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This Developer Blog is copied verbatim from the RuneScape website. It is copyrighted by Jagex.
It is written by Andrew and is dated 26 June 2009.
Mobilising Armies
Mob castle thumb

The castle from the Siege scenario.

When developing a piece of content, how long it takes to develop is generally a combination of two factors.

  1. How big the piece of content is.
  2. How different the content is to anything we’ve done previously.

This post takes a look at the trade-off we have to make between these two factors when designing a piece of content.

There are some pretty massive pros and cons of doing something very new VS doing something big and polished using techniques we have already perfected.

The advantages of doing something totally new and innovative include:

  • It leads to whole new features and new techniques, which can then be re-used (and further refined) in future content.
  • It keeps the game fresh and varied, rather than just doing more of the same.
  • It’s essential to keeping the game cutting edge and keeping ahead of the competition.
  • All this means it’s very good for the long-term of the game.

The disadvantages of doing something new and innovative include:

  • It’s high risk - because we haven’t done it before, we don’t know so clearly how well it work or how long it will take.
  • It takes a lot more time. We have to add in whole new systems to support the new things we are doing. It is also quite likely to need repeated attempts and redesigns before getting something that works well.
  • It results in a smaller piece of content, because a lot of the time instead goes into trying new techniques.
  • Its often not quite as polished as content made using tried and tested methods, because it’s pioneering new systems.
  • It can result in unrealistic player expectations, because many players assume that long development time = huge, very polished content.
  • All this means it’s not so great for the immediate short-term.

As you can see, it’s a very difficult balancing act when deciding how adventurous to be when trying new ideas and new techniques! Because we expect to be running RuneScape for years to come, we tend to take a more long-term approach with content design, which means we try quite a lot of new and innovative content.

Sometimes we come up with something so useful it’s hard to imagine how we ever did without it. I still fondly remember the first quest we did that permanently changed the appearance of the world to the player, rather than everything just resetting back again a few minutes later. At the time, it was massively difficult to do, because we had to rethink the way we did a lot of things. These days it’s completely standard, is used everywhere, and it’s hard to imagine doing without it!

Mobilising Armies is a great example of something quite experimental, which is very different to anything we’ve done before. I’m sure you’ve noticed how that has impacted on its development time. As you know, Mobilising Armies has been in development for many months, and has been quite delayed. This ISN’T because it’s the most epic, mammoth, huge, polished piece of content you’ve ever seen, but rather because we’ve really tried to do something very new and different.

Just some of the new things we’ve tried for the first time in Mobilising Armies are:

  • It has a totally different camera view and controls to previous content.
  • It adds the ability to select and control multiple units at once, rather than just moving a single avatar around the map.
  • To cope with the fact that there are more things going on at once than usual, and so there is a lot more information to convey simultaneously than we are used to, we developed a variety of new information display features. These include NPC stack icons, timer bars and dynamic mouse cursors.
  • It has a very different graphical scale to content we have designed previously. Everything is much more zoomed out.

So, when playing Mobilising Armies, as well as enjoying the game itself, take a look at all the things it does that you’ve never seen done in RuneScape before. This is just the very first pioneering attempt at a whole load of new features added to the engine. Over time, the best of those new features will be refined and used elsewhere, which, when you start imagining the possibilities, is quite exciting.

Mobilising Armies should be with you in the next few weeks. Thank you for reading and we hope to see you on the battlefield!

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