We’ve been using polls to keep players like you in control of the game’s updates ever since Old School RuneScape launched back in 2013. They’re a core part of what keeps Old School Old School, and a unique offering from a living MMO like ours.
Polling lets players get right into the decision-making process and allows your voices to be heard. This approach puts us at the forefront of community-driven games.
However, we’re aware that the polling system has its downsides. It is, at times, unable to fully support both the studio and our players. It means the development team have limited flexibility around the content they produce, niche communities often see their content fail, and since fewer than 6% of active members actually vote in polls, the results don’t completely reflect the community’s real views. Additionally, the amount of detail that goes into polls can sometimes diminish the sense of excitement when new updates arrive.
When you voted to bring back Old School RuneScape, we promised that we’d commit to making the game an exclusively community-driven service, where you could be certain we wouldn’t make any design changes without your vote. These days, however, we feel that polls offer an illusion of choice, where you’re voting on content we’ve already designed due to the level of detail expected from a full dev blog. Sometimes we’ve even started working on content before we poll it, which is required for us to get to the level of detail we've been offering, but it can mean it’s already too late to incorporate your feedback.
Our aim is simple - make Old School the best game it can be for all our existing communities and potential new ones. It's therefore essential we get polls right. So, while they will remain a permanent part of Old School RuneScape (don’t panic!), today we’re announcing a slew of improvements to the system.
Our goals are:
- Ensure that polling feels exciting and empowering for players. We want you to feel like you’re involved in the decision-making process and that your input leads to meaningful change.
- Surprise and delight our players with impromptu and opportunistic content.
- Be able to poll content much earlier in the design process and avoid spending development time that could be better used elsewhere.
- Build community consensus, rather than sowing division.
- Provide greater flexibility to create more detailed plans for Old School, with content that shapes the game’s future and delights players for years to come.
- Create additional flexibility around smaller changes.
The current process means we’re typically half-way through development, with a fleshed-out design, before a full poll goes live. This leaves us with very little wiggle room for feedback changes if we want to hit agreed deadlines, which runs the risk of content failing or not meeting player expectations. It doesn’t feel very community driven!
Instead, we will start polling concepts. If it passes, we know that we won’t be wasting time working on it!
This also means that we’ll be able to work closely with you to finalise the details you care about.
Here's the pipeline:
Let’s break it down even further:
Step 1: THE GREENLIGHT
- We’ll provide a concept, pitch or idea in the form of a dev blog, including high-level supporting material.
Step 2: GREENLIGHT POLL
- An in-game poll goes live based on the concept pitch.
Step 3: PRODUCTION
- Should the poll pass, we’ll begin development based on the concept pitch.
- This is where the bulk of the work takes place, developing the underlying systems and features that are required to make the content functional.
Step 4: COMMUNITY CONSULTATION AND REFINEMENT
- During development, we’ll highlight key areas we feel require further polling, as per the polling charter explained later in this blog. This will be done via additional dev blogs and other supporting material.
- This is when you’ll typically hear about rewards, specific mechanics, features, and XP rates!
- We’ll ensure there is adequate time to collect and address feedback before progressing to Step 5.
Step 5: SEAL OF APPROVAL
- An in-game poll goes live for areas covered in Step 4.
Step 6: PRODUCTION
- Should the poll pass, we’ll begin development on any new additions we’ve agreed on.
Step 7: RELEASE
- The content is released in full!
Not convinced? Let’s see how the new polling process would have worked for previous content polls.
Remember the partnerships poll from 2019? We made the decision to end the poll early because players sent us a clear message. But would the new polling process have changed the outcome? Let’s take a look.
As you can see, the first step would simply be pitching the content. We’d ask if you wanted us to explore adding partnerships and seek your approval before proceeding further.
Under the new system, if you all voted ‘no’ to this initial question, our investigation would have ended there, saving us all the time we spent ideating unwanted cosmetic rewards. A win!
Now, how about content you actually wanted? Here’s a recent example of the new polling process in action: Tombs of Amascut.
We initially polled the raid back in January 2022, with no rewards attached. We simply shared our vision for the content, told you how we planned to go about it, and opened the poll.
Should Tombs of Amascut be added to the game, as described in the blog? If this question passes, the rewards for the raid will be polled at a later date.
It was only after we got your seal of approval that we started developing the raid proper. This gave us a healthy amount of time to discuss and design the rewards to be polled!
How’s that any different from the new polling process we’re proposing? Well, we want to get your greenlight even earlier in the process, ensuring we can commit to a roadmap that serves Old School RuneScape in the best way possible.
It’s likely that the finer details won’t surface until later in the development process – the initial concept pitch is unlikely to contain information about deep lore and worldbuilding, mechanical elements, or specific rewards.
Instead, we’d simply ask if you wanted the content on offer. For example, the Tombs of Amascut question above might look more like this:
Should a new raid aimed at groups of 1-8 players be added to the game? If this question passes, further details including rewards for the raid will be polled at a later date.
