Hello and welcome to the Gielinor Gazette!
What is the Gielinor Gazette, you may ask? And it’s a fine question. At the moment the vast bulk of our comms are split into two categories: A) What’s happening in the game now? (game updates and the like); and B) What’s happening in the game in the future? (poll blogs). As a team, however, we wanted a way to talk to you about, well, whatever we want really!
So from now on you can expect a new issue of the Gielinor Gazette every month, and each one will be slightly different. We may chat about the team. Or about a project we’re working on. Or perhaps about how some older content has been received. Or anything else we think you’ll be interested in!
In this issue we'll offer some insight into Leagues, introduce some new faces, say goodbye to a long-standing member of the team, talk about new players, share our plans for the biggest ever survey, and more!
We know that quite a few of you were pretty surprised when we first announced Old School Leagues. That was kind of the point, in a way, but we also realise that this surprise unsettled some of you. The Gielinor Gazette will be a great place for us to talk about our longer-term plans, meaning you’ll all hopefully have a better insight into what’s brewing in the future.
For now, though, we’re going to take a look back at Leagues, and explain some of the thinking behind it.
The seed at the heart of Leagues was the idea that we might set up a temporary ‘vanilla’ server that could be reset from time to time. The thinking was that this would be a nice way for players enjoy the thrill of the ‘race to the top’ again. Plus, from a development perspective it looked like good value – resets would be simple and quick, and we knew that a certain type of Old School player would get a real thrill out of it.
Looking at other games which had employed similar models, such as Path of Exile and Diablo, we then started thinking about specific, themed modifications that could be run on these servers. As a team we pondered how this might look, what the rewards might be, and how we could keep it fun despite the repeated server resets.
Some conceptual variations of the task difficulty icons. Click the image to expand it.
Ideas Take Shape
The thought that appealed the most at this early stage was Zeah Locked Ironman, thanks of course to the inspiration of the various community-made series (shoutout to Settled, CavemanOnly, TurtleTale, Framed, Tedious, UIM Verf, and many more). At the same time, games such as Slay the Spire demonstrate the appeal of big choices. After lots of brainstorming, some even involving Jagex CEO Mod Pips, we eventually arrived at the idea of Relics!
One regret we do have is not involving our wonderful community at this stage. A lesson learned, certainly.
Another obstacle we faced was the naming. We wanted to avoid the word ‘Seasonal’, as that doesn’t really tell you anything at all about the gameplay and might also too lead to some confusion regarding our former Deadman tournaments. The name ‘Old School: Evolved’ was very popular internally but, as with ‘Seasonal’, did not really communicate anything about the content itself. ‘Mutated’ had some traction too, but was ultimately dismissed for being too sci-fi.
An early mock-up of the Twisted slayer helmet.
Before we knew it, our ideas had evolved into something far bigger than we’d initially planned. We therefore had to ensure that we were giving ourselves enough time to properly execute on the plan.
We had at one stage hoped to launch in October 2019, perhaps even with an announcement on the stage at RuneFest that the new mode would go live that same week. However, the addition of Relics, alongside the desire to hit the level of polish we wanted for the experience and the interface, meant a delay until November.
Delays are never what we want, but if pushing content back means it releases in a better state – and saves the developers from ‘crunch’ – it’s nearly always the right decision. Indeed, after delays to this as well as previous efforts such as Kebos Lowlands and Old School Mobile, we’ve shifted to announcing less specific release dates until content becomes more locked down and vital dev milestones have been hit.
Revving the Engine
To support the reward structure (we wanted to be able to send rewards from one game mode to another) we actually needed some never before seen engine additions. In some circumstances this might have been a reason to change direction, but pressing on with the build has opened up the door to lots of other possibilities in the future. It would be extremely useful should Deadman ever return, for instance.
We used these community-suggested Ancestral sets as inspiration for the Twisted Ancestral set which failed in the rewards poll.
