“Not Ported, Not Truncated” and Bullish Crossplay: Our RuneScape Mobile Interview with Chief Designer Dave Osborne

RuneScape’s mobile launch is almost here! The venerable MMORPG is coming to Android and iOS devices this Thursday, June 17, and we recently had the chance to ask Jagex about the project which has been, in a sense, two decades underway. (And yes, I said “Jagex quiz” because I wanted to use q, z, j and x together. I won MMOBomb Scrabble!)

Lead designer Dave Osborne provided the answers, giving us a glimpse of how he thinks the mobile version will fit into the RuneScape family (tl; dr: great) and what he and his team have learned. from previous mobile incarnations of RuneScape.

Dave Osborne, RuneScape Lead Designer

MMOB Bomb: When RuneScape launched 20 years ago, smartphones and tablets wouldn’t even be a thing for several years. Could you, as a gamer or developer, have imagined that one day you could take the game with you this way?

Dave osborne: It wouldn’t even have crossed our minds 20 years ago. I remember arriving in 2006, and everyone thought RuneScape had a lifespan. The games did not last more than four or five years. That’s why we were actively exploring “the next RuneScape”; other MMOs that could wear the crown. No one would have seen RuneScape last 20 years, and certainly no one would have thought of mobile. This is not entirely surprising, as we were all on Blackberry and Nokia 3310 when I arrived.

MMOB Bomb: Old School RuneScape launched on mobile devices almost three years ago. What did it take for the main game to make the same transition?

Dave osborne: RuneScape needed a lot more vacuum packaging to make it fit! Getting Old School to mobile was no small task, but RuneScape has so many additions that make the transition more complicated. There are fully customizable interfaces, with a breadth more options immediately available to the player. There’s the more active combat, with abilities and cooldowns to deal with. It’s a bigger game, with more content and more hardware expectations. We had to fix all of these issues to get them to mobile.

MMOB Bomb: Besides, what were the biggest lessons you learned from the mobile development of OSRS that had an impact on the adaptation of the main game?

Dave osborne: Design-wise, this was the way gamers interacted with OSRS mobile. So many people were using it as a cross-play device, a way to pick up and continue what they were doing on the desktop. It makes sense: players have less and less time to devote to the game, so finding time on bus rides and other small free times is invaluable to them.

RuneScape is also in a bad mood – you can play it on low or high intensity – so players were doing hardcore play like boss and quests on PC, while mobile was reserved for more difficult things like skill training. . Once you know that, it unlocks a lot of design thinking. How can you make it easier for a gamer to play low intensity content on mobile? How can you get out of their way?

MMOB Bomb: COVID-19 has obviously impacted every aspect of our lives over the past year or so, and we’ve heard all kinds of stories about how it has affected various game developers. How did that challenge you while developing RuneScape mobile?

Dave osborne: From a business / RuneScape standpoint, we’ve been incredibly lucky. It has been a dark time for so many other people or businesses, but we are working in the digital space, creating worlds where people can escape. So we’re doing well and the players have found their place in RuneScape.

From a team perspective, this has been a huge challenge. We are a creative collaborative company: we like to prototype, turn around and play others. We had to adapt and we used a lot of creative tools to make it happen. Things like Miro have been an online whiteboard for many of us. I would be surprised if we didn’t adopt it full time. The team really took him out of the park in terms of accepting this new normal.

We also learned more about what players expect from their game during this difficult time. RuneScape’s heart rate is weekly; gamers expect to check out the website and see something new at this rate. When things don’t change as regularly, interest decreases. We recognized that and tried to get that weekly vibrancy back, and the players appreciated it, I think.

MMOB Bomb: If I’m a long-time PC RuneScape fan, what advice would you give me to get used to mobile gaming? In other words, what’s the biggest difference or the biggest change that I will have to get used to?

Dave osborne: The biggest gap between mobile and PC is in intensive bossing and PvM. It was always going to be that way, as our combat players are used to having dozens of interfaces open at the same time, and some of our more exciting encounters have elements of contractions. You need constant and complete control over your character.

We’ve seen people take down these bosses on mobile, but it’s more of a feat of endurance than something that felt natural. We want to reduce the gap between mobile and PC in this area, but it will come with time. While we are launching now, we will still have many months to gradually improve on these experiences, and we have a lot of ideas on how to do it.

MMOB Bomb: Mod Warden said that you are “looking to break more records this year with the launch of Mobile”. Realistically, however, is it possible that the mobile is distracting some gamers from the PC version of the game?

Dave osborne: We do not think so. The way people engaged with early access and the beta, and the way gamers played OSRS mobile, has shown us that mobile is primarily a cross-play platform. Players switch from one to the other seamlessly, depending on how it fits their life. It can only be healthy for the game, rather than a detriment.

We want mobile and PC to be mutually beneficial. Any improvements we make will only improve each other’s experience. The community is shared across all platforms – a player choosing a mobile always plays with PC players and is by no means separate. We might find that new players are choosing to try RuneScape on mobile over PC, and that’s great too: we envision a future where there are multiple ways to play RuneScape, and it’s a matter of choosing which one. suits you.

MMOB Bomb: Finally, we know that Jagex has other projects in the works; do you think the mobile implementation will be something you tackle earlier in their lifecycle? You know, less than 20 years after launch!

Dave osborne: I leave that to the designers of our other games to internalize, but yes! You can be absolutely sure that the mobile will not be a 20 year journey! This one is going to be unique to us. But while some may see it as a failure, we see it as a huge positive. We’re the first legacy MMO to come to mobile with all the amenities – unworn, untrimmed – and you get access to a huge community, thousands of hours of content, and a dedicated mobile version of the game, throughout. of the day. a. It’s not something you see every day on mobile.

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