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Too bold, too wild a statement? Don’t let the backlash hit you in the face from people saying it’s too outrageous of a statement for outrageousness’s sake. We always hear quite a number of daily statements like these that lead us to believe someone’s just “crying wolf”. “XXX is the new WoW Killer!”, “Best Game Ever!”, etc; All this wolf crying has made the MMORPG community jaded, but don’t forget that the possibility still exists.
Thus ends my preamble or disclaimer to try to artificially un-jade you to look at this article “objectively” and not as another boy who cried wolf. But if you’ve managed to hang on this far, I would like to tell you that I have some broad MMORPG models as well as several detailed explanations with examples to defend my titular claim.
Not only do I believe Runes of Magic is the next evolutionary jump since World of Warcraft hit the scene, I am confident that my facts and information will support this. So let’s get right to it shall we?
Broad Evolutionary Jumps
Runes of Magic(RoM) is the first MMORPG, since World of Warcraft(WoW), to do what it is doing. Namely they have created a great unique world with their own hands but developed around the best parts of some of the best games in the business. This is what WoW did. Runewaker(developers of RoM) has a good team that are MMORPG fans themselves, that saw the best parts of the best games like EQ2, LotRO, Warhammer, and WoW. They took all these great things that the current MMORPG community loves, and smooshed them together, made some tweaks, added their own great unique systems, and wrapped it all in their own world lore. They did this all to a degree very close to what Blizzard did when they created WoW.
* Runewaker also showed strength, bravery, and risk taking ala Blizzard(developers of WoW) in finally taking the best of what’s currently out there and expanding on or improving on it, then “selling” it as an RMT business model.
* Not only have they dared take hold of the reins in the same fashion as only Blizzard has done in all these years, but they are also proving their worth by not just being copy cats, but being vanguards. Runewaker is showing their tenacity and bravery in practically redefining how RMT can work well. No one has done this before them; creating an RMT MMORPG that is closer in scale and game mechanics to most larger subscriber based companies. RoM Both surpasses any size thresh holds and game play mechanics of any previous RMT based MMORPGs.
* Another huge evolutionary change is a more focused implementation of “horizontal game play”. Where the core of most MMORPGs is to direct you to leveling, RoM is going to great lengths to apply large content patches that any player will be able to access without being forced to level to experience all the game’s content without taking away current favorite systems such as raiding.
Most of these boil down into the basic category of “options”. Through Runewaker’s unique and ingenious design they have returned an immeasurable amount of options back to the players while retaining and improving on what has become favored MMORPG elements.
Thus RoM has shown evolutionary and revolutionary additions and changes to not only the RMT business model, but to well established subscriber business models as well. While many games are coming out almost daily with great systems and options, none of them have done it to the extent of RoM(since WoW came out).
The Proof is in the Pudding
At first look, RoM seems to simply take great ideas and copy them, which many would be fine with. There is actually much more than meets the eye though, and it’s these subtle small changes that make a huge difference that will have long lasting impacts on the future of MMORPGs and show Runewaker’s true genius.
RoM’s Item Mall (RMT done right)
RoM not only has one of the best Item Malls(filled with only items that will increase the rate of speed at which a player can acquire goals in-game, and nothing is sold that cannot be obtained in-game by purists), but they’ve plugged it directly into their game unlike any other RMT modeled MMORPG to date. They use a total of 4 different types of currency:
4. Phirius Tokens
Through these various RMT and in-game currencies plus the powerful option of letting any player have the ability to earn these currencies in-game through a stable economy, RoM has transcended all previous RMT business models. Any non-paying purist can trade, buy, or sell through one-on-one player transactions, auction house transactions or solo play to get their hands on every currency type, without ever taking a credit card out of their wallet. One hundred percent of game content is delivered to every player regardless of how they choose to play, all without offering power overbalancing items. The economy fluctuates and wildly at times, but nothing is to such an extreme degree as to warrant legitimate claims the in-game price of items ever get truly out of a players reach, no matter what player type you are. For example, some of the top players in my server never spent a dime on the game.
