Hello and welcome to the second edition of the Gielinor Gazette!
We’re really happy with how last month’s debut Gielinor Gazette was received, and there was plenty of feedback and ideas about the sort of stuff you’d like to hear about in future issues.
You said you wanted us to talk more about the projects we’re working on, so now each issue will kick off with a project update! In this issue we’ll also touch on other things such as the development process, how roadmaps and backlogs are created and maintained, the PvP vision, and what replaced our TAPP time. And Soul Wars. There’s Soul Wars!
Project Update: A look at what we’re working on.
Here’s a look at what we’re working on and where it’s currently at:
- Darkmeyer: The Darkmeyer poll recently closed and all the content passed with flying colours! Development is now fully underway. Mod Ed has started work on Sins of the Father, the new Myreque quest, while Mods Husky and Flippy are focusing on the Hallowed Sepulchre.
- HiScores: We're currently in the process of trying to fix this. A previous attempt was sadly no help, but we do have another idea. However, it may be the case more investigation is required beyond that.
- Leagues: We've just completed a two week design stint on our 2nd League, and the team is super excited about it! Development will kick off proper following the release of Darkmeyer!
- Early Game Improvements: Following the recent release of the Gatherer Path, we’re monitoring its success compared to the Combat Path and the results will help decide the future of the Adventure Paths system. In the meantime, we're still looking at other things like optimising Tutorial Island and improving Lumbridge's tutors and guides.
- Clans: The core engine work to introduce basic clan functionality is well underway. In fact, Mod Boko just managed to create the first Old School clan (by clan... it's just a clan profile right now, but it’s a start!). Once the core porting of the system is complete, content development will begin.
- Group Ironman: Clans is a precursor to Group Ironman, which will be built on infrastructure clans can provide. That said, we've established core elements of the design.
- Easter: We've started to spitball ideas about how to make a fun event. Don't worry – we’ll try to make it less cringe than the birthday event, dearie!
- A Kingdom Divided: The next quest in the Kourend series is planned for release later this year. It's still a long way until launch, and current work is design focused. Mod Ed is fleshing out the narrative design while Mod West is looking at the main quest rewards and new spells for the Arceuus spellbook.
- Achievements (PvM): This project remains at the high-level concept stage. The idea is to have various tasks/challenges against bosses, ranging from 'Kill Giant Mole without receiving any damage' to 'Complete The Inferno in under 70 minutes'. Currently this project is scheduled for much later in the year, with development pencilled in for after Leagues 2.
- 2020 Survey: We’re preparing to send the biggest survey we’ve ever done! This is going to be your opportunity to help shape Old School for the rest of 2020 and into 2021!
- Account Security: A few months ago we released the Account Security Features blog. In that blog we mentioned the sustained attack we’re withstanding, and its impact on other projects. We’re making great progress with resolving the attacks with long-term solutions, but it has delayed work with the account security features.
- PvP: We’re trying to take a long-term approach to PvP. This means taking the time to establish a clear vision and goal, and using that to build a proper, cohesive roadmap to guide what our content updates and events will be. Later in the blog we talk about what how we’re arriving at this vision.
Roadmaps and Backlogs: We use these words a lot, but what do they mean?
You’ve probably heard us use words such as ‘roadmap’ and ‘backlog’, but perhaps only have a rough idea what they actually mean.
Roadmaps and backlogs are examples of some of the systems we use to handle the vast quantity of content ideas that you, the community, and we come up with. From that pool of ideas, we then need to ensure that we’re working on ones that:
- A: improves the game
- B: appeals to as many players as possible
There’s only so many developers and only so much time, and as much as we’d like to work on all of the ideas we receive, we have to be certain that anything we choose to make for the game uses those resources as wisely as possible. You can easily stick something like Clans in the schedule, and poof, that's a huge 6-month commitment for the whole team, who won’t be able to work on anything else in the interim.
This is where roadmaps and backlogs come in.
Roadmap: This is essentially a high-level release schedule. It contains the larger releases, the rough time of year we’d like to release them and when we expect the team to begin work. At a glance, we can understand that we expect Darkmeyer to be out before Clans, and Group Ironman sometime after that.
