Into a new generation: We talk to RuneScape 3 devs

We talk to RuneScape Design Director Mark Ogilvie about RuneScape 3

RuneScape boasts a massive following and has  since the launch of its first incarnation (in 2001). With RuneScape 3 arriving on July 22, I asked Jagex about what went into the new game and Mark Ogilvie, RuneScape design director, kindly answered my questions.

Q: With Jagex essentially being built on Java, what does this move away from Java and onto HTML5 mean for the Jagex and how the team adjusted?

RuneScape 3 sees us shifting over to HTML5. This was a big move for us; however, as Java usage has contracted over the past few years it was the right move to take.  

The transition itself has been quite a natural one for the team really. We have always been able to manipulate our own game engine and make changes to it so this is just an evolution for us. 

Historically speaking, changes have been smaller and over a longer period of time, whereas this is a huge amount of change in one go, so handling those changes has been a challenge for us, but I think that the team has adapted very well. Maintaining both the Java and HTML5 client at the same time will be a challenge, but we don’t see it as a problem.

Q: Is there anything in particular that has prompted this shift to HTML5?

Accessibility has always been a key selling point to RuneScape and, as the Java install rate is on a downward slide, we wanted to find an alternative. HTML5, on the other hand, is truly at the bleeding edge of technological advancement in browser gaming. It’s the future for most people, but the present for us.

 Q: You have mentioned that the move to HTML5 will bring about a tablet version of RuneScape; will that world be persistent with the current PC platform? 

Tablet RuneScape is still some way off, but yes, that is the current plan. Regardless of whether you are playing the Java client, HTML5 client, or in the future of tablets, I want everyone playing in the same persistent environment. We want to make sure we have an instantly accessible game for everybody. I don’t want to segregate between platforms; they should all be able to play together at the same time. 

Q: The big drive with RuneScape 3 is to introduce new players to the game, particularly with the accessibility of HTML5. What other steps are you taking to help new players get into the game? 

RuneScape 3 hasn’t been solely focused on attracting new players, we want to give our current players a new, rich, exciting experience as well. 

We have an on-going commitment to our player base and want to give them a new element of power; RuneScape 3 provides that. However, we are obviously interested in getting new players and keeping the product fresh and alive - we need to make sure we are constantly innovating, constantly refreshing and making sure that we are delivering a quality game to all our players, both old and new. 

For new players, we are creating a new opening game experience. While I am pleased with the troll invasion that we have in the current beginning of the game, it is quite a long experience and we want to make something slightly different, something that uses our new interface system. 

We are also redesigning our website and improving the funnel into the game, like character creation options, etc., and trying to provide lots of things for players to do within the first half hour of the game. 

We have spent a lot of time looking at new ways to get players to help each other get to grips with different elements of the game. It is interesting that if players have another RuneScape player to interact with, it is really easy for them to direct the new player and tell them what content they should be accessing, and we want our new interface to capture that.  

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