I’ve always said that, despite its flaws and excessive grind, RuneScape has always been not only one of my favorite MMOs, but one that I’ve played continuously longer than any other title (I haven’t let my subscription lapse since 2005). For a game like RuneScape which is notorious for long, monotonous and repetitive actions, Jagex has gone in a direction over the past few years of shaking up the normal daily routine of its players, and that I feel deserves a pat on the back. I could use this space to discuss how Jagex has implemented various systems over the years to exponentially reduce the amount of clicking a player has to do to perform skills, but that is really just a small section of the improvements.
And thankfully I’m not talking about the obnoxious random events. Back in the early days of RuneScape, Jagex introduced random events that would either break or kill (and thus break) bot accounts. Random moments during skilling or combat would pop up, like a golem coming out and attacking your character or your pickaxe head flying off and needing to be picked up. It didn’t take long for bots to overcome these systems, and Jagex spent a few years desperately trying to think up new random events to beat the bots, all of which were quickly updated to counteract those measures. On the other hand, the random events were not a hindrance to bots, they were just an annoyance to legitimate players. Several of the random events were just plain broken, a couple were so difficult that players couldn’t complete them, and one was impossible to complete if you were color blind. On October 24, 2012, all random events were removed.
Technically speaking, the oldest Distraction and Diversions came years ago. Released in 2005, creatures from select species have the chance of dropping a scroll allowing the player to challenge the champion of that race to a one on one battle. The idea was there, however with a drop rate of one in five thousand (estimated), the odds are slim against players simply stumbling upon the scrolls. Another early distraction would be treasure trails. Many creatures in RuneScape have the chance of dropping clue scrolls, which requires that the player follow coordinates, decipher maps, and solve puzzles on a scavenger hunt to find loot from a randomized list. And finally, Tears of Guthix is a weekly mini-game where players collect items to obtain a small exp boost in their lowest skill.
In 2009, Jagex began using the term “distraction and diversion” in regards to what are along the lines of mini-games among mini-games. The distractions are meant to be small, often time locked activities to take part in during your normal gaming experience. For instance, a player might be chopping down trees and have a root pop up and knock them away. Further investigation would lead the player to an evil tree, which can be chopped or burnt to the ground alongside other players on the server in return for various experience rewards. Again, the idea wasn’t to introduce major game mechanics, but simply something to take the edge off of grinding or to provide a nice incentive for exploring around.
Since their release, Jagex has updated RuneScape with a growing variety of distractions and diversions, with their own quirks and timelines. Events can range from hourly to monthly, and involve everything from the player going on a hide and seek hunt for penguins, to donning a prosecutor/defense badge and making a stand in court. Some require the player to be in the right place at the right time, while others will simply fall into their lap during the course of regular game play. The events are short enough to not be a nuisance, fun enough to actually make the player want to take part, and unlike Jagex’s random events, the rewards are decent enough to warrant participating even if you don’t necessarily like the activity.
As with everything Jagex has done with RuneScape, and the same can be said for most other MMOs, new systems start off slow and evolve over time. So back in October I made a note to keep watch on a little update to RuneScape: Invasions. Introduced presumably as a way to test the technology, goblins now invade a random section of the game every half hour on the half hour. The update felt more like a prototype to be expanded upon than anything. The goblins are weak enough that even a new player could best them, and the rewards that they offer are among the lowest tiers of equipment. Still, I held out the hope that Jagex would eventually expand on the idea.
And expand they have. As per the January Behind The Scenes, the next invasion will be hitting RuneScape this month:
Similar to the goblin flash mobs from 2012 (only much, much tougher) you’ll be able to fight groups of NPCs that appear in pre-determined locations (like the Wilderness and other dangerous zones) throughout the world. For those brave enough, new rewards await! This time you’ll be able to kit yourself out with the latest in warrior-chic: the demon slayer armour. In addition to its generous stats – equivalent to dragon armour – they’ll also grant you increased XP when fighting demons, and an increased dodge chance when fighting the demon general that spawns at the end of the flash mob.demon flash mobs armour
Depending on where Jagex takes this, these events have the potential to spiral into something massive and game-changing. If anything, an increased variety of invasions would be a cool way to breath life into some of the lesser used areas of the world (of which there are many), not to mention expand on some of the game lore and throw a new feature into the game. Part of me would like to see this evolve into a system along the lines of Tabula Rasa, where players are tasked with defending villages and even cities from hordes of NPCs, with the possibility that the area could be ransacked and temporarily taken over should the players fail to defend the area, forcing them to retake the territory. Obviously this is wishful thinking and speculation on my part, but I think some form of PvE or even PvP territory control system (even if it is only present on certain worlds) would work great on RuneScape.
And with the RuneScape Next Gen coming, who knows?