This small snippet shows the breakdown of a team’s work schedule (NOA - Nightmare of Ashihama; DM – Darkmeyer; L2(D) - Design for Leagues 2)
Backlog: This is a list of potential future projects/features in a prioritised order. When we identify a gap in the roadmap, this is where we go to find the best project for that gap. To make sure the backlog is effective, it’s constantly refined - that means checking against what you, the community, are looking for in Old School. This could mean that features are altered and improved, new features are added the backlog, or it could mean that some things are removed from the backlog if they’re no longer needed.
Ideation Days: How creative experimentation led to a Soul Wars prototype.
To understand what ideation days are, we first need to go back in time to the days of TAPP. TAPP is short for ‘Thursday All-Day Personal Projects’, which was dedicated time set aside every second Thursday for everyone at Jagex (for the Old School team, Friday was used rather than Thursday to avoid clashing with the weekly update). We kept the name TAPP, though. You can probably work out why…
TAPP projects could take many forms. For some, it was a chance to learn new skills or take part in training, but for many it was a chance to work on additional content for the game itself.
When it came to Old School, TAPP produced many notable updates for the game., such as the guild expansions of 2017 and the early Kourend quests. Even larger updates like Dragon Slayer II and the Theatre of Blood initially started in TAPP before becoming full projects.
Unfortunately, while TAPP had many benefits, it also had no shortage of negatives. As a result, the decision was made to end TAPP in mid-2018. But this left a gap. Without TAPP, the Old School team found themselves lacking the time needed to dream up potential new updates. Ideation days were the solution.
Ideation days take the form of two days at the end of each month, during which the Old School team focuses on designing and prototyping possible updates. You’ve already seen some of the results of these days in the form of The Twisted League.
It’s fully accepted that some of the ideas that emerge will never see the light of day. Sometimes things that seems good on paper prove less effective once prototyped. However, a recent ideation day resulted in a prototype that we’d like to share it with you.
Old School RuneScape started life as a backup of the old game dating from August 2007. However, it’s no secret that RuneScape has seen many fantastic additions in the years that followed, and some of these additions have inspired for Old School content. The ‘While Guthix Sleeps’ vibes in ‘Dragon Slayer II’ are clear to see and in some cases, post-2007 content such as the Corporeal Beast has been recreated in Old School. However, to date these projects have been limited in size and scope.
This thought to an interesting question: what would it take to recreate something bigger? Mods Ed, Lenny and Ry set about answering this question and to do so, they selected one of 2009's most loved updates. Say hello to Soul Wars!
Released in February 2009, Soul Wars was a hugely popular minigame that combined PvP with PvM. Ever since the launch of Old School, we’ve seen thousands of requests for it to return. For a long time, we weren’t sure it would ever be possible but as you can see from the image above, the team have successfully created a working prototype!
It was obviously important that Soul Wars looked the same as it did back in 2009, but to fully map the area from scratch would have been a huge undertaking. So the team looked to the current RuneScape version of Soul Wars as a starting point. Luckily for us, our tools team have recently finished back-porting RuneScape tools to work for Old School (albeit running on very different engine versions). Thanks to this we were able to copy some parts of the map from RuneScape. Not everything worked, of course, but we were able to copy across tile height and blocking. For some tiles, we were even able to copy the ground colour (which comes in two different forms known as underlay and overlay). It gave us a starting point that was much easier to build on than if we’d started with nothing.
Height and blocking are important, but they alone do not make an Old School map. We also needed things called areas. They are invisibly mapped on tiles and a script attached to them. The result is that interesting things can happen when a player walks on that tile. For example, areas are often used to make music tracks play on certain parts of map. The missing underlay and overlay was replaced using Old School equivalents. However, scenery and NPCs posed a more interesting challenge.
When the Corporeal Beast was added to Old School, it took weeks for its model to be recreated. Unlike the map, the current version of the Beast in RuneScape wasn’t usable – the game has changed so much that the models are no longer compatible with Old School. Luckily for us, that isn’t the only version of the game we had available. As you’ve probably heard before, the 2007 backup used for Old School was a lucky find. The game wasn’t backed up very often back in those days but this thankfully changed over time, and we were able to use a partial back up of RuneScape from May 2012 to help us recreate the models we needed.