Our goal is to reduce the amount of dev time spent on projects that haven’t yet been polled – this disrupts our planning and scheduling, and it means that the content you actually want suffers as a result.
We also believe that polling high-level designs will give the team more freedom to flex their creative muscles, as we’ll no longer be bound to the results of polls that dictate every minor detail. The wealth of fantastic ideas produced during our Game Jam showed us what our J-Mods are capable of – let’s unleash their full potential!
That’s another thing we want to address – we think new content should feel like a fun surprise, rather than being completely figured out before it’s even released. These changes will let us bring back some of that mystery and make updates more exciting!
But the biggest benefit is that this new approach will let us bring you closer to the design process than ever before. We’ll be able to fully address your feedback right from the off, instead of compromising to meet release deadlines.
Lastly, we reckon with this approach we’ll save huge amounts of time by discovering right away whether we’re offering something you’re interested in. If you’re not, we can move right on to the next idea without wasting anyone’s time.
We’ve sometimes been inconsistent with our decisions about polls – including whether certain changes should be polled at all. This happens when we feel, based on player feedback, that we made the wrong call – so we aim not to repeat the mistake. Unfortunately, this leads to inconsistency, which is in itself a big problem.
So, we want to propose a Poll Charter – an official rulebook found permanently on the Old School website which will standardise what does and doesn’t go to a poll. We hope this will provide clarity and a better understanding of the polling system, especially regarding unpolled changes.
We also hope to see an increase in voting interest, as polls become more about larger, meaningful content changes than small fixes.
Lastly, these changes will give us much more flexibility around small changes, allowing for a much faster turnaround for things like QoL and trivial fixes. That means much less of the “we’ll put it in the backlog” talk!
High-level designs and concepts for new content, including:
- The overall aim of the content, such as: ‘a new Raid encounter focussed on combat and skilling, featuring various bosses and challenges.'
- Certain key mechanics and features, like estimated XP rates, to give a better understanding of where the content is supposed to fit.
- Quest concepts will include details of pre-requisites and less impactful rewards such as the amount of Quest Points, GP, or XP gained.
- Impactful rewards will only be polled after the content they belong to has passed the poll.
- The level of detail will be in-line with what we currently offer, including information like DPS graphs and concept images, where appropriate.
Changes to existing content which will have a significant impact on players, such as:
- New content or areas.
- Content or area expansions.
- Reworks to existing content and areas, such as the Isle of Souls and Shades of Mort’ton reworks.
- Changes that will significantly impact the existing meta, such as changes to XP rates.
Game Modes, including:
- Deadman Mode
This does not include things like Ultimate Iron Man or Iron Man mode, which we classify as new content. For the same reasons, we will poll any rewards from alternate game modes which might cross into the main game.
Temporary events, including:
- Any other temporary event
Asset Visuals and UI/Graphical Enhancements:
- Item rewards
- Character models
- Environmental assets
In-game visuals can often become a sticking point which holds back new content from being released into the game while the ‘preferred’ design is discussed. It’s a time-consuming process which still leaves huge portions of the community dissatisfied.
The key change here is that items will no longer be dependent on their aesthetics to make it into the game. We’ll still poll rewards and changes to those rewards, as discussed above, but we won’t be polling their appearance.
Please note that we want to ensure that we’re not moving away from what makes Old School ‘Old School’ – as you can see from the team’s recent work, we’re committed to hold onto what makes the game feel so special.
We’ll continue to share example imagery from early on in the process, and we will make changes based on your feedback, as we do now. We believe that giving the community ample time to leave feedback will help direct the changes we make, but the actual changes made will no longer be subject to polls.
We want to make a special note regarding UI and Graphical Enhancements – these changes, in particular, can impact those who aren’t even playing the game yet, so they’re absolutely essential for the long-term health of Old School RuneScape. For example, the changes we made to the mobile client have made it more accessible and user-friendly, which will benefit players old and new. We’re also aware that people are interested in a Jagex-made HD version of the game, which would bring players who don’t enjoy the nostalgic, low-poly version into our community.
Hopefully this one should be self-explanatory, as we already fix almost all bugs without a poll anyway! Just to be sure, here are a few specific examples of things we wouldn’t poll:
Graphical bugs, such as:
- Items unintentionally attaching themselves to player models.
- Stretching character models.
- Broken animations.
In-game bugs, such as:
- Shift-click dropping items it shouldn’t.
- Loot not dropping at the correct rate.
- Quests locking, preventing further progress.
Small QoL enhancements, such as:
- Toggleable Wiki Orb added to the Minimap.
- Allowing warning messages to be dismissed permanently.
- Additional options in the Settings menu like Chat filters and colours.
- Moving a tree or plant that obstructs pathing for no reason.
- Make-All options in relevant menus.
