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This Developer Blog is copied verbatim from the RuneScape website. It is copyrighted by Jagex.
It is written by Paul and is dated 5 July 2011.
Development of the Mahjarrat
Spoiler Warning: This devblog contains plot spoilers for various Mahjarrat quests already in the game.

Background

The Mahjarrat storyline is one of the longest running in RuneScape. Unlike many of RuneScape’s storylines, it is not a linear series of quests; many of the Mahjarrat have their own individual story arcs.

The first hint of Mahjarrat in RuneScape was in early 2002 when I wrote a history of the RuneScape world for the website. I made mention of undead necromancers who raise armies of undead to fight against humans. This was my first vision of the Mahjarrat.

Back then most of the quests in RuneScape were standalone stories, but we were starting to see the need for some ongoing storylines, and one of the best ways to do that is to have recurring villains. So, I wanted something evil, powerful and also intelligent to provide a worthwhile ongoing adversary for the adventurers of RuneScape. Amongst the various fantasy creatures, liches seemed to fit the bill quite well. Back when I first wrote that history of RuneScape I envisioned the Mahjarrat to be liches.

My idea of what Mahjarrat are has evolved quite a bit since then, though they still hold some lich-like qualities: they are magic-wielding, skeletal-looking and tend to have power over the undead. This is where the similarities stop. Mahjarrat aren’t technically undead, rather than reanimating their own corpses they have found a way to stop themselves dying in the first place. Mahjarrat are a race in their own right rather than an undead form of human, and come from a terrible and distant world.

Introducing the Mahjarrat

Boom

Watch out!

The first quest to directly feature a Mahjarrat - Temple of Ikov - came out in the summer of 2002 and introduced Lucien. It included the first mention that Zamorak used to be a Mahjarrat and introduced the concept that Lucien was after powerful artefacts so that he could follow in the footsteps of Zamorak and become a god. While writing this quest, I came up with the idea of the Stone of Jas, which wasn’t featured in game for another six years.

In retrospect, I might have done that quest a little differently. The choice of whether to help Lucien or hinder him was meant to set up differences in future quests, but, when it came to it, the storyline of future quests rather relied on Lucien getting the Staff of Armadyl, so the choice you make ends up being rather irrelevant. The Mahjarrat in the earlier quests also tended to be weaker than I’d now have liked, which was partially because there were fewer high-level players back then, and partially because I hadn’t realised quite how much of a threat I wanted them to pose.

More Mahjarrat were revealed shortly after, in the Hazeel Cult and Fight Arena quests. At the time, Khazard and Hazeel weren’t named as Mahjarrat. This is because Mod Tom hadn’t specifically designed them to be Mahjarrat; he just needed some villains for his quest. However, later on, we needed more Mahjarrat in the world and it seemed they had some rather Mahjarrat-y qualities, especially the skull-headed Khazard who was already a Mahjarrat in all but name.

Desert Treasure introduced a Mahjarrat called Azzanadra. He had been mentioned briefly as a Mahjarrat by the guardians of Armadyl, but we hadn’t really had much of idea who he was till we wrote this quest. Mod James introduced some changes in direction from the original Mahjarrat concept in this quest. This was the first time we’d released a Mahjarrat allied to Zaros and helped create the concept of different Mahjarrat factions. This was also the first time we’d released a Mahjarrat who wasn’t obviously a villain.

A lot of this was covered by a Postbag from the Hedge[help] entry.

Getting Organised

Collar

What could DIRAKS mean?

You may have got a sense that, up to this point, we were making the storyline up as we went along. This would be because, in the early days, we often were. We were trying to make interesting updates for our players, rather than plan long-term story arcs.

However, our number of developers was increasing, so, with lots of different people working on storyline, inconsistency and contradictions were starting to creep in as different people tried to pull stories in different directions. So, around 2005, I started to document my storyline plans more. For example, I compiled a master document of the timeline of the RuneScape world from the 1st Age to the present day, which included a mixture of information that had already been released to the public and some of my ideas for things to be revealed later.

When it came to documenting the Mahjarrat, I wanted to think of solutions to some of the loose ends and inconsistencies. For example, various Mahjarrat had mentioned that they were heading to the north. Originally I had just intended that they were heading off into the Wilderness, as it is a lawless area suitable for those Mahjarrat who want time to set up their diabolic schemes. Other developers picked up on the heading north and sent their own Mahjarrat that way, which started to imply we were building to something more significant going on in the north.

