Tombs of Amascut Q&A Summary 05/09/2022

Tombs of Amascut Q&A Summary 05/09/2022

This week's livestream focused on the launch Tombs of Amascut! We answered a range of questions about ToA, including:

Thanks to Mod Light (Community Manager), Mod Arcane (Senior Content Developer), Mod Halo (Senior QA Analyst) and Mod Kieren (Associate Design Director) for their insight!

DISCLAIMER: Livestreams are a glimpse into the ongoing creative process at Jagex. JMods are speaking off-the-cuff and their comments are not intended to be read in the same way as prepared updates from the company. Please keep this in mind when discussing the Q&A!

Missed the livestream? Check out the full transcript below!

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ToA General Questions

Question #1:

How has the release been for everyone so far?

Mod Halo

I think the release has been really good. Thereís been a few bumps in the road recently, but overall itís just been such a fantastic experience. The launch especially, because lots of us came into the office, and itís been a long time since weíve seen everyone together. Weíve got the TVs on and streams of people completing the raid. It was just awesome.

Mod Kieren

Oh, what a launch! Itís been incredible. Genuinely, it was an amazing day for us internally as well. We had our little celebrations on Zoom, and we also did a little get-together in the office. Itís been fantastic. We had the CEO come in to congratulate us and everything! That was great.

For the launch, watching it live with a group of us in the office, we had TV screens up watching it. The reception has blown all of us away of how loved the raid was right from the start! We wanted it to be accessible with the entry mode aspect, but we also wanted to let people put it to the limit with invocations.

Iím really happy with how invocations have been received too. I was talking about it week after week on this Q&A stream about how incredible the art and animations are. The death animation for the final boss is insane! Itís incredible.

I remember working on Verzik for Theatre of Blood and being blown away that she turned into a bat and flew up into the sky. That was pretty cool. This is another level! People donít like how long it is because they failed the time challenge, and I think weíre tweaking that.

Incredible raid, incredible reception. As Halo says, thereís been a few bumps in the road and a few kinks weíre working out, but overall Iím over the moon with how this has gone. Itís a testament to everyone whoís worked on the project.

Mod Light

If you like the art, weíre planning an art-dedicated stream sometime this week if all goes well. Hopefully, youíll find out more about the art of ToA in that dedicated stream.

Mod Arcane

I think the release went well. Iíve been working on it for almost a year now, and when youíve been staring at the same project day in, day out, you start to go a little bit insane and think, ďI donít know if this is actually good. Itís kind of cool but will it actually live up? Will it be fun after the first completion?Ē.

The success has been outstanding, and thereís a lot of reassurance there that people seem to enjoy it. People seem to still enjoy it even after 100 clears, which is what I was really worried about. Itís gone really well.

I know the first week, I was stalking every stream I could, trying to fix all the bugs and fix any balance issues. We had a huge patch last week; there was loads of feedback about bugs to fix and things too hard that needed to be changed. There were certain phases and mechanics that people were just skipping, and I think the biggest offender there was Wardens P2. You didnít need to coordinate at all; you could just skip that entire phase. Four Twisted Bow hits, and the boss goes down.

There was a certain pride in me as a developer, thinking, ďtheyíre just skipping the entire boss; itís boringĒ. I was looking to fix that because I wanted people to engage in the content, but there are also balance reasons. This was supposed to be the supply sink in the raid, and people just skipped the supply sinks.

I also thought from a balance perspective; it did need to be a little harder. We can see what happened there. We double-down on changes, triple-down on changes, and whilst all the individual ones looked okay, we released a massive patch that made the raid significantly harder - much harder than we had anticipated.

Friday last week was stressful, trying to get a hotfix together that addressed all these changes and then QA them properly because we didnít want to rush them out before a weekend and break the raid right before the weekend, as well as communicating the entire process to you.

There was this whole sentiment of, ďoh, youíre just basing it around a couple of Twitch streamers and content creators saying itís too easy, " which wasnít the case at all. There were so many facets of feedback coming in. We were taking it all in, looking at data and playing it ourselves. We really wanted to get rid of that stigma in a comprehensive, communicative blog, which I think went down well on Friday, and I think the rates are really nice now.

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Question #2:

Are you happy with the outcome now?

Mod Arcane

For the most part, Iím pleased with where the raids are currently playing at. There are still a few bugs and things to fix that would be nice QoL, such as a Quick Entry on all the doors, barriers and crystals, just to smooth out that experience. Weíve still got a couple of weeks scheduled where we can tidy things up.

