Friday, March 31, 2017

Dragon Slayer

It was high time to close the first chapter in my new Runescape adventure, and what better quest for that than Dragon Slayer? Last night's quest was a blast, and it was also my first time ever livestreaming. You may find my streaming channel at https://www.twitch.tv/armathyx.

This is considered the final quest in the freeplay category. It's about defeating the dragon that lives in Crandor island: Elvarg, a dragon responsible for destroying the city that once stood on that island. In order to make it there, the player must find the three hidden map pieces that show the path to Crandor, buy and repair a ship, and obtain the Dragonfire Shield.


All three challenges were fairly easy to do, albeit a little lengthy. Getting the shield was the easiest: it was given to me by the Duke of Lumbridge right away, without him asking anything in return. The map pieces took quite a bit longer, involving a maze, a riddle and a goblin. The maze part was the toughest, as I had forgotten how to navigate it and got lost several times. The riddle involved collecting four obvious items and using them to unlock a door to the place shown below:


Once I had all that, I bought the ship, repaired it and got good old Ned to be the captain. I went on to face the dragon with a full inventory of lobsters, an attack potion, strength potion, and a ring of recoil. There was a cinematic I don't remember having watched before:


The battle was intense. Elvarg started out with several high damage attacks, nearly killing me. I went through my whole inventory of lobsters, tanking heavy damage while not dealing so much damage myself. The ring of recoil helped a lot, as it reflected damage back to the dragon, though it broke at some point.


This was the last of the freeplay quests. Starting tomorrow, I'll go for the members quests, of which there are over a hundred. At my one quest per day rythm, this will sure stretch out my adventure a lot and give me plenty of time to do livestreams. There's no rush to finish the game and I'm gladly taking my time.


Coming next, I'll visit the gnomes at their hometown, Tree Gnome Stronghold. It's been a long time since I've been there last...

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Runescape's Achilles heel: the community

It's often said of people that they want Winter when it's Summer, and want Summer when it's Winter. In short, people always want what they don't have. I'll get back to this in a moment as I delve into the paradox that is the average Runescape player's mind.

I've recently done the quest "Misthalin Mystery", one of the few quests available to beginners fresh out of the Tutorial Island. This is the only freeplay quest I had never done before, as it was added specifically to Old School Runescape, and it turned out to be a great example of a good quest

It involved sailing to an abandoned manor on a small island to the South of Misthalin, and tracking down an assassin. To sum it up, you started out in the main hall and had to find keys that unlocked one room after another. The assassin left riddles behind, and you had to figure out where the next key was hidden. I got stuck several times, particularly at the final clue, which took me quite a while to figure out. This was the final riddle:


After exploring the entire manor several times and clicking just about everywhere, I finally figured out what I had to do, and was able to finish the quest after two or three hours of investigation. 
I was very satisfied after this quest. I was given the adventure I wanted, I was given the brain teaser I so much complained about never having in other MMOs like Guild Wars 2 or pretty much any other MMO I can find out there. But does the community of Runescape think the same way?

"Guide", "guide", "guide", and not a single review of the quest's actual quality. Shameful.

No. The majority of Runescape's community does not care about solving riddles, or learning how to defeat tough bosses, or overcome any sort of challenge. It only cares about getting things done as quickly as possible with the least "exp waste". It's by far the most machine-like community I have ever seen in any online game. The same people who will tell you they have 9,000 hours of gameplay on their account, will also bullshit you with the "I don't have time" excuse about doing a mere clue scroll by themselves, which would only take an hour at most for an easy one.

Earlier I mentioned it being a paradox. The fact is, Runescape has some of the best quests out there when compared to any MMORPG, and it doesn't have all that much grinding in comparison to some other games of the same genre. It doesn't have the mind boggling RGN figures other MMOs have; the strongest weapons have a mere 1/250 chance of dropping from their respective bosses, which is nothing in comparison to the astronomical figures some GW2 drops have. The grind is extremely comfortable; I'm training Fishing as I write this entire blog post.

