How RuneScape 3's Mark Ogilvie Will Make the World's Most Popular Browser MMO Even Better

| 19 Jul 2013 18:01
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200 million RuneScape users can't be wrong, but Ogilvie will make that a certainty when RuneScape 3 releases next week.

My nephew is 15, has a Bieber haircut, and spends almost as much time working out for his soccer team than he does playing RuneScape. I asked him if was going to play the new version when it releases on July 22nd and he said, resoundingly, "Hell, yeah." The design director of RuneScape, Mark Ogilvie, believes a big part of why fans like my nephew are excited is due to the improvements the Jagex team is making to the browser game which will help bring the stories of RuneScape to life. Oddly enough, the skills Ogilvie draws upon to make RuneScape 3 so vivid don't come from programming or game design, but from his love of theater.

"Being involved in theatre gives you the luxury of being able to look at entertainment and the way that we make computer games in a slightly different way," Ogilvie told me. I had an inkling Mark was a theater person after I saw him deliver a speech expounding on the wonders of his game at the RuneScape 3 event in May. We theater folk can spot our own - the booming voice, the exaggerated movement of his hands and Ogilvie's use of props were a dead giveaway.

But how exactly does theater impact gaming? "I think it is really important to visualise your space when designing games - I think a lot of people look at that as a level design-specific capacity - but also it is when you are setting the scene," he said. "When you want to design an environment, when you want to take a good cut scene or something like that - you have to think about the game as a stage and how you can use that space to engage your audience."

Based on my time with RuneScape, I can certainly see Ogilvie's influence in how the non-player characters position themselves in the world. It's a subtle difference from other MMOs, but you never really feel like there's this talking head barking quest orders at you. "We don't want to make content where players feel like they are walking around helping other people, they need to be the driving force. That is obviously very difficult to do in an MMO situation, but we can do those kind of things when we are looking at our individual quest and imagining the player as one of your actors on the stage is one of the ways of making sure that they have that influence and they feel like they are part of the action," Ogilvie explained.

With RuneScape 3, Ogilvie is challenging his designers to draw players in, rather than passively watching the game unfold. "One of the cool things about theatre, people say, is that you can sense the sweat and the spittle of the actors on the stage, you really feel like you are part of the action," Ogilvie said. "A lot of what I have been talking to my devs about recently is making the players feel that they are the director rather than feeling like a passenger. Rather than feeling like a member of the audience, they feel like a principle actor on the stage. They are the hero after all and they always need to have centre stage."

The improved sound design of RuneScape 3 will immerse players in the world. "We have built a new engine which allows us to directly stream audio to the player and allows us to move further away from the midi sound background we have and really offer something truly immersive," he said. "We have full voiceover support and we are doing some really quite brave things with our audio team. We are moving the game into the next tech age, almost, and that gives us a lot more that we can play around with regarding music and a lot more different styles of instruments we can use. We are still keeping true to our medieval roots, but we are beginning to play with some slightly different ideas for sounds which all help with player immersion."

Graphics-wise, RuneScape 3 will be able to offer a much more robust visual experience in your browser. "The new tech also gives us the power to play around with bigger draw distances, better textures, water effects, richer colour pallets and also a lot less down time, resulting in less loading time," he said. "All this helps ensure that you don't break that fourth wall so much and the player can be truly immersed in the experience."

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Fargrist:
Snip

As much as I agree with the player feedback bit, the rest of your post is ridiculous.
Why on earth should the government have to take over parenting these days? If parents are giving their kids money to spend on Squeal of Fortune, let them. Its their own choice and they can live with it.
If you are complaining that they are spending their own money on it, grow up. Their money is theirs to use as they see fit within the bounds of the law.
Parents do need to take an active part in seeing what their kids are playing and spending their money on though. Rather than complaining about a single online game why don't you try to persuade the senator about getting parent classes about things like this? That would be far more fair and effective.

200 million accounts were created, 580k accounts are on high scores at the moment, which means Runescape has as many paying accounts as WoW just lost.

Mark Ogilvie isn't one for talking to players. That lack leads to animosity, such as his current nickname MarkDonalds, a reference to his weight. And I'm sure the Bacon Quest got fair mileage with that nickname. Players who use this nickname are muted or banned. But you can get mutes or bans for other infractions.

For example our accounts were banned because we objected to Runescape's underage gambling. Ask your nephew how much he gambles on Squeal of Fortune.

Currently Runescape has around 45k players online at all times, a good number. But a year ago it was 145k online at all times.

There is a real cost to ignoring players feedback, and Runescape is paying it. A recent example is making the combat system more complicated just before they change the game system to go to phones and tablets, which won't allow players all the button clicking they now need to do.

For ourselves, after our ban we persuaded an Australian Senator, Nick Xenophon, to include Runescape in games that he wants legislative amendments for. One can easily find his website and confirm this.

We did this because Runescape would not talk about real money gambling they sponsored.

As a piece of theater Runescape is turning into a comi-tragedy.

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