We donít want it to be where we just delegate all these fixes to months or years in the future; we want to get the raid into a good spot. Things will turn up over time, but all of the significant issues like the Quick Pass - which I think is a legitimate thing where thereís dialogue box after dialogue box when youíre trying to go as fast as possible. You want to get rid of all those annoyances.

This week is also a bit of an invocation balance pass. We didnít do that last week, but we wanted just to review all of the invocations, change a couple of values and make some higher or lower. For any of the specific invocations that were badly balanced, we want to change them up since some arenít really doing anything at all, and some are doing way too much.

An excellent example of that is path levelling. Path levelling seems a big mechanic of the raid that everyone is skipping. We tried to emphasise that by rewarding a bunch of raid levels, but people are just opting out.

Weíre looking at a couple of things in terms of the stats that is added for levelling. Weíre also looking at some mechanics that maybe shouldnít level up and just be static. Hopefully, this will make that more of an enticing tradeoff where youíre getting a good amount of raid level and loot potential versus the difficulty increase. So weíll see how that feels.

Mod Light

More information will be in this weekís news post. Just a reminder about the game update this week. Itís on Thursday to allow us some time to test all the changes that weíve made.

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Question #3:

Weíve passed 1.5 million completions of ToA. Did you think the uptake would be this massive?

Mod Kieren

No, is the short answer! I didnít expect it to hit one and a half million completions already. We hit one million super fast. Itís mind-blowing. Itís been so long since we released a raid, so I think thatís also a factor. Thereís a lot of hype and pent-up demand from four years of not adding raids, but itís also a testament to how well this appeals across entry mode through to expert. It did remarkably well and let some players raid whoíd never been able to raid before.

I didnít expect it to be this popular! Behind the scenes, weíve got a lot more data, and itís been fascinating. I know that Arcane, youíve been reviewing our different data dashboards. Itís fascinating to see the different size groups that players are doing it with, the completion times, the number of completions, the success rates of raids and which drops are coming into the game. Itís fascinating to look at, and itís also helping us make some of our tweaks and decisions.

Mod Light

Are you noticing a new demographic of players trying raids since we tried this new system?

Mod Kieren

From a data side, I donít think that weíve gotten quite that deep yet. But looking at the stats of whoís playing it and the combat levels of those people playing it, it certainly feels that way. Many players have dabbled a little bit with Chambers and Theatre of Blood but havenít really gotten into raiding, and now this is turning into a place where they can go, ďOkay, I can get to grips with raidingĒ. Maybe the next step is to try out Theatre of Blood and get into the other raid content that the game has.

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Question #4:

Raids 4 when?

Mod Arcane

I need a break!

Mod Kieren

Weíll wait four years and then add an Expert Plus mode.

In all seriousness, in terms of an honest answer, I know ďRaids 4 whenĒ is a bit of a joke. Players love raids, they got pumped for ToA, and it felt like weíd waited a long time. I think we should not wait over four years between two raids, but I feel that adding new PvM content and new boss stuff is the most expensive dev time.

In the time we do a raid, we could probably add three or four unique boss updates. Thatís the tradeoff. I think itís a balance, and I wouldnít say weíre going to put all our dev resources into raids and do Raids 4 next year. Letís strike a balance and do a bit of both.

Mod Halo

As you touched on earlier, Kieren, the art cost alongside the content cost is huge. All the rooms are just amazing, and getting them where they are today took so long and so much work. And if we want that for the next raid, weíd probably go bigger and better, so itís even more expensive.

Mod Kieren

Suffice it to say, I donít expect it to be four years, but I honestly donít have an answer right now. But with how well itís going, that helps to make us feel confident in committing so much dev time to one update.

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Question #5:

Weíve seen a lot of questions about Ornament Kits. When can players expect to see the Ornament Kits for Avaís, Osmumtenís Fang and the Ward of Elidinis?

Mod Arcane

Weíre releasing this on Thursday! Weíll be releasing all the Ornament Kits and pet transmogs this week.

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Question #6:

How about pet transmogs?

Mod Halo

All Iíll say is that they come in this Thursday, and you donít get them as you would at ToB and Chambers.

Mod Arcane

Itís not RNG.

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Question #7:

What is being done to address widespread reports of inconsistent server stability/lag after Tombs of Amascut?

Mod Kieren

This has been something thatís dominated my agenda for the last couple of weeks. Suffice it to say that this is not the start of these issues. Weíve been monitoring server issues, paying attention, making little tweaks, and adding better profiling tools over the last year.

