In an interview with Game Rant, two senior RuneScape developers talk about how the upcoming mobile port makes the main game more accessible.
RuneScape is undoubtedly an important entry into the massively-multiplayer online (MMO) genre. There are currently two different copies of the game from different eras, the modern RuneScape 3 and Old School RuneScape, each with large fanbases. Furthermore, with the launch of the main game on mobile this summer, both will have portable versions available. Thanks to the mobile release of RuneScape 3, players can opt to use an entirely different control scheme, wherever and whenever they want.
Game Rant talked to Jagex Product Director Matt Casey, and Senior Product Manager Liam Powney, about the issues and excitement around fitting such an expansive title onto a tiny device. Casey and Powney covered PvP, mobile control schemes, pirate bays for cheaters, and playing games at family functions. While these aspects of the game’s long and complex history were interesting, the real focus was on the upcoming release of RuneScape on mobile and cultivating new players.
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Developing for mobile meant returning to a lot of old content, and remastering for mobile renewed the PC game as well. The developers talked about how they got the game’s huge UI onto mobile, and how the community created its own mobile boss rush mode. The expansion of the main Jagex team also came up, which broadened the horizons of the developers to create a game more people can enjoy.
RuneScape’s central draw as an MMO, according to its production team, is how accessible it is no matter how players want to engage with it. In particular, the game sets itself apart from other MMOs with its wide array of menus and actions. A customizable menu configuration is one of the many reasons players keep coming back, as it allows for complete and total control of how they interact with the intricately crafted world.
This is reportedly tough to emulate for RuneScape on mobile. However, thanks to some work on the RuneTek 5 engine’s API, the team were able to add very granular gesture control. This gesture control doesn’t just control movement or interaction, as with many mobile titles, but different types of gesture can be used to access the different menus in RuneScape 3.
Powney described the new control scheme as the mobile version’s “magnum opus.”
“I think being able to have two sets of action buttons on screen and a mini-map, and then being able to slide out your inventory mid-combat so you can eat some food on a tiny, tiny screen has been probably the biggest thing that took a lot of iteration.”
Not only was this important in a purely mechanical sense, but the team wanted this ease of use and intuitive mobile control scheme to help tease players back with an accessible and engaging mode of play, according to Casey.
“People just want to see what it’s like. You can sit there and see it on your phone and say, ‘I’ll get it, the download it doesn’t take long’ … I just think with that kind of accessibility, it will give a lot of people a reason to jump in and give it another shot, which is great.”
Old Dog, Remastered Tricks
Casey remarked on how remastering elements of the game forced the team to reckon with the difficulty some might have had with their title. It did not come from an immediate realization or as a reaction to complaints, but rather a reaction to thinking about the place the team wanted the 20-year-old RuneScape to have now and into the future. It also served as a reminder that accessibility options help all gamers, including those on the desktop version.
The biggest example of this was something simple: Text. “One of the things we found earlier on looking at the game on a small screen was the legibility,” Casey said. Both members of Jagex staff and play testers apparently had difficulty reading text on mobile. The team realized they had “people with accessibility issues, and we haven’t done a huge amount to tackle that.” A game with as many items and abilities as RuneScape has a lot of text as part of the package, and as such legibility issues are a big concern for a new platform.
Jagex’s Accessibility Philosophy
The team’s reaction to these accessibility issues was swift, and one that also improved the base game. Not only did Jagex improve legibility, but the changes also told the team there was even more work still to do to make this generation defining MMO more accessible for future players. In general, Matt Casey summarized the act of fitting the game onto mobile as a learning experience for Jagex.
“One of the good things with mobile was it helped us surface those issues and address them. So, we’ve improved things like the aliasing on the text in the game, and that’s a thing we can transfer to the desktop so it’s going to impact all users. […] A lot of our players commented on how it’s going to help them in the future. […] We learned things from doing mobile that we’ll probably experiment with and take over to the main game as well to the PC and Mac users.”
RuneScape is available now on PC, and it will release on mobile platforms in June 2021.
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