With the launch of DarkScape, a hardcore PvP version of RuneScape, Jagex has given players free rein to take part in no-holds barred player vs player action in a shadowy world reminiscent of the gentler version. We spoke with Jagex's Conor Crowley to find out more.
MMORPG: Tell us about the events leading up to Darkscape’s creation. What is it that the developers wanted to accomplish?
Conor Crowley: The team was interested in what we could do with RuneScape and it’s almost 15 years of content. The idea of invigorating the Player vs. Player (PvP) aspect of the game tended to come up frequently in development discussions. Our ideas skewed towards new arena-based mini-games for the players, but we always had the issue of corrupting the core game experience. DarkScape was an opportunity to create a game that embraced PvP at its core, but still had the benefits of RuneScape’s content. Also, we were excited at the prospect of a cutthroat version of the game where, if some player is hogging the resources in an area, you can just hit them!
MMORPG: The hardcore crowd seem very excited with this new launch, how has the response been from fans?
Conor: It’s been amazing. Most of the day after launch the opening area of the game was a bloodbath. We had implemented guards in the areas to try and keep order, but they couldn’t keep up with the players. This is something we are looking to resolve. A week in we are starting to see players spread further into the world and progress through the game. It has been very exciting to watch. We had a DarkScape livestream on the day of launch and the questions and discussions were quickly coming in. People sounded engaged even at that early stage and it’s been incredible to see!
MMORPG: You have years of history with Runescape’s popularity to enter into this new sandbox. What are a few of the lessons you brought over?
Conor: We focused on getting the game into the hands of our players as soon as possible. This means we can now develop the game around what they are actually doing, rather than what we think they would do.
MMORPG: Death and the loss of gear are always big in these types of games. I’m thinking back to old school PvP where it was very tough when you died. Do you have some advice for players who have never been in this type of game before?
Conor: The only advice is to be careful and be prepared to lose things! It’s ok to die and you can always get your items back. Keep an eye out for what players around you are doing and be ready to respond. Most importantly, have fun.
MMORPG: Give us some background on the three region system. If PvP is everywhere how do you determine risk?
Conor: While PvP is everywhere, we have some security features in place to help newcomers. The low-risk areas have a level banding system in place. This ensures that only players of similar levels can attack you. The range expands as you leave the main towns. The low risk areas are also patrolled by guards that will attack and kill any player who has recently instigated a fight. They are clustered in areas where players are most vulnerable, like bank areas, spawn locations and trading areas.
MMORPG: The Skull System is great fun and herald’s back to old school MMOs when you had Player Killers. What were some of the decisions going into this system?
Conor: RuneScape still uses the skull system and remains very familiar to our older lapsed players. In DarkScape we wanted players to be able to identify dangerous opponents so they – and the world – could react to them. The guards are the most obvious of those reactors right now, but we have plans to expand this system in the future. There are players who want to be keepers of the peace and there are others who want to be infamous. The current system is very binary, but a more graduated approach is something we will release shortly, which will allow for more interesting behaviours based on the type of player someone is.
MMORPG: Have you seen any early trends in the player community? Skulls banding together? Groups of players doing open battle?
Conor: It is still early days but a good portion of the community is working on personal progression. They know the game and are trying to get to an effective level so they can get back to the weapons they are most familiar with. Others are peacefully training some of the non-combat skills in groups with a kind of truce, but others are just trying to go kill as many players as they can.
MMORPG: How often do you plan on updating Darkscape? You said it has a different lifecycle compared to Runescape.
Conor: We want to be as agile as possible with the game and address things as soon as they turn up. For now, I would expect that we may be updating every few days with fixes, updates or new features based on what we see the players are doing. This will result in a faster rate of update than RuneScape to begin with as we adapt to how players behave.