Firstly, youíve got a lot of our players - more so than ever - all playing Tombs of Amascut. This, hopefully, is fairly apparent, but the code and the amount of effort to process you fighting an abyssal demon is far less than processing the amount of effort for everyone to be doing Tombs of Amascut.

We hope - at least in the short term - that the demand on the servers will go down a little bit. That doesnít mean itís okay; we must also make improvements. Iíd like to emphasise that we have a pretty clear idea of the problems, and there are a few. One is input lag - the time between pressing ďI want to walk hereĒ and acting on your screen. That is due to increased processing times on the server. The average length for a game tick is longer when youíve got less of a window to respond quickly.

Another problem is inconsistent tick duration. You might have seen these kinds of posts pop up on Reddit, where players are using plugins on RuneLite that rate the cycle quality. One game cycle takes 400 milliseconds, and the next one takes 200 milliseconds. You experience that as inconsistent tick duration, meaning your rhythm, prayer flicking - or whatever youíre doing - is ruined.

Occasionally we also get spikes where the game might hang, where you experience it as, ďoh god, everythingís frozen.Ē. Thatís an entirely different type of problem. These three things act in different ways, and each needs its own kind of solution to help with this.

Weíre aware that if weíre going to add more things like Tombs of Amascut, more content that is more expensive and ambitious, we do need to make things better. Weíre looking at solutions in a few different areas and directions we can take. One is simply optimising expensive scripts, making them more efficient, and there are quite a few that weíve identified that can be made better. Some of those have already been implemented, and some of those weíre still working on, all of which should help a little bit.

We can do some smart features - something called NPC dominancy, which means that if nobody is near the Lizardmen in the Shayzien - Lizardmen area, make it, so they donít run any code. Why do they need to sit there and fight the other soldiers if thereís nobody nearby to see it? Nobody is there to appreciate it, so letís not waste server processing time on that. This NPC dominancy feature will allow us to make a bunch of NPCs automatically stop when no one is nearby. We do bits of that but could do more.

Another area is improving server hardware. This is a mid-term thing, but some of our server hardware is quite old. We will ultimately move all of our worlds onto new server hardware, which will help a little.

One of the issues is that most of this game runs on a single thread. The best CPUs in 2022 arenít exactly a huge leap better than they were ten years ago on that level, which leads me to the other area - more ambitious architectural rewrites to how the game processes. There might be elements we can multithread, and there might be elements we can be smart with regarding how we process.

Various ideas are floating about, but they take a lot longer to spend some time investigating, thoroughly researching and designing. Thereís a mixture of quicker wins that can alleviate the problem, mid-term things like hardware, and then longer-term things like assessing how the game is written.

It shouldnít be surprising that itís single-threaded when the game was written as a browser game back in the early 2000s. Changing something like that is very fundamental, and there are a lot of things that might be affected. Thereís a lot to think deeply about, to work out how we can change it and improve it without leading to unwanted behaviour changes in the game.

Another suggestion that comes up quite a lot right now is to change some of the Free-to-Play worlds to members or just simply get more. That might help a little bit, but we would need to add a significant amount of worlds. The world is struggling at 400-500 players right now, so to make a meaningful difference, you could probably get up to double the number of game worlds, which also has many ramifications. Itís painting over the cracks, so we donít want to focus on that solution.

To summarise, we are confident that we know the full reasons and the scope of the problem. We have several different directions from which we can address it. None of these independently are silver bullet solutions, so it will be iteration after iteration to alleviate over the coming months. Hopefully, we get there and get to a much better place. Hopefully, youíll also see it improve over the more immediate weeks.

Credit to the team for all the research theyíve done on it and for helping me understand the issue!

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Question #8:

What is the point of making logouts count as a death in ToA?

Mod Arcane

Deaths in ToA work the same as they do in ToB, like logouts in ToB, etc. The point was to prove that youíve done the mechanics correctly, which is more and more relevant for Hardcore Ironmen. You donít want any method of being able to cheese mechanics just by logging out mid-combat to avoid deaths or avoid mechanics, and this is the foolproof way of doing that.

There were some side effects to this. ToB, for the most part, was never really soloed, so logging out there didnít make as much sense as other mechanics, while ToA was heavily soloed. So people are seeing this a lot more since other people in your raid would mean, ďoh, if you log out and youíre solo, the raid dies, and youíre charged 500kĒ. But on ToB, you could just log back in and rejoin your party as long as they didnít move on without you. So weíre seeing this a lot more.

We did make a change pretty quickly after launch, where if you donít have a single invocation on for wiping, meaning you effectively have infinite wipes. If you log out solo or in a group, it wonít charge you. So if youíre an Ultimate Ironman or have very inconsistent internet behaviour, maybe donít turn on any of those invocations.

