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Interviews: Clan Citadels Expansion Q&A

By William Murphy on July 12, 2011

Clan Citadels Expansion Q&A

Recently Jagex announced the Citadels Expansion for the venerable and ever-popular RuneScape. Aimed squarely at giving Clans a place to live, play, and design their own content (you read that right), Citadels is looking like a massive addition to an already epic game. Managing Editor Bill Murphy got the chance to sit down with three of the game's designers and talk about the expansion.  Senior Game Designer Chihiro Yamada, Lead Designer Mark Ogilvie, and Senior Content Developer Ash Bridges all had a lot to say.  Read on!


Tell us a bit about the Clan Citadels Expansion and why the team at Jagex decided to go in this direction.
Chihiro Yamada:
Clans have always been a big part of the RuneScape player community, but one we hadn’t until recently provided much support for in terms of content.  Clans are great for an MMO, players in a community that they have bonded with will want to stay in that community, even if they tire of the scripted content. An MMO with a thriving clan community is a healthy MMO.
So in April we released the systems to allow clans as an in-game concept, and Citadels is using that infrastructure to give clans some amazing content.   We can now provide clans with a whole load of things that were impossible before – A home of their own, in game goals and rewards, ways of displaying clan status and identity.  The various aspects of the Citadel will give the Clan community reasons to recruit and organise, and reward them for their efforts. So the aim is to give a boost to the clan community, and to give fun reasons for more players to get involved in social play.
A big part of the expansion lies in the customizable clan battlefields… I don’t think any MMO has tried this before.  Am I reading it right: RuneScape will allow people to create and share their own battlefields?
Ash Bridges:
We are, indeed, launching a built-in map editor that will allow players to design and save battlefield maps, so that they can organise their own events for their clan-mates and guests. This isn’t just about plonking down walls in different positions. We’ve designed a wide variety of elements to let clans tailor their games beyond anything we’ve ever done before. The list includes destroyable barriers, obstacles, traps, power-ups, respawn portals, flag spawns, ball spawns, monster spawns, tag points and much more besides. Already, these elements give clans the scope to turn their battles into capture-the-flag games, ball games and races.
Many of the elements are individually configurable to provide even more flexibility. For example, one of the options on a destroyable barrier determines what players must do to destroy it. This could use one of the skills they’ve trained elsewhere in RuneScape, or it could require them to have a key. The layout designer could then assign keys as the reward for accomplishing a specific task within the battlefield, such as killing the correct monster or kicking a ball to a certain goal. Thus the designer is requiring players to accomplish that task to get a key before they can proceed through the barrier to the next area of the battlefield. Effectively, they’re creating a multiplayer mission.
In summary, we’re offering clans a sandbox where they can make up their own games.


What sorts of things has the team been creating on their own test servers, to give an idea of what players can expect from the creation tools?
Ash Bridges:
One of their first big battles was on their Capture-the-flag battlefield. They’d put the blue team’s flag spawn in an area surrounded by AI monsters, all aligned to the blue team, firing spells from behind a protective barrier. Anyone on the red team trying to capture the flag would therefore be taking massive damage, whilst unable to retaliate against the monsters, so the blue team would have a better chance to defend their flag. Furthermore, the flag had been configured to prevent its bearer from running or climbing over obstacles. Only a determined tank character would have a decent chance of stealing the flag with impunity, although a team-mate can help by applying healing potions. Similar perils surrounded the red team’s flag.
A nice twist came from a member of the QA team who placed high-level monster in enclosures that were sealed with a destroyable barrier. The monsters were aligned to the red team, so they would fight the blue team if released. The red team therefore wanted to release the monsters, but this required them to survive long enough to destroy the barriers first, some of which had been configured with high resilience to damage. Players also had to be careful where they stepped, since the arena contained a large number of conveyor belts leading into insta-death spike pits.
Outside the battlefields, the citadels may not offer quite so much flexibility with regards to layout, but an enterprising tester nevertheless got her entire island decorated in lurid pink and black.
The term “Citadel” makes me think all sorts of different things.  What exactly does it mean for RuneScape in terms of gameplay, outside of the battlefields?
Chihiro Yamada:

The Citadel is a little like a small walled city.  There is a keep in the centre, and some grounds around it.   The gameplay is a simple production based building game – played by many players over months. Clans will have to decide which parts of the citadel to upgrade, what new facilities to build, and organize themselves to collect resources from skilling plots within their citadel, in order to pay for the upkeep and building costs. Citadels are not meant to become the dominant form of gameplay for clanmates, but an activity they spend a short amount of time each week contributing towards, but the carrot is the long term goal, a bigger, shinier, more personal Citadel – A home you’ll want to show off.

The press release mentioned training as one of the features of the new clan bases.  How is this handled in the game?  Will players be able to hold inter-clan matches and the like?
Chihiro Yamada:
Clans already do hold inter-clan matches in the vast amount of standalone minigames that exist within RuneScape and our Pk environments.  The existing combat clans already set up and fight big battles in the Wilderness so the training aspect is more about clans being able to practice their mass battle techniques in a private environment than inter-clan matches per se. The Battlefield will allow clans to create their own environments for this type of battle, and impose some rules on them, but we cannot allow the same kind of rewards in the Battlefield than on the rest of the game world, (as the players have more control over it than our balancers do), so the battlefield will be one option of venue, rather than the de facto place for clans to fight.
There seems to be a growing trend towards allowing player-created content in the MMO space.  How does Jagex feel about this, and is the new expansion a sign of more things to come?
Mark Ogilvie:
Millions of players who live and breathe your content are always going to come up with bigger and better ideas than a team (no matter how talented) of dedicated designers. We’ve seen “modding” communities grow to huge numbers in other popular games; I don’t see why an MMO should be any different. In fact, at JAGEX we have been adding tools for emergent gameplay for years, but never on this scale. Of course, things get much more complex when you start adding loot and XP to the equation, so right now we are focusing on gameplay and quality teamplay fun.
The desire to make compelling games is the number one interest for a games designer and it’s something we’re all passionate about – sometimes it’s even stronger than the desire to play a compelling game. Why not give your players that joy?
There’s always been player generated content in RuneScape, just writ small.  We’ve always had groups of players who, make in-game videos, or set up parties or other social events, and this still counts in my book as player generated content.  An MMO is not just a game, but a world, and players want the freedom to define their own play experiences in that world, and Player Generated Content is just a logical extension of that.

Thanks so much for your time, but let’s throw one last question out there: if there was one feature you’d have to say is the absolute best part of the new Citadels, what would be and why?  Consider this answer from your own “player’s perspective” and leave the developer hat at the door.
Mark Ogilvie:
Some of the developers who’ve worked on the project each have their favorite bits they’re looking forward to so I’d like to share some of those with you…
Mod Ash: “It’s the moment when I arrive on a citadel, and I’m surrounded by banners, tents and guards all in my clan’s colors and sporting my motif. It gives one a true sense of ownership: this is a beautiful city floating in the clouds, and it’s mine!”
Mod Roderick: “My favorite part of the clan citadel update is having a place my clan can call their own.  The feeling that we are able to socialize in comfort, among people with similar philosophies, makes RuneScape feel more personal and homely than it ever has before.  I look forward to giving visitors tours of our citadel and introducing them to our notable clanmates.”
Mod Matt M: “The portal island is my favorite area of the citadel. Within the graphics team we wanted a really striking and impressive first impression of the citadel when players first walk through the portal. I hope we’ve achieved this with the portal island. We’ve used an environment map on the portal so for the first time in RuneScape the portal looks as if it leads somewhere. We’ve also got some impressive waterfalls streaming off of the island which look very impressive. One of the best things about the portal island is that clans can customize it with different statues to give an even bigger impact for visiting clans.”
Mod Moltare:  “I’ve got to say the Battlefield layout editor’s my favorite bit of Citadels – I’m looking forward to playing around and seeing what I can make the field do.”
William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.