Yet, the community seeks the exact opposite of what it is given: it keeps demanding more grinding, and less questing. And even worse, it actively tries to impose its views on new players. Google up any Runescape quest and all you'll find are guides; not a single honest review to be found. The opposite is true in GW2: while the game is incredibly grindy past level 80 and has horrid storylines, players instead demand less grinding and more questing. Shouldn't people be switching games here?

Runescape is great, but if it has an Achilles heel, it is definitely its community. It has pretty much always been this way. It's difficult to find a decent group of people to chat with about something else than how to efficiently get from point A to point B in game. Worse than that, some will actually mock you for not playing the way they do. It's perfectly possible to enjoy the game on your own and go through all the quests at your own pace. But when it comes to multiplayer minigames or other activities, there's never anybody there with you, because nobody else wants to "waste time" doing anything that doesn't earn them in game gold.

I think Bhagpuss said this better than me before: "MMOs are not something do to, but somewhere to be." I'm not in this game to grind it out and be done with it. I'm only here to have fun for as long as it lasts.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The freeplay adventure

Thought I'd be posting one quest a day on my blog, but since I like to talk about other things I got a bit lazy and have quite a few of them to catch up with from the past few days. I haven't necessarily committed to my one quest a day rule. Instead, I've occasionally done two of them in a single day, as the freeplay quests are very short and easy, and mostly meant to be an introduction to the much more complex members quests.

I've been using these terms a lot but I'm not sure a player from another MMO would understand them. In this game, we refer to the free trial content as "freeplay", and to the monthly subscription as "members", as in membership content.

The content is still great, however. Here's some of the quest Goblin Diplomacy, which involves helping two goblin generals decide on which color is best for their armor:

Goblins arguing over which color is best.


And here's Ernest the Chicken, arguably the toughest freeplayer quest after Dragon Slayer. It's a tricky one for new players. A guy named Ernest has been turned into a chicken by an experimental machine in Draynor Manor, and in order to turn him human again the player must fix the machine by finding its missing parts throughout the manor. It takes some exploration and puzzle solving to get through this quest.

Poor little Ernest.
The gate puzzle.

I miss the ability to sort quests by difficulty, from beginners to grandmasters, which hasn't been added to 2007Scape yet. But I don't really mind a blind run either. I like surprises. I had a good surprise when doing Black Knight's Fortress. In fact, I tried to fail this quest by adding the wrong type of cabbage to the witch's potion, but it turns out you can't do that. You'll get the following message:


It was the quest I was supposed to post yesterday, but oh well, I got a little bit lazy. 


And the last quest I've done was Shield of Arrav, which requires two players to complete. Finished it with a friend who also quit GW2 to join 2007Scape instead. It was much faster than I remembered. In this quest, each player must join a gang and steal each half of the Shield of Arrav each gang is keeping.


I joined the Black Arm Gang, the other clan being the Phoenix Gang. Doesn't make much of a difference.


There's two other short quests I've done, Rune Mysteries and Witch's Potion, but both quests are so small I really don't have much to say about them. As of right now, I'm at 31 quest points. Dragon Slayer is avaliable at 32 quest points, but I'm not yet prepared for it, so I'll probably do other quests in the meantime. I'm thinking of a strategy to defeat the dragon. It won't be so easy for an Ironman.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Player-submitted content: the Runescape democracy

Now that I've made some progress with my new Runescape account, I've started to encounter some of the content that has been added since this version's opening in 2013.

One of the particularities of 2007Scape, when compared to the vast majority of other MMOs, is that any updates must first be approved by the community before being added to the game. In order for an update to pass, whether it is a new dungeon, quest, or boss, it must receive over 75% approval by the community. Any player who has bought a membership may vote either in game or through the website.

And I voted "no" to all that because... why not? It's already won anyway!
This idea is hugely appreciated by the community. It ensures the game is taken in the direction of everyone's best interest, rather than the greedy, self-destructive path many MMO companies end up taking.

On top of this, some of the new content is designed by the players themselves, through contests. This is the case of Motherlode Mine, which I've had the chance to explore today while mining coal. The staff of 2007Scape has proven to be one of the closest to its community, which is quite a feat for such a popular game.


