Prime Gaming 'Loot' at any point between October 13th and November 10th. The players with the most Competitive or High Stakes wins will be invited to compete, but don't worry if you can't claim 'Loot' right away. As long as you claim 'Loot' by November 10th we'll track your wins from before that date. We'll share further details as we get closer to the start date.
We're still working this one out. It'll be a case of looking at our development schedule (and considering the Christmas break) and seeing what could fit. Rest assured it'd be in a similar vein to the other months.
A Slippery Slope
I wasn't here last year, but I know that there weren't just concerns about the stuff we offered in the poll. Lots of you were worried about what could come next, and that a whiff of partnerships might be the slippery slope for changing our monetisation model.
I get it.
I want to reassure you that I don't plan on leading Old School down any such path. I've said it a few times in this blog, but I want to keep reassuring you. We're going to stay subscription-based. Changing that model doesn't make any sense for our game. Selling you stuff like XP would negate a huge portion of gameplay and whereas other MMOs might want to get you to the end to play end-game content as quickly as possible, we know that the journey of an Old School account is something special. Similarly, we know that cosmetic rewards are very important to you because they typically represent great in-game accomplishments. Selling you cosmetics would undermine a lot of these achievements and the content that we pour so much of ourselves into for you to enjoy.
I know this is a lot to take in. There may even be some controversy, but I want to be as transparent as possible. This vision of 'Old School Everywhere' depends on growing the team, delivering more quality content, going to new platforms and regions, and ultimately driving new players into the game. With all these new players come new subscribers, and that’s how Old School will continue to grow. This game would not be where it is if it weren’t for your feedback and support. It is my great hope that each and every one of you comes along for the ride. It’s going to be awesome!
And there is so much more ahead. Over the next few months I'll be talking to you about major tech projects that are in progress that we expect will resolve a lot of your long-standing concerns for the game's health.
As always, let me know your thoughts on everything we've shared!
- Mod MikeD
Active Content Projects:
Leagues II - Trailblazer: We recently shared a ton of information about the next League coming your way. Catch up on all things Leagues by checking out 1) the announcement blog, 2) the announcement stream, 3) the rewards blog and 4) the rewards stream. We're not ready to talk release dates just yet. Of course we have a date in mind that we're working toward, but we need to hit a few more milestones before we can share it with confidence.
Fishing Skill Boss: Last week we introduced you to Tempoross, the Spirit of the Sea. You delivered a ton of feedback that we're working through, and amidst a lot of reasonable concerns that it too closely resembles Wintertodt we're going to talk to you again about it all before polling. We're confident that the design is clearly distinct from any existing content, but we don't think we did a good enough job communicating that.
PvP Roadmap: We're still committed to delivering the content outlined in the PvP roadmap from earlier in the year. 2021/2022 content planning will be picking up in the coming weeks, and that's where we'd like to offer some of the bigger changes we discussed. In the meantime, we'll be re-continuing the community discussion around things like Revenant caves and PJ timers very soon.
Combat Achievements: We're hoping to offer this in the coming months! Design documents are in their early stages and are being discussed internally, and we hope to be able to share more news soon.
Soul Wars: Soul Wars is set to be the next big project for the Wardens once they've finished work on Leagues II. We hope to kick off with design blogs in the coming weeks.
A Kingdom Divided: You might notice that the roadmap in MikeD's article mentions a Kourend Overhaul, which would accompany A Kingdom Divided (the next quest in the Kourend storyline). We're hoping to offer this early next year.
Clans: Last month we revealed that the Clans release would be delayed until 2021. Work will remain ongoing, and we'll continue to share progress updates.
Group Ironman: We've spoken at length about the fact that Group Ironman's release is dependent on the infrastructure offered by Clans. Group Ironman is also delayed until next year.
Account Security: We know it's been more than a year since we published the Account Security Features Blog and we haven't yet delivered on things such as the backup security codes. The delay is due to our tech priorities centering on mitigating persistent attacks on our game worlds and login servers. At the worst of times these attacks have rendered our game unplayable, and regularly cause some players login issues. We've tightened up account recovery processes to better defend against malicious account hijacking attempts, and the addition of Authenticator checks for all website logins has also proved a fantastic tool for account safety.
Login Issues: On that subject, some players are regularly reporting issues when trying to login, having been met with error messages like "Too many login attempts from your address". Most of the time this is a generic connection error and will quickly resolve itself on its own, but malicious login attacks are sometimes to blame. Our tech teams are working on resolving this as a matter of priority. In the meantime, you can report the issue to us here.
