Runescape's Unheard Voices

by Fargy

It's common for people to ask for constructive feedback. But what does that even mean?

What can happen when we ask for feedback is that we don't really want extra work, we want nice feedback saying nice things. After all that would make us feel good about what we are getting feedback on.

So we try and slant the feedback by asking for constructive feedback, we say it's feedback that helps fix problems and build solutions. But most of the time we mean constructive feedback to be agreeable feedback.

But more than that, sometimes we don't hear the voices outside our heads.

Customers may say things and we aren't on the right channel, because we are sitting by the radio in our heads listening to constructive feedback.

I want to work for Jagex!

I've seen that posted on Runescape forums innumerable times, let's say a thousand times.

If not Jagex, then it's about working in the games industry because to work at Jagex means having to move to Cambridge, UK, and half the players live in the USA, with a good percentage playing in other countries, such as Finland, Holland, Brazil and Australia.  A fair distance to commute in every case.

So that's nice.  Jagex probably feels pretty good about that and gives the occasional bit of advice to such people.

But what are those players saying?

Let's try and interpret what they are saying and translate it into constructive feedback, without putting the onus on the player to translate it into constructive feedback.

Players who post they would like to work in the games industry, are customers.

That point alone should be enough to change how we see what they say.

They are saying they would enjoy the chance to program game content.

Now we are getting closer to a revelation, we are constructing an insight.

Jagex should make it possible for players to create content.

Jagex took this on earlier, but only dipped their toe in the water, they created a few minor toys such as in-game timers for players to use in racing games and so on.

They in no way allowed players to create content.

An example of what players could be asked to do.

Currently Mod Ash of the 2007scape version of Runescape is trying to unscramble the code that would let him create a Slayer Helm.

2007scape is the best example Jagex has of listening to customer feedback.  However, it has some intrinsic irony; it exists because Jagex listened to feedback on updates that they hadn't listened to feedback on.

Ash is recreating content that already existed before, but the technology was lost by Jagex when they moved on with updates.  Updates that would later prove so unpopular that the most popular update in five years was to go back in time five years to 2007.

450,000 players voted for that.  The most popular update of all time, that had a vote.

See why we need to interpret feedback?

The situation that led to 2007scape was well telegraphed.  Players in their tens of thousands posted on the forums for years on the the path to this situation.  But it wasn't constructive criticism.

Jagex didn't listen to the voices in the forums only the voices in their head.

Mod Ash is one of four Jagex staff (Jmods) working on this old version of Runescape, which consistently pulls in 30% of online players of Runescape.  About 10,000 online players at a time, serviced by four game developers.

Imagine if he had the help of players.  Imagine if 100 players could create content and Ash, Reach, Nexus and Mat K only had to choose what went to the public vote for inclusion.

Imagine if players could be paid for content.


Team Fortress 2

Let's take a look at a system that allows players to be paid to create content.

Gabe Newell is one of the partners of Valve and Team Fortress 2 is the second busiest game on the Steam engine.

Players create ten times the content of Valve.

It's probably worth it to put some links here for the sheer joy of reading how one company interprets feedback...

Valve has been paying customers for content for Team Fortress since 2010, it's a proven model for them.  Valve is also the games company with the most profit per game developer.  They are efficient.

They aren't running a charity, they make good money reacting to player feedback.

Jagex could do the same.

The Dark Side of the Voice.

Jagex defends itself against unpleasant feedback by banning players and muting them.

Then, dusting their hands, they sit down to a nice cup of tea and talk to their friends in Mod Mark's chat.

However, this is like using the Great Wall of China to defend from alien attack.

Players say they want to create content for Jagex.

Jagex says no.

Players create content anyway.

There are a few ways this is done.  All of them illegal as far as Jagex is concerned.

1. Bots, automated scripts that run avatars through a set series of actions, usually to gain gold or experience.

2. Private servers.  Player run Runescape servers where players can create their own world, think of them as Minecraft servers beyond the pale of the law.  This was one of the main reasons for the creation of 2007scape by Jagex.  It was an attempt to stop players doing what players had been telling Jagex they wanted to do.

3. Attacks on Runescape online entities such as; Twitter accounts, Runescape forums, and Direct Denial of Service attacks on Runescape servers.


Jagex has some of the best security in the gaming world.  Yet even with all this security they are still subject to server failures and so on, but more importantly Runescape players fall foul of hostile actions and that creates more work for Jagex.

I've wandered into an online forum for bot-makers, once or twice, and I found them to be a friendly and helpful bunch, given to providing advice to each when stuck on different problems.  They had the usual internet numbies but it's the internet, you get that.  I was surprised at the way players were helping each other, cheering each other on if you will.

The act of bot-making was almost a game of its own.  But bot-makers were creating something real, that others would use, that had emotional and financial reality for them.

So it was more than getting on a high score, or achieving a skill cape.

Players were making bots to feel good, to more fully engage their minds.

Jagex even hired one to try and take out the competition, Mod Jacmob.  Basically Jagex has hired one player to design content, but done it in such a way as to encourage players to create more bots so they might get the chance to be hired to get rid of bots too.

How about we try something different?

How about we try listening to the players and letting them make more content for Runescape?

And not just Runescape, but Jagex overall, for example the FunOrb games would be a great training ground.

If you ignore the voices of players, they don't go away, they whisper in the dark outside your window.

Listen to those unheard whispers Jagex.

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Updated: 10/26/2013, Fargy
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Fargy on 11/07/2013

It takes intelligence and skill to create a bot. Which is a whole different kettle of fish from the users of bots. Some people make bots for free.

That's the question. Why?

GreilIlDul on 11/07/2013

People create bots because they are lazy and greedy. Proof being most materials gathered by botting is sold in the end for profit, and as they don't want to do it themselves, they pilot the bot to do so. If that's not the main reason, as logic is dictating here, then I must not be a true player.

But as I actively play the game, I think I have a good idea where I'm coming from.

Fargy on 11/07/2013

You are not understanding what I write.

You think in black and white. And that's not thinking, that's feeling.

That's raging against bots and trying to crush them.

Which hasn't worked in the last ten years, so I doubt it ever will.

Understanding why people use bots is the key. And the why is more than what you suggest.

GreilIlDul on 11/06/2013

Someone thinks they are good because they can't play the game like it was built to. If you cannot actively participate in a game, then why play it in the first place? Some people cannot be irked to play normally, which arises to glitchers, botters, and DDoSers.

So I bring that question to you again: do you think them doing this like so is right? Should they circumvent the normal playstyle of the game just because of their aversion to normal gameplay?

Fargy on 11/06/2013

GreillDul, Someone thinks bots are good. That's why bots exist. So...What does that suggest to you?

What ideas spring to mind? What corollaries are there?

People put energy into bot making. Why? The answer to that, is the answer to changing the situation with bots.

I'd like to suggest that after a decade of banning bots to no effect, that maybe banning bots isn't the best answer.

No idea why you want to dress me up as some sort of comedy bad guy in a black hat. Perhaps that makes the issue easier for you to understand.

It's more intricate a matter than that. Even with simple drivers.

GreilIlDul on 11/06/2013

So from your perspective bots are good? Because they "engage people"? My guess is you don't even play MMOs much less Runescape, otherwise most likely you are a disgruntled player/bot maker. Funny way of saying Jagex doesn't listen.

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