Both games use the .ob3 file type to save their models, (not to be confused with the .ob3 files used in Microsoft Outlook!). Over the years we've made various changes to this standard to support things like UVs for applying textures, and the models we found were saved in version 19 of this format. Old School required them to be version 4 compatible. For our compiler to process them without crashing, it meant stripping lots of additional information out. Another issue was the size difference between RuneScape and Old School models. Models that were made after the 'HD' update are four times the size we needed!
Soul Wars is also an area that makes heavy re-use of existing assets from throughout the game world, making tracking down individual assets quite the task. We could have used alternatives that currently exist in-game, but wanted to stay as true to the original as we possibly could. With the missing models copied over, we’re now cleaning them up so they’ll be usable.
We do this by importing a model into Maya, checking the scale and adjusting it if required. We then export the model back out ready to be imported into our in-house model editor, JagEd. Sadly, we can’t just scale it in JagEd due to the version incompatibility. Ideally in the future this would be all done in one step, but when prototyping you sometimes need to get creative and find hacky solutions before a proper implementation is developed! While we’re having to do each model individually, we have made use of some AHK scripts to automate as many of the monotonous steps as we reliably can.
Once imported into JagEd, we next check to see if the model has held up correctly after being processed twice. Often this can result in some vertex colour data going missing, causing some areas of the model to appear white. This requires only a minor amount of clean up to be ready for the final export!
While we could use models from 2012 as a starting point for making Old School models, the same could not be said for animations. Despite our attempts, we were unable to make any progress using animations from 2012 or from the present RuneScape. It was looking like we’d have to remake them from scratch, but thankfully other members of the team had seen the early results and were keen to lend their support. Whilst Mod Ry continued work on the environment, Mod West decided to have a crack at using some existing Old School animations with the avatars.
Given that the proportions of the Avatar of Destruction are strangely similar to that of Graador, with only some minor adjustments we could have him moving about. And as you may have guessed from the GIF above, it was a success!
Kind of… the model is essentially exactly how it was back in 2009 (minus some texturing) and adapting the skeleton to that of Graador was fairly simple. However, it would be a lot better if we could get the original animations working, so we’ve tasked the tools team with getting us this feature in the future.
Map, check. Models, check. Animations, check. Things were starting to look pretty good. But Soul Wars is about more than just looking good – we needed it to sound good as well. And as with everything else, we needed it to sound like it did back in 2009. That meant the same music and the same sound effects.
Sound effects offered a nice surprise. The way they were made in 2009 was exactly the same way they were made in 2007 and this meant they worked perfectly with Old School! Using our 2012 backup again, we were able to copy the sounds directly across with no changes. Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, profit! If only it were that simple for everything else.
We also wanted the original Soul Wars music to go alongside the sound effects. Up until late 2012, RuneScape used midi for all of its music. That means, yes, you’ve guessed it, the May 2012 backup had midi files we could use. Unlike sound effects though, some tweaks were needed.
Although midi was still in use when Soul Wars was added in 2009, some new instruments had been added by then that don’t exist in Old School. Luckily, the Soul Wars music track didn’t use any of these, so that midi file worked perfectly. However, The Waiting Game lobby music needed some tweaks, but fortunately Mod Ed had dabbled with Old School music in the past (anyone hunting a Dragon Warhammer may know his Servants of Strife track) and was able to get it working.
Now we were really getting somewhere. We had sound and we had visuals. All we needed now was the game itself and for that we needed some script (plus a few interfaces, of course).
With many of the scripts referencing interfaces which currently don't exist, these needed tackling first. Though the files for these had been retrieved from the 2012 repository, the versions were incompatible and wouldn't compile. However, we were able to open the interfaces in RuneScape’s engine tools to see what's on them, and even copy the contents over with the majority of its data attached. Again, there were models and sprites used in parts of these interfaces (such as the various coloured charms in the Reward Shop) that have never existed in Old School. In these cases we either created it from scratch, adjusted it to work or removed it from the interface.
We could then move on to getting the scripts in a working state. Fortunately, although the game's engine has been constantly changing over the years, there were very few new engine features used in the version of Soul Wars that we were using as a basis, so a large part of the script worked almost instantly.