Theoretically, we could revisit this entire solution, but itís a foolproof solution for Hardcore Ironmans and deaths, and we didnít want a way of just avoiding these mechanics. It would have to have a serious rethink if we were going to change this, so it wasnít just abusable by regular players.

Thatís kind of the point. Itís copied from ToB because it worked for ToB. Because ToA is soloable, it doesnít transfer over perfectly.

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Question #9:

Are you currently working on giving players the ability to make presets for invocations? If so, when can players expect them?

Mod Halo

Luckily we have the wonderful Mod Husky working on this for us. It should be with players in the coming weeks, I hope. We want to make it as good as it can be. Iíve seen something on RuneLite; thereís a plugin that players could use in the meantime that has presets similar to the Leagues presets. Itís in the works and coming soon.

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Question #10:

Is it more profitable to do ToA solo than in a group?

Mod Arcane

With ToA, we were cautious with group sizes, where we wanted 1-8 players to be equally viable for the most part. We didnít want it to be like ToB, where technically, the smaller group size is better, but after a certain point, it stopped scaling, like Duoís, etc.

Generally, people try and run Trios, but four-man is a bit more comfortable. Five-man was a little bit chaotic and worse GP per hour. So the only group sizes that anyone did ToB in were 3-4-man, which isnít great. We wanted it to be that if everyone wants to come along, you just chuck them into your party, and youíre perfectly happy with that if theyíre not decreasing your GP per hour.

If no one else was online, it felt like there was a purpose to doing that content solo if you were waiting for your group to get online. So we very carefully made this so that all sizes are viable.

In terms of drops, itís very linear in that regard. If you add an extra person, it effectively doubles your drop chance to a certain extent. What isnít linear, however, is the kills per hour. That might work from an individual raid point of view, but your raids should get proportionally faster with each additional person you add to your group.

Assuming the maths holds - and people arenít dying - the more people you add, the better your GP per hour, but itís all pretty tight. Youíll not get double the GP in an eight-man versus a six-man, and it should just be at a point where every group size feels perfectly viable.

Solos are slightly worse by design to incentivise group play. Not because we want solos to feel bad but because it is group content at the end of the day, solos are just proportionally slower than other scales.

I know that Kephri is a little awkward to do as a solo - you canít kill all the little scarabs whilst doing everything, so she heals up. Akkha, for example, there are some mechanics where it doesnít scale up just as well. I remember thinking about every single boss room and which mechanics would speed up in groups - with Akkha, there are fewer memory attacks in a group, and you canít attack the boss during a memory attack.

There are many more memory attacks in solo, which is just DPS loss, so adding extra people should make it pretty quick. But itís all minor - weíre talking around 5%~.

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Question #11:

Are you going to release the drop rates for ToA?

Mod Arcane

There is no timescale - personally, if it were up to me, I would never release drop rates because I think they ruin the mystique of the gameplay. I think itís more fun not to know exactly how long it will take to do anything because then you canít complain as much.

Most people complain about being dry instead of just playing the content, having fun and getting drops when you do, but I know Iím not in the majority. I think that theory falls apart when you put crowdsourcing into effect. With the Wiki and everything else that everyone has been doing, collating information, theyíre going to get a good idea pretty quickly.

In some sense, that can be worse, having misinformation with crowdsourcing data versus official data. Not saying that the data anyone is creating is bad, but sometimes it can misrepresent certain things.

I think we will release it in some capacity in the near future. I donít think we will hold onto it for two years or anything like that. But weíll let the raids settle, let the meta settle and fix any bugs; anything we want to work on over the next couple of weeks. Then weíll look into getting some numbers out there.

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Question #12:

Shadow is awesome outside of ToA but average inside the raid. At the moment, I think itís an improvement for 1/3 of Akkha, P1 Warden, and half of P2 Warden. Was there any intention for it to be used as much as Twisted Bow in CoX, and Scythe in ToB, or was it meant for outside of ToA?

Mod Arcane

Iíd be curious about Kierenís knowledge of the Twisted Bow since you were around for CoX and ToB. What was the intention back then?

Mod Kieren

Twisted Bow launched more powerful than it is. Then we nerfed it outside of Chambers of Xeric only. Suppose you remember the way that the magic-level caps got changed. We intentionally left it as good as it was in Chambers since that was where it came from.

Before we launched, there werenít any preconceptions about it needing to be good in Chambers or not needing it to be good in Chambers. We developed Chambers to be good on its own without overthinking where Twisted Bow would sit and let it happen naturally, and it wasnít intentional.

