Sailing Development Progress Update | Milestone 1: Navigation

Sailing Development Progress Update | Milestone 1: Navigation

Table of Contents

Sailing Development Structure

Navigation (Milestone 1)

Sailing and Islands

Ahoy there! We’re thrilled to be sharing a much-awaited progress update on Sailing, Old School RuneScape’s first new skill. The team have been busy implementing navigation, making player boats move seamlessly through Gielinor’s open ocean.

Admittedly, this part of the project has taken longer than we initially expected. We’ve encountered various technical obstacles that had to be overcome. While we waited, we used our time to get ahead of our later milestones, including rewards and islands.

The development roadmap now looks something like this. You can see that the Skill Cape and icon competition has moved into Phase 3 while Navigation and the Tech Alpha has been brought forward.

Sailing is a very ambitious project – perhaps our most ambitious project to date – but we’re confident that we can handle challenges as they come. We know you’d all prefer if we took our time with the skill instead of rushing it out the door. That’s why we’re so excited to show you all what we’ve been working on these past few months.

Remember, what you’ll see here today is still far from the finished product. We need your feedback to make Sailing the best it can be, so be sure to tell us what you think!

Navigation (Milestone 1)

Milestone 1 is the biggest in the whole roadmap, as it includes the technical foundation that the rest of the skill will rest on. While we’ve spent a lot of time getting it right, we do expect the other milestones to fall in place much faster.

Navigating your way around the sea is shaping up to be very similar to how we described it during refinement, where you’ll use the classic click-to-move controls to move your boat across the sea, while also moving your character on the boat. This is consistent for any type of boat, whether they're small, large or colossal, although their movement speed is subject to change.

We've previously shared a 'proof of concept' prototype, but now it’s time to look at the real deal.

If this video doesn't load on your browser, click here to watch!

Since our initial prototype, we’ve been busy laying the technical foundations for everything in the video above. This included improvements to the stability and performance of the Java and C++ clients, and the engine work required to make boats turn, control their speed, add collision, implement boarding and multiplayer options, increase draw distance, block out scenery, and more.

You’ll notice that we haven’t yet implemented weather mechanics. We’re still experimenting with this feature, and we want to ensure it feels right before we show it off.

We realised early on that although both boats and player characters use click-to-move mechanics, we want navigation to feel distinct from player movement. When turning in your boat, it will move in an arc rather than instantly facing the direction you want to move in, which feels more natural. We’re also working on a pathfinding algorithm and looking to see how we can offer more manual controls to lend a skill-based feel to the, er, skill. This is something we’re really keen to get your feedback on so we can ensure we’re moving in the right direction.

Our next technical innovation requires a bit of explaining. Behind the scenes, we have ‘player’ entities and ‘NPC’ entities that work very differently within the same code. Sailing utilises a new ‘world’ entity, which allows us to render players inside boats and interact with them while they move independently. We’ve already thought of a few more things we could use this technology for, like a large boss or raid encounter that takes place on a moving object.

Speaking of objects, we’ve also improved how the game renders them at sea while adding a ‘z-buffer’ to manage the depth of objects in the game world. This effectively adds a new dimension, improving how the camera works within the game world.

This has also helped us implement proper boat collision, which is a feature we’re still working on behind the scenes. You can expect collision to improve continuously as we continue through development.

Last but not least, we've increased draw distance on the legacy Java client to make Sailing more viable for the players who still use Java.

So, why has all this taken so long? Frankly, we’ve had to bash a lot of bugs to reach the stage we’re at now. Engine updates are much less frequent than game updates, so when we look to set up a Beta world, we have to ensure that the engine version matches what we have in the live game. If not, players would experience compatibility issues when trying to log in to them. This effectively means that we had to wait until all the tech for Sailing was stable and ready to put into the live game before you could all test it out!

We’re very proud of the progress we’ve made so far, but we want to know what you think! You’ll soon have plenty of opportunities to get involved, starting with our Open Technical Alpha.

Technical Alpha

We’re delighted to announce that we’ll be running the Open Technical Alpha in the next few months. This will allow everyone to test the basics of navigation and experience a little bit of primary gameplay, including Port Tasks and Shipwreck Salvaging.

Our aim is to make sure that players enjoy what we’ve made during Milestone 1 – and if all goes well, we’ll be able to move into the next phase of development. Our other Milestones all rely on getting navigation right, so we’ll need to ensure that you’re all happy for us to proceed before we really get stuck in.

We’re also running a Closed Alpha sometime in early June, which will be open to around 20 NDA’d players. This smaller Alpha will also focus on gathering initial impressions and seeing how this small test group feels about navigation. We’re starting small simply to give us more confidence before we show Sailing to the rest of the community. We know that first impressions can have lasting influence on player opinion, so we’re hoping that extra layer of feedback will help us polish those last little details before we go public.

After the closed playtest, we'll evaluate the responses we got and then decide when the Technical Alpha will be available for everyone to try. If the feedback is significant enough to warrant a lot more changes, we'll also update you on that too.

