O.K. Time for a confession & some candy for a particular company, Jagex.
For a bit over 3 years I've been playing RuneScape. I recently quit.
Until I came to this web site I didn't know the difference between a Sandbox MMO and a Theme Park MMO.
Now I do, thanks to the kind folks here who both inform and educate. : )
What the folks at Jagex have done over the past three years for RuneScape deserves some attention in the gaming community. Its about time they got some applause.
RuneScape is definitely a Theme Park MMO. This is a post about the AAA development team of intelligent, talented, and dedicated people who work at Jagex.
Here are some of the tasks they've done the the past few years that would make Hercules proud:
The programmers there are fearless! In order to make updating the giant code base easier and more manageable, they re-wrote entire thing, or a great majority of it. And they integrated the new code seamlessly, smoothly, and without crashes.
The combat system was a mess and needed an overhaul, so they spent a great deal of time and money re-writing it from the ground up, alpha testing it, getting player feedback, and balancing it (of course there were many players who preferred the old system and complained, so to make them happy they're bringing it back, allowing players to choose between the two).
Bots, the bain of many MMORPGs, were at plague proportions, thousands upon thousands of them. I stood in one spot and watched a new bot spawn every 30 seconds. That's 2,880 bots every day from a single source.
After years of anti-bot measures by Jagex and counter-measures by those who make, sell, and use bots, Jagex's programmers have all but eliminated them. There are still a few bots that pop up but they are relentlessly pursued and terminated. Go get em', guys! ; )
Updates are at least once a week and their programmers pour over everything to make sure it works before the upload. Quest creators, character costume designers, 3D modelers, and animators should be the envy of the industry. They didn't have to do it, but at great cost nearly the entire world has been re-modeled with hands that lovingly crafted rich details. Some of the details are subtile and it was fun discovering/noticing them.
Its too bad I'm going to miss seeing the opening of the forthcoming elven city. The design documents looked great. I'm sure the final implementation will be stunning.
There is an incredible diversity of clothing and armour options. Its rare to see two players dressed exactly the same. And tons of emotes that move fluidly and life-like. Even though they didn't have to, a number of the emotes were re-worked by the animators.
Late last year there was a war between two gods. The animators and modelers outdid anything I could have imagined. When I walked into the presence of one of the gods, I sat at my chair, mouth agape. There was this giant bird god, on his perch, looking all majestic, proud, and fierce, wind gently blowing through the feathers of his two sets of wings! It was... epic.
Will I return to RuneScape?
Sadly, as a role-player, there is no place for me there.
But if you're a combat-oriented player and don't give a **** about role playing, then RuneScape is an ever evolving world with new stuff added weekly, and all the fighting and skill grinding you could wish for.
There is a free-to-play area where you can get a feel for the game, and a reasonable subscriber fee should you want the whole enchilada.