There were a few issues, however, with what we call procedures and labels (what other languages would call functions), as various general use ones that did not exist in Old School were being used. Some were self-explanatory and easy to replicate, whilst others needed us to dive in to the RuneScape repository and see what exactly they were doing. One of the recurring issues that we ran into was the use of constitution and lifepoints rather than hitpoints, requiring us to deal with a separate set of values and a completely different multitude relating to damaging and healing players.
After going through and fixing all of the errors, we were ready to jump in and see what exactly we had. Not everything was working perfectly, but at this point we had a very roughly working shell of the minigame that we could jump in to, split up into teams and get running!
There you have it, a working prototype of Soul Wars in Old School RuneScape! The question now is: what next? Although we have a working prototype, it will still take a fair amount of work to get the minigame to a point where it can be released. We believe that with the right resources, it could be possible to release Soul Wars towards the end of the year whilst still delivering the content we promised at RuneFest. Now we just need to decide if we should!
So, do you want to see Soul Wars in Old School? Or would you rather see another piece of content from post-2007? Or maybe you’d prefer we focus only on new content? We want to know your thoughts. Send them our way, and if all goes well, we’ll have more to share with you very soon.
PvP Status Update: Here we'll go into some detail about our work on building a PvP vision.
Firstly, we understand your frustration at the lack of visible progress with PvP. We are working on it, and here we’ll go into some detail about what exactly we’ve been doing.
We acknowledge that up to now our approach to PvP has been piecemeal at best, and lacked a holistic view of what PvP is and how PvP fits within Old School.
We’re deep in the process of building a vision and whilst we’re not yet ready to share explicit details, we can talk about the problems we face and how we might solve them.
We of course want to ‘fix PvP’, but actually it’s quite difficult to establish what exactly this means because different people have different ideas about what needs to be ‘fixed’.
The reality is that PvPers are fragmented across multiple different activities and styles. They make up roughly 5% of our playerbase (it’s worth noting that other ‘general’ MMOs have a PvPer representation of around 5-10%).
Some PvPers are Bounty Hunter players (or Last Man Standing) or they play Castle Wars, or Clan Wars. They might PK in the Wilderness, but they only terrorise multi-combat areas, or they exclusively operate in single-combat areas. They might only play on PvP worlds, or they might only play Deadman. Their accounts could be a general ‘main’ account, or it could be a pure, or another type of restricted build. Those player types are then further divided according to the timezone they live in, and the times they’re active in the game.
What we’ve found is that when we’ve tried to make changes to appease one of these groups, we might negatively impact another.
Considering this fragmentation, our main goal is to unite all players (not just PvPers) under a single vision which guides content updates, events, and manages their expectations.
The Golden Age
It’s not uncommon to hear gamers talk about a golden age of a game. This is true not just of RuneScape or Old School, but of any game that has existed for a long time. It’s also not uncommon for there to be disagreement of when this golden age is. You might prefer the experience of marauding deep in the Wilderness of 2005. Others might pine for Edgeville as it was in 2011, rife with Korasi’s and Curses. Some players might put the likes of Soul Wars and Stealing Creation on a pedestal, but other players might vehemently believe that these are just fun minigames and should not be considered PvP updates.
Rather than recreate these experiences as they were, we’re trying to identify what qualities made them special, and use them to guide future updates.
Welcoming New PvPers
One thing that can be widely agreed on is how difficult it is to introduce new players to PvP. We’ve identified three reasons for this difficulty.
Skill gap. The difference between an established PKer and somebody dipping their toes into PvP content for the first time is huge. Some activities, like Last Man Standing, have mechanics which try to bridge gulfs between accounts, like always-on Prayer to mitigate flicking or making equal account builds. But this isn’t enough. Any two players might have the same levels and equipment, but the ability to quickly switch gear and prayers and attack styles will reign supreme.
Complicated systems. Back in the day, PKing was far simpler, mechanically speaking, than it is now. You’d kill a player and you’d get their stuff. The introduction of new mechanics which are specific to certain worlds, or certain areas, can be hard for new players to grasp. If we look at the most recent iteration of Bounty Hunter, it represents one of the more extreme examples of overly complicated systems. A player had to visit an NPC to use their own GP to purchase an item to hold in their inventory. If they defeated an opponent who had the same item in their inventory, then that item would be upgraded, which would ultimately increase its value. The player could then go back to the NPC and sell the item for more GP. That’s without considering the separate existence of Bounty Hunter Points, tasks, and hotspots. It’s convoluted, and it’s a far cry from the kill-a-player-take-their-stuff age.
