Jagex Talks: I Learned About Archaeology

Mod Osborne talks about the new skill.

I don’t think it would surprise anyone that I am a fan of RuneScape and Jagex, given I used to run both of the only two existing Funorb fansites, and I have been personally playing RuneScape for sixteen years with a membership that has not lapsed since March 2005. I also own the domain for jamflex.net. Because I can.

This interview won’t be posted verbatim as our interviews normally are since the chat software we used isn’t the greatest and had some regular hiccups so posting the interview verbatim would have just a bunch of random cuts or places where I’d have to assume what was said. I did chat to Jagex, primarily lead designer David Osborne who I will refer to as Mod Osborne as is tradition for Jagex staff.

Skills in RuneScape generally fall into one of two categories; gathering and production. Archaeology will be a mixture of both. In the gathering portion, players use mattocks to dig at historical dig sites and find a number of artefacts as well as materials and other goodies. You’ll also find plenty of soil which can be taken to a sifting station in order to hopefully find more product. The bulk of experience for Archaeology comes from restoration, cleaning off artefacts which can be handed off to the museum or sold to a collector. Someone’s been playing Animal Crossing.

Archaeology has been in development at Jagex for roughly 18 months, which I am told is pretty much on par with normal skill development cycles. In addition, the skill was always meant to be a separate skill rather than a mini-game or big content addition. Those familiar with the game may be aware that Archaeology was originally supposed to be released at the end of January but got pushed back until today (March 30). I asked Mod Osborne if the delay had made the team more confident in a smooth release, and was basically told that the delay was not out of lack of confidence or problems, but to simply have as much testing time as possible.

Mod Osborne did admit that it’s become something of a meme about Jagex rolling out big updates in phases, but assured that Archaeology is coming out as one big package. There will be updates to the skill in future months as anyone would anticipate, but this won’t be a case of “wait a few months for the full release” as we’ve seen in prior years.

The last skill that released for RuneScape was dubbed an “elite” skill, meaning a new player is barred from accessing it until they meet a certain requirement. Invention was the first and as of now last elite skill in RuneScape. Archaeology is not an elite skill, and not only can new players access the skill and its wonders, free players can as well. Additionally Archaeology is going to be used as a testing ground for expanding free player access to the game. Free players are currently limited to level 5 in “members” skills, but Archaeology will increase that limit to 20.

As far as lore goes, it does help to know more about the RuneScape lore as you dive deeper into the skill, but I’ve been told that you do not need an encyclopedic knowledge of the world of Gielinor, or much knowledge period, in order to get into Archaeology. The skill deals with the distant past as you might expect, so a player should be able to get in and start rolling and not be lost in references to events and people they don’t know.

Archaeology also weaves into the other skills in RuneScape. At the forefront of the skill are relics, incredible powers that grant abilities like luckier drops, health boosts, or never running out of sprint energy. Players who progress further into the skill will find ancient summoning and ancient invention. Gain the ability to bind yourself to specific monsters with unholy contracts and access invention items from a bygone era.

I did ask about the Yak Track tasks that currently (as in before the skill released) display unavailable archaeology tasks, and was told that these tasks won’t be specifically geared toward any level of player, but will contain tasks that a player will naturally complete while training the skill. Jagex has some high hopes for how long they expect skill mastery to take. Around six weeks for the heavy players is what I was told, but we’ll see what the power trainers in the community have to say about that prediction.

So that’s Archaeology. Hopefully it kicks off without much of a hitch otherwise I’m going to get a lot of angry comments.

A big thank you to Mod Osborne and Jagex for continuing to come back and chat with me every once in a while. I’m sorry I couldn’t show you my extensive RuneScape spreadsheet collection due to problems with the chat, but maybe I can print them out and bring them to Runefest assuming it isn’t also cancelled along with everything else this year.