The engine required to run the Tech Alphas will be implemented in our next available update. While it should mostly be invisible, there may be some unexpected game behaviour following the changes, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on things to fix any problems as they arise.

Now for the disclaimer: We've decided to call this a Technical Alpha because it's less further along in development than a Beta should be. Please bear in mind that what you see here is very different from how Sailing will look at launch. This Alpha is purely to test the navigational mechanics and boat movement – even the primary gameplay is there so you can feel what these mechanics are like to use. While we're really excited to get you your first hands-on look at Sailing, we'd like to keep the focus on how you feel about navigation rather than other concerns around the skill.

Additionally, this will be the very first time that multiple boats are stress tested at scale which will help us to understand impact on server and client performance. Things might break and this won't be a finished product, so please keep in mind that this is just an Alpha and we're fully expecting there to be some rough edges. Regardless, these tests are critical to ensure that we deliver an amazing skill – and we hope they’ll be a lot of fun, too!

Navigation Basics

So, what will you get up to in the Technical Alpha?

First, you’ll want to head to Port Sarim and speak with a wee fellow named ‘Junior Jim’, who’ll help you aboard your boat. To begin with, your boat will be small and contain a few basic facilities. On board, click to move around the boat and interact with other objects on deck.

To start navigating, click on the Rudder or Wheel. In navigation mode, you can click on the ocean to move your boat.

You’ll notice that your character is no longer able to move around the boat by clicking – this is a feature we’ve implemented to avoid misclicks at sea. Unfortunately, it means you can’t interact with facilities until you exit navigation mode. We’re really keen to hear how this feels, so do play around with it as you set sail.

Your boat will always move at a certain speed, but you can make it faster by ensuring the sails are trimmed properly. You should notice that over time, they begin to luff, and wiggle in the wind. To trim them again, you’ll need to disengage navigation mode and click on the sails, which will reward you with XP.

Those of you who’ve been following Sailing since refinement will spot that this is one of the core gameplay loops we were talking about – a simple, repeatable action akin to chopping trees in Woodcutting or cleaning herbs in Herblore.

You can also earn XP by interacting with the other facilities on your boat, including cannons, Weighted Dredging Nets, Salvaging Stations, and more. Not all these facilities are available during the Alpha test, but you can still try out Shipwreck Salvaging to see how it feels.

Boat Terminology


  • Captain - The original owner of the boat, and the player who initially generated it. The Captain controls boat facilities and any other customizable options such as boat cosmetics.
  • Crewmate - Any other player on the boat. While Crew Management isn’t part of the Technical Alpha, later you’ll be able to acquire NPC crewmates, too.
  • Navigator - A player who’s allowed to navigate the boat. This role is either appointed by the captain or the navigator when the captain leaves the boat.

Boat Parts
  • Sails - Sails indicate whether the boat is catching the wind (going at full speed) or not. When they are not catching the wind, they are luffing and must be trimmed.
  • Rigging - The ropes attached to the sails. When the boat luffs, the player can interact with the rigging to catch the wind again.
  • Wheel- Used for navigation. Interacting with the wheel as the navigator lets you take control of the boat.
  • Facility - A customizable, functional feature on the boat. See the core gameplay refinement blog to see how things like Sails, Dredge Nets, Cannons and Cargo Holds can be upgraded.

Navigation Controls

Using the Wheel

A player must be stood at the Wheel (or Rudder) to steer the boat. Later, NPC crewmates will also be able to take the wheel if needed.

Transferring Control

By default, only the captain can use the wheel and navigate the boat. The captain has the ability to transfer navigation controls to any crewmate and can revoke this permission at any time.

A navigator can transfer control back to the captain if the captain is on board. They can only transfer controls to another crewmate if the captain is not on board.

Embarking and Diesembarking

Boarding from a Dock

Disembarking when no one is on the boat will despawn the boat. For now, players can dock their boat at a port by speaking to Junior Jim.


Other players can ask permission to board someone else’s boat at port. You’ll need to enter the name of the captain whose boat you’d like to board, and the boat must be at the same port.

Leaving the boat

If the navigator on the boat leaves the boat by any means, controls are transferred to the captain. If the captain has also disembarked, then control is transferred to a random player on board. If nobody is onboard, the boat will despawn.

Teleport and Death

Players can leave the boat by a number of means:

  • Death
  • Teleport
  • Logout
  • Manually choosing to alight at port or mooring points

When the last player on the boat leaves, it will despawn. If the captain leaves in any way other than disconnecting while other players are aboard, a five-minute timer will begin. If the captain has not returned by the time the timer runs out, the boat will be disabled – it cannot be sailed, and the facilities onboard cannot be interacted with. Other players can stay on the boat as long as they want, or simply disembark by teleporting, logging out, or sailing the boat to a port. When the last person disembarks, the boat is removed.

In future, you’ll be able to retrieve your boats and use them again and again – but this feature won’t be present in the Technical Alpha.