Horizontal Game Play
Horizontal is just a fancy shmancy word to describe content that is delivered to players through a director free approach. The easiest way to describe this is through RoM’s professions. While holding their own level system, professions are independent of your characters level. You are free to raise alchemy, blacksmithing, or any other profession to max level whether your character is level 5 or 50. Other systems like player housing and mounts are provided with no “vertical” restrictions. You can get a house for free at level 5 and rent horses from level 1.
Runewaker has not only built in great ways to provide more game content to all players, they couldn’t have done it at a better time. Whether planned or not(I like to believe it’s the former), we’re at an evolutionary shift within the MMORPG world where games are teaching players how to have fun in new ways, and at the same time player perceptions are changing in how they derive fun from MMORPGs. No matter which came first – the chicken or the egg – RoM is providing old and new ways to have fun, surfing on this wave of change like a pro surf boarder in the lead.
Quests and World Lore
At first glance, RoM seems to have quests the same as games like WoW and Warhammer. You have world quests and daily quests. But there are subtle ways in which RoM implements them that creates more options and fun for players.
One difference in dailies is that you can collect the items needed without first having to accept the quest. This is a very big deal in the world of MMORPGs both RMT and subscriber models. It gives players freedom from constraints and provides many “kill two birds” options. For instance:
Warhammer’s dailies require that you go seek out the location to accept the quest then return to the location where you get the needed drops. This is fine, but RoM’s method puts power and options into the players hand. Now if you’d rather be doing world quests or grinding for different drops or are busy in any other endeavor and don’t want to feel forced, you can choose to keep these daily drops or discard them. Someone may be in a position where they plan on heading near a daily quest board as soon as they finish mining, grinding, or doing whatever else in their current area, so they figure they’ll kill two birds with one stone and collect them. When they go into town to attend to their main objective, they can quickly stop off and accept the quest, which will be immediately completed. You can see how this frees players up to attend to what they want, when they want, and still provide the options of taking or leaving daily quest drops.
An aspect of world(or general) quests, that may not be blindingly apparent at first look, is how well they deliver RoM’s world lore in a continuously driven and richly expanding way.
When I first looked into the world lore, I felt it was very lacking. It seemed to overgeneralize a semi-unique past along with some briefly but no less generic overviews of individual zones. After playing for months I realized how bloodthirsty I became in wanting to complete all quests; not for gold, or experience, but simply to keep reading.
A rich and detailed story started unfolding before me through all the world quests. It’s done in such a fun way as well. All 1,200+ of RoM’s current world quests are worth reading as they not only add details of the worlds history, but also details of its present and still yet giving hints as to where events are headed in the future. The story is delivered cleverly through miniature quest strings and individual quests both stand alone and tied to various dungeons and instances throughout the world. By using a little brain power you can easily piece together the ongoing story regardless of the order in which you accept the quests. There’s also “Epic Quests” that are like side stories, that still add to details to the world lore, with some nice rewards along the way. If you feel RoM has no real world lore to speak of, then you haven’t read the quests.
RoM’s quests are well planned, timed, and scripted to take into consideration players driving the timing, delivery, and being an “actor” in them. They aren’t simply a tool to drive forward leveling, but are all like acts, or chapters, of a well written play. The major downside is the enhanced importance in translation. RoM has to be translated into English which no doubt leaves things to be lost in turn overshadowing the importance they placed on quest design. As long as they can continue to place a high standard on translating, and keep mistakes to a minimum, I will always feel RoM’s quests are more meaningful than WoW’s or any of the other MMORPGs currently out.
Many players have no doubt become disheartened by quests and nowadays rarely read the text, but each and every world quest, in RoM, is a significant piece to the puzzle that is its unique and interesting world lore. Perhaps players could lament they don’t like to try and put the pieces together and would rather have the lore all written out on the website or some other more direct delivery method, but Runewaker has taken the limited options and picked the best of them. Even if players interested in world lore look down on this, the upside far outweighs the downside by breathing life into quests in desperate need of some form of resuscitation. Given available options, this is the best one that brings back strong meaning and importance to quests, and is a terrific new way to deliver world lore where the player is more immersed in the story.
On top of making great MMORPG features even better, RoM hasn’t skimped on unique content.
