RuneScape’s big 2016 plans include an expansion and graphics upgrade

RuneScape has a lot of years under its belt, and a lot of content under its hood. In fact, it’s 15 for the former, and there’s no way I can possibly list the latter succinctly — not with nearly weekly updates! And the game has no intention of slowing down, either. Plenty of new content is on the horizon for this next year. I sat down with devs at a special RuneScape 15th anniversary event in the UK last week to learn all about what the future holds. Lead Designer Dave Osborne shared what he called the “evil master plan,” which included the upcoming mobile and CCG games as well as plenty of new content in both the main MMO and the old school version. Here’s the lowdown on what the MMO fans have to look forward to in the coming months.

Players picked the content

One thing Osborn stressed is that the players themselves are the ones who picked the direction of the updates through both forum suggestions and discussions, surveys, and in-game polls. What did players want to see?

For starters, the most visited combat area in the game will get a sequel come March when the devs introduce God Wars Dungeon 2. You can get your multiplayer shooter action on in this dynamic battlefield, face four new multi-staged bosses, and call forth demons to parachute into the center of the action to wreak havoc on your enemies. If you aren’t into the battlefield gameplay, there will be two new raids to conquer and a new solo boss to defeat.

Crafters rejoice! The next unveiled feature is a reworked system that makes crafting more meaningful. Mining and smithing skills are changing so that players can make a living creating gear. More than that, they can specialize at making certain weapons and aim at being the best in that area. Because crafters will be able to brand their work, you’ll know if you’ve truly gotten something made by a master.
RuneScape will also turn the page on the story, bringing the God Wars arc to a close with Sliske’s countdown. A new three-hour quest will be introduced every two months involving the villain Sliske. Toying with players, Sliske turns the whole world into a battle of the gods by offering up a powerful artifact to whomever kills the most gods, and the player determines which god gets to wield said artifact. More story comes in the form of the conclusion of the 12-year-long vampire quest line as well as the beginning of the Gower quest, new special quest based on the creators of RuneScape themselves.

Although introduced in January, the invention system is going to play a major role in RuneScape customization this year. Devs note that this new skill has hundreds of hours of content behind it; it allows players the chance to customize their weapons, armor, and tools by augmenting them with abilities. Want a sword that talks to you when you attack? Done! Or maybe you prefer something more traditional, like adding a bleed when you strike. There are apparently over 5 trillion and counting permutations for items, so the possibilities are pretty expansive.

Discovering new lands

Systems and features aren’t the only incoming changes; there will be new lands to discover and explore — and we mean that quite literally. The summer will bring The Wushanko Isles expansion, an unexplored archipelago previously only heard of in tales. With so many little islands spread out in the sea, players can be the first to find and own different islands, planting a flag and claiming the resources. These isles have Japanese and Polynesian themes.

A very interesting feature of this new expansion area is that it will be accessible — and have content for — every level of player, from the brand-spanking new lowbie all the way to the uber maxed-out veteran. This will enable those just starting to mingle with long-term players in the newest content, instead of being locked down in lower-leveled content far away from all the latest action. All players will start fresh on this archipelago, meaning all wealth and notoriety will have to be built up from nothing. Rumor has it if you defeat the Kraken, it will impress the locals!

Next up: NXT (aka pretty as a picture)

You don’t have to be a hard-core RuneScape player to be blown away by the visual improvements that NXT brings to the game. It looks as if the devs went through and retextured the entire game with more detail, when in fact all they did was change the lighting! All of the detail you will now see was already there, just not visible. The environments are crisper and more intricate, the water is beautiful, and the lighting is dramatic.

On top of that, the draw distance is significantly better! Instead of only seeing the space immediately around your character, you can gaze off into the distance. I didn’t even realize how impressive the change was until devs took me to multiple locations on side-by-side monitors to see the difference. Color me very impressed. Check out these comparison screenshots and see for yourself. However, the real difference is going to be when you log in, which you can do if you  join the closed beta starting on February 19th.