Scythe was a little bit more intentional. With Verzik, we wanted Scythe to be a good weapon for that fight. Again, it wasnít necessarily a leading principle we had with the Scythe design, and it would have been equally fine if we had designed something else.

Mod Arcane

We want Shadow to be good, and Shadow is good in ToA; itís just not as good as the Tbow is at CoX. I think many bosses would need to be designed differently for Shadow to work. Ba-Ba, for example, wouldnít work as well if it was a purely ranged boss. It was designed around being a melee-orientated encounter.

It could be better than it is - maybe this is something we can look at - but I donít think itís in a bad place right now. Itís still an incredibly powerful weapon, especially outside of ToA, and itís really good in ToA. Itís just not got a single boss you can camp the entire time.

Mod Halo

Many people are using Tbow as their back, for instance, whereas they might want to use the Shadow. I agree with Arcaneís sentiment on that one.

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Question #13:

Iíd love it if logging out paused the raid instead of completely resetting it. Sometimes itís hard to get it all done in one sitting, and I would love to be able to do it one path at a time. What do you think about this?

Mod Arcane

It wasnít designed to be done. Itís just a lot to make this work. It works in Inferno and Fight Caves, but itís very self-contained. Itís not easy to do, but itís technically possible.

Mod Kieren

Itís a legitimate feature request. If youíre doing a raid solo and you need to go to the toilet mid-raid, I know itís only 30 minutes, but youíd rather be able to log out and log back in and carry on the same way you can in Fight Caves and Inferno. I donít think itís unreasonable.

Mod Arcane

This would probably be solved if the logout timer wasnít five minutes. I know some plugins can extend it, but if you could AFK for 20 minutes, itís probably quite reasonable to answer the door, go to the toilet or finish cooking something.

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Question #14:

Many players did not realise the upgraded Ward of Elidinis would not be tradeable, why was this made untradeable?

Mod Arcane

It was initially tradeable. Then players asked for it to be untradeable, and it got a bunch of traction on a lot of different media. The consensus was that not every item should be obtainable from anyone with any stats.

Itís quite a nice upgrade for an item to push you to get 90 Smithing or 90 Prayer. I agree with the sentiment; pushing players to level their stats is nice, and I donít think we have much of that in our game, so this is a really good change.

We made that change, and we communicated it. People seemed to be okay with it; obviously, not everyone saw it, and now theyíre saying, ďnow I canít equip my WardĒ. We did make a change last week to make it so you can boost the levels. Now you donít need 90s; you can boost to 90 - Prayer boosts are very generous. You can boost quite a lot; I donít think itís unreasonable.

I think it hurts specific PvP builds more than anyone else. If youíre making a bunch of PvP accounts, itís understandable that they donít want to level up their Prayer to a certain level or Smithing to a certain level. Just donít use the item at the end of the day. Itís a really powerful item thatís locked behind requirements. Itís not like every item should be accessible to every account.

I think a really interesting part of this is seeing the effect it has on the economy. Not many people will have the requirements, which means that not many want to buy the item, lowering the price. Itís not necessarily an awful thing; itís just interesting.

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Question #15:

Does dying affect chances for purple drops?

Mod Halo

It does. It does for your group as well, but more for the player that died. This is for uniques and normal loot.

Mod Arcane

Yeah, itís similar to Chambers of Xeric in that regard, where if you die, youíll lose some points and technically reduces the overall loot potential of the party, but proportionally only affects you.

Theyíll have a higher chance of getting the unique if you die, but overall the partyís chance of seeing a unique is lower. So you shouldnít be upset if your teammate dies and youíre an Ironman because the chances are still roughly the same. Dying does affect your personal chances of getting the unique by quite a margin.

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Question #16:

Would it be possible to save invocation setups?

Mod Halo

Iím guessing this is similar to the preset question. If so, soonTM.

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Question #17:

Would it be possible in future to have an option to remove unnecessary dialogue to speed up our runs?

Mod Arcane

Thatís coming out this week. Every crystal, every nexus door and every path barrier will have a quick answer option which will start the room apart from the nexus ones; the party leader still needs to be the one that uses the quick answer and skips the dialogue. You need to wait on your party leader.

For the most part, that will remove a lot of dialogue, and RuneLite will most likely have a menu entry-swapper for it to be default left-click.

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Question #18:

What did you learn from Chambers of Xeric and Theatre of Blood that you used for the design of Tombs of Amascut?

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Question #19:

What mechanics are you the happiest with across the whole raid?

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