* User Interface
When you enter the world of Toborea for the first time, you are greeted with a fairly basic user interface. Many players aren’t used to being greeted with much hospitality in a game and therefore stop short at accepting this as being an almost archaic user interface devoid of any personality. Look a little closer. RoM offers unparalleled customization options in its user interface. It allows a very large number of hot keys to be organized horizontally, vertically, or a combination of both and placed anywhere on screen you wish. On top of that, you can customize every single part of your UI in a similar fashion.
* Add ons
Those familiar with WoW add ons, will recognize this term, and yes they are just that(only for RoM). Add ons are player made programs that can be used to change everything from colors, shapes, and sizes of your user interface, to adding tools such as built in calculators, auction house tools, and a slew of macros and scripts to enhance your playing experience.
* Macros and scripts
Whether a simple text macro(combining commands together to be executed in one button push) to shout “Hoozah!” as you cast fireball, or a much more complex set of macros and scripts, RoM lets you do it. Unlike any other subscriber based or RMT based MMORPG that only let you make very basic text or emoticon macros, change armor, or don’t offer macro creation at all, RoM lets you create macros from anything. Want to string a mixture of heals and spells together into a macro? Would you like to be able to make a macro to switch from a two handed sword to a one handed sword and shield so you can cast the shield required protection buff and then switch back to your 2 handed weapon, followed by a few attack spells all in the blink of an eye with the press of one macro? Go for it.
Whether through scripts, macros, add ons or the plethora of built-in tools, RoM gives players near unlimited options in customizing their gaming experience.
Bringing the Fear of Death Back
* Experience Debt
Rom has added a great system to provide a significant element of “fear” of dying without being overly annoying. Most RMT based MMORPGs will take away a percentage of earned experience when you are killed. While this adds to a desire not to die, it does little else and also comes with an equal or greater amount of annoyance which only takes away from a players perceived fun.
RoM has added “Experience Debt” where you accrue a percentage of debt based on your character’s level. Once in debt, you will still gain experience, but a percentage of gained experience first goes to paying off the debt.
* Meaningful PK(player killing)
There are both PvE(Player vs. Environment) and PvP(Player v. Player) servers to choose from when starting RoM. In a PvP server, PK has had its meaningfulness ramped up. There’s reputation points to be gained or lost which results in certain advantages or disadvantages and there is also the added “fear” of losing not only items that a player may be carrying in their bags, but also items could drop that are being worn at the time of the gank. Another feature is that there are no PvP related factions. Anyone can fight each other or get attacked at any moment. As a nice trade-off of “fear” and annoyance, you do not accrue experience debt in PK situations and other non-combat situations(such as falling to your death).
The importance or “fear” aspect of dying in MMORPGs has become a major concern in the industry as well as the game communities. RoM has found a way to bring it back with minimal annoyances attached to it.
Unique Features That All MMORPGs Could Learn From
* No More Clones
A problem for characters at any level in other MMORPGs is the very finite limit to how armor can be customized. This is also very visible at an MMORPGs level cap. In a game like WoW you’ll have massive amounts of players that worked hard reaching the highest level and getting the best armor and weapons, but there’s a lot of disappointment when you realize that anyone else who has the same race end up as clones of each other. A lot of importance is lost in having armor that looks like everyone else. Players lose all individuality and are simply small armies of stormtroopers with no way to tell them apart. Although you have plenty of armor to choose from, this problem can still occur at any level.
RoM has items known as “aggregators” that allow you to take the statistics of one item and transfer them to another. So if the ultimate in-game sword is still desired for its strength, but you like the less powerful and lower level sword because it’s a cool sparkly blue, you can have it.
The aggregators work for all visible armor pieces and weapons. This little addition opens up a whole world of potential. The options for new players generated bragging rights and achievements open up to players not only wanting to have the most powerful gear but the coolest looking too. This plays into horizontal game play as well. Hours, days, or much more could be joyfully spent hunting down favored armor regardless of level.
But wait there’s more…
RoM also has other character(and mount) customization features allowing you to color individual pieces of armor, and not just a simple basic color. You have a lot of control and a massive color palette to choose colors from for your character and even coloring your mounts. Your character can truly be unique with features that let you choose from millions of colors for skin, hair, visible armor, weapons, and mounts.
