This Developer Blog is copied verbatim from the RuneScape website. It is copyrighted by Jagex.
It is written by Mod John A and is dated 2 November 2011.
One Piercing Note

Normally, if we said a new quest was ‘all singing, all dancing’, it would be a figure of speech. Not this time.

Mod Mark gave me two main objectives for the quest that became One Piercing Note:

  • It should be a murder mystery quest, with a serious, ‘edgy’ tone.
  • It should have all-new, high-quality graphics and audio.

The point about audio is particularly important. Mod Mark tasked me, basically, with writing a quest that you’d want to turn your sound on for, even if you normally play with it turned off. We’re doing some things with audio that we haven’t done in quests before. Among other things, the quest will be fully voice-acted.

Yes, that’s right. One Piercing Note will be fully voice-acted!

I decided it wasn’t enough to just write a quest as I normally would and tell the audio guys to give it good audio: I wanted music and sound to be core parts of the quest story.

Setting and the story

Abbey thumb
Citharede Abbey

The most important thing to decide was where the quest should be set. Everything else would flow from this. Unlike some of my previous projects, where I’ve been told to write a quest in such-and-such an area, I had the whole of RuneScape’s world open to me.

I decided a murder mystery would work best if set in its own, isolated area, so that every NPC you met could be a possible suspect. I also wanted a setting that would allow music and sound to be an important part of the story.

I settled on the idea of an isolated Saradominist abbey with a rich tradition of choral music, and with a wandering troubadour camped outside. The contrast between the sacred and secular music could symbolise the contrast between the secular and religious world-views. As for what the troubadour is doing there...that’s part of the mystery you’ll have to unravel during the quest.

Placing the abbey was a case of looking at RuneScape’s world map and trying to spot a large enough free space. I ended up putting the abbey to the east of Al Kharid, on an extension to the plateau where the desert strykewyrms live.

As soon as I placed the abbey in the desert, everything came together from an artistic point of view. The abbey would be an island of greenery, with huge sand-blasted walls and a gate to keep out desert bandits and strykewyrms. The art team ran with this idea and before long I was looking at some beautiful concept art.

Another murder mystery

Abbey oratory thumb
The Oratory

Of course, we already have a murder mystery quest, in the form of the appropriately-named Murder Mystery quest. I knew my new quest would be compared to that, so I decided to make it as different as possible. Murder Mysteryis[sic] all about the how of the murder: you’re looking for fingerprints on murder weapons, finding who had access to poison, and so forth. One Piercing Note is about the why of the murder. The cause of death will be clear as soon as you examine the body, but a lot of your investigation will be about learning who the victim was, and uncovering the suspects’ sordid secrets.

The voice-acting and the musical focus of this quest have meant that the audio team was more heavily involved than in most quests, so I'll hand over to Mod Lord to explain how they handled the task...

Voice and music

The audio brief from Mod John A for One Piercing Note was both a technical and creative challenge.

We assembled a ten person choir, mandolin player, drummer, violinist and singer, not to mention seven voice-over artists covering 650 lines of voice recording.

For the choir, the aim was to represent the humility of nun’s singing in an Abbey rather than a traditional polished cathedral choir. Likewise for the troubadour band; there was a temptation to over produce the sound but we wanted to keep the natural outdoor feel of a group of travelling musicians. Recording the band was another challenge but turned out to be lots of fun. I dusted off the mandolin, Mod Mik took to the drums, Kerry B expertly wielded her violin, while our troubadour voice actor sung the vocals.

To contrast the lighter sound of the troubadour band we darkened the mood for the rest of the quest with threatening soundscapes and discordant choirs which become increasingly more intense as the plot to discover the murderer thickens.

The use of voice-overs and real instrumentation brings a more immersive feel to Gielinor and certainly heralds the start of things to come. I hope you enjoy the results as much as we enjoyed creating them.

A sample of the music will be available on the Downloads page soon so keep a look out!

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