RuneScape Classic

While the main game has two million unique players each month, the old school version has grown to 300K players. Turning three years old, this version that captures the essence of RuneScape in its 2007 form (before major combat changes) continues to draw players; the devs have seen the number of players steadily increase. Because players come to this server to experience a very special ”golden age” of the game, devs emphasized that its the players who determine what can or cannot be added. In fact, Product Manager Mat Kemp noted that there are things that devs wanted to add in that were voted down, such as the sailing skill! Even through the vote must pass by more than 75%, Kemp stated that there have been about 1,000 updates in the three years since this version launched; about 90% of what devs have propose is approved.

Because of this player power, not everything between the games is the same, but Kemp assured that the lore remains consistent between the main MMO and the classic version. There are a number of cases where old school players vote down things ideas from the main game because it just doesn’t fit with the world they want. However, there is also an instance where an idea from Classic may migrate over to the main game: skilling pets.

So what has made the cut? New raids are incoming. So is an entire extra quarter to the game world. Kemp also announced that Old School is heading full-steam into e-sports. New game modes and new rules are on the way along with 10 or more hosted PvP tourneys. Each season finishes off with a $10,000 tournament. The first tournament is slated for the Easter weekend.

RuneScape, the movie

Part of the event involved the premier of a 90 minute documentary on the life of RuneScape. Although it isn’t available for the general public quite yet, I am sure most fans will want to see this. There’s history from the very beginning — we’re talking  way back when the Gower brothers first dabbled in story and programming as kids — as well as a reveal of an iconic player that has been shrouded in mystery for years. Watch the trailer here, then keep your eyes peeled for the full release.

Check out all of our RuneScape anniversary coverage!

Disclosure: Travel and lodging for this press event were provided by Jagex. Endless flight layovers were provided by the good people of Newark, New Jersey.
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10 Comments on "RuneScape’s big 2016 plans include an expansion and graphics upgrade"

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JacksonBlair
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JacksonBlair

I remember this game having the best questing and writing i’ve ever enjoyed in a game, and one of the best atmospheres. 

Though those before and after screenshots do look like they’re greying everything down. It’s a special pity to see the dark and creepy area made so much less dark and creepy.

thavleifrim
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thavleifrim

breetoplay Veldan I’ve been playing it for coming up to 11 years, the main draw for me is that its very low intensity and can easily be played alongside netflix or something else, granted that wasn’t the draw when i stared playing, i don’t even remember why i started playing but that definitely why i stick around.

Murmillo
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Murmillo

breetoplay Veldan I play, (29 years old) and I’ve played since ~2006. I return frequently because the game just has something other games doesn’t, and that’s longevity. 

My uncle plays as well, he has played it alongside me since I started, and he’s in his late 40’s.

I think a lot of the old school players are adults who actually played back then, and the younger generation prefers RS3.

AlexSmithWI
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AlexSmithWI

Dystopiq breetoplay Veldan Koreans.

Dystopiq
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Dystopiq

breetoplay Veldan It’s like Lineage. WHO’S PLAYING THAT!?

breetoplay
Guest
breetoplay

Veldan I continue to not understand how Jagex does it. I don’t know anyone who plays, and the game doesn’t draw hits. For a while, I thought it might be kids playing, but at this point, the game is too “old” for kids. Mystifying.

Veldan
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Veldan

“Your comment editing period has expired”, so:

Funny how when a new game like Blade and Soul, with lots of hype and
coverage around its launch, has 2 million accounts created, while
RuneScape is holding 2 million unique users each months ~15 years after
its launch. Current MMOs really are doing something wrong :)

Veldan
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Veldan

“While the main game has two million unique players each month”
O_O

Zucatti360
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Zucatti360

Wow and I was just playing this last night out of nowhere. Must be a sign to keep playing!!!!!!!

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

When I made the jump from MUDs to the graphical next generation. I really should have went with Runescape. In many ways they’ve done more to incorporate the best aspects of the older MUD based game worlds. Unfortunately I was attracted to “shiny” of the graphical game worlds and I felt that Runescape lacked in that department. I was wrong to have done that for quite a few reasons. 

Ah well, live and learn.  I’d write more on the subject but it just broke 50 degrees with the sun out, which means the motorcycle is calling. Anyhow well done Runescape, keep on keeping on.