We were really pleased that Twisted League was such a phenomenal success. We’re thrilled that so many of you tried it, and we’ve got lots of data we’re planning to share. We can’t thank you enough for all of the support you’ve shown us – your excitement has sparked loads of discussions about what we’re going to do for the next League. Right now we’re currently busy refining some designs, and we're close to being able to share more!
The Early Game and Adventure Paths
We’ve previously explained that while supporting our current players is of course vital and central to Old School's success, it's also crucial that we attract and retain new players.
We've spent a lot of time analysing player behaviour both during the tutorial and when reaching the mainland. A combination of quantitative (monitoring game interaction) and qualitative (speaking to players) data has led us to ascertain that there's a sharp drop-off once the players reach the mainland because there's no clear indication of what they should do next.
Here is the interface for the Combat Path, released August 8th 2019.
On August 8th 2019 we released the Combat Path, giving players a series of early starting milestones that offer a few sensible rewards. Both data and feedback has shown that this is clearly helping new players get into Old School, so we’re keen to expand the idea with other paths covering things like quests and various non-combat skills. All of which leads us to something we're calling the Gatherer Path.
Here's how the proposed Gatherer Path looks at this moment in time. It's worth noting that it's still in development and the interface and text may change.
With the Gatherer Path will come the use of arrows and tips to help players find their way.
This path is designed to introduce new players to the gathering skills – Fishing, Mining and Woodcutting. It will help them with suggestions about where they might train these skills and how to go about getting the tools they need to do so.
The Combat Path is actually quite long, leading players all the way up to level 20. We're keen to keep experimenting with this, so with the Gatherer Path we're going to guide players to level 5 in the associated skills.
We'll be releasing the Gatherer Path in the coming weeks and, as always, we look forward to hearing your feedback.
Tutorial Island and the Mainland
Tutorial Island is a fundamental part of RuneScape's history – it’s quintessentially Old School. Arming new players with knowledge and a sense of purpose is vital for retaining them, and that begins with Tutorial Island.
We've already made various minor changes to Tutorial Island over the last couple of years, and that will continue as we look to improve its flow. We want to reiterate that this is not about changing what Tutorial Island is. Instead, it's about preparing new players to tackle the challenges that Gielinor presents. We'll only make changes where the tutorial is too slow, doesn't quite convey enough information, or where we think that new information could better be learned elsewhere.
Consider the Bank, for example. Players on Tutorial Island don't have many items, so it might be that they're better served by learning about the Bank and its functions on the mainland instead.
We’re also looking at what other small improvements we can make to players as soon as they reach the mainland which won’t affect the feel of the game. These will only ever be minor changes to streamline existing gameplay. We made these types of changes to Cook’s Assistant last year, where we added some left-click options to things in the windmill, and we expanded the Quest Journal’s text to be more helpful.
We hope we've sufficiently conveyed the importance of the new player experience, and been clear about the types of changes we're making to improve the early game. That's why we're going to continue making these types of changes without polling them. To ensure we're getting it right, we'll continue talking to you, getting your feedback, and collaborating with your ideas.
Ins and Outs In The Old School Team
We said goodbye to some long-serving members of the Old School team in 2019. More recently we’ve had to bid farewell to our Senior Artist Mod Ghost. All the best for the adventures ahead, everyone! But in turn we welcomed lots of new faces throughout the year, and that continues as we plunge into 2020.
We're delighted to welcome our new Product Director Mod MikeD, and our new Executive Producer Mod Bonsai.
"It’s been exciting working with the studio’s leadership and the incredibly talented developers on the Old School team so far." Mod Bonsai told us. "I’ve been in games for more than 20 years starting back in 1996 on a space shooter Starlancer. I’ve worked on PC, console and have spent the majority of the last 10 years in mobile games."
"Over my career I’ve had the opportunity to build successful game teams and studios, work with some amazingly talented people and work on some great franchise IPs such as Call of Duty, Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider, Need for Speed and original games like Dawn of Titans".