* Putting the “Runes” Into Runes of Magic
Runes play a part in the story lore as well as game mechanics. RoM uses runes in professions as well as enhancing armor and weapon attributes. There is a wide variety of runes already in the game and most can also be added together or mixed to form new more powerful runes.
The main tool for this is the “Arcane Transmuter”. The amount of runes in combination with other armor and weapon enhancements offered in RoM gives players a lot to do. The Arcane Transmuter can seem a bit overwhelming when first starting to use it, but with a little practice players will quickly be upgrading their items through, not only runes that can be created, but also through enhancement jewels and tiering.
* Fusion Stones
Just like many other subscriber based MMORPGs, weapons and armor can come in tiers. When found or dropped from mobs, tiers are based off the character level requirement. Through the use of fusion stones, you can raise an items tier, which in turn could allow it to accept more powerful runes and raises attributes.
* Enhancement Jewels
While fusion stones and runes take a little more understanding and time to figure out, there is another way to upgrade an item that is a bit easier to do. Enhancement Jewels can be purchased that you simply apply to an item to give it a + status. The jewels have a chance of success and failure which can downgrade any previous jewel enhancements or raise it still further.
* Disenchanting Items
Blank fusion stones can be used in a process where you wish to strip certain attributes off an item to later add to another item.
All these options for upgrading do tend to get boiled down into one “must-have” option for serious competitors but still leave plenty of different options based off amounts of time, work, and money required to upgrade regardless of whether your a hardcore endgamer, a very casual casual player, or anywhere in between.
No Ghost Towns
Many MMORPG landscapes are dotted with towns, villages, tents, and hubs of one kind or another. All too often though, you can find little plots of housing in zones very far from a main city that end up being ghost towns. Other than maybe wanting a specific quest or three, there’s no reason to make a long journey away from a main city to a ghost town where there’s nothing to do, and no one to talk to. Everyone ends up gathering in only one or two places within the games world while any other towns are basically left empty with no one milling about.
RoM has added, to one degree or another- based on the zone and encampment – player amenities in every hub adding to the social reason for players to congregate. This ensures meeting groups of players in every hub of the world. Many of these players will be the same level so you’re likely to meet up with people to run instances and complete quests much quicker. It’s yet another seemingly small thing that creates a huge difference and has a large impact on the overall MMORPG.
Regardless of when you started playing, or at what rate of speed you are leveling and/or questing, when you roll into any of the many towns in RoM you are greeted with a living breathing little community that does a lot to feed a players perceptions of how this really is a real, vibrant, living world.
* NPCs Among Us
The vast amount of NPCs, combined with people sounds(the sound of crowds milling about greet you in most towns) amplifies this sense of a world that feels much larger than it actually is. It all combines with the very integrated continuous story driven quests, crafting stations, and other player amenities.
Quests are also built out of these hubs. No taking a quest to go kill 10 boar out in the middle of nowhere that aren’t hurting anyone. Quests, as I mentioned are very story driven and this is also apparent in any sized hub anywhere in the game world. There’s large amounts of rationale, reason, and purpose for how the quests work and interact with the NPCs of any hub.
Making Standard MMORPG Tools More Player Friendly
When I started World of Warcraft, I loved it and was amazed by what it had to offer, but numerous tiny annoyances poked me multiple times every game session. It reached the point that my frustration levels were through the roof.
RoM uses similar windows, and in-game tools(as does many MMORPGs), but I noticed my frustration was significantly reduced because I felt RoM delivered the same tools to me in a much more player-friendly method that gave me options. Even if players are going to typically all choose the same methods to explore a virtual world, the perceptions that a MMORPG can feed a players mind plays a big part on whether they have fun or not.
Even though I chose to go after skills and spells, in WoW, that I could only get in one director driven way, I didn’t like the “feeling” of being forced to do this. What if at any moment I got bored and wanted to switch to joining friends in a party slaying mobs or go PK other players my level. I could do it, but I really couldn’t do it. For instance, my friends often told me you’re not strong enough because you haven’t gotten your class specific skills yet. They might as well have said “Go back and do the “required”(see: forced) quests in the only area they are available, in the only way to obtain them before returning to explore and level up with us throughout the rest of the world”.
