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Surveying the Scene
Through 2013, we knew there had been some dissatisfaction with Runescape EoC, but tried to work through it, creating content that showcased the new system and making tweaks to address imbalances. We hoped that this would convince players the new combat was worth learning and offered really fun gameplay. The new bosses and combat encounters in quests were well received, but ultimately could not convince everyone. Some players just didn’t want such a big change and felt alienated by the new combat system.
As we came towards the end of 2013 and started working on the Power to the Players initiative, we knew combat was going to be a big topic. We commissioned some research to get a better sense of how players felt about combat, EoC having been in the game for over a year. The survey needed to be as accurate and impartial as possible, so we used an independent research company to help us. Over 10,000 active players were surveyed via email on a range of questions about the game and combat.
The headline of the survey was that for players of the main game, 44% preferred new combat and 41% preferred the old system – pretty much an even split.
The survey also asked about specific features within EoC: PvP was rated poorly at 22% satisfaction, the Combat Level Calculation got a middling rating at 48% satisfaction, and PvM and weapons scored highly at 70% satisfaction.
The survey showed a broad spectrum of opinion, no clear majority, and a varied mix of views about different elements of the combat system. There was not a majority who wanted the old system back, nor were players generally satisfied with all of the elements within EoC.
But it clearly showed that the new combat system wasn’t working well enough for many players, and that we needed to offer an alternative.
Doing Something About It
The announcement of the Power to the Players polls had a very positive response from the community, but one issue kept cropping up – combat. Some players wanted some or all of the old system back. Other players argued against them, wanting to keep it as it was! I felt we had to really embrace the idea of giving players the power to decide, but first we needed to find a way of offering the old combat gameplay without taking away from what EoC fans enjoyed.
These were the options we considered:
Carry on as we were – Continue our approach of adding combat content and making system tweaks. This has helped a little, but hasn’t been enough.
Conclusion: Need to do much more.
Major improvements to EoC – We’ve been prototyping the Revolution ability, have been talking about bringing back Special Attacks, and have been building a plan to make PvP much, much better. These changes will be really good for the game, but probably won’t change the minds of players who really didn’t like EoC or couldn’t dedicate the time to learn it.
Conclusion: Do this too, but more is needed.
A hybrid system – We considered creating a new combat system, a single design which was a mixture of both old and new. However we concluded that by trying to make a single system to suit everyone, it wouldn’t really be what anyone truly wanted. It would mean big disruption for current players and the game economy, and it wouldn’t be able to bring contain enough of the previous gameplay to really satisfy fans of the old combat.
Conclusion: Not a viable solution.
2012 worlds – We considered running an old version of the game. During the investigation we found that it wasn’t possible to just “turn on an old version” like with Old School, but needed lots of re-engineering across our infrastructure. But even then, it’d be a service requiring a lot of upkeep, and would significantly reduce the amount of game updates we could do. Without many game updates the 2012 version would get stale, and the main game would suffer in a similar way. I also think this approach would seriously split the community. This is not healthy picture for RuneScape’s future.
Conclusion: Not a viable solution.
Legacy Mode alongside EoC – this approach is to create a mode within the modern game which replicates the old combat gameplay. A dedicated mode could be customised to contain the features players really care about. It allows players to choose which mode to use, so isn’t forcing a change on anyone. This option still comes with challenges we’ll need to overcome, and probably cannot be completely identical to the old system, but we believe we can make it very close.
The Next Step
I’m confident that Legacy Mode is a good option which offers a legit old combat experience, without jeopardising EoC, and without splitting the community or reducing the quantity of game updates. But even if the poll passes, there’s a lot of work to do, and we’ll need the community’s help in making the right decisions for how to shape it.