Sailing and Islands

During refinement, we explained that Islands and other Points of Interest will be a major part of Sailing’s reward space.

Islands contain all sorts of exciting stuff, from fearsome bosses to exciting ways to train your skills – but they also present a thrilling opportunity to discover and unlock new content as part of a bigger adventure. You could be the first person to stumble upon a new location – or you can set sail with friends in search of new challenges you’ve only heard rumours about.

Islands are diverse, and there’s sure to be one for every kind of player. To give you a taste of what islands have to offer, we’re going to share a few early ideas – although we’re not ready to let you see the full designs just yet.

The Pandemonium

The Pandemonium was a mighty boat, captained by the most incompetent pirate to ever sail the seas. His name is ‘Squawking’ Steve Beanie, and his greatest (and only) achievement was crashing his boat into a rocky islet off the coast of Karamja after getting turned around in the Tempoross storm. Keen to ensure that no other would-be pirates make the same mistake, Steve has turned the wreckage of his boat into a towering, colourful bar where first-time sailors and veterans alike can come to get advice, meet new crewmates, and try the local specialty cocktail, the Bright and Noisy. Just watch out for the parrots!

The Great Conch


You’ll remember The Great Conch from our initial Sailing blogs, where we also introduced the island’s shelled inhabitants. The Tortugans are a friendly group of turtle folk who are in terrible danger from the gryphons stalking the island’s skies. In your time on the island, you’ll help them out, earn their trust, and learn from their way of life. Aside from a new quest series, this large island brings new skilling methods for Thieving, Fletching and Hunter, as well as new resources to gather.

The Cursed Archipelago


If you’re familiar with the later Pirate quests in RuneScape, you’ll recognise the Cursed Archipelago as the accursed lair of Rabid Jack and his zombie crew. You’ll get to pay a visit as part of the backported Pirate storyline – although as always, there’s an Old School twist which will make exploring the Archipelago a totally new experience. These seven small islands were once a bustling fishing community, but are now home only to the restless undead. An outpost on the northernmost island is overrun by maregals. Whatever they’re protecting must be worth a great deal…

Shrieking Rock


Until recently, smugglers used this natural cave system as a hideout to store their ill-gotten goods – but when they expanded further into the caverns, they awakened an ancient evil. Peering into the darkness, they found the darkness staring back - and before they could escape, monsters poured from the shadows and dragged them back into the gloom. Since then, the island has been abandoned - but sailors claim that on moonless nights, you can still hear the screams of the unfortunate smugglers echoing from the cavemouth. Do you dare learn the secret of Shrieking Rock?



This sunny island paradise has recently experienced an influx of new visitors. While the locals are pleased to welcome so many new faces, supplies on the island are dwindling, and things are getting dire. Help to restore the balance, and this island could become your home away from home, with a new Player Owned House portal and island wall-kit. Watch out for cheeky crabs!


Community Consultation: Islands

That’s all the information we can share about islands for now. Community feedback has been integral to Sailing, and to ensure that you’ve got all the information you need to tell us your thoughts, we’ll only return to the island discussion once we’re further along in development.

We have some fantastic ideas (if we do say so ourselves), but before we can have the all-important discussions about balancing and XP rates with you, we need to ensure that Sailing stands by itself. Islands are full of new experiences and top-level resources, a strong reason to train Sailing, but we don’t want to give anyone the impression that this is a skill you’re forced to train to get access to all these new experiences and high-tier resources. First, we want to show you that Sailing is a skill that you’ll train because it’s fun.

Therefore, we’re pausing the conversation about islands until you know a bit more about the skill itself. Once we’ve breezed past Milestones 1-3 (Navigation, Primary Gameplay, and boat Customization and Crew Management), we’ll be ready to talk about islands and the rest of the Sailing Reward Space. You’ll see that the Roadmap has changed slightly to reflect this decision.

As a result, we’ve also delayed the player-designed Islands and Icon competitions until a little later – but rest assured, it’s still happening!

We’re really excited to show you the islands we have so far, and we’d love to hear your suggestions, too!

So, that's a wrap on our latest Sailing progress update blog!

Next time, we’ll share more details about the Open Technical Alpha, and tell you all about what went on in the Closed Technical Alpha.

If we're able to, we'd also like to talk about how far along we are with Primary Gameplay, including Port Tasks, Barracuda Trials and Shipwreck Salvaging, as well as our intended player journey from 1-99. Note that Primary Gameplay is heavily dependent on our work with the Technical Alpha phase, so we're not sure yet when we'll be ready to talk about it - hopefully very soon!

For now, let us know your initial thoughts on what we shared with you today and feel free to join the New Skill Discord, where we’ll be checking in to see your reaction to the blog and answer your questions. Join us on our Twitch livestream on Monday 20th May for a live Sailing Q&A!

You can also discuss this update on the 2007Scape subreddit, the community-led OSRS Discord or the Steam forums. For more info on the above content, check out the official Old School Wiki.


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