I was frustrated with how difficult it was to do something as simple as gain my skills, find a specific NPC, keep track of quests, etc…. I quickly realized that while WoW is still an amazingly fun experience for me, it is very director driven. They do many step oriented requirements that require you to complete many tasks in a very specific manner outlined by the game, before being able to obtain items, honor, reputation, quests, etc…
There’s also minor annoyances when simply opening up a quest window to find it reset leaving me to re-scroll to find what I need, limited bag organizing options, and many other blood pressure raisers.
RoM has virtually done away with this directed and limited options feel. I can level my spells and skills from anywhere with the only requirement being that I gain points from killing…anything anywhere. Apart from a few quest requirements before entering certain instances, there’s no caps put on when I can obtain a mount, when I can go to certain zones, how far I can level professions, and much more.
RoM has a slick World Search interface that lets you adjust many settings to your preference. You can turn on auto-run, NPC locaters, Turn on or off a myriad of labels; player names, mob names, mob health bar, NPC names, tool tip pop ups, easier to use quest logs, and many more minor tweaks that have me playing RoM in the same manner I played WoW but without those annoyances. Sure, one could argue that it takes any challenge or skill out of the game to turn easy NPC locaters on or turn auto-run on. Well, if some players feel that way, they aren’t forced, they are given the option to turn those features off to enhance their particular play style.
What other RMT based MMORPG has a full range of merchandise tie-ins including posters, mugs, mouse pads, t-shirts, and more? Some other RMT companies have occasional “giveaways” to win these types of items on an exclusive basis, but it’s a fully implemented year round store for RoM. I think the fact Runewaker started all these merchandise tie-ins at such an early stage of RoM’s life adds a lot of potential to see many more tie-ins as the MMORPG ages.
It All Adds Up
I encourage anyone of any age or MMORPG background to try Runes of Magic. You will not be disappointed. Whether you’ve never played a Western subscriber based game, or never played an Asian RMT based game, you will find a lot of fun in RoM that improves upon both of these MMORPG business models, and play styles in many different ways.
These seemingly small changes are really not so small and show that the developers actually thought, and thought hard about the choices they made. RoM has many small changes, each that make a big difference, but also show skill and talent to be placed in the same game together providing the most enjoyable MMORPG experience since the early days of World of Warcraft. But I’m not solely comparing, because RoM has even transcended those times by pushing the envelope in offering an unprecedented amount of player options and large improvements over currently established game mechanics. Runewaker is exploring and braving vast unexplored terrain in a successful manner compared to Blizzard.
It is a lot of boasting to say all this, but looking closer at immense affects that even the seemingly smallest in game changes -like immediately being able to obtain a mount- have far reaching effects.
It’s enough to say that RoM has made a cornucopia of brilliantly fun changes and additions to the MMORPG genre, but each of those changes are like a pebble thrown into a lake creating a ripple affect that spreads out touching and playing off all the aspects of RoM.
I don’t think it’s a stretch in any form of the word to say that RoM has swooped in under the radar and fooled us all. That is perhaps the one major flaw in the design. RoM’s ingenious game design, implementation, and improvements aren’t as apparent as WoW’s were back in the day.
But It nonetheless is showing that good things don’t need an overabundance of buzz or advertising. The game is only a year old and has been opening up new servers at a break neck speed.
Will RoM be a WoW killer? probably not. I don’t think they’ll ever be as large of a company as Blizzard. Blizzard has been the massive exception to the rule, when it comes to the world of MMORPGs. There’s just too much history in Blizzard that concerns not only the quality of their games but how they have evolved over time as a company. However I think players and companies around the world are already perking up their ears and paying attention to what quite possibly could be known as the second greatest moment in MMORPG history.
In retrospect, RoM has not only done what WoW has done in building the next greatest MMORPG, but also in how the company runs. Runewaker has done what Blizzard has done by taking the best of pre-existing MMORPG features, combining them, and adding their own fun elements, but they are also braving new waters as a company. They have already outgrown any other RMT company in size of employees and plan to grow RoM much larger as time goes by. Runewaker isn’t afraid to be innovators, to tread new waters to improve MMORPGs in the future and to improve the business model the genre has been working with.