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Cream of the Crap

Tearing apart MMOs to find what really makes them fun.

Author: coolcoder

RuneScape: why it sucks, and what we can learn from it

Posted by coolcoder Wednesday June 17 2009 at 5:48PM
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Last time, I reviewed RuneScape's merits, today, I'm going to remind us all why I left the game and consider what game developers can learn from the experience.


See below: why RuneScape sucks this.

When I join a game, many things contribute to whether or not I enjoy playing it, but really, anything but the gameplay is just cosmetic. And RuneScape's gameplay was tedious, boring, repetitive and noninteractive. What do I mean? Skill training (which composed the bulk of one's time) was accomplished by repeatedly doing the same task anywhere from tens to millions of times in a row.


This is either funny or sad.

The combat system was the same way. Players would click and enemy once (or sometimes twice! *gasps*) to autoattack it to death. After which they would maybe loot the drops and then repeat, hundreds and then thousands of times. A single level in the Strength skill, which determined how much damage your attacks could deal, required killing 2767 Fire Giants, a popular training monster.

Another thing that eventually led me to quit was the deterioration of the game's community. In the beginning there were few enough players that most people knew eachother, and were careful to preserve their good reputation because they would be unable to find groups if they were known to be a pain in the ass. Now, the game is flooded with 10 year olds treating the game world as a dating sim. Commonly in major towns you can find a small crowd of n00bs spamming things along the lines of "lf gf, must be h0t" or "lf bf, must be rich". Through the cloud of leetspeak, trade offers, requests to "cyb3r", and plain spam, it became almost impossible to tolerate the free servers.


Ah, the Internet! Where the men are men, the women are men, and children are the FBI.

Back on the subject of gameplay concerns, the game had next to no endgame. The paltry 100-200 quests the game has were not nearly enough to keep me occupied, and once I stopped caring about getting every skill to maximum level there was little to fill my time. True, there were around 10 extremely high level boss monsters that players could challenge in small (or large) groups, but due to the strong death penalty, designers were pigeonholed into creating encounters with little chance of failure and instead chose to limit the supply of their powerful item drops by, as usual, making them rare and requiring endless farming of these boss monsters to gain the items. Like everything else in the game, the endgame was a grindfest.

Another thing the designers did poorly was balance. When I left the game, melee combat was massively more effective than archery or magic for PvE content, and was rivaled only by archery for PvP combat. Magic was greatly underpowered in the endgame, and was expensive to use and train to boot. Also poorly balanced, the devs failed to keep defensive abilities in line with offensive abilities as updates were added, and it eventually got to the point that a skilled archer could deal 94% of even the toughest and best armored player's health in a single attack. With players routinely being one- and two-shot, PvP (and in some boss fights, PvE) degenerated into a game of chance.

Perhaps the Devs should have given this a thought?


So, in summary:

  1. Grinding sucks.
  2. Fail combat engine is fail.
  3. "How I mine for fish??" does not constitute intelligent conversation.
  4. No endgame = end of game.
  5. Mages get the short end of the staff.

So, as game developers, we need to make sure to avoid these pitfalls.

Yes, you could convince some people to keep paying subscription fees by making tens of thousands of hours worth of grinding, but if you found a way to fill their time with fun, nonrepetitive action instead those players will stay, and tell all their friends.

Likewise, although creating a robust combat engine can take some work, the rewards are worth it. Especially if you can manage to create a system that rewards attentiveness and quick thinking, both of which will keep players involved, rather than watching a movie on the side while their avatar slays dragons.

Sometimes it can mean loss of immediate profit, but finding a way to prevent utter morons from thronging into your community may extend the life of your game, and allow you to retain the older (and more able to pay your price) players that contribute to your game voluntarily.

Many people (myself included) see the endgame as the real beginning of the game. That stuff you did on the way up? Nothing more than a rite of passage. Keep the level grind short, or better, fun. The endgame is the real content. As Ferrel said, if you wouldn't do it in a D&D game, don't do it in your MMO; say no to level treadmills.

And lastly, if you are going to make a class, at least bother to balance it against the other classes. If it's so broken as to be next to unusable, why bother putting the time into developing it in the first place?


That's all for today. Tomorrow, I have a D&D game to run, so probably no post. Next time, I'll begin tearing up a new game.