Having a think about this, I decided that a reason for all Mahjarrat heading to the area would be some sort of periodic event or ritual which was the secret to their phenomenally long life. I thought it would be suitably dark if they needed to sacrifice one of their numbers so that the rest could live on. It was clear that at some point we were going to need to do a quest featuring this ritual. The ritual, for some Mahjarrat, is a time when their paths briefly overlap before they carry on with their plans and schemes. We then knew to bear this in mind for all future Mahjarrat quests.

Mahjarrat Appearance

Zemouregal

Zemouregal

Another problem I had was that the Mahjarrat didn’t have a consistent appearance. Hazeel and Azzanadra didn’t look a thing like the skull-headed liches I had originally envisaged. I decided at that point that the skull heads were their default appearance, but one of their abilities was to change what they looked like. I then made sure this got conveyed in Enakhra’s Lament, which was in development at the time.

While Guthix Sleeps is the most epic Mahjarrat quest so far. This is one I had originally planned to do myself, as Lucien’s plan to become a god was a storyline which had been in my head for years. I had already written a teaser involving Movario and Darve in anticipation. In the end, though, Mod Tytn ended up writing the vast majority of the quest. He managed to include the key plot points I needed while adding plenty of his own plot and writing style.

The four ‘Mysteries of the Mahjarrat’ quests of 2009 were originally meant to be released as subquests of one single quest, in the same style as Recipe for Disaster. For me, this was the opportunity to introduce more of the nature of the Mahjarrat to RuneScape’s adventurers, and to move a couple of the Mahjarrat storylines in a direction ready for the ritual quest. Ultimately, the four sub quests didn’t really have enough in common to hang together under the same quest title, especially Missing my Mummy which was really more of desert quest than a Mahjarrat quest. Fortunately, they each ended up being strong enough to stand as individual releases in their own right.

What’s Next for the Mahjarrat?

Inner

A new area to explore

So, what is next for the Mahjarrat? Well, this brings me onto the quest I am developing now. Finally, we get to the quest where the ritual actually happens! Unreleased quests are about the hardest sort of content to talk about in a devblog. As a quest writer, I have designed the stories to be mostly revealed during the course of gameplay, but I’ll try to say a little about its development.

In writing the story for Ritual of the Mahjarrat, I had to tie quite a lot of elements together; after all, this is the time when nearly all of the Mahjarrat come together. This was quite a challenge. While I have written more of the Mahjarrat material than anybody, there is plenty which has been written by others, both in quests and in website material.

In fact, there’s so much going on that I couldn’t hope to finish all of their storylines in one quest and do them all justice. There are stories I most definitely want to bring to a conclusion at this point, so, in some ways Ritual of the Mahjarrat will have something of a finale feel, but there will be some loose ends.

What’s more, one major plotline - which has only really been touched on before - begins in earnest during this quest. You’ll know what I mean when you play the quest.

So, when is Ritual of the Mahjarrat going to be released? I am sure that this is what many people reading this blog are hoping to glean. Well, it’s not yet in a state where I can be confident of giving a release date.

Right now, I’ve written my first build of the quest and other Jagex staff have played through it and given me feedback on how it can be improved, especially in regards to rewards and cutscenes where I need to make some heavy changes and additions. So, now, I’m implementing feedback. Once I’ve done that, it will need to be handed over to our QA team for a good bout of bugtesting and then over to the Localisation team who will make versions of my quest that I can’t read.

What else can I tell you about the forthcoming quest, without spoiling things too much?

  • There will be some Mahjarrat death. It’s not really a case of players getting to decide who dies, though; that would leave me in a bigger mess than the choice at the end of Temple of Ikov.
  • The rewards will feature useful equipment for mages.
  • The rewards will feature equipment which will be useful for rangers in certain situations.
  • You will learn some more of the history of the RuneScape world, including a significant reveal concerning the Third Age.

The storyline dictates there will be quite a lot of combat, and while I want it to be challenging, I’m not aiming for it to be as hard as Nomad as this is a quest that seems to be most anticipated by the sort of questers who are more interested in storyline. As combat goes it will be particularly interspersed with plot. There will also be lots of exploration and puzzles


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