Future changes to the polling system
Our polling system needs to be flexible so we can alter it to remain current with the community’s needs – much as we’re doing now!
We’ll always discuss which changes we intend to make, and why.
Integrity and Balancing changes
The aim with changes like these is to protect Old School RuneScape, keeping the game fun and fair for its players. Realistically, that sometimes means doing things that wouldn’t get majority support in a poll, such as:
- Stopping a feature from giving rewards that are grossly disproportionate to what was intended.
- Removing a safe spot that wasn’t intended to be there.
- Redesigning, or providing warnings for, content that is being used in unintended ways – such as a feature that unintentionally helps scammers.
- Making minimal changes to features that are agreed to be too powerful – such as the change we made to stacked Dragon Spear special attacks.
- Changing features that make significant parts of the game redundant, even if the feature is popular as-is. We would commit to making such changes minimal, rather than using them to shoehorn more extensive changes into the game.
New Player Experience: Tutorials and Adventurer Paths
Over the last year or so we’ve put a lot of effort into reviewing where fresh players drop out while playing Old School RuneScape and addressing the hurdles that put them off. This activity doesn’t disrupt the game for anyone else.
This content is not suitable for polling – after all, the target audience of new players aren’t even able to vote. Furthermore, we need to tweak these systems regularly to make sure they keep up with new-player pain points; this content cannot realistically be subjected to a week-long survey of players who probably haven’t seen it in the first place!
Pricing changes to both Membership and Bonds
The studio relies on these to function as a business. We've faced rising development costs, inflationary rises across the globe, and fluctuations between international currencies.
We need the ability to change prices as required, and so these won't be subject to polls.
Accessibility and diversity changes, including:
- Adding support for visually or physically impaired players.
- Changes that ensure Old School accurately reflects the diversity of our world and player base.
We get sent a lot of requests, most of which are very small. Examples include:
- Spam-filtering specific messages.
- Using a more visible colour for various things.
- Allowing players to disable warnings they’ve seen before.
- Clarifying existing in-game information.
- Adding new information normally tracked in other ways, such as a counter.
- Minimal XP rate adjustments.
- Changes which have no effect on which players may or may not make use of a feature.
We normally pass these without a poll, as they’re just too quick to require one. For the most part, we feel this should continue. Whenever players have had significant objections to minimal changes after they’ve gone live, we’ve been able to revert them without fuss or disruption.
Most polled content passes with 80% of ‘yes’ votes or more. However, we’ve seen quite a few updates that have fallen just barely short of the 75% acceptance threshold. When this happens, a large percentage of players are missing out on content they wanted and voted for.
Fewer than 6% of active members actually vote in polls. With a 75% pass rate, it only takes 1.5% of those active members voting no to stop a piece of content getting into the game.
We want to ensure the poll system fairly represents everyone, allowing us to support every part of the community. To help accommodate this, in addition to all the other changes described above, we want to reduce the percentage of ‘yes’ votes required for a poll to pass from 75% to 70%.
In line with this, we’ll also be making our future plans more visible. We hope to be able to offer consistent Summits in the future, announcing what content we’d like to work on in the coming months. We could follow these Summits by polling all the announced concepts in an epic "event-like" poll – which we hope will attract more voters!
One area we haven’t covered in this blog is what the future of restricted voting in polls looks like.
We know they’re not for everyone, with recent polls showing increased levels of frustration or friction towards communities they’re intended for. On the flipside, we’ve seen how beneficial they can be with the recent Poll 77.
Ultimately our goal is to champion niche communities and ensure that their content has a fair chance to make it into the game, but we’d like to spend a little more time thinking about what is best.
We feel it’s important the changes we’ll be making following this blog have had chance to settle first, so please let us know your thoughts on the future of restricted voting. Do you have an idea you’d like us to explore further? Let us know!
We’re really excited for these changes – they’re a key step towards a healthy future for Old School RuneScape, where everyone stands to benefit! We’ve discussed a lot in this blog, and we’re sure you have plenty of questions for us!
You may have noticed the current annual survey has a section dedicated to polling. Whilst we're waiting on the final results before diving in fully, it's clear the majority of respondents have been supportive of this new approach too. During Monday's livestream we'll be able to go into more detail on this in particular!
Mods Arcane, Archie, Argo, Ash, Ayiza, Boko, Brow, Bruno, Chilly, Curse, Daizong, Ditto, Dylan, Ed, Elena, Errol, Fed, Gecko, Gizmo, Goblin, Grub, Halo, Havik, Hend, Hornet, Husky, Jalo, Kieren, Kirby, Kurotou, Lenny, Light, Mack, Markos, Maylea, Meat, Moogle, Morty, Nin, Nylu, Redfield, Regent, Roq, Ry, Sarnie, Shaun, Shroom, Sigma, Skylark, Soffan, Sova, Squid, Starry, Stevew, Surma, Tide, Torrance, Veda, Vegard, West & Wolfy
The Old School Team.