I think it's a great idea to have a democratic MMO community. Many game developers could learn from this experiment. It's something I would've liked to see in other games I've played.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A beginner's jail break quest

There's various types of quests in Runescape, from finding lost artifacts to solving intricate crimes. This time, I went for the game's starter jail break quest: Prince Ali Rescue.

I ventured East to Al Kharid yesterday, where I'd find the quest Prince Ali Rescue, one of the longest freeplay quests. Among the quests I've done so far, this is the first one to require a little bit of thought in order to complete, even though it's still relatively straightforward, and thus makes a perfect example of an introduction to questing in Runescape.


This quest can be considered as the first stepping stone to the more difficult ones later on. It's a jail break quest, and so it's bound to be entertaining. You're still given quite a lot of directions so that you get familiarized with the game: store locations, where to obtain dies and rope, and and how to use certain items.


I already knew all of the above, so it was easy for me to get through it, even though I hadn't done it in a whole ten years. The NPCs will ask you to create a disguise for the prince, a distraction for the guards and a replica of the key to the prison cell. I won't post any spoilers in case you're interested in giving this game a try.



Notice what's going on between the two screenshots above? Well, that's how he gets out! A fun quest to do for a beginner with a tone of humor to it. One of my favorite starter quests.


To this day I'm still unsure why other MMOs don't have quests like these...

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Count Draynor

The time had come to confront the first quest boss. I wasn't sure whether I'd make it or not, mostly due to my low level in defense, but I went ahead hoping for the best.


Much like yesterday's quest, Vampire Slayer turned out to be very straightforward. These are still beginner quests with no puzzles involved, as are most of the freeplay quests. Morgan here asked me to kill a vampire that was menacing Draynor, the village, but first he asked that I get help from a retired vampire slayer.


So, nothing difficult, he only had to sober up a little before telling me how to kill the vampire, which of course is done with some garlic and a stake as inspired from folklore.


I had done this quest a few times before, as with all freeplay quests, and I must admit this was the most intense fight I've ever had with Count Draynor. Limited to a steel sword and a mere level 19 combat or so, it was very tough to defeat him. I wasn't doing enough damage and he just kept regenerating, even respawning once. I finally got lucky and landed several hits just as I ran out of food, successfully finishing him.


I'm not sure how it's gonna be in Dragon Slayer, but I've been reconsidering my Iron Man mode. I'm playing the game legit anyway, without using guides, and this mode is just slowing me down rather than adding true difficulty. On top of that, I found out today that I'm not able to visit other player's houses, which is quite a drawback for me.

With all that said, I was thinking about writing something about this game's community. A substantial review of it for anyone interested in playing. But for now I'll just leave this video, which expresses my exact feelings on it. It's from my favorite streamer, someone I used to watch for Starcraft years ago:


Monday, March 20, 2017

Druidic Ritual

I logged out near Taverley yesterday, and as I was close to the Druidic Ritual quest I decided to go for it today. It's the quest that unlocks the Herblore skill. Taverley is the druid's peaceful town, North of Falador.


I had forgotten what it was all about, and I was a little afraid of having to confront those wizards at the stone circle Kaqemeex is mentioning there. They're not very high level, but they can do a lot of damage with their earth magic spells.


It was all very straightforward. The druid asked me to collect various types of meat from common animals such as cows and bears and dip them in a special cauldron located in Taverley Dungeon, named the Cauldron of Thunder. 


The only awkward moment was when I got there the first time without food and failed to defeat one of the iron armors that came to life. I had to run away and return with food to replenish my health as the fight went on.


Sadly Kaqemeex didn't ask me to go clear out the stone circle South of Varrock, the quest just ended there with an exp reward and Herblore being unlocked, but it was fun nonetheless. 


As of right now, I'm mining iron and coal to smelt 2,000 steel bars. I'll use those to craft arrows, nails, bolts and some other items for personal use, and use the rest to smith steel equipment which I'll sell to NPCs for a reasonable amount of gold. It's a lengthy process, but it should be doable in less than ten hours spread over a week.

I'm looking forward to finally doing Vampire Slayer tomorrow, using some potions if possible!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Leaving no stone unturned

I've played Runescape a lot in the past, but never have I come to value a mere steel longsword so much. Usually it's quite easy to skip straight to expensive gear very early on with a standard account, by stacking up on low level resources in high demand, like cowhides or flax, and selling them at the Grand Exchange. But in Ironman mode there's no economy tricks to get you past hard work. You have to be resourceful and make your way through the various tiers of equipment.