"I’m 100% focussed on building on the success and heritage of Old School RuneScape and ensuring we invest into the game to support our community which has such passionate players at its core."
"I love MMOs!", says Mod MikeD, "So much that 18 years ago I took a job in customer service at Mythic Entertainment and worked my way up through dev on DAOC (Dark Age of Camelot), WAR (Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning), and WildStar. That's why I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work on OSRS, with its storied history, top notch development team, and its devoted players."
The keen-eyed 'Scapers among you will spot some more names at the end of this blog too! Here's a quick who's who. Mod Fed is Old School's QA Manager. Mod Kristy is a QA Analyst working on Old School. Mods Banjo and Errol work on the Editorial Team. And you should know everybody else! 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!
Bounty Hunter, PvP, and Competitive Gaming
Late last month we removed Bounty Hunter from the game (you can read more about that here). It's still our desire to make changes and re-release Bounty Hunter in the coming months, but the issues that plagued Bounty Hunter are a symptom of a bigger issue. It's apparent that we lack a clear overarching PvP vision. We're going to take time to consider how PvP fits in Old School, and what that means for the future of PvP. We'll aim to share that vision prior to the re-release of Bounty Hunter. It's also worth noting that whilst competitive gaming and esports isn't inherently entwined with PvP, they are linked. This means that we won't be detailing any of our plans for competitive gaming and esports until we've arrived at our PvP vision.
You might be aware that last year Mod Rogue was hired as our new Head of Esports, and we'd like to take this opportunity to answer any questions you might have about what that entails. Mod Rogue was not tasked with a general goal of 'reviving PvP' or even 'reviving Deadman'. She isn't a content developer, and there was never any expectation that she'd be developing and releasing game content. Her goal has been to make competitive gaming work for Jagex, which includes both RuneScape and Old School RuneScape. That includes building structured formats with clear paths for competitive players, and also considering how we might vary game content to experiment and to provide a bit of something for everybody (PvM and skilling, rather than just PvP). A bulk of the work has been assessing how competitive gaming can serve Jagex's needs as a business. Competitive gaming and esports can prove expensive, and so a lot of work and effort has been put into addressing how things like sponsorships and working with established brands can maximise the impact of any endeavours. We want to share our plans for competitive gaming as soon as we possibly can, but there's still work to be done before we're in a position to do so. Any news about competitive gaming and esports will be shared from the official Old School RuneScape channels.
In recent Q&As we've spoken about our plans to change how Death works in Old School RuneScape. Tomorrow we'll be publishing the changes we propose to make. You'll be able to find the blog on the Old School homepage some time after tomorrow's game update has been launched. The proposal talks in great detail about our motivation for making the changes, and offers a lot of insight into how the changes will differently affect various groups of players. We seriously encourage you to take the time to familiarise yourself with the changes so you're best placed to offer feedback, and to vote in the in-game opinion poll we'll soon be running.
Old School RuneScape's 7th Birthday
On Saturday 22nd February, Old School will be celebrating its 7th birthday! There'll be the usual fun and frivolity in-game (with lots of cake) and we'll also be hosting a special stream on Friday 21st February at 4pm UTC. Join us for birthday fun, data, and japes!
The massive 2020 Survey will kick off soon! It's shaping up to be the biggest survey we've ever done, and we're going to be asking you more questions than ever before. This is one of your best chances to shape the future of Old School. It'll be sent in waves, the first being via email. To make sure you're contactable, be sure to opt-in to email communications through your account settings.
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!
Mods Acorn, Archie, Ash, Banjo, Bonsai, Bruno, Curse, Ed, Errol, Fed, Flippy, Gambit, Gee, Husky, John C, Kieren, Kristy, Lenny, Lottie, MikeD, Nasty, Oasis, Roq, Ry, Steve W, Sween, Tide, Weath & West
The Old School Team