Toxicity. We’ve all seen the spade memes, but the reality is that the PvP scene can be daunting to new players because of the levels of toxicity associated with the community. Other games have seen great success in tackling toxicity in their PvP scene, and we must do the same.
Our vision for PvP is still very much a work in progress, but we’d to share as much as we can.
Our current PvP mission statement:
- We will consolidate and unite the PvP scene to position it for future growth.
- The Wilderness is where emergent dangerous PvP gameplay takes place.
- Minigames and events exist to offer unique content changes or structured play which aren’t possible in the Wilderness.
- Competitive gaming compliments and adheres to the PvP vision, but it doesn’t dictate the vision.
- The act of killing players shouldn’t generate expected wealth gain in an abusable way.
- Onboarding new players is crucial, but not at the expense of core gameplay.
Possible 'consolidation' content changes:
Return of Bounty Hunter. We removed the content because of the level of abuse it faced. It will return with the potential for abuse reduced as much as possible. We expect this to be the earliest content to arrive, hopefully around the end of this month or early April.
Removal of PvP worlds. With this change we’re trying to solve the fragmentation of PKers. We understand that PvP worlds offer hotspots with convenient fights and a desirable combat level bracket, and we’ll do our utmost to offset this by creating similar hotspots in the Wilderness.
Restrict Wilderness access to specific worlds. Again, we’re trying to solve the fragmentation of PKers. Hundreds of game worlds have been added since Old School’s release. Whilst we could reduce their number, that’d have adverse effects elsewhere in the game by exacerbating competition for things like bosses and resources.
Remove High Risk worlds, replaced by Very High Risk worlds. Dying on these worlds will result in the loss of all items to create risk-heavy and exciting opportunities.
Moving Clan Wars and Last Man Standing to the Wilderness. They’re currently quite out of the way in the desert. We’d like to move the lobbies for these minigames to the Wilderness, like when Clan Wars was introduced to RuneScape. The lobby would be a safe area, reachable via teleport, and likely positioned to the west/south west of the Graveyard of Shadows. Our intention is to create a new hotspot of activity in the low-level Wilderness.
Resolve Last Man Standing quality issues. We’d like to remove the buy-in fee for the competitive game mode. We don’t think it’s necessary now that we’ve added a permanent High Stakes variant. We’d also want to reduce the number of F2P Last Man Standing worlds. We’re also investigating content changes to prevent ‘boxing’ from occurring during games.
Redesigning Wilderness bosses. We’re not happy with the quality of Wilderness bosses such as Callisto, Vet’ion and Venenatis. We’d like to give them actual mechanics and relocate them to suitable areas. We envisage a winding series of tunnels and chambers connecting the bosses with various cave entrances in the Wilderness overworld. Increasing the challenge offered by the bosses would also pave the way for buffing the drops and rewards offered.
W45 Deadman. Honestly, we’re not sure what to do with the Permanent Deadman world. We’d like to run a poll on W45 to gauge player opinion on how best to proceed. We’re open to resetting the game world (either once, or on a regular basis) and exploring cosmetic incentives or additional XP increase for continued play across resets.
Wilderness PJ timer. We understand that lone PKers would likely want a Wilderness PJ timer added to single-way combat areas, whereas PKers in clans might prefer it to remain as it currently is. We’re open to implementing one, whether in the whole Wilderness or just certain areas.
Last Man Standing queueing. We’d like to investigate whether we can queue players for Last Man Standing games, so that they can wait to join games whilst going about their ‘Scaping elsewhere in the game world. It wouldn’t be possible to do cross-world queueing, so we’d only implement it for themed worlds.
Wilderness Safe Respawn Area. To make it more convenient to return to persisting fights we’d like to add an option to respawn in the Wilderness, likely in the Clan Wars lobby.
Possible 'growth' content changes:
Onboard new PvPers. We’d like to introduce a tutorial-type piece of content for players who are new to the Wilderness or minigames like Last Man Standing. We’d focus on introducing players to concepts like switching gear, attack styles, and prayers.