I went and created 1,000 bronze arrows using the Fletching, Smithing and Crafting skills. It might sound like a lot, but given that you craft them by sets of 10 it wasn't that much trouble getting the materials. Chopped 100 wood logs to make arrow shafts and a bow, mined copper and tin to create 100 bronze ingots for the arrow heads, killed chicken for 1,000 feathers, collected the flax to make bow strings and then I only had to assemble all that into a bow and arrows.


 On my way I did another of the beginner quests, Sheep Shearer, which merely involved shearing sheep for 20 wool and then spinning those into balls of wool.


Doing the Stronghold of Security, a minidungeon designed to teach new players how to protect their accounts, rewarded me 10,000 gold and those new boots I'm wearing. So far I've invested some of that gold into buying an Adamant pickaxe, and I've saved up the rest of it for buying an Adamant sword later on. Given that Adamant gear is much cheaper than Rune gear while having nearly the same stats, it seems like it's the best choice available at the moment.


This mode truly leaves no stone unturned. I had never experienced with these mid tier items before. I decided to do another, more difficult quest today: Knight's Sword, and it led me to look into Blurite gear.


Blurite is this rare metal that can only be found in this icy cave filled with ice warriors and skeletal wyverns. It has an amazing soundtrack and luckily those blurite ores can be safespotted. Little did I know, blurite enchanted bolts have a chance of knocking down the enemy with each attack. This is one of those little details that went right under my nose during my previous playthrough years ago.


This quest came with a really good reward: 12,750 Smithing exp. I'm not doing these quests for rewards, but it does feel good to boost such a tedious skill.
Meanwhile, I'm going to start preparing for Vampire Slayer. I need to increase my combat stats and perhaps make a few potions to make sure I survive that fight. I hope I won't die, as I'd lose my valuable steel sword!


Saturday, March 18, 2017

The new journey begins

It feels great to be back in this game. Leveling my skills while doing homework, going through the good old quests, chatting with people using RS lingo, being able to log out whenever I want without worrying for world events ending or raids finishing without me, it truly is a more laid back environment than what I've gotten used to for the past seven years. Runescape is often described as grindy and tedious, but while it may require long term commitment, it certainly doesn't require all that much concentration while playing.


I will eventually cover all of these points one by one in future blog posts. There's plenty to talk about and the game has had several updates I'm yet to try out, but for now I'll go with first things first, and what comes first is character creation. I didn't get very far with my first character, because I wanted to try out Iron Man mode and had to create another account for it.

Iron Man/Woman mode is a new option available at the end of Tutorial Island that prevents you from trading with other players or using the Grand Exchange (the GE) - the game's auction house. It essentially makes of Runescape a solo game as far as skilling goes. I loved trading with others, but the GE drives player-to-player trading out of existence and makes the whole game far too convenient and easy. I would recommend this mode to new players as it encourages them to discover the game in its integrity. Iron Man mode may be disabled once you're out of the Tutorial Island, but it cannot be turned on again.


These are my levels after a few hours of playing on my new character. I was fishing while writing this blog post and made it to level 25. It might seem fast, but keep in mind the amount of exp required goes up exponentially. I have roughly 8,000 total fishing exp at level 25, but level 99 represents a whopping 13,000,000 exp.

I was lucky enough to find that hat I'm wearing on my third day. It's a reward from a random event, and it took me months to get it on my old account back in 2007. As for the rest of the gear, Iron Man mode is proving to be a challenging experience and I don't have enough gold to purchase more armor from NPCs yet.


I set a one quest per day goal, however since I was a little late on that I decided to go for two of them today. I finished Restless Ghost yesterday, but the screenshots are on another computer, so I'll upload them later. The above screenshot shows the beginning of Doric's Quest, one of the dead easy, introductory quests for new players.


The next quest was Imp Catcher. Again, one of the beginner quests, no intrigue or puzzles involved yet. It's about an evil wizard stealing four magical beads from his rival and giving them to imps. The goal is to go around killing imps until they've dropped one of each bead. It's tedious, but a good motivation to train combat early on.