Account Services: At the moment we're investigating the options available to us to tackle these services, including the feasibility of taking down sites and social media pages which offer them, as well as using our relationships with various platforms like Discord and YouTube to tackle the communities directly. We hope to be able to update you soon.
HiScores Problems: We're aware that HiScores is still slow at peak times. We've not yet been able to prioritise this, although investigations about what might be done remain ongoing.
DMM: You'll notice that DMM appears on our ideal roadmap in MikeD's article above. There aren't concrete plans to deliver this yet, but we're still great lovers of the gamemode. For any return we'd like to approach any future releases in a similar way as Leagues, offering bespoke new gameplay experiences rather than rehashing the same Seasons/Tournaments as we have done in recent years.
Equipment Rebalancing: On last week's livestream we spoke about our desire to rebalance equipment to tackle ongoing concerns about powercreep, and to establish clear gaps to fill with future content releases. We haven't done any more internally since the stream, but we'll be meeting to discuss any changes in the next few weeks.
We don't say this nearly enough but we're immensely proud of being a community-driven game. That said, we don't want to pat ourselves on the back too much. We know we have weaknesses, and we know there are areas where we could improve. We've been trying to refine the way we communicate with you, namely by being more transparent (which is why the Gazette exists!), but we also want to be better at directly involving you in the process of game design.
Mahogany Homes. Motherlode Mine. Rooftop Agility... Old School has a huge amount of content designed by players, ranging from small quality of life suggestions to full-blown updates. But aside from the occasional Player-Designed Content (PDC) competitions, there hasn't been a formalised way to submit your ideas. There are a lot of platforms that you currently talk to us on (Reddit, Twitter, Forums, the #suggestions channel on the official Discord server) but it's a bit of a lottery as to when these might be seen and when we're able to engage with them. That's something we'd like to change.
Since the first Gazette way back in February, we've regularly offered insight into our development processes, who our teams are, how our content ideation sessions are structured, and the various content ideas we've developed (see last month's Introduction to Ideation article to read about things like new Elemental quests, wave-based survival minigames, a Pest Control expansion, a major Guilds update, and lots more!). We now think the best way to have you submit your ideas is for you to follow the same processes and guidelines that we do.
We've kept the form short and streamlined, encouraging you to think about why you're suggesting the content, and giving you the freedom to share as much or as little detail as you prefer.
We also encourage you to share your RuneScape name, Discord handle, or email address so that we have the option of continuing a dialogue with you. If you'd prefer not to share that information, however, it is not required.
It'll take some time to iron out a process to take these ideas, turn them into blogs and polls, and then eventually bring them to full release. But what we'd like to do in the short-term is share some of the best suggestions we receive in future Gazettes, along with pondering your suggestions internally. And long-term we expect to be running more PDC competitions!
We can't wait to see what you suggest!
Last month we welcomed three new J-Mods, and this month we welcome three more!
Mod Daizong, Senior Systems Developer
Hey everyone, I’m Mod Daizong! I’ve been in the games industry for 15 years and I can't tell you how excited I am to join the Old School team as a Senior Systems Designer. Playing RuneScape is just like exploring a new world. I’m always thrilled with the adventures I have in the game. It constantly finds ways to attract my curiosity with intriguing stories, unique characters, fascinating environments and interesting puzzles. I hope I can contribute my knowledge and experience to this amazing world soon and create something for you all to enjoy!
Mod Brow, Artist:
Howdy! I'm Mod Brow and I'm a 3D artist from New Zealand! For the past seven years I have been at Weta Digital working on VFX for movies. While I've worked in VFX for a while, I've always had a strong passion for making games, and I've been involved in various indie and community projects. I'm super excited to be joining the Old School team! I originally played RuneScape back in 2007 when I was still in high school, which I know is a similar story to many of you. It's amazing to see people still playing and loving our game, and I can't wait to make fun new content for players to experience!
Mod Sarnie, Community Manager:
Hey all! I'm Mod Sarnie and I'm super excited to be joining the Old School team. This my first role within the games industry directly, but it's an area I've touched upon in previous jobs and something I've been working towards ever since I can remember. I started playing RuneScape back in 2004 with some school friends and I've continuously found my way back to Gielinor time and time again. I'm a big fan of questing, and I can't wait to get to get stuck into this amazing community.
As always, we always want to hand out more gold Mod crowns! If you've ever dreamed of building your favourite game and seeing your name at the bottom of our blogs, then head to the Jagex careers listings and take a look at the RS Old School section!
Old School has a very special blood running through its veins – you, our fantastic players. And as with everything else, if you’ve got any ideas about the sorts of things you’d like to see in upcoming editions of the Gielinor Gazette, then please do let us know!