The Classic MMO Comes to Mobile – Runescape Interview with John Colgrave

Oct 12, 2018
Adventure

Few games have lived as long and full a life as RuneScape. Started back before MMO’s had found a stable footing, Jagex’s seminal game has stood the test of time and sets on a new quest to captivate players on mobile. We sat down with one of the port team, John Colgrave, Producer, about this latest adventure in the RuneScape saga.

Appolicious: Walk us through the genesis of Runescape mobile. For years, it’s been a staple of browser computers, and one of the longest lasting Java games, but leaping onto smart phones and tablets is definitely a surprising shift.

John Colgrave: So, we announced in July 2017 that we’d bring Old School RuneScape and RuneScape to mobile devices, and the response was just incredible – but the ambition to do so is something we’d had for some time. Our community had been vocal in calling for the games to come to mobile any way they could. In addition to messaging us on social media, player surveys showed that 90% of our active players and nearly two-third of former players had an interest in playing them on mobile.

APP: Walk us through the genesis of Runescape mobile. For years, it’s been a staple of browser computers, and one of the longest lasting Java games, but leaping onto smart phones and tablets is definitely a surprising shift.

JC: It goes without saying that bringing two MMORPGs with so many years of existing content and, in some areas, legacy technology provided the mobile team with significant challenges. However, the mobile development team has been working for the past year and a half to ensure the games provide the authentic RuneScape experiences on mobile devices while feeling intuitive on those platforms.

We’ve been running very diligent beta phases for Old School RuneScape Mobile since the start of the year, and they’ve been incredibly useful for us. With the release of that game on iOS and Android coming on 30th October, we’re very much on the home straight.

APP: A lot of Runescape‘s items involve multiple uses, so how is your team handling a mouse-based game on mobile?

JC: Actually, the transition to mobile hasn’t proved a major issue, so far as navigating the environment is concerned. The point-n-click nature of the controls translates really well on a mobile device, where we’re all used to touch navigation. Where we’ve had to work had is to ensure the control scheme ‘feels’ like Old School RuneScape and RuneScape while adhering to established navigation systems – two-finger pinch to zoom, rotate, etc – so that it also feels instantly intuitive.

APP: Why both Old School Runescape and Runescape 3?

JC: Why bring both Old School RuneScape and RuneScape to mobile devices? That’s actually pretty straightforward, in that both games have large communities that are distinct from one another. We know that the communities for the games have been clamouring to play them on the move, they’re now married, perhaps they have kids, they commute, they work long hours – basically they don’t have time to sit on their PC (maybe they don’t even own a PC!) and play the games. Now we’re in a position to be able to do this, so they can play on the train or coach, on their sofas at home, or even in the bathroom. To be brutally frank, with the games on mobile you can now chop logs while you… drop logs.

APP: Will there be cross-play with players on PC & Mac?

JC: A cross-platform, interoperable gameplay experience is one of the key tenets for us – absolutely, you can play the game on PC, log off and run for your bus or train, log onto the game on your mobile, and pick up where you left off. These are not cut down, limited experiences, these are full, unabridged, Old School RuneScape and RuneScape games on mobile – running on the same servers so that you will not know whether the players you’ll come across are playing on iOS, Android, PC, or Mac.

APP: What’s been the guiding principle for the RuneScape mobile team when it comes to introducing that classic MMO experience to a whole new generation of players?

JC: Our principle aim with Old School Mobile is to deliver that completely authentic RuneScape experience, and that has directed many of our decisions throughout development. We’re not trying to re-invent RuneScape as a ‘typical’ mobile game or fundamentally change the way the games progress or monetise for example. However, we have also modernised the experience where possible, with features such as one-tap login and the in-app store.

APP: Currently the mobile port is in closed beta for users with a Runescape subscription. For those participating now, how can they provide useful feedback and what is your team most looking to hear?

JC: We’ve been running a ‘members only beta’ for the last couple of months now, and the feedback has been fantastic, but of course the more feedback we have the better we can make the experience on mobile both pre- and post-launch. Feedback can be made in a number of different ways and the most popular amongst our players is in our dedicated mobile forum.

APP: Any hints at surprises in store for when the public version launches?

JC: I think the surprise for people who haven’t participated in the beta will be how well the game plays on mobile. It’s smooth, crisp, and very efficient in terms of both power usage and data. Not only that, but we’ve worked very hard to ensure that accessibility is there – as RuneScape as always been. What that means is people with handsets running iOS 10+ and Android 5+, so devices like the Samsung Galaxy S5, iPhone SE, and more recent handsets, will be able to play the game whenever and wherever they like – as long as they have network connection.

APP: By MMO standards, Runescape is one of the longest living of its kind. What do feel makes Runescape so timeless that it’s still a celebrated MMO to this day?

JC: You’re absolutely right, RuneScape is timeless and for me there are three core reasons why; Community, Depth & Adaptability. The Old School & RuneScape communities are the beating hearts of our games, without whom the games would die. The depth of content in RuneScape is unrivalled, with weekly updates continuing for more than 15 years there is simply an endless amount of great content and always something new for players to play. Finally, you don’t survive for nearly 20 years in the digital world without evolving – RuneScape has successfully adapted throughout its history to continue bringing players together and delivering awesome content.

APP: Are there any mobile-specific features that should make questing in the world of Runescape easier for mobile players?

JC: In addition to the mobile-enhanced touch navigation, we’ve also made sure the user interface is fully optimised for mobile devices. For instance, we’re moved the chat box to the top of the screen because virtual keyboards appear on the bottom of mobile devices; we’ve added a customisable one-touch button that really helps inventory management. There are a lot of subtle tweaks and enhancements made to ensure Old School RuneScape – and RuneScape – remains a great experience on mobile devices.

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Elijah Beahm

Elijah is a man who can't stop talking about games, geeky things, and to the chagrin of his colleagues, horrible puns. He's been working as a game journalist for several years now, and in addition to Appolicious, His other work can be found at GameCritics.com, I Need Diverse Games, and The Unabridged Gamer on YouTube. When not reviewing games, you'll probably find him ranting on Twitter, writing, or replaying Dead Space 2 for the zillionth time.

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