 This quest grants the amulet of accuracy, which is nice to have for an Iron Man, and some Magic exp.


That will be all for today, I'm still fishing and cooking in the background, I'll get on with another quest tomorrow. Getting the beginner ones out of the way first so that I can move on to the real interesting ones.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

An Introduction to Runescape

Two days ago I announced that I would be leaving GW2 and returning to Runescape for some good old questing. To my pleasant surprise Jeromai and Bhagpuss have shown interest in reading about it, and have mentioned there a lack of Runescape blogs, so I thought it fitting to start this with a proper introduction to the game.

Silvertaler has grown a beard! I thought it was time, it's been a solid six years since I last played him.
Note that I am playing the Old School version, also known as Runescape 2007 or Runescape 2, and not Runescape 3. The original version has been subjected to so many terrible updates that it may as well not even be called Runescape anymore. This is not an exaggeration, it truly is unrecognizable.

With that aside, Runescape is an open world MMORPG. By open world, I mean that it's one of those games that will give you a brief introduction on how to play, and then drop you in a world you're free to explore as you please. This is the type of game that I enjoy the most.


The Tutorial Island

The starting area is known as the Tutorial Island. It's a miniquest that guides you through a few of the basic skills and some of the game's concepts. Taking from 5 to 10 minutes to complete, it's short and crystal clear. It also leaves you with an accurate impression of the game's theme: simple, easygoing, sometimes humorous but not unprofessional. The NPCs happily break the 4th wall to explain how things work and will give you a decent amount of starting items.


Chosing what to do

Once you're done with the Tutorial Island, you're free to do whatever you like. So, what do people do in Runescape?

• Skilling: This is probably the most common activity. There's a total 23 skills, ranging from fishing to smithing and even prayer, all of which cap at level 99. Getting a level 99 is a very tedious process that should be considered a long term goal, if even considered at all: it's completely optional. Depending on how much you play, it either takes several months or several years.

• PKing (Player Killing): This is the game's main PvP activity. Runescape is one of those games where you lose all your items when you die, and to the North-East of the map there's an area called the Wilderness where you're free to attack other players whose combat level is close to yours. PKing is very popular, and serves as the central activity for much of the playerbase.

• Questing: My personal favorite. The world map is dotted with quests which are mostly independent from one another. There's 129 of them and they vary tremendously in difficulty. The easy ones only require you to help bake a cake for the Duke or gather wool from sheep, while the toughest involve complex 3 floor light puzzles or solving intricate regicide conspiracies. Of course, it's possible to use guides and get all the answers, but that ruins the fun of it.

• Dungeon bosses: There are a few dungeons with bosses worth hunting for prized rewards, like Waterbirth Island or the God Wars Dungeon. These require very high combat levels and knowledge of the game.

• Minigames: There's various minigames, often PvP, where you may die without losing your items, my favorite being Castle Wars. They're not particularly rewarding, but are great fun and good combat exp.

As a freeplayer you're limited to the "freeplay zone", which by itself has a decent amount of content, and if you've subscribed to the monthly membership you can of course visit the entire map. Some areas will be locked until you've completed certain quests, and some others, such as caves and castles belonging to evil factions, might be too dangerous for a low level player.


The Ambiance

Runescape is an easygoing game with some humor here and there, particularly the British, Monty Python type of humor. Every now and then you'll come across an NPC making references to England, or getting dragged into one of these "random events", such as the one in the screenshot above (lucky that happened to me on the first day!). Fun fact, these random events were originally designed to catch bots and were usually quite deadly.


Personal goals

As for me, I wish to go through all the quests once more. My plan as of right now is to complete one quest per day, no more no less, starting today. My first was Cook's Assistant, and my last will likely be Legend's Quest. There are guides on how to level efficiently and what not, but I do not follow those as I don't want to make of this game a job. I'm treating this as a solo game and doing whatever I feel like. Ultimately, I would love to get 99 Slayer, as it was the goal I was working on before I quit, but it's an extremely difficult task and so I'll have to see about it.

I hope to keep you interested with this new content!