Temporary Deadman events. We’d like to run regular Deadman Permadeath (you might call this the Final Hour) events, which are based on the short Deadman betas we’d run prior to our live broadcasts. This would precede the full return of Deadman.
New Clan Wars features. We’d work with clan leaders to identify valuable features and changes to add to the minigame.
New Last Man Standing features. Adding new maps and new account load-outs to Last Man Standing to increase the appeal and variety of the gameplay it offers.
New Castle Wars changes. Exploring things like shortening the match length and implementing team size caps, among other content changes. We’d work with the competitive Castle Wars community to identify the right features, and after any release we’d still want to offer a ‘Classic’ Castle Wars experience on themed worlds.
Wilderness Clans features. With the release of the Clans system we’ll explore whether there are any features we could implement to incentivise clan versus clan gameplay.
Wilderness expansion. We know there are various parts of the map that players would like to see expanded, like the Desert, but we’re also very keen on expanding the Wilderness and increasing the amount of content offered.
Competitive PvP program. Establishing a competitive program will include any return of Deadman, as well as structured esports.
Community PvP program. Empowering the community to operate their own events with prizing and structure, like always-on Clan Wars ladders or bespoke tournaments.
We’ve shared as much insight as we’re able, but it’s your feedback that will guide and finalise the changes we’ll make. Once decisions have been made, we’ll compile a backlog and development roadmap which we’ll share with you.
These changes won’t happen overnight. We’re going to prioritise the consolidation changes whilst designing the growth changes. In the interest of transparency, this is not going to be an instance where we divert every Old School resource to working on PvP. Some changes will arrive soon, whereas others, like the Wilderness expansion, will be much further in the future.
Ins and Outs: A chance for you to find out who's who, and who's new.
In February we said a sad farewell to Mod Gambit. Join us in wishing him the best of luck in his new adventures, and join us in welcoming two new Mods!
Mod Maylea, a content developer, is the first of our new faces.
Hi! I'm Mod Maylea and I come from ‘the other game’. I joined Jagex when it was still RuneScape, some 13 and a bit years ago. I started as QA and my first forays into content development happened not long after the save that later became Old School. In ‘the other game’ I've been responsible for Stealing Creation, Myths of the White Lands, Elite Treasure Trails and a Gnome quest - among other things! More recently I've honed a talent for fixing and improving things, and so I’ll be joining the Operators team. I'm looking forward to pretending I've gone back in time with knowledge of the future. My slightly unconventional working hours may preclude me from appearing on livestreams. Please don't take it personally!
Mod Bolton, our Head of Influencer Management, has been with Jagex for some months now, but in the future he’ll be working more closely with Old School..
Hey there, I'm Mod Bolton. I've spent most of my adult life working on living games, with eight years split between CCP's Eve Online and Riot's League of Legends, and am incredibly excited to join the team at Jagex to bring that same passion to the world of Gielinor.
I've always been a true believer in the power of players and communities to bring the games they love to life. I got my start in the industry due to my time as a player, running a large clan and casting esports events. I went on to work with elected player councils, launched creator support programs, and hosted live events across the globe, but none of that could have happened without the passion of the players.
As Head of Influencer Managment, I'm working to launch a creator support program that will focus on levelling up existing creators with access to assets, learning and development opportunities, and some additional support services we are really excited to unveil.
Additionally, I'm working with creators from other games to help show them and their audiences all the amazing content our worlds have to offer. I'm excited to share more soon, but until then please don't hesitate to reach out to me at @JagexCreators with any questions or concerns!”
You may have noticed more new names at the bottom of this blog! Mods Boko and Vegard both do engine work and, having worked on Old School in the past on things like Mobile, they’re now integrated within the Old School team.
We always want to make new friends and to hand out more gold Mod crowns, 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!
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, Boko, Bonsai, Bruno, Curse, Deagle, Ed, Errol, Fed, Flippy, Gee, Husky, John C, Kieren, Kristy, Lenny, Lottie, Maylea, MikeD, Nasty, Oasis, Roq, Ry, Steve W, Sween, Tide